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July 11, 2012 8:55 pm
Telefónica is seeking to sell its Atento call-centre unit for the second time in just over a year as the Spanish telecoms group presses ahead with accelerated plans to cut its debt pile.
Telefónica said it would divest Atento after receiving “a number of offers from third parties”, for which the company was analysing the terms and conditions, but did not disclose the identity of the bidders.
The former state Spanish telecoms monopoly, which has been struggling under a €57.1bn net financial debt pile as recession eats away at its revenues in its domestic market, had already attempted to spin off Atento last year but was forced to scrap the deal due to limp investor demand.
At the same Teliasonera, the Swedish telecoms group, is considering the sale of its majority stake in Yoigo, the Spanish mobile operator, according to one person with knowledge of the situation, although it has not made a final decision about the disposal.
The deal could raise more than €1bn for Teliasonera. Deutsche Bank is likely to manage the sale, which has already caused interest among private equity groups. Both likely sales come as telecoms operators in Spain are facing painful trading conditions as the economy remains stuck in recession and falling consumer spending has seen customers seek out cheaper offers.
Telefónica was forced to cut its dividend last year after reporting its first quarterly loss in nine years in November after several corporate restructurings, including rolling its once flagship Spanish division into its pan-European unit.
Telefónica has said it aims to reduce its financial net debt weighted against ebitda over this year to below 2.35 times as it fights to keep its investment grade credit rating.
As part of this accelerated drive to cut debt, Telefónica said in May it would spin off its German unit, and was considering doing the same for some of its businesses in Latin America.
Analysts have estimated that the value of the German division is worth about €9bn but it remains unclear whether Telefónica will be able to realise such a price due to turbulent equity markets in Europe, and ongoing scepticism towards new listings from investors.
The company said in the May announcement that it was planning to raise at least €1.5bn from asset disposals. Amid its struggle with debt and its domestic market, Telefónica was overtaken by the clothes retailer Inditex as Spain’s most valuable listed company earlier this year.
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