Eir owner Iliad agrees deal with Digicel in French West Indies

Agreement will mean companies invest jointly in new network infrastructure

Last month, Digicel abandoned plans to get holders of $925 million (€827 million) of bonds due for repayment in 2023 to take some pain.

Last month, Digicel abandoned plans to get holders of $925 million (€827 million) of bonds due for repayment in 2023 to take some pain.

 

Digicel and Eir’s majority owner Iliad have agreed a network sharing joint venture in the French West Indies that will mean the two companies pool the cost of further boosting the mobile network in the region.

The deal will mean Iliad, which owns a 64.5 per cent stake in Eir along with French company NJJ, gains access to Digicel’s radio access network capabilities in the French West Indies, giving it a way to enter the mobile market in Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, St Martin and St Barth.

Digicel, meanwhile, said it would benefit from “monetising” its assets in the French West Indies and share the cost of future network infrastructure.

The two companies intend to increase the number of sites and provide further fibre connectivity to improve network coverage and speed.

The possibility of a joint venture was announced in February but Digicel held off on the detail, including to which of its 32 markets the deal would apply.

The joint venture was intended to reboot cash levels for Digicel as it deals with restructuring its large debt pile. The financial details of the agreement have not been made public.

The deal must also be approved by regulators. “As we continue our journey towards becoming a digital operator, we recognise that sharing infrastructure in a multi-operator marketplace provides the foundation to offer better network services to our customers, whilst reducing the cost structure,” said Digicel group chief executive Jean-Yves Charlier.

“A joint venture of this nature is a first for Digicel and allows us to accelerate our digital ambitions. We are delighted to be partnering with a world-class telecom operator in Iliad and to be sharing a common vision of jointly building one of the most extensive networks across the French West Indies.”

The phone group had planned at the start of April to get five categories of bondholders to write off $1.7 billion of its $7 billion-plus debt pile when it unveiled a restructuring plan.

Last month Digicel abandoned plans to get holders of $925 million (€827 million) of bonds due for repayment in 2023 to take some pain in the group’s planned debt restructuring plan after fewer than 8 per cent of high-ranking creditors signed up to take part in the deal.

Holders of the other four categories of bond targeted in the restructuring overwhelmingly accepted plans for large write-offs.