Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group plans IPO in New York

Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group, the mobile-services company operating in the Caribbean and South Pacific regions, plans to sell shares in an initial public offering and to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group plans IPO in New York

Digicel may use some of the proceeds for capital spending, acquisitions and to pay down debt, which totalled $6.5bn (€5.8bn) at the end of March, according to a filing yesterday. It hasn’t yet decided how many shares will be sold, or the price.

Mr O’Brien founded Digicel in 2001 in Jamaica, a year after he received $288m from selling Esat Telecom Group, the Irish telecommunications company that he built in the 1990s, to BT Group.

Digicel, which operates in 31 markets, posted a net loss of $157.6m in the year to March on sales of $2.8bn, the filing showed.

Digicel initially sought growth in small markets where competition was non-existent, according to Steven Hartley, an analyst in London with research firm Ovum. Now, it is up against industry giants including America Movil SAB and Telefonica SA, while customers are becoming more sophisticated, he said.

“Digicel aren’t having it quite their own way like they once did,” Hartley said.

“In that climate of not having so much natural growth, you’ve got to invest to keep your customers and that’s an expensive hobby. There comes a point where it’s worth raising that bit more capital to stay in the game and keep on expanding.”

Digicel’s mobile subscriber base soared to 13.6m in March from just 400,000 in 2002. The company had $448m of interest costs for the financial year that ended in March, and had $500m of cash and cash equivalents.

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