Looking to tap the cheap money washing around the globe, Czech investment group PPF will leverage the assets in its new telecoms infrastructure unit to refinance the loan it took last year to buy a majority stake in O2 Czech Republic, the investment vehicle of Petr Kellner - the country's richest businessman - announced on November 3.
PPF will use a €1.18bn (CZK32bn) loan that its unit Cetin has secured from a syndicate of banks, E15 reports. Cetin, recently spun-off to hold O2 CR's former infrastructure assets, will pay PRIBOR plus 0.9pp-1.15pp. PPF will pay Cetin 0.3pp on top of that, Radek Stavel - a spokesman for the financial group - said.
O2 CR approved in April a plan to spin off its fixed and mobile infrastructure assets into Cetin in the first ever voluntary split of a major telecom in Europe. The move was pushed through by PPF, to the chargrin of minority shareholders, to leave O2 CR as a pure services company.
However, it was hardly the first instance of shareholder anger since the secretive financial group bought a 65.9% stake in the Czech Republic's biggest telecom from Spain's Telefonica in early 2014. PPF has since raised its stake in O2 CR to 84.91% and to 90% in Cetin.
Last year, PPF forced through a deal for O2 CR to lend it CZK25bn (€923mn) to help it pay for the acquisition. The move, threatening to hand the benefits of O2 CR's long history of low leverage to PPF rather than shareholders, provoked strong complaints and a sharp drop in the telecom's shareprice.
However, after the spinoff was approved PPF said it would instead request financial assistance of up to CZK32.2bn from Cetin. PPF reportedly used its own resources to pay off a €1.3bn syndicated loan used to power the acquisition in August.
That loan had not been due until November 2018, E15 reports, but PPF has moved to take advantage of cheap money, and load the debt onto Cetin. "The new loan is more favorable than the original, longer and cheaper," Stavel said.
However, while PPF will reap the benefits of cheap money, the loan will put a heavy demand on Cetin, and suggests little investment in infrastructure in the coming years. While Cetin's net debt to EBITDA remains above 3.5, or until it earns an investment grade rating, the company must use all available cash to pay down the debt, according to the newspaper.