OTT syndication set for new year

20 October 2003
The structure for the financing of the country's first GSM licence is expected to be put in place by the end of the year, sources close to the project say. Syndication of the deal, which is being arranged for Orascom Telecom Tunisie (OTT), has been put back several months and is now likely to be launched in early 2004 (MEED 23:5:03).

Arab Banking Corporation, Standard Bank, HypoVereinsbankand Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau were mandated in May to arrange the Eur 240 million ($275 million) facility for OTT, following its acquisition last year of the GSM licence and purchase of related equipment from Siemensof Germany and France's Alcatel(MEED 15:3:02, Telecoms).

The senior debt will be split into two tranches, with the French and German export credit agencies, Coface and Hermes, providing cover for 50 per cent of the banks' facilities. Margins on this first portion are expected to be in the region of 100-150 basis points (bp) over Libor and will be due for repayment in March 2011. Those on the uncovered portion, which will have a tenor of six-and-a-half years, are expected to be significantly higher initially - in excess of 300 bp. However, the commercial tranche will be priced on a grid and margins could fall to as low as 250 bp depending on the performance of the project.

OTT started up operations at the end of 2002 and within a month had attracted 100,000 subscribers in the Greater Tunis region. A strategic stake in state-owned GSM operator Tunisie Telecom, which only succeeded in attracting five times that number during its previous four years of monopoly operation, is expected to be put up for sale in the coming year (MEED 18:10:02, Telecoms).

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