O’Brien’s Digicel raises US$1.4bn

14 Feb 2007

Denis O’Brien’s rapidly expanding Caribbean-based mobile firm Digicel this morning revealed that it has raised US$1.4bn in a private placement of notes that will fund the company’s expansion into 22 markets as well as enable O’Brien to buy out minority shareholders in the company.

O’Brien’s Bermuda-based investment vehicle Digicel Group Limited will privately place US$1.4bn in senior notes due in 2015.

O’Brien, currently owns a 78pc stake in Digicel Group Limited. He will use the money to buy out the remaining shareholders. The plan values Digicel at around €1.83bn.

Under the plan, Digicel Group Limited is offering to acquire the remaining shares of Digicel Limited for cash. The share purchase offer will be financed by funding from Denis O’Brien and the issuance of the notes. Interest on the senior notes, due in 2015, will be paid to investors in cash.

Until recently there has been speculation that O’Brien was planning to float Digicel on the New York Stock Exchange. However, this latest move will make Digicel a private company 100pc owned by O’Brien.

O’Brien’s Digicel network has grown exponentially since its creation in 2001 and has four million customers and operations in 22 markets ranging from Antigua and Bermuda to Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago.

The company has been investing in a number of cutting edge technology initiatives ranging from mobile data services to mobile TV and has awarded significant business to Irish mobile technology companies including Vimio and MobileAware.

In August last year Digicel raised US$150m through a bond offering to support its rapid rollout in Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti

Denis O’Brien made his name in Dublin in the 1990s with the establishment of 98FM followed by Esat Telecom and Esat Digifone. He subsequently sold Esat Digifone to BT in the late 1990s, netting himself a cool €317m.

Since then through various business interests that include Spin 103.8, Digicel and a stake in Independent News and Media, O’Brien is estimated to have developed a net worth of around €1bn.

By John Kennedy