O’Brien’s Digicel raises US$150m


3 Aug 2006

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Denis O’Brien’s Caribbean mobile operation Digicel has raised US$150m through a bond offering to support its rapid rollout in Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti.

The financing was led by investment banks Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase and adds to a US$300m bond offering initiated over a year ago.

It is understood that since launching in Trinidad & Tobago, O’Brien’s company has quickly gained market share in both countries’ mobile markets.

In Haiti, which has a population of 8.5 million people, there is a fixed and cellular communications penetration of just 5.7pc.

Digicel has brought an unprecedented inward investment of US$130m to the developing nation.

Digicel has encountered a significant period of strategic growth and acquisitions since its 2001 inception in Jamaica and the company has quickly become the largest GSM provider in the region, with operations in 20 Caribbean markets.

A year ago Digicel acquired Cingular’s wireless assets in the Caribbean and Bermuda, expanding the company into several new markets.

In April 2006, Digicel closed its US$192m acquisition of Bouygues Telecom Caraibe, which extended Digicel’s operations to Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana. That same month the company launched its Trinidad & Tobago operations followed by Haiti in early May.

Earlier this month the company launched services in Turks & Caicos and Bonaire, increasing mobile competition in both of these markets.

Digicel’s total investment in the Caribbean stands at US$1.2bn and the company directly employs 2,000 people, having doubled its employee base in the space of just one year.

“We will continue to aggressively expand our services in Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti as we have seen tremendous acceptance by our mobile customers in these markets which, in turn, has led us to significantly increase our investment in both of these countries,” said Colm Delves, Digicel Group CEO.

“Yet again the international investment community has demonstrated it’s strong confidence in our growth strategy and current expansion efforts.”

As a result of the continued confidence of the international financing community, Digicel said it enhanced the terms of its US$600m debt facility.

“The market has spoken and again we’ve seen unprecedented demand, as when we led Digicel’s inaugural bond in 2005,” said Blake Haider, director, Latin & Caribbean Debt Capital Markets at Citigroup.

By John Kennedy