Sunday 30 April 2017

Digicel to cut global workforce by 25pc

Businessman Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin
Businessman Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin

Colm Kelpie and John Mulligan

Irish-owned telecoms and communications group Digicel is to cut around a quarter of its staff globally over the next 18 months.

Digicel employs about 6,000 people, meaning the company is looking to cut about 1,500 staff from its global workforce.

The group, which announced the planned cuts last night, is active in 31 markets across the Caribbean, Central America and the South Pacific.

Announcing a global transformation programme, named Digicel 2030, the company said it is designing and integrating its organisation "to be fit for purpose for 2030 and beyond".

The future organisational structure will comprise a small number of regional hubs - two for the Caribbean and Central America regions and two for the Pacific region - housing back-office centralised functions and delivering shared services, the group said.

It said this would allow staff in Digicel's 31 markets to focus on sales and enhanced service delivery.

"This will result in an approximate 25pc reduction of the global workforce over the next 18 months with the first step in the process being the offer of an Enhanced Voluntary Separation Programme opening on 1st March 2017," the Group said in a statement.

Digicel is controlled by businessman Denis O'Brien, who has a 29.88pc stake in Independent News & Media, this newspaper's parent company.

Digicel Group chief executive Colm Delves said they were building the company for 2030 and beyond.

"Our transformation programme sees us taking the bull by the horns and daring to be different by challenging the status quo and by innovation-led growth. That's what we are known for and that's what we will continue to be known for into the future."

Digicel Group also signed a global partnership agreement earlier this month in Shenzhen between Digicel Chairman, Mr O'Brien and Dr Zhao, Chairman and CEO of Chinese multinational ZTE.

Digicel has 13.8m subscribers across its markets for services from mobile to cable TV and broadband.

But last year's strengthening of the dollar hit the group, because it borrows on the markets in US currency but makes its money in a mix of local currencies in the markets where it trades.

Digicel, which pulled a planned stockmarket flotation in 2015 that could have valued the business at up to $10bn, has a more than €6bn debt pile.

That debt was described as "unsustainably high" last year by one credit analyst.

Digicel had disagreed with the assessment.

The cost-cutting measures announced yesterday had been flagged late last year, as Digicel hired consultants McKinsey and Goetzpartners to help devise a cost-cutting plan, which was dubbed 'Project Swan'.

Over the last three years, Digicel has invested over US$1.65 billion in upgrading its networks and platforms and in rolling out fibre to the home and mobile broadband connectivity.

After 15 years of operation across its markets, total investment by the Group to date stands at over US$5 billion worldwide.

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