Business World

Saturday 7 December 2019

In brief: Digicel agrees Cook Islands deal

telecoms

Telecom New Zealand has said it has reached conditional agreement to sell its 60pc stake in Telecom Cook Islands (TCI) to Denis O'Brien-owned Digicel for NZ$23m (€14.3m).

The sale is likely to go through by the end of next month.

Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter said his company plans to focus on its New Zealand operations. It sold an Australian subsidiary AAPT to Australian-listed TPG Telecom for A$450m (€302m) in December.

The Cook Islands, which has a population of around 19,500 people, is a new market for Bermuda-based Digicel, which moved into the Asia Pacific region in 2006. It has operations in several other Pacific islands including Vanuatu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji and Nauru. Its Asia Pacific business is run by Vanessa Slowey, former Eircell and Eircom executive who is now based in Singapore.

Cook Islands Finance Minister Mark Brown said in January that Digicel was considering buying the majority stake in the islands' biggest phone and internet provider. "Digicel is back on the beach, they're kicking the tyres again. They'll probably make an offer to Telecom New Zealand," Mr Brown said then.

Telecom New Zealand has operated it as a joint venture with the Cook Islands government since 1991. It announced shortly before Christmas that it was thinking about selling its 60pc stake in TCI.

TULLOW PLAN FOR €360M BOND DEAL

EXPLORATION

London and Dublin listed oil company Tullow Oil has announced plans to raise $500m (€360m) in a new bond deal.

The bonds will sit at the top of the exploration company's capital structure as senior guaranteed debt and the debt is expected to be due for repayment in 2022.

Tullow said the new eight years debt will be used to repay some of its current outstanding debt.

Founded by Aidan Heavey, Tullow Oil last week revealed news of a massive tax refund worth $100m from the Norwegian government.

The company's Norwegian interests supplied just a tiny fraction of oil and gas production total.

The tax rebate helped Tullow reduce its overall effective tax rate to just 32pc, down from 41pc the year before.

Norway's tax rebate system compensates drilling companies for 78pc of the costs of exploration, regardless of whether or not they are commercially successful. Tullow generated just 300 barrels of oil a day from Norway last year out of a group total of 84,200 barrels.

Tullow began a "high-impact" exploration programme in Norway last year, following the acquisition of local drilling company Spring Energy.

UTV EXPANDS TO SOUTH AFRICA

MEDIA

UTV is expanding outside of Ireland and Britain with the launch of a brand new South African sports radio station, the first of its kind.

Along with four joint venture partners, the Northern Irish broadcaster has been awarded a broadcasting licence by South African authorities to launch the country's first ever 24-hour sport radio station.

The four other companies involved are all based locally – Direng Investment Holdings, Jomo Sono Investments, Courageous Holdings and Altivex 705. Each of the five will hold a 20pc equity stake in the initiative.

The station, which will be called talkSPORT 540AM, will be modelled on UTV's London-based talkSPORT station, the world's biggest sport radio station and one of the group's most profitable units. It will broadcast to a potential audience of eight million people including listeners in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

UTV has licensing deals for talkSPORT content in 25 countries and also provides content online, but this is the first time it's been involved in a standalone station outside of Britain and Ireland. TalkSPORT has had the right to broadcast Premier League commentary outside of Europe, in English, Spanish and Mandarin, since 2012.

BRITONS CHARGED IN €7M TAX PROBE

BANKING

German prosecutors have charged two British citizens in a tax-evasion probe that has also ensnared two of the highest-ranking officials at Deutsche Bank.

The British pair, aged 36 and 39, were accused of being part of a group that tricked authorities on value-added tax refunds in carbon emission trades, prosecutors' spokesman Alexander Badle said in an e-mailed statement.

The men, who were arrested in the UK last year, are accused of being responsible for evading €31m of taxes, according to the statement.

"The two acted as managing directors of two companies set up in Berlin and Frankfurt between 2009 and 2010," said Badle.

The authorities "seized €7m from the companies to make up for the tax damages."

The case is part of a wider probe in which Deutsche Bank co-chief executive officer Juergen Fitschen and chief financial officer Stefan Krause are also being investigated.

DP ENERGY TAKE ON WAVE PROJECT

ENERGY

Cork-based DP Energy is set to become Europe's largest independent developer of tidal energy projects after taking over an agreement for Lease (AfL) that Airtricity owner SSE Renewables' has with Britain's Crown Estate, the company said.

The transfer will mean DP Energy take on development of the Westray South project in Orkney, Scotland, with the potential to install up to 200MW of tidal turbines over two phases.

The investment required to construct phase one of the project is expected to be in the region of £200m (€240m) and will generate enough electricity to power 40,000 homes and saving an estimated 56,0000 tonnes of CO2 per year, DP Energy said in a statement.

Simon De Pietro, managing director of DP Energy, says the transfer places the company he and his mother Maureen established originally as an early stage wind development company firmly at the top of the marine energy development sector.

Indo Business

Also in Business