September 18, 2020

Worries Over CWC Leakage

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International credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) says it is concerned that UK-based telecommunications services provider Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) does not fully own its key assets in several countries, including The Bahamas, which leads to “meaningful leakage” of dividends to minority interests.

However, the ratings agency said these weaknesses are “partly offset” by the fact that CWC has management control of its key assets and there is a track record of subsidiaries steadily upstreaming dividends to CWC based on a long-established dividend policy.

S&P says the “significant” financial risk profile primarily reflects the group’s negative discretionary cash flow (DCF) over the past couple of years, owing primarily to significant shareholder returns and its significant proportionate gross leverage.

CWC has a 51 per cent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).

The Christie administration has repeatedly expressed its desire to regain the majority of the company’s shares.

“The group’s solid operating cash flow generation provides further support to the financial risk profile,” S&P said in a recent report.

“The ‘fair’ business risk profile reflects our opinion that the group continues to face a tough regulatory and competitive environment in its markets. We also view the group as being moderately exposed to country risk, for example, in Jamaica. These negative factors are offset by the group’s leading market positions in most of the markets in which it operates, solid profitability and good geographic, product and customer diversification.”

S&P projected that consolidated reported revenues will be relatively flat for 2012-2013 compared with 2011-2012 (ended March 31, 2012).

“We forecast that the reported group EBITDA margin will remain about 30 per cent. This primarily reflects our view that heightened competition in Panama will result in pressure on EBITDA margins in the mobile and broadband segments (partially due to higher subscriber acquisition costs), as well as continued erosion of fixed-line revenues due to fixed-to-mobile substitution,” the report said.

“It also reflects our view that macroeconomic conditions will likely remain challenging across much of the Caribbean, resulting in a continued drag on both revenues and EBITDA margins. These risks will, in our view, only be partially offset by continued growth in mobile data, especially in the relatively resilient Macau and Monaco & Islands divisions, where the macroeconomic backdrop continues to be supportive.”

For 2012-2013, S&P says it anticipates that CWC will continue to generate solid funds from operations (FFO) of about $660 million, up from about $610 million in 2011-2012.

“We also anticipate an improvement in free operating cash flow (FOCF) to about $270 million in 2012-2013, up from about $230 million in 2011-2012, as a result of an expected reduction in capital expenditures (capex) to about $350 million after relatively high investments of approximately $410 million in 2011-2012,” the agency said.

“These were primarily related to the deployment of high-speed (4G/HSPA+) mobile data networks in CWC’s key markets of The Bahamas, Panama, Macuau, Barbados, and The Cayman Islands; improvements in the group’s fixed broadband network, and select pay-TV investments.” 

S&P anticipates that the group’s DCF will turn positive in 2013-2014 as a result of the anticipated reduction in capex and lower dividend distributions.

On May 24, CWC announced plans to rebase the dividend to $0.04 per share beginning in financial 2013, down 50 per cent from $0.08 per share previously.

This is on account of global economic uncertainty that has impaired the business, especially in the Caribbean, since the demerger of CWC from Cable & Wireless PLC in 2010, and the group’s reassessment of its financial outlook.

The group estimates that the reduction in the dividend will reduce discretionary spending by approximately $100 million per year.

For more on this story go to:

http://jonesbahamas.com/worries-over-cwc-leakage/

Cable&Wireless Worldwide owns the UK’s biggest fibre network dedicated to business users of telecommunications and has an international cable network spanning approximately 425,000km in length. It reaches across the Atlantic Ocean, through Europe and on to India and throughout Asia. In conjunction with satellite, CWW connect every continent and more than 150 countries, either directly or indirectly through their business partners.

In 2003, Sir Richard Lapthorne was appointed Chairman to lead a turnaround of the business following a downturn in financial performance. A number of disposals and acquisitions followed, including the purchase of Energis, in 2006, to strengthen Cable and Wireless’ position in the UK. In 2006, Cable and Wireless reorganised internally to create two operating units. These later became the Cable & Wireless Communications Group and the Cable&Wireless Worldwide Group.

In 2008, Cable and Wireless completed the purchase of THUS Group plc, a UK telecommunications group.  THUS Limited is a stand-alone business within the Cable&Wireless Worldwide Group, it provides advanced business communications to small and medium sized enterprises.

On 26th March 2010, Cable&Wireless Worldwide demerged from Cable and Wireless plc and was listed as a public company on the London Stock Exchange.

The Cable and Wireless story starts in the 1850’s when Sir John Pender, a Manchester cotton merchant, joined the board of the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company, which was set up to run a telegraph cable service between London and Dublin.  This was soon after the first submarine cable had been laid, between England and France, and coincided with the first laying of cables in India, Britain’s largest overseas territory.

In 1866, a Pender-led consortium laid the first submarine cable across the Atlantic Ocean using Brunel’s ship, the Great Eastern. In 1870, the Great Eastern laid the cable from Bombay to Porthcurno in the south west of England; this became the biggest cable station in the world. Further submarine cables were then laid from the United Kingdom to the Caribbean, Asia, Australia and the United States.  In 1872, the Eastern Telegraph Company was formed following the merger of a number of cable companies.

The Great Eastern Company went from strength to strength, enabling people to communicate across long distances. This was especially important in World War I where the company played a vital role in keeping communications links open, as well as listening in on the enemy. It profited from a huge growth in the use of telegrams; these were preferred to letters, which were often delayed by the lack of civilian shipping.

For the first time cables became targets of warfare in themselves, with both sides repeatedly trying to cut each other’s cables to disrupt communications. Gaining control of the transatlantic cable was regarded as a major coup.

With the development of wireless telegraphy, the company merged with the Wireless Telegraph Company founded by Marconi in 1929. The Imperial and International Communications company was formed. It was the biggest wireless and cable company in the world and was renamed Cable and Wireless Limited in 1934.

World War II revived the cable wars with the German-owned cables across the Atlantic being cut once more. Cable and Wireless’ communications network again played a vital role in aiding communications between the allied countries and the theatres of war. It supplied the wireless equipment for the North African campaign in 1942.

After the war the company was nationalized, acknowledging the vital importance of the international communications infrastructure. Cable and Wireless became the international communications business of the British Post Office. Its overseas assets were also acquired by governmental bodies in other countries where it had operations.

As telegraphy became obsolete in the 1950s, the development of coaxial voice transmission offered the chance to switch over to telephone cables. The company worked with AT&T and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation to lay TAT-1, the first telephone cable across the Atlantic. This was successfully completed in 1956.

Throughout the 1960s more UK overseas territories became independent states. In many cases their external telecommunications systems had been operated by Cable and Wireless, which then became a junior partner of the new governments.

Cable and Wireless was privatised by the Thatcher Government. In 1981, 49 per cent of the company was sold and the remaining 51 per cent was offered to the public in two tranches, in 1983 and 1985. In 1981, Mercury Communications was created by Cable and Wireless to provide fixed line telecommunications services in the UK, as a competitor to BT.

In 1993, One2One, a Mercury Communications division, launched mobile communications to the UK consumer market. In 1997, Mercury merged with several UK telecommunications operators and was renamed Cable & Wireless Communications (CW Communications); Cable and Wireless owned a 53% stake in CW Communications.

Following the Mercury merger, Cable and Wireless disposed of its stakes in a number of companies including One2One, Hong Kong Telecom and Australian Optus. The company began developing its business around a global IP network, selling global IP services and building its hosting expertise.

The company’s main objective for the 1990s was the completion of the global digital “highway,” linking the centers of the world economy through fiber optic cables. The highway included the private transatlantic telecommunications cable, which came into operation in the autumn of 1989. It linked the company’s customers and those of its partner, US Sprint, within the UK and United States and with the European mainland, Bermuda and many other Atlantic countries.

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