UPDATE 1-PagesJaunes wins debt refinancing deal

Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:17am EST

* Strikes deal to extend maturities of under 1 bln euros of debt

* Will pay back a third of its debt by April 2015

* PagesJaunes shares up 10.2 pct, Hibu down 15 percent

* Hibu says will have debt plan by January-end (Adds share price, analyst comment, background, Hibu)

By Alice Cannet and Abhishek Takle

PARIS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - French group PagesJaunes, struggling with falling sales in its core telephone directory business, has won an agreement to complete the refinancing of its 2.2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) debt, lifting any threat of bankruptcy.

"It is an uncertainty about the evolution of the company which has been completely lifted," chief executive Jean-Pierre Remy told Reuters on Tuesday. "It is reassuring for everyone."

PagesJaunes and peers such as British group Hibu have struggled to stem a slide in their print businesses and pare huge debt piles as they shift to online advertising in response to growing use of the internet to find local listings.

The company said it had got a two-year extension on a large part of its debt and would repay about a third of it, or 680 million euros.

"This takes away most of the mid-term risk off PagesJaunes, which some had speculated might have to file for bankruptcy. It confirms its recovery, by further shifting to internet revenues," a Paris-based trader said.

PagesJaunes shares, which had more than halved in value this year amid doubt about its ability to restructure debt, were up 10.2 percent at 1305 GMT.

The company will immediately pay back 417 million euros to creditors and has until April 2015 to repay another 263 million.

It also got more than 90 percent of creditors to agree an extension to September 2015 from November next year on the maturities of nearly 1 billion euros in loans including a revolving credit line of 300 million euros.

Less clear cut was the future of Hibu, formerly known as Yell Group. On Tuesday, it reiterated plans to present a debt restructuring plan to lenders by end-January. Its shares fell 15 percent.

Hibu has 2 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) debt, mostly built up through acquisitions that included a Spanish directories business for 3.3 billion euros in 2006.

Late last month, Hibu reached a deal with a committee of lenders, accounting for 537 million pounds debt, under which the company would not have to make payments until it completes the restructuring.

TRADING

PagesJaunes said sales at its internet business grew 9.4 percent in the first nine months to 463 million euros, to represent close to 60 percent of group revenue compared with 52 percent a year ago.

Remy said the business was profitable, allowing the group to generate 200 million euros cash flow every year. That cash flow, its credit line, and money saved by scrapping dividends allowed the group to repay part of the debt.

The company will start paying a dividend once its ratio of debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization is below three, he said.

PagesJaunes started restructuring its debt when refinancing 70 percent of it in the first half of 2011. ($1 = 0.7867 euro) (Additional reporting bt Gwénaëlle Barzic and Blaise Robinson; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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