Spanish cable operator Ono eyes listing in early 2014 - sources

MADRID Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:44am EST

MADRID Dec 10 (Reuters) - Spain's main cable operator Ono is considering an initial public offering for some of its shares in the first half of 2014, two sources with knowledge of the matter said, a move which could speed up consolidation in the pressured Spanish telecom sector.

While the sources noted that no final decision had yet been made on whether to partially list the company, they said Ono's management was keen to take advantage of renewed interest in Spanish assets from foreign investors and of a slight uptick in the country's economic performance to move ahead with the plan.

If confirmed, it would be the second initial public offering (IPO) of a European cable company in just a few months, after France's Numericable last month raised 652.2 million euros ($894.8 million) to help repay debt and upgrade its network.

"They've seen the strong demand for Numericable shares in France and they want to push on with the listing," said one of the sources on condition of anonymity.

Business daily Expansion said on Tuesday the plan could take the form of a share offering coupled with a capital increase and that both moves would likely be discussed at Ono's next board meeting, due in the next few weeks.

Ono, which has repeatedly said in the past that going public was a possibility, was not immediately available to comment.

The cable operator posted a 15-million-euro loss in the nine months to September and its TV business is losing clients as cash-strapped Spaniards cut leisure spending, but its optic fibre network could be an asset for telecom operators eager to sell high-margin data services.

The sources said Ono would likely be a takeover target for bigger competitors Vodafone and Orange, which are trying to capture a larger share of the Spanish market to make headway against former monopoly Telefonica.

"A listing would put a price on the asset and make it a palatable target for the likes of Vodafone or Orange, whose margins have been seriously pressured by the ongoing war on prices," said the source.

Most Spanish telecom operators have been offering cheaper services over the past few months in a bid to retain clients.

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