DUBAI, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Qatari telecommunications firm Ooredoo is in talks with banks to raise more than $1.5 billion through bonds and loans this year, sources told Reuters on Monday.
Ooredoo, which operates in about a dozen territories across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, is seeking loan funds to refinance an existing $1 billion revolving credit facility (RCF) maturing in March 2017.
It is exploring options including raising funds through a conventional RCF or Islamic loan, in U.S. dollars or in a combination of currencies, sources with knowledge of the deal said on condition of anonymity as the deal is private.
The Gulf’s third largest telecommunications firm by market value also aims to make a benchmark-sized bond issue in 2016. Ooredoo is open to issuing bonds in conventional and/or Islamic formats, in dollars or a combination of currencies, the sources said.
Benchmark is usually taken as upwards of $500 million. An RCF is a line of credit where the customer pays a commitment fee and is then allowed to use the funds when they are needed during the lifespan of the facility.
Ooredoo has asked banks to respond no later than Sunday, Feb. 14, the sources said.
Asked to comment by Reuters, Ooredoo said it doesn’t comment on market rumours.
“We are permanently reviewing finance options to accommodate our financial needs with our banking partners. Any transactions that may have a material impact will be communicated in a timely manner,” said Andreas Goldau, head of investor relations at the company.
Ooredoo, like many corporations and financial institutions in the Gulf, is looking to tap the international debt markets instead of seeking loans from local banks, as low oil prices have shrunk regional governments’ energy revenues, hitting banking sector liquidity.
This is prompting firms around the region to scramble to address upcoming maturities and funding needs before the markets become crowded with Gulf sovereign debt sales and other issues.
Ooredoo has sought commitments from local and international banks for credit facilities with tenors of three, five and six years, and aims to sign the facility by April 30, the sources said. The company is, however, open to raising funds as late as March 2017.
On bonds, Ooredoo has sought proposals in five-, 10- and 15-year tenors, the sources added. (Additional reporting by Tom Finn in Doha and David French in Dubai; Editing by Andrew Torchia)