MUMBAI (Reuters) - Reliance Communications Ltd’s shares soared for a second straight day on Wednesday after the Indian wireless carrier detailed a plan to cut its hefty debt load but it was not immediately clear if all key creditors were on board.
RCom, as the company is known, announced on Tuesday a plan to slash its debt by 390 billion rupees ($6.08 billion) underpinned by the sale of some of its spectrum, tower, fibre and real estate assets for which the company said it has already received some non-binding offers.
Building on an earlier plan announced in October, RCom, which is backed by billionaire businessman Anil Ambani, said the new scheme would involve no write-offs by lenders or bondholders, nor conversion of debt to equity.
The announcement triggered a 32 percent rally in its shares on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the shares soared a further 35 percent. RCom’s bond gains, though, were muted with the 6.5 percent bonds due 2020 up only slightly on Wednesday at 38.5/39.5 cents on the dollar from the previous day.
RCom had a net debt of 450 billion rupees at the end of October, putting it among India’s most indebted companies. Rising competition, including the entry of start-up Jio - backed by Anil Ambani’s brother Mukesh - has trimmed margins in India’s telecom sector to wafer-thin levels.
RCom had unveiled plans earlier this year to reduce debt but they came undone as asset sales failed to materialize. Pressure on the firm rose after it missed debt payments and some creditors such as China Development Bank (CDB) initiated insolvency proceedings.
Whether the new plan succeeds will depend on creditors and bondholders signing off on it. Foreign lenders have supported the plan, Ambani said on Tuesday, though he did not say whether CDB had backed the plan.
CDB did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. China’s ICBC and Exim Bank, both of whom are lenders to RCom, declined to comment on whether they are on board with the new RCom plan. Sources had told Reuters this month the two lenders were planning to support CDB in its insolvency petition.
Major domestic creditors of RCom were not immediately reachable for comment.
The Indian unit of Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, which has filed an insolvency case to recover dues totalling 11.55 billion rupees ($180 million) from RCom and two of its units, has not been approached by RCom about its latest plan, a source close to the company said, adding it would not withdraw its case.
“RCom has not approached us. Unless we have something concrete on the table from RCom, we will not withdraw the petition,” said the source, who did not want to be named as they are directly related to the matter and not authorised to speak to the media. The case is up for hearing on January 5.
An email sent to Ericsson on Tuesday did not elicit a response.
RCom is in the process of approaching its creditors and will do so in due course, an RCom spokesman said.
($1 = 64.1500 Indian rupees)
Reporting by Promit Mukherjee in Mumbai and Tanvi Mehta in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ma Rong in Beijing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman