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France Telecom Sells Casema to Cut Debt

December 26, 2002

PARIS (AP) _ France Telecom, under pressure to reduce its massive debt load, said Thursday it had agreed to sell its Dutch television unit Casema Holding to three firms for $677 million in cash.

The sale to the Carlyle Group, Providence Equity Partners and GMT Communications Partners should be completed before the end of January, the French telecommunications operator said in a statement.

France Telecom said part of the proceeds _ $160 million _ will be allocated to paying back Casema’s debt.

Net gains will amount to $527 million, said France Telecom, which is struggling under $72 billion of debt.

Under terms of the deal, France Telecom is also committed to paying the buyers up to $15.5 million for services provided by Casema to the French company over the next three years.

The sale comes a month after an agreement to sell the Netherlands’ third-largest cable TV business to John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp. was scuttled due to regulatory concerns.

The sale to Carlyle, Providence and GMT shouldn’t face the same problems, since none of the firms owns a cable business in the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, France Telecom CEO Thierry Breton announced a $46 billion restructuring plan that includes shedding 22,000 jobs, issuing more stock and rescheduling debt payments.

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