WOM Chile’s debt worries continue

WOM Chile’s debt worries continue

Less than two years after it announced the launch of commercial 5G services across several regions of the country, operator WOM Chile is having to refinance US$348 million in debt due this year – and hasn’t yet made it clear how this will happen.

Bloomberg reports that WOM stunned bondholders this week by delaying the release of its fourth-quarter results and accompanying conference call — set for today, March 21 — without rescheduling the call. 

This happened days after agencies S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings cut the company’s credit score deeper into junk, citing higher odds of a restructuring. There appears to be little progress on funding ether after more than a year of talks with banks.

Bloomberg adds that creditors aren’t counting on the company’s backer, Icelandic businessman Thor Bjorgolfsson, to come to the rescue, and refinancing options or shareholder support cannot be relied upon.

WOM said in a statement last week that it is analysing options to pay back bondholders. The company hired banking giant Rothschild last year to help it refinance its debt, which comes due this year.

WOM is third behind Movistar and Entel and ahead of Claro in a highly competitive market that has hit the company’s cash reserves hard.

It’s a long way from the heady days of 2022, when the company used part of the US$930 million it gained from the sale of transmission towers in Chile to buy shares in its sister Colombian operation and pay dividends to its owner.

What happens next – default, something less serious, or even a rescue – is unclear. 

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