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Telecommunications: Ways to survive a sea of troubles

Telecoms companies kept the capital markets afloat during the second half of 1998. They could play a similar role this year. Charles Olivier considers the industry's financing plans for 1999.

Dial and deal

It looks like a lean year for arrangers of debt and equity. With half the world heading for recession, many companies are cutting back investment programmes and do not need to raise capital. With many analysts predicting a second market crash, volatility could get worse before it gets better ­ thereby sending corporate borrowing costs beyond acceptable levels.

So where will investment bankers find new business this year? The answer, says Chris Bataillard, managing director of corporate finance at JP Morgan in London, is in the telecoms industry: "Unlike most manufacturing companies, telecom firms are embarking on significant investment programmes and will continue to need a huge amount of capital."

Meanwhile, the sector is extremely popular with investors looking for growth stocks that offer protection against an economic downturn. "The sector has a lot of defensive qualities which makes it very attractive to investors looking for a safe haven," says Bataillard. "People don't stop using the phone, fax or the internet just because there is a recession."

Over the past six months, the industry has generated more business for investment banks than the pharmaceutical, manufacturing and energy sectors put together.

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