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Bespoke convertibles make a comeback

After a few years of dormancy, convertible bond issuance in emerging Europe and the Middle East is picking up again. A few innovative and highly structured deals have priced this year and bankers are confident of more transactions. Sudip Roy reports on factors driving the activity and the types of investors involved.

WHEN EGYPTIAN COMPANY Weather Investments bought Italy’s Wind Telecom for €12.1 billion last August, analysts heralded the deal as a benchmark transaction. It was, at that time, Europe’s biggest-ever leveraged buyout and also the largest-ever acquisition in Europe by a Middle East/Africa concern. Just as impressive is the financing strategy behind the acquisition. One element is an €825 million exchangeable bond that was issued in February.

The seven-year bond proved a big hit with investors and was several times oversubscribed. The deal, which was lead managed by Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, carried a coupon of 4.75% and traded up in the secondary market. The bond is exchangeable into shares of Weather if it lists or, if not, into the global depositary receipts of Orascom Telecom Holding, another company which forms part of Weather owner Naguib Sawiris’s business empire.

The convertible is central to Weather’s plans to refinance the €7.93 billion of acquisition finance it took out last July to pay for the Wind takeover.

On the radar screen

Weather is not the only company in the Middle East/Africa and central and eastern Europe raising money in the equity-linked or convertible bond markets. This year a handful of companies from emerging Europe have issued equity-linked deals, including Hungarian oil company Mol, Russian mining and metals group Mechel and the UAE’s Dubai Ports World.

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