Telco group pushing ahead with deleveraging plan, but insists it is not planning to raise cash through share issue

Altice will sell off non-core assts as early as the first half of next year, it announced on Monday, in a statement that also addressed recent market speculation over its cash requirements and margin loan exposure.

The French telecoms group reiterated comments made last week about its aim to offload certain assets, including its towers portfolio, a move that will be key to its deleveraging plan, and to step back from the mergers and acquisitions market.

"Altice has initiated processes to effect disposals as early as the first half of 2018 and will update investors in due course on its progress," it said.

"Altice reiterates that it will not pursue any new meaningful M&A opportunities," it added.

The telco is not currently working a plan to raise cash through the issuance of new shares and does not intend to do so in future, it said, responding to recent press speculation to that effect.

Altice has grown rapidly in recent years, making a series of high-profile acquisitions, backed by debt, that have left it with a debt burden of €49.56 billion at the end of September.

While it aims to bring down that debt pile, it does not need to raise cash, it insisted, noting that its liquidity is strong, with around €1.66 billion of cash on the balance sheet.

It also noted that majority shareholder Next does not hold any margin loan exposure related to Altice,and clarified a piece published by Bloomberg that erroneously implied Next had sold 81 million Altice shares. Next has not sold any Altice shares since the IPO, aside from 0.3 million sold to group managers, as disclosed in 2016, Altice said.

Another major shareholder, company founder Patrick Drahi, reinstated himself as president of Altice just under two weeks ago and reinstalled Dexter Goei as company CEO, replacing Michel Combes, who handed in his notice following a period of weak performances from the telco.

Altice’s shares were trading at around €8.75 at midday on Monday, down from around €19 at the start of the year and a mid-year high of just over €23.