UPDATE 1-Telecom Italia launches convertible bond, warns on targets

Thursday, 7 Nov 2013 | 2:22 PM ET

* Launches convertible bond worth up to 1.3 bln euros

* November 2016 bond will close by Friday

* Further announcement due later on strategic plan

MILAN, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Italy's largest telecoms operator Telecom Italia launched a mandatory convertible bond worth up to 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) on Thursday and said its full-year results may differ from its targets.

Telecom Italia said only that the proceeds would go to "general corporate purposes".

The company is also expected to hold a conference call with analysts at 1930 GMT and make a further announcement on a strategic plan approved this afternoon at the first board meeting since Spain's Telefonica struck a deal to tighten its grip on the Italian group in September.

The group's new Chief Executive Marco Patuano is seeking a way out of Telecom Italia's dilemma of high debts and deteriorating business in its home market, while finding cash to invest in its creaky Italian network and hold off a credit downgrade to junk.

He also must navigate between Telefonica's wishes, which include a possible sale of its Brazilian unit TIM, and those of the Italian government, which although it does not own shares in the group has a voice, given the group's ownership of key infrastructure and status as a large employer.

With the convertible bond, Telecom Italia will avoid a straight capital increase, which sources earlier told Reuters was an option Telefonica would have supported. Such capital increases tend to be issued at a discount to the current share price, unlike the convertible bond.

Robin Bienenstock, analyst at Bernstein Research, said equity investors had been expecting a cash call of up to 2 billion euros, so the fact that Telecom Italia is raising 1.3 billion euros may be seen positively.

"Since the mandatory convertible is at a premium to today's share price, it is arguably a better way to raise capital," she said.

Books for the November 2016 bond, convertible into ordinary and saving shares, will close by Friday, it said in a statement, adding that the coupon was expected to be of 5.75-6.5 percent.

In a separate statement, the company reiterated its financial targets for 2013, but added that "actual results may differ, even significantly, from those forecast for the whole 2013".

Telecom Italia said nine month revenues fell 7.6 percent to 20.38 billion euros, dragged lower by weakness its recession-hit domestic business, while core profits fell 10.5 percent to 7.93 billion euros.

Both were broadly in line with market expectations.

Adjusted net debt stood at 28.23 billion euros at the end of September, also in line with analysts' expectations.

Telecom Italia shares closed down 4.3 percent at 0.72 euros before the announcements. They have risen 5.4 percent since January, underperforming the European telecom index, which is up nearly 30 percent.

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