PARIS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Struggling French directory group PagesJaunes Groupe SA said it has reached an agreement with creditors to refinance its debt, offering the Paris-listed group relief after worried investors sent its shares down 50 percent since the start of the year.
The deal includes the reimbursement of about a third of the company’s total gross debt, 680 million euros ($864.35 million), and an extension of the maturities of just under 1 billion euros to September 2015 from November next year, the company said.
“It is an uncertainty on the evolution of the company which is totally lifted,” Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Remy told Reuters. “It is reassuring for everyone, our shareholders, our creditors, but also our teams and clients.”
More than 90 percent of the group’s creditors agreed to extend to September 2015 the maturity of the company’s last slice of debt of 638 million euros and its revolving credit line of 300 million euros, both initially due in November 2013.
In return, the company will immediately reimburse 419 million euros to creditors and will have until April 2015 to repay some 260 million euros, representing about a third of its total gross debt which stands at 2.23 billion euros.
Famous for its printed directories, PagesJaunes has shifted its strategy to the Internet in recent years after it struggled with a decline in its core business, high levels of debt and deserting investors.
Remy said the business was profitable, allowing the group to generate 200 million euros of cash-flow every year. This, its credit line and the money saved by scrapping dividends from 2011 allowed the group to repay part of the debt.
The company will start paying a dividend again once its ratio of debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization becomes less than three, Remy said.
PagesJaunes confirmed its targets for 2012 sales to fall between 1 and 3 percent and for its gross operating margin to stand between 470 million and 485 million euros.
Sales fell 2.4 percent in the first nine months of the year to 800 million euros. Its gross operating margin reached 45.2 percent of sales over the period, compared to 46.5 percent in 2011.
($1 = 0.7867 euros)
Reporting by Gwénaëlle Barzic and Alice Cannet; Editing by Matt Driskill