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Cabler Multicanal ends debt dispute

Bankruptcy court upholds restructuring plan

BUENOS AIRES — Multicanal has ended a two-year legal battle with a U.S. investment fund over a $525 million debt restructuring, paving the way for Argentina’s No. 2 cabler to focus on growing its business.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York upheld the restructuring plan and granted Multicanal protection against further legal action from creditors, the cabler said, citing the May 18 ruling.

A group run by New Jersey investment fund W.R. Huff, challenged the restructuring in late 2003 as it sought better repayment terms for the debt it holds.

Multicanal, which defaulted on the debt after the country’s 2001 economic collapse and currency devaluation, is offering to exchange defaulted debt for cash, equity and longer-term bonds that pay less interest. Bondholders are recovering between 30% and 44% of their investment, according to market estimates.

Multicanal is expanding the business and raising prices to take advantage of a booming economy — it is set to expand 7%-9% this year after three years of 9% annual growth.

Multicanal’s subs rose 17% in 2005 from 2003, recovering from a 30% decline in 2002, according to industry data. It now has some 1 million subs, off its 1990s high of 1.4 million.

The country, the most cabled in Latin America, has an estimated 4.6 million cable subs, down from more than 5 million in the previous decade.

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