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BAe sells its stake in Orange

BRITISH AEROSPACE off-loaded its remaining 5 per cent stake in Orange yesterday through a seven-year Eurobond issue exchangeable into the mobile phone company's shares.

The pounds 700m issue, the biggest sterling convertible bond ever, targets high yield investors. BAe's move comes on the heels of an over-subscribed pounds 460m high yield issue by Orange in early June. High-yield, or "junk" bonds as they are termed because of their weak credit quality, are a long-established asset class in the US, but relative newcomers to European markets.

The sale of BAe's remaining stake had been expected since the aerospace manufacturer sold a 16.1 per cent block of Orange shares last year.

The Orange bond issue will be priced at a premium of between 27 and 30 per cent above the closing price of Orange stock, which ended down 24 pence at 884p yesterday.