Marconi denies danger of bond default as debt for equity swap looms

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The Independent Online

Marconi, the ailing telecoms equipment maker, has denied reports that it is set to default on two bond payments as it seeks to conserve cash.

Marconi is due to pay interest of €91.8m (£56.7m) on two Eurobonds in the next few days. Weekend reports suggested Marconi would default on the loans but a company spokesman said at the weekend that "Marconi has every intention of making the payments".

The settlement would follow interest payments of £50.7m on the group's Yankee bonds, which were made by Marconi on 15 March.

Marconi declined to comment on the likelihood of the group's creditors and bondholders accepting a debt-for-equity swap, which is an option. "We will continue to negotiate with banks and other shareholders," the company said.

Marconi has been struggling to restructure its debt as it seeks to salvage itself from the wreckage of an acquisitions spree which has left the group with debts of more than £2bn. However, the company has access to £1bn in cash, which will enable it to honour payments on its bonds, the company said.

Last week Marconi surrendered access to £2.5bn of credit and said its lenders could demand repayment of outstanding loans at any time. A refinancing deal fell through last week because of a deterioration in Marconi's trading prospects.

Marconi has also been selling its business to reduce debt and has raised £1.6bn from the sale of eight companies.

The former stock market high flyer has also laid off 13,000 workers.

Marconi's warning last week was the struggling group's third in less than a year. The company has been in crisis since its decision to reinvent itself as a telecoms equipment specialist, having sold the old GEC defence operations. The shares fell 47 per cent to just 9.55p on Friday, their lowest ever level.