Wednesday January 15, 3:21 PM
Thai TA delays 3.6 bln baht bond issue
BANGKOK, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Thailand`s largest private fixed-line operator, TelecomAsia Plc (TA), will delay a 3.6 billion baht ($84.15 million) bond issue to mid-February, an underwriting source said on Wednesday.
The source told Reuters the four-year-and-nine-month amortising bonds, due October 2007, would be offered to institutional and retail investors.
The bonds were originally to be issued in January.
"We expect to open for subscription during February 10 and 14 and the coupon rate will be announced next week," the source said. The source said underwriters needed more time to test market demand.
Thai Farmers Bank , Bangkok Bank , Siam Commercial Bank and Merrill Lynch Phatra have been named lead underwriters for the bonds.
Thai interest rates are at historic lows, prompting companies to issue bonds to raise funds for expansion or debt refinancing.
The bonds are part of TA`s attempt to reduce its exposure to foreign exchange risk and strengthen its financial position.
In October, TA sold 18.5 billion baht of bonds to repay most of its dollar debts, which helped reduce its foreign debts to $78 million from more than $700 million last year.
TA was hit by sharp foreign exchange losses and saw its debt balloon after the baht was devalued during Asia`s 1997-1998 financial crisis.
TA is majority-owned by Charoen Pokphand Group, Thailand`s biggest agribusiness conglomerate. The firm operates fixed-line telephones in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.
It also has an interest in cellular firm TA Orange, which is a joint venture with France`s Orange SA .
By midday, TA shares were down slightly at 4.60 baht, while the overall Thai stock market was up 0.3 percent.
($1 = 42.78 Baht)