Business

Telefónica to sell Gulfstream jets as part of cost cuts: sources

Company embarked on austerity drive to reduce debt

Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, whose net debt is bigger than its market value, plans to reduce its fleet of private jets as part of an effort to cut costs, Bloomberg quoted two people familiar with the matter as saying.

Telefónica, which has more private planes than any other Spanish publicly traded company, plans to put up for sale two of its four Gulfstream business jets in the next month, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The company could raise about 35 million euros for the jets, the person said.

Telefónica will replace one of the jets by March or April with a new Gulfstream G650, which it ordered about three years ago, the person said. The telecoms operator, which has a department for aviation, may have paid about 50 million euros, less than the 70 million euros a new G650 costs now, the person said.

The jet sales are part of a cost-reduction program that spans office supplies, employee refreshments, compensation and asset disposals. After an $85 billion acquisition spree over the past decade, Chief Executive Officer César Alierta is cutting back, selling assets that include shares in German and Latin American units as well as the call-center business Atento.

The company, which faces competition from France Telecom’s Orange Spain unit and Jazztel, reduced managers’ total compensation by 30 percent in July, while board members agreed to take a 20 percent pay cut. Saddled with more than 58 billion euros of net debt, Telefónica also scrapped this year’s dividend and halved next year’s to save an estimated 10.2 billion euros as it rushes to avoid further debt downgrades.

The jets for sale are a General Dynamics Corp. Gulfstream G200, which can fly for about 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 kilometers), and a Gulfstream GV with a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles, the person said. Both carry 10 to 14 passengers and include leather seats, couch, internet, TV and satellite connection, the person said. The average maintenance cost for this type of jet is about 10,000 euros for each hour of flight, the person said.

Telefónica’s other two jets are Gulfstream G550 models. The company bought its first jet, a second-hand Gulfstream GIV, from the Sultan of Brunei in the late 1990s under the leadership of Alierta’s predecessor, Juan Villalonga, the person said.

A Telefónica official declined to comment.

Only top executives at Telefónica use the jets, though less often than they used to, people familiar with the matter said. Alierta is known in the aviation industry as a sensible jet user, having rented one for personal use from outside the company, one of the people said.

Telefónica follows other telecommunications companies in selling planes. Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, was selling one of its two business jets under a plan to save $1 billion in operating costs, people familiar with the matter said in July.

As part of a broad cost-cutting program, Telefónica may move some of the about 370 employees of its international unit, known as TISA, to Brazil from Spain by early next year, two people familiar with the matter said. The final number of people to be moved hasn’t been decided and the rest will be relocated to other operating units or fired, the people said.

Telefónica has also reduced the number of color photocopies for most employees, two people said. The phone company is also cutting back on travel, coffee and phone expenses, one of the people said. Other cost cuts include the use of company cars, for which directors now have stricter gasoline-allowance limits, the person said.

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