European Directories (DH6) BV filed for administration, allowing the yellow-pages publisher to restructure 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) of loans.
A London judge allowed the Dutch company to reorganize debts in the U.K. in a pre-packaged administration, said Peter Spratt, the company’s administrator at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. A pre-packaged administration is a pre-arranged plan between a company and certain creditors to reorganize debt.
The move allows lenders including Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to take over the company in a debt-for-equity swap. Macquarie Group Ltd., the private-equity firm that owned European Directories, will lose its shares. The debt plan will also leave holders of second-lien and mezzanine debt with no recovery, people familiar with the plan said in September.
European Directories in July changed its address, or its so-called center of main interest (COMI), from the Netherlands to the U.K., according to Companies House, the official government register of companies. "The greater certainty provided by the U.K. Insolvency Regime and the ability to cram-down out of the money creditors were the two key reasons why European Directories moved its COMI, and thus it’s restructuring, to the U.K.," said Michael Dance, a restructuring advisor and senior consultant to KPMG in a telephone interview.
The company followed in the foot steps of Greek phone company Wind Hellas Telecommunications SA and German auto-parts maker Schefenacker AG, which moved their COMI’s to the U.K. in 2009 and 2006, respectively.
European Directories, the banks and other senior lenders including Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of New York Mellon Corp.’s Alcentra, agreed to the debt plan in July after the company missed payments.
Second-lien lenders AMP Capital Investors Ltd. and Hastings Fund Management Ltd. challenged the plan in September but failed to get the backing of the U.K. Court of Appeals.
European Directories, whose business includes providing local search functions for consumers and advertisers, was formed in 2005 after the acquisition of the Yellow Brick Road Group by a group led by Sydney-based Macquarie.
Sales at yellow pages publishers, including Italy’s Seat Pagine Gialle SpA and Britain’s Yell Group Plc have come under “intense pressure” for the past several quarters as the internet has eroded demand for printed directories, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
“The sector faces the ongoing challenge of having to adapt to a market that has shifted towards an Internet-based advertising model compounded by a bumpy macroeconomic recovery from the global recession,” Moody’s analyst Gunjan Dixit wrote in a research note to clients last week.
European Directories has about 4,750 employees and more than 700,000 customers, according to its website.