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Jan 20, 2009

It's Official: NYTCo Gets $250 Million Cash Infusion From Carlos Slim's 'Banco Inbursa'

imageAs expected, The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) has received a $250 million cash injection from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu. Reports over the weekend from both the Times and the WSJ said that the deal could close today—but also that it could collapse under its complexity before anything had finalized. Under the terms of the deal, NYTCo will use the money to refinance its existing debt. In particular, president and CEO Janet L. Robinson said the proceeds would be used to help cover the $400 million credit facility expiring in May.Release.

Some other details about the deal include:

—The notes are priced at a 14 percent interest rate, of which the NYTCo may choose to pay 3 percent for an additional issuance. The notes are callable beginning three years.

—Slim and members of his family are the main shareholders of Grupo Financiero Inbursa, S.A B. de C.V., which is the parent company of Banco Inbursa. Those two entities own Inmobiliaria Carso, the vehicle through which Slim currently holds 6.9 percent of the NYTCo's Class A shares.

—Slim purchased the 6.9 stake in NYTCo back in September. The value at the time: approximately $127 million, 9.1 million shares at $13.96 a share.The value now: about $58 million based on Friday's $6.41 close (which was up 3.27 percent in trading that day).

David adds: While Slim's purchase won't erase the $1.1 billion in debt NYTCo has due in the next few years, it certainly will give the company some room to maneuver as the entire newspaper industry is trying to cope in one of most perilous financial periods since World War II. In order to get some breathing room, NYTCo execs have turned to Slim, who is regarded as one of the world's richest individuals. But as Robinson insisted in the release, the company is continuing to "explore other financing initiatives."

—Still, some of the ideas NYTCo has floated lately—like selling off the Boston Globe (which has been mentioned by others for years, not Times execs), dumping its stake in the Boston Red Sox and taking out a mortgage or sale-lease on its 58 percent ownership of its Times Tower office building—make sense, but will be enormously difficult to pull off in this kind of poor economic environment. Additional moves to free up cash, like November's decision to reduce the generous dividend payments, have continued to spur debate about whether NYTCo has gone far enough.

—As for Slim's intentions, that's likely to continue to draw attention. He's keeping mum for now, Reuters says. For example, is this part of a larger plan to gain control of the NYT? The 15.9 million Class A shares Slim got in the deal, if converted to stock, the company, could eventually give the Mexican tycoon a 17 percent interest in the publisher. While the Sulzberger family that has controlled the paper for over a century hope that in return for the holdings, Slim will offer an added line of defense against dissident shareholders, he could certainly change his outlook if the NYTCo's business suffers further, presenting an even greater challenge to the family and their hold of the world's leading newspapers.

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