Telefonica Said to Weigh IPO for U.K.'s O2 as Soon as Year-End

(Bloomberg) -- Telefonica SA is considering an initial public offering for its U.K. mobile-phone unit O2 as soon as the end of the year, people familiar with the matter said, as the Spanish telecommunications company looks for ways to reduce debt.

Telefonica has resumed work on the listing and could seek to sell a minority stake in the fourth quarter, depending on market conditions, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private. No final decision has been made and the Madrid-based parent company could postpone or cancel the plans or sell the holding to a bidder instead, they said.

A spokeswoman for Telefonica declined to comment.

Last year, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union shook stock markets and forced Telefonica to shelve plans for the unit. It wasn’t the first time that politics intruded on Telefonica’s plans for O2 as earlier in the year EU regulators blocked its plans to sell the unit for as much as 10.25 billion pounds ($13.1 billion) to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three.

Telefonica’s goal for 2017 is to cut its approximately 49 billion euros ($53 billion) in debt by improving its cash generation. Earlier this year, the company agreed to sell as much as 40 percent of its infrastructure unit Telxius to KKR & Co. for 1.28 billion euros, after having scrapped an IPO last year.