Telecom New Zealand Eyes C&W Optus Purchase

Telecom New Zealand Ltd. is looking to acquire pieces of Australia's second-largest carrier Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd. (CWO) as part of its expansion plans, the company announced Friday.

Telecom NZ Chief Executive Theresa Gattung said in a statement the company had formally indicated interest in participating in the restructuring of CWO and in this context, had responded to requests from advisers to the Australian carrier and its parent company Cable & Wireless PLC, which owns 52.5 percent of CWO.

CWO has put its three key operating businesses -- mobile, data and business services and consumer/multimedia divisions -- up for sale.

Telecom NZ is primarily interested in Optus Mobile -- which local analysts have valued at around A$10 billion (US$5.43 billion) -- although it recognizes that any transaction it might undertake would need to be part of the overall restructuring of CWO, Gattung said in the statement. Such a restructuring was likely to be complex and involve other parties as well as Telecom NZ, she added.

Telecom NZ is the first carrier to express a formal interest in CWO, but several other carriers are rumored to be circling CWO, including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. and the U.K.'s Vodafone PLC.

Given the high price tag, Telecom NZ may decide to bid in conjunction with one of these companies, local media reported.

Vodafone is seen as the least likely partner for the mobile business. Telstra Corp. has around 48 percent of the Australian mobile market, Optus has 33 percent, and Vodafone already has about 18 percent. If Vodafone acquired CWO it would have a majority market share which would run into objections from regulator Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

Telecom NZ also owns Australia's third-largest telecommunications company AAPT Ltd., which it acquired for around A$1.7 billion in October.

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More about AAPTAustralian Competition & Consumer CommissionCable & WirelessCWOC&W OptusDoCoMoNTT AustraliaOptusSingapore TelecommunicationsTelecom New ZealandTelstra CorporationVodafone

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