SingTel confirms interest in Optus stake

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) has formally expressed interest in acquiring a stake in Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd. (CW Optus), which has put several parts of its business up for sale.

In a statement to the Singapore (stock) Exchange Friday, SingTel said it had submitted an expression of interest to buy assets of Australia's second-biggest carrier but that the terms of the negotiation had not been finalized.

CW Optus has put its three key operating businesses -- mobile, data and business services and consumer/multimedia divisions -- up for sale as its parent company, London-based Cable & Wireless PLC (C&W), has signaled its intention to focus on providing more profitable services to large companies and governments.

SingTel has a cash mountain estimated at about S$6 billion (US$3.45 billion), which places the company in a strong position to beat rivals Telecom New Zealand Ltd. and Vodafone Pacific Pty. Ltd. to the assets of CW Optus, whose total value, according to recent bank valuations, may be anywhere between A$7.5 billion and A$18 billion (US$4.0 billion and US$9.5 billion) .

In addition, both Telecom NZ and Vodafone would probably face regulatory pressure from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if they looked likely to buy Optus's assets.

Telecom NZ owns Australia's third-largest carrier, AAPT Ltd. Vodafone already has 18 percent of Australia's mobile phone market, while CW Optus has 33 percent, which would give the merged entity an unacceptably large share of the market.

SingTel, in Singapore, can be reached at +65-838-2007 or via the Web at http://www.singtel.com/.

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More about AAPTAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionCable & WirelessOptusSingapore TelecommunicationsSingtelTelecom New ZealandVodafoneVodafone Pacific

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