AAPT says no to Optus

AAPT's board of directors voted unanimously yesterday to reject a $1.49 billion hostile takeover bid from Cable & Wireless Optus but signalled it would consider other offers.

Cable & Wireless Optus made the $5 per share cash offer late Friday afternoon, after acquiring 10.6 per cent of AAPT from Sing.tel, which sold the shares to concentrate on other business. Yesterday, AAPT's shares soared to as high as $5.45 as news of Optus' offer reached the market.

AAPT's board considered the C&W Optus offer "absurd" and "naive", according to chairman Lee Casey.

"The Optus offer was not reflective of the value of the company as it stands today," said AAPT chief executive Larry Williams. "AAPT shares traded at more than $5 in the three to four days prior to the offer," he said.

"We made it clear Optus' bid was unwelcome," he said.

Both executives denied having approached Optus for the sale. Casey said AAPT had been "aware of Optus' interest over the years".

"Optus approached us in March for a friendly [bid]," Williams said, continuing to say the hostile offer came out of the blue. "We have been aware of Optus' interest over the years," Casey said.

"There would be an enormous advantage in the AAPT purchase to Optus," he said.

AAPT is the number two provider of business long-distance and switched data (behind Telstra), Satellite services (behind Optus) and number three in residential service.

AAPT's high-capacity LDMS network was "about to provide genuine competition to Telstra in local calls", Casey said, and the company is ready to announce a key partnership for its CDMA service.

"We believe AAPT represents a unique opportunity for Australian market . . . and for a number of international telecommunication companies with whom we are in discussions," a statement said. Neither executive would name the telcos with whom they were talking, but said it was not British Telecommunications.

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