BT has sold Clear Communications says analyst

It has been a long time coming: Clear Communications Ltd. may finally have been sold. Analysts were abuzz Wednesday with talk about a sale of the wholly-owned British Telecommunications PLC subsidiary to a consortium of New Zealand investors and Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based financier.

"The ink is drying on the deal as we speak," said one analyst covering the telecommunication market.

Clear boss Peter Kaliaropoulos denies all knowledge of such a deal, but stresses he is part of the day-to-day management at Clear and not BT's strategic planning department.

"There are no developments. All I can say is ownership is a matter for the shareholders and management focuses on performance." Kaliaropoulos says BT has a separate team looking at the issue of ownership.

"They're a separate team - I'm part of the operations team not mergers, acquisitions and disposals. They'd tell us a day or two before it would happen and there's been nothing of the kind."

But industry sources say Berkshire, which is also a shareholder in New Zealand's Tranz Rail Holdings Ltd., is fronting a consortium that includes local companies Jump Capital and Todd Corporation, both of which have interests in the telecommunications sector.

Last year Jump Capital took part in the New Zealand government's 2GHz wireless spectrum auction, although it pulled out and ended the auction without buying the rights to any of the available slots. According to the New Zealand Herald it also walked away from a deal with Wilson Neill subsidiary Radionet, which would have seen Jump pumping NZ$8 million (US$3.3 million) into the wireless company. Jump's backers include merchant bankers Michael Fay and David Richwhite.

Todd Corporation is listed in National Business Review's annual Rich List as one of New Zealand's richest family-owned companies.

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