One.Tel starts stalking OzEmail

Packer-Murdoch venture One.Tel has confirmed it is in "preliminary" discussions with UUNet regarding the possible acquisition of internet service provider OzEmail.

According to One.Tel spokeswoman Sandy Slessar, the acquisition-related discussions between One.Tel and UUNet are still in the "embryonic stage". However, she said that One.Tel already expects any transaction between the companies to hold a low cash value because the News Ltd-PBL offshoot wants to acquire OzEmail's bandwidth, not its customer base of more than 200,000.

If the acquisition is successful, the new company will hold a customer base of an estimated 365,000. Australian investment house Gresham Partners will negotiate on behalf of OzEmail, but declined to comment. One.Tel's two local managing directors, Brad Keeling and Jodee Rich, are overseas.

UUNet, which is a WorldCom subsidiary, has kept no secret of its intention to offload the ISP ever since withdrawing from its agreement to sell OzEmail to eisa.

Eisa's bid for OzEmail fell dead when almost all of the internet company's original backers, including Fairfax internet subsidiary f2, the ANZ Bank and Hastings Funds Management, pulled out of the deal within a week.

Meanwhile, eisa looked one step closer to being swallowed whole yesterday, when local pay TV company Austar launched a bid to buy the internet company for around $24 million.

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