Telecom New Zealand eyes C&W Optus purchase

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, which owns 52.5 per cent 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 $10 billion -- although it recognises 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 rumoured to be circling CWO, including Singapore Telecommunications, Japan's NTT DoCoMo and the UK's Vodafone.

Given the high price tag, Telecom NZ may decide to bid in conjunction with one of these companies, it's been reported.

Vodafone is seen as the least likely partner for the mobile business. Telstra has around 48 per cent of the Australian mobile market, Optus has 33 per cent, and Vodafone already has about 18 per cent. 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, which it acquired for around $1.7 billion in October.

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David Legard

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