SingTel bidding to acquire Australian telecom firm
SINGAPORE, Feb. 16 Kyodo
Singapore Telecom (SingTel) is bidding to acquire Australia’s second-biggest telephone operator, Cable & Wireless Optus, SingTel officials said Friday.
In a statement submitted Thursday to the Stock Exchange of Singapore, SingTel said that it ”has submitted a nonbinding indicative expression of interest for the acquisition of shares in Cable & Wireless Optus.”
”The terms for the acquisition have not been finalized and the transaction is still at a preliminary stage,” it said.
So far, two other companies are known to have expressed interest in Optus. British mobile phone giant Vodafone PLC said last month that it submitted a bid to acquire the company. The other contender is Telecom Corp. of New Zealand.
Optus is 52.5% owned by London-based Cable & Wireless PLC, and the rest by minority shareholders. It announced last September that it was conducting a structural and strategic review of the company and in November invited bids for part or all of its assets.
Cash-rich SingTel, which is 78% owned by the Singapore government, has been scouting for overseas business opportunities as earnings are crimped by the government’s decision to fully liberalize the local telecom market in April last year, which ended its monopoly.
However, its recent forays overseas have failed miserably and some analysts have attributed the failure to its government linkage, which is disliked by foreign governments.
It failed to grab Cable & Wireless Hong Kong. Its attempt to enter into a partnership with Malaysia’s debt-laden telecom company Time Engineering and its parent company Renong by buying stakes in Time and its related companies was aborted by the other party, apparently due to opposition from the Malaysian government.
However, it recently bought stakes in India’s Bharti Group for $400 million.
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