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Telecom Corp to take stake in HTAL

11 октября 2007

Hutchison Whampoa said it would sell a stake in its Australian 3G mobile telephone arm to New Zealand's Telecom Corporation. The A$330.6m ($297.3m) deal will see Telecom Corp take a 10 per cent stake in Hutchison Telecommunications Australia, with an option to increase its stake to 19.9 per cent.

Hutchison's stake in HTAL, which is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, will be reduced to 52 per cent from 57.8 per cent, the company said last night. The Hong Kong-based conglomerate, controlled by billionaire tycoon Li Ka-shing, will book a one-off gain of $116m from the deal.

Hutchison's Australia 3G network is its third largest, after 3UK and 3 Italia. In the first six months of this year, HTAL's subscriber base grew 13 per cent to 1.4m people and as of August accounted for 10 per cent of the group's total 3G users. That is much smaller than 3 Italia and 3UK, which account for 53 per cent and 28 per cent of the company's 3G subscribers, respectively.

HTAL losses rose 16 per cent last year to A$759.4m.

Hutchison has been struggling over recent years to turn round its loss-making 3G operations, which have been a drag on the company's highly profitable energy, ports and retailing arms. The group's 3G operations booked losses before interest and tax of $1.4bn in the first half, representing a modest improvement over the same period last year.

Mr Li and his top management team have consistently reiterated their determination to turn their 3G networks round, and insist the businesses are not for sale.

Losses from Hutchison's 3G group have been offset by a series of one-off asset disposals. In the most recent example, Hutchison booked a $2bn gain from the sale of its interest in Hutchison Essar, India's fourth-largest mobile phone company, to Vodafone this year.

Hutchison's 3G difficulties have also acted as a break on its Hong Kong-traded shares. A conglomerates index compiled by CLSA, the Hong Kong-based Asian brokerage, has outperformed the MSCI Asia ex-Japan benchmark by 296 per cent since January 1996.

Источник: Financial Times

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