Futuris wants quick Amcom sale

Diversified industrial firm Futuris today said it intended to sell its 50 per cent stake in local telco Amcom speedily, as industry speculation intensified over who would be a likely buyer.

Diversified industrial firm Futuris today said it intended to sell its 50 per cent stake in local telco Amcom speedily, as industry speculation intensified over who would be a likely buyer.

After the government cancelled the contract for the AU$1 billion OPEL WiMax network which Futuris-owned Elders was to build together with Optus, Futuris found that it did not make sense to continue to hold telecommunications assets. "The business case is not there for telco," a Futuris spokesperson said today.

The company has therefore classed its Amcom holding as non-core and has decided to cash it in on an "expeditious basis", the spokesperson said.

Michael Malone, Managing Director of iiNet, in which Amcom held a 22.4 per cent stake as of May this year, commented on the sale, listing possible contenders for the deal.

"The obvious buyers for Amcom are the east coast fibre players — so Optus, AAPT, Pipe Networks, Leighton [which owns Next Gen Networks], perhaps Primus as a long shot. It could also be a management buy out, the current management team are extremely good operators, particularly Clive Stein [Managing Director] and Richard [Chief Operating Officer]," he said.

Optus, AAPT, Pipe Networks and iPrimus declined to comment on the issue, while Next Gen Networks and Amcom did not reply by the time of publication.

The transaction could have an effect on iiNet, with Telecom New Zealand holding a 18.27 per cent stake in Malone's firm at at September last year, courtesy of its subsidiary AAPT's January 2007 acquisition of Powertel.

If Telecom New Zealand bought the Amcom stake, it would deliver the Kiwi telco a large slice of iiNet as well.

"The identity of the buyer would be the biggest factor in terms of what happens to the iiNet stake. Since it's over 20 per cent, it must be dealt with or a takeover of iiNet is automatically triggered," Malone said.

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