Speculation about a deal that could see national broadband provider iiNet pick up a chunk of embattled Telecom New Zealand subsidiary AAPT is likely to rapidly intensify today with the news iiNet has halted trading of its shares.
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone has so far declined to comment on a possible AAPT deal, but in an announcement to the ASX this morning, iiNet requested a two-day trading halt "pending the announcement of a potential acquisition".
iiNet envisages ending its trading halt before Monday morning, before which time it plans to make an announcement about the "proposed acquisition".
The news comes as iiNet was linked this morning to a possible transaction involving AAPT by The Australian. Rival broadband specialist TPG has long been named as a potential acquirer of AAPT. Both iiNet and TPG have a strong history of acquiring other ISPs in the Australian market to fuel growth.
"It is believed iiNet has submitted a proposal that could see AAPT's retail and wholesale arms sold as separate entities," the newspaper reported this morning.
Both iiNet and TPG have been extremely active in acquiring other telcos and ISPs over the past few years. In late March iiNet confirmed it would acquire fellow tier two ISP Netspace, in a transaction valued at $40 million and funded entirely through debt.
It had only been two years since iiNet's last major acquisition — fellow Perth-based ISP Westnet.
TPG also hit headlines last year with the buyout of fibre player Pipe Networks, in a deal that gave TPG, which is primarily a retail service provider, a significant wholesale fibre footprint around Australia.