Optus bid: SingTel "confident" despite new snag

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said it is confident of resolving issues regarding its bid for Australia's Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd despite formal objections from Australian television broadcaster Seven Network Ltd.

SINGAPORE--Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said it is confident of resolving issues regarding its bid for Australia's Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd despite formal objections from Australian television broadcaster Seven Network Ltd.

"SingTel doesn't believe that there are any issues which cannot be resolved," the company said in a statement Thursday.

The local telco was responding to Seven's lodged objections with Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) over SingTel's takeover bid for Optus, Reuters reported earlier yesterday.

"Seven believes that foreign (Singapore) government control of strategic assets--such as those owned by Optus--may breach Australian government obligations on safeguarding and protecting our national interests," the company said in a statement.

Security concerns first arose over Optus' operation of Australia's defense satellite surveillance and communications operations. SingTel is 78 percent owned by the Singapore government.

However, SingTel reiterated last month that the government's shareholding might be reduced to as low as 65 percent "depending on the relative levels of acceptance (of SingTel's cash-and-share offer) by Optus shareholders".

The takeover bid was announced on March 26 and closes on July 3. It involves three options for each Optus share: 1) 1.66 SingTel shares; 2) 0.8 SingTel shares and A$2.25 in cash; or 3) 0.54 SingTel shares, A$2.00 in cash and A$0.45 in SingTel US-dollar denominated bonds.

"SingTel has submitted its application to the Australian FIRB. We have held detailed discussions with the relevant government agencies in Australia and are confident that we can put in place arrangements which meet the issues that have been raised," the local telco noted in the statement Thursday.

SingTel also claimed that "the discussions have progressed well", although the deal is still pending approval from the Australian FIRB.

According to Reuters, Australia's FIRB does not often block bids, but it had in April scuttled a move by energy giant Royal Dutch/Shell to take control of gas exporter Woodside Petroleum Ltd.

SingTel's shares were down S$0.04 to S$1.83 Thursday.

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