Optus CEO Paul O'Sullivan said today that he believed
Vodafone-Hutchison entity would have a chance of overtaking
Optus to nab the number two position in the mobile market.
Paul O'Sullivan, Optus CEO (Credit: Optus)
"There's a clear ambition been stated by these people to
become the number two," O'Sullivan said during a media briefing. "We think that that is
a credible threat, but it's something now we're very focused on
O'Sullivan claimed that Optus had the edge over the new larger
scale competitor because it had a larger customer base, more
extensive 3G mobile coverage, a profitable business that would
allow it to invest, and a fixed network with which to bundle and scale
benefits from SingTel.
Optus was also poised to take advantage of any confusion and
costs involved with integration of the operations. "The parties
have committed to some fairly major restructuring inside their own
companies; this will obviously lead to redundancies and
rationalisation and various activities and that is obviously
something we'd be seeking to capitalise on," he said.
The merger was a positive one for the industry, which previously
had too many players, O'Sullivan said. He hoped it would put an
end to "irrational" behaviour that had been going on such as
providing free SIM cards in newspapers.
"Those are irrational acts and I think the industry will be a
lot better off without the pressure that forced smaller operators
to engage in that sort of behaviour," he said.
The fate of Optus' joint network venture with Vodafone has not
yet been decided, O'Sullivan said, and was currently under
No hiring for Optus
Optus also revealed it has been in a
staff freeze. "In respect of our head count we are managing our
head count around essentially a staff freeze relation particularly
to back-office staff," deputy CFO Murray King said. "We are still
putting staff in front line operational areas such as in network
operations and in customer care."
From the last quarter to this quarter, the head count has dropped
by 101 from 10,740 to 10,639.
At the moment, O'Sullivan said there were no plans to make
cuts. "We will have very detailed plans ready to go in the event
that we see any change," he said.
National Broadband Network
O'Sullivan built on speculation that the National Broadband
Network builder would be a consortium, saying that if needs be,
Optus would work together with other bidders to deliver a project
as long as the financial, investment protection and regulatory
environment were right. "We're certainly ready to consider any
alternative in that sense," he said. When asked if any talks had
been held with other parties, O'Sullivan declined to comment.
As to the question of when Communications Minister Stephen
Conroy might make a decision on who will build the network,
O'Sullivan said: "I've got a bunch of guys with binoculars
watching the chimneys of Parliament House for white smoke, so as
soon as we see anything we'll let you know."