Telstra gets AU$2.8b for 49% stake in tower biz from Future Fund and super funds

Around half of the net proceeds from selling the stake in InfraCo Towers will be returned to shareholders.

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Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

Telstra has brought forward the sale of part of its InfraCo Towers business after being approached by a consortium including the Future Fund, Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, and Sunsuper.

For AU$2.8 billion, the consortium has picked up a 49% stake in the business that owns around 8,200 towers across Australia.

The structure of InfraCo Towers will shift to being chaired by overall InfraCo CEO Brendon Riley, with the board to be made up of Telstra and consortium representatives. The Towers CEO will be Jon Lipton, who heads up Telstra's tower business.

Once the deal is closed in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022, InfraCo Towers will have no debt, and a 15-year deal with extension options for Telstra to use its infrastructure.

"Telstra's objective in seeking a strategic partner has been to maximise overall value for our shareholders, maintain control of the assets and agree terms that secure Telstra's mobile network leadership and competitive differentiation into the future," Telstra CEO Andy Penn said.

"The increased commercial focus on Towers since its establishment as a standalone business within Telstra is already delivering efficiencies and we look forward to working with our partners to sustain its market leadership over the long term through investment in new infrastructure and services, availability of competitive market offerings, and leveraging new technology to improve speed and efficiency."

Telstra said it would be using AU$75 million from the sale to increase coverage in regional Australia; handing 50% of the net proceeds back to shareholders, potentially through a share buy-back; and using the remainder to pay down debt.

Late last year, Telstra announced it would be restructuring into fixed, tower, and service entities. The service entity would gain the bulk of Telstra, owning its retail business, active electronics and radio access network, spectrum, as well as offering services and products to customers. However the existing Telstra corporate body and its debt would sit with InfraCo Fixed.

"The proposed restructure is one of the most significant in Telstra's history and the largest corporate change since privatisation. It will unlock value in the company, improve the returns from the company's assets and create further optionality for the future," Penn said at the time.

In March, the company said it would also be creating an arm to hold its international assets.

Shareholder approval of the scheme is set to voted on at its October AGM.

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