Telecom split confirmed

Stuff reports:

has confirmed plans to split into two businesses in a bid to take part in the government’s ultra fast broadband scheme.

The company said today it proposed to create a new company, “2” as a separate standalone entity through a demerger – a process giving existing shareholders pro rata stakes in the new company.

I have been a long-term proponent of structural separation, and believe it will be good for shareholders and good for the country.

While on separation day, the shareholdings of the two companies will be the same, over time they will attract different profiles of shareholders. The main Telecom will be a competitive business paying higher dividends, but with more risk involved.

Chorus will be an infrastructure company, paying lower dividends, but with much guaranteed business. In time I would expect companies like Infratril to seek stakes in it.

While the Government will claim the decision is nothing to do with them, the reality is that by setting rules around ownership for the to the home initiative, the Govt has been the catalyst for this decision which will correct a major problem of the last 20 or so years – a vertically integrated monopoly. The removal of vertical integration means we will get better choice and competition at wholesale and retail levels.

Telecom’s decision to split Chorus off will significantly increase its chances at winning some or even all of the regions for the fibre initiative. However it does not mean they are automatically the preferred choice. Companies like Vector may be able to do it cheaper in Auckland because of their existing infrastructure.

Structural separation is a pre-condition to full involvement in the fibre initiative, but it is not a guarantee of success.

There may be options out there though, such as Chorus gaining the nation-wide contract and sub-contracting companies like Vector and Citylink where they already have assets. Or Chorus could buy a company like Citylink.

Alternatively the Regional Fibre Group could get ambitious and aim to buy 51% of Chorus. It is going to be an interesting two to three months.

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