Otago Daily Times

Vo­cus re­veals plans to float NZ busi­ness

- CHRIS KEALL

WELLINGTON: ASX­listed Vo­cus has re­vealed plans to float its New Zealand busi­ness, most likely on the NZX.

The busi­ness in­cludes in­ter­net ser­vice providers Or­con, Sling­shot and Flip (bought from New Zealand’s Cal­lPlus for $250 mil­lion in 2016), Stuff Fi­bre, the fi­bre net­work formerly owned by FX Net­works, a data cen­tre formerly owned by Maxnet and small power re­tailer Switch Util­i­ties.

Gold­man Sachs, Jar­den and Craigs have been ap­pointed joint lead man­agers.

The telco does not name an ex­change in its fil­ing, but a wellplaced source in the broking com­mu­nity has said it will buck the re­cent trend and list on the NZX and the NZX only.

Vo­cus did not give tim­ing, but said fur­ther de­tails will be of­fered when its first­half re­sult is re­ported in Fe­bru­ary.

It is un­der­stood things will move quickly and an in­vestor road­show will be held in the New Year.

Vo­cus NZ re­cently re­ported full year 2020 rev­enue that rose 6% to $398.8 mil­lion for the year to June 30, while ebitda rose 4% to $65.4 mil­lion.

It was the New Zealand op­er­a­tion’s fifth straight year of op­er­at­ing earn­ings growth.

With around 225,000 cus­tomers, Vo­cus NZ is the coun­try’s third­largest fixed­line broad­band op­er­a­tor, be­hind Spark (around 700,000 cus­tomers) and Voda­fone (420,000), and ahead of 2de­grees (120,000) and Trust­power (110,000).

With its for­mal mar­ket fil­ing,

Vo­cus be­comes the sec­ond ma­jor off­shore telco to moot a float of its New Zealand busi­ness, fol­low­ing Voda­fone, whose IPO of its lo­cal op­er­a­tion was ul­ti­mately headed off by a trade­sale to In­fratil and Brook­field As­set Man­age­ment.

Vo­cus put its New Zealand as­sets up for sale in late 2017 in a bid to pay down debt.

Trust­power (50% owned by In­fratil, which had yet to make its play for Voda­fone) and 2de­grees were said to be on the short list of buy­ers.

Then Spark chief ex­ec­u­tive Simon Mout­ter also pub­licly mused about a bid, say­ing it could be saleable to the Com­merce Com­mis­sion if the bulk of Vo­cus cus­tomers were mi­grated to fixed wire­less (it is un­der­stood the Vo­cus board bought his logic, but thought the reg­u­la­tory ap­proval process would be too pro­tracted).

Both were said to have made bids short of the ask­ing price, which was never made pub­lic but said to be north of A$500 mil­lion.

Ear­lier this month, 2de­grees’ owner Tril­ogy In­ter­na­tional Part­ners re­cently an­nounced plans to put its other ma­jor telco as­set, Bo­livia’s Viva, on the block, and has re­cently raised new funds from its multi­bil­lion­aire chair­man John Stan­ton.

Mean­while, Vo­cus NZ and Voda­fone have be­come al­lies, of sorts, team­ing on an ef­fort to un­bun­dle UFB fi­bre.

Af­ter the 2017­18 sales process col­lapsed, Vo­cus flirted with a se­ries of pri­vate eq­uity play­ers but again of­fers fell short.

Ru­mours of an IPO for Vo­cus’ NZ busi­ness, first re­ported in De­cem­ber last year, have been swirling since. — The New Zealand Her­ald

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