Hawke's Bay Today

Vodafone to list NZ business 2020

New boss rolls out the welcome mat to Spark Sport

- Chris Keall

When investors look at us they don’t see us as growth stock, they see us a yield stock. So we need clear line of sight to modest growth year-onyear before the IPO. Jason Paris

Vodafone will list its New Zealand business in 2020, new chief executive Jason Paris says. The new boss also says his company has begun negotiatio­ns with Spark to put the Spark Sport app on Vodafone TV — a play that will confound pundits who saw Vodafone sticking close to Sky TV, despite their merger being blocked.

The Spark Sport app will carry the Rugby World Cup 2019, among other content.

Paris says the decision to list in 2020 was the trigger for his predecesso­r Russell Stanners to quit. The timeframe was too long for Stanners, who had already been in the big chair for 12 years. Vodafone will be positioned as a dividend stock, Paris says.

The new CEO said it was his job to get the company’s commercial­s into shape during 2019 in preparatio­n for the 2020 float.

“When investors look at us they don’t see us as growth stock, they see us a yield stock. So we need clear line of sight to modest growth year-onyear before the IPO,” he said.

“That’s more likely to come from us running a more efficient business and reducing costs than an expectatio­n we are going to get significan­t revenue growth, given we are competing on price.”

His personal preference as a Kiwi would be for a NZX listing. But he qualifies the final decision could be made higher up Vodafone’s global food chain and that an Australian or dual ASX/NZX listing is possible.

Paris also outlined ambitious plans for Vodafone TV, which he says he wants to extend from Vodafone premium customers to a wider mix — potentiall­y including people with different ISPs.

Even more radically, he says Vodafone is already in talks with Spark to add its Spark Sport app to Vodafone TV when Spark Sport launches in the new year.

The latest incarnatio­n of Vodafone TV was launched in October last year. It delivers channels over UFB fibre rather than satellite. Its content is centred on Sky TV channels but also includes a Netflix, TVNZ OnDemand and 3Now apps.

When the service now known as Vodafone TV was owned by TelstraCle­ar, TelstraCle­ar boss Allan Freeth complained publicly that the restrictiv­e nature of his company’s wholesale agreement with Sky TV had become a “pain point” — particular­ly a provision limiting the amount of non-Sky content that could be carried by TelstraCle­ar.

Paris had yet to get a detailed briefing on Spark’s Spark Sport app announceme­nt this morning, but he said he was happy the telco appeared to have chosen a “gold-plated” streaming partner (iStreamPla­net, which currently supports streaming for the Super Bowl, the NBA League Pass and the Olympics).

“I hope it goes well, because I want New Zealanders to embrace OTT content delivery,” [OTT is telco-speak for over-the-top or content delivered via a broadband connection.]

Vodafone NZ had no plans to bid for sports rights, Paris said. Its plan was to partner with Sky and others for Vodafone TV content.

For 2017, Vodafone NZ reported a profit of $57.5m, turning around a loss of $18.3m loss. Revenue increased 2.8 per cent to $2.05 billion.

The telco first raised the prospect of floating its New Zealand business late last year, with an Australasi­an roadshow for potential investors.

The roadshow was a sounding-out process, and did not include a mooted IPO value [ documentat­ion released during the failed Sky merger valued Vodafone NZ at $3.44b].

Ultimately, the UK-based multinatio­nal decided to shelve the plan. Under Paris, it’s clearly back on the table.

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