Otago Daily Times

Vocus reveals plans to float NZ business


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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