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Telstra boss Andy Penn wants ‘seat at the table’ if network is privatised


Communications Minister Paul Fletcher in July ruled out any sale of the NBN to Telstra and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has expressed misgivings about the telco or any associated entity taking over the fixed line broadband wholesaler.

Mr Penn said it was “unclear whether Telstra would have any interest in being part of any structure involving NBN”, yet without creating InfraCo it would not be possible to have any involvement with the NBN Co at all in the event of a privatisation.

“It will depend on the circumstances at the time. However, it does make sense for us to be in a position to have a seat at that table,” Mr Penn said.

He said the creation of InfraCo helped give shareholders a clearer view of the infrastructure assets, which had become an important asset class for investment, and gave the company the opportunity to commercialise the assets more effectively.

The creation of a taxpayer-funded broadband monopoly wholesaler has significantly disrupted Australian telcos including Telstra, and put significant pressure on profits at a time when competition has risen for mobile customers. Telstra’s net profit in the 2019 financial year fell to its lowest level since the business was privatised in 1997, largely on the back of a $600 million decline in earnings due to the NBN roll-out.

Telstra’s performance for the 2020 financial year was expected to be the hardest hit by the NBN roll-out as more customers moved over, however this expectation has now been pushed back to 2021 due to a drop in the number of homes expected to switch to the new network in the current financial year.

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