Stake sale ends Australia government control of telco

The third tranche of shares in Telstra Corp. Ltd., known as T3, raised A$15.5 billion (US$11.92 billion) for the Australian government’s Future Fund yesterday.

The sale ends federal government control of the telecommunications company with almost 1 billion shares changing hands throughout the day.

It marked one of the biggest days of trading recorded for a single company on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The sale ends almost a decade of repeated attempts by the government to sell its 51.8 per cent stake in the telco.

The sale got the go ahead in September 2005 when the government passed the Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Bill.

But the road to full privatization was a rocky one with Telstra shares plummeting more than 50 percent since T2 in 1999.

However, analysts said yesterday completion of the sale is timely with slowing revenue growth likely for the industry through to 2011.

While broadband revenue in Australia has topped A$2 billion in 2006, research firm Market Clarity said penetration has neared its limits.

Australia’s population of 3.52 million broadband services in June 2006 will grow to more than 6.8 million by June 2011.

But intense competition between providers is likely to squeeze revenue growth, so that while user numbers will nearly double in that period, revenue will only rise to A$3.24 billion by June 2011.

Market Clarity CEO Shara Evans said broadband generates 3.5 times more revenue than dial-up services, growing by A$700 million from 2005 to 2006.

But this growth will drop considerably in coming years with Evans warning of churn wars between Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

“Business providers, who can differentiate themselves with network performance and service quality, may be better placed to protect their margins, but the business broadband market is dwarfed by the consumer market,” Evans said.

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