Write-off sees Telstra profit drift down to $3.4b

Write-off sees Telstra profit drift down to $3.4b

Australia's government-owned telecommunications operator, Telstra, has recorded a profit of $3.4 billion for its fiscal year ended June 30, 2003, on revenue of $21.6 billion.

Profit was 6 per cent lower than last year, although this year's revenue was 3.9 per cent higher than in 2002, Telstra said.

The fall in profit was largely due to a $965 million write-off in the value of Reach, an undersea cable joint venture with Hong Kong's Pacific Century Cyberworks (PCCW).

The increase in revenue was partly caused by the inclusion of full-year results from its New Zealand subsidiary Telstra Clear, the company said.

Telstra chief executive officer, Ziggy Switkowski, said that growth for the coming year would be below the industry norm of 4 per cent but that profit would increase as a proportion of revenue as costs would continue to be held down.

The company has, for several years, been at the centre of a political dogfight regarding its privatisation, which began on a small scale in 1996.

The incumbent Liberal government is keen to sell off the rest of Telstra, but the opposition Labor party, backed by other smaller parties, is opposed to the sell-off claiming it would hit services to unprofitable rural areas, cause massive job losses and create a "huge private monopoly which would totally dominate telecommunications."

The government's share in Telstra is estimated to be worth about $30 billion at the current share price.

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