Telstra pushes for ‘seat at the table’ if NBN Co goes private

Telstra pushes for ‘seat at the table’ if NBN Co goes private

CEO Andy Penn claims InfraCo was designed to give telco ‘options’

Andy Penn (Telstra)

Andy Penn (Telstra)

Credit: Telstra

Telstra is still keeping its cards on the table for a potential NBN Co privatisation, its chief executive officer Andy Penn has revealed.

The telco giant is pushing to have a “seat at the table” should the government-owned network ever go private, despite Australia’s competition watchdog calling its involvement in such a move “inappropriate”.

Speaking at Telstra’s Investor Day on 27 November, Penn highlighted the recent creation of Telstra’s standalone business InfraCo as giving it “optionality” for the NBN’s intended roll-out next year.

“It is impossible to predict what the telco world will look like at that point and when the Government might decide to privatise the NBN,” he said. “It is also unclear whether Telstra would have any interest in being part of any structure involving NBN.  

“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. That would not be possible if we were still structurally integrated.  It would also be critically important in any arrangement to absolutely make sure our strategic differentiation, particularly in relation to the network is maintained.”

InfraCo officially launched on 1 July 2018 as a wholly-owned standalone infrastructure business unit under the leadership of Brendon Riley. 

It comprises Telstra’s NBN Co commercial works activities and Telstra Wholesale, including the management of Telstra's more than 200 wholesale customers.

In addition, it also includes the telco's fixed network infrastructure which includes data centres, non-mobile related domestic fibre, copper, hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), international subsea cables, exchanges, poles, ducts and pipes.

Last year, Telstra chairman John Mullen fanned the flames of speculation over a Telstra-NBN merger when he commented that “some form of combination” between InfraCo and the NBN Co would “add a lot of value uplift to Telstra shareholders”.

Meanwhile, the unions at the centre of Telstra bargaining recently claimed the telco was seeking “to position itself in a way that would enable it to purchase” the NBN if the service was privatised.

However, recently Communications Minister Paul Fletcher also waded into the privatisation debate when he “ruled out any chance of Telstra buying the NBN”.

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