Vocus Lines Up Sale of New Zealand, Australia Assets

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Vocus Group has lined up assets in New Zealand and Australia for sale as the telecom company seeks to slash debt to help it fend off margin pressure with the rollout of Australia's national broadband network.

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The company said Monday it has continued to receive approaches from unnamed suitors interested in assets across its portfolio since launching a review of assets in late August, after takeover talks with two private equity firms broke off.

Vocus said its board was finalizing the appointment of advisors for the sale of its Vocus New Zealand business and was targeting an exit by the end of the current fiscal year. It has also appointed advisors for the sale of its Australian data center business, and continued to evaluate the potential disposal of other Australian assets.

Cash proceeds from the sales would materially reduce debt levels and provide the company with strategic options, it said.

Vocus attracted a non-binding offer from KKR & Co. in early June worth about 2.18 billion Australian dollars (US$1.70 billion), and a rival matching offer a month later from Affinity Equity Partners. Talks with both ended in August, and days later the company said it was considering selling assets it didn't consider core in order to strengthen its balance sheet.

Vocus owns telecommunications networks in capital and regional cities in Australia and New Zealand, with a portfolio of brands focused on a range of corporate, small business, government and residential customers. Over the last couple of years, the company has shifted from a concentration on fiber-networks on Australia's east coast to a broader range of telecom operations across the two countries, and other products including television and insurance services and retailing electricity and natural gas.

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The industry has been squeezed in recent years by heightened competition and broadband margins have been hit as customers across the country migrate to the federal government's national network, which offers access to telecom companies that resell retail access to consumers.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 22, 2017 19:02 ET (23:02 GMT)