Packer buys into Telco

Kerry Packer’s Nine Network will buy 15% of Optus Communications, Australia’s second-biggest phone company and pay TV satellite owner.

The web will pay $ A318 million ($ 229 million) for about 265 million new shares.

The move suggests that the days of Packer’s involvement in the Australian Pay TV (APT) consortium — with Optus’ rival Telecom, the Seven Network and Rupert Murdoch — might be numbered.

That was denied by Nine’s managing director, David Leckie, who said the web “remains fully committed to APT.”

However, other syndicate executives called Packer’s move a “complicating factor” to be discussed at the next meeting of the group.

Packer’s statement called the deal with Optus “an outstanding investment.

Equally important, it will cement a key strategic relationship which we believe will prove invaluable as we face the dynamic changes looming in both telecommunications and television.”

Certainly, the move underlines Packer’s determination to diversify the Nine Network from simply a broadcaster into a prime player on the information superhighway.

On that subject, just three weeks ago, Nine chairman Bruce Gyngell told a group of Melbourne media lawyers that Australia was at least 15 years away from the computer superhighway.

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