C&W to gain 24.5% stake in Optus

SYDNEY — Australian federal treasurer Peter Costello on Thursday approved U.K.-based Cable & Wireless’ acquisition of Atlanta-based BellSouth’s 24.5% stake in Optus Communications, an Oz telephony and feevee cabler biz, clearing the way for an early 1998 Optus stock offering.

As expected, C&W will emerge with a controlling 49% stake in Optus (Daily Variety, June 18).

The approval was the last major hurdle in the way of an IPO and Australian Stock Exchange listing by Optus, which was delayed for a year by lawsuits between bickering Optus feevee shareholders Kerry Stokes, Kerry Packer and US West, who were eventually bought out by Optus, which then merged the feevee biz back into its telephony arm at Easter. Significant staff layoffs and downsizing of the feevee biz followed.

The approval was facilitated by the July 1 deregulation of the telecommunications sector, which jettisoned rules, introduced by the former government in August 1995, that attached limits on foreign involvement in specific telco groups.

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