Cable & Wireless puts Optus on block

Will retain carrier's data and business services

SYDNEY — After months of denials, Britain’s Cable & Wireless has admitted that Australia’s A$30 billion ($16.5 billion) feevee and telephony group Optus is on the block.

In line with a global rejiggering of its business, C&W, which owns 52.5% of Optus, is expected hold on to the carrier’s data and business services interests, but offload consumer telephony, satellite and cable interests. Wednesday’s confirmation sent Optus shares surging 7% to $2.28 on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Lawsuit aftermath

Optus’ feevee service has never quite recovered from bitter lawsuits and blistering spats between original shareholders US West, Bell South, Kerry Stokes and Kerry Packer. It has little more than 220,000 subscribers in contrast to 650,000 for Foxtel and 450,000 for Austar.

For months, Optus has been talking to suitors, thought to include Packer, Austar, Pacific Century Cyberworks, Stokes and Britain’s Granada and NTL to sell all or part of its cable and feevee unit. Recently, Optus began talks with the likes of Foxtel and PanAmSat to sell its satellite interests, while telephony suitors are said to include Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo.

Optus’ feevee service has never quite recovered from bitter lawsuits and blistering spats between original shareholders US West, Bell South, Kerry Stokes and Kerry Packer. It has little more than 220,000 subscribers in contrast to 650,000 for Foxtel and 450,000 for Austar.

For months, Optus has been talking to suitors, thought to include Packer, Austar, Pacific Century Cyberworks, Stokes and Britain’s Granada and NTL to sell all or part of its cable and feevee unit. Recently, Optus began talks with the likes of Foxtel and PanAmSat to sell its satellite interests, while telephony suitors are said to include Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo.

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