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Telstra to Restructure for NBN Privatization, Tower Monetization — Update

   By Stuart Condie 
 

SYDNEY--Telstra Corp. will overhaul its operations to create three business units to prepare for the eventual privatization of the government-owned National Broadband Network and to unlock value from Australia's largest mobile-tower network.

The ASX-listed communications company on Thursday said it would create an infrastructure unit holding assets including data centers and sub-sea cables, a mobile towers infrastructure unit, and a services unit to hold products and assets such as mobile spectrum.

Chief Financial Officer Vicki Brady said Telstra had not decided to bid for the government's broadband assets in the event of a future sale, but said the restructure positioned it should it choose to do so.

"The government has indicated at some point their intention is to privatize NBN and we wanted to make sure we had the optionality at that point to make sure we are at the table," Ms. Page told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

Telstra initially announced the creation of a standalone infrastructure unit in 2018. Splitting fixed-line and mobile infrastructure assets into separate units would give Telstra the appropriate legal structure to make an approach for a privatized NBN, Ms. Brady said.

Analysts have said Telstra, which was fully government-owned until 1997, appears to be the most appropriate partner for a privatized NBN.

Telstra said it will look to monetize the tower assets over time, citing strong demand and compelling valuations. Ms. Brady said Telstra regularly received inquiries about assets from interested parties, but did not say whether Telstra was leaning toward sale or leasing arrangements.

Chief Executive Andy Penn said the proposed restructure might generate additional shareholder value. The structure is expected to be in place by December 2021, Telstra said.

"It will unlock value in the company, improve the returns from the company's assets and create further optionality for the future," Mr. Penn said in a statement.

Telstra said it expected underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to return to growth by the 2022 fiscal year.

The company raised its fiscal 2023 return on invested capital target to 8%, from above 7%. It said that was to hit the bottom end of its underlying Ebitda target of between 7.5 billion and 8.5 billion Australian dollars (US$5.5 billion-US$6.2 billion).

Fiscal 2021 cost savings are likely to be predominantly labor-related as customers shift to digital sales, Telstra said.

 

Write to Stuart Condie at stuart.condie@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 11, 2020 17:26 ET (22:26 GMT)

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