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No favourites for new telco shareholder

Tuesday May 20, 2014 Written by Published in Technology
Mark Brown also said he hopes the two companies backing local consortiums are not just hoping to make a quick buck. 14052008 Mark Brown also said he hopes the two companies backing local consortiums are not just hoping to make a quick buck. 14052008

Telecommunications Minister Mark Brown says he has no preference for who becomes the new majority shareholder of Telecom Cook Islands.

He said his main concern is that whoever buys the stake will be able to continue improving the quality and price of services in the country.

Telecom New Zealand has entered into a conditional agreement to sell its 60 per cent stake in Telecom Cook Islands (TCI) to Digicel for $23 million.

Local parties are being given the opportunity to compete for those shares and at least two consortiums – led by KukiCel Director William Framhein and businessman Brian Baudinet - have made formal expressions of interest so far.

Brown said everyone is now sitting and waiting while Telecom NZ assesses the new proposals and decides which party they choose to go with.

“I have no preference. I’m more concerned that our services continue to improve regardless of who the 60 per cent shareholder is.”

He said he knows little about the local consortiums, which are both being backed to some extent by overseas telecommunications players.

“I’m not really sure about the companies backing them. I hope these two big companies are not just seeing this as an opportunity to make a quick buck.”

Brown said he also hopes local bidders know that, if the current governing party is re-elected, the telecommunications industry will be liberalised to allow more competition.

Telecom Cook Islands currently has a monopoly but Brown has indicated that will change in the near future.

“I’m hoping the local companies are not expecting a monopoly situation to stay in place. Digicel has already expressed that they have no problem with competition.”

Local consortiums have until mid-July to submit expressions of interest to Telecom NZ after the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB) made a last-minute decision to extend the advertising period by another 60 days.

Brown said he wasn’t informed of that decision and found out through the media.

“I guess it was a decision the Board felt needed to be made. I don’t know on what basis. I understand that the two local bidders both managed to get their proposals in on time.”

BTIB Chief Executive Terry Rangi said the Board extended the period to give locals more time to make a competitive offer on the 60 per cent stake.

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