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Hold the phone: Telstra will be split into three in massive company shakeup

Business

Telstra has announced a massive shakeup of its business with plans to split the telco into three separate entities in a bid drive valuations and potentially monetise assets.

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The company, which is holding an investor presentation today, said it was the most significant restructure and corporate change since privatisation, which started in 1997.

Chief executive Andrew Penn said the restructure would unlock value in the company, improve returns from the company’s assets and create further opportunities for the future.

Telstra also signalled it may sell part of its phone tower network over time given the strong demand and “compelling valuations” for the infrastructure.

The first of the three separate companies will be InfraCo Fixed, which would own and operate Telstra’s passive and physical infrastructure assets including the ducts, fibre, data centres, subsea cables and exchanges.

The second company would be InfraCo Towers. It would own all the mobile phone towers “which Telstra would look to monetise over time”.

InfraCo Towers would own the largest network of mobile tower sites in Australia and separating the tower business would drive more value for shareholders.

“Telstra intends to start seeking investment from third parties while maintaining control of our strategic towers and preserving our differentiation for Telstra’s mobile business,” Penn said.

“We anticipate this will begin in 2021 and will follow a similar timeline to the rest of the restructuring process.”

The third company would be ServeCo, which would create new products and services and support customers. It would also own the active parts of the network, including radio access networks and spectrum assets.

“The challenges and disruptions of the last six to 12 months have reinforced the increasing value infrastructure assets globally (as well as) the importance of the digital economy, not only to business but to the whole of Australia and its economic recovery and the dependence of the digital economy on telecommunications as its platform,” Penn said.

“Our proposed new corporate structure reflects this new world and will help us support the foundation for it.”

He said the timing of the restructure was helped by the completion of the NBN rollout and it would help realise a better value for its infrastructure assets.

Penn said Telstra it would return its underlying earnings back to growth by 2022 and was focussed on delivering $7.5 to $8.5 billion EBITDA by 2023, which would equate to a return on invested capital of about 8 per cent.

It would not provide guidance on the current year.

Penn said Telstra already had 400,000 5G devices in its network and expected that to rise to 750,000 by the end of the year.

He also said Telstra was on track to reach $2.5 billion in net productivity by 2022.

Telstra shares were up 5 per cent in early trade.

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