Shareholders in Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra have approved the company’s participation in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), clearing the way for an AUD11 billion (USD11.2 billion) deal with the government, the Wall Street Journal reports. It is understood that proxy and direct votes from shareholders at Telstra’s AGM totalled 99.1% for the proposed transaction with NBN Co, the public-private company set up to oversee and manage the construction of the in-deployment national fibre-based infrastructure. While the telco’s shareholders have now approved the deal, it still requires the approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which has previously raised concerns with elements of the proposals; the regulator has, in particular, questioned proposed transparency measures, which are designed to ensure Telstra’s retail business and its competitors are treated equally during the rollout of the broadband network.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in August 2011 Telstra handed its structural separation plan to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for approval. Under the telco’s Structural Separation Undertaking (SSU) and its Migration Plan, the latter of which details proposals to move the telco’s existing customers to the in-development National Broadband Network (NBN), the incumbent committed to completing structural separation by 1 July 2018, in addition to which it said that its copper network would be decommissioned by 2020, when the NBN is completed. Telstra is understood to be continuing to work with the ACCC on the SSU and Draft Migration Plan, and it is expected to submit a revised SSU in the coming weeks.
Commenting on the latest developments in the matter Catherine Livingstone, Telstra chairwoman, noted: ‘From the outset, we said we would put any proposal to cooperate with the NBN to shareholders – we consider the vote today as the most important step in the process we commenced over two years ago. It is clear from this interim result on the resolution that, given the alternatives facing their company, both institutional and retail shareholders are supportive of our involvement in the NBN … We look forward to finalising the remaining conditions precedent, implementing the transaction and realising the benefits we expect it to deliver, including the contribution to sustainable free cashflow in the medium term and greater regulatory stability.’