Telstra sale to proceed this year, PM says

01 Sep 2006
00:00

The Australian government will sell its stake in Telstra, beginning with a third of its shares going on sale in October and November, Prime Minister John Howard said.

Howard said A$8 billion ($6 billion) worth of shares will be put on the market _ about a third of the government's 51.8% holding in Australia's largest telecommunications company.

'The government intends to offer in the order of A$8 billion of stock to retail and institutional investors, in Australia and overseas,' he said in a statement, adding that the shares will be transferred to Australia 's Future Fund.

An entire sale of the government's majority shareholding, valued at A$22.5 billion ($17 billion), would have been the largest privatization in Australian history.

Telstra's share price has fallen to less than half of what it was since the last government offer of Telstra shares was sold in 1999.

'We are proceeding with this sale because we believe that we can achieve an appropriate return for taxpayers at this time,' Howard said.

Telstra welcomed the decision.

Legislation to sell the government's 6.44 billion shares in the former telecommunications monopoly passed the Senate by a narrow margin last September.

The Cabinet was originally scheduled to give the sale a final go-ahead in the first quarter of this year.

But the decision was repeatedly postponed as Telstra's share price plummeted amid the company's management's repeated clashes with the government and the regulator.

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