Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Digicel bid for Telecom Cook Islands on the cards

The Cooks Islands' Finance Minister says Digicel is "back on the beach".
The Cooks Islands' Finance Minister says Digicel is "back on the beach".

Telecommunications behemoth Digicel is considering buying Telecom New Zealand's interest in the Cook Islands' biggest phone and internet phone provider, according to local reports.

Telecom New Zealand announced shortly before Christmas that it was thinking about selling its 60 per cent stake in Telecom Cook Islands (TCI).

A Telecom spokesman would not comment on any potential buyer but the Cook Islands' Finance Minister told local media that Digicel Pacific was looking into buying the New Zealand company's interest.

"Digicel is back on the beach, they're kicking the tyres again. They'll probably make an offer to Telecom New Zealand," Finance Minister Mark Brown told Cook Islands News.

Digicel has made a number of previous bids to buy TCI, including in 2009 when it made a $20 million play for the telco.

The Cook Islands Government, which owns the remainder of TCI, has operated it as a joint venture with Telecom since 1991.

Telecom upped its stake in TCI in 1997 to 60 per cent, paying $3 million for an additional 20 per cent interest.

Consideration of the Cook Islands selldown follows Telecom's scaling-back of its overseas operations last year.

During the year the company sold its Australian business unit AAPT for $493 million. It also downsized the Australian wing of Gen-i, cutting 120 jobs at the information technology business unit across the Tasman.

Digicel, established in 2001, is active in 31 countries and has 13 million customers worldwide. It expanded into the Pacific in 2006 and has operations in Vanuatu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji and Nauru.

- NZ Herald

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