The seemingly endless Vocus ownership soap opera has taken another twist.

ASX-listed Vocus Group is again considering the sale of its NZ assets, according to a report in The Australian.

The mooted buyer is Australian utilities giant AGL Energy, which on June 17 abandoned a bid to buy Vocus just six days into due diligence. It did not give a reason, but AGL shares had been under pressure since its bid was announced.

AGL's play was just the latest in a string of almost-deals.


On June 5, Swedish private equity outfit EQT pulled a A$5.25 per share/A$3.3 billion bid a week after it started to look at Vocus' books.

And in mid-2017, US private equity companies KKR and Affinity Partners both placed a A$3.50 a share offer for Vocus, but both backed out.

Vocus put its NZ assets - which include Orcon, Slingshot, Flip, 2Talk, power retailer Switch, data centres and a fibre network previous owned by FX Networks - up for sale in late 2017, but new management pulled them from the market in early 2018.

A price was never publically put on the NZ business, but A$400m was the widely quoted figure. Vocus is said to be looking for A$500m with its renewed effort.

Spark MD Simon Moutter publically expressed interest in buying Vocus NZ, but his company did not make the short-list - possibly because of Vocus concerns that regulatory issues could not be resolved in its desired timeframe.

Trustpower did make the shortlist, but chief executive Vince Hawkesworth told this reporter that a buyer would have to "have rocks in their head" to stump up with Vocus' asking price - on which there was apparently no movement.

A consortium involving 2degrees and private equity was said to have also made the shortlist.

Vocus has not made any statement to the Australian Stock Exchange. A spokesman told the Herald the telco would not comment on speculation.