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    TELSTRA SAYS IN NEGOTIATIONS ON VENTURE WITH SHANGHAI
    GENERAL
    By Alan Wood
    SYDNEY, July 2 AAP - Telstra's push into Asia has
    gathered pace with a new joint venture project with
    China's Shanghai General Electronics (Group) Co likely
    to involve the Australian telco providing services to
    the lucrative Shanghai market.
    This follows Telstra's announcement yesterday that it
    has taken 100 per cent of CSL, a Hong Kong mobile
    telephone operator, and is part of its plans to source
    more revenues from offshore.
    Telstra International spokesman Graeme Salt said today
    the joint venture discussions had formally started
    yesterday, but a structure still had to be negotiated.
    Analysts said the further push into China was sensible
    given Telstra's strong balance sheet giving it the
    ability to pickup assets relatively cheaply in a time
    of telco sector downturn.
    One analyst said Telstra had signalled its capital
    expenditure would remain constrained in the Asian
    region and it would look to extract value from the
    region via such partnerships.
    Shanghai General Electronics Group is the manufacturer
    of various electronics components and supplies
    international companies such as Motorola Inc.
    Mr Salt said he could not comment on how much Telstra
    would likely put into the Shanghai venture but noted
    Telstra was "an active investor and major participant"
    in such projects.
    He said any agreed joint venture would look to provide
    telco services in the Shanghai region, particularly to
    businesses in the area of broadband - the transmission
    of a large amount of electronic information including
    telephone calls, television and the internet.
    "Shanghai municipality alone has got a population of
    13 million, and the surrounding area has got a
    population of nine million so it's larger than
    Australia in itself," he said.
    Mr Salt said it was possible that Telstra's initial
    stake in the venture could be around 30 per cent - but
    then work up towards 50 per cent, he added.
    That would relate to China bringing down foreign
    investment barriers post the country's accession to
    the World Trade Organisation.
    Telstra yesterday announced it was taking full control
    of Hong Kong mobile phone operator CSL, as a platform
    for other possible acquisitions in SouthEast Asia and
    particularly China.
    To take 100 per cent of CSL, Telstra agreed to buy the
    remaining 40 per cent stake in holding company
    Regional Wireless Co (RWC) from Pacific Century
    Cyberworks Ltd (PCCW) for an effective price of $US475
    million.
    Telstra also has a 50:50 internet infrastructure joint
    venture with PCCW known as Reach Ltd based in Asia.
    Last year Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowski
    said the telco wanted about 20-25 per cent of its
    value to be in Asian-based business within five years,
    and would look to play a part in Beijing's 2008
    Olympic Games.
    In China, Telstra has a partnership with leading
    Chinese mobile provider China Unicom, under which it
    is exploring business opportunities.
    Yesterday Dr Switkowski said Telstra's offshore
    businesses currently contributed about seven per cent
    of Telstra's earnings before interest, tax,
    depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), and the
    further CSL stake would take this figure to about 8.5
    per cent.
    AAP arw/sh

 
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