Vocus sale clears final hurdle

The company behind Orcon, Slingshot, Flip and Sky Broadband is changing hands.

Trading in Vocus Group shares on the ASX has been suspended after an Australian Court greenlit the sale of the transtasman telco, and shareholders voted to approve the A$3.5 billion ($3.7b) or A$5.50 per share offer – which represented a 25 per cent premium on Vocus’ price in February when the bid was first announced (Vocus’ final trading price was A$4.49).

NZ’s Overseas Investment Office has also approved the deal.

The new owner is Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Management (Mira), a division of ASX-listed Macquarie Group, whose bid was supported by Aware Super – Australia’s second largest retirement fund.

“All the hurdles have now been met for Mira to complete the transaction.The scheme is now legally effective and shareholders will receive the cash consideration of A$5.50 per share on July 22,” Vocus spokesman Quentin Reade told the Herald.

After Mira made its offer in February, Vocus called off a plan to list its NZ business on the NZX at a valuation of around $720m – making it the second telco lost to the local exchange at the last minute after Vodafone NZ, whose float was headed-off by a trade-sale to Infratil and Brookfield in 2019.

The sale to Mira marks the end of a multi-year process that has seen three different private equity funds reach the due diligence phase, only to go no further. At one point Trustpower came close to buying the telco’s NZ business, only to see new management at Vocus take it off the table as the Kiwi operation reported a strong result.

Auckland-based Mark Callandar – an executive director of Vocus Group, as well as being in charge of its wholesale operation on both sides of the Tasman and serving as the company’s NZ CEO – is glad the extended speculation is now behind him.

“The completion of this process creates an exciting next phase for the Vocus business in New Zealand as we continue to pursue our growth ambitions in the market,” Callander told the Herald earlier today.

“These processes can be distracting, but the entire team has remained focused on delivering exceptional services to our customers every step of the way.I’m proud of what we continue to achieve and how well we are positioned in the market moving forward.”

Vocus is the third-largest broadband provider in NZ, and has around 226,000 customers across its various retail and wholesale operations.

Its recent forays have included buying the 20,000-customer Stuff Fibre, and partnering with Sky TV and Chorus on the new Sky Broadband service.

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