Hutchison Telecom sells fixed-line network business for US$1.9b
The company says it will use the funds raised to invest in its mobile network operations
Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong has agreed to sell its fixed-line network business to Asia Cube Global Communications for HK$14.5 billion (US$1.86 billion) in cash, raising funds to invest in its mobile operations.
Asia Cube Global is wholly-owned by a fund managed by I Squared Capital, which is an independent global infrastructure investment manager focusing on energy, utilities, and transport in markets including for North America and Europe.
The sale by the city’s second largest mobile network operator of its entire interest in Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) is expected to close around October this year, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing on Sunday.
It marks the third sale of a major fixed-line network business in Hong Kong since last year.
Hutchison Telecom, a unit of tycoon Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings, has seen its share price climb since mid-May, hitting a 21-month closing high of HK$3.04 on July 18, amid speculation over the bidding for the HGC assets. Its shares closed at HK$2.81 on Friday.
For a period of 12 months after the deal closes around October, Hutchison Telecom would provide certain transitional services to HGC, the operator said in its filing.
The deal with Asia Cube Global also provides that for a period of 36 months after the closing, Hutchison Telecom will not operate fixed-line network, Wi-fi or data centre services in Hong Kong.
“Through the transaction, the company will receive substantial proceeds, which will enable the company to continue to invest and strengthen its leading market position in the mobile business, while maintaining a strong financial profile,” Hutchison Telecom said.
Deutsche Bank's Hong Kong Branch and Goldman Sachs were the financial advisers to Hutchison Telecom.
The HK$14.5 billion sale follows the disposals made by two other Hong Kong operators of their fixed-line network businesses last year.
That price compares favourably with the HK$9.5 billion paid by TPG Capital and MBK Partners last to acquire fixed-line network operator Wharf T&T from property giant The Wharf (Holdings).
Hong Kong Broadband Network paid HK$650 million for the fixed-line network and online marketing operations of New World Telephone Holdings.
Earlier this month, HGC was seen to be valued at between US$1.2 billion to US$1.5 billion, according to a Reuters report, which cited unnamed sources.
For the six months ended 30 June 2017, HGC revenue were HK$2.17 billion and its earning before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation was HK$656 million. It had revenue of HK$4.13 billion last year.
HGC has spent more than HK$10 billion over more than two decades to build an extensive fibre-optic network across Hong Kong. It operates more than 1.4 million kilometres of fibre optic cable, enough to circle the earth over 36 times, according to Hutchison Telecom.
The HGC network covers more than 90 per cent of commercial buildings across the city and almost two million Hong Kong households. It also has cross-border connections to the mainland and links to various overseas submarine cable systems.