Conroy eyes Telstra copper assets for NBN

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Conroy eyes Telstra copper assets for NBN

Twenty billion dollar investment could facilitate “trade-offs”.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been forced to dodge suggestions the Government may have to contribute cash as well as equity in the NBN company to attract Telstra's network assets.

Appearing on the ABC1 Inside Business program, Conroy said the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy would consider all potential ownership structures for the 49 per cent of NBNCo that is available to investors.

He said an NBN that included Telstra's copper assets "would be a great outcome" for the Government and all Australians.

"It would mean we would be able to build the network faster and it probably would be able to be cheaper because if these assets come in, we don't need to duplicate them," Conroy said.

But he admitted the decision rests with Telstra - and the incumbent's ability to recommend the contribution of assets to the NBN to shareholders would come down to the "price and value" it could demonstrate through such a deal.

"I'm sure there'll be some pretty hard nosed discussions [between Telstra and the NBNCo] about the value of the assets," Conroy said.

He sidestepped suggestions made on the program that the Government would have to contribute a sizable cash payment for Telstra's assets in addition to an equity stake in order to maintain majority ownership of the NBN.

But he also hinted the Government would have the cash necessary to reach such a deal, if it was necessary.

"We've always said we'd be prepared to spend, if necessary, up to $20 billion," Conroy said.

"When you start to look at those figures there are all sorts of trade-offs possible. [But] I'm not going to get into a debate about what I think the value of [Telstra's] copper network is.

"We'll be announcing shortly a number of individuals [to the NBNCo Board] who have a very good idea what the value [is]."

Conroy has previously said that the DBCDE has interviewed a number of candidates for the NBNCo chairman and Board positions.

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