Clear apparently not included in BT firesale

Clear Communications is not among a list of international assets British Telecom is reported to be considering selling to counter growing debts, but BT is ruling out nothing.

          Clear Communications is not among a list of international assets British Telecom is reported to be considering selling to counter growing debts, but BT is ruling out nothing.

          BT became the 100% owner of Clear last year, and has been credited with a renewal of vigour at the company. BT's Asia-Pacific spokesperson Kristen Hannah said yesterday reports that BT might be offloading assets in this region as "rumour and speculation - and we don't comment on rumour and speculation."

          BT's debt problems - running to some £30 billion - stem from its successful bids for 3G mobile licenses. The high prices being paid for such licenses by BT and other companies has led some analysts to voice concerns over whether the companies can afford the debts and how long it will take to turn a profit on the services.

          Blu, a company in which BT holds 20%, dropped out of the Italian radio spectrum auction yesterday after BT's partners were unable to persuade BT to put more capital into the venture.

          Intriguingly, Clear chose last Friday to announce that it would be joining the New Zealand spectrum auction - where prices are miniscule compared to those achieved in the UK - and immediately began bidding for both 2G and 3G spectrum, taking the total of bids past $NZ106 million.

          The UK Observer newspaper reported that BT is looking to offload its 20.05% stake in Hong Kong's SmarTone Mobile Telecommunications and the 24.12% it owns in South Korea's LG Telecom, both cellular carriers. Also under review is the company's 44% stake in India's Bharti Cellular , its 43% share in Indian software group Mahindra-British Telecom (MBT) and its 18% stake in Singapore fixed, Internet and mobile carrier StarHub.

          The Observer said BT - whose share price has halved this year - had been "recently torn apart by rumours of a bitter feud among its senior executives".

          A second report, in the Sunday Business newspaper, said BT is also considering the disposal of its 25% stake in France's Cegetel SA and 49% stake in Spain's Airtel Movil SA, according to Dow Jones.

          A spokesman for BT confirmed the company's international strategy is under review although declined to offer any additional details or comment on the press reports.

          "Everyone knows BT is undergoing a major strategic review at the moment and it involves all our international strategic holdings and we are not ruling anything out and anything in," said Michael Wadley, a spokesman for BT, in a telephone interview. "Anything specific is, for the time being, speculative. We are not commenting on anything."

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