United still mum on telco figures

United Networks is continuing its policy of not separating its communications results from its overall result, though it has acknowledged that the unit is yet to make a profit.

United Networks is continuing its policy of not separating its communications results from its overall result, though it has acknowledged that the unit is yet to make a profit.

Chief executive Dan Warnock said at the announcement of United's 2001 results last week, that such information was "too sensitive".

"We don't want to do it and our auditors say we don't have to."

However, United's communications general manager, Sean McDonald, has confirmed that the communications division -- created in 2001 after the utility spent $20 million running fibre-optic cable through its gas pipes in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs -- is not yet profitable.

"We're not looking to be profitable for another two to two-and-a-half years and that's been our stated position all along."

United's "open access" business model is different to that of other bandwidth providers, he says, as it doesn't compete with the retailers it sells capacity to.

United has 24 retailer partners, he says, including ISPs such as Ihug and Iconz and systems integrators such as AT&T, Hitachi and Datacraft. It's a model unique to New Zealand but similar to that of US companies such as Cogent, Yipes and Telseon, he says.

"They're also [metropolitan area network] companies and don't do exactly what we do -- they do have a retail focus, but do it through partnerships."

At the results meeting, at which United's $120 million profit was announced, Warnock said the company would "continue to look for acquisitions".

McDonald says that while no acquisitions on the communications side are imminent, "it doesn't mean we wouldn't be interested -- more rationalisation of the open access model would be good for consumers".

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