Suitors begin to line up for NetLink sale

The merchant bank handling the sale of Victoria University's corporate ISP NetLink is expecting strong interest locally and abroad in the company. Prospective buyers were already lining up yesterday in the wake of the university's announcement that it is to sell the business - and generate a substantial windfall.

The merchant bank handling the sale of Victoria University's corporate ISP NetLink is expecting strong interest locally and abroad in the company.

Prospective buyers were already lining up yesterday in the wake of the university's announcement that it is to sell the business - and generate a substantial windfall.

NetLink has its roots in Victoria's 1989 computer science department project to establish a link with Waikato University, site of New Zealand's first Internet gateway to the world.

Since then it has established itself as probably the country's leading provider of connectivity and hosting services for corporate and government entities. It was recently named as the host of the public results Web site for this year's general election.

A sale has probably been on the cards since May 1997, when the company changed its structure to appoint a CEO, and moved off the Victoria campus. It is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of the university's commercial arm, Victoria Link.

The university subsequently moved to bolster its research functions with the establishment of the New Zealand Internet Institute.

Victoria's vice chancellor and chief executive, Professor Michael Irving, said yesterday that NetLink had "reached the stage where it needs a parent or partner who can bring stronger business synergies in order to continue its growth.

"We are proud of the progress that NetLink has made in its nine years. It has grown from a technical service developed for a few university users into a significant player in the corporate Internet market with a multi-million dollar turnover and a very skilled staff of 35."

But Professor Irving said that there was "good potential" for a new owner of NetLink to retain strong links with the research community at the University.

Marcus Wai, of Cameron and Company, the merchant bank handling the sale, said any additional contract with the university would be valued separately by the bank, but the ultimate decision on the choice of bidder would rest with the university itself.

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