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CONTENT & DOWNLOADS / INDUSTRY

BREAKING NEWS: Telstra Sell Sensis For Cut Price $454M

By Oonagh Reidy | Monday | 13/01/2014

Telco flogs majority stake in Yellow Pages for cut price

Telstra enters agreement to sell a 70 percent stake in Sensis to US based private equity firm, as it looks to ditch its traditional business in favour of digital media and mobile. 

The deal with Platinum Equity is worth A$454 million, much lower than the $3bn pricetag as speculated by analysts or the NZ $2.24bn Telecom New Zealand sold its directories business for in 2007, making Telstra's traction with the US equity firm look like a cut price deal. 

The transaction will be formally announced at 11am today by CEO David Thodey.   

The $454m price is 2.4 times Sensis' FY14 forecast EBITDA. 

Telstra said Sensis, which includes Yellow and White Pages directory and online services, is valued at A$649 million, and insisted the sum is "consistent" with valuations for recent directories transactions globally.

The sum adjusts for the voice directories business (retained by Telstra) and stand alone costs of operating the business. 

The telco expects to book an accounting loss on Sensis of approximately A$150 million, subject to completion timing and adjustments. 

The deal with US equity firm may also be under scrutiny by Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, over Sensis statutory obligations to distribute White Pages directories to customers, according to reports.  

Platinum Equity will operate Sensis as a separate entity.  However, Sensis will continue producing and distributing the White Pages Directory as required under conditions of Telstra's Carrier Licence, the telco today confirmed. 

Telstra will also continue to provide directory assistance (1223) services, Voice services including the 1234 and 12456 services. 

Telstra will retain a 30 per cent share in its directory business, once a huge part of its operation, although its relevance has dwindled in the internet age, with the emergence of Google search engine, and landline users falling. 

Thodey said he was committed to the new partnership and said agreement was the right strategic fit for both Telstra and Platinum Equity, a global private equity firm with a specialised focus on business operations and recently completed deals with CBS, CheckPoint Systems, and Deutsche Post DHL. 

"We have spent the last two years enhancing our print directories business with a rich set of digital directory offerings. Sensis is now the leading digital marketing services and directories business in Australia. 

"To drive further momentum, we believe it is the appropriate time to introduce Platinum Equity, as a strategic partner," said Mr Thodey. 

Telstra decision to retain a 30 per cent stake in Sensis "shows our belief it will continue to lead the market and deliver value to Telstra shareholders."  

The new strategic partner will give Sensis the " focus it needs to extend and enhance customer offerings and benefits in an agile digital world," he said. 

Platinum Equity Chairman and CEO Tom Gores said: "We will empower management's focus on the core directories business while evaluating and pursuing prospective new strategic initiatives." 

The sale proceeds of A$454million are incremental to Telstra's FY14 free cashflow guidance of A$4.6billion to A$5.1billion. Approximately A$100million is expected to be included in the December 2013 half year results with the balance accounted for on completion.  

Following completion, Telstra will consider the net proceeds from this transaction, consistent with its capital management framework.

Company shares fell 0.19% to $5.25 on the ASX today. 

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