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The national broadband network (NBN) tender process has claimed its first victim today as Macquarie Group has decided to withdraw its bid, leaving it two contenders left standing for the $12 billion project.

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Telstra and the rival Optus-led consortium Terria (formerly known as G9) are the only remaining bidders prepared to pour money on the national project.

Although Macquarie had already begun preparing its bid for the project, the banks subsidiary, Macquarie Capital Advisers was appointed as a financial consultant for Telstra’s bid for the network last week, thereby setting up a potential conflict of interest.

So in an apparent attempt to avoid an angry and threatened Telstra, Macquarie Group pulled out of the tender process as Telstra and Terria (i.e. Optus) are competing for the $4.7 billion that the Rudd Government has set aside for a public-private partnership (PPP) to provide 98 per cent coverage of the population with broadband connections delivering at least 12 megabits per second.

To add to the confusion, one other group, known as Acacia and backed by the ABC, Leightons and another Macquarie subsidiary, the Macquarie Infrastructure Group, is also bidding for a slice of the NBN tender.

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