OpenNet sale to Singtel business trust approved by IDA

THE Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has given the green light for OpenNet to be sold to a business trust owned by SingTel, despite strong opposition from the industry.

Under the planned sale of Singapore's fibre broadband network announced on August 22, OpenNet's owners - SingTel, SP Telecommunications, Singapore Press Holdings and Canada's Axia NetMedia - would sell it for $126 million to NetLink Trust.

But its day-to-day operations would be run by CityNet, the trustee-manager of NetLink Trust.

Announcing this late Thursday evening, IDA said that it is satisfied that the sale would have no substantial lessening of competition or harm the public interest.

The IDA's approval comes with conditions, including those which had not been proposed by SingTel, partially taking on board some suggestions given by the industry. For instance, a monitoring board comprising only Government representatives will be set up to check on control and ownership restrictions.

SingTel is also not allowed to have any control over the daily operations of CityNet or change the trust deed without IDA's approval.

The acquisition will take place in two phases, the first of which must start before year-end. The first phase will take 12 months and will involve the transfer of staff from OpenNet's key subcontractor, SingTel, and OpenNet's assets to CityNet.

The second phase will involve the consolidated entity CityNet providing services previously undertaken by OpenNet. During the second phase, SingTel must also divest more than 75 per cent of its interest in NetLink Trust by April 2018, the deadline that the telco had proposed.