Australia may increase ceiling on Telstra ownership

March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
Australia may raise a cap on the number of shares investors outside the country can hold in Telstra Corp, the nations biggest phone company, to ease the sale of the governments A$32 billion ($25 billion) stake.

The government yesterday hired UBS AG and Caliburn Partnership to do a so-called scoping study that will advise the government on the timing and structure of the sale of its 51.8% stake in Melbourne-based Telstra. Overseas investors are restricted from owning a total of 35% of the A$62 billion company with no single overseas investor allowed to hold more than 5%. Telstra wants the government to lift the total foreign ownership limit to 49%.

Well look at any advice from the scoping study on increasing foreign ownership levels, said Matthew Doman, a spokesman for finance minister Nick Minchin. The government remains committed to majority Australian ownership of Telstra.

Overseas investors hold about 7% of Telstras stock. Telstras share sale, scheduled for mid-to-late 2006, is set to be the worlds second-largest after Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp sold $36 billion of stock in 1987.