Chorus CEO appointment hedged on Telecom NZ demerger

Telecom New Zealand (ASX:TEL) has appointed Mark Ratcliffe as the new chief executive of its infrastructure business, Chorus, should shareholders vote in favour of the proposed demerger.

The telco last year flagged plans to structurally separate in order to align the interests of its equity and debt holders with those of the Government and people of New Zealand to bid for contracts in the country’s equivalent to the National Broadband Network (NBN) – the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative.

Ratcliffe has worked with the telco for over 20 years and is currently in the role of CEO of Telecom’s Chorus business division.

According to an ASX statement, Ratcliffe had previously been appointed to lead the transition of Chorus through the demerger and Telecom NZ’s executive lead for the UFB project.

“We are pleased to have secured Mark’s services, not only to lead the transition of Chorus from business unit to stand alone company, but also beyond as the new Chorus establishes itself as New Zealand’s fibre partner,” designated Chorus chairman (should the demerger be approved), Sue Sheldon, said in a statement.

According to Sheldon, Ratcliffe offers experience and credibility following the establishment of Chorus as an operationally separate business unit in 2008.

“The appointment will set a stand-alone Chorus in good stead if shareholders approve the demerger transaction,” she said.

Following a lengthy bidding process, Telecom NZ finally secured a piece of the UFB project with the Chorus business chosen to deploy fibre in the remaining 24 of the 33 candidate areas.

The move to award Telecom NZ the UFB contracts was predicted by NZ analysts, due to the likelihood of the incumbent telco competing with the UFB, and was in line with legislation governing the structural separation of Telecom New Zealand progressing to cabinet in February this year.

Chorus was selected with Christchurch City Holdings’ (CCH) fibre business Enable Networks, both of which were shortlisted for the project in December, and will join Northpower Limited and Ultrafast Fibre Limited (led by WEL Networks) to deploy and operate the UFB build.

The appointment also follows Telecom NZ’s executive reshuffle with a number of key appointments reducing the team from 10 to eight in April.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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