Telstra sells majority stake in Sensis

Last updated 12:24 13/01/2014

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Australia's Telstra has sold a 70 per cent stake in Sensis - the Australian equivalent of New Zealand's Yellow and White Pages - to United States private equity firm Platinum Equity for A$454 million (NZ$492m).

The announcement followed speculation over the weekend that Telstra could net as much as A$3 billion from the outright sale of the directories business.

The more modest sale price achieved by Telstra stands in stark contrast to the bumper $2.2b price tag that Telecom secured when it sold its Yellow Pages business in 2007.

Months after the sale of Yellow to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and investment company Unitas Capital it became apparent that the two buyers had paid an inflated price for the Kiwi business.

Yellow, like other directories businesses worldwide, has felt the impact of growing indirect competition from online ventures such as Google.

Selling Yellow for top dollar proved for a swan song for then-Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung, who left Telecom later that year.

Like Yellow, Sensis has attempted to meet the new competition head-on by branching out into online directories.

Telstra said the price it struck with Platinum Equity equated to 2.4 times Sensis' earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) which was "consistent with valuations for recent directories transactions globally".

Telstra said it would also derive "economic benefits" from selling services to the company.

Unlike Telecom, Telstra will retain full ownership of its voice directories service, which it described as core to its business.

Telstra shares were trading down 1 cent at A$5.25 shortly after noon.

Its shares are dual-listed on the NZX but it has had no significant business in New Zealand since the sale of its TelstraClear subsidiary to Vodafone in 2012.

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- Fairfax Media

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