Switzerland’s largest telecommunications operator, Swisscom, has sold its 17.7 per cent share in United States-based Infonet Services Corporation (ISC) to British Telecom.
Swisscom will net $170 million (SFr200 million) for ISC, which provides voice and data services to multinationals.
The Swiss operator said it had no employees engaged in ISC’s global activities and it would keep a 90 per cent share in a local ISC subsidiary, which provides services to customers in and around Switzerland.
"We realised, perhaps four years ago, that [the global activity] is not something we have to do ourselves," Swisscom’s Pia Colombo told swissinfo.
"The times and the market have changed."
The sale will allow Swisscom to focus on its core business while British Telecom “will continue to develop ISC business,” said Colombo.
"It just happened that all the others with an interest in Infonet were ready to sell as well. It's worth $170 million so that's good for us," she added.
Other groups selling a significant share of ISC included KPN, Telefonica, Telstra, TellaSonera and KDDI.
BT Group said on Monday that it would pay $965 million (SFr1.1 billion) to buy out the shareholders.
Swisscom bought its stake in ISC in 1989 for an undisclosed sum. At the height of the telecoms boom in 1999, its holding was worth SFr566 million.
By the end of last year, it had fallen in value to SFr175 million.
Last April, Swisscom unloaded loss-making German mobile phone subsidiary Debitel in which it had a 95 per cent stake.
The deal was widely seen as a fiasco for the Swiss operator, which had paid SFr4.3 billion for Debitel in several transactions. It eventually recouped just SFr994 million when it sold the firm to a private equity group.
British Telecom said its purchase Infonet shares was subject to shareholder approval and regulatory clearance.
It added that the deal would improve its position in the key North American and Asian markets, and that 97 per cent of Infonet's voting shareholders supported the deal.
Jose A Collazo, Infonet chief executive, said the “transaction is great news for Infonet's customers, employees and partners”.
ISC reported sales of $622 million in the past year. It is based in El Segundo, California, and employs some 1,000 staff.
swissinfo with agencies
Swisscom sold its 17.7% stake in Infonet Services Corporation to British Telecom for SFr200 million.
Other shareholders, including KPN, Telefonica, Telstra, TellaSonera and KDDI, also sold their interest.
BT will pay SFr1.1 billion in total.
Swisscom will retain a 90% stake in Infonet's Swiss subsidiary, Infonet Schweiz.
Based in United States, ISC provides data and voice communications for multinationals.
It reported sales of $622 million in the past year.
It employs 1000 people.
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