Australian ECA eyes bid for Pacific telecoms to block China

(Nikkei, Sydney, 20 July 2021) The government of Australia looks to support a bid by domestic telecom Telstra to buy a leading South Pacific mobile phone business reportedly eyed by a Chinese suitor, as Canberra works to limit Beijing's influence in the region. Telstra said Monday it is discussing a purchase of the Pacific operations of Jamaica-based Digicel "in partnership with the Australian government." The Australian company said any such deal for Digicel Pacific "would be with financial and strategic risk management support from the government." The government [through Export Finance Australia] would pay for half of the purchase -- estimated by local media at 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.47 billion) -- with Telstra taking a minority stake if the transaction is completed, Reuters reports. If China acquires the Pacific mobile network, it could monitor Australia’s communications to and from the region and use asset management as leverage noted John Lee, a senior researcher at the University of Sydney.