National Grid sells telecom unit to Aussie group

British utility National Grid agreed to sell its British telecom-equipment business to an Australian company for $4.9 billion, a news wire report said.

A UPI report said the multinational power-network company, which also operates utilities in the US Northeast, would sell its National Grid Wireless UK business to Arqiva, an infrastructure company majority owned by Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group, an externally managed investment vehicle of Australia's Macquarie Bank.

The acquisition will close immediately, the companies, quoted by the UPI report, said.

The UPI report said the London utility will use $3.6 billion of the proceeds to buy back shares and focus on the British and US electric and gas markets, it said.

The wireless business represents less than 3% of National Grid's total revenue, it added.

The company also seeks to sell its US Wireless business too, according to company CEO Steve Holliday, the UPI report said.

National Grid's sold business provides some 5,000 towers and other infrastructure used by cell phone operators in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It also provides TV and radio transmission networks.

Sydney-based Macquarie Communications controls Broadcast Australia, which owns and operates a major broadcast transmission network, the report said.