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Hutchison announces funding arrangements for data network

Hutchison Telecoms (Australia) Limited (Hutchison), today announced a renounceable Rights Issue to raise around $700 million for the next major growth area in telecommunications - high speed, wirefree data services.

Hutchison Managing Director Barry Roberts-Thomson said this wirefree network would allow Internet and data traffic to go mobile providing one of the most sophisticated telecommunications services in Australia by 2002.

"The potential for this network is enormous with 60% of Australians expected to own a mobile phone by 2002 and around 37% of homes expected to be connected to the Internet," Mr Roberts-Thomson said.

"Converging growth in Internet usage and growth in mobile services is the most exciting phenomena facing our industry, particularly given the advances in speed, functionality and reliability of wirefree networks."

Mr Roberts-Thomson said Hutchison made a strategic $671 million outlay in March on 1800 megahertz spectrum licences in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to provide a national wirefree network.

"Hutchison moved quickly to obtain short-term funding for the purchase from our parent company, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, and we will now replace this capital with funds raised through the Rights Issue."

Hutchison is making a renounceable Rights Issue of new shares on a 3 for 7 basis at a price of $3.45 per share to holders of ordinary shares. The total number of new shares to be issued pursuant to the Rights Issue will be approximately 203.5 million.

The Rights are renounceable, which enables shareholders who do not wish to take up some or all of the New Shares to sell their Rights. Trading of Rights will commence on the ASX on 11 May, 2000 and cease on 5 June, 2000.

Mr Roberts-Thomson said the wirefree network would allow the development of high speed data services for customers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Voice services would also be supported.

"The network allows massive potential for swapping information between people; between people and devices and also between devices - creating revolutionary communications capabilities," he said.

"The network will operate up to 27 times faster than the standard mobile networks of today."

Hutchison Whampoa Group Managing Director and Chairman of Hutchison, Mr Canning Fok, said the initiative to build and operate wirefree networks was a critical step in the company's development.

"Building a national network optimised for high speed data and multimedia services is a targeted strategy which will be the foundation for Hutchison's growth over the next ten to fifteen years." Mr Canning Fok said.

"Wirefree data is the next major telecommunications opportunity in Australia, and Hutchison is well positioned to be at the forefront of this market."

Mr Canning Fok said Hutchison Whampoa, which holds 54.03% of Hutchison, has agreed to take up its full entitlement under the Rights Issue.

"This strategy has the 100% backing of Hutchison Whampoa."

Mr Roberts-Thomson said the new high-speed data network, due to be rolled out by 2002, would build on Hutchison's existing and developing services, such as CDMA.

He said Hutchison was in the process of selecting a vendor for the new project, and had commenced discussions with a number of vendors, with a tender process to be established soon.

ABN AMRO Rothschild and UBS Warburg Australia have been appointed Joint Lead Managers to the Rights Issue.

Key Dates

KEY DATES:

Ordinary shares quoted ex-rights and rightstrading commences on the ASX11 May 2000
Record date to determine entitlements to newshares17 May 2000
Prospectus with Entitlement and Acceptance Form despatched to shareholders by22 May 2000
Last day of rights trading5 June 2000
Last day for acceptance and payment in full13 June 2000
Allotment of new shares & dispatch of shareholding statements for new shares by4 July 2000
Trading commences for new shares by5 July 2000