Split Order

WELLINGTON, Sept 26, 2007 (AFP) – The New Zealand government on Wednesday ordered the country’s dominant phone company Telecom to split into three units in a bid to level the playing field in the telecommunications industry. But investors took the latest news in their stride, with shares rising six cents at 4.36 New Zealand dollars by mid-afternoon.

Telecom, long accused of using its dominant position to stifle competition, will have to break up into wholesale, retail and network operations.

It will have to give competitors access to its network at the same price it will charge its own retail arm. The government said the split should be completed by March 2008.

“It will underpin increased competition and efficient investment for the long-term benefit of all New Zealanders,” Communications Minister David Cunliffe said.

The government first signalled it wanted a split last year after it expressed frustration at the slow take-up and expensive charges for broadband Internet.

Telecom’s chief operating officer for technology and enterprises Mark Ratcliffe said the separation would be demanding for the company and the industry.

The company reiterated it expected the separation would result in capital s