As Swoop makes a play on regional Australia, these other ASX telco stocks are jostling for position
Australians are migrating from cities to regional towns.
That’s according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which reported that a net 43,000 Aussies (outgoing less incoming) moved to regional areas from capital cities in 2020.
The figure is double that of 2019, with COVID-19 obviously being the top reason given for the move.
The government has responded to these demographic changes by announcing additional funding to the Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) in the last Federal Budget.
The RCP fund, which includes $90 million to support 81 communications infrastructure projects in regional Australia, was created following the completion of the national NBN rollout – Australia’s biggest ever infrastructure project that had a final bill of $50 billion.
These developments have not escaped ASX-listed telco companies, who are jostling to have some kind of presence on the regional map.
Yesterday, newly listed telco play Swoop (ASX:SWP) snapped up regional wireless broadband provider, Speedweb.
The $1.75 million acquisition will give Swoop access to Speedweb’s network of over 50 towers and masts that provide high speed wireless broadband in the regional areas of Gippsland and Latrobe Valley of Victoria.
The existing Swoop network overlaps with the Speedweb fixed wireless network in West Gippsland, which will provide opportunities to expand Swoop’s network across that region and capture additional market share.
The Swoop share price rose by 4 per cent yesterday on the announcement, and has risen by 90 per cent since listing at 50c in late May.
The scramble for regional Australia has accelerated after COVID-19, as other telco stocks also made plays of their own.
In big caps, Macquarie has just completed a $3.5 billion takeover of ASX-listed telco stock Vocus (ASX: VOC).
Macquarie’s offer price of $5.50 was the highest of three offers Vocus received since 2019 from suitors that also included power supplier AGL Energy.
Vocus owns a national 30,000km fibre network across Australia, providing connectivity to some of the country’s most remote regions.
But the action is not limited to the big players.
In April, small cap Field Solutions (ASX:FSG) received a $20.5 million award from the government’s RCP fund.
FSG will use the funds to build new networks in 12 under-serviced areas across five states, which will provide people living in the area access to services such as of mobile, fixed broadband, IoT and 5G Services.
In June, the company was again awarded $4.1 million from the RCP “round 2” fund, to build a network infrastructure across three states in rural NSW and Qld.
In total, the company has received 25 per cent of the total RCP funding pool for 16 new networks across five Australia states.
As a result, the FSG share price has surged by 300 per cent in 2021 alone.
Hubify (ASX:HFY) has also made a play into regional NSW and Qld by purchasing the database of Qld-based Nethoster for $800,000 in February.
Nethoster provides data, voice, mobility and managed services to business customers predominantly in the two states.
Uniti Wireless (ASX:UWL) has grown from a $200 million market cap to $2.2 billion in just two years since making its ASX debut in 2019.
The company has expanded rapidly to grab market share in regional Australia through acquisitions, including that of fibre network builder and operator, OptiComm.
The OptiComm broadband platform is set for completion by this month, with UWL also planning the migration of Telstra’s Velocity broadband assets it acquired in December.
In the latest half, UWL’s revenue grew by 148 per cent year on year.
Its share price has also jumped by 90 per cent this year.