Waterways objects to Ultramast plans

By Liz Vaughan-Adams
Wednesday 29 January 2003 01:00

British Waterways yesterday moved to prevent Marconi and Railtrack taking £75m of cash out of their Ultramast telecoms venture by lodging a formal objection with the courts.

Marconi, which is taking £45m out of the Ultramast venture, is handing full control of the business to Railtrack, which will remove £30m of cash.

Those capital reduction plans were announced last month and are due to be heard in court on 5 February. British Waterways said yesterday, however, that it had objected to the move on the grounds that taking cash out of Ultramast would mean the business was no longer viable.

"It means Ultramast, we don't think, is a viable business going forward without that funding as it won't be able to meet the upsurge in demand for mast sites when it comes and I'm convinced it will come," Robin Evans, British Waterways' chief executive, said.

Ultramast, which is owned 50:50 by Marconi and Railtrack, was set up in December of 2000 to build mobile phone masts along the rail and waterways networks. It then planned to lease capacity to mobile phone operators.

British Waterways is also going to court to try to safeguard an equity stake in Ultramast of about 7.5 per cent that it was due to receive in 2004-05 for finding sites to position mobile phone masts on its land.

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