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NetTest pulls out of Australia

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NetTest , a major player in optical network test, has closed its Australian operations with immediate effect, transferring local sales and support to a new company set up by ex-employees.

The new firm, CommsForce, began trading on 1st February, taking over the distribution of NetTest products as well as the Melbourne-based repair, service and calibration facility for the entire Asia Pacific region.

The move is reminiscent of t&m firm Tektronix, which pulled out of the country in December 2001 before appointing NewTek Sales—also set up by ex-staffers—as official distributor and authorised service centre.

“NetTest is in the process of concluding a sole distribution agreement with CommsForce, but the deal is as yet unsigned,” a source told Electronics News. “NetTest will remain in Australia for a few months to ensure the transition is as transparent as possible for local customers.”

NetTest’s exit from the Australian market is part of a wider “slash-and-burn” for the optical test giant, which was acquired in a hushed buy-out by Danish consortium Axcel.

Backed by a number of large Danish pension funds and banks, Axcel acquired NetTest from GN Great Nordic quietly in the hours leading up to the new year, followed by an announcement of a major internal shake-up of the company. This shake-up will see 300 more employees released, leaving just 400 staff worldwide compared to some 1,500 a year ago.

Importantly, NetTest will also divest its key business in developing test equipment for fibre optic and cable manufacturers, after Axcel said “there is currently nothing that indicates a renewed investment in optical networks in the near future”.

Instead, the company will focus on the development and sale of test instruments and systemsfor network operators, including the recently developed CMA5000 platform. While the network monitoring systems business will remain headquartered in Denmark, the field instruments division will be based in New York.

The management team has also taken a battering, with former CEO Jens Maaloee among many high-level casualties, to be replaced by Allan Vestergaard, who has previously held positions at Ericsson and Telia. Internal sources are remaining tight-lipped on local staff movements, revealing only that two previous employees will head up the new CommsForce organization here.

However, sources were able to confirm that this latest closure is part of a wider issue for the Australian telecommunications sector. “Like the UK and US, Australia falls into the category of being a ‘developed’ telecomms market, meaning companies need to re-evaluate their business models if they are to remain profitable,” the source said.

Emerging market opportunities are represented by several countries in the Asia Pacific region, where the telecommunications backbone is still largely government-owned and lacking in new technology infrastructure such as 3G.

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