SaskTel in preliminary talks with companies to form partnership: Duncan

Click to play video: 'SaskTel annual report' SaskTel annual report
WATCH ABOVE: It's a tale of two Crowns. One enjoying the best of times, the second... Well, it is no more. Today, our Jules Knox got a behind the scenes look at the numbers of two very different Crown corporations. We start with SaskTel which can’t seem to hit a wrong number – Jul 18, 2017

The Saskatchewan minister responsible for SaskTel said on Tuesday that there have been preliminary discussions with several communications companies to form a partnership.

“I would say that there has been discussions around a potential partnership that the government, certainly, and I feel warrant some further investigation and some further discussion,” minister Dustin Duncan said.

“It’s not along the lines of Bill 40. It doesn’t require Bill 40, but certainly it’s something that needs to be further discussed within [SaskTel].”

READ MORE: SaskTel minister confirms he’s spoken with a communications company about a minority SaskTel sale

The NDP said it’s unacceptable for the Saskatchewan Party to continue their negotiations, especially while refusing to release even the most basic details about the potential deals.

“People have good reason to be concerned about what they’re hiding now,” the NDP’s SaskTel critic Warren McCall said in a press release.

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“The Sask. Party changed the law to scrap important protections of our Crowns, laughed off suggestions that they were planning sell-offs, and then tried to hide meetings they were having with potential buyers.”

Duncan said if these discussions got to the point where the provincial government felt it would produce results in terms of protecting the head office in Regina and help SaskTel create jobs, then it would be disclosed to the public.

READ MORE: Sask. government passes Bill 40, allows for up to 49 per cent sale of Crown corporations

According to an annual report released on Tuesday, SaskTel had a net income of $134.8 million in 2016-17, which was up $28.9 million from the previous period.

The Crown corporation’s operating revenues of $1,277.2 million were composed primarily of wireless (40.8 per cent), data (26.4 per cent) and long distance (20.1 per cent).

“SaskTel’s annual report illustrates literally millions of reasons why SaskTel should not be sold off,” McCall said.

“The dividends SaskTel earns for its owners – all Saskatchewan people – help pay for our roads, schools, and hospitals. SaskTel also employs thousands of Saskatchewan people, provides world-class innovation and ensures great service and low rates.”

READ MORE: Premier Brad Wall says SaskTel is not for sale

The report also said Saskatchewan is experiencing financial pressures such as industry changes that are placing pressure on SaskTel’s profit margins.

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“Given the financial challenges that Saskatchewan is currently facing due to reduced natural resource revenue, the importance of sound fiscal management has been brought into full focus,” Duncan said.

In 2016-17, SaskTel invested $316.1 million in capital to provide increased wireless and wireline network bandwidth, improve customer service platforms and into new products and services. Capital spending was down from $328.7 million in 2015-16.

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