Ididn?t lose $1.5m

By Alex Easton

Norlink boss Keith Davidson has rejected reports that his company has collapsed, saying its future has never looked brighter.

Mr Davidson is among a small group of private investors that this week officially bought the company from an amalgam of community-based groups, such as Southern Cross University and local councils, for about a third of the $1.5 million the Federal Government pumped into it in 2001.

Mr Davidson, who has been the company's chief executive since it began in the late 1990s, yesterday hit out at reports the company had been forced into administration.

The reports surfaced in Federal Parliament on Wednesday after Labor backbencher Kelvin Thompson and Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran said the company had been placed under administration.

Mr Davidson said the company, which this week changed its name to Regional Telecom, remained healthy and that he was frustrated at the message being put out about it.

"I am concerned that the information getting out is incorrect," he said.

He confirmed the company was put into administration in May, but said the decision had been voluntary and that the company came out of administration on Tuesday.

The company that emerged from the administrators was very different from the one given to them.

While under administration, Norlink's fixed line telephone business, which rented lines from another phone company and on-sold them to about 1500 customers, was sold to Unitel, a subsidiary of the multinational company Commander, and a holding company, Norlink Ltd, was placed into liquidation.

Mr Davidson said ownership of the company now rested with a small group of Norlink employees, including Mr Davidson and two other investors.

He said the new owners had invested about $500,000 to take over the company.

The sold-off telephone service would continue as Norlink Communications, while the main part of the company, which remained based in Ballina, changed its name to Regional Telecom.

Mr Davidson said this step removed the company's biggest resource drain ? the telephone service ? and let it focus on its core business of wireless broadband Internet services, which, like the phone service, also had about 1500 customers.

Honing the company's focus on wireless broadband would let it get on with the job of expanding its local network.

This network currently stretches from Lismore to the coast and from Mullumbimby to Woodburn.

He said Kyogle and Coraki were likely to be next.

The company was handed over to administrators following a years-old dispute with a supplier that threatened to block further investment.

Mr Davidson said the dispute continued, despite the period under administration, but that it 'should not' impact on customers.

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