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$2 longshot bet pays off for Coffs and Bellingen Councils

Southern Phone boss Phil Herrick has announced a big pay day for Coffs Harbour and Bellingen Councils.
Southern Phone boss Phil Herrick has announced a big pay day for Coffs Harbour and Bellingen Councils. Adam Hourigan

A TWO dollar investment in a fledgling telecommunications company has paid off big time for Coffs Harbour and Bellingen.

Each community will receive a share of a $1.35 million dividend declared by Southern Phone for distribution in 2013, the result of a $2 investment made in the company by Coffs Harbour City Council over 10 years ago.

In later years, Bellingen Shire Council also decided to take a piece of the action.

Following in the wake of the One.Tel collapse at the start of the millennium, Coffs Council's original $2 share speculation was met with some mirth and derision at first with some controversy later.

However, the community-owned company (based in Moruya) has since accumulated a healthy list of 41 shareholders and is tipped to be facing a future boom after getting in on the ground floor with the Labor government's National Broadband Network.

Southern Phone's general manager Phil Herrick said the Coffs Harbour and Bellingen councils welcomed the cash injection with the dividend paid in proportion to the amount of business generated in each local government area.

"Last financial year Southern Phone revenues were $65.4 million, up from $48.6 million the previous year," he said.

"Residents throughout the region will reap rewards with a $48,929 return to Coffs Harbour and $19,214 to Bellingen Shire Council."

Coffs received the sixth largest share of the $1.35 million dividend with Bellingen in 16th place.

The company was formed in 2002 by a number of councils in NSW to deliver more affordable telecommunications services to the community.

It was funded by the federal government using money raised from the sale of Telstra to improve telecommunications services in regional Australia.

That seed funding finished in 2004 and since then Southern Phone has operated successfully and profitably.

Southern Phone is the third-largest provider of fixed line services in regional Australia and the fourth-largest mobile phone provider.



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