Not just the service drops

ALLY bought her Telstra shares when assured by the Federal Government it would be a 'great deal', but in the recent bickering between the Telstra big guns, she has seen her investment plummet.

And also watching their assets drop are 1.5million other Telstra shareholders, mostly made up of mum-and-dad investors.

In fact, since Sol Trujillo took control of Telstra nearly three months ago, Australia's biggest company has dropped in value by close to $1 billion per week, or 15 per cent.

Sally (who did not want to be identified) is not a big investor, but occasionally an opportunity comes along and she takes it up.

When offered Telstra shares in 1999 at $7.40, she thought it would be a good investment.

Yesterday, Telstra shares were worth $4.30, a long way from the $5.25 the Government hopes to achieve when it sells its 51.8 per cent share, but Sally isn't panicking just yet.

"I'm not planning on selling my shares. I have been tossing up my options, but they're down, so what's the point," she said.

"Shares go up and down, and looking at it for the long-term, you can't just rush out and sell, because they often come back."

Bridges Personal Investment Services Coffs Harbour branch manager Paul Hoschke says that's the right approach.

"I tell my clients to sit tight, we're in the middle of a corporate and political game in play that has each party manoeuvering to get the best outcome for themselves," he said.

"Telstra's new management wants to make it as difficult as possible for the Government to get regulatory relief, and the Government is trying to get the legislation through so they can sell when prices are high.

"But Telstra is not going to lose all its value and disappear, so let's see what unfolds."

Mr Hoschke says it's standard in such a sit- uation for share prices to fall.

"The market hates uncertainty," he said.

Meanwhile, the wording of the legislation and leaked documents that revealed the telco is suffering from a swag of problems and has been borrowing from its reserves to pay dividends has Nationals' senator Barnaby Joyce rethink his support.

He has been threatening to vote against the full sale of Telstra, with the Government rewriting the legislation for a $2 billion bush telecommunication fund to get him on side.

Labor will also try to amend the legislation to allow for a 33-day inquiry into the deal, saying that last week's one-day inquiry by a Senate committee into the five pieces of Telstra sale legislation was not long enough.

"The question the Government has to answer is why are they rushing when there is no intention to sell Telstra until next year," opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy said.

"What are they hiding? What are they afraid of the Senate uncovering?"

Their attempt to delay the debate yesterday was defeated.

But Sally is keen to see the telco sold.

"Once a company becomes accountable to shareholders, it's likely to become more profitable and competitive." she said.

"My feeling is that services won't go down, because the government will still have to oversee it. They can't just wash their hand

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