Vodafone Australia (VHA), the 50/50 joint venture between Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa, is reportedly looking for a buyer as it struggles to compete with the country’s two largest operators, Telstra and SingTel’s Optus.

The Australian reports that “a preliminary information memorandum” has been sent to operator groups and sovereign wealth funds in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere to sound out interest. Qtel, Etisalat, South Korea’s KT, NTT Docomo and China Telecom are believed to have seen the initial sales document, according to the report.

Both VHA’s current owners have pledged their on-going support for the network. "Vodafone remains fully committed to our operations in Australia and our sole focus is on the turnaround of the business," said a Vodafone Group spokesman.

But analysts have questioned how long the two partners can continue to prop up the loss-making business, especially as they will soon need to shell out for new spectrum. According to The Australian, the JV lost AUD336 million (US$354 million) in 2011 and shed 554,000 customers as “on-going network issues and customer confidentiality breaches took their toll.”

“All the problems [VHA] has experienced over the last 18 months have tested its parent companies' patience and we know that Vodafone Group has sold struggling operations in the past, so you can't entirely rule out a sale," said one analyst.

According to Wireless Intelligence, VHA had 7 million customers by year-end 2011, behind Telstra (13.2 million) and Optus (9.4 million).