If Gina Rinehart likes to keep her business dealings private, she won't enjoy this morning's newspapers. Both sides of her empire are in the spotlight today, amid talk Australia's richest woman is planning a tilt at Fairfax's radio assets and that she is about to sign on a new Chinese equity partner for her giant Roy Hill iron ore mine. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the Future Fund, which just became Transurban's largest shareholder, and Brambles, which is expected to announce its plans for its Recall business any day now.
Gina Rinehart, Macquarie Radio, Fairfax Media
Gina Rinehart is understood to be considering funding a bid for Fairfax Media's radio interests as part of a takeover that would be orchestrated by John Singleton's Macquarie Radio Network, according to The Australian. The newspaper reports that Rinehart has gone so far as to request two seats on the board of Fairfax – which she already owns a sizable stake in – in an effort to pressure the company to accept the offer from Singleton, a long-time friend.
If the bid is successful, Rinehart, who also owns a stake in Ten Network, would be granted access to influential talkback stations including 4BC in Brisbane, 2UE in Sydney, 3AW in Melbourne and 6PR in Perth. It certainly gives credence to the popular view that she is seeking influence via the media to push her pro-mining agenda, although you have to wonder if newspaper and radio investments are the best way to do it in the digital age.
Hancock Prospecting, China Steel
On the other side of the country, Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting is said to be in late-stage talks with Taiwan's China Steel Corp, which appears to be seeking a stake in the upcoming Roy Hill iron ore mine near Port Hedland in Western Australia, according to The Australian. Hancock aims to sell a total 30 per cent of the project, including the 15 per cent slice that Korea's POSCO recently snapped up.
The source expects a CSC agreement by the end of the month, when we might also hear more about potential deals with Japan's Marubeni and Korea's STG Corporation, which are also said to be negotiating minority stakes in the project.
The Australian Financial Review expects Brambles to reveal the fate of its Recall document management business by the end of the month, after the pallet maker put the unit up for sale in August. Potential buyers are said to include Canadian private equity firm Onex and America's Thomas H Lee Partners.
The word is that Brambles wants about $2 billion for Recall, or about 8.5 times the business' fiscal 2012 EBITDA. However, bidders are reluctant to commit more than seven or eight times earnings, according to the AFR. We'll just have to wait and see.
Future Fund, Transurban
The Future Fund has emerged as Transurban's largest shareholder after the fund took advantage of a major selldown by CP2 Group. The Australian understands the Future Fund bought about 30 per cent of the CP2 stake, or about 35 million shares, through its infrastructure fund manager RARE Infrastructure.
It's unclear what the Future Fund hopes to do with its larger slice of Transurban – the latest transaction brings its stake to 6.8 per cent – although we know the fund considered taking over the toll road operator as part of a consortium of bidders in 2009.
National Australia Bank, GrainCorp
Another substantial shareholder filing worth noting concerns GrainCorp, which now counts National Australia Bank as a 5 per cent stakeholder, according to The Australian. The move comes after a subsidiary of Consolidated Press Holdings increased its stake in the grain company to 6.24 per cent, according to a separate filing last week.
Qantas will be breathing a sigh of relief after a senate committee rejected proposed changes to the Qantas Sales Act, which would have made international tie-ups even more difficult for the Australian airline.
Under a proposal by independent senator Nick Xenophon, the carrier would have been forced to perform most of its operations in Australia (as well as pay overseas crew higher Australian wages on some routes). Luckily for Qantas, the plan was thrown out for being "inappropriately restrictive".
Macquarie Group will be disappointed that it could only get its hands on $US250 million in a hybrid raising that fell well short of its anticipated $US500 million. The investment bank blames the weak showing on the fact that the tier-one capital raising, mostly focused on Asia, was a world-first under the new Basel III accord, says The Australian.
The newspaper also reports that Goldman Sachs has been appointed to sell global high-end beauty retailer Aesop – although a price hasn't been decided on – and speculates that Washington H Saul Pattinson will be hunting for deals after unveiling a big pile of cash.
Finally, Darren Steinberg, the new boss of DEXUS Property Group, is said to be considering buying out his former employer, the Commonwealth Property Office Fund, according to the AFR.