DataRoom AM: BG speculation swirls

BG Group’s plan to offload $4bn worth of assets progresses amid rumours of a full-scale takeover, while the ACCC looks set to give AGL the green light on its Macquarie Generation acquisition.

BG Group’s push towards a multi-billion-dollar sale of infrastructure gathers pace, but could it be the beginning of a bigger selldown?

Elsewhere, AGL Energy readies for a capital raising to fund its Macquarie Generation purchase, the ACCC looks into Expedia’s planned purchase of Wotif.com and Mark Carnegie’s demerger plans at Brickworks and Washington H Soul Pattinson hit the skids.

Hungry infrastructure investors are licking their lips as BG Group progresses plans to offload $4 billion worth of assets related to the Queensland Curtis LNG project. BG has now sent out sale documents to interested parties, according to The Australian Financial Review, ahead of a call for offers next month. As outlined in this column previously, Industry Funds ManagementHastings Funds Management, APA Group and Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure are among the possible buyers, with the first three heading up consortiums as CKI goes it alone.

The progress on a sale comes as rumours simmer offshore of a takeover play for BG or a partial selldown of its interest in Queensland Curtis, where it has an unusually high stake of 74 per cent. Should a sale of the LNG asset be pursued, expect BG to retain a stake close to 50 per cent.

In energy, the ACCC is expected to this week accept the Competition Tribunal’s ruling on AGL Energy’s proposed $1.5bn purchase of Macquarie Generation, allowing the energy retailer to proceed with the controversial deal. Confirmation from the regulator, expected Thursday, will pave the way for a $1.2bn equity raising from AGL in coming months as it seeks to fund the deal.

The resolution of the failed fight with AGL is not the only significant news at the ACCC, with the competition regulator kickstarting an inquiry into Expedia’s planned $700m purchase of Wotif.com. The ACCC is interested in how much impact the deal will have on the online accommodation sector amid claims the deal could hike commissions charged to hotels. Submissions from the public are due by August 6 ahead of an expected decision from the regulator on September 4.

Meanwhile, the Australian Taxation Office has likely delivered a lethal blow to plans to separate the cross-ownership of Brickworks and Washington H Soul Pattinson, informing the two firms that they will be on the hook for a $341m tax bill should a plan urged by activist investor Mark Carnegie proceed. The Carnegie strategy would have led to the end of an unusual structure that sees Brickworks own 42.7 per cent of Soul Pattinson and the latter own 44.3 per cent of Brickworks.

In the IPO market, fresh signs of float fatigue have emerged after investment company Global Value Fund gave up 1.5 per cent yesterday during its first day on ASX boards. The company’s lacklustre listing comes amid renewed weakness towards the lower end of the market.

One firm hoping to buck the recent trend of weakness among lesser-known names is Ashley Services Group, which is likely to finalise plans to raise $100m through a float in the coming fortnight, the AFR reports.

In retail, an independent expert has predictably concluded Woolworths SA’s bid for control of Country Road comes at a premium to its value, with the offer ‘fair and reasonable’ as a result. Indeed, the offer is very generous, but that doesn’t mean Woolworths is paying over the odds, as Stephen Bartholomeusz explains here.

Finally, Nine Entertainment has spent about $1m in claiming HBO’s stake in local streaming site Quickflix, while Pacific Equity Partners has offloaded New Zealand snack foods business Griffin’s Foods to Universal Robina Corp for $NZ700m, almost double what it paid for the asset in 2006.