DataRoom AM: BHP appeal

Mining giant BHP Billiton edges closer to a near-$1 billion pay day as six suitors circle its Nickel West business, while Baosteel and Aurizon have full control of Aquila in their sights.

BHP Billiton has made strides towards a near-$1 billion sale of its nickel assets in Western Australia, with a divestment potentially weeks away.

Elsewhere, Baosteel creeps up the Aquila Resources register, Woodside Petroleum continues to seek new growth avenues, peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne draws another big-name investor and IFM Investors chases infrastructure assets in the Pilbara.

BHP Billiton is pushing forward with plans to sell its Nickel West business, opening its books to six suitors, The Australian Financial Review has said. Glencore and the newly formed X2 Resources (led by former Xstrata boss Mick Davis) have long been considered among the frontrunners for the WA-based division, but commodity trading house Trafigura is also now believed to be in the mix. Rounding out the group of six prospective buyers is Canada’s Sherritt International and China’s MMG and Jinchuan Group.

It is unclear whether the recent rally in nickel prices will aid BHP in receiving offers above the earlier $600 million to $800m valuation put on the business by analysts.

Nickel West may not be the only asset hived off by BHP, with IFM Investors believed to be testing the miner’s interest in a partial sale of its port and rail assets in the Pilbara. According to the AFR, IFM is hoping to gain a minority stake in infrastructure held by BHP, Rio Tinto or Fortescue Metals Group. The latter would appear the most likely candidate, although all three iron ore heavyweights may be open to offers.

Also in mining, Baosteel and Aurizon are edging closer to full control of Aquila Resources. The joint $1.4 billion bid has now received acceptances from shareholders who control 81 per cent of Aquila stock. The offer period has been extended to July 25 in order to try to get as close to 100 per cent acceptance as possible.

In energy, Woodside Petroleum has claimed 25 per cent of six permits off the coast of Morocco for an undisclosed amount. The development follows recent exploration permit purchases in Myanmar, Ireland and New Zealand as Woodside looks to find a suitable avenue for growth outside Australia in the wake of the failed push to claim a $3bn stake in the Leviathan gas field in Israel.

Elsewhere, peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne continues to draw in famous investors, with Seven Group’s Kerry Stokes joining Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer as backers of the firm, according to Fairfax Media. The three well-known business names are part of a consortium led by Dominic Stevens, a former leader of Challenger Financial Services, and join Westpac as significant shareholders.

In retail, David Jones has taken out ads in newspapers around Australia to drum up shareholder support for its $2.2bn acquisition by Woolworths SA, Fairfax Media reports. The move suggests a lack of confidence in the voting intentions of 9.9 per cent stakeholder Solomon Lew, whose view on the takeover is not yet clear. The result of the shareholder vote will be made known at a meeting on July 14.

Finally, New Zealand software firm Vista Group has detailed plans for a joint ASX and NZX listing. Vista is hoping the IPO will value the firm at close to $200m.