Speculation is again swelling over Ivan Glasenberg’s desire to pick up assets from one of Australia’s biggest miners, but the focus is quickly shifting from Rio Tinto to BHP Billiton.
Elsewhere, Ten Network’s auction hits a roadblock, TPG ignites competitive tension in the race for GE Capital’s local consumer lending business, Santos presses forward on asset sales and The Costa Group joins the IPO pipeline.
Ivan Glasenberg’s Glencore may look to take out BHP Billiton’s demerged vehicle within months of it hitting markets later this year, according to several analysts. Among the most vocal is Bernstein analyst Paul Gait who told Bloomberg that Glasenberg had a “free pass” on BHP spin-off South32, which the Australian miner yesterday said was still on track to hit markets in June.
Gait, who tipped Glencore’s approach for Rio Tinto a month before it was announced last year, says the bottom-of-the-cycle $15 billion opportunity will appeal to Glasenberg, who has previously stirred speculation with his assertion the proposed South32 vehicle has several “good assets”.
Meanwhile, tensions are rising at Ten Network amid a rumoured refusal from key shareholder Bruce Gordon to consider any takeover offers put forward for the company. The latest speculation suggests Gordon knocked back an all-cash offer from US cable giant Time Warner worth $680 million last year, which helps explain why he appears to have no interest in the $590m offer on the table from Discovery Communications and Foxtel.
It comes as Ten’s independent directors have reportedly already nixed a complex debt proposal from Gordon, leaving the prospects of any deal hanging by a thread.
In finance, TPG is ramping up its interest in GE Capital’s local consumer lending business ahead of a March 10 deadline for final bids. As it stands a consortium that includes Macquarie Group, Pepper Australia and The Carlyle Group is seen as the favourite, but TPG is looking to strengthen a joint venture that already includes at least one sovereign wealth fund, according to The Australian Financial Review.
The $2bn auction has also drawn interest from a JV headed by ASX-listed FlexiGroup as well as an offshore player, thought to be Japan’s Orix.
In the IPO market, the nation’s largest privately held fruit and vegetable group, The Costa Group, could hit ASX boards this year. A roadshow was launched this week ahead of a potential first-half float that could value the group as high as $1bn. Goldman Sachs and UBS are running the process, with a trade sale also under consideration.
Also in the IPO market, Bain Capital has started a non-deal roadshow for the $3bn float of accounting group MYOB that will see it gauge investor appetite in the US this week ahead of a possible March listing, while e-commerce group Touchcorp has hired Goldman Sachs to test the waters on a $200m float of its own in the first half of the year, according to the AFR.
In energy, Santos has told the AFR it is in active conversations with several suitors over a possible sale of a 30 per cent stake in its $2bn Narrabri coal seam gas project in NSW. However, a deal may be a challenge given the recent collapse in energy prices.
Elsewhere, Beach Energy has reportedly drawn interest from an offshore suitor, with the AFR reporting an investment bank is currently running the numbers ahead of a possible bid.
Finally, Retail Food Group has agreed a joint venture deal to expand the Gloria Jean’s Coffee and It’s A Grind businesses into China, GPT Group has announced a $325m capital raising, Champ Private Equity is chasing $1.5bn for a new fund and sweets manufacturer Betta Foods has called in administrators just months after being bought out by Re: Capital, with another sale on the cards.