DataRoom AM: Goodman chase

Goodman Fielder is unlikely to stave off its offshore suitors for long, while Spotless Group’s coming float has met with some scepticism.

Australian M&A action is heating up, with Goodman Fielder the latest local firm to draw the attention of an offshore suitor. And while its board is resistant, a deal seems more likely than not.

Elsewhere, the Spotless Group IPO faces up to buyer scrutiny, more companies prepare to join the IPO rush and Azure Healthcare weighs up a takeover proposal that remains shrouded in mystery.

The local food and agribusiness sector is hot property for offshore investors these days and it comes as little surprise the largest remaining food manufacturer on ASX boards, Goodman Fielder, yesterday received a $1.27 billion takeover proposal. The owner of the Helga’s and Meadow Lea brands rejected the offer from Singapore’s Wilmar International and Hong Kong’s First Pacific, but it is unlikely to repel the suitor for long.

The two Asian bidders have insisted they will press on with their endeavours to claim control of Goodman, and given Wilmar already holds 10 per cent, and the firm’s largest shareholder Perpetual is encouraging a dialogue, it may be only a matter of time before a revised deal is backed by the board. Goodman shares, which have flirted with record lows this year, rose 15 per cent on the news to a level 1.5 per cent below the offer price put forward by Wilmar and First Pacific.

In the lively IPO market, Spotless Group has confirmed it will raise about $1bn through an IPO that values the firm at close to $2bn. The listing is meeting a sceptical audience at this point and if that carries through to listing day on May 23, the biggest float of the year so far could also soften sentiment in an IPO market that is suddenly bursting to life. Pacific Equity Partners, which paid $720 million for Spotless just two years ago, will retain a near 50 per cent stake.

Pacific Equity Partners is also pressing forward with a listing of Peters Ice Cream, confirming it has hired Macquarie Capital and Morgan Stanley to assess divestment options for the ice cream business it purchased in 2012 for about $250m. PEP would be hoping for at least $400m from an IPO or trade sale.

Elsewhere, Australian Gaming & Entertainment is seeking an $80m IPO of its own, with a roadshow beginning this week to parade the worth of a company that is pinning its hopes on gaming-centric pubs in Sydney. A bookbuild will begin on May 8 ahead of a June 3 listing.

In healthcare, ASX-listed Azure Healthcare has received a non-binding takeover offer that is currently under review by the firm’s board. Details are scarce, with Azure declining to outline the suitor and price following a trading halt on Wednesday last week.

Finally, FlexiGroup could be prepping for a buying spree as it hunts a place in the top 100 ASX companies list. According to The Australian Financial Review, the equipment leasing firm has outlined a strategy with consultants Bain & Company that would see it jump into the top 100 from its current position at number 153 via an “aggressive” acquisition push.