DataRoom AM: Healthscope's high hopes

Healthscope's return to the stock exchange will be closely watched as investors attempt to gauge the appetite for IPOs, while Leighton shops around its property development arm.

Healthscope prepares to hit ASX boards at midday today in what will be the largest float since 2010, but will investors join in the celebrations?

Elsewhere, Leighton Holdings makes progress on its asset sales program, National Australia Bank offloads an unwanted portfolio of British loans and Woolworths SA secures the crucial support of Solomon Lew for its planned Country Road acquisition.

Healthscope is ready to rejoin ASX boards today, four years after a $2 billion acquisition by The Carlyle Group and TPG. The private hospital operator, which has raised $2.25bn at a $3.65bn valuation, will begin trading on a conditional basis at 12pm (AEST) ahead of normal trade kicking off on Thursday. The float is the largest on the ASX since QR National in 2010 and its reception will prove a great test of market appetite ahead of the likely $4bn float of Medibank Private later this year.

It’s a fraught business predicting daily and weekly market fluctuations, but if a high profile healthcare listing -- such as Healthscope -- can’t draw significant interest from investors, the market may be in a spot of bother. 

It’s not the only action in the IPO market, with law firm Spruson & Ferguson preparing to tap markets for $320 million, according to The Australian Financial Review. The IP-focussed firm is expected to join the exchange in November, with Morgans and Bell Potter serving in advisory roles. The offering comes after the firm weighed a takeover approach.

Spruson & Ferguson is one of the nation’s oldest law firms, with its history tracing back to 1887.

Meanwhile, software firm Urbanise is also preparing for a run at ASX boards, beginning a roadshow that should lead to at least $15m being raised ahead of a September 9 listing, the AFR reports.

Leighton Holdings is ramping up the auction of its property development arm, discussing the sale with the nation’s largest property developers. Among the firm’s believed interested in Leighton Properties are Singapore’s ARA and local favourite Stockland, but firm offers are reportedly yet to be forthcoming. Dexus and Investa have also been tied to talks with Leighton, but are seen unlikely to enter the race.

A firm bid appears to have emerged for Leighton’s John Holland division, however, with Spain’s Ferrovial tied to a $1.5bn proposal that would come in well above price expectations.

In finance, National Australia Bank has sold a $1.2bn portfolio of distressed loans in the UK for $875m. The deal, secured with private equity firm Cerberus Capital, may not be the only divestment action in the UK for NAB as rumours of an exit from the region continue to swirl.

In retail, the road has been paved for Woolworths SA to claim full control of Country Road as significant shareholder Solomon Lew backed the $210m takeover and the Foreign Investment Review Board gave it the all-clear at the end of last week. The news comes amid speculation Lew could make a play for control of department store Myer.

Finally, Centerbridge Partners has claimed a 12.7 per cent position in Boart Longyear as the firm struggles to stave off bankruptcy, while Macquarie Group is testing market appetite in its 50 per cent stake in Bristol Airport in England, with expectations Macquarie could secure as much as $450m through an auction.

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