DataRoom AM: Healthy strategy

Healthscope readies for a float or trade sale, while BP refutes Australian sale rumours.

The private equity owners of Healthscope are finalising their team for a dual-track sales process of the $4 billion hospital operator. Both a trade sale and IPO are on the cards, though the latter seems the most likely outcome.

Elsewhere, BP rejects rumours it will sell its local downstream assets, the ACCC distances itself from claims it would wave through a Myer Holdings-David Jones merger, Asciano steps away from a bid for Newcastle port and OxForex Group mulls a $200 million UK acquisition.

Healthscope Group appears to be pushing ahead with a $4 billion float or trade sale, possibly in the first half of the year. The hospital operator is expected to tap Macquarie Bank and UBS as lead advisors, along with Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Healthscope’s owners, The Carlyle Group and TPG Capital, are keeping mum ahead of what would be the biggest float on the ASX since QR National (now Aurizon) in 2010, but appointments are expected to be confirmed this week.

In other IPO news, the Australian Pub Fund has dropped float plans in preference for local mergers. The Mark Carnegie, Geoff Dixon and John Singleton-backed group has reportedly begun talks with possible partners.

Meanwhile, a bookbuild for SG Fleet will take place Wednesday, with shares in the company expected to price at the lower end of the $2.06 to $2.46 range. The planned March 4 listing should raise over $200 million.

BP has vowed to retain its local petrol retail and refining assets despite speculation of an imminent divestment. The British oil giant told Fairfax Media it was “fully committed” to Australia and will not follow rivals United Petroleum and Shell Australia in offering downstream assets for sale.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has distanced itself from recent media reports that it would give a tie-up of David Jones and Myer Holdings the all-clear. The competition watchdog yesterday said it had “formed no such view” and it would be a shock if it didn’t at least consider blocking any deal between our two largest department store operators.

Asciano is no longer a contender for the $700 million Port of Newcastle, according to The Australian Financial Review. The port and rail operator has reportedly split with proposed joint venture partner Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, though Deutsche may still be in the race. Final offers for the state-owned asset are due in April with as many as six bidders believed to have been shortlisted.

The NSW government is seen having more trouble offloading Macquarie Generation, with the AFR reporting it may have to ask ERM Power to extend the timeframe of its bid amid fears fellow suitor AGL Energy will be blocked by the ACCC.

OzForex Group is in talks to purchase HiFX Group, a UK-based rival that is likely worth close to $200 million. The ASX-listed OzForex said discussions remained incomplete.

Westfield Group is expected to offload its Sydney and Bondi shopping malls should shareholders approve the planned shake-up of its business. According to the AFR, Westfield has been highlighting the possibility of the divestments in presentations to investors.

Finally, the Paul Little-led Little Group has made a play for ASX-listed Real Estate Corp. Little has offered $60.7 million in a 37 cents a share bid that has received the backing of Real Estate Corp’s board. The target rose 11 per cent, to 36 cents a share, on the news.

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