DataRoom AM: Jostling for power

The auction of NSW and Queensland power assets attracts a number of bidders, while BG Group’s gas pipeline auction is fast drawing to a close.

The rumour mill is abuzz ahead of confirmation of details surrounding the power privatisations in New South Wales and Queensland, with all eyes on the likely bidders for some $60 billion worth of assets.

Elsewhere, BG Group could extend its pipeline auction, Shell Australia puts another asset on the block, BHP Billiton shows no sign of slowing its demerger plans and Colin Bell looks to grab control of Bell Financial Group.

The timing of the auction of tens of billions of dollars’ worth of NSW and Queensland power assets remains up in the air but it isn’t stopping firms put their hat into the ring. Singapore Power and China’s State Grid are tipped to be among the most powerful bidders but are yet to bed down a local partner, though QIC and IFM may be interested.

There will be no shortage of rivals, however, as The Australian Financial Review reports Australian Super has joined with Canadian pension fund giants Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Borealis Infrastructure, while Hastings Funds Management is working alongside Spark InfrastructureCheung Kong will also likely find a partner before bidding begins in earnest, with all suitors seen interested in both the Queensland and NSW auctions.

WA is also keen to get in on the privatisation action, preparing to announce advisors for its $2bn asset sale. Mandates will be dished out on Friday, with the key assets up for grabs including the Kwinana Bulk Terminal and the Utah Point bulk handling facility.

The other big infrastructure sale is BG Group’s auction of a $4bn gas pipeline in Queensland, which is fast drawing to a close. The British firm had been expected to declare a preferred bidder this week, but reports in the AFR that it met with suitors APA GroupAMP Capital and IFM on Monday suggest another bidding round may be in the offing.

In energy, Shell Australia’s divestment spree still has a little way to run as the firm tests the waters on a sale of its 32 per cent stake in offshore gas field Evans ShoalCredit Suisse is advising on the sale, which will likely draw interest from Italy’s ENI given it purchased Santos’ 40 per cent stake in Evans Shoal for $420m just last month.

Meanwhile, BHP Billiton has confirmed it is on track to complete its planned demerger in the first half of next year despite weakness on commodity markets. The firm has now released the name of the new company -- South32 -- while shareholders will likely be called upon to vote on the demerger in May. They might want to vote down the name, but approval still appears assured.

In finance, Bell Financial Group chairman Colin Bell recently launched a bid for control of the firm, approaching leading shareholders UBS and Perpetual to test their interest in divesting their stakes. The AFR reports that the chairman was given the cold shoulder and attempts from the Bell family to claim the 50 per cent it does not own appear to be on the backburner.

In media, more details are emerging about the make-up of bids for Ten Network, with the AFR suggesting Saban Capital has included a convertible note component to its proposal while Anchorage Capital has put forward a debt-related plan. A response from Ten is expected this week as the Discovery Communications-Foxtel JV remains the frontrunner.

Finally, NZ-based Yealands Wine Group has tapped UBS to advise on a potential IPO, while brokers are confident a Bradken takeover will eventually go through, though a rival offer may emerge to the bid from Bain Capital and Pacific Equity Partners.