DataRoom AM: Medibank gear-up

Medibank Private looks primed for sale, while Vodafone may be mulling a merger.

The Federal Government has inadvertently given the strongest hint yet that it will offload the state-owned Medibank Private, offering a communications contract to sell the results of an ongoing scoping study.

Elsewhere, Vodafone Australia has TPG Telecom in its sights, Forge Group fails to find a shareholder to save the business and the auction of ANZ Terminals draws at least three large suitors.

The Abbott government appears to be tilting strongly toward a sale of Medibank Private as the Department of Finance signs a $211,750 contract with Melbourne-based Newgate Communications to sell the outcome of an incomplete scoping study.

The contract comes several weeks before the findings of the scoping study are due, suggesting the government already has a fair idea the results will suggest a $3.5 billion-plus trade sale or float. After all, it’s hard to imagine the government hiring an adviser for five months to inform the public it will retain the nation’s largest health insurer.

Vodafone Australia, a joint venture between the UK’s Vodafone Group and Hong Kong’s Hutchison Telecommunications, is expected to make a merger play within the next 18 months, with TPG Telecom tipped as the most likely candidate. The group has reportedly also held talks with iiNet over the last year and a half.

Forge Group’s attempts to draw in a major shareholder to appease financier ANZ Banking Group have come to nothing with the mining contractor entering voluntary administration yesterday. Last week there were reports 10 companies – including rivals Decmil, NRW Holdings and Monadelphous Group – were running their eye over the troubled group’s books but they clearly didn’t like what they saw, with a painful restructure now in the works.

The auction of ANZ Terminals is nearing a tipping point, with indicative bids for the business due next month. Owner Morningside Private Investors is hoping to receive as much as $500 million for the company, with Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, Asset Capital Advisers and REST Super among the most ardent suitors, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Infrastructure fund manager CP2 last week launched a surprise indicative bid for Queensland Motorways, meaning the race has expanded to four, according to the AFR. Final bids are due in April with CP2 looking to fight off consortiums headed by Transurban Group, Abertis Infraestructuras and IFM Investors.

Aurora Oil and Gas reportedly tempted offers from various rivals ahead of last week’s $1.84 billion bid from Canada’s Baytex Energy. The news keeps the prospect of a rival bid at the forefront, especially given that the company’s stock remains slightly above the current offer price. The premium attached to Baytex’s bid, however, limits the likelihood of a new suitor emerging.

Finally, Healthscope’s private equity owners TPG Capital and The Carlyle Group are likely to offload $1.1 billion worth of property assets prior to floating the business. The news comes as the hospital operator prepares to confirm its advisory team for a $4 billion IPO or trade sale this week.

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