DataRoom AM: NAB's float firms

Speculation over a float of National Australia Bank's UK assets continues, while Woodside Petroleum moves closer to inking a Leviathan deal.

The UK assets of National Australia Bank are again in the spotlight, with expectations that a near-$4 billion float could be pursued before 2014 is over. Still, there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge before it gets the official go-ahead.

Elsewhere, Woodside Petroleum inches closer to a final deal on Leviathan, a bidding war could be brewing for Aurora Oil & Gas, Dexus Property Group claims over half of the Commonwealth Property Office Fund and Orica Ltd taps its advisers over a possible $1 billion demerger.

National Australia Bank is weighing a float of its British operations on the London Stock Exchange that would net the big four-member close to $4 billion. According to the Sunday Times in the UK, NAB could list its Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks near the end of 2014, though the waters are also likely to be tested on the worth of a trade sale.

The timing, however, will depend on how the market responds to several other planned bank IPOs in the UK this year.

Thirteen months after signing an in-principle deal to join the Leviathan gas field in Israel, Australia’s Woodside Petroleum has merely converted it into a non-binding memorandum of understanding.

Woodside hopes to sign a final deal by March 27 for 25 per cent of the project at a cost that could rise to as much as $US2.55 billion ($A2.85 billion). That’s an increase of 33 per cent in US dollar terms – and about 50 per cent in Australian dollar terms – since the first non-binding deal was signed.

Sticking with energy, Aurora Oil & Gas has received a generous $1.84 billion takeover offer from Canada’s Baytex Energy Corp. The near 55 per cent premium basically guaranteed the green light from the company’s board, but it may not be the end of the story amid rumours US-based giants Marathon Oil and Devon Energy may enter the fray.

Suitors for the $5 billion-plus toll road operator Queensland Motorways put forward their initial bids on Friday. Transurban Group, which heads up a consortium including Australian Super and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, is seen as a frontrunner, though it will have to fight off at least two other suitors including an IFM Investors-led bid and an Abertis Infraestructuras-led consortium. Final offers are due by the end of April.

Explosives and chemicals group Orica Ltd is chasing a $1 billion demerger of its non-mining chemicals business with help from advisor Goldman Sachs, according to the Australian Financial Review. As discussed in this column two weeks ago, a trade sale will also be considered.

Investec has received initial bids for its $3 billion Australian loan book and professional finance division, according to the AFR. National Australia Bank is believed to be among the list of bidders along with Macquarie Group, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Bank of Queensland, Archer Capital and Pepper Australia.

Dexus Property Group has claimed a majority stake in takeover target Commonwealth Property Office Fund (CPA) along with its joint venture partner the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The $3 billion bid has the backing of both the independent CPA board and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Finally, adviser Macquarie Bank will this week gauge the interest of Asian investors in a mooted float of aged-care provider Japara Holdings. A $400 million IPO is anticipated to take place within the next couple of months.