DataRoom AM: NAB's life plan

The major bank reviews its life insurance operations, while BHP could backflip on its NewCo UK listing decision.

New National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn appears on a mission to rid the bank of some of its biggest questions marks, with the firm’s struggling life insurance business potentially the next to go under the hammer.

Elsewhere, BHP Billiton rethinks its listing plans for NewCo, B2Gold mulls an ASX listing and Lynas Corporation gets a rare dose of good news.

National Australia Bank appears in the midst of a rapid overhaul, with the bank testing global interest in its $900 million life insurance business. A Reuters report suggested NAB would seek a long-term marketing deal with any potential suitor in a similar arrangement to its general insurance business, which is underwritten by Allianz. The development follows news of a sale of its $US1.5-$US2 billion US business and rumours of a full exit from the UK.

The life insurance division was picked up through the $4bn acquisition of wealth manager MLC in 2000 and boosted through the $825m acquisition of Aviva five years ago. However, the wealth management business is likely to be retained.

Meanwhile, BHP Billiton may soon backflip on its controversial decision not to pursue a secondary listing of its $15bn spin-off (known as NewCo) on the London Stock Exchange. As it stands the demerged vehicle will be listed primarily on the ASX with a secondary listing in South Africa, but the miner has confirmed it is weighing a London listing on the back of strong interest.

Another mining firm mulling a fresh secondary listing is B2Gold, the Canadian-based miner that recently claimed control of ASX-listed Papillon Resources for $615m. According to the AFR, B2 has been testing the interest of local investors in a push to list the enlarged firm on the ASX.

It comes amid hopes another significant gold company could emerge on the local market as OceanaGold continues its pursuit of Alacer. The AFR reports that major shareholders in the target are urging it to engage on what could be a $1.5bn merger.

Also in resources, rare earths miner Lynas Corporation has renegotiated a $US225m ($244m) loan with Japanese creditors ahead of an equity raising that should resolve its short-term cash flow problems.

In insurance, Crescent Capital’s $100m stake in travel insurer Cover-More has been put up for grabs in recent weeks, but failed to meet enough demand, according to the AFR. The news leaves the 13 per cent stake in limbo as Crescent is now an unlikely seller on the back of yesterday’s near 5 per cent retreat in Cover-More stock. The shareholding is the remnants of Crescent’s ownership before the December 2013 float.

In the IPO market, Medibank Private is set to begin its pre-IPO roadshow next week ahead of a $4bn listing later this year. The AFR expects the prospectus to be filed by the end of October, with November the likely listing date.

Elsewhere, Investa Office Fund has distanced itself from reports it is a takeover target, suggesting only poor performers would be acquired in this market. The firm has been viewed as a likely target since Dexus Property Group claimed control of Commonwealth Office Property Fund in the first quarter of the year.

Finally, Nuplex Industries has confirmed it’s currently discussing the possible sale of two of its divisions to Champ Private Equity, with the news sending its stock 6 per cent higher yesterday.

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