DataRoom AM: Shelling out

Shell may get more for its Australian assets than reports suggest, while investors laud Seek’s latest Asian foray.

Royal Dutch Shell’s downstream Australian assets have reportedly been hived off to global oil trader Vitol, but the speculation may be a little premature. If true, however, Shell has reason to feel dissatisfied with the final price.

Elsewhere, Seek presses on with its Asian expansion to the joy of shareholders, the $500 million float of iSentia gets pushed back, Australian banks may have a fresh Hong Kong target and Bega Cheese chases further dairy consolidation.

Media outlets were abuzz yesterday over an Australian Financial Review report suggesting Royal Dutch Shell had sold its petrol retail and refining assets to oil trading giant Vitol and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council. Where there’s smoke there’s often fire, though if the deal was finalised Shell would have announced it overnight. As a result there appears to be little change to the status quo: Vitol is the preferred bidder and a deal is imminent.

The one piece of fresh news however is the price, with the reported $2.4 billion deal coming well short of initial expectations for $3 billion and 10 per cent below Deutsche Bank’s $2.7 billion valuation. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a little higher.

Seek’s Asian subsidiary has claimed full control of Malaysian-based online employment company JobStreet, paying $580 million for the 80 per cent stake it didn’t already own. JobStreet will now be combined with Seek Asia’s JobsDB business, with Seek to control 75 per cent of the combined entity. The rest will be split between News Corp (12 per cent), Tiger Global (9 per cent) and Macquarie Capital (4 per cent). Investors cheered the move, sending Seek’s stock up 18 per cent on the ASX, to an all-time high.

Quadrant Private Equity’s $500 million IPO of media monitoring business iSentia is likely to be delayed by one month until May as the group awaits an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission decision on its plans to acquire the media monitoring arm of Australian Associated Press. A decision from the regulator is due today, two months after it flagged issues with the deal.

Standard Chartered is looking for buyers for its $500 million-plus Hong Kong consumer finance business, according to Reuters. The report included Australian banks among the list of possible suitors, with ANZ Banking Group a standout contender based on its recent failed attempts to buy family-owned banks in Hong Kong.

APN News & Media has confirmed plans to claim full control of its radio assets from Clear Channel Communications. The media group will pay $246.5 million to acquire 50 per cent of the Australian Radio Network and New Zealand-based The Radio Network, with a $132 million capital raising to help fund the deal.

Private equity firm Archer Capital is mulling a $400 million debt refinancing with local banks for its Quick Service Restaurant Holdings business, according to the AFR. QSR owns the Red Rooster and Oporto chains and was bought for $450 million by Archer in 2011.

Finally, Bega Cheese has said it will look to grow through acquisitions, using its profits from its Warrnambool Cheese and Butter stake to fund deals. The company remains a takeover target itself, though any suitors may wait until its stock dips from the record highs it hit yesterday.

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