DataRoom AM: Singleton slap

John Singleton jostles for the last word on a Fairfax-Macquarie Radio merger, while airport leases are likely part of Qantas' asset sale plans.

Fairfax Media is making the news as much as it is breaking it, with its radio merger with John Singleton’s Macquarie Radio Network firmly put to bed by an angry Singleton. Meanwhile, the firm’s Domain real estate classifieds business is rumoured to be tilting toward a $500 million float, though the company’s boss Greg Hywood suggests otherwise.

Elsewhere, Qantas Airways primes itself for asset sales ahead of Thursday’s strategic update, Caltex Australia makes the latest consolidation play in the downstream oil sector and Boart Longyear stands in the sights of turnaround specialists.

If the Fairfax Media-Macquarie Radio Network merger of radio assets wasn’t dead when we discussed it yesterday, it sure is now. Majority Macquarie shareholder John Singleton has effectively said a deal will not be done unless Fairfax enters receivership and he buys it from liquidators (his exact words were a little more colourful, but we got the gist). Singleton’s tirade on the latest developments is one of the best you’ll read all year.

Sticking with Fairfax, chief executive Greg Hywood quickly hosed down reports that it’s priming its online real estate classifieds business Domain for a float in early 2015. According to Fairfax, Hywood said the company had “no plans” to pursue a $500 million listing, though that likely won’t stop further speculation throughout the year after the media group separated Domain from its other businesses in 2013.

As news breaks of Qantas Airways reportedly seeking to shed 5000 jobs, it’s now clear airport leases will be among its asset sales plans. According to the Herald Sun, the national carrier is seeking to offload the lease on its terminal in Melbourne airport for as much as $250 million and is close to confirming a $150 million divestment of its Brisbane airport lease. Meanwhile, The Australian reports that the airline will also sell planes and defer new aircraft orders.

Caltex Australia will pay $95 million to acquire Scott’s fuel divisions – Scott’s Agencies and Sabadin Petroleum. The bolt-on acquisition is the latest move in the Australian downstream oil sector after Royal Dutch Shell offloaded its assets to Vitol for $2.9 billion and amid moves from United Petroleum to sell out.

It’s all looking rather bleak at Boart Longyear as the firm hires Goldman Sachs to carry out a strategic review that will likely see severe cost cuts and divestments. It may also lead to a full takeover, with private equity firms and turnaround specialists no doubt attracted by the potential of the beaten-down firm.

Monadelphous Group has announced a big contract win, though it doesn’t relate to Forge Group’s misfortune. The Western Australian-based contractor has tied up a two-and-a-half year, $680 million engineering deal at Inpex’s Ichthys gas project in the Northern Territory.

M&A activity in Australia is on the rise, with Bloomberg data highlighting a 151 per cent year-on-year lift in deal volumes in the early part of 2014. Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have so far been the biggest beneficiaries among investment banks.

The Queensland government is tipped to pursue asset sales in separate tranches, according to The Australian Financial Review. The paper suggested the $3 billion Gladstone port was the lead candidate for such a sales approach.

Also in Queensland, Hong Kong businessman Tony Fung has laid claim to the Cairns Reef Casino and Casino Canberra in a $270 million deal.

Finally, power company Energy Developments has issued $150 million worth of new shares as majority owner Pacific Equity Partners, which reduced its stake from 84 to 69 per cent.

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