DataRoom AM: SocietyOne capital injection

Peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne attracts some high-profile investors, while James Packer looks to expand his online betting horizons.

Peer-to-peer lender SocietyOne captured national attention when it secured Westpac as a significant shareholder earlier this year and while that was a big coup, its latest funding round has been even more impressive.

Elsewhere, James Packer seeks to expand his online betting horizons, three firms remain in the running for Ten Network and Pepper Australia refuses to let big name suitors deter it from making a play for GE Capital’s local loan book.

News Corp has teamed with rich listers James Packer and Kerry Stokes on a deal to enter the peer-to-peer lending space. The agreement will see News, Packer’s Consolidated Press, Stokes’ Australian Capital Equity and Challenger claim a 25 per cent position in lender SocietyOne. The consortium has the opportunity to lift its stake to 50 per cent down the road.

It follows a $5m investment from Westpac in SocietyOne back in March and while the banking giant has contributed more cash in the latest funding round, its stake has been diluted.

It’s not the only Packer-related yarn drawing the spotlight this morning as the casino mogul weighs an online betting push with former Sportsbet owner Matthew Tripp. According to The Australian Financial Review, a deal between the two is imminent on a JV between Crown’s Betfair Australia and Tripp’s BetEasy, though details remain scarce.

Meanwhile, Ten Network -- a company in which Packer is a major shareholder -- has confirmed it has received non-binding offers from several parties, with a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Foxtel holding onto pole position. The JV has lodged a bid believed to be about 23c a share, but will have to contend with competition from Saban Capital Group and Anchorage Capital Partners.

A preferred bidder may be chosen within the next week, though there remains a high prospect of a deal falling flat.

In finance, Pepper Australia remains firmly in the hunt for GE Capital’s $7.5bn Australian and NZ loan book despite competition from larger rivals as the AFR reports it’s hiring advisers to pursue the auction. The potential $1.5-$2 billion deal has drawn interest from WesfarmersFlexiGroupTPGBlackstoneThe Carlyle GroupVarde and KKR, with all seen as potential bidders come the December 12 deadline.

In infrastructure, BG Group could decide on the winning bid for its $4bn gas pipeline in Queensland as early as Friday. The AFR reports that a deal could officially be signed next week, with APA Group clinging to slight favouritism ahead of AMP Capital and IFM.

In healthcare, the $1bn auction of RBS’s Royal North Shore Hospital has received a blow as suitor Capella Capital drops out of the running. Capella’s withdrawal leaves AMP to battle against Palisade Investment Partners and John Laing for control of the hospital ahead of bids falling due on December 12.

Elsewhere, oil and gas firm Carnarvon Petroleum is preparing to offload its Thai assets to boost its cash position. The potential divestment of stakes in three Thai licences should reap tens of millions of dollars for the junior explorer and offer a buffer against any further oil price shocks.

Finally, French medical technology firm Amplitude is preparing for a float on the ASX that could value it at $200m, while New Zealand Post has sold its Australian Couriers Please operation to Singapore Post for $95m.

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