DataRoom AM: Sought-after port

A crowded field of consortia compete for the Port of Melbourne lease, while Coca-Cola Amatil is reportedly in talks to sell off its Mount Franklin water brand to its American parent.

The $5 billion-plus auction of a lease tied to the nation’s busiest port is gathering momentum ahead of November’s state election, with four consortia set to fight it out early next year.

Elsewhere, Coca-Cola Amatil mulls the sale of one of the nation’s biggest beverage brands, there’s mixed news in the heated IPO market and a divestment of National Australia Bank’s insurance unit appears a sure bet.

The Victorian government’s $5 billion-plus sale of a medium-term lease related to the Port of Melbourne is looking set for a positive conclusion early next year as four groups line up to put forward bids. Leading the charge is Hastings Funds Management through a joint venture with Kuwait-backed Wren House. They will see strong competition from IFM Investors, which is going it alone and Global Infrastructure Partners, which ironically, is still looking for a partner, according to The Australian Financial Review. However, they may all be chasing the tails of what looks to be the strongest consortium: Borealis Infrastructure, the Future Fund and QIC Limited.

Famous Australian water brand Mount Franklin could be about to change ownership, with ASX-listed Coca-Cola Amatil in talks to sell it to major shareholder The Coca-Cola Company, according to the AFR. With few beverage brands of its own, Mount Franklin is one of the most coveted pieces of the CCA jigsaw, but the lure of as much as $800 million from its US partner could be enough to tempt managing director Alison Watkins to sell.

In finance, speculation continues to swirl around National Australia Bank’s life insurance business, with growing expectations that it will be hived off while the broader MLC wealth management division will be retained. According to the AFR, a decision on a sale is imminent, with Japan’s Dai-ichi Life the most likely buyer. This column has previously reported the likely asking price to be around $900m.

In the IPO market, Bitcoin Group is looking to be the first bitcoin-related stock on the ASX, making plans to list in November. The firm, which moves money around bitocin markets based on changes from historical average, is chasing $20 million through the float, the AFR reports.

The news comes as fellow IPO candidate Orion Health hesitates on a dual ASX and NZX listing that could raise over $90m. The hospital software provider is still trying to gauge investor appetite, with November penciled in as the listing date for the time being.

Another IPO up in the air is that of forex trader Pepperstone, which is required to stop trading in the lucrative market of Japan due to the lack of a local licence. The news could put the imminent local listing in jeopardy.

Victorian homebuilder Simonds, meanwhile, is set to hit ASX boards on November 20 after raising $161m next week through a bookbuild.

In property, Chinese firm Sunshine Insurance Group is believed to have approved terms of a $465m purchase of Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park hotel. The record sale comes after current owner Starwood said last year it would exit its ownership positions in Australian hotels.

Also in property, the sale of the Royal North Shore hospital in Sydney is expected to draw bids from Cheung Kong InfrastructureInfraRedPalisade Investment Partners and Queensland Investment Corporation ahead of tomorrow’s deadline. The transaction, which may also draw interest from Capella CapitalAMP and John Laing, sees owner RBS in line to secure $1bn from the divestment.

Elsewhere, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has placed its four rural NSW properties on the auction block, with hopes to raise about $120m. International agriculture investors are tipped to come to the fore during the bidding process.

Finally, gold miner Orbis Gold has knocked back a $160m takeover bid from Canada’s SEMAFO, while Arrium’s heavily publicised capital raising has ended on a miserable note as retail investors shunned the offer and left it with a $283m shortfall.