DataRoom AM: Thorburn's thorns

Investors hope NAB’s new CEO will quickly divest unwanted assets, while second-round bids are due for JPMorgan’s Asia-based distressed debt unit.

National Australia Bank has announced a new chief executive and there’s every possibility it could lead to asset sales. Most eyes will now turn to Britain, but don’t discount a divestment back home.

Elsewhere, a bold move is afoot in the flagging IPO market, David Jones marginally opens the door to a Myer deal, PwC wraps up a significant takeover and Genworth Australia presses ahead with plans for an ASX listing.

New chief executives are renowned for selling off underperforming assets in a hurry and the market is hoping National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn could follow the trend. First on the chopping block could be NAB’s British business, with the announcement of a new CEO set to see speculation of a Clydesdale Bank sale reaching fever pitch. NAB chair Michael Chaney has hinted no change to strategy on that front, but he also admitted Clydesdale would be sold tomorrow if the bank received an agreeable valuation.

It will be offloaded; it’s just a matter of when.

The Thorburn appointment also brings into focus reports the firm is mulling a sale of the life insurance business of its wealth manager, MLC. Japan’s Dai-ichi Life Insurance is rumoured to be considering a $1 billion offer and while not directly addressing the rumours, Chaney did admit the life insurance sector was a drag on the business.

Also in finance, second-round bids for JPMorgan’s Asia-based distressed debt unit, Global Special Opportunities Group, are due on Monday. The $1bn business has drawn the interest of Bain Capital’s debt division Sankaty Advisers, US-based hedge fund Davidson Kempner and private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, according to The Australian Financial Review.

In the IPO market, private equity firm Crescent Capital Partners is trying to achieve what seems borderline impossible in this market by pursuing a $700 million float. According to the AFR, Crescent is attempting to merge Australian window maker Breezway, local garage door manufacturer Steel-Line and New Zealand glass business Metro GlassTech to create an enlarged entity to list in the second half of 2014.

In other IPO news, pre-marketing research on a long awaited $800m float of Genworth Australia will arrive on fund managers’ desks next week, according to the AFR. US-based owner Genworth Financial is expected to retain 60 per cent of the $2bn-plus mortgage insurer post-listing. Meanwhile, debt collection firm Pioneer Credit has raised $40m for its May 1 ASX listing through a bookbuild run yesterday by advisor Evans and Partners.

In retail, an eagerly anticipated cash sweetener from Myer could entice David Jones to come to the party on a merger, the latter’s chief executive has hinted. While Paul Zahra’s stance appears to be softening a little, it seems clear the two parties are still a few hundred million dollars apart on valuation.

Big four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has wrapped up a takeover of consultants Booz & Company, in one of the largest deals in the sector over the past five years. The takeover was first announced back in October, with Booz to take on the new -- and arguably impractical -- name of Strategy&.

Finally, business identity Nick Politis has sealed a $130m deal with Barloworld to buy a number of local car dealerships, including one of Volkswagen’s largest in Australia.

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