DataRoom AM: Transurban edge

Transurban remains in the front seat for Queensland Motorways after ACCC approval, while James Packer's Asian casino JV is seeking a local partner for its plans in Japan.

Transurban has been given the green light from the ACCC to acquire Queensland’s biggest toll road operator ahead of an April deadline for final bids. While there is plenty of competition in the bidding process, the news ensures Transurban and its joint venture partners remain firmly in the front seat.

Elsewhere, James Packer’s Japan push steps up another gear, media mogul Kerry Stokes mulls a British expansion, Grocon takes a hit in New York and Bank of Queensland claims the favourite tag in the fight for Investec Australia’s assets.

Transurban Group has received the all-clear from the competition watchdog for its plans to purchase toll road operator Queensland Motorways. It means Transurban can continue on its recent spending spree after last month buying out the bankrupt Cross City Tunnel in Sydney for $475 million.

It’s also a nice fillip for Transurban’s joint venture partners AustralianSuper and Tawreed Investments ahead of the final bid deadline of April 22. Queensland Motorways is expected to fetch close to $5 billion, with the Transurban JV facing competition from a group including GIC, IFM and Borealis as well as a consortium led by Hastings Fund Management.

James Packer’s Asian casino JV, Melco Crown, is discussing plans for a $5bn-plus casino in Japan with local firms. Given the stern competition from Las Vegas Sands -- which is willing to spend upwards of $10bn -- and several other big US gaming names, getting a Japanese partner on board will be crucial.

The company has also said it is in active talks with the Vietnamese and South Korean governments about new developments, while the clouds around its controversial push into Sri Lanka should clear by the end of the year.

In finance, Bank of Queensland is in pole position to claim the majority of Investec Australia’s assets, according to The Australian Financial Review. The deal is tipped to be worth around $450m and will see BoQ edge out ANZ Bank and Bendigo & Adelaide Bank.

Meanwhile, Kerry Stokes is believed to be running the numbers on a bid for British broadcaster Channel 5 as he looks to diversify the assets of Seven West Media. The British channel is on the market with an asking price of $1.2bn, but this is viewed as being a bit rich by Stokes and other possible suitors, which may include 21st Century Fox.

In property, Grocon’s expansion hopes have received a blow in the US as its planned purchase of an $800m Manhattan office building broke down. It is believed Grocon was unable to raise more than $570m before an exclusivity period on the deal concluded.

Closer to home, CSR and Boral have announced a merger of their east coast brick operations that will be owned through a 60:40 split in favour of Boral. There is no cash component to the deal, with both firms waiting clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over the proposal.

Hills, best known for the iconic Hills Hoist, has continued a fresh drive into the health and communications sectors, signing a long-term agreement with Foxtel to supply satellite dishes and securing the acquisition of healthcare group Questek. It follows the recent purchase of the OPS security business and sale of two steel businesses to BlueScope Steel.

Also in communications, M2 Telecommunications has declared plans to spend over $100m on acquisitions in 2014. The firm said the plans are not particularly new, but discussions with targets have been ramping up over recent months.

Finally, Airbnb may soon be valued at over $10bn after its latest funding round reportedly drew significant interest, with private equity firm TPG Capital reportedly close to signing on as a significant shareholder.

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