DataRoom AM: Voelte boomerang

Don Voelte's Seven Group reportedly lobs a bid for his old stomping ground Nexus Energy, while a last-minute hitch holds up Woodside’s Leviathan deal.

There was a degree of confusion as to why Don Voelte stepped down from his role as chairman of Nexus Energy, but it has been cleared up now. The former Woodside Petroleum boss is believed to be orchestrating a stingy bid for control of Nexus via Seven Group, the firm he now leads -- and his position is pretty strong.

Elsewhere, a last minute hitch holds up Woodside’s Leviathan deal, Transurban buys the Cross City Tunnel, Lend Lease mulls a $1 billion property offload and $2bn worth of gas assets are put on the market in Western Australia.

Former Nexus Energy chair Don Voelte is apparently using his knowledge of the firm to the advantage of Seven Group, the firm he currently runs. Seven has reportedly lobbed an offer worth $200 million (after factoring in debt) to Nexus bondholders, which would see shareholders get just one third of the last traded share price.

The deal is considered the last hope for the firm to avoid liquidation, though one bondholder is believed to be holding out on what would be a firm kick in the teeth for shareholders.

Nexus shares haven’t traded since February 20, two days after Voelte stepped aside citing a now very apparent conflict of interest.

Meanwhile Voelte’s old firm, Woodside Petroleum, has baulked just ahead of signing a final deal to claim 25 per cent of the Leviathan gas project in Israel. A signing ceremony was slated overnight to celebrate a near $3bn agreement, but will now wait for another day with Israeli business daily Globes reporting that Woodside was left disillusioned by a draft ruling on taxing gas exports.

Sticking with energy, Thai oil and gas giant PTT is progressing plans to offload $2bn worth of assets in WA. The firm is hoping to sell down its positions in the Montara gas project and the Cash and Maple gasfields. JPMorgan is running the sales process.

Elsewhere, toll road operator Transurban had a busy Thursday, first buying a toll road and then choosing the contractors for a project in its pipeline. First up was a long awaited deal to pay $475m for Sydney’s oft-bankrupt Cross City Tunnel. The tunnel entered receivership for the second time in September last year, just over eight years after it first opened.

Not content with one big announcement, Transurban also released news it had selected the preferred contractors for its $2.65bn NorthConnex tunnel in Sydney. French-based Bouygues and Australia’s Lend Lease have been charged with the task of building the 9km tunnel.

Lend Lease, too, was racking up the headlines, with The Australian Financial Review reporting the ASX-listed firm has called on Morgan Stanley to pursue a $1bn sale of its 30 per cent stake in the Bluewater shopping centre in Britain. There has reportedly been strong interest from the likes of retail property giant Westfield Group, with funds raised to be partially directed towards the Barangaroo development in Sydney.

Also in property, GPT Group has claimed a 50 per cent interest in Melbourne’s Northland Shopping Centre, one of the city’s largest retail hubs. The $496m acquisition was made after the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board opted to exit its position.

In the IPO market, micro-cap fund manager Acorn Capital is seeking $50m-$100m for the new Acorn Capital Investment Fund through an IPO. The group is due to list on April 30. It is not the only company braving a more challenging IPO environment, with Pacific Equity Partners pressing ahead with plans to list SCA Hygiene Australasia. According to the AFR, a pre-marketing roadshow will take place in Asia next week ahead of a listing of the $850m company.

Finally, the float of Medibank Private will be run by as many as four investment banks, the government has confirmed. Pitches for the highly sought after lead advisory roles are due on April 7.