DataRoom AM: Woodside limbo

Woodside may not get clarity on its Israeli venture before deadline, while Healthscope executives drum up IPO interest offshore.

Woodside Petroleum admits its measured entrance into the Leviathan gas field is far from a sure thing, with the Israeli government threatening to play spoiler.

Meanwhile, Healthscope offers a fresh float hint, Australand is the subject of intense takeover scrutiny, Mantra Group tilts toward an IPO and John Singleton exits his Fairfax Media stake.

Woodside Petroleum’s near $3 billion dollar entry into the mammoth Leviathan gas field remains up in the air. The energy giant’s boss Peter Coleman says the company is still waiting on clarity from the Israeli government on tax issues relating to the deal and it's looking increasingly likely that it won’t be forthcoming before the current deadline of March 27 -- which would leave Woodside dealing with greater uncertainty than ideal.

Meanwhile, the Western Australian-based group has sealed a sales and purchase agreement with Korea Gas Corporation from previously uncommitted volumes at the Pluto LNG plant. Financial details were not disclosed.

Progress is being made on the nation’s biggest float since QR National in 2010, with leading executives of hospital operator Healthscope flying to Asia and the United States to drum up interest in a $4bn-plus listing. The move is considered a testing of the waters prior to the green light being given for an IPO. Advisers Macquarie Capital and UBS will travel with the execs as owners TPG and The Carlyle Group seek a strong profit on their $2.7bn investment.

Long touted as a takeover target, property group Australand may soon be the subject of a fresh approach as a new suitor emerges out of Asia. Hong Kong’s Pacific Alliance Group is believed to harbour strong interest in the $2bn-plus ASX-listed group, joining Mirvac Group and Stockland as potential buyers. GPT Group made an unsuccessful bid last year and may also be in the mix.

A listing of hotels operator Mantra Group is tipped to raise $500 million as owners CVC Asia Pacific and UBS press ahead for a float in early April. The jury is still out on how well the market will receive a company in the troubled tourism sector, but recent weakness in the dollar is a plus.

John Singleton has put his money where his mouth is on Fairfax Media, pulling away from his shareholding in the group. Together with prominent investor Mark Carnegie, Singleton has dumped a 0.15 per cent stake in the media group after Fairfax shied away from a merger with the Singleton-backed Macquarie Radio Network.

Meanwhile, Singleton appears to be entertaining the idea of an investment in Prime Media, telling Fairfax papers he was “very interested” in the firm just days after Prime chair Paul Ramsay sold his 30 per cent stake in the firm.

Four years after buying 20 per cent of mortgage aggregator Vow Financial, Macquarie Group is considering claiming the rest of the company, according to The Australian Financial Review. Macquarie is reportedly pursuing due diligence, but a takeover price is unclear.

Qantas Airways has completed the sale of its defence subsidiary, Qantas Defence Services, to US-based Northrop Grumman. The $80m agreement was disclosed in August last year.

Also completing a sale is gold mining giant Barrick Gold, which has completed the $75m divestment of its Kanowna Belle and Kundana mine operations in WA to ASX-listed Northern Star Resources. The deal was first announced on January 23.

Finally, the federal government has been handed the scoping study into Medibank Private ahead of a potential $4bn float later this year. No word yet on the findings of the study, but there were reports last week it would recommend a trade sale as the most profitable exit.

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