DataRoom AM: Woolworths' high spirits

Woolworths is reportedly mulling a demerger of its pubs portfolio, while Pacific Equity Partners looks to have earned a tidy profit from its sale of Peters Food Group.

Woolworths is believed to be considering a shake-up to its assets, with a possible split of its pubs portfolio from its broader $50 billion business.

Elsewhere, Pacific Equity Partners secures its second substantial profit in a week, Barrick Gold mulls a spin-off of its Australian assets and Starbucks passes off control of its brand in Australia.

Retailer Woolworths is mulling a $600 million-plus demerger of its pubs portfolio, The Australian Financial Review reports. The supermarket giant is undoubtedly encouraged by the recent strength of the IPO market, even if the property sector remains largely untested.

Woolworths has reportedly tapped UBS and Goldman Sachs to explore the real estate spin-off, with a listing tipped for the second half of the year. The deal would see the freehold pubs as part of its majority-owned ALH Group separated into a proposition as a listed landlord, with close to 100 pubs as part of the portfolio. The paper also suggested ALE Property Group had taken a look at the ALH portfolio in a hint it may be interested in an acquisition.

Pacific Equity Partners has successfully offloaded Peters Food Group to French private equity firm PAI Partners, the owner of R&R Ice Cream in the UK. The sale of Peters, an iconic ice cream brand in Australia, comes after a long running dual-track sales process, which threatened to lead to an IPO on several occasions.

In the end, PEP opted for a deal likely worth just shy of $450m (the terms were not officially disclosed), representing a tidy profit on the $250m-$300m purchase price in 2012. It is the second healthy profit on a 2012 acquisition reaped by PEP in the past week following the successful $1 billion float of Spotless Group on Friday.

In resources, executives from Canada’s Barrick Gold have recently visited Australia as a cloud hangs over the firm’s local operations. The gold mining giant offloaded $100m worth of Australian assets around the turn of the year to ASX-listed Northern Star Resources and, according to The Australian Financial Review, there is a chance the firm will opt to spin-off the rest of its local portfolio.

Also in the mining sector, OZ Minerals has said it remains hopeful on finding a joint venture partner for its $3bn Carrapateena project in SA. The development will likely stall if a partner is not secured shortly.

Not able to successfully put a store on every corner in Australia, Starbucks has turned to the one organisation that has basically done just that. The US coffee giant yesterday announced it had leased its 24 local retail outlets and brand name in Australia to The Withers Group, owners of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Australia. The cost of the deal was not disclosed.

Meanwhile, Westfield executives have been forced to make last minute calls to investors to encourage a ‘yes’ vote on a $70bn restructure plan. It is believed upwards of 20 per cent of the vote could be lost, placing some doubt on the chances of reaching the 75 per cent approval threshold.

Finally, former Brambles takeover target Goodpack has been acquired by private equity firm KKR. Brambles said in March it had approached the Singaporean firm on multiple occasions in search of a merger, but discussions ultimately broke down on price.

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