Australia-led group deals blow to Canadian bid for ports firm Asciano

GMT 06:24 2015 Friday ,30 October

Arab Today, arab today Australia-led group deals blow to Canadian bid for ports firm Asciano

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners chief (L)
Sydney - AFP

An Australian-led consortium said Friday it had bought a large stake in ports and rail operator Asciano, throwing into doubt a US$6.6 billion bid for the firm by a Canadian asset manager.

The alliance -- led by Australian-listed Qube Holdings and which includes the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and investment group Global Infrastructure Partners -- announced it had acquired 19.99 percent of Asciano and indicated it wanted to break up the firm.

The share raid was reportedly worth Aus$1.7 billion (US$1.2 billion).

The news deals a blow to Canada's Brookfield Infrastructure Partners' planned takeover, which if successful would be the biggest logistics deal in Australian corporate history.

"Qube has entered into this transaction to participate in deciding the ownership of Asciano's first-class Australian terminal assets," Qube, a Sydney-based logistics and infrastructure firm, said in a statement.

The company said it was interested in Asciano's container terminals business as well as several other smaller assets, adding that when combined with Qube, they had "the potential to create significant value".

The group also said it does "not support the current Brookfield scheme proposal and do not intend to vote in favour of it".

Brookfield's takeover was already under a cloud after Australia's corporate watchdog said in mid-October it was concerned about its effect on competition in Western Australia and Queensland states.

"It leaves them (Brookfield) in a very, very hard place in terms of how or what the deal will look like -- or if a deal can now even be done," IG's market strategist Evan Lucas told AFP.

Investors gave the raid the thumbs up, with Asciano's shares jumping 7.41 percent to Aus$8.12 in afternoon trade while Qube rose 3.41 percent to Aus$2.28.

Lucas said Qube, which also operates port facilities in Australia, was after container terminal assets held by Asciano to strengthen its hand against major competitors such as Toll Holdings, which was recently bought by Japan Post Holdings.

At the same time, its Canadian partners could be interested in getting Asciano's rail assets, which make up about two-thirds of the business.

"It does make sense that could be a real probability in that they do break up Asciano with... the Canadians taking the rail assets and Qube taking the port assets," Lucas said.

"Qube realistically doesn't have the money to completely do a takeover. They are doing a reverse takeover here."  

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is due to release its final decision on the Brookfield bid on December 17.

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