Brookfield in $6.5 billion deal for Australian freight firm Asciano

Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:10pm EDT
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By Byron Kaye and Sneha Banerjee

(Reuters) - A group led by Canada's Brookfield Asset Management will buy Australian logistics firm Asciano Ltd for A$8.9 billion ($6.56 billion), creating a global port and rail freight business.

The deal, the fifth-largest buyout of an Australian firm by an overseas entity and the biggest by a Canadian firm, underscores the huge international appetite for Australian infrastructure.

Brookfield and Asciano confirmed the sweetened deal as Asciano beat analyst expectations with a 19 percent jump in underlying net profit for the year to June 30 due to the benefits of a A$3 billion equipment overhaul.

Asciano said in July that Brookfield made an indicative offer of A$9.05 per share but on Tuesday said Brookfield upped its offer price to A$9.15 per share, giving it a market capitalisation of A$8.9 billion and an enterprise value of A$12 billion.

Further sweetening the offer, Asciano said it will pay a special dividend which effectively values the shares at A$9.54 each, and that it will offer a "mix and match" component so shareholders can choose how much cash or scrip to receive.

"This combination will provide Asciano the scope to leverage our industry leading expertise globally, and the financial capacity to take advantage of the myriad of growth opportunities in our sector," Asciano Chief Executive John Mullen said in a statement.

Brookfield Infrastructure Chief Executive Sam Pollock said in a statement that "combining Asciano's Australian container terminals with our existing assets in North America and Europe provides the foundation for a global container platform".

Record low interest rates have added to the M&A appeal of the Australian logistics sector which is already struggling with lower valuations because of a downturn in coal exports.   Continued...