UPDATE 1-Bidding war for Australia's Asciano heats up as Qube trumps Brookfield

Sun Feb 7, 2016 7:54pm EST
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* Qube's A$9 bln offer beats Brookfield's A$8.9 bln

* Asciano switches support to Qube's higher offer

* Asciano says expects Brookfield to raise bid

* Qube bid raises prospect of partial Chinese ownership (Recasts, Adds Asciano and Qube quotes, deal context, shares)

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The bidding war for Australian freight giant Asciano Ltd heated up on Monday as local rival Qube Holdings Ltd upped its proposal to A$9 billion ($6.4 billion), trumping Canada's Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

Asciano said it favoured Qube's approach, dropping its previous preference for Brookfield's $8.9 billion offer first announced in August 2015 in what would be the biggest ever Canadian takeover of an Australian company. It also said it expected Brookfield to raise its offer.

Sydney-based Asciano, operator of Australia's largest rail freight network, is seen as good value due to its exposure to the resources sector, which is being hit by falling commodities prices. It is seen as doubly appealing because of a recently-finished restructure focusing on automation.

Its switch of preference marks its first departure from an unwavering endorsement of Brookfield's approach, which was Australia's biggest inbound takeover offer in four years. For the first time, A$2 billion Sydney-listed Qube is the frontrunner to seize control of Asciano, ahead of CAD$40 billion ($29 billion) Brookfield.   Continued...