Asciano backs $12b foreign takeover

The logistics company behind Patrick stevedores and Pacific Rail National is set to fall into foreign hands in a record $12 billion deal.

杭州桑拿

Asciano has backed Canadian transport and utilities giant Brookfield Infrastructure’s takeover bid after its was boosted from a proposal put forward in June.

Including debt, the deal offers Asciano at about $12 billion, which analysts say will be the biggest logistics deal in Australian corporate history, dwarfing Japan Post’s $6.5 billion takeover of Toll Holdings earlier this year.

Morningstar analyst Ross MacMillan said Asciano shareholders would have preferred a full cash offer from Brookfield, rather than a mix of shares and cash, but it was a good deal given the mining downturn.

“The Australian economy’s still struggling with this cyclical downturn in the mining sector and Asciano’s outlook is for flat to low single digit earnings growth over the next couple of years, and in that sort of environment this is quite a good offer,” he said.

Asciano shares hit a near seven year high, adding 58 cents, or 7.15 per cent, to $8.69.

Brookfield chief executive Sam Pollock said Asciano’s commodities based customers were in a healthy position, with improved profitability following recent falls in the local currency.

“While we have some concerns, we think the customer base that underlines Asciano’s business is very robust,” Mr Pollock told reporters.

“We’re nearing the end of the major decreases in commodity prices, but that’s not to say there might be some further downward pressure.”

New York and Toronto listed Brookfield already operates rail, port and property assets in Australia, and plans to list on the local share market as a result of its Asciano deal.

That listing will serve as a platform to build Brookfield’s infrastructure business in the region, though no major acquisitions are planned in the short term, Mr Pollock.

“This is a market we like,” he said.

Brookfield’s takeover is set to mean job cuts at Asciano, mostly in corporate roles to avoid duplication, meaning operations staff are likely to be safe.

“There may be some redundancies there,” Mr Pollock said.

Shareholders will vote on the takeover in November, and it also needs approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Asciano on Tuesday announced a 41 per cent rise in annual profit to $360 million, due mainly to cost savings in the business.

That included a 12 per cent reduction in staff to 1,664.

ASCIANO LIFTS PROFIT AND BACKS RECORD TAKEOVER

* Net profit up 41pct to $359.6m

* Revenue and other income down 3.9pct to $3.84b

* No dividend, but special dividend of 90 cents planned