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Money APA receives $13bn takeover offer from Chinese bidder consortium

20:26  13 june  2018
20:26  13 june  2018 Source:

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The Hong Kong-based bidders consortium is considering spinning out APA's West Australian pipeline and gas assets.© Michele Mossop The Hong Kong-based bidders consortium is considering spinning out APA's West Australian pipeline and gas assets.

Australian energy infrastructure group APA has received a $13 billion takeover offer from a Hong Kong-based consortium of power utility and infrastructure companies aiming to take control and split up the pipeline monopoly.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings and Power Assets Holdings have made an all-cash offer of $11 a share for APA. The offer is 33 per cent more than APA's last trading price of $8.27.

“Based on the indicative price of $11 cash per stapled security, the APA board considers that it is in the best interests of APA’s security holders to engage further with the consortium,” APA said, opening up its books to the bidders for due diligence. CKI Deputy Managing Director Andy Hunter said the consortium "welcomed" the move.

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It's not Cheung Kong's first foray into Australia. In 2016, its takeover of Ausgrid was knocked back by the government. In 2017, the Chinese company acquired the Duet Group - which comprises powerlines, gas pipelines and power stations - for $7.3 billion.

Yet a source close to the Hong Kong group said parallels shouldn’t be drawn between the Ausgrid and APA bid.

“Ausgrid was a very different asset and a different time. We’ve since seen a change in how the federal government views these projects. The circumstances couldn’t be more different today,” he told Fairfax Media.

The Hong Kong-based consortium has already laid much of the groundwork for the APA bid, stating that it has had discussions with, and provided information to, both the Foreign Investment Review Board and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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As part of the deal, the consortium told the ACCC it plans to divest the West Australian assets of APA's pipeline business.

“The consortium has proposed a divestment package which would include APA’s interests in the Goldfields Gas Pipeline, Parmelia Gas Pipeline, Mondarra Gas Storage Facility and a standalone management team,” APA said.

Cheung Kong's consortium said the deal would not be conditional on the divestment of these businesses occurring before completion of the takeover.

'Significant commitment'

The person close to the deal said Cheung Kong's readiness to sell the West Australia assets showed the company had learned from its Ausgrid and Duet bids.

“It’s a significant commitment by the company, in the billions of dollars, to divest the Western Australian assets,” he said. "CKI listened intently to the Commonwealth" by conceding some assets would stay in Australian hands.

The ACCC has been targeting Australia's pipeline monopoly as it attempts to drive down gas prices.

“We want to regulate the pipeline monopoly,” Mr Sims has previously told Fairfax Media.

“We can’t break up it as the situation is what it is, but there are actions we can take.”

The majority of Australia's gas pipelines are owned by just three companies, APA Group, Jemena, and Australian Gas Networks.

APA chairman Michael Fraser said the board will continue to evaluate the proposal and will update APA’s security holders and the market as appropriate,” APA chairman Michael Fraser said.

APA was approached for further comment.

This deal comes only a day after APA signed an agreement with AGL to build the major pipeline infrastructure for AGL's proposed Victorian floating gas import terminal.

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