The day after Asciano denied it was aware of any reason why its shares jumped by more than 26 per cent on Friday, the company has announced Westpac Banking Corporation and BT Investment Management Limited had acquired a five per cent stake in the company.
According to documents lodged with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), the transaction took place on Friday, 8 May – the same day that the share price jumped.
Asciano’s response to the ASX reads: “We refer to your letter dated 8 May 2009 in relation to the increase in price in Asciano Group (“Asciano”) securities from $1.43 at the close of trading on Thursday, 7 May 2009 to $1.81 at the close of trading on Friday, 8 May 2009.
In response to the ASX letter, Asciano noted the following:
Asciano is not aware of any disclosable information concerning it that has not been announced which, if known, could be an explanation for Friday’s trading in securities of Asciano. Asciano is not aware of any materially price sensitive information concerning it, which has ceased to be confidential so that it can no longer rely on the exceptions to listing rule 3.1 contained in listing rule 3.1A.
Asciano is aware of ongoing media and investor community speculation regarding the current asset monetisation process. Asciano provided an update on this process in its ASX announcement entitled “Monetisation and Third Quarter Operating Update” dated 21 April 2009. Asciano noted in that announcement that it “has received a range of proposals from a number of parties in relation to its expanded monetisation process as set out in Asciano’s market announcement of 16 March 2009. These proposals include indicative offers for a range of different assets, together with a number of proposals relating to transactions that may result in a change of control and/or a recapitalisation of the Group”. Asciano is not yet in a position to announce any outcomes in respect of the monetisation process as this process is still incomplete and subject to on-going confidential negotiations. All of the proposals received to date are non-binding, indicative and insufficiently definite to disclose.
In the period since 21 April, there has been no material change to the status of the monetisation process which would require disclosure under listing rule 3.1. In light of the current high level of media speculation, Asciano can confirm the following:
• Asciano has received a number of non-binding indicative proposals relating to a change of control and/or recapitalisation of Asciano and is now involved in continuing confidential discussions with four bidders for a transaction of this nature. Each of these bidders is currently participating in the second stage of due diligence. The identity of each of these bidders remains confidential;
• In addition, Asciano is involved in continuing confidential discussions with some parties who have lodged non-binding indicative proposals regarding a transaction involving one or more of Asciano’s operating business units.
• Asciano continues to target the announcement of one or more transactions by the end of the current financial year. It should not be assumed that any of these discussions will result in a transaction or that if a change of control and/or recapitalisation transaction were to occur that it would be priced at a premium to recently traded prices in Asciano’s securities.
Whilst it is not usually Asciano’s practice to comment on media speculation, Asciano has noted with concern a number of articles published in the Australian Financial Review over the past week. These articles have included the following speculation:
• that there are only two serious parties who have tabled recapitalisation proposals as part of Asciano’s monetisation process;
• that the members of Asciano’s banking syndicate with whom Asciano is currently negotiating an extension/rollover of its working capital and bank guarantee facilities have sought a maximum term on any extension/rollover of two months; and
• that a number of members of Asciano’s banking syndicate are treating Asciano as a ”workout” situation.
Asciano advises that these assertions are factually incorrect and have no basis or substance whatsoever.
Asciano expects to incur further restructure costs in the second half of the year ending 30 June 2009 as it implements the efficiency review findings. Other than these costs, there is no reason to think at this stage that the Group may record any other material abnormal or extraordinary items for the second half of the financial year ending 30 June 2009.