Infratil bid: AustralianSuper faces competition from new contender

AustralianSuper could have a rival in its efforts to buy Infratil, according to a report across the Tasman.

IFM Investors is preparing a bid, assisted by New Zealand wealth manager Jarden (which operates on both sides of the Tasman) and a US bank – said to be Citi or Bank of America – according to The Australian.

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IFM, which has around A$148 billion under management, grew out of the infrastructure-focused Development Australia Fund, founded in 1990. Today, it is collectively owned by 27 pension funds including – thickening the plot – AustralianSuper.

That leads to another possible twist: that IFM could be a partner with AusSuper in a boosted offer, rather than a competitor.

Both IFM and AusSuper have large pools of funds that need to find investment opportunities providing low risk and stable returns, The Australian notes.

Despite raising the prospect, the paper also says that a rival IFM bid for Infratil would be considered somewhat of an aggressive play, given that the pair have worked together on acquisitions in the past.

AustralianSuper and IFM purchased a 50.4 per cent interest in NSW electricity network Ausgrid for A$16.2in 2016.

A joint-bid for Infratil would be “logical”, The Australian says, but the complexities of putting such an offer together could take quite some time.

Infratil’s board cold-shouldered a $5.4 billion takeover offer by AustralianSuper in December, which represented a 28 per cent premium on Infratil’s share price at the time.

The NZX and ASX-listed infrastructure company has since hiked the valuation of its largest asset – its 48 per cent stake in Canberra Data Centres – from A$1.6b to A$2.33b ($2.5b), although one analyst says it is worth $3.2b based on peers.

Infratil shares closed Friday at $7.38 on the NZX, for a market cap of $5.33b. The stock has been at or near AusSuper’s takeover offer since it was revealed on November 9.

Jarden and Infratil have been asked for comment.

IFM declined comment.

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