Tuesday, 13 June 2017 05:40

Vocus bid to hike sale price begins


Vocus chief executive Geoff Horth and chairman David Spence will host an investors day tomorrow, looking to persuade US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to raise its $2.2 billion bid, or else to attract another buyer.

The KKR bid, made on 7 June, comes after a bad period for the company, Australia's fourth largest telecommunications outfit, with share prices having gone south since August last year.

In the last nine months, Vocus has lost almost 70% of its value as it struggles to incorporate a number of acquisitions, most recently the $807 million purchase of Nextgen.

Vocus provides telco, data, cloud and energy services through its Commander, Dodo and iPrimus brands. It also owns Nextgen Networks which it acquired in October 2016.

There have been hints that Vodafone Hutchison Australia or Affinity Equity are interested, but there has been no public bid - yet.

The Australian Financial Review cited sources as saying the board was likely to reject the KKR offer of $3.50 per share. The largest shareholder Greencape has said the bid is opportunistic.

David Pace, the portfolio manager at Greencape Capital, which owns 8.1% of Vocus, was quoted as saying KKR was trying to capitalise on a trough in earnings.

"These are highly strategic assets that with the fullness of time and an improvement in execution will earn considerably more than what they do today," he said. "The initial bid appears to capitalise on a perfect storm."

TPG Capital and the Carlyle Group are also said to have taken a look at Vocus, but the AFR said a bid was unlikely at the moment.

Were VHA to consider a bid, it could be a takeover, an asset-based transaction or a merger. Documents lodged with ASIC in 2016 showed that VHA was free cash flow positive, with $271.1 million cash. It has borrowings of $7.4 billion.

But, according to the AFR, the company had said shareholders CK Hutchison and Vodafone Group would provide support to meet VHA's obligations when needed.

Vocus has a fibre network across and in between major cities and 112 of 121 points of NBN interconnect.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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