Submitted by Joe Hendren on Mon, 03/12/2007 - 12:55pm.
New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart is hatching a deal for his Carter Holt Harvey cardboard box business to join forces with its counterpart at Amcor, in a play aimed at challenging the dominance of Richard Pratt's Visy.
Mr Hart has been been in talks with Amcor for two months to form a joint venture between the separate corrugated and paper businesses of his forest products company and the Australian packaging giant. A combined operation would have revenue of about $A1 billion a year. Amcor has run a knife through the hierarchy of its cardboard box business over the past few weeks, making redundant at least three senior executives including its boss, Darryl Roberts. The Victoria-Tasmania general manager, Andrew Harris, and another senior executive, Walter Gross, departed almost immediately last month.
A former Amcor executive said the latest redundancies were aimed at lowering costs to a level that would eventually determine the shareholdings of both Amcor and Carter Holt in the joint venture. "Hart looks like he is going to take management control of it," the executive said.
The deal, expected within months, will raise concerns about a duopoly in Australia's $A2.2 billion cardboard box market, which is still reeling from the record $A36 million fine imposed on Mr Pratt and Visy for a price-fixing cartel with Amcor. The former Amcor executive claims the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has given tentative approval to an Amcor-Carter Holt joint venture.
Mr Hart has gone on a spending spree since taking full control of Carter Holt early last year for $NZ3.3 billion, buying Swiss packaging giant SIG, Blue Ridge Paper Products of the US and beverage packaging assets from International Paper. But New Zealand's richest man will still have an estimated $A2.5 billion-plus to spend after selling a 20 per cent stake in Goodman Fielder in October and from a yet-to-be completed auction of Carter Holt's timber products business.
"They may be looking at it," another Amcor executive said late last week of Mr Hart's intentions for Amcor. "There's a rumour about Carter Holt Harvey every week - Graeme Hart has run the ruler over Amcor." Amcor executives will brief investors in Sydney on Tuesday next week about the overall business.
A New Zealander, Greg Beatty, the former boss of Fonterra Australasia, took over as Amcor Australasia's managing director in October from Louis Lachal, a 27-year veteran of the company who will retire next year. Also departing Amcor Australasia are Melanie Huson, the human resources chief who leaves next week, and another executive, Shay McQuade. Before Mr Hart took over Carter Holt, the company is understood to have offered the Amcor board about $A1.3 billion for its fibre packaging business about three years ago. Sources say Mr Hart has since made several approaches to Amcor for the business, to no avail.
Carter Holt is the third-largest cardboard box company in Australia behind Richard Pratt's Visy Packaging - which has about 47 per cent of the market - and Amcor (less than 40 per cent). Between them, the three control the cardboard box markets on both sides of the Tasman. Amcor's cardboard box businesses in Australia and New Zealand have struggled from a lack of investment.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Wed, 24/10/2007 - 8:28am.
Fletcher Building is teaming up with Australian rival Boral to bid for Carter Holt Harvey's Wood Products, Carters and Interion businesses being sold by billionaire Graeme Hart in what is expected to be a $2 billion plus deal.
Indicative offers for the Carter Holt assets were due last week. Market sources said yesterday that the Fletcher-Boral combination was facing its main competition from international private equity fund CVC Capital Partners.
Mr Hart is selling wood-based building items manufacturer and marketer Wood Products New Zealand, which has 12 manufacturing sites, Wood Products Australia, which has six, New Zealand's Carters building materials chain and Interion, which markets and sells furniture, joinery and construction products. Combined, these assets are forecasting 2008 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $300 million.
Sources suggested that, if successful, Fletcher and Boral planned for the Kiwi firm to take the bulk of the New Zealand assets and Boral to pick up those in Australia. Mr Hart's Rank Group has told Carter Holt staff it wants to complete a sale by the end of the year.
Boral is Australia's biggest building and construction materials supplier and also has operations in the United States and Asia. Kylie FitzGerald, Boral's general manager of corporate affairs and investor relations, declined to comment on "market speculation".
Fletcher chief executive Jonathan Ling said he could not comment "at the moment".
Staff at CVC's Sydney office did not respond to requests for comment. CVC's history in the trans-Tasman building industry includes ownership of laminates and panels business Laminex and insulation, concrete and roofing group Amatek. Ironically, it sold both to Fletcher - Laminex for $754 million in 2002 and Amatek for $582 million - in 2005.
It was unclear whether Rank had received further offers. US forestry group Weyerhaeuser, which sold half of a 67,000-hectare Nelson forestry plantation to partner and fellow US firm Global Forest Partners in June, is touted as a potential bidder. Tasmania forest products group Gunns, which owns a veneer factory in Christchurch, is also a possible bidder. Gunns declined to comment.
Fletcher completed the $1 billion acquisition of US-based benchtop group Formica on July 2, issuing $328 million of new shares to help pay for the deal. It might issue shares to help fund another big buy.
Tower equities fund manager Paul Robertshawe said Fletcher should easily be able to convince investors of the merits of buying Carter Holt assets. Fletcher had a good five-year track record, had not overpaid for previous acquisitions and its finances, with gearing, or debt-to-equity, of 46 per cent were not stretched. "If they come to us with a deal that makes sense I don't think shareholders would be upset about the timing," Mr Robertshawe said.
However, a Fletcher purchase would need Commerce Commission approval as its businesses have significant crossover with Carter Holt, notably PlaceMakers and Carters. Since completing the $3.3 billion acquisition of Carter Holt in March 2006, Mr Hart has already recouped about $1.9 billion.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Sat, 20/10/2007 - 8:39pm.
New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart has sold his shareholding in Goodman Fielder, the Australasian food giant he floated in 2005. The company said late last night that the near-20 per cent stake of New Zealand's richest man had fetched about A$562 million ($675.8 million).
Analysts said the sale would free up Hart to pursue acquisitions in the packaging sector, where he has been building assets, but was unlikely to put Goodman Fielder into play as a takeover target in the near future.
The sale of 265 million shares by Hart's Burns, Philp and Co through a subsidiary, BPC Finance (NZ), was made via a bookbuilding underwritten by Credit Suisse, Goodman Fielder said. The company, whose brands include Mighty Soft, Meadow Fresh, ETA and Meadow Lea margarine, had its Australian shares placed on trading halt late on Thursday pending an announcement. Trading was also halted in New Zealand yesterday with a closing price of $2.70 a share.
CommSec analyst Grant Saligari noted that Goodman Fielder and other food and beverage firms faced tough conditions as Australia's worsening drought has pushed up wheat, dairy and oilseed prices. Goodman Fielder's shares last traded in Australia at A$2.23. They are little changed from the start of the year, but rose as high as A$2.80 in April. The broader market is up 18.5 per cent this year.
The Australian Financial Review said institutions had been asked to bid for Hart's stake at between A$2.12 a share and Thursday's close. Goodman's 2006/07 financial year net profit fell 38 per cent to A$239.8 million. It made a number of small acquisitions in the past year, including River Mill Bakeries in New Zealand.
Hart's sell-out of Goodman Fielder is the latest in a line of major deals by the one-time tow-truck driver. He bought and de-listed forest products giant Carter Holt Harvey last year for $3.3 billion and has since put its building supplies business up for sale, including 18 sawmill and manufacturing plants in NZ and Australia. The building supplies business sale is expected to fetch more than $2.3 billion. Macquarie Equities investment director Arthur Lim said the sale of assets did not necessarily mean Hart had another acquisition lined up.
However, he did have a track record of surprising the market. Hart has sold most of Carter Holt's forests for up to $2 billion, and the head office, various retail depots and packaging plants for more than $300 million. A successful sale of the timber products business would see Hart more than recover his outlay, with the strategic retention the firm's packaging division.
This year, Hart paid US$338 million for North Carolina-based Blue Ridge Paper Products and is merging it with Evergreen Packaging in Arkansas. Meanwhile, he has also completed a $3.2 billion acquisition of Swiss packaging group SIG.
Hart may be building a paper packaging empire but Lim would not be surprised to see him make an acquisition in another direction. "How about SkyCity? It wouldn't surprise me. It's a company that's been mismanaged. It's got core assets and it's got assets scattered about Australia and New Zealand that lends itself potentially to being sold." Hart's sell down would not trouble Goodman Fielder, Lim said. "Goodman Fielder has been its own company for quite a while now."
- Graeme Hart has sold his Goodman Fielder holding.
- The sale of the 265 million shares was made via a bookbuilding underwritten by Credit Suisse.
- Hart is also selling Carter Holt Harvey's building supplies business for more than $2.3 billion.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Fri, 21/09/2007 - 7:41pm.
Graeme Hart isn't wasting any time with the sale process for Carter Holt Harvey's Building Supplies division - expected to fetch in excess of $2.3 billion. Hart and Rank Group expect to receive indicative bids by October 12, have due diligence under way by mid-October and receive final bids by late November.
The timetable is included in a sale flyer being circulated by Hart's bankers.
The Building Supplies business includes Woodproducts NZ, Woodproducts Australia and the Carters retail chain. The division is projected to have total sales of about $2.2 billion in the 2008 year and ebitda of $305 million. Rank decided to put the business up for sale after getting unsolicited inquiries from parties interested in acquiring the whole business, the flyer says.
The sale of the business in parts hasn't been ruled out. A trade sale or a transaction involving private equity interests is understood to be the most likely outcome.
Since Hart paid $3.3 billion for Carter Holt Harvey and delisted the top-tier company early last year he has sold most of its forests for somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, and the company's head office, various retail depots and packaging plants to Australia's Valad Property Group for just over $300 million.
Submitted by Joe Hendren on Tue, 04/09/2007 - 4:15pm.
An Indian businessman has paid a record price for an apartment, parting with $11 million for a new Auckland penthouse. But high taxes mean he may spend little time there.
Mike Panjwani - who has business interestsin New Zealand, India, Singapore, Europe and Dubai - has bought levels 29 and 30 of the Sentinel apartment block in Takapuna. Mr Panjwani has bought the apartment unconditionally, but will not be moving in until early next year because the property is a shell.
Speaking from Singapore yesterday, Mr Panjwani said he might only spend a few weeks a year in the penthouse. "We don't know how much time we're spending there. My family can't afford to spend months in New Zealand. The taxes are very high." Some Sentinel units have sold more than once, and units that fetched around $900,000 originally had resold for more than $1 million.
The 117-unit tower will open in December. The two penthouse levels are connected via an internal staircase. The unit was sold with a dedicated lift, four basement carparks, lap pool, spa and large glass-walled decks.
Barfoot & Thompson agent Wayne Muir, who acted for Mr Panjwani, said the businessman was impressed with the seaside suburb. "He sees Takapuna as a premiere urban seaside location and was impressed by the quality and location of the Sentinel."
The penthouse is yet to be fitted out, but will have a combination of bespoke hand-crafted carpet and natural stone flooring. Apartment walls will be able to be moved, and the apartment will include a home theatre, motorised windows, gas fireplaces, underfloor heating and large deck areas. Mr Panjwani has owned a house in St Marys Bay, central Auckland, for a number of years. Two years ago, he sold a collection of large Auckland investment buildings worth more than $25 million through his company Empress Leisure to apartment specialist Blue Chip.
Caption: Street level of the 30-floor Sentinel apartment building in Takapuna, Auckland.
The sale means property developer David Henderson's Princes Wharf apartment is now the most expensive penthouse on the market. That apartment, which went on the market earlier this year and was tipped to fetch $10 million, remains unsold. The apartment occupies the entire top level of the Princes Wharf block above the Hilton Hotel.
Businessman Colin Giltrap is understood to have set the previous apartment price record for a penthouse in Lighter Quay's North, on Auckland's waterfront. Mr Giltrap previously lived for about 20 years in a Herne Bay waterfront home that he sold four years ago for $7.2 million.
- Most expensive apartment for sale: $10 million Princes Wharf penthouse owned by property developer David Henderson.
- Most expensive house (not for sale): Graeme and Robyn Hart's sprawling $20 million Glendowie mansion.
- Most expensive property for sale: Pakatoa Island, Hauraki Gulf, $35 million, owned by businessman John Ramsey of Crusader Meats.
- Next most expensive: Cowes Bay estate on Waiheke Island, $30 million, 36ha with 1200sq m plantation-style mansion