Australia's Coates sale may fetch over $3 billion: sources

MELBOURNE Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:40pm EST

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The owners of Australia's largest equipment-hire firm, Coates Hire, hope to sell their entire stake in the company in a deal that could fetch more than A$3 billion ($3.1 billion), sources with direct knowledge of the plans said.

Owners private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG.O) and Seven Group Holdings (SVW.AX) announced a review of Coates last week after shelving plans earlier in the year to sell a minority stake in an IPO.

The ownership review was prompted by several approaches from potential buyers following the IPO process, one source told Reuters. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the review process is confidential.

"The next few weeks will be about shaking the trees and finding out who's serious," the person said.

The person said a sale could fetch "north of" A$3 billion, based on 2012 net profit of A$318 million.

Coates had revenues of A$1.3 billion in the year to June 2012 and has 200 branches across Australia serving engineering, construction, mining and manufacturing industries.

Carlyle and Seven each own 46 percent in Coates, and have hired Goldman Sachs (GS.N), China International Capital Corp in China and Nomura Holdings (8604.T) in Japan as advisers.

The owners hope to sell their full stakes in the hire firm, a second source said, in contrast to the original IPO plans to float part of the business. The second source, also speaking on condition on anonymity, put the expected value at more than A$3 billion.

Carlyle bought its 46 percent stake in Coates in 2008. Private equity funds typically hold an asset for three to five years, although frozen IPO markets and lack of strategic buyers are forcing them to hold their assets longer.

There is scant sign of revival in appetite for initial public offerings in Australia, which has seen several big deals canned this year. The last big float was QR National's QRN.AX $4.6 billion offering in late 2010.

($1 = 0.9666 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Victoria Thieberger and Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by John Mair)

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