Australia's Hastings to sell Texas LNG stake for 5.5 times investment

SYDNEY, July 15 Mon Jul 14, 2014 9:26pm EDT

SYDNEY, July 15 (Reuters) - Australia's Hastings Funds Management said it will sell its quarter stake in a Texas liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to U.S. specialist fund Global Infrastructure Partners for $1.1 billion, five and a half times what it paid four years ago.

The deal continues a bumper year for Australian M&A with transactions totalling $79 billion in the six months to June 30, compared to $45 billion in the first half last year, according to J.P. Morgan.

So far in 2014 the country has had 20 deals worth over $1 billion, compared to just 17 for the entire previous year.

The sale of the 25 percent stake in Freeport LNG Development L.P. also shows the funds management sector's strong appetite for energy infrastructure assets globally.

Hastings, owned by Australia's No. 2 bank Westpac Banking Corp, sold the stake just as Freeport, which runs a LNG regasification terminal, starts construction on three new liquefication plants which are expected to begin operations in four years.

"It was timely for Hastings to monetise the investment given strong market demand for assets exposed to the LNG value chain," Hastings executive director of global investment Peter Taylor said in a statement.

"We are long-term investors but we do not ignore the market and will move to maximise value."

Hastings, which recently bought Australia's Port of Newcastle, the world's busiest coal terminal, for A$1.75 billion ($1.64 billion), said the Freeport sale proceeds would enable it to expand in North America, its Chief Executive Officer Andrew Day said.

Hastings has been managing the Freeport stake, bought for about $200 million in 2010, for Australian funds Utilities Trust of Australia and The Infrastructure Fund, and Zachry American Infrastructure LLC.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC represented Hastings and Zachry on the deal. ($1 = 1.0655 Australian Dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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