NZ's Metlifecare backs $996 million buyout offer from Swedish fund EQT

(Reuters) - New Zealand's Metlifecare Ltd MET.NZ said on Monday it had entered into an initial deal to be acquired for about NZ$1.49 billion ($996.07 million) by a fund managed by Swedish buyout firm EQT AB EQTAB.ST

The retirement village operator said its shareholders would get NZ$7 per share under the agreement from Asia Pacific Village Group Ltd, which is ultimately owned by EQT.

The offer price represents a premium of 9.7% to Metlifecare’s closing price on Dec. 20, before its stock was placed on a trading halt, and a 38% premium to the closing price prior to the announcement of the initial offer on Nov. 19.

EQT first approached Metlifecare with an offer of NZ$6.50 per share, which was rejected. Further discussions led to the raised offer, Metlifecare said.

The board backed the deal, adding that it had received strong support from a number of institutional shareholders.

In a separate statement, EQT said it had also entered into a voting deed with Metlifecare’s largest shareholder, New Zealand Superannuation Fund Nominees Limited (NZSF), to vote in favor of the deal.

NZSF holds about 19.9% of the New Zealand company’s shares.

The fund manager said a few other Metlifecare shareholders collectively representing around 22% of the register had also indicated their intention to vote for the deal.

EQT added the transaction would be implemented by a scheme of arrangement, a court-supervised process in which shareholders meet to vote on the proposed deal.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Nick Macfie