Asciano in trading halt after share price crash

Ports and rail operator sees dramatic share plunge slashing the company's value by two-thirds in less than a week

Embattled infrastructure group Asciano is in a trading halt after a dramatic share plunge saw the company’s value slashed by two-thirds in less than a week.

Shares crashed a further 60 percent in less than 20 minutes of trading this morning to a record low of just 69 cents before the company called a trading halt to answer a price inquiry from stock market regulators.

The amount of debt locked up in Asciano, the holding company of rail operator Pacific National and stevedore Patrick, is spooking traders and analysts into dumping the stock.

A research note from Citigroup advises traders to "cut their losses" and sell shares.

"We like the underlying assets and see long-term value in Asciano; however, the share price is in no mood to take prisoners," Citigroup analysts say.

"With more pain expected in the near term before any gain emerges, we advise investors to cut their losses."

Asciano isn’t commenting, but is expected to make an announcement to the market later today.

Last week media speculation centred around renewed private equity interest in Asciano, with the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) reportedly bidding to purchase $1.25 billion worth of 'convertible notes' in the company.

The report had TPG and the GE and Credit Suisse-backed Global Infrastructure Partners group making an offer over the phone to Asciano Chairman Tim Poole.

Poole officially denied the move, saying Asciano is "fully committed to our monetisation process and that's the path we're going down".

Ben Gray, TPG’s Melbourne director, refused to speak to ATN.

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