Asciano quiet as Qube spoils Brookfield party

By: Rob McKay

Qube goes back to the future with Patrick play that may derail takeover plan

Asciano quiet as Qube spoils Brookfield party
Maurice James wants Qube to absorb Patrick.


Like to other entities involved in the move, Asciano is yet to comment on rival Qube’s spoiling tactic against the Brookfield takeover.

Qube, which says it does not support Brookfield’s bid, has bought almost 20 per cent of Asciano for an estimated $1.7 million in an effort to secure only the Patrick stevedoring operation and Patrick’s other businesses.

Asciano will only say that it "will continue to keep the market informed of material developments".

If successful, Qube would become the country’s most powerful port logistics firm and return the business, in some respects, to its pre-Asciano form.

Qube managing director Maurice James makes no secret of his firm’s intentions in further complicating of Brookfield’s proposed Asciano takeover, which has run into regulatory concerns with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Describing absorbing Asciano’s Patrick arm as a "transformational" proposition, James says: "Through more than 20 years of experience in Australian export-import supply chains, previously at Patrick Corporation and now at Qube, the Qube management team has demonstrated the ability to drive real value for shareholders, customers, and the broader economy.

"Over the last eight years we have built Qube into Australia’s leading provider of integrated logistics with operating divisions providing services for clients in both import and export cargo supply chains.

"This now includes Moorebank, in South Western Sydney, the largest and most significant new port-related infrastructure project currently being undertaken in Australia.

"The acquisition of the Patrick businesses would further implement this strategy and provide significant opportunities to create substantial shareholder value, both through improving the operations of the Patrick businesses and through the benefits of combining the businesses with Qube's assets."

Qube's co-investors are Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which divested it 26.7 per cent stake in Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) in 2013 after being in the consortium that set it up in 2010, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

Interestingly, CPPIB has dealings with Canadian-founded Brookfield, not least through Brookfield Office Properties, the operating partner CPPIB’s First Canadian Place skyscraper, Canada’s highest building.

They were also in a consortium that bought Chilean power firm Transelec in 2006 but, elsewhere, they are competitors.

A GIP spokesman rebuffed ATN’s request for a comment on the move and ATN is awaiting a response from CPPIB on its intentions.

However, Qube says GIP and CPPIB "have entered into this transaction to allow them to participate in the ultimate ownership of the Pacific National rail business".

It adds that the allies intend to evaluate a number of options in relation to Asciano including, but not limited to:

not voting any Asciano shares in favour of the current scheme of arrangement proposed by Asciano that involves Brookfield acquiring all the issued share capital of Asciano

entering into discussions with Brookfield and / or Asciano in relation to an alternative transaction to the current Scheme involving the possible carve-up of Asciano’s assets; and/or

holding a strategic stake in Asciano for a period of time, which may include seeking board representation.

Asciano CEO John Mullen has sought previously to find an international partnership for Patrick to give it wider growth horizons.

Qube chairman Chris Corrigan and his team lost control of Patrick, of which he was the managing director, to a Toll takeover in 2006 that eventually led to the creation of Asciano under pressure from the ACCC.

Many, including Corrigan, were later involved in the creation and operation of Qube.

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