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Vocus lands $5.25 per share takeover offer from EQT Infrastructure

Tom Richardson
Takeover agreement

This morning home broadband and dark fibre business Vocus Group Ltd (ASX: VOC) revealed it has received a non-binding, indicative takeover proposal from EQT Infrastructure for $5.25 cash per share.

This is at a roughly 35% premium to Vocus’s last exchange traded price of $3.89 per share and suggests EQT Infrastructure sees a lot of value in Vocus Group’s enterprise-facing fibre optic assets and Australia Singapore Cable (ASC).

The $5.25 per share bid value Vocus around $3.3 billion based on 622.3 million shares on issue, but we mustn’t forget Vocus has a net debt mountain around $1.1 billion as at its last reporting period to mean the offer values Vocus around $4.4 billion on an enterprise basis.

I expect the Vocus board and its shareholders are keen to get the deal over the line given its perilous leverage and consumer broadband business (mainly under the Dodo brand) hamstrung by the NBN’s wrecking ball business model.

Back in June 2017 U.S.private equity group KKR made a $3.50 per share takeover offer for Vocus but pulled out of the deal for unexplained reasons, in a result that could now be a blessing in disguise for Vocus investors.

For full disclosure I must admit to selling out of my Vocus position at a net loss over the past 12 months or more, although I did originally invest in the original Vocus dark fibre and data centre business back in January 2013 at just $1.82 per share.

The general lesson for myself over Vocus is that mergers can be disastrous when a good quality business in Vocus merges with a low-quality business in M2 Group and in so doing creates a swag of debt and goodwill.

Another red flag to sell earlier was the decision of Vocus’s founder and former CEO, James Spenceley, to sell all his shares in the group and quit the board not long after the merger was concluded.

Anyone still holding Vocus might hope for a takeover battle between EQT and another suitor, although that seems unlikely to me given the strength of EQT’s initial offer.

EQT itself is a Europe-based private equity group that specialises in infrastructure assets, therefore it’s plan for Vocus is likely to sell off the NBN consumer-facing businesses, before attempting to extract more value out of the dark fibre businesses including the ASC.

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Motley Fool contributor Tom Richardson has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

You can find Tom on Twitter @tommyr345

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. 2019