ACS wins Australian skirmish in Hochtief bid

MELBOURNE/FRANKFURT (BestGrowthStock) – Australia’s Takeovers Panel said it would not intervene in Spanish builder ACS’s $5 billion hostile bid for Hochtief, which would give it cheap control of its German rival’s profitable Australian unit.

The panel decided against Hochtief’s request to force ACS to make an all-share takeover for the Leighton (LEI.AX: ) unit, which Hochtief hoped would thwart the bid by adding at least another A$4.5 billion ($4.57 billion) to its cost.

Hochtief, which has already failed in a previous attempt to get Australian regulators to help its defense against ACS’s low-ball bid, said it would fight the decision, but Leighton declined to join its parent in the appeal.

“ACS has contacted Leighton and indicated a willingness to enter into a written and binding governance agreement. We are encouraged by the public statements from ACS and their direct contact, and intend to actively pursue such an agreement to protect the interests of our minority shareholders,” Leighton Chairman David Mortimer said.

Hochtief has hired Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX: ), Goldman Sachs (GS.N: ) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE: ) to work out a defense strategy, but analysts said Hochtief’s options were narrowing.

“Legal and regulatory options are gradually all being exhausted, and I see very few, if any, remaining options,” said a Frankfurt-based analyst who declined to be named.

“Politically Hochtief is also lacking support, and I think that the Panel’s decision is just another step toward what will turn out to be a successful bid by ACS.”

ACS, headed by Real Madrid soccer club President Florentino Perez, has said it will offer Hochtief shareholders eight ACS shares for every five Hochtief shares they own.

Hochtief shares were down 0.1 percent by 0950 GMT, underperforming a 0.1 percent rise in the mid-cap MDAX index (.MDAXI: ).

(Reporting by Josie Cox and Matthias Inverardi; Editing by Will Waterman)

ACS wins Australian skirmish in Hochtief bid