Caltex Australia gets bumped up bid from Couche-Tard as EG circles

(Reuters) – Caltex Australia Ltd (CTX.AX) said Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc (ATDb.TO) has raised its buyout offer to A$8.80 billion ($5.93 billion), in a final attempt to sway the oil refiner and convenience store firm after interest from Britain’s EG Group.

Couche-Tard bumped up its cash offer by 2% to A$35.25 per share, calling its third offer final in the absence of a competing proposal, Caltex said on Thursday.

EG Group has yet to bid, though Caltex last month said the retailer – backed by British private equity firm TDR Capital – had expressed interest in buying some or all of the company.

A Caltex spokesman declined to comment on whether the firm was in talks with EG Group. EG Group did not respond to a request for comment. A Couche-Tard spokeswoman said the company did not have an immediate comment.

Shares of Sydney-based Caltex jumped more than 5% in early trade but lost some ground by midday. The stock is now up 3.2% though remains below Couche-Tard’s current and previous offers.

The interest comes as Caltex is forced to re-brand to Ampol within the next three years after the re-entry of former co-owner Chevron Corp (CVX.N) into Australian petrol retailing.

The firm turned down Couche-Tard’s previous bids – on Oct. 11 at A$32 and Nov. 18 at A$34.5 – after which it provided the Canadian firm with non-public information to elicit a better offer.

Analysts from RBC Capital Markets and Jefferies said the latest bid was attractive and probably enough to be accepted.

“It represents only a c.18% premium to the pre-bid share price but a lot has changed since then, implying the true premium is much larger,” Jefferies analysts said in a client note.

The bid gives Caltex the right to pay a special dividend to shareholders – subtracted from the indicative offer – and restricts the Australian firm from selling assets.

EG Group entered Australia in 2018 through the acquisition of supermarket chain Woolworths Group’s (WOW.AX) petrol stations for A$1.7 billion. The British firm is being advised by Citi.

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