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Hunter becomes hunted as bidding war erupts over SA internet firm

Business

A $3.5 billion bidding war is emerging for Adelaide-headquartered telecommunications provider Uniti Group, which is causing its share price to spike.

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Two new players emerged this week with bids to buy the listed national internet provider following an initial approach from infrastructure investor HRL Morrison and Co on March 15.

Uniti announced yesterday that it had agreed to terminate the initial exclusivity deed with HRL Morrison and Co in favour of a new agreement with the company in a joint bid with Brookfield Infrastructure Group Australia.

The initial offer was for $4.50 per share, a 43 per cent increase on Uniti’s March 14 share price. Uniti says the New Exclusivity Deed is on “substantially the same terms” as the previous offer.

Earlier in the day, Uniti announced it had received an indicative proposal from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Asset Holdings in conjunction with Public Sector Pension Investment Board.

The ‘Connect Consotrium’ proposal aims to acquire Uniti for a cash consideration of $5 per share, valuing it at about $3.5 billion.

The latest announcements caused Uniti’s share price to rise further this morning to $4.76, up 51 per cent from its closing price on March 14.

In a statement to the ASX yesterday, Uniti said its board was currently considering the Connect Consortium proposal.

It said shareholders did not need to take any action at this stage.

“The board notes that it is uncertain that the Connect Consortium Indicative Proposal will result in an offer to Uniti shareholders,” the ASX statement said.

Uniti was placed in a trading halt on Wednesday afternoon, minutes after its chairman received an email containing the non-binding indicative proposal from the Connect Consortium, which it detailed in a statement to the market yesterday morning.

Late yesterday afternoon it then announced the update to the exclusivity arrangement with HRL Morrison and Co and Brookfield Infrastructure Group Australia.

“These discussions continue to be non-binding, preliminary, highly conditional and uncertain as to an outcome,” it said in the second statement yesterday.

“Uniti will continue to update shareholders, in accordance with the company’s continuous disclosure obligations, of further developments as they arise.”

The company has gone from the hunter to the hunted in recent months.

The takeover bids follow Uniti’s acquisitions OptiComm and Telstra Velocity assets in late 2020, which saw it surge nine places from No.15 to No.6 on InDaily’s South Australian Business Index of the state’s top 100 companies.

It last month reported revenue for the six months to December 31 of $109.5 million, up 98 per cent on the same period the previous year.

Uniti was listed on the ASX in February 2019 as Uniti Wireless and since changing its name to Uniti Group has divided the business into three pillars: Wholesale and Infrastructure; Communications Platform as a Service, and; Consumer and Business.

If either of the takeover bids go ahead it will result in a handsome payday for shareholders, who have seen the company’s share price more than triple from $1.54 at the start of 2021.

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