AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Asciano spin-off approved as Toll takes China step

<p>The Toll Holdings restructure was voted through overwhelmingly at an extraordinary general meeting yesterday (Monday, May 28) and the firm has taken the next step in its Asian expansion.</p> <p>Shareholders in Melbourne endorsed the proposed spin off of its rail, port and stevedoring operations as Asciano, to be listed early next month and headed by long-term executive director Mark Rowsthorn.</p> <p>Toll chairman John Moule surprised some in the audience by revealing the spin-off had been decided while negotiations with Patrick were ongoing.</p> <p>Both managing director Paul Little and Mr Rowsthorn confirmed to <em>Lloyd’s List DCN </em> that return on capital was a major reason for the move <em>.</em> </p> <p>&#8220The demand from Pacific National and Patrick Ports was very, very significant and it would have depleted the capital that Toll had at its disposal to grow its business,&#8221 Mr Little said.</p> <p>&#8220Plus [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman&#93 Graeme Samuel had made it very, very clear to us that to keep infrastructure, together with logistics, was going to restrict the growth that he believed we would be able to get approval for going forward.</p> <p>&#8220So, to separate logistics and infrastructure was going to allow both Toll and Asciano to grow more aggressively.</p> <p>&#8220They were the two key drivers, plus keeping Pacific National under one owner was also, we thought, very important.&#8221</p> <p>Mr Little said the leverage Toll could now bring to bear was almost as good as owning the infrastructure.</p> <p>Saying more news regarding Toll’s future was on the way, Mr Little revealed his company had taken a share of privately held Hong Kong international freight forwarder Cargo Services &#8211 &#8220a very important acquisition for us, out of China in particular&#8221, he said. &#8220Probably, its largest account in Australia is with Woolworths.&#8221</p> <p>This move in north Asia joins its minority shareholding in Japanese delivery firm Footwork Express, which it took several years ago and would like to expand.</p> <p>Mr Little restated the intention to make more purchases in Australia, mentioning $1bn as a ball-park figure and saying Toll had been happy to take on large amounts of debt in the past.</p> <p>&#8220There are a number of smaller acquisitions that we believe we can move forward with very quickly and I think the larger ones are certainly available, too.&#8221</p> <p>On the spin-off’s tax implications for shareholders &#8211 the subject of a Toll advisory last week and pointing to share-price rises &#8211 Mr Little reiterated that the company’s earlier advice still held and that &#8220we’re not worried by it&#8221. </p> <br />