Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and NZME. news service.

Ironbridge to sell interest in waste management company

Mediaworks debt has been bought up by US private equity giant TPG. Photo /  Martin Sykes
Mediaworks debt has been bought up by US private equity giant TPG. Photo / Martin Sykes

EnviroWaste Services, New Zealand's second-biggest waste management company, is for sale and its owner - Australia's Ironbridge Capital - is considering exiting through an initial public offer, a financial market source said yesterday.

The source said investment banks Macquarie, First NZ and UBS made their sales pitches to Ironbridge a fortnight ago and that an announcement on who would advise the Sydney-based private equity investment company on the sale process would be made shortly.

"It is likely that the sale process will start in May," the source said.

Ironbridge's New Zealand operating partner Kerry McIntosh declined to comment.

Ironbridge originally paid $365 million in December 2006 for EnviroWaste but the company later sold an asset in Canterbury to its competitor, Australia's Transpacific Industries.

EnviroWaste later invested in some bolt-on acquisitions which took the invested amount back up to around $365 million.

EnviroWaste was one of two large transactions made by Ironbridge just before the global financial crisis.

The second was MediaWorks, whose assets include TV3, RadioLive and More FM, which cost $741 million in a leveraged buyout in 2007.

Based on EnviroWaste's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $48 million, the likely sale price would be up to seven times that - or $336 million, the source said.

Unlike last year's IPOs, which involved only partial sell-downs and listings of companies such as Summerset Holdings and Trade Me, Ironbridge could be looking at offloading the entire 100 per cent.

Ironbridge has positive market sentiment running its favour, with the sharemarket having made solid gains since last August, but the promoters would need to be quick to squeeze the IPO in before the expected partial privatisation of Mighty River Power in September, fund managers said.

The source said a trade sale of EnviroWaste was not seen as likely given that the country's biggest waste management company, Transpacific, would run into competition problems because the two already enjoyed a tight duopoly in New Zealand.

Furthermore, he said EnviroWaste, whose assets include the Hampton Downs landfill, was probably too small to attract Transpacific's Australian competitors.

New Zealand has not been a happy hunting ground for Ironbridge, having paid top dollar for both EnviroWaste and Mediaworks not long before the global financial crisis.

"They are talking optimistically about making some of the money back [on EnviroWaste]," the source said. "I think they will do marginally better than break even."

If priced and structured correctly, EnviroWaste would be a useful addition to the New Zealand equity market, Mint Asset Management portfolio manager Shane Solly said. He added investors generally had a good investment experience with Waste Management as a listed public company before it it was taken over by Transpacific in 2006.

- APNZ

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