Billionaire Li Ka-Shing Offers $5.4 Billion for Duet

  • CKI said to make conditional offer of A$3/share for Duet
  • Li’s bid values infrastructure company at about $5.4 billion

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd. has offered to buy Duet Group at a premium of about 28 percent in a bid to win control of the Australian infrastructure company’s pipeline assets, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Hong Kong-based company made a conditional offer of A$3 a share for Duet last week, said the people, asking not to be identified as the details are private. The offer values Duet at about A$7.3 billion ($5.4 billion), according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The board of the Australian company plans to consider the offer, the people said. Duet shares closed at A$2.35 in Sydney on Friday.

The bid for Duet would be the latest attempt by Li to bolster his Australian business this year. The tycoon experienced a setback in August when the Australian government blocked CKI and State Grid Corp. of China from buying a majority stake in state-owned power network Ausgrid.

Expanding his business in Australia would also help Li diversify away from the U.K., the biggest profit generator for his flagship firm CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., as Britain’s decision to split off from the European Union threatens to undermine the economy.

Wendy Tong Barnes, a spokeswoman for CKI, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. A spokesman for Duet declined to comment.

Duet’s assets include the Dampier-Bunbury pipeline in Western Australia, a stake in electricity distributor United Energy, gas distribution business Multinet Gas, pipelines business DBP Development Group and Energy Developments Ltd., according to the Duet’s website.

The Australian Financial Review had reported earlier about CKI making an offer for Duet.

Separately, CK Hutchison said late last week that it will sell aircraft leasing assets to affiliate Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd. for almost $1 billion and that Indian tax authorities had proposed the conglomerate pay HK$8.9 billion of capital gains tax on a transaction in 2007, when it sold its Indian telecom business to Vodafone International Holdings BV. CK Hutchison said it has sought legal advice and believes the request won’t impose any liability on the company or affect its financial condition.

— With assistance by Mariko Ishikawa

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