(Adds context, shares, analyst)
By Byron Kaye
SYDNEY, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Standards Australia, the not-for-profit industry group which spun off SAI Global Ltd a decade ago, may seek to buy back the publishing unit of the Sydney-listed compliance firm, a spokesman at Standards Australia told Reuters on Thursday.
The government-funded member organisation which collates industry standards sold SAI Global in a sharemarket listing in 2003 amid political pressure to separate its certification business from its standards business.
As part of that restructure, Standards Australia also outsourced its publishing and marketing operations to SAI. But since SAI put itself up for sale following a A$1.1 billion ($986.59 million) approach from Australian buyout firm Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) in May, Standards Australia has approached SAI about buying back its publishing and marketing unit.
“Standards Australia is exploring all opportunities available to it in the interests of our members and stakeholders,” a spokesman said when asked if the company wanted to take its publishing operations back in-house.
The interest will prolong what has already been a four-month period of uncertainty about SAI’s ownership. It also adds weight to PEP’s concerns - which SAI confirmed in a statement on Wednesday - about the future of SAI’s publishing contract with Standards Australia.
For the year to June 30, SAI said its publishing unit, which it calls its information services division, grew earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation by 10.9 percent to A$63.9 million, about two-thirds its total earnings.
SAI shares fell 1.7 percent to A$4.11 in mid-session trading, a 22 percent discount to the indicative offer made by PEP in May of up to A$5.25 per share.
In its Wednesday statement, SAI said that although it had no offer for the whole company, it received “proposals from a number of interested parties” about buying parts of its business, and that “we will progress the proposals that we have received”.
In an analyst report, fund manager Moelis & Co noted that SAI said it offers for parts of its business, but “we remain wary of these proposals given no timing or detail has been provided”. (1 US dollar = 1.1150 Australian dollar) (Editing by Ryan Woo)