SYDNEY (Reuters) - Mantra Group Ltd MTR.AX on Thursday agreed to a A$1.18 billion (701.45 million pounds)buyout from French hotel company Accor SA (ACCP.PA), a deal which will create the biggest hotel group in Australia where tourism is rising sharply.
AccorHotels has been on an acquisition spree that, in part, aims to support chief executive Sebastien Bazin’s goal of adding businesses that can complement its core hotel operations and offer more control of hotel distribution.
This latest deal would give the combined group about 50,000 rooms - roughly 11 percent of Australia’s hotel market, according to IBISWorld statistics.
Accor is offering A$3.96 per share, a 23 percent premium to Mantra’s last trade before the bid was initially announced on Monday. The offer price is more than double Mantra’s A$1.80 issue price when it listed in 2014.
Bazin said in a statement that the takeover would “underpin our long-term growth in the Asia-Pacific region”.
Accor, the world’s fifth largest hotel group with more than 540,000 rooms worldwide, has made expansion in the Asia Pacific region among its priorities, and it also wants to focus on building and acquiring luxury, lifestyle and resort hotels.
Last year, it expanded by 80,000 rooms, around half through acquisition and half through organic growth.
Shares in Sydney-listed Mantra rose 0.3 percent to around A$3.88, showing investor support for the deal but also some uncertainty about the possibility it may meet regulatory hurdles.
“It’s within the bounds of fairness, given what the shares have done recently,” said Noel Webster, a portfolio manager at BT Investment Management, Mantra’s largest shareholder.
“Our first reaction would be not to block it.”
The merger needed clearance from the Foreign Investment Review Board and antitrust regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Mantra said.
The ACCC expected the companies to file a “detailed submission” about the deal shortly, a spokesman said. The regulator previously said it would review any deal to decide whether to open a formal investigation.
The transaction would be the second-biggest in Australia’s hotel sector, and the largest buyout of an Australian entity by French interests, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Deutsche Bank, which has a ‘buy’ rating on Accor, said the deal fitted Accor’s general strategy and increased the likelihood of Accor concluding a sale of its so-called ‘Booster’ group of non-core assets, which is set to bring in around 4 billion euros.
“Australia is one of the largest markets for Accor outside Europe,” Deutsche said in a research note. “This deal would be in line with the Accor strategy to consolidate market share in markets where the company benefits or may benefit from scale.”
Gregoire Laverne, fund manager at Paris-based Roche Brune Asset Management, said the Mantra deal would strengthen Accor’s presence in Australia.
Laverne also said he had sold off Accor shares in March due to a “lack of visibility” over Accor’s restructuring plans. Accor shares were down 0.6 percent in mid-session trading.
The number of visitors to Australia surged 9 percent in the past financial year to hit a record 7.9 million while spending by international visitors climbed to $40.6 billion - also a record.
Mantra Chairman Peter Bush said in a statement the company’s board was recommending the deal to shareholders, having concluded that the “sale of the company at a significant premium to market is an attractive outcome”.
If approved, the merger could put pressure on Australia’s third-largest hotel company, Marriott International (MAR.O). Marriott Australia and New Zealand Vice President Sean Hunt declined to comment.
Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Ambar Warrick, Luke Baker and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Byron Kaye; Editing by Stephen Coates and Jane Merriman