December 20, 2018 / 12:03 AM / 3 months ago

PE giant KKR cuts buyout price for Australia's MYOB, sending shares tumbling

SYDNEY (Reuters) - U.S. private equity giant KKR & Co (KKR.N) slashed a A$1.8 billion ($1.3 billion) buyout proposal for Australian accounting software maker MYOB Group (MYO.AX), a sign of the souring appeal of high-tech investments and sending the target’s shares down.

FILE PHOTO: Trading information for KKR & Co is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Seven weeks after KKR upped its indicative bid for the struggling Australian company to access its financial records, it wiped 10 percent from the price it had suggested paying, MYOB said in a statement on Thursday.

MYOB said it would reject an offer at the new suggested price of A$3.40 per share, from A$3.77 on Nov. 2. KKR first approached the company in October with a proposal to buy the 80 percent it did not already own for A$3.70.

Since then, shares of global technology players like Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Google owner Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) have fallen sharply amid concerns about incursions on privacy, sparking a sell-down across the broader sector.

The Australian sharemarket has meanwhile tumbled 10 percent as a result of U.S.-China trade tensions. And credit markets have raised the price of corporate debt amid expectations of a rate hike, making it more expensive for firms like KKR to carry out leveraged buyouts.

On Thursday MYOB shares were down 11 percent by midsession, just above the level they last traded at before KKR made its initial approach, while the broader market was down 0.2 percent.

“It might be opportunism based on that move down in tech shares,” CMC Markets chief strategist Michael McCarthy said.

“The reality is, when you make a takeover bid you see a lot of value above and beyond the price you bid at.”

A KKR spokeswoman declined to comment, while a MYOB spokesman declined to comment further than the market filing announcing the lower offer.

MYOB would be one of KKR’s biggest acquisitions in Australia and add to its 10-strong stable of technology businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although MYOB was once the dominant provider of accounting software to small and medium-sized businesses in Australia, in recent years it has struggled to compete for market share with cloud-based New Zealand rival Xero Ltd (XRO.AX).

Xero has a market value three times the size of MYOB’s and offices in London, San Francisco and Denver, while MYOB operates only in Australia and New Zealand.

Reporting by Byon Kaye in Sydney and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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