Uniti Group matches First State Super bid in tilt for OptiComm

Uniti Group matches First State Super bid in tilt for OptiComm

Shares in telco Uniti Group (ASX: UWL) rose like an acquisition target yesterday at a rate of close to 18 per cent, but in fact the reverse is true.

Uniti has been trying to acquire fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network operator OptiComm (ASX: OPC) since June, and successfully completed an oversubscribed $270 million capital raising towards the purpose.

Combined with cash reserves and a $250 million debt facility with Westpac and CBA, Uniti was sitting pretty to go ahead with its $532 million cash-and-scrip takeover, but then a competitor caught the Adelaide-based bidder unawares.

On 8 September First State Superannuation - soon to become Aware Super - threw its hat in the ring offering $5.85 per share, lifting the implied value of OptiComm to $606 million.

Yesterday Uniti upped the ante by not only matching the super fund's offer, but revealing the backing of major shareholders in OptiComm through call option and share purchase agreements that give it a 19.5 per cent relevant interest in the company.

UWL shares surged to $1.44 each, and as its OPC bid includes a scrip component the value of the takeover offer has gone up to $624 million as a result.

The deal will still be subject to an OptiComm shareholder vote that is expected to take place on 13 October, subject to approval from a Federal Court hearing that is due on 25 September.

If the vote is successful, implementation of the scheme is set for 30 October.

"It is by now well understood that the combination of the Uniti and OptiComm businessesis both highly strategic and synergistic," says Uniti CEO and mnaging director Michael Simmons.

"We have been very thoughtful in preparing our revised offer, to ensure we have the best opportunity to secure the company we have sought to own for some time. To this end, the nearly 20 per cent relevant interest we have secured in OptiComm delivers us a significant strategic stake in OptiComm.

"We are excited and ready to complete the OptiComm acquisition over the coming weeks and to welcome the OptiComm team as part of the Uniti Group."

Simmons says he is more confident than ever about the benefits of the proposed acquisition, whereby Uniti would be taking up "its position as the preeminent challenger in the private fibre market".

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