TPG Still Pursuing Asciano

MELBOURNE, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Asciano Ltd (AIO.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Australia’s biggest port and rail operator, said a private equity consortium led by TPG may seek further discussions with the company after being rebuffed on a A$2.9 billion ($1.9 billion) approach earlier this year.

Asciano is trying to sell assets to help pay down debt and fund growth after spurning a tentative offer worth A$4.40 a share from TPG Capital and Global Infrastructure Partners in August.

The company said TPG and GIP had contacted the company on Monday this week and may seek to have further discussions in the future, but nothing had been agreed.

“The Board absolutely believes that the current market price of Asciano securities in no way reflects the underlying value of Asicano’s businesses, in the same way that the indicative offer from TPG and GIP failed to recognise that true value,” Chairman Tim Poole said in remarks prepared for Asciano’s annual meeting.

Asciano shares jumped 4 percent to A$2.81, defying a 1.8 percent fall in the broader market . But its shares have fallen 61 percent so far this year, nearly twice as much as the broader market.

Poole remained confident about the group’s longer term prospects, although he warned that the slowing Australian economy would cut the double-digit growth rates the company has had in its automotive and container stevedoring businesses.

“If we combine the organic growth we expect with the new growth opportunities we have secured and move to a more acceptable capital structure, there is no doubt in my mind that Asciano will be able to turn around its poor trading performance to date and prove to be a valuable investment,” he said.

Asciano, spun out of logistics group Toll Holdings (TOL.AX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) last year, gave no forecast for earnings growth for the year to June 2009.

Managing Director Mark Rowsthorn said expectations for 2009 remained on track, but the group’s full-year performance would be affected by any drop in consumer spending over Christmas. ($1=1.471 Australian Dollar) (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by James Thornhill)