The revelation follows weeks of media speculation that an unknown bidder may be seeking a controlling stake in New Britain, which operates a refinery in Liverpool.
In a statement issued yesterday (July 31), New Britain said legal advisors of its biggest shareholder, Kulim Berhad, had stated in a letter plans to sell its 48.97% stake in the business.
“The letter further advised that Kulim has completed a selection process and, based on interest received from prospective purchasers, Kulim’s board of directors has selected Sime Darby Berhad (‘Sime Darby’) as the preferred bidder,” said New Britain, which is headquartered in Papua New Guinea.
However, it added: “To date, the company has not received any direct proposal from Sime Darby or any other party with respect to the proposed acquisition of Kulim’s equity stake.
“The company has not been informed as to the proposed terms of the transaction between Kulim and Sime Darby (including the indicative price offered by Sime Darby), nor is it known whether such transaction will result in a change of control of the company or a formal takeover offer for all or part of the company’s issued share capital.”
New Britain stressed a formal takeover offer had to be lodged and shareholder approval gained before the purchase of a 20% or greater share in a Papua New Guinea business, according to the country’s regulations.
The company has appointed Ashurst PNG as legal counsel and accounting firm BDO as an independent adviser.
‘Developing sustainable futures’
No statement has yet been released by Sime Darby, which is active in plantations, property, industrial, motors and energy & utilities and has the motto “developing sustainable futures”. It has a market capitalisation of $18.07bn (£10.7bn).
Sime Darby Berhad is part of a consortium, which also includes SP Setia Berhad and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), that acquired London’s iconic Battersea Power Station for £400M a year ago.
New Britain reported a “disappointing” performance in its 2013 full year results, with revenue down 17.5% to $558.7M (£331M), reflecting lower prices, and pre-tax profit down 78.8% to $17.3M (£10.3M). The firm’s production had been hit by exceptionally wet weather.