BESIX Group is considering its future with the Australian listed contractor Watpac following the outcome of the Scheme Meeting in which Watpac shareholders did not accept BESIX’s offer to acquire a majority stake in the company.
Although an overwhelming majority of almost 90% of Watpac shareholders (by number) voted in favour of the proposal, it did not meet the shareholder approval threshold required under Australian law (67.24% of shares voted in favour with a threshold of 75% required). The Belgian global player says that it respects the outcome but also views this as a missed opportunity for Watpac shareholders, given its plans to offer ASX-listed Watpac a stable future with the prospect of long-term value creation.
BESIX Group currently owns 28.11% of Watpac and has been a shareholder since 2013. On 26 February 2018, BESIX announced its intention to acquire a further 35.95% stake in Watpac at an offer price of A$0.92 per share – a 40% premium above the 3-month VWAP pre-announcement. It had the support of the Watpac Board, the Independent Board Committee, and the Independent Expert.
Consistent with what BESIX Group has stated previously, Rik Vandenberghe, CEO of BESIX Group said:
“We will now analyze the results of the vote and take the necessary time to thoroughly evaluate our position and future plans with Watpac. We have indicated from the outset that we might review our substantial shareholding in Watpac if the proposal was not accepted. We acknowledge the overwhelming support of shareholders by number and are grateful for their support.”
“Watpac is currently not reaching its full potential, which makes it even more regrettable that the offer has been rejected. Together we could have turned Watpac into a top-tier company by strengthening the balance sheet, enhancing technical skills, and diversifying operations. With our current minority ownership interest we are unable to effect the necessary changes” said Rik Vandenberghe.
BESIX will take the necessary time to thoroughly evaluate its investment in Watpac.
The Australian contractor is on track to record a statutory loss for the fourth time in the last six financial years. Watpac generated a turnover of c. 730 million EUR and a statutory loss of c. 20.7 million EUR in the 2017 financial year, and today faces an underlying net loss before taxation of 2 to 3.3 million EUR for the 2018 financial year.