WSP lifts Opus offer after negotiating higher dividend

WSP Global Inc chief executive Alexandre L'Heureux says Opus "has a leadership presence" in New Zealand
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WSP Global Inc, a Canadian listed consultancy firm, has lifted its offer for Opus International Consultants after the company declared a 14c dividend.

Shareholders who choose to sell will now receive $1.92 per share, from the previous $1.85 per share which allowed Opus to declare a fully imputed dividend of 7c a share. Opus shares closed at $1.76 yesterday and have gained 6.8% today to recently trade at $1.88.

The takeover offer came last month after extended negotiations with Malaysian Stock Exchange-listed UEM Edgenta Bhd, which owns 61.2% of the company. Three institutional shareholders – ACC, Salt Asset Management and Aspiring Asset Management – who between them hold 9.4% of Opus, have agreed to sell, bringing the total Opus shares under lock-up agreements, including those held by UEM Edgenta Berhad, to 70.6%, the independent directors said.

Opus' independent directors said they were "pleased that the additional dividend has been permitted" and recommended shareholders accept WSP's increased offer. All the independent directors – independent chairman Keith Watson, independent director Alan Isaac and independent non-executive director Sam Knowles – intend to accept WSP's increased offer in respect of the Opus shares that they hold or control, they said.

WSP chief executive Alexandre L'Heureux has said Opus will be able to "greatly leverage WSP's customer base and strong international brand equity to significantly bolster its positioning and growth outside of New Zealand." At the same time, it would give WSP an opportunity to improve its presence and expertise in the Australia and New Zealand markets, particularly New Zealand, where Opus "has a leadership presence."

The takeover documents said Opus shares "have performed significantly worse than the NZX 50 Index" over the past two years, with its performance negatively impacted by offshore challenges. It cited Opus' 2016 earnings, which showed an earnings before interest and tax loss in Australia, Canada and the US and a drop in ebit in the UK.

Last month, the Wellington-based company posted an improved first-half profit as a gain in Australia and New Zealand made up for losses in other regions. Adjusted net profit rose to $6.2 million in the six months ended June 30, from $900,000 a year earlier, the Wellington-based company said in a statement. Sales fell to $226.8 million from $236.7 million.

(BusinessDesk)


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