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State-owned Japan Post launches A$6.5 bln takeover bid for Toll Holdings

Japan Post, the state-owned postal service operator, has launched a A$6.5 billion takeover bid for ASX-listed Toll Holdings, an offer the Australian logistics firm's board has unanimously recommended.

The A$9.04 per share offer was is a 49 percent premium to Toll's closing price yesterday, and the shares soared 47 percent to A$8.93 today. Shareholders on the register as at March 2 would also be entitled to the 13 Australian cents per share interim dividend Toll's board declared today.

The Australian company's directors backed the deal, which would see Japan Post retain the Toll brand and management, using it as a division to lead its global aspirations to become one of the world's top five logistics companies. The acquisition needs 75 percent shareholder approval and sign off from a number of regulatory bodies, including New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office.

Toll operates the TranzLink trucking and freight logistics operations in New Zealand, having bought what is now the state-owned KiwiRail from American investors who bought the rail service when it was privatised in the mid-1990s. It remains the biggest customer of state-owned KiwiRail.

The Australian logistics group separately reported a 22 percent decline in first-half profit to A$136.6 million, including A$33.6 million of impairment charges. Sales slipped 2.6 percent to A$4.41 billion.

Toll New Zealand, which is incorporated in the Australian group's domestic forwarding segment, increased operational revenue, with strong growth in earnings before interest, tax, and significant items "due to the growth in its parcel services and strong cost control," it said without providing detailed financial information. The domestic forwarding segment generated A$997 million and Ebita of A$67.4 million.

Documents lodged with New Zealand's Companies Office earlier this year showed the Australian logistics group's local holding company, Toll Group (NZ), unit turned to profit in the 2014 year, with net earnings of $3.2 million in the 12 months ended June 30, compared to a loss of $60.8 million when it wrote down the value of goodwill by $42.6 million. Revenue slipped to $375 million from $379.5 million in 2013.