By Patricia Aruo
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation, the second biggest shareholder in Murray & Roberts (M&R), said on Monday it had rejected an offer by Germany’s ATON to acquire the engineering and construction firm.
M&R’s biggest shareholder German investor Lutz Helmig’s ATON, which owns more than a third of the South African firm, made a buyout offer of 15 rand ($1.3) per share for M&R last month valuing the company at nearly $600 million.
M&R rejected the bid saying it undervalued the company.
“The PIC does not support the current offer and agrees with the Board of Murray and Roberts that the offer by Aton materially undervalues this successful engineering, construction and mining company based on its prospects,” the PIC, Africa’s biggest pension fund, told Reuters in an email.
M&R, which previously rejected ATON’s buyout offer as “opportunistic”, is reluctant to sell cheaply, having spent billions of rand transforming itself from a local builder to a multinational firm with operations in other African countries.
M&R has transformed itself into a group focused on the global natural resources sector, but has been under pressure for nearly a decade as its order book has been hit by a weak South African economy and reduced spending by clients in oil, gas and mining industries.
However, the firm’s interim profits more than doubled on higher earnings from its underground mining activities and the sale of its loss-making Middle East business last year.
ATON, with a diverse portfolio of investments in the mining, engineering, aviation and health technology sectors, is making its second attempt at a deal after a previous approach failed in 2016.
(Additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)