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Hart's Reynolds scotches report asset sales precursor to IPO

Hart's Reynolds Group scotches report asset sales precursor to IPO

By Paul McBeth

Aug. 8 (BusinessDesk) - Reynolds Group Holdings chief executive Tom Degnan has scotched a report the global packaging empire is selling assets and repaying debt as a precursor to an initial public offering.

The packaging group owned by New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart is reviewing ownership of its Evergreen and Closures businesses and is also considering whether to sell its SIG packaging unit after being approached. Speaking to a quarterly analysts' briefing, Degnan dismissed a media report that the review was to repay debt so the rest of the company can be sold in an IPO, saying no such conversation had taken place.

"There's no hidden agenda here," Degnan said. "We decided we should do the review of these particular companies. No decision has been taken to sell or to retain anything."

Reynolds had total debt of US$18.12 billion as at June 30, according to its second-quarter report published yesterday. That amounts to 6.3 times adjusted earnings, which management has been tasked by Hart to reduce to 5.5 times by the end of the year.

The packaging group said it was in compliance with its lending covenants as at June 30, and that operational cash flows, existing cash and other finance sources would meet liquidity needs in the coming year. Reynolds increased operational cash flow to US$150 million in the half from US$146 million a year earlier, and was sitting on cash and equivalents of US$1.27 billion as at June 30.

Degnan was reluctant to share the thinking behind the review, saying to do so wouldn't be in Reynolds' best interests.

In June reports emerged that Reynolds was looking to sell its SIG unit, which makes carton packaging for drinks and liquid foods, for some US$5 billion.

Reynolds had negative equity of US$233 million as at June 30, according to its second-quarter report, with total equity reduced by US$1.56 billion "as a result of the group's accounting for the common control acquisitions of the Closures segment and Reynolds consumer products business in 2009 and of the Evergreen segment and Reynolds food-service packaging business in 2010."

The packaging group yesterday reported a profit of US$12 million in the six months ended June 30 on a 1.1 percent fall in sales to US$6.84 billion. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation fell to US$1.21 billion from US$1.25 billion a year earlier.

Reynolds spent 1.7 billion euros on SIG in 2007, acquiring the equity for the closures segment for US$708 million from an entity owned by Hart in 2009, according to filings to the SEC. The Evergreen unit was formed from a series purchases from entities owned by Hart for a total purchase price of US$1.6 billion in 2010.

The three units accounted for 38 percent of Reynolds' first-half adjusted earnings. SIG reported adjusted Ebitda of US$250 million on sales of US$1.06 billion in the half, while Evergreen contributed earnings of US$123 million on revenue of US$780 million and Closures had US$91 million of Ebitda on sales of US$572 million.

Hart began building the packaging empire in 2006 with the takeover of Carter Holt Harvey, going on to buy International Paper's beverage packing unit and Swiss company SIG the following year, and adding Alcoa's packaging business in 2008. He then ramped up the expansion in 2010, spending US$6.5 billion on the leveraged buyout of Pactiv and then the US$4.5 billion acquisition of Graham Packaging in 2011.

Degnan said the prospect of major asset sales won't deter any bolt-on acquisitions for the units not under review, and the earnings report shows Reynolds bought the assets of Novelis Foil Products North America unit of Novelis Group for US$30 million on June 30.

The packaging group also sold its aluminium closures business in Germany for US$26 million in the half for a gain of US$13 million.


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