Australia: Costa hopes to raise AUD$600M in July IPO -

Australia: Costa hopes to raise AUD$600M in July IPO

Australian produce company Costa Group was expected to release an initial public offering (IPO) prospectus yesterday (June 22), newspaper The Australian reported. Costa

The news outlet reported the prospectus would probably value the group at AUD$1 billion (US$774 million), with a 60% stake to be sold to the public on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) next month.

Costa Group chief executive Harry Debney told the publication founder Frank Costa would keep a 20% shareholding after the listing, while U.S. investor Paine & Partners would have the remaining 20%.

Debney told The Australian he thought Frank Costa was pleased the decision was made to keep ownership in local hands, rather than a sell-off to a foreign buyer.

"He wants to see Costa Group retain the values and vision he has spent so long building in there," Debney was quoted as saying.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Goldman Sachs - which was a joint underwriter for the float with UBS - estimated an equity value of AUD$959 million to AUD$1.1 billion for Costa, citing blueberry patents as one of the group's strengths.

However, the story reported a potential loss of proprietary technology was a risk to the company's international growth strategy, which currently involves a blueberry joint venture with three partners in Morocco, and a joint venture with U.S. firm Driscoll's to grow blueberries and raspberries in China.

Debney told the publication the Moroccan operation had proven a success with easy access to the European market via the Tangier Ferry across to Spain, highlighting plans to build a sixth farm in the country in a northwestern growing region near the capital Rabat.

"Our thesis was to develop good varieties, which are sought after, in a low-cost environment, and Morocco is a very low-cost environment compared to Australia, and has very good logistics," the executive told the Sydney Morning Herald.

He added covered cropping now accounted for around three-quarters of Costa's earnings, the story reported.

The Australian reported Costa grew 45% of the blueberries sold in Australia, and marketed 77% of the country's supply with stock from third parties, while it also grew two-thirds of Australia's raspberries, 42% in mushrooms, 16% in citrus and 18% in hydroponic tomatoes.

Photo: Costa Group