By CLAIRE JIAO
A consortium of Australian shipbuilder Austal Ltd. and US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP could make an offer in the coming weeks for Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co.’s cash-strapped shipyard in the Philippines.
The companies, which have until Oct. 31 to submit a bid, are in exclusive talks with creditors and finishing up due diligence, court-appointed receiver Rosario Bernaldo said in a phone interview Tuesday. The shipyard in Zambales province to the northwest of Manila is the country’s largest, covering 300 hectares.
Eugene Acevedo, chief executive of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., the Philippine lender with the biggest exposure to the shipyard, said he expects a bid to be made in the next two to three weeks. He declined to confirm what companies were involved.
“I’m reasonably optimistic that we will arrive at a transaction that will give every party what they need,” Acevedo said in an interview Tuesday. Five Philippine banks, including three of the country’s largest, have a total exposure of $412 million to Hanjin’s local unit.
A representative from Cerberus declined to comment, while another for Austal didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.
A bid from a white knight would bolster the proposal of creditors to keep the shipyard open. It has pending contracts to build four more vessels, and its lenders believe it can secure two more orders a year to generate new business.
With or without a bid, Bernaldo said she would file a revised plan for court approval by the end of October so rehabilitation proceedings can be wrapped up by January, a year after the company filed for debt restructuring.
Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. of the Philippines has about $1.7 billion in liabilities and $2.3 billion in assets, according to Bernaldo’s original court report. The shipyard had a workforce of about 33,000 people at its peak, making it one of the country’s biggest employers.