UPDATE 1-Inter Pipeline says no decisions made on strategic options after Brookfield offer – Reuters

(Adds details on Heartland Petrochemical Complex, analyst comment)

CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Canada’s Inter Pipeline Ltd said on Friday no decisions have been made as it initiates a strategic review of its options, a week after rejecting an unsolicited bid from its largest shareholder, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners.

The Calgary-based company, whose assets include over 7,000 km (4,300 miles) of oil pipelines, 5 million barrels of oil storage in western Canada and natural gas liquids processing plants, announced a formal review on Thursday, including a possible “corporate transaction.”

Brookfield had offered C$16.50 per share for Inter and said it was willing to go as high as C$18.25 if the pipeline operator gave it access to due diligence.

At the top price, Brookfield’s offer valued Inter at C$7.8 billion ($6.18 billion) but the pipeline company rejected the offer, saying it was too low.

On a conference call on Friday, held to discuss Inter’s quarterly earnings, Chief Executive Christian Bayle made it clear the board would consider an acquisition by Brookfield as part of the review process.

“The intention is to evaluate a broad range of corporate options, one of which obviously is a possible corporate transaction. I think it’s fair to say the board would not preclude including Brookfield in that process if they would participate,” Bayle said.

“No timetable has been set and no decisions have been made regarding strategic alternatives.”

The board will continue to look for a partner for Inter’s Heartland Petrochemical Complex (HPC) in central Alberta. The C$4 billion project is expected to be operational by early 2022 and Bayle said Inter would release more information on HPC contracts and earnings before the next quarterly results.

Analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt said they expected the strategic review would reaffirm the board’s belief that Brookfield’s offer is below intrinsic value, given HPC will start up next year, and said Inter’s search for a partner for the facility would be key.

“We suspect the outcome will play a pivotal role for investors in determining whether bringing in a partner can de-risk HPC sufficiently or if Brookfield is better suited as the owner,” they said in a note.

In 2019 Inter rejected an unsolicited C$12.4 billion buyout offer from an unnamed bidder, which several media outlets reported was Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. That offer valued Inter shares at around C$30 each.

Bayle declined to comment on that offer.

Inter shares last traded up 46 cents in Toronto at C$17.96. ($1 = 1.2624 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy)

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