The astonishing Babcock & Brown collapse and humiliation continued apace today with the following share price moves by late morning, ranked according to percentage falls:

  • B&B unsecured notes: down 31% to $38, suggesting the equity is worthless
  • Babcock & Brown: down 28% to $4.95m, breaching $5 float price for first time
  • B&B Power: down 26% to 66c, 74% loss on 2006 float price
  • B&B Infrastructure: down 24% to 64.5c, equity now worth just $1.5 billion supporting $9 billion in debt.
  • B&B Communities: down 19% to 32c
  • B&B Capital: down 16% to $2.99
  • B&B Japan: down 14% to 84.5c
  • B&B Wind: down 11% to $1.37
  • Everest Babcock & Brown: down 8% to 41.5c.

That’s a record low for nine Babcock vehicles representing the destruction of more than $1.5 billion in a morning. Wow!

And how did the mothership respond to this crisis? It announced the $7.5 billion acquisition of Angel Trains from the teetering Royal Bank of Scotland to become the biggest rail company in Europe.

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Well, arranged rather than acquired as the Babcock equity is coming from its European equity trust. CEO Phil Green was defiantly hailing it a “landmark” deal.

“The completion of this transaction demonstrates our continued ability to originate, structure and close a uniquely complex deal.”

Not quite, Phil. It demonstrates that there was one last deal in the pipeline that has staggered over the line but it is game over from here on, even if the mothership has extracted $100 million-plus in fees on the transaction.

The media hasn’t quite cottoned onto the scale of this story as only Fairfax’s Michael West pointed out the sensitive infrastructure assets involved, which now includes Europe’s biggest rail business.

The whole world will be watching because never before has one house fallen over with $50 billion in debt saddled on top of a massive pile of ultra-sensitive infrastructure assets, including:

  • Victoria’s $1.4 billion Royal Children’s Hospital redevelopment
  • The controversial St Kilda triangle project in Melbourne
  • Eircom, Ireland’s equivalent of Telstra which sits inside Babcock & Brown Capital.
  • WA’s gas retailing monopoly
  • Dozens of power stations and windfarms
  • More than $1 billion worth of British ports
  • $150m worth of NSW schools
  • The transmission cable under San Francisco bay
  • The giant Dalrymple Bay coal terminal in Mackay

We haven’t got the space to list about $80 billion worth of assets but there will be governments, investors and bankers around the world scrambling for their contracts to establish what on earth this all means.

A fire sale is coming with the jewel in the crown on the block first – the large portfolio of European windfarms.

UBS has today predicted the deal can secure $300 million in net profit whilst Merrill Lynch claims up to $550 million.

Even if Babcock survives with a blockbuster wind deal, it will not be able to raise capital in the future and the independent directors of the various funds should already be exploring a series of MFS-style divorces and name changes because the Babcock brand is dead.

And as for the parent company being able to provide Babcock & Brown Power with its missing $600 million, surely the market cap trigger yesterday will prevent that from happening.

That only leaves assets sales at the worst possible time given NSW is pushing ahead with power privatisation and the uncertainty surrounding the emissions trading means coal-fired plants are virtually unsaleable.

*Check out this special multi-media package on the Babcock implosion

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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