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New suitor comes forward to buy Hawaiian Telcom’s parent company

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An unsolicited potential acquirer has upped the ante for Hawaiian Telcom’s parent company, and investors are speculating that the offer may have fueled a bidding war.

Cincinnati Bell, which agreed last month to be acquired by Toronto-based Brookfield Infrastructure for $10.50 a share in cash, announced Friday that two days earlier it received a nonbinding cash offer from an undisclosed infrastructure fund for $12 a share, or more than 14% higher than the previous offer.

But investors appear to be speculating — based on Cincinnati Bell’s current stock price — that the two current potential acquirers will try to outbid each other. Cincinnati Bell’s shares soared $2.50 Friday after the latest announcement to finish the day at $13.75 — 14.6% above the $12 bid from the infrastructure fund. The stock fell 19 cents to $13.56 on Monday.

The total amount of Brookfield’s offer is $2.6 billion, including debt. Cincinnati Bell did not disclosure the total offer by the infrastructure fund.

Cincinnati Bell, which acquired Hawaiian Telcom in July 2018 for $650 million in stock and cash, said it has begun discussions with the infrastructure fund regarding the $12-a-share offer. Cincinnati Bell said the Brookfield merger agreement remains in effect during the talks with the infrastructure fund and that there are no assurances that those discussions will result in a binding proposal or that the transaction will be approved or consummated.

Credit Suisse analyst Andrew Kuske wrote after the latest offer that Cincinnati Bell is one of many capital allocations opportunities for Brookfield, so there is no direct “need” for Brookfield to raise its bid for Cincinnati Bell if a superior proposal comes forward, according to a Bloomberg report. Kuske said he does see the appeal of the data infrastructure space, and the ability to “plug into a larger network is clearly of interest” to Brookfield.

In another report, CIBC analyst Robert Catellier wrote that generally Brookfield avoids “unfriendly” takeovers, though it will compete “aggressively” for assets it covets, according to a Bloomberg report. Catellier said Brookfield has experience with rolling out fiber-optic cable in other markets, and he sees Cincinnati Bell’s fiber rollout plan to prepare for 5G transition as a key feature of the investment proposition.

Cincinnati Bell’s shares, which include former Hawaiian Telcom shareholders, were trading at $15.70 a share when the deal was closed about 1-1/2 years ago. But the stock fell by roughly half after the acquisition and was trading at $7.72 when Brookfield came knocking last month and offered the 36% premium of $10.50 a share.

At that time, Cincinnati Bell and Brookfield said their deal was expected to close by the end of this year, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Hawaiian Telcom, which has 1,200 employees, has been heavily investing in its fiber-optic network to provide high-speed internet as well as video services through Hawaiian Telcom TV. Cincinnati Bell offers internet and cable TV services as well.

Brookfield has assets in the utilities, transport, energy and data infrastructure sectors across North and South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Su Shin, who will take over as Hawaiian Telcom’s president and general manager on Feb. 10, could not be reached for comment. Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida said the local company didn’t have anything to add.


A new bidder has made an unsolicited offer to buy Hawaiian Telcom parent Cincinnati Bell:

>> New potential acquirer: Undisclosed infrastructure fund

>> Nonbinding offer: $12 a share in cash

>> Total cost: Undisclosed

>> Previous potential acquirer: Brookfield Infrastructure of Toronto

>> Accepted offer: $10.50 a share in cash

>> Total cost: $2.6 billion in all cash, including debt

>> Seller: Cincinnati Bell

>> Monday’s closing stock price: $13.56

Correction: Su Shin will take over for John Komeiji as Hawaiian Telcom’s president and general manager on Feb. 10. A story on Page A1 in Tuesday’s paper said she was currently in those positions.
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