Canada customer data firm Telus makes $830 million play for Australia's Appen

(Reuters) -Canadian data analytics software maker Telus International made a A$1.2 billion ($830 million) buyout approach for Australian rival Appen Ltd, the target company said on Thursday, sending its shares soaring.

FILE PHOTO: A sign for Telus Communications in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

A deal, if successful, would help build the Canadian firm’s offering at a time when corporate clients around the world are moving to automate many services for a customer base that has shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would also give Appen shareholders an opportunity to recoup investment losses since February when its star customer and Facebook owner Meta Platforms revealed that its advertising revenue was hit by tighter privacy controls installed on Apple Inc computers and smartphones.

Since then, Appen’s shares have nearly halved. Telus’s A$9.50-per-share indicative offer was below the Australian company’s trading price in February, and Appen said it was “in discussions with Telus to seek an improvement in the terms”.

On Thursday, Appen’s shares jumped 29% to A$8.25 in morning trading, below the indicative offer price, as investors positioned themselves for an eventual a buyout — including from another company — while allowing for the possibility the talks would fall through.

“While we do see potential for substantial synergies … we see Appen as being in a weaker negotiating position to extract a higher bid from Telus International,” Citi analysts wrote in a note.

“We do see potential for another suitor, especially a competitor to Telus.”

Telus could not be immediately reached for comment regarding a revised proposal.

In a short trading update, Appen also said it expected its first-half profit to be materially lower than last year, although it expected a pick-up in earnings in the second half.

The company, which sells a range of automation software including programs to help companies like Facebook collate user data, earlier this year scrapped its outlook for the first time since going public — with an issue price of 50 cents in 2015.

($1 = 1.4096 Australian dollars)

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