* KKR offers to buy John Laing for 403p/share
* Shares rise as much as 11.4% to 402p (Adds shares, detail on deal, background)
May 19 (Reuters) - Private equity firm KKR aims to buy John Laing Group in a deal that values the British infrastructure investor at about 2 billion pounds ($2.84 billion), it said on Wednesday.
It makes John Laing the latest British company to be taken private as London-listed firms carry a discount to global peers, undermining the value of staying public, and private equity sees a chance for handsome returns.
“Under private ownership and with flexible access to capital, John Laing can take a longer term view as an owner and operator of assets during the next phase of its growth,” KKR’s Co-Head of European Infrastructure Tara Davies said.
John Laing shareholders will be entitled to 403 pence per share in cash, a premium of 27% to the stock’s close on May 5, the day before the company confirmed it was in takeover talks.
Shares rose as much as 11.4% to 402 pence, just below the offer price. They have gained 22% in value this year.
In March, it reported a loss before tax of 65 million pounds for the year ending Dec. 31, 2020, compared with a loss of 95 million pounds a year earlier.
It could benefit as major economies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, invest heavily in infrastructure projects, with U.S. President Joe Biden pushing through a $2 trillion plan.
“KKR is a strong partner, providing long-term capital and global expertise to accelerate John Laing’s strategy,” said John Laing Chairman Will Samuel.
John Laing, which owns and develops infrastructure assets across the Americas, Australia and Europe, plans to recommend shareholders back the deal.
It has invested in over 150 projects straddling transport, social infrastructure, the energy transition and digital infrastructure.
KKR said it has agreed to partner with infrastructure investor Equitix, which will buy a 50% stake in the British company’s existing asset portfolio.
A source close to the deal, asking not to be named, said the company will continue to be operated from the United Kingdom by the existing management.
$1 = 0.7046 pounds Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Barbara Lewis