Sunday 18 February 2018

Corporate who's who to reap rewards from sale

Donal O'Donovan

THE biggest names in corporate Australia will share in Cameron O'Reilly's US$2.3bn (€1.63bn) pay day, after backing the venture that became Landis +Gyr over the course of a decade.

The path to yesterday's dividend started back in 2003 when Oxford graduate and former investment banker Cameron O'Reilly raised AU$100m (€75m) in seed capital for a venture called Bayard Capital.

The money came from just a handful of investors, including his father Sir Anthony O'Reilly. Early investors came into the deal despite his almost complete lack of a track record in a sector that his company eventually came to dominate.

"Sometimes there's nothing like a bit of ignorance about a sector to spot its potential," Cameron O'Reilly told the Irish Independent last night.

With green issues coming to the fore worldwide and most utility meters running on hundred-year-old technology the former media executive had spotted an opportunity.

In Ireland, Cameron O'Reilly is probably the least well-known of the O'Reilly family but his first backers read like a who's who of Australian business, and the media sector in particular.

Those initial investors included the Fairfax family, who are behind Australia's Fairfax Media, the Smorgon family which controls a billion euro industrial group, and Australian Capital Equity -- a vehicle set up by Kerry Stokes, a media mogul in his own right.

Prior to the establishment of the company, Mr O'Reilly was already a fixture in Australian business circles due to his position as CEO of Australian media group APN, which is part-owned by Independent News and Media.

Mr O'Reilly was born in Dublin but raised in Ireland the US and the UK. A dual Australian citizen thanks to his mother he now divides his time between Landis + Gyr's main base in Switzerland and the US, and his home in Australia.

Those early backers have been joined over the years by a second set of more conservative institutional investors -- a mix of bank, pensions and even the governments of Dubai and Singapore. Ahead of yesterday's sale the main shareholders were German insurer Allianz Capital Partners, Kerry Stokes' Australian Capital Equity, DLJ Merchant Banking, Dubai International Capital, the Fairfax family's Marinya Holdings, Sir Douglas Myers, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, Belgian investor Sofina, and the biggest single shareholder the New South Wales pension fund.

By the time the summer ends the group will share in one of Australia and Ireland's biggest corporate pay days.

Last night Mr O'Reilly said while he had stepped down as CEO, he wouldn't be completely exiting the business. As well as staying on as deputy executive chairman until the takeover closes he is earmarked to continue working with Toshiba in a non-executive role.

"I hope to help Toshiba ambitions in smart-grid," he said.

Irish Independent

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