As private equity giants go after Australia's non-banker lenders, a new name has popped up on the radar.
Meet Consolidated Operations Group; a little-talked about Sydney-based financier that is tucked away on the city's north shore and away from the CBD and its tall towers.
Consolidated Operations Group has a growing portfolio of investments in finance brokers and asset finance aggregators, with $3.4 billion of new asset finance settled through its broking aggregation platforms last financial year. Its primary business is as a broker aggregator, but has another arm that specialises in financing commercial equipment.
The company has been quickly snapping up stakes in other business, spreading its footprint at a time when banks are backing away from lending to small and medium sized enterprises.
It is understood to have also crept on to the radar of some large offshore capital providers, who are either searching for ways into the Australian market or looking to boost their existing businesses.
Sources said the level of interest in Consolidated Operations Group had intensified in the past three months - although there was a significant bid/ask spread that had prevented the talks getting too serious.
It is understood Consolidated Operations Group's board - spearheaded by ex WHK Horwath Sydney Limited chairman Bruce Hatchman - and its shareholders thinks the company is worth well more than its $134 million market capitalisation.
As for the potential acquirers, there are a handful of similar deals which shows where the interest lies.
Should activity heat up, Consolidated Operations Group would be expected to put a call into Macquarie Capital. It is understood the Australian investment bank is well known to a handful of the lender's directors - although sources said there was no formal defence mandate yet.
Despite its low profile, Consolidated Operations Group has been able to attract some institutional investors. Its biggest shareholder is NAOS Asset Management, which has a 21.6 per cent stake, while Sandon Capital owns another 9.2 per cent.
The company is funded by Bendigo Bank and issued debentures through Secured Finance Ltd, according to its most recent annual report.
Important Information: This material has been prepared by NAOS Asset Management Limited (ABN 23 107 624 126, AFSL 273529 and is provided for general information purposes only and must not be construed as investment advice. It does not take into account the investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. Before making an investment decision, investors should consider obtaining professional investment advice that is tailored to their specific circumstances.