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Brambles Shares Jump on Bid Talk, Asciano Buys Stake

Shares in Australia's Brambles, the world's biggest pallet supplier, jumped 11% after news Asciano and its former parent Toll Holdings had bought stakes in the company fuelled takeover speculation.

Asciano -- Australia's biggest ports operator, which is on the hunt for new rail and port assets since being spun off from Toll in June -- said it owned a 1.76% stake in Brambles.

Brambles earlier said Asciano subsidiaries had built up a 1.2% stake. It later said Toll had a separate holding of 5.1 million shares, or less than 0.4% of Brambles' stock. Brambles shares jumped as much as 11.7% -- their biggest one-day percentage rise in more than four years.

Brambles has been the target of takeover speculation since it exited the London stock market last year, creating a single Australian holding company.

Analysts have said it is a potential target for private equity following the recent fall in its share price, strong cashflow and dominance in the global pallet market. Brambles said it had been told Asciano and Toll were not working together.

"Toll Holdings has advised Brambles that it has no particular plan with respect to its Brambles shareholding but has declined to provide Brambles with any assurance as to its future intentions," Brambles said in a statement.

Brambles said it had revealed the Asciano holding as part of a regular share analysis. It said Asciano subsidiary National Rail Consortium held almost 16 million Brambles shares. The shares were registered in the name of a Macquarie Bank subsidiary and were purchased since June 29.

Macquarie Bank also told Brambles that another Asciano subsidiary, MS Corporate Services, had an interest in a further 1.6 million Brambles shares, Brambles said.

Brambles' new chief executive, Michael Ihlein, last week outlined plans to speed up growth of its existing businesses and a new management structure for its core CHEP pallet business.

Brambles has generated US$3.6 billion from selling its waste management, material handling and logistics businesses in the past two years and grown the U.S. arm of its core CHEP business.

Asciano owns the infrastructure assets and ports which Toll Holdings inherited when it acquired Patrick Corp last year. Asciano said in April it was eyeing international acquisitions in the rail and ports sectors.

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