Australia’s Whitehaven in halt amid Tinkler row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 11:37am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 11:37am

Australia’s Whitehaven Coal was placed in a trading halt on Wednesday after major shareholder Nathan Tinkler reportedly threatened to oust directors without an urgent financial update.

Whitehaven, formerly a takeover target of Tinkler’s, requested a freeze on its shares until Friday “pending the release of an announcement” the Australian Securities Exchange said.

It follows reports that Singapore-based mining magnate Tinkler, one of Australia’s richest young entrepreneurs, had written to the firm’s chairman Mark Vaile this week demanding a detailed update on operational and financial matters.

Tinkler is Whitehaven’s single largest shareholder, with a 19.4 per cent stake, and reports said the self-made coal baron had threatened to vote against the re-election of five directors if his demands were not met.

A spokesman for Tinkler, 36, who owns the Newcastle Jets football team and Newcastle Knights rugby league club, told AFP he had no comment on reports that said Whitehaven had been given until close of business Thursday to respond.

Tinkler pulled out of a A$5.3 billion (US$5.4 billion) Whitehaven takeover in August and its shares have since plunged seven per cent, reducing the value of his stake against which he is reported to have leveraged loans.

Whitehaven’s stock has plummeted 40 per cent this year, and Tinkler has reportedly sought confirmation of the firm’s A$188 million earnings guidance and of its quarterly earnings and production ahead of next week’s annual general meeting.

Built on a series of canny coal transactions, Tinkler’s fortune has more than halved over the past 12 months at a rate of A$2 million a day as coal prices have plunged on slowing demand, leaving him with significant debts.

His personal wealth is now estimated at A$400 million, according to the respected Business Review Weekly annual index of Australia’s rich, published last month.

It would not be the first time Tinkler has manoeuvred against a company board; he has previously engineered changes at both Aston Resources and Coalworks.



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