* Patinack Farm to sell more horses, close stable
* Tinkler facing court deadlines on creditor payments
By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY, Nov 14 The horse breeding and racing
company owned by Australian mining mogul Nathan Tinkler will
sell hundreds more of its horses and shut down a key stable to
cut costs, a further sign of financial trouble in the embattled
Patinack Farm, Australia's largest thoroughbred racing and
stud operation, said on Friday it plans to reduce headcount to
as low as 800 from 1,300 as part of a sweeping review of the
business - a move which follows the sale of 350 of its horses at
knock-down prices earlier this month.
Tinkler, a former coal mining electrician who made a billion
dollar fortune from a A$1 million bet on a coal deposit, has
become a symbol of wider woes in the Australian mining industry
as it tries to deal with a drop-off in demand from major export
market China after a decade-long boom.
The 36-year-old's wealth has dwindled in line with falling
coal prices and creditors are circling his mining, sports and
horse racing empire.
The intensely private tycoon, who recently moved to
Singapore, has managed to avoid public hearings over a series of
multimillion dollar lawsuits brought by creditors in recent
weeks by reaching last minute out-of-court settlements.
The downsizing of loss-making Patinack comes ahead of a key
week in the courts with two more creditors threatening to
proceed with legal action if payments totalling around A$28.5
million are not made.
Coal explorer Blackwood Corp Ltd is demanding
payment from unit Mulsanne Resources and security firm Internet
Fraud Watchdog is demanding payment from Tinkler Group Holdings.
Two sources with knowledge of the lawsuits told Reuters that
Tinkler is awaiting funds from offshore to pay off those debts.
They declined to be identified as the matters were before the
Tinkler also faces some other smaller cases that have yet to
Most of Tinkler's wealth is tied up in a heavily leveraged
stake in Australia's largest independent coal miner, Whitehaven
Coal. The value of that 19.4 percent holding has
slumped to around A$600 million from A$1.1 billion at its peak.
Tinkler this month failed to convince others to join a drive
to oust Whitehaven's chairman and independent directors, whom he
blames for a halving of the company's share price since April,
when it acquired Tinkler's Aston Resources.
A bold A$5.3 billion bid in June to take Whitehaven private
fell apart after Tinkler failed to bring sufficient equity
investors on board, sources with direct knowledge of the deal
told Reuters at the time.
Under Australian takeover rules, the tycoon, who has denied
interview requests since the Whitehaven board meeting, c an make
another approach in January but it remains unclear if he will.
Tinkler, who had long held a dream to make it big in the
"sport of kings", splashed out more than A$300 million since
2007 to build Patinack, including A$19 million on 59 horses at
one sale in 2008.
The plan to close its Melbourne stable and hold further
auctions is unlikely to recoup anywhere near the money Tinkler
has paid out in the purchases and for the upkeep of the horses.
Australian media has previously reported that he tried to
offload his entire racing business at a loss to a Qatari sheikh.
Racing Queensland Ltd said this week that Patinack had
handed over prize money to pay debts while Racing Victoria
forced Tinkler to pay more than A$1 million in outstanding
monies before allowing his horse to race in the highly regarded
Caulfield Cup earlier this month.
"All Too Hard" went on to win the race, earning almost the
equivalent of the debt.
Patinack Farm trainer John Thompson said in a recent radio
interview that the operation had been surviving on prize money.
"I have gone weeks without farriers, bedding, run out of
feed a number of times," Thompson said.
"It's a cash flow problem," he added. "Nathan is obviously
very wealthy but it's all paper sort of value."
(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)