SYDNEY Nov 1 Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler is
seeking to seize control of the board of Australia's Whitehaven
Coal and install his own management team, the
Australian Financial Review reported, setting the stage for a
fiery annual general meeting of the company on Thursday.
Tinkler told the paper he would seek support from other
shareholders to vote against the re-election of Chairman Mark
Vaile and four other directors at the meeting so he can take
over as chairman and bring in his own team.
The 36-year-old, who went from pit electrician to
Australia's youngest billionaire, has a 19.4 percent stake in
Whitehaven, acquired after it took over two companies he
controlled, Aston Resources and Boardwalk Resources, in a $2.5
billion deal in April.
Tinkler, who failed to secure funding for a $5.5 billion bid
to take Whitehaven private in August, told the paper the current
management team was "penny-wise and pound foolish."
"I've got far too much invested to stand by and watch this
thing continue to fail," Tinkler was quoted as saying from his
new home in Singapore.
A source close to Tinkler Group said the tycoon would not
attend Thursday's meeting in Sydney.
The young tycoon wrote an open letter to shareholders in
Australia's biggest independent coal miner, published in
newspapers on Wednesday, to condemn a 44 percent fall in
Whitehaven's share price, or A$2.3 billion ($2.4 billion) drop
in market capitalisation, since April 30.
Whitehaven shares are now trading barely above A$3.00 as it
faces rising costs, a slump in coal prices, an uncertain demand
outlook, and difficulties on a key mine expansion.
Tinkler, who has been embroiled in a number of legal actions
in recent months over missed payments to creditors, defended his
own finances. He told the paper that suggestions he owed $250
million "is just not the case."
On Wednesday, Whitehaven Managing Director Tony Haggarty
slammed Tinkler's open letter, saying his "comments contain many
serious inaccuracies, inconsistencies and highly misleading
Whitehaven was not immediately available for a response to
the latest comments by Tinkler.
Whitehaven warned last week after prodding by Tinkler that
its profits could slide this year if coal prices weaken.
Tinkler had sought confirmation that the company's outlook
for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization
was close to the market consensus of A$188 million, which the
company did say was in line with its current projections.
Whitehaven warned, however, that if coal prices stay as weak
as they are now, EBITDA for the year to June 2013 could slide to
Most of Tinkler's wealth is tied up in his Whitehaven stake,
worth about A$1.1 billion at its peak and now just A$600
million, with creditors circling his stable of mining, sports
and horse racing businesses.
(Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by John Mair)