SYDNEY, June 20 A senior executive at Wilmar
International Ltd, the world's biggest producer of
palm oil, emerged on Thursday as a significant shareholder in
Australia's Whitehaven Coal Ltd.
A filing to the Australian Stock Exchange showed Martua
Sitorus and companies associated with the Indonesian billionaire
hold a 5.826 percent stake in Whitehaven after purchasing shares
from former major shareholder Nathan Tinkler. U.S. hedge fund
Farallon Capital Management picked up 9.9 percent of Whitehaven,
increasing its holding to 16.6 percent.
The removal of Tinkler from the Whitehaven share register
has raised speculation that the company could become a takeover
target, although Farallon and other lenders would likely want a
recovery in the share price before selling out.
The filing said that Sitorus, Golden Parklane Ltd, Bolney
Enterprises Ltd and Burlingham International Ltd, all located at
the same address in Singapore, bought a total of 9.53 million
shares from Tinkler's Aston Resources Investments Pty Ltd and
Boardwalk Resources Investments Pty Ltd. The group paid A$28.21
million ($26.90 million) for the stock.
Tinkler, a former mining pit electrician who turned a $1
million bet on a coal tenement into a $1 billion fortune, was
forced to sell his almost 20 percent stake in Whitehaven to
lenders to pay off most of a $634 million debt.
Sitorus, 53, currently Wilmar's chief operating officer, is
due to step down from that position to become executive deputy
chairman of the company on July 1.
When Wilmar announced the switch last month, it said
Sitorus, a co-founder of the company, was stepping down to focus
more time on his family business.
($1 = 1.0486 Australian dollars)
(Reporting By Jane Wardell)