SYDNEY, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Australian mining magnate Nathan Tinkler agreed on Tuesday to pay property firm Mirvac Group A$17 million over a disputed land purchase, avoiding a public court case with the last minute deal, the second in weeks.
Tinkler’s Ocean Street Holdings and guarantor Buildev agreed to pay Mirvac the money next Monday, Oct. 29, and consented to a court-appointed sequestrator taking charge of the companies’ assets if they fail to do so.
The case is one of a handful of recent lawsuits over missed payments brought against Tinkler, 36, a former coal mining electrician who built up a mining, sports club and horse racing empire after turning a A$1 million bet on an unfancied coal deposit into a billion dollar fortune.
Tinkler recently relocated to a leafy enclave in Singapore and his wealth has plummeted in recent months amid cooling demand for coal from Australia’s major export market China.
His largest asset, a 21.4 percent stake in Australia’s biggest independent coal company Whitehaven Coal, has shrunk in value from about A$1.2 billion at its peak to less than A$700 million, is heavily leveraged and creditors are circling, sources have told Reuters.
The young tycoon is selling hundreds of horses from his horse breeding and racing company, Australia’s biggest, Patinack Farm, at an out-of-season sale next week.
The agreement reached with Mirvac prevents details of Tinkler’s finances being made public during an open court hearing, which had been scheduled to begin in the New South Wales (NSW) state Supreme Court on Tuesday.
It follows a similar last minute settlement reached over a A$2 million debt owed by three other Tinkler firms - Tinkler Group Holdings, Hunter Ports and Bolkm - to mining services company Sedgman shortly before a scheduled hearing in the Queensland Supreme Court.
A lawyer for Mirvac, Ian Jackman, told the NSW court on Tuesday that the company would apply to the court for a sequestrator next week “in the event the expected settlement does not occur”.
Details of the agreement were private, but a source close to the negotiations told Reuters it would include interest payments and that Tinkler’s companies had agreed to pay court costs.
Mirvac took action after Ocean Street agreed to purchase a block of land in northern New South Wales as part of a rail corridor to a former steelworks site where Tinkler planned to build a coal-loader. Ocean Street failed to complete the purchase when the state government nixed the coal-loader project and missed a court-ordered deadline for payment on Sept. 1.
In other upcoming cases, coal miner Blackwood Resources is seeking to wind up another Tinkler company, Mulsanne Resources, over A$24 million it says it is owed in a share deal.
Hamish Collins, a former CEO of Aston Resources, is suing the company for A$157.4 million after alleging Tinkler reneged on a promise to hand over the equivalent of 5 percent of the value of the company’s main mining assets.
The lawsuit was before Aston’s takeover by Whitehaven and Collins’ lawyers have said they will pursue Whitehaven.
Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Michael Perry