June 1, 2018 / 2:36 AM / 17 days ago

Australia's Quintis handed lifeline by BlackRock-led bondholders

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Bondholders led by BlackRock Inc have agreed to inject capital into Quintis Ltd and take it private, rescuing the Australian sandalwood firm after it collapsed in the wake of a short-seller attack.

Between A$125 million and A$175 million ($95 million to $132 million) in capital will be provided and the bondholders will acquire control of the company, administrator McGrathNicol said in a statement.

“It is expected that the proposal will be supported by growers, employees and creditors whose rights and long term interests are protected,” the statement said.

It added that the proposal will make available a pool of funds to provide a return to unsecured creditors.

BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager and the largest Quintis bondholder, declined to comment.

Quintis was hit with one of the most aggressive shortselling attacks seen to date in Australia, when Glaucus Research Group said in March 2017 that its shares were worthless and suggested that a Chinese client was not a bonafide sandalwood buyer.

Quintis said at the time that the Glaucus report was inaccurate and unfounded, but it went into administration in January after it was unable to make a payment to one of its bondholders. It had also terminated its contract with the Chinese client.

The company owns sandalwood plantations in northern Australia and oil from the trees is sold to India and China for fragrances, cosmetics and medicinal uses.

Formerly known as TFS Corp, it is one of the last remaining publicly listed managed investment schemes in Australia.

Timbercorp Ltd and several other large forestry schemes have also collapsed, with their investment models criticized for frequently involving small investors borrowing money for high-risk operations.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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