InvestSMART
The Intelligent Investor Growth Fund is listing on the ASX. Initial Offer closes Friday.

Aston options better than a sack of coal

One can only guess whether the Aston Resources chief executive, Todd Hannigan, and chief financial officer, Tom Todd, saw any silver linings yesterday when they were "resigned" by Aston's larger than life shareholder Nathan Tinkler.

One can only guess whether the Aston Resources chief executive, Todd Hannigan, and chief financial officer, Tom Todd, saw any silver linings yesterday when they were "resigned" by Aston's larger than life shareholder Nathan Tinkler.

While many "resigned" employees would be happy to make do just with the six months' severance pay Hannigan and Todd are entitled to, the automatic vesting of their long-term incentive options should enable the two to get by well into next year.

Hannigan, who already owns 4.39 million shares worth around $42 million, will see all his 4.36 million options (originally due to be vested next year) vested.

The first tranche of 2.18 million options are exercisable at $5.96 and the second swag of 2.18 million options are exercisable at $8.94.

This means that despite yesterday's share price slide, Hannigan should expect to cash in about $10 million from his options.

Hannigan's six months' worth of severance pay looks like loose change. So too does Todd's.

The ousted chief financial officer will also cash in about $10 million from his options.

A spokesman for the coal company stressed the long-term incentive plan had been signed off by the company's foundation shareholders, and that Aston had put on $1 billion of market capitalisation since its listing in August last year.

Hannigan and Todd's farewell package could be one of the biggest golden brooms so far this financial year. Meanwhile Aston, which owns 85 per cent of the yet-to-open Maules Creek mine in the Gunnedah Basin, named the Tinkler-owned Boardwalk Resources boss Peter Kane as its interim chief executive.

SMOOTH EDGES

Tinkler, who will replace former Nationals leader Mark Vaile as Aston's chairman, put his best diplomatic foot forward in describing yesterday's "reorganisation".

"The company is coming out of the initial development phase and moving into a construction and operational phase," he said. "This requires a different and additional skill set."

The "reorganisation" also resulted in the former ABC Learning board member David Ryan replacing independent director Peter Hay. Vaile will sit below Tinkler in the deputy chairman's seat.

The Tinkler camp was also keen to circulate new photos of the 35-year-old Newcastle Knights owner. Aside from losing his scruffy goatie, Tinkler has lost about 40 kilograms.

THE LAW DID IT

If you thought the 1000 Australian workers recently laid off by BlueScope might be doing it tough, consider the plight of the steel company's management. BlueScope's chairman, Graham Kraehe, left it to his fellow director Diane Grady yesterday to detail the suffering endured by the company's executives.

"Executives have worn the pain of reduced remuneration in the past, without complaint," she said of senior management, who collected a meagre $3 million in short-term cash bonuses last year as BlueScope reported a $1.27 billion loss.

"They are not a greedy bunch. This year we felt it was fair, and wise, to recognise what they have achieved by paying some STI [short-term incentive]," Grady said. "It has not been easy money."

BlueScope's chief, Paul O'Malley, received a 4 per cent rise in base pay to $1.75 million last September. He also had to tough it out with a $720,000 short-term bonus and about $1 million in options and rights last financial year.

Grady, who heads BlueScope's remuneration committee, said awarding the bonuses was not an easy decision. "It was in the best interest of the company and, by law, directors have to act in the best interests of the company."

BlueScope shares have fallen more than two-thirds since February.

HAND OF RON

He hasn't yet even sat back in the chairman's seat but Sir Ron Brierley has already made his presence felt in a comeback corporate raid. A day after the 74-year-old former Guinness Peat Group boss revealed he had struck a deal to take a controlling stake in listed investment company India Equities Fund, the fund has emerged with a 10 per cent stake in Adelaide Managed Funds Asset Backed Yield Trust. It is hardly Sir Ron's biggest play, with the fund valued at $3 million. India is believed to want to build enough of a stake to block a proposal by Adelaide to delist.

Got a tip?

Email srochfort@smh.com.au


Join the Conversation...

There are comments posted so far.

If you'd like to join this conversation, please login or sign up here

Related Articles