Aust Infrastructure's demise

An infrastructure fund with funds and no assets. To wind up or not to wind up? That is the question.

Tony Abbott's ascension to high office and his desire to be known as an infrastructure Prime Minister has occurred just as a battle has erupted over the proposed winding up of the ASX-listed Australian Infrastructure Fund (AIX).

Managed by Hastings, the fund earlier this year sold all its assets – minority interests in airports in each of Australia's major cities and a range of regional towns along with Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Athens – to the Future Fund.

The bulk of the proceeds was distributed to shareholders in March. But a residual amount remains outstanding which the board proposes to hand out, along with a dividend, before winding up the company.

The winding up, however, has long been opposed by major shareholder Wilson Asset Management, which this week called a meeting of shareholders to spill the board and keep the company alive after the distribution by exploring recapitalisation measures.

"We believe the current board's plan to delist and liquidate the company is not in the best interest of all shareholders," WAM chairman Geoff Wilson wrote in a letter to shareholders.

"We believe that superior outcomes may be available to AIX shareholders if the company is not liquidated."

Current chairman, veteran investment banker Paul Espie, has promised to call a meeting within 21 days and hold it within 2 months, reiterating that the current board's determination is to return all available cash before the annual meeting on November 7.

WAM supports the return of capital. But it argues that even the shell has value and the cost of winding up the company is a waste of shareholder funds.

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