Clyne's oldies but goldies thrill AGM

The chief executive of NAB, Cameron Clyne, attempted to make a virtue out of repeating stale lines and tired cliches at the bank's annual meeting in Adelaide yesterday.

The chief executive of NAB, Cameron Clyne, attempted to make a virtue out of repeating stale lines and tired cliches at the bank's annual meeting in Adelaide yesterday.

"I haven't said anything new today and that's a good thing," Clyne told shareholders in his address.

"It is important you continue to hear the same clear message because we are committed to staying the course with our strategic agenda, which has driven this year's good result and given us a solid base for 2012."

There are hopes that Clyne will remain on autopilot for next year's annual meeting. The chairman of NAB, Michael Chaney, also said nothing new when he commented on the "contention that banks make super profits and have no right to increase interest rates".

"It is very disappointing that all parties in the Federal Parliament see it as being in their interest to use banks as a political football," the West Coast Eagles fan said.

At the 2010 annual meeting, Chaney whinged: "Such criticism is unjustified and unfair."

LOT ON HER PLATE

The former Macquarie investment banker Melannie Pyzik has still got it. At a dinner party with a bunch of her former colleagues this week, Pyzik was challenged to relive her glory days. One of the guests produced a 900 gram Christmas pudding, putting the former champion of the Macquarie Bank staff Christmas cake-eating competition on the spot.

The petite Pyzik had beaten men twice her size to set the record for eating a Christmas cake at the competition, which has become one of the biggest cultural events on the Macquarie calendar. But that was several years ago.

At this week's dinner party, Pyzik ended up sitting down to about 500 grams of Christmas cake, according to insiders. She devoured the cake in 1 minute and 30 seconds with no cutlery.

This was a better split time than her Macquarie record. Legend has it that Pyzik was hand-picked by Macquarie chief executive Nick Moore into her old role after he observed the speed at which she wolfed down a very large breakfast at her desk outside his office.

Pyzik (who obviously has a fast metabolism) is now the chief executive of the newly formed Skin Cancer Network, a charity which aims to reduce the high incidence of skin cancer in Australia.

The charity has already secured $3 million in funding from the foundation set up by the Billabong founder Gordon Merchant. The network's ambassadors include Nick Moore, the former QBE chairman John Cloney and Ramsay Health Care director Pat Grier.

OUT OF COURT

The founder and former chief executive of the imploded Gold Coast financial concern City Pacific, Phil Sullivan, has dropped his legal challenge against the financial regulator.

Sullivan launched action in the Federal Court in October against the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which was seeking to examine him under Section 19 of the ASIC Act.

Sullivan's legal team upped the ante last month, when it accused ASIC of "abuse of process", suggesting it had possibly colluded with the investment manager that replaced City Pacific as the responsible entity of its flagship mortgage fund in 2009, Trilogy Funds Management.

Justice Peter Jacobson did not appear too impressed. "That's a bald allegation. How can you justify that? It's an extraordinary allegation." Sullivan dropped the action on Tuesday.

LOW ENERGY

It is probably one John Kinghorn-related party offer that is no longer looking so low-ball.

Aside from the former RHG Limited chairman's planned buy-back of the mortgage lender being sunk by shareholders this year, there was another deal that was scuttled early this year.

That was the proposed $486 million mostly scrip acquisition by White Energy (of which Kinghorn is a director) of Cascade Coal (of which Kinghorn is a director and 14 per cent shareholder).

The Cascade deal, which was scuttled in April before going to a shareholder vote, would have seen Kinghorn and his fellow White Energy directors Travers Duncan, Brian Flannery, John McGuigan and John Atkinson (who also had sizeable stakes in Cascade) take a 35 per cent stake in the merged group.

White Energy yesterday was probably reminded of the deal yesterday when it was queried by the ASX over the sudden unexplained slump in its share price to 35?.

Its shares have fallen more than 85 per cent since the Cascade deal was abandoned. The planned takeover wanted to issue White Energy shares to Cascade at $3.85 each.

FAINT PRAISE

The tough questions were coming thick and fast at the Orica annual meeting in Melbourne yesterday.

Aside from receiving several probing questions on the company's response to the series of incidents at its Kooragang Island plant in Newcastle, the Orica chairman Peter Duncan had to deal with one dogged shareholder who admitted he had some "gripes".

"I noticed most of the directors were too tired to stand up when you were introduced, except Nora [Scheinkestel]," said the shareholder to Duncan. "I hope they are not too tired when the directors' meetings take place."

To which Duncan responded: "That's because of all the hard work they've been doing on your behalf."

Later in the meeting, the same shareholder asked: "That horrible substitute for music that you exposed us to, was that the

worst thing you could find before the meeting?"

After complaining that

the Orica annual report did not spell out where its various directors lived (nor their ages) and asking if the company had sold any products to an "infamous" arms and explosives dealer who died two months ago, the shareholder said: "Apart from that, I think you are doing a terrific job."

Got a tip? srochfort@smh.com.au

This is the final CBD column for 2011.

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