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Moore is definitely less at Charter Hall

The omnipresence of the Macquarie Group chief executive, Nick Moore, is never far away - as it seemed yesterday at the annual results presentation for the property fund manager Charter Hall.

The omnipresence of the Macquarie Group chief executive, Nick Moore, is never far away - as it seemed yesterday at the annual results presentation for the property fund manager Charter Hall.

While the group appears to have exorcised the Macquarie demons from its two listed property funds formerly managed by the Silver Doughnut, it is still haunted.

During the analyst briefing for the property outfit's annual results yesterday, there was a rustling noise akin to someone listening but not wanting to be heard when they hung up. This led Charter Hall's joint head, David Harrison, to speculate: "That was probably Nick Moore's phone."

PREMIUM PUZZLE

There have been more astonishing disclosures surrounding the MFS-founded Premium Income Fund (PIF). Yesterday it was announced that a former director of the PIF's manager of the past three years - the Jenny Hutson-headed Wellington Capital - had snared a 6.44 per cent stake in the fund.

Neither Wellington nor the buyer, Craig Wallace, offered any explanation at all for the purchase of the 53.4 million units priced at 10?

a pop.

The purchase price just happens to coincide with the pricing of the massively dilutive raising announced by Wellington in May, which placed 75.5 million new units to "sophisticated investors" in May.

The raising - which was priced at a 70 per cent discount to the fund's net tangible asset backing - occurred just after the fund paid a 1? return ($7.5 million) to unitholders in the fund once worth $1 billion.

Hutson only needs to return another cent to be eligible to collect around $3.5 million in management fees.

The 6.44 per cent stake is held under the name of a company - Yuan Essentials - that was registered by Wallace only on Tuesday.

This was the same day Hutson issued a bizarre statement to the National (aka Newcastle) Stock Exchange arguing the class action related to the PIF "should be for those unitholders who suffered the loss to which the proceedings relate" or investors who held units before October 15, 2008.

The disclosure of Wallace's new substantial stake came as units in the fund surged 203 per cent to 20?. A former director of KPMG Corporate Finance, Wallace was a director of Wellington when it made its successful takeover of the PIF from its former manager MFS

in 2008.

Wallace's firm, Wallace Solutions, was accused in June of helping hire extras, at $26 an hour, to attend a PIF unit-holder meeting.

VIRGIN BERTH

Speculation was rife yesterday about whether it was Leighton's chief financial officer, Peter Gregg, who was responsible for signing the contractor's new travel account with Virgin Australia.

The John Borghetti-headed Virgin Australia confirmed it had signed a new corporate account with the engineering firm.

Borghetti - who missed out on the top job at Qantas to Alan Joyce - said there was "nothing sinister" in signing up an account with a company whose chief financial officer also missed out on the top job at Qantas to Joyce.

"I haven't seen Peter for a while," Borghetti said.

The deal came just as Gregg was summoned back from London in time for the axing of Leighton's chief executive of the past seven months, David Stewart.

Amid talk Stewart's predecessor Wal King could have played a part in the coup which led to the appointment of Hamish Tyrwhitt as chief executive, the hand of Wal was nowhere to be seen. It is believed he is on his annual pig hunting trip to the Northern Territory with his former Leighton chief financial officer Dieter Adamsas.

BET ON BLACK

Now that Len Ainsworth's latest pokie venture, Ainsworth Game Technology, has emphatically stated its intent to remain in the black after years of losses, the pokie industry legend might be able to loosen the apron strings a little.

Most of Ainsworth's life as a publicly listed company has been blighted by losses and the poker machine maker has relied on Len's charity to keep it afloat.

So much so that two years ago Len wrote into his will that a $40 million loan facility he has with the company cannot be called in until four years after his death.

After announcing its second profit upgrade on the trot yesterday (next week's annual result is expected to come in at $23.1 million), the company might finally be able to pay back its founder and move ahead under its own steam.

Not that the the youthful 88-year-old Len would be unhappy with the share price, which has doubled since the first profit upgrade in May.

It might not be the only change in store now that Ainsworth appears to have reached financial stability.

Last year's annual report mentioned that "the board intends to consider the succession of the chairperson when trading performance of the company is improved", hinting that independent director Stewart Wallis already had his batting pads on ready to replace Len at the crease.

But if he is feeling sprightly enough for one last tango at the corporate table, the rumoured tie-up between Ainsworth and the other company Len founded - Aristocrat Leisure - could give him reason to hang around.

Got a tip? Use our online tips box or email srochfort@smh.com.au Twitter: @srochfort


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