Seeing double? No trouble

Confusion reigns over Lew's takeover offer, says Michael Evans

Confusion reigns over Lew's takeover offer, says Michael Evans

PERHAPS rag trader Solomon Lew is a fan of the film Lost In Translation. How else to explain the confused state of affairs stemming from Lew's increased takeover offer for Just Group, lobbed from the comfort of a dinghy off Italy's coast last week?

At the behest of the Takeovers Panel, Lew's Premier Investments ped a line to Just shareholders to clarify a few issues stemming from the increased offer. Chief among them is the unfortunate matter of some double counting of the increased consideration.

Perhaps Lew simply dialled in his offer in Italian and the translator fumbled the ball.

Still, we've heard of stranger things than seeing double after enjoying a of Italian chianti.

The double counting involves Premier's promised dividend cherry on top of its offer should acceptances reach 90 per cent. But it appears someone forgot to take it off the other side of the ledger from the value of Premier's scrip.

Premier maintains it's just a question of methodology, but was kind enough to point out the difference between its valuation of his offer and what Just says it is worth. "You should bear in mind that our methodology generally results in higher values than the methodology for which Just has argued," Lew wrote.

We can only wonder what else Sol has been double counting. Perhaps his acceptances - currently at 1.1 per cent.

Scars of sky wars

Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford fronted yesterday's changing of the guard bearing the scars of battle. Sticking plaster adorned his left ear and he had markings across his nose and face.

Rather than carrying wounds from removing Geoff Dixon against his will from the pilot's seat, Scarface fessed he'd instead had a few sun spots removed last week.

"I didn't expect it to look like this," he admitted, adding: "I hope you're going to airbrush this out of your photographs."

New boss Alan Joyce sympathised, noting he had the same pale skin as Clifford - only to draw a rebuke from his chairman. Clifford's ancestory is, in fact, Scottish. Joyce recovered, introducing himself as as cost-conscious low-cost airline scrooge, noting of his days at Aer Lingus: "Three people used to share a teabag at Aer Lingus . I used to be the last one to get a dip, as the youngest."

Free drinks in Wagga

Geoff Dixon may have missed out on the gazillions from last year's failed private equity buyout, but he should be able to shout a round of drinks at Wagga's Turvey Tavern.

Having earned $6.1 million last year, Dicko leaves with cash, stock and entitlements of about $18 million. Not to mention four free international and six domestic trips a year for life.

Well into yesterday's briefing, Dicko was asked how he felt. "It's time to move on," he sighed, adding: "The king is dead, long live the king. I was a bit worried I wasn't going to get a question."

Oddly, chairman Clifford didn't hug Dicko, as has been recent Qantas custom. Meanwhile, Qantas moneybags Peter Gregg may be interested in an ad in this week's The Economist. Drukair, Royal Bhutan Airlines, is after a new chief financial officer who stands to earn up to $1700 per month. Not quite the riches of private equity.

Mind that language

Mike Smith came not to praise John Macfarlane and Steve Targett, merely to bury the former ANZ executives. Detailing the small matter of a billion-buck writedown, the ANZ boss complained: "What is really irritating is we're having to spend so much time on remedial action." Smith simply shrugged his shoulders. What's a guy to do? He's been in the gig for 10 months but he's still faced with all these legacy issues.

He threatened to swear his head off - "this writedown warrants the kind of language I've become renowned for". But he refrained. Odd, though, that he didn't provide any update on how Targett's unfair dismissal claim was going.

The ties that bind

Family is important at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The company's notice of meeting filed yesterday contains related party transaction details including: wife Wendi's $US100,000 ($105,000) salary for advising on MySpace in China; daughter Elisabeth's TV production company Shine Group earning $US453,000 in fees; son-in-law Matthew Freud's Freud Communications earning $US670,000 in advisory fees; daughter Prudence's advisory fees for sitting on the board of Advertiser Newspapers; and, son-in-law Alasdair MacLeod's role as MD of Nationwide News.

Oh, and son Lachlan had "personal security" expenses paid as part of his two-year non-compete arrangement after leaving the company in 2005.

Picking RAMS remains

Apparently there's still a slivver of meat on the heaving RAMS carcass. The latest to enjoy a feed is Glenn Goddard, the new boss of the renamed RHG. Goddard has been left to manage the old loan book Westpac didn't want when it picked the eyes out of the lender following its collapse weeks after it listed. Goddard will earn $500,000 a year to manage a loan book that hasn't written a new loan since it went belly up. In addition he's scored a tidy 10 million options, including a first bundle of 4 million shares that are already happily in the money. The exercise price for all of the options is 10c. Happily for Goddard, RHG closed at 12c.

It's the generosity of biblical proportions that the RAMS founder John Kinghorn knows too well.

After all, Leghorn recently tidied up some of his affairs in the RAMS remains, RHG. Aside from a fat wallet, Kinghorn was left with 20 per cent in RAMS after selling the bulk of his stake. When RAMS went belly up, Kinghorn found a charitable use for his RHG stake.

Just before the end of the financial year, he gifted half of his remaining stake, about $4 million worth, to another Kinghorn, Geoffrey. Now the Kinghorns are walking two by two at RHG, with Foghorn shepherding his own flock through financial waters.

The generosity will no doubt be noted around the Kinghorn family Christmas table, with the added benefit of writing off the disposal as a tax loss against his earlier RAMS gains.

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