Silence suggests WRT vote is close

No news may not be good news for the Lowy family, with the vote on a massive restructure still too close to call.

The almost eerie silence ahead of tomorrow’s Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) meeting tells you the votes are still too close to call or someone would be blabbing.

Logic says the Lowy family will win the vote because that was the whole point in delaying the meeting to give it more time to drum up the handful of votes needed to get the ticket passed.

The investment banks involved, including UBS, would obviously prefer to get the original deal passed because that guarantees a success fee, so the incentives are clear.

But both sides are reporting today that the vote is still too close to call.

Voter turnout is obviously crucial, but after 81.5 per cent turned up last time it will be difficult to get a higher vote when you consider the average for all big companies in schemes of arrangement is close to a 70 per cent turnout.

WRT is unusual because the top 20 holders account for 87 per cent of the stock, which is high, and while some of those would be managers for mums and dads, the fact is professional ownership and interest is high.

Last time round the Lowy family had 74.1 per cent support, just short of the 75 per cent required. Chairman Dick Warburton deferred the vote on the spurious ground there was new information, in that Frank Lowy had said defeat would mean he would revert to plan “B”, which was to proceed with the split but creating an externally managed vehicle in Australia.

This was not new news, but BT, which is voting in favour of the deal, suggested to Warburton it was and he leapt at the chance to delay the vote.

The Lowy team argued many WRT shareholders were still hoping Frank would back down some more and his definitive statement was a change.

This was shoddy governance, and sadly if the deal gets through tomorrow the stench will remain around a vehicle which is, to all intents, a worthwhile venture.

The issue is the cost of the split for the WRT shareholders which don’t include the Lowy family.

This issue should be settled by a clear vote and hopefully that will happen tomorrow.

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