THE DISTILLERY: Tinkler tirades

The commentariat shames Nathan Tinkler but won't bet against him, and there's little excitement about the latest retail figures.

A handful of Australia’s business commentators are trying to extrapolate what the implications are for Nathan Tinkler’s broader coal empire, with a small private company of his in liquidation. Ultimately, they can’t write off the former electrician and known punter. But everyone is in agreement that this is an embarrassing revelation about his cashflow problems.

The Australian Financial Review’s Matthew Stevens says Tinkler hasn’t reached the "go broke” moment just yet.

"Embarrassing, certainly. Indicative of the big fella’s continuing problems with creditors and cash flow? Yep, no doubt. And potentially perilous for Tinkler personally and his eponymous investment company? Yes that too. But the NSW Supreme Court’s decision to appoint liquidators to the vehicle through which Tinkler planned to invest $28.4 million on a placement of 33.85 per cent of coal junior Blackwood Corporation still leaves Tinkler room enough to exercise control over his own fate.”

The Australian Financial Review’Jamie Freed points out that Tinkler has had a few close shaves so far and come out of them relatively unharmed.

"The real key to his financial future is likely to lie in the hands of Farallon Capital’s Ray Zage, the Singapore-based hedge fund manager who holds debt over Tinkler’s 19.4 per cent stake in Whitehaven Coal.”

Fairfax’s Paddy Manning similarly observes that Tinkler has been "written off before,” as he lays out the potential consequences for the young coal baron.

"If laid and proved, Tinkler could be fined or held personally liable for the debt of his private company Mulsanne Resources – now in the hands of liquidators Ferrier Hodgson – and, ultimately, find himself banned from acting as a company director. If he was found to have acted dishonestly, Tinkler could even face jail. That's a way off yet, but what is clear is that the $28.4 million Mulsanne owed to Blackwood was a bridge too far for Tinkler and his empire. For once, he could not come up with the cash. For the past two months business journalists have been trundling in and out of various courtrooms as Tinkler's lawyers used delaying tactics, only to settle at the last possible moment. Each time Tinkler has settled, the question remains – where has he been getting the money from? Last month, the sale of a development site in North Richmond by Buildev brought in $15 million.”

Meanwhile, The Australian’s Richard Gluyas is talking about another coal tycoon's legal woes. The News Limited writer explains that, as Clive Palmer sees it, his royalty disagreement with Citic Pacific has been blown out of proportion.

"All he wants is for the West Australian Supreme Court to clarify the meaning of a single word – ‘take’ – in a 2006 agreement enabling Citic to mine billions of tonnes of magnetite iron ore. Does ‘take’ mean taken from the ground, as Palmer argues, or does it contemplate the start of production, when the construction of the facility to process the ore is finished? If Palmer is right, his entitlement to royalty A – which is the less lucrative one compared to the riches flowing from royalty B if the project reaches full production – reaches way back to 2008, when Citic started moving earth.”

Sticking with company news, Fairfax’s Elizabeth Knight puts the tepid sales numbers from Myer and David Jones into a broader context about online retail competitors and the Reserve Bank’s interest rate outlook.

The Australian’s Bryan Frith has an interesting yarn about the takeover battle for Talison Lithium, born out of Sons of Gwalia.

Meanwhile, The Australian’s John Durie looks at the competing interests and jurisdictions of regulators and senior government officials concerning the collapse of Bankdia. It’s a really good piece.

The Australian’s Barry Fitzgerald also has a terrific yarn about the legend of Lasseter’s Reef. It’s supposed to be a site of intense gold deposits that was apparently first sited in central Australia 80 years ago.

In actual fact, this is the introduction to a broader piece about the legend of Stansmore’s diamond. Regardless, fans of adventure fiction will be all over this story.

And finally, The Australian Financial Review’s Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd says his takeaway from the business lunch his newspaper held yesterday is that corporate Australia’s relationship with the federal government is not broken. But there is a "disconnect,” and the Gillard government relies too heavily on the talent of a small handful of minister; namely, Finance Minister Penny Wong, Energy Minister Martin Ferguson and Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten.

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