Who's the Queen Bee nibbling at food stocks?

Irrepressible Queensland investment banker Jenny Hutson appears to have put together an intriguing deal for an as-yet-unnamed investor who has spent more than $2.5 million to become the largest shareholder in both Peanut Company of Australia and Capilano Honey.

Irrepressible Queensland investment banker Jenny Hutson appears to have put together an intriguing deal for an as-yet-unnamed investor who has spent more than $2.5 million to become the largest shareholder in both Peanut Company of Australia and Capilano Honey.

Queen Street Nominees was revealed yesterday as the registered owner of 19.83 per cent of Peanut Co and as having accumulated a 12.7 per cent stake in the soon-to-be-ASX-listed Capilano - enriching former owner, Darren Olney-Fraser's Mariner Corporation, in the process.

Intriguingly, Queen Street Nominees did not say it was holding the stock on behalf of a client - as it did, for example, when it was representing Queensland childcare entrepreneur Doug Lomas when one of his vehicles became a substantial shareholder in G8 Education. G8 is a company that Hutson also happens to chair, so long as she gets re-elected at the annual meeting next month.

Lomas told Insider he was not the buyer of the food companies' shares, and Hutson would only say: "It is one of our clients who is interested in the food industry."

She did reveal that the Capilano share sale was conditional, and Olney-Fraser confirmed that the $2.12 million purchase of his stake was "subject to finance".

Queen Street Nominees is owned by Brisbane lawyer Rachel Weeks, who has a long association with Hutson, having acted for her advisory company Wellington Capital in its battles with grumpy investors in the Premium Income Fund. Weeks did not respond to queries from Insider before publication on whether she was acting on her own behalf or for a client.

Insider pointed out to Hutson the coincidence that her former life partner, Brisbane legal figure Brett Heading, was also a significant investor in Peanut Co with more than 18 per cent - and was also chairman a few years back.

Hutson said she and Heading had two sons together but split in 2007, and "he's a good lawyer and I'm a good investment banker".

Still, Insider hears that the Peanut Co board, headed by Ian Langdon, may have taken legal advice before agreeing to register the Queen Street Nominees stake just in case there was any connection between the two major shareholders.

Because Peanut Co is a public company, even though it is not listed, it is subject to Takeovers Code rules that forbid associated shareholders to acquire more than a combined 19.99 per cent of the company without making a takeover offer. Had the Queen Street Nominees and Heading's stake, in the name of Technology Farmers, been related they would have controlled almost 40 per cent of Peanut Co.

Given that Langdon sent a letter yesterday to his shareholders saying the board had registered the nominee holding at a board meeting on Monday, Insider can only assume there are no associations between Heading and Hutson's client. Besides which, Heading spent more than a decade as a member of the Takeovers Panel, so is hardly likely to be in any doubt about the law.

Guinness Peat Group had a near 25 per cent stake but Mariner could not buy all of that without a bid. Langdon noted that the balance of the stake was bought by Ross Burney - who used to work for GPG and represents it on the Peanut Co board.

Meanwhile, Mariner and Olney-Fraser have done well from their brief investments in the four food company stakes hand-passed to them by the Sir Ron Brierley-associated GPG early this year.

It was only on February 2 that Mariner announced it was buying the shares in Peanut Co, Capilano, egg company Farm Pride Foods and cannery company Tasmanian Pure Foods for a total of $3.16 million.

Quoted at the time, he said: "We like food. It's tangible. For the last 10 years or so, there has been too much investment in structuring and financial services."

It seems he likes money even more. Mariner did not finalise the purchases until the middle of this month, and they are now all gone almost before the ink had time to dry on the share transfers.

The acquisition of Mariner's 12 per cent stake in Farm Pride by interests associated with the egg company's board seemed, in Insider's view, to leave a truck-sized hole in the Takeovers Code given control of the company appears to have passed without minorities getting any say, or compensation.

Mariner did not make any profit on Tasmanian Pure Foods but turned a collective $860,000 gain on the other three - or a 27 per cent return in less than a month.


Citigroup has had a corker start to the week, picking up lead manager roles in nearly $800 million worth of capital raisings in two days.

First came its gig in Bank of Queensland's larger than forecast $450 million tapping of capital markets with an underwritten issue. Then yesterday it was named as one of three joint lead managers on Beach Energy's $345 million combination equity and convertible note offering. Goldman Sachs and Macquarie are its partners in the underwritten raisings.

Beach is chasing $195 million from new shares and another $150 million in convertible notes. While the shares will be, like Beach's existing equity, ASX listed - the company has received preliminary approval for the notes to be traded on the Singapore market.

The idea there is that the notes are being aimed at Asian and European investors, who obviously feel more comfortable trading out of Singapore than Australia.


Mobile Embrace was embraced by the market yesterday after it revealed that corporate clients are embracing its mobile applications and advertising services.

Turnover in Mobile Embrace topped 16 million shares yesterday, or about 6.5 per cent of total equity, and the shares soared 1? to 3.1? - a handy gain in any micro-punter's book. Happiest of all would be Chuck Auster's Auster Capital Partners, which last month extended its relationship with Mobile Embrace by taking 61 million shares at 1.8?. It is now nearly $800,000 in front on a $1.1 million investment.


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