Molopo Shareholders Exchange Boardroom Blows
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“And what for? A little bit of money” despaired Fargo’s original heroine cop Margie Gunderson after witnessing some truly gruesome work involving a woodchipper.
In the case of the Molopo saga, there’s been enough blood and gore of a corporate variety to do a Coen Brothers script proud.
In this case the prize for the squabbling parties is rather a lot of money: $55m of cash worth 22c a share.
For months Molopo has been under siege from Aurora Funds Management and Keybridge Capital, which are linked with banned director Nicholas Bolton and Perth corporate raider Farooq Khan.
Having declared unacceptable circumstances, the Takeovers Panel in mid June ordered Aurora and Keybridge to sell most of their Molopo shares because in effect the parties involved were acting in concert without telling the market.
Undeterred, Aurora in July offered 18c a share, at least 88 per cent by way of units in Aurora’s absolute return fund.
In September this offer was reduced to 13c a share, to reflect the “value dilutive” effect of Molopo’s $8.5m purchase of a half-stake in a Florida oil and gas explorer, Orient FRC.
Then Keybridge forced a second meeting to install its nominee William Johnson and ditch Molopo chairman and CEO Alexandre Gabovich.
At the initial meeting in June, holders rejected Keybridge’s attempt to appoint three new directors, including Johnson and former ASIC chairman Tony Hartnell.
Curiously, at the second meeting held on November 10, holders again rejected a motion to appoint Johnson. But out of frustration at Molopo’s lack of direction they also voted to turf the France-based, board-endorsed Gabovich from the board.
Now prominent fundie Geoff Wilson’s Wilson Asset Management has donned his white knight cape and flagged a 13.5c a share off market cash offer for Molopo, conditional on 50.1 per cent acceptance and a court hearing initiated by Keybridge being resolved.
(Keybridge in part is seeking access to Molopo documents pertaining to the Orient FRC purchase). Normally, an offer pitched at a 40 per cent discount to the intrinsic worth of a share (that is, WAM’s) would be one for the circular file.
But in this case, at least WAM’s offer is solid cash and gives holders an escape route given Molopo shares have been in suspended animation since late July.
That said, Molopo’s 3900 shareholders have seen it all before and may be happy to hang on for the next comical episode. Wizened investors will recall that in 2011 a shareholder group backed by Max property developer Max Beck, pokies king Bruce Mathieson and ex Woolworths chief Roger Corbett ousted the original board.
But by late 2014 the reconstituted board (including Beck) were also on their way, citing lack of support for their so-called Three Pillars turnaround plan.
Given Wilson doesn’t resile from a fight and neither does the Bolton/Khan camp, the Molopo saga is far from over.
The New Criterion is authored by Tim Boreham.
Many readers will remember Boreham as author of the Criterion column in The Australian newspaper, for well over a decade. He also has more than three decades' experience of business reporting across three major publications.
Tim Boreham has now joined Independent Investment Research and is proud to present The New Criterion, which will honour the style and purpose of the old column. These were based on covering largely ignored small to mid cap stocks in an accessible and entertaining manner for both retail and professional investors.
Disclaimer: The author nor Independent Investment Research have received a fee or any kind of inducement for this article. The New Criterion is not intended as specific investment advice and readers should contact a licensed financial adviser.