Tasmanian Times

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Is this Gunns’ White Knight … ? PtM’s message to Mr Chandler

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Kiwi billionaire linked to Gunns

Dashing Kiwi-born billionaire Richard Chandler looks to be troubled Tasmanian timber company Gunns Limited’s white knight, with the now Singapore-based businessman set to emerge as a cornerstone investor in the controversial group.

It is understood that Chandler, worth a reported $US4 billion, is poised to take a stake in Gunns, whose shares were placed in a trading halt yesterday.

The halt was pending news of what the company said was a private placement and equity raising, details of which were still being finalised last night.

The company is believed to be in final talks with Chandler’s Richard Chandler Corporation towards the private investment group taking a 25 per cent to 40 per cent stake in the timber company.

The Launceston-based group is understood to be seeking to raise between $250 million and $350 million in fresh equity, which would help erase a significant portion of its $580 million debt.

This amount does not include the company’s Forests Hybrid notes, which have a face value of $120 million.

Gunns last week was granted an extension to its core $340 million lending facility by its group of 10 lenders, including the ANZ Bank.

An extraordinary general meeting will likely be held in April to allow shareholders to vote on the removal of the 20 per cent shareholder cap to then allow the new cornerstone investor to come onto the share register.

Chandler, who is one of Singapore’s richest individuals, has invested in a wide range of industries including telecommunications, power, steel, banking and energy.

He has a reputation for buying into and shaking things up at undervalued companies and working towards a re-rating of the stock, which would be a big win for long-suffering Gunns investors.

He is believed to have approached Gunns before Christmas.

Chandler is the biggest shareholder in Canadian forestry group Sino-Forests.

• Lucy Landon-Lane, Pulp The Mill: The message for Mr Chandler

Today there is speculation regarding Gunns’ potential involvement with New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler, pending an announcement by Gunns tomorrow.

Richard Chandler is a major shareholder in Sino-Forest, a Chinese-Canadian company whose principle businesses include the ownership and management of plantations; sale of standing timber and logs; and manufacturing of wood products.

Sino-Forest is currently facing charges of fraud in Canada, and is being investigated by Canadian authorities. Its shares fell more than 70% after these allegations were laid and the company has been placed in a trading ban having lost most of its value, and the company is teetering on bankruptcy.

A class action was lodged against Sino-Forest last week in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The company’s founder and Chief Executive stepped down amid the investigations of fraud.

Spokesperson for Pulp the Mill, Lucy Landon-Lane said, “The media today have been running a story, no doubt helpfully leaked by Gunns, that Richard Chandler has a reputation for buying into and shaking things up at undervalued companies and working towards a re-rating of the stock…” [ http://www.examiner.com.au/news/local/news/business/kiwi-billionaire-linked-to-gunns/2446254.aspx ]

“The Sino-Forest experience tells a very different story. Mr Chandler’s investment in Sino-Forest was widely viewed as a very big bet in a company riven by corporate governance issues and poor performance. It was a bet that didn’t pay off.”

Ms Landon Lane said, “The Tamar Valley community has a simple message for Mr Chandler – don’t bet on Gunns as you will lose just as you did with Sino Forest. The parallels between the companies Gunns and Sino-Forest are all in the negatives, not the positives. Gunns too is facing a class action, and legal action to challenge the validity of the pulp mill permits, handed down through a corrupt assessment process.”

“There is no social licence for Gunns’ sole remaining “asset” the Tamar Valley pulp mill, and it will face continued community opposition and protest until it dies. An investment in Gunns is as bad a deal as the investment in Sino-Forest.”

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Garry Stannus

    February 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    and PB, replying to #30, continued:
    I’ll try and conclude: there’s the others, the miscellaneous dams down near the water’s edge. Gunns got the ACDC to approve new permits for the two dams close to the proposed mill infrastructre, but that one near the ‘heel/boot’ piece of land to the north east, by the wharf area, was not applied for. It is possible that part of it lies within the (coastal) conservation area and that Gunns have ‘ffed up on this. Watch out … something will happen, they will try and get things sorted. That is unless as the high level source opines, Chandler does not want the mill, just the plantations. Qui sache?

    As for the two dams that were approved recently by the ACDC, I agree: the committee acted without and in spite of legal authority. They did not act in ignorance, as I can assure you, this issue of lack-of-authority was brought to their attention. However, a new permit for the water supply dam for the water-to-be-piped from Launceston was not reapplied for. (neither was the landfill pond, I think) Why? Perhaps Gunns was/is confident that when they want it, they will get it. Maybe Gunns have given up on the mill. Who would know? They’ve just been taken over by Richard Chandler – questions to be answered concerning that man. Is he the best that Gunns could get after all these years? I’m sorry if I’m wrongly blackguarding him, but as Robert Eastment recently observed in relation to Richard Chandler, “nobody becomes very rich by being a pussy cat.”

  2. Garry Stannus

    February 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Hi PB (#30 and earlier) I’ve had a bit of a read of what’s contained in the links – there are some things I’d like to respond to:

    1. I don’t see that the land to the east of the highway proposed for the quarry, solid waste disposal and dam, falls within the Tippogoree Hills Forest Reserve. From what I understood from The LIST, Williams Creek flows out of the Reserve and flows SE before turning SW at the point where it would be dammed. I don’t think that area is part of the Reserve. (I’m only going on the oblong/rectangular border that encloses the general area of the T.Hills. And yet I can see (see my 4, lower, that the area that I walked last year, along the Williams Creek decline, did seem to be what the Gunns diagrams show as State Forest ) – would you mind checking this, PB?)

    2. In your #26, you wrote that the conservation status had not been revoked. I think your material is drawn from the early pages of volume 2 of Gunns Draft IIS. In the ‘meatier’ section, on pages 121-122 of that Vol 2, at 2.11 Reserves and Protected Areas, it says that the conservation area is actually the coastal strip and railway line through the property.

    3. I’m sorry that my thoughts are getting scattered … must be the young bucks next door with the ghetto-blaster … ‘nother party day … but on the issue of state forest being used for the mill, it seems you are correct. I can’t quite understand what I’ve found. Would you have a look at Volume 16, appendix 55 of the IIS, figures 1 and 2. They are helpful to me. I’d like to know your thoughts. Some of the material around those figures is quite interesting. For example:
    “Heavy Industry is a permitted use in the Bell Bay Major Industrial Zone, but is a prohibited use in the Agricultural Zone. An amendment to the scheme is therefore required to rezone the parcel of land (upon which part of the landfill is to be located) from Agricultural to Bell Bay Major Industrial. “
    I haven’t got my head around it completely, but is there a redrafting of the industrial zone happening at the moment?

    4. From those diagrams, (and the links to material you supplied in your earlier comments) not only does it seem that part of the pulp mill project (the eastern part of the solid waste dump) would occur on public land=state forest, but also, that the state forest is perhaps within the Tipporogee Hill Forest Reserve. I would appreciate your thoughts on this … its implications and what you would say is the extent of public land that Gunns were/are trying to get the use of.

    5. Re your #30: I’m rereading what I’ve written, and it’s really unclear to me where everything lies east of the highway. I’ve walked there. Perhaps you’d care to have a bit of a stroll? It’s easy walking and it’s very easy to relate the landscape to the map. (if you’re interested – or anyone else for that matter – contact me on garrystannus@hotmail.com)

    6. Your #30 remarks:
    “It therefore appears to me that Gunns has no authority to carry out any of the works associated with the dam, quarry and solid waste disposal sites and this could potentially form useful ammunition for TCT’s case against the mill.” are to the point. I don’t believe that Gunns have legal authority to carry out any works to do with the dam (which would store 9-or-so days’ backup water supply to the mill). That is because their authority to construct that dam is (via the PMAA) ultimately from the Water Management Act). and we all know that the dam related permits expired in August last year. Gunns denied it publicly, but ‘privately’ went and applied for new permits. Interestingly, they did not apply for a new permit for the water supply dam mentioned here, or for the landfill pond. They only applied for permits for the miscellaneous dams down at the ‘Pulp Mill Site Proper’, where earthworks began on the last possible day of the four year period after the Parliament (curse the apparent rotten hearts of some of those inside it). This is where CODE Green fought to stop the arrival of the machinery being transported in for the purpose of illegally commencing the earthworks which would be the precursor to a construction of the mill – or at least, for the purposes of the general public unconsciousness, to provide some sign that a mill was being constructed. And this is also where many people (in September 2011) rallied on the highway verge outside Gunns Long Reach entrance in protest against the earth works beginning in spite of the expiration of The Pulp Mill Permit.
    I think that the issue of the quarry and the landfill site comes more under the LUPAA than the WMA. The question of the pond at the landfill … I’m not sure about.
    […/#next]

  3. PB

    February 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    According to Gunns Referral, the dam, quarry and solid waste disposal sites are located east of the East Tamar Highway in what appears to be the Tippogoree Hills Forest Reserve.

    The status of the reserve is clearly shown on page 8 of the following FT report and I do not recall seeing any public notifications regarding a potential revocation:

    http://www.forestrytas.com.au/uploads/File/pdf/pdf2011/forest_reserve_listing_2008.pdf

    On page 9 of the Referral it states “Gunns also proposes to construct a water storage dam to the east of the pulp mill on land to be purchased by Gunns across a valley in the Tippogoree Hills, with sufficient capacity to store at
    least three days’ water supply.”

    The dam is the water reservoir (WM2) for which Gunns requires a permit under the terms of the Pulp Mill Permit. However, this permit lapsed as the dam works were not substantially completed within 4 years (i.e.30 August 2011) of the Pulp Mill Permit coming into force – refer Section 4 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Amendment (Clarification) Act 2009. Furthermore, it does not form part of the permits to undertake dam works which were recently approved (illegally in my opinion) by the Assessment Committee for Dam Construction.

    It therefore appears to me that Gunns has no authority to carry out any of the works associated with the dam, quarry and solid waste disposal sites and this could potentially form useful ammunition for TCT’s case against the mill.

  4. PB

    February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    No worries Garry #28.

    It would appear that Gunns did not even own the site and much of the land was still designated as a Conservation Area when the Pulp Mill Assessment Act was enacted on 30 April 2007 after having been rammed through Parliament.

    How this could have been allowed to happen, and whether it was even legal, is beyond my comprehension.

    PB aka Pelican Boy

  5. Garry Stannus

    February 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for your #24-#27 comments, Pelican Boy. I never realised that some of that land was/is actually State forest/Crown land. I’ve started looking at your links, this is just a quick thank you.

  6. Pelican Boy

    February 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    My research shows that the site was subsequently acquired by Gunns and re-designated as follows:
    Property ID – 2936339
    Title Reference – 152001/1
    Address – East Tamar Highway, Long Reach Tas 7253
    LPI – FZX34
    A large number of lodgements have recently been made to transfer easements as follows:
    http://www.thelist.tas.gov.au/thelistprod/credit_title_report.longURDS?p_plan=152001&p_lot=1
    Further information is available on the List website but subject to a fee.

  7. Pelican Boy

    February 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_reg/putnca20022007n88511/
    When Gunn’s referred the proposal under the provisions of the EPBC Act on 30 March 2007 the site was still owned by Comalco and described by Gunns as follows:
    4.2 (k) Other important or unique values of the environment
    The Project Area is in the vicinity of the Tippogoree Hills Forest Reserve.
    The Pulp Mill Site is identified as being within the Long Reach Private Sanctuary and Long Reach Conservation Area pursuant to the Nature Conservation Act 2002. The Long Reach Conservation Area comprises the narrow coastal area along the foreshore and the existing rail line. The Long Reach Private Sanctuary comprises 607 ha, which includes the woodchip mill, thermal power station, railway line and golf course. The area was first declared a sanctuary in 1952 under the Animals and Birds Protection Act 1928 at the request of the owners, the then Australian Aluminium Production Commission (now Comalco).
    Comalco subsequently approached the then National Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) in 1986 and again following the rezoning of the site to Major Industrial Zone under the Planning Scheme with the intent to revoke the conservation status. This is yet to occur.
    The State Forest area for the solid waste disposal area is an Informal Reserve. Informal Reserves are areas on State Forest, other than a Forest Reserve, that are managed as a protection zone under the Management Decision Classification System. An informal reserve can also be an administrative reserve on public land that is managed to protect CAR values.
    http://www.gunnspulpmill.com.au/epbc/Gunns_Limited_Bell_Bay_Pulp_Mill_Referral.pdf

    cont

  8. Pelican Boy

    February 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/pa/pa_products/wcpa_categories/pa_categoryv/

    The site of the proposed pulp mill had been classified as a Private Conservation Area (Sanctuary) since 1958 but this was revoked by the Tasmanian State Government in 2007 (under section 21 of the Nature Conservation Act 2002).
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_act/nca2002237/s21.html
    I am unable to determine whether the proper procedures were followed but have found the following proclamation to revoke part of the area made by then Governor, William Cox and David Llewellyn on 17 September 2007:

    cont

  9. Pelican Boy

    February 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    How could a self-described “ethical” investor who claims on his own website (www. richardchandler.com/our-culture) that “the most important measure is the improved lives of others” seek to “catalyse” a monstrous, stinking pulp mill which is so deficient that it was deemed to be in critical non-compliance by the independent RPDC assessor?
    And how could such a person allow this mill to be built on a former conservation area which was classified as IUCN Category V where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values?
    http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=5730

    more …

  10. Russell

    February 8, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Re #6 and #10
    Had the best night’s sleep for a long time thanks.

    You buying any new Gunns shares, Carl and C. Jackson?

  11. Bob Kendra

    February 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Politicians, loggers, industrialists, selective southern “conservationists” – all think that northern Tasmania is worth turning into another Ravenswood or Bridgewater (or Whyalla, Gladstone or Port Pirie) to achieve their selfish, greedy ends. Someone like Chandler was always going to come along and cash (or should that be trash) in on those win-lose values.

  12. Bonni Hall

    February 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Re #10. I think I know a bit how you feel. I get that same feeling when I am shouted at to ‘ get a f*****g job’ and am referred to at times, by people who have never seen me , as ‘unwashed, dreadlocked, dole bludger or rent-a-mob’ I am 73 years old, have worked and paid taxes, I wash very frequently, haven’t got enough hair left to be in dreadlocks, have never had the dole or been rented, for anything! I do know how you dislike being misrepresented.

  13. Geoff Law

    February 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Mr Chandler needs to know that the assessment of Gunns’ pulp mill was corrupted beyond redemption. The independent RPDC assessment was jettisoned when it found the proposal ‘critically non-compliant’. The Premier Paul Lennon engaged a pulp-industry consultant to undertake the state assessment based on the wrong guidelines, thereby failing to properly assess impacts of fugitive odours and marine pollution. Even this assessment found that the mill would not comply with all of the environmental conditions. The federal government’s assessment was compromised by being restricted to ‘Commonwealth’ environmental issues, such as marine waters over 5 km from Tasmania’s shore. Claims by Gunns that the mill will use only plantations are already under severe question, with some claiming that pulpwood will have to be imported from Victoria and South Australia. (Instead of using local native forests? Fat chance) The corruption of this process means that no assurance about the mill’s environmental impacts given by Gunns or either government is based on authoritative, independent, integrated, scientific work.

  14. John Hawkins

    February 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    ps an addendum

    Chandler will hope for the Pulp Mill approvals to go through the courts in his favour and that the shareholder action will be quarantined against the previous entity by clever lawyers.

    Should the financial climate not improve the Pulp mill project, with its approvals if granted, will be sold to a third party to take over what will have to be Government subsidised Depression employment risk.

  15. John Hawkins

    February 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Today Wednesday 8th of Feb may see the demise of Gunns as an entity and the rise of a new plantation company based here in Tasmania.

    I make the following prediction;

    That the Green Triangle deal with the American company still not settled will be canned.

    That the Green Triangle deal will be transferred to associated Chandler companies for the 107 million dollars due in.

    The Tasmanian freehold estate and trees will also be transferred to Chandler associates but in a different way.

    In exchange for an issue of a billion shares at 25 cents a share to Chandler, control of the company will be transferred (current shareholders will be reduced to the status of minority shareholders) to raise 250 million to pay down debt.

    Chandler will have majority control and the Australian taxpayer will have gifted the Gunns plantaion estate overseas at a fraction of the original cost.

    The Pulp Mill will be Off the agenda for the moment.

    Tasmania’s plantation estate not FSC accredited will be sold to chip in China.

    The Green triangle estate which will or has gained FSC accreditation is a more valuable resource and will not be owned by the new entity.

    The tax losses created by the Pulp Mill will be claimed by the new entity which will never pay tax.

    Well done all.

  16. Pete Godfrey

    February 7, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Something in the media reports concerns me. The media have stated that if Mr Chandler buys in to Gunns with a 40% stake that it will wipe out much of Gunns debt and help them to begin to build the pulp mill.

    As the company is only worth about a hundred million on their share price surely Mr Chandler will only have to pay $50 million to buy half the company. I am hoping someone can explain how this will wipe out much of a $600+ million debt.

  17. Maddie

    February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

    #14: OK Barnaby, thanks for that info – my comment was a knee jerk reaction. I’ll re-phrase it: Why don’t these billionaires concentrate on ethical investments instead of aiding the trashing of our planet? Mind you, I could be jumping to conclusions again because if he does become a major shareholder in Gunns, perhaps he will insist on major changes – different site & different type of mill. I’d forgive him then LOL.

  18. Factfinder

    February 6, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    About the Richard Chandler Corporation

    The Richard Chandler Corporation is a private investment group based in Singapore and founded by New Zealand-born entrepreneur Richard F. Chandler. The Richard Chandler Corporation’s mission, Building Prosperity for Tomorrow’s World, adopts a holistic approach to building sustainable prosperity through investments in financial and social enterprises.

    Since 1986, the Richard Chandler Corporation has provided capital to companies and governments from Asia and Africa to Latin America and Eastern Europe, and invested in a wide range of industries, such as telecoms, power, steel, banking and energy. …

    For more information, please visit: http://www.richardchandler.com

    ———————————————
    Video: Moody’s pulls Sino Forest’s rating
    BNN Video
    Published Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 12:08PM EST
    Moody’s has downgraded and will withdraw its ratings on Sino-forest. Andrew McCreath has the latest.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/video/video-moodys-pulls-sino-forests-rating/article2270887/?from=2322104

  19. Barnaby Drake

    February 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    #8. …why don’t these billionaires do some good with their money?

    In all fairness, Richard Chandler does a lot with his money. He champions the Arts and has founded the ‘Freedom to Create’ prize for suppressed and gaoled artists.

  20. Robin Halton

    February 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Pure speculation, as there will be no Tamar Valley Pulp Mill. The media need to sell their news.
    No need to stir up the Tamar Valley community.

  21. Monika Szigeti

    February 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I just watched ABC news. I would strongly suggest that both Mr Hodgman and the spokesperson for the TCCI refrain from purporting to represent Tasmanian people when they clearly are out to destroy our beautiful island for the quick buck and for the benefit of a few of their mates!

  22. C. Jackson

    February 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    As a member of the Tamar Valley Community I find it really arrogant when someone I have never met claims to speak for me. I have a simple message for Lucy Landon Lane, there are plenty out there who do not share your personal view on the pulp mill and we resent you claiming to represent us when clearly you do not. Please stop.

  23. john hayward

    February 6, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    There wouldn’t appear to be much in the way of Gunns assets left to strip.

    But if you want to defraud someone in peace, there are few better places. Tassie’s family silver is going for a song (less if it happens to be surreptitiously reclassified land).

    John Hayward

  24. Maddie

    February 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Well said Lucy Landon-Lane! For goodness sake, why don’t these billionaires do some good with their money? NO PULP MILL in the Tamar Valley with ANYBODY’S money!

  25. Pilko

    February 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks to Pulp the Mill and the Tasmanian Greens today for sending out a warning to Mr Chandler.

    Once again we find ourselves at a potentially significant point in the pulp mill saga and once again The Wilderness Society Tasmania and Environment Tasmania are mute.

    Shall we give ET & TWS the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are waiting for an announcement tomorrow before their members, supporters and donors hear and see TWS & ET publically supporting the Greens and Tamar Valley groups?

    Vica & Phil? How much does it cost to put out an MR or pick up the phone and call the radio?

  26. Carl Stephens

    February 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I’ll bet that more than a few Gunns haters will have trouble sleeping tonight!!

  27. Garry Stannus

    February 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    AFR Reader: we had this news yesterday, and networked it and published it. Then Bus Spec and your AFR came into the act. Then the rest, each piggy backing on the previous. The analysts didn’t have a clue. Tas Times came in lastly. What’s wrong with presenting up-to-date stuff?

    Take the story down? Laugh Out Loud!

  28. Anne Cadwallader

    February 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Go Lucy !! The AFR runs part of the story, and the rest of the iceberg is concealed. Sino-Forest is a stinker too – what IS this with forestry?

  29. dave

    February 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    You can email Richard Chandler with your thoughts on Gunns and the pulp mill here.

    info@richardchandler.com.

  30. Simon Parsons

    February 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Check out Sino-Forests:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/markets/stocks/summary/?q=TRE-T

    A troubled company under investigation for fraud.

  31. AFR reader

    February 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Good to see that after accusing Gunns of all sorts of corruption, mill opponents don\’t see any problems with stealing a story from the AFR.

    I look forward to this story being taken down.

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