21/05/2008 - 22:00

A once-in-a-generation opportunity

21/05/2008 - 22:00


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Enormous wealth is being created as a result of WA's unprecedented boom, with a handful of super-rich mining executives leading the way.

A once-in-a-generation opportunity

As Andrew Forrest last week officially loaded his first ore bound for China, he was doing more than just turning his paper wealth into something of tangible value.

The entrepreneur, who has become Australia's richest person, is the poster boy for a whole contingent of resources executives who have created wealth for themselves and thousands of others beyond the expectations of any but the most committed.

Looking through the ranks of Western Australia's richest people, it is not just the number of mining people who have made extraordinary wealth, it is the fact that these people have been rewarded for seeing out the tough times when commodities were cheap and China was years away from becoming a major trading partner.

The rich on this list reveal our twospeed economy, even in buoyant WA where everyone is making money.

The truth is that while the richest people in other sectors may have enjoyed wholesome growth, the resources sector has made its players much richer in just a short period.

Among the list (see pages 24 and 25) of directors' holdings, which includes known holdings of nondirectors and the value of shares sold during the past year or so, a handful of companies have created an elite group of mining super-rich.

Apart from Mr Forrest, there are several Fortescue Metals Group Ltd executives and directors who have made real fortunes.

The same can be said for Tony Poli's Aquila Resources Ltd and Peter Wade's Mineral Resources Ltd, both of which have multiple entrants at the top of the list.

Take, for instance, the latter of these, mining services and contractor Mineral Resources.

This company is the formal integration of three long-standing associated Perth businesses - Crushing Services International Pty Ltd, PIHA Pty Ltd and Process Minerals International Pty Ltd.

The wholly owned operating divisions are overseen by executive chairman Mr Wade, who with executive director Chris Ellison, PIHA general manager Bob Gavranich and CSI general manger Steve Wyatt, owns a combined 61 per cent of the listed company.

Following a float that raised $22.5 million in 2006, Mineral Resources now has a market capitalisation of $777 million.

The company has forecast a formidable net profit after tax of $40.4m for fiscal 2008.

Outside the listed sector, the story is similar.

While Gina Rinehart, Michael Wright and Angela Bennett have inherited wealth created through the endeavours of their fathers in the state's first major period of mining development, they have also been involved in the creation of new enterprises and developments.

Regrettably, some of these people have been bogged down by litigation that sometimes accompanies tremendous resources, but that should not take the shine off their own achievements as second generation stewards of wealth.

Ms Rinehart's wealth has risen dramatically since striking a deal with Rio Tinto Ltd to develop her Hope Downs project.

Mr Wright has poured millions into creating Voyager Estate winery near Margaret River.

While Voyager isn't big in production terms, it is a magnificent property with a wellknown brand.

Given Palandri's lessregarded brands and large production facility has sold at fire sale prices for between $15 million and $20 million, Voyager could be worth considerably more than that, as could other private wine labels such as Jeff Burch's Howard Park, which is a large producer by WA standards, has very successful brands and strategic properties in wine growing areas.

Another spin-off of WA's growing list of immense wealth is a trend towards increased philanthropy (see page 21).

While one of WA's earliest members of the rich list, Stan Perron, some time ago established a charitable trust which benefits hugely from his $1 billion-plus property, equities, mining royalties and vehicle importing empire, his largesse is increasingly being matched by other wealth creators.

Again, Mr Forrest is something of a leader in this respect.

Some years ago he established the Australian Children's Trust and, last year, he stated that he would not be leaving his wealth to his family but, instead, leaving it to be put to use for the community.


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