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Aliquot board under fire

THE Australian Shareholders Association has hit out at what it calls a “magnitude of charges” levied on Western Australian-based listed property company Aliquot Assets Management Limited by entities associated with the company’s directors.

In a letter to Aliquot share-holders, ASA Western Australian branch chairman Anne Pryor says the association has received com-plaints from shareholders regarding Aliquot.

“We have examined the company’s most recent annual report and note that payments of almost $1 million have been made by the company to the directors and to entities in which they are associated, in particular Troika Management Ltd,” she says.

Information given to WA Business News shows that Aliquot chairman Michael Perrott and directors Peter Huston and Antony Rigoll and their associated companies, Troika Management and Commerce Australia, took $991,251 in fees from Aliquot in the past financial year.

Mr Perrott and Aliquot secretary Niels Kroyer have confirmed the accuracy of the figures provided to WA Business News.

According to its annual report, Aliquot made a $1.4 million loss.

ASA treasurer Gerry Pauley said he had attended Aliquot’s annual general meeting last year but had not been given a chance to ask questions regarding the related party transactions because Mr Perrott closed the meeting within 30 minutes.

Mr Perrott admitted closing the meeting within 30 minutes so he could attend the first day’s play of the Ashes cricket test at the WACA Ground.

“It was a stupid day to call a meeting,” he said.

“There were a couple of significant shareholders that couldn’t attend because they were also at the cricket.”

Other shareholders have indicated their disapproval of the way the company has been run.

Ledge Finance director Phil Botsis said he sold his 5.43 per cent holding in Aliquot three days after the company’s AGM because he was upset with the way Mr Perrott treated shareholders and the company’s direction.

“I wasn’t happy with the way it [Aliquot] was heading,” he said.

Paul Crowther, chairman of Aliquot’s second largest share-holder Equitilink eLink, said he had become interested in Aliquot’s business after seeing similar listed property management companies make good profits in Queensland.

However, he said he had become disillusioned about the performance of the company and believed the current board was to blame.

“At the AGM it was revealed that Aliquot had only $1.75 million in the bank. It had $5.8 million 18 months ago,” Mr Crowther said.

He has proposed a board spill at an extraordinary general meeting that will be held on February 18. Mr Crowther proposes replacing the three Aliquot directors with himself and fellow Equitilink directors Andrew Brown and Bruce Burrell, and an independent director to be appointed by the ASA.

However, while he has not discounted the prospect of winning, Mr Crowther thinks his chances are slim.

“At the AGM the directors had 35 per cent of the vote,” he said.

Equitilink holds around 19 per cent after Asset Backed Holdings Ltd (25.5 per cent), of which Mr Perrott, Mr Huston and Mr Rigoll are also directors.

However, the ASA does not support Mr Crowther’s bid.

It has written to Aliquot shareholders asking for their proxies to support independent directors that the association will nominate.

Mr Perrott said Aliquot would be releasing a letter refuting ASA claims about related party transactions in the near future.

“That’s our business. We charge fees for the services we render,” he said.

“I think the claims of related party transactions are untrue. What we said at the shareholders meeting was that, where appropriate, things were tendered on an apples and apples basis and where not on some other appropriate measure.

“We can provide our services at a better price than the big boys.

“People come to us seeking our help. We have a few supporters that will invest in projects we back. We get you a result. We also put our money in along with yours.”

As Aliquot’s biggest share-holder, Asset Backed’s holding has grown from 19.9 per cent when a share buy-back began in October 2001 to 22.9 per cent in January last year.

A share buy-back is also connected to criticism of Asset Backed by its fellow shareholders in Christmas Island miner Phosphate Resources.

Asset Backed increased its holding in Phosphate Resources from 19.9 per cent to 26.7 per cent when the miner bought back one quarter of its shares last year.

Asset Backed is also underwriting $2.7 million of a Phosphate Resources rights issue that was announced in December. If that rights issue is not fully subscribed, Asset Backed’s holding in the miner could rise to 39.6 per cent.

However, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has issued an interim stop order on the rights issue’s prospectus until the Takeovers Panel has concluded its investigations into the rights issue.

Fellow Asset Backed director David Argyle also took $48,000 in director’s fees from Aliquot, however he has since resigned from its board on July 31, saying he wanted “to concentrate his time and efforts on matters relating to Asset Backed and Phosphate Resources”.

Besides his involvement with Aliquot in the past financial year Mr Perrott received $229,000 in director’s fees and a personal guarantee from Port Bouvard Ltd, $48,000 in directors fees from Asset backed, $44,000 in director’s from Allied Mining and Processing Ltd and $54,000 in directors fees from Portman Mining Ltd.

In the past financial year Mr Rigoll received $48,000 in director’s fees from Asset Backed and $30,000 in Allied Mining.  Both Mr Perrott and Mr Rigoll have ceased to be directors of Allied Mining. Mr Perrott, Mr Rigoll and Mr Huston no longer have any director’s interests in companies GME Resources or Commerce Australia. Commerce Australia was sold in October.

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