16/12/2013 - 13:43

Elders forestry assets sale delayed

16/12/2013 - 13:43

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Perth businessman Allen Caratti has requested more time to arrange his affairs ahead of a proposed deal which would see him take effective control of a forestry investment trust previously controlled by Elders.

Elders forestry assets sale delayed

Perth businessman Allen Caratti has requested more time to arrange his affairs ahead of a proposed deal under which he would take effective control of a forestry investment trust previously held by Elders.

Elders agreed in October it would sell the bulk of its majority share in listed investment vehicle Agricultural Land Trust as it looks to exit its troubled forestry business.

The trust owns properties it leases to Elders for growing plantation timber, and uses the rent collected from Elders to repay debt owed to a syndicate of lenders.

The percentage ownership of each other ALT shareholder would approximately double under Elders' proposed sale, lifting the holding of companies controlled by or associated with Mr Caratti from 26 per cent to 49 per cent. 

In addition, ALT proposed a $2 million rights issue, which was likely to push Mr Caratti's stake even higher and see him effectively gain control of ALT. 

Elders also agreed to surrender its leasehold interests in the historic Linkletters property in Esperance, to pay ALT about $4.5 million and to forgive about $8.5 million of debt owed by ALT under the transaction. 

Mr Caratti has indicated he plans to convert the Linkletters land so it can be used for grazing and cropping purposes.

ALT shareholders had been due to vote on the proposal at a general meeting today but the meeting was adjourned until January 31 next year after Mr Caratti requested more time to arrange his affairs.

Separately, an ALT shareholder has called for more detailed information on the proposed restructure, although this is not expected to significantly change the transaction.

The board of Agricultural Land Management, the responsible entity of ALT, has recommended shareholders vote in favour of the transaction.

The board argues it will improve ALT's balance sheet by reducing debt and raising additional funds through the rights issue while maximising the return from Linkletters and reducing exposure to Elders at a time when the company is struggling financially.

Elders told the market last month it expects to produce a full-year loss in the order of $510 million on the back of a number of impairments.

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