18/06/2009 - 00:00

Gt Southern auction saga

18/06/2009 - 00:00

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THE bidding started at $17 million at 2pm on Tuesday in Darwin, with three interested parties.

THE bidding started at $17 million at 2pm on Tuesday in Darwin, with three interested parties.

The 660,000-hectare Western Australian cattle station near Halls Creek, called Moola Bulla, was passed in at $25 million, or $5 million less than what Great Southern paid for the property during a land-buying spree three years ago.

Negotiations between real estate agents and Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC) head Ken Warriner continued into the evening as WA Business News went to press. The bidders, including Mr Warriner, were due to fly out in the early hours of Wednesday morning to look at the other two stations offered to the market by Great Southern receiver McGrath Nicol.

But there remains a question over who owns the cattle assets.

Moola Bulla negotiations were continuing at the same time as litigation funder IMF confirmed it would fund an action on behalf of former cattle project members.

"We've agreed to fund an action," Hugh McLernon, WA executive director of IMF, told WA Business News.

"Our point is that we have an interest in those assets."

There are more than 3,000 investors who were given now-worthless shares in Great Southern in exchange for $90 or so million in cattle assets a few months before the agribusiness provider was put into administration.

IMF argues that the exchange was invalid.

Mr McLernon said clients may be able to trace their interest in the cattle assets, and that it would benefit investors if the receivers could attract good prices.

"We couldn't and wouldn't seek to interfere with the sale process," he said.

At a creditors' meeting late last month, investors were told they had no chance of competing with the secured creditors, leaving few avenues of recourse for the 40,000 investors who put money in agricultural projects run by the Perth-based company.

If there is money left over after the consortium of banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, its subsidiary BankWest, ANZ and Japanese bank Mizuho - is repaid their $600 million debt, remaining money would flow to unsecured creditors, such as the investors.

The subdued bidding at the Moola Bulla auction will surprise the property sector, which had reported strong local and overseas interest for the Kimberley station.

Elders Queensland real estate agent John Burke, who is helping handle the sale of the three former Great Southern properties, said the $25 million offer was well under the station's real value.

Representatives of CPC - which recently welcomed private equity firm Terra Firma as a 90 per cent stakeholder - and other interested parties will travel to Townsville for the auction of two further stations, offered to the market by Great Southern receivers.

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