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Hanna, Streeter cash-in shares

TWO prominent directors of Western Areas have pocketed more than $11 million from the sale of shares as unrelated company Western Areas Exploration makes its way on to the share register after a lengthy court battle.

In the past week, Western Areas managing director Julian Hanna netted nearly $1.3 million from the sale of 227,500 shares on-market at an average price of $5.55 for each share.

In a statement, the miner said Mr Hanna and his wife, Patricia, had sold the shares to settle a property transaction and did not anticipate further sales in the near future.

The share sale leaves Mr Hanna with 1.4 million shares, or a shareholding of less than 1 per cent.

Chairman Terry Streeter continued his regular market trades with the sale of a 1.825 million shares at $5.42 each to pocket nearly $9.9 million.

In the same statement prepared for Mr Hanna's share sale, Western Areas said Mr Streeter's latest share transaction was anticipated to be his last for the time being.

The share sale leaves Mr Streeter with a 14.42 per cent interest, or 25.8 million shares.

However, 10.675 million of the shares are being held for private outfit WAE after a Supreme Court judge ruled in favour of the company following a three-year legal battle.

In July, Justice Eric Heenan found Mr Streeter and Western Areas director David Cooper had withheld a moneymaking nickel opportunity from WAE in 1999.

Justice Heenen found that Messrs Streeter and Cooper had then used that nickel opportunity, now the Forrestania nickel tenements that host the Flying Fox mine, to float Western Areas a year later.

In handing down the judgement, Justice Heenan gave WAE, which includes directors Lex Brailey and Garry Connell, and shareholders Bernard and Guy LeClezio and Justin Evans, two options to recover its lost portion of profits - either shares or the cash equivalent of the shares, valued at around $65 million.

In his ruling, Justice Heenan said Mr Streeter would need to set aside 10.675 million shares while Mr Cooper would need to reserve 400,000.

In a notice to the local stock exchange, WAE said it had taken a 5.97 per cent interest in Western Areas, through shares held by Mr Streeter's company Jungle Creek Gold Mines.

Messrs Streeter and Cooper have until September 10 to submit an appeal and WA Business News understands that Mr Streeter's legal team is preparing an appeal.

Western Areas has issued a statement in a move to distance itself from the court loss and stressed it did not affect the ownership of any of its assets or the number of shares on issue.

Last month, Western Areas posted a $35 million loss for the 2009 financial year with the weaker nickel price the single biggest contributing factor, according to Mr Hanna.

Other factors in the loss were the lack of nickel sales earlier this year due to contract re-arrangements, and the miner's continued investment in expanding its operations.

Looking ahead, the company is expecting strong cash flows from its nickel operations at Forrestania this financial year, with the nickel price expected to climb as Chinese stainless steel mills begin to restock the commodity.

Western Areas is aiming to produce 35,000 tonnes of nickel annually from 2011, which will make the company one of Australia's largest nickel producers.

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