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Ospraie funds find new WA focus

FUNDS associated with New York commodities hedge fund Ospraie Management LLC have revealed substantial stakes in two major Western Australia companies, both outside the group’s previous purely mining focus in the state. Last week, the Australian Securities Exchange announced Ospraie funds had reached 5.15 per cent of socalled yellow goods provider Emeco Holdings Ltd, which is a machinery supplier to the minerals and contracting sectors. Ospraie-related funds have more than 32 million shares, having started their buying in July with a 10.5 million share stake purchased at $1.90 per share. Emeco shares, which debuted on the market at $1.79 each in July 2006 after a subscription price range indicated between $2.10 and $2.50, have drifted substantially south from that early start. The last purchase by Ospraie-related funds was a block of 700,000 shares at $1 each made earlier last week, valuing the entire stake at $32.4 million. Ospraie funds emerged as substantial shareholders in timber, horticulture and investment management group Great Southern Ltd on December 28 with a 5.4 per cent stake, which has since been increased to 9.9 per cent, or 31.8 million shares worth close to $60 million. The purchases are an apparent change from its previous focus in WA in direct minerals investments, including Gunson Resources Ltd and Iluka Resources Ltd. According to ASX notices, Ospraie funds control more than 12 per cent of Iluka, holding 29 million shares currently worth about $135 million. Ospraie is reputedly the world’s biggest commodities hedge fund with a reported $7 billion under management.

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