16/05/2006 - 22:00

Playing the global resources game

16/05/2006 - 22:00


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From a cheap early 1990s entry into a struggling gold explorer, Terry Streeter has built a $100 million base from which to launch a major international resources exploration and production house.

Playing the global resources game

Jungle Creek Gold Mines Pty Ltd is not well known in the pantheon of Western Australian resources companies, but if its recent history is anything to go by, it soon will be.

Jungle Creek is the private investment vehicle of 62-year-old mining entrepreneur Terry Streeter, a quiet achiever who has amassed a $100 million fortune in just more than a decade and is now looking to establish an international mining house based in Perth.

The company’s name now appears near the bottom of Jubilee Mines NL’s share register, Mr Streeter’s first major investment, which he helped take from junior gold explorer to billion dollar mid-tier nickel producer.

In an attempt to duplicate that success, Jungle Creek is the biggest single shareholder of imminent Forrestania nickel producer Western Areas NL, Pilbara copper and nickel producer Fox Resources Ltd and international gold explorer Midas Resources Ltd. Mr Streeter is a director of all three. (See stories next page.)

The companies are important elements in Mr Streeter’s wider investment and metals production strategy, which recently expanded from WA, Alaska and China into South America and Russia. The commo-dities, however, remain the same – gold, silver, nickel, copper and zinc.

On the immediate horizon is the preparation of a new WA nickel company and another in South America, in which Mr Streeter has a 14 per cent stake.

The South American play has five projects in Peru and one each in Chile and Argentina, with one in Peru likely to begin producing from a resource with a million ounces gold equivalent before the end of the year.

It was a bold plan, Mr Streeter told WA Business News, adding that his international aspirations were subject to the vagaries of the commodities market. However, it is driven by a passion and belief in the resources sector that has sustained him and helped his fortunes flourish since arriving in WA “with bugger all” in 1977.

Jungle Creek’s 20 per cent-plus stake in Western Areas is worth about $68 million, about the same percentage in Fox just less than $20 million, and the near-20 per cent holding in Midas worth about $1.6 million.

Mr Streeter also has other resources investments, such as those in South America and some options in Russia, non resources share investments, his $2 million Jetfresh fruit and vegetable processing business in Bayswater, a 24-hectare farm in Gingin and a house overlooking the sea at City Beach.

His office remains a small one at Jetfresh and, when he’s not involved in resources business, he drives to the Canning Vale produce markets at 5am, three days a week, to do the buying.

He eschews the trappings of wealth, holding tenaciously to his share-holdings and ploughing his money back into the companies he supports.

“I like to get in there [the companies], support them financially and drive them until they can stand on their own feet,” Mr Streeter said.

His “reward for hard work” ethic is a product of a tough upbringing in the Yorkshire market town of Wetherby, as one of two sons and seven daughters.

The life lessons were sometimes embarrassing.

“Mum used to send me to get the cheap cracked eggs and bacon pieces. Then she would send me back to say they weren’t good enough. I guess that honed my negotiating skills.”

Mr Streeter left school early to support his family.

“I didn’t go to university, but I think I got a universal education,” he said.  “I used to think I didn’t fit in the business world. Now I do what I do and don’t care any more.”

Mr Streeter came to Australia in 1969 and got a job as a masseur at the Tattersalls Club in Sydney.

Just before the legendary Poseidon nickel boom, a work colleague advised him to buy into the Great Boulder Gold Mines.

The stock went from 35 cents to $20 and back to $7 before he sold.

 “Even at that stage I wanted to get involved. I had no real insight, no contacts, just the desire.”

Mr Streeter and his then partner moved to Perth in 1977, where he formed a structural steel, roofing and rigging business that continued into the mid 1980s until a major building contractor client went broke.

Mr Streeter then decided on the country life in Gingin.

In 1988, he bought Fruitland in Beaufort St, Inglewood, a growers’ market with supply contracts with clients including casino and Qantas. He then built a fruit and vegetable processing facility at Bayswater and established the Jetfresh business.

In 1992, Mr Streeter heard that one of the directors of struggling gold explorer Jubilee Gold Mines NL (now Jubilee Mines) had 14 per cent of the company for sale.

There followed a meeting at Coco’s restaurant in South Perth where then Montagu stockbrokers Justin Evans and Bernard Le Clezio, Jubilee boss and major shareholder Kerry Harmanis met with Mr Streeter and his accountant.

Jungle Creek paid $300,000 for the stake at six cents a share and Mr Streeter was on his way.

That equity rose to 16 per cent as gold exploration at Cosmos, just north of Leinster, gave way to nickel exploration, and ultimately a billion dollar mid-tier nickel miner in 2000. Jubilee’s share price is currently around $7.70.

However, a combination of events about seven years ago dealt Mr Streeter’s aspirations a series of major blows. These included: his mounting concern over Jubilee’s direction and capital raisings diluting his multi-million dollar holding; a large tax bill; the costly separation from his partner; and the resultant pressure from the banks to reduce debt.

Jetfresh also lost the Qantas account, 40 per cent of its business and, added to that, the formation of Western Areas was adding to Mr Streeter’s already stretched financial capacity.

“I thought the combining of Jubilee’s Cosmos project and Western Area’s Flying Fox mine, due to go into production later this year, would have produced one of the best nickel companies in the world. But it wasn’t to be,” Mr Streeter said.

It came down to price and Mr Harmanis said Western Areas was too dear.

Mr Streeter resigned from the Jubilee board four years ago, his equity in Jubilee since sold down to “virtually nothing”, to concentrate on Western Areas and more recent investments in Fox and Midas.

“It’s true, I have generated a lot of money for myself and others, but you have to keep looking for the next opportunity. The resources boom will continue for many years yet,” Mr Streeter said.

• The reporter has a beneficial interest in some of the stocks mentioned in this feature.


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