03/04/2007 - 22:00

Private companies benefit from listing

03/04/2007 - 22:00

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The Western Australian entrepreneurs who have created the most wealth in the non-mining sector are led by people who spent most of their business life running private companies before opting for a sharemarket float.

Private companies benefit from listing

The Western Australian entrepreneurs who have created the most wealth in the non-mining sector are led by people who spent most of their business life running private companies before opting for a sharemarket float.

The list is headed by the Roberts family, whose late father John Roberts built Multiplex into one of Australia’s major construction groups.

The group has expanded internationally, and in the eyes of many investors is best known for the massive problems on its landmark Wembley Stadium project.

Despite that major setback, Multiplex remains a highly successful business, with managing director Andrew Roberts running the business from Sydney and executive director Tim Roberts holding a senior role in Perth. The family’s stake in the business is worth nearly $1 billion.

After three years as a listed company, Multiplex could once again become privately owned, with US investor Brookfield Asset Management and the Roberts family discussing the possible acquisition of the business.

Perth-based engineer Peter Meurs is managing director of WorleyParsons’ fast-growing Australian and New Zealand operations.

The group traces its origins back to 1971, when engineering consultancy Wholohan Grill was established in Sydney.

In 1987 it purchased the Australian arm of US group Worley Engineering and has enjoyed almost non-stop growth ever since, helped by several international acquisitions.

WorleyParsons has been one of the big winners from the resources and infrastructure boom in Australia, with a blue chip client list that includes BHP Billiton, Woodside, BP and Fortescue Metals Group.

The big rise in its share price, following its public listing in 2002, has lifted Mr Meurs’ stake in the business to more than $365 million, and would be worth even more if he had not sold a large parcel of shares over the past year.

Land developer Peet Ltd had been operating for nearly 110 years before listing on the ASX in 2004. It has developed about 100 land estates across Australia and holds one of the country’s largest land banks worth about $5.5 billion.

Chairman Tony Lennon has been a director of Peet for more than 20 years and is currently sitting on shares worth $280 million, while long-serving managing director Warwick Hemsley holds shares worth $80 million.

Automotive Holdings Group listed on the former Perth Stock Exchange back in 1955, when it had one Holden dealership, but was privatised in 1980 when directors Vern Wheatley and Robert Branchi led a management buyout.

For the next 25 years they expanded the business, becoming the largest automotive dealer in Perth and diversifying into transport and logistics.

Since listing on the ASX in 2005, AHG has accelerated its growth by acquiring automotive dealerships on the east coast and in New Zealand.

Mr Wheatley, whose father Syd founded the business in 1952, holds shares worth $182 million, while Mr Branchi, who is AHG’s non-executive chairman, holds shares worth $59 million.

IBT Education had almost zero public profile prior to its listing in 2004, even though it had been providing pre-university and university pathway programs for a decade and had 10,000 enrolled students.

The founders of the business, including managing director Rod Jones, are now extremely wealthy but like many people in a similar situation, Mr Jones seems unaffected by his paper fortune and quietly focuses on running the business.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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