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Wheels turn slowly for Griffin asset sale

THE administrators of Rick Stowe's failed Griffin coal and power businesses will meet with sales advisers this week to belatedly kick-start planning to recover more than $1 billion owed to creditors.
However, KordaMentha administrator Brian McMaster has conceded that it will still be months before prospective buyers are asked to submit offers for Griffin's coal mining and power generation assets.
And no sale is expected until at least October, meaning the future of hundreds of Collie coal and power workers will remain uncertain for the rest of the year.
KordaMentha took charge of Griffin in January, but despite receiving interest from scores of prospective bidders for Griffin's Collie coal mines and power stations, did not appoint investment banks UBS and Macquarie as sales advisers until late last month.
Speaking to WA Business News earlier this week, Mr McMaster said the complexity of Griffin's business dealings meant it would take some time for those advisers to get the sales process moving.
"We've got a meeting with them tomorrow (Wednesday) to cement a bit of the process, but we are probably still a few weeks away from having a flyer out to interested parties," he said.
Once the initial flyer had been issued, it then would take some time to prepare a detailed information memorandum on the assets and issue it to potential buyers, he said, meaning the likely deadline for offers was still very distant.
"That's months away yet, it's a really complicated asset suite and it's taking people a long time to get their head around it," Mr McMaster said.
"We've always maintained it was a process that wouldn't come anywhere near to a head until ... the AFL grand final, and that's still the kind of timing we are speaking of."
Griffin Coal, which owns the group's Collie coal mines, owes around $1 billion to creditors, mostly US bondholders and the Australian Tax Office.
Through Griffin Energy, it also owns the Bluewaters power stations at Collie and Emu Downs wind farm near Cervantes, which are separately saddled with around $1.2 billion in debt.
Numerous cross guarantees and other financial ties also exist between the failed companies and other Griffin entities.
Mr McMaster said one of the key topics of this week's discussion with the sale advisers would therefore be whether to market the assets as a package or individually.
On a positive note, he said more than 80 separate parties had now expressed interest in Griffin's assets, including a number of "internationally recognised serious players".
"So all the right people are putting their hands up," Mr McMaster said.
The process should not be affected by the separate efforts of receivers to sell other assets within the Griffin empire, including Mr Stowe's $70 million Devereaux Farm estate in Bullsbrook and a Mounts Bay Road development site in the CBD, he said.

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