Garry
Weaven has created a huge amount of value for the union movement and
their $60 billion worth of industry superannuation funds. Today his
contrarian instincts are on full display as he hangs out to secure a
slice of Pacfic Hydro from its Spanish suitor, Acciona. Weaven emailed
through the following note responding to yesterday’s Crikey story on
Pacific Hydro:

I note that you’ve declared it all over for
Australian ownership. Obviously there a many issues to consider and
many possible points of view within our constituency but don’t
underestimate the desire of Industry Funds Management and industry
super funds to be long term players in the renewable energy and in
PacHydro in particular.

Cheers, Garry Weaven, Executive Chair, Industry Fund Services

With 32% of the company, the industry funds are obviously
pivotal to the deal. Afterall, you don’t launch a bid for News Corp if
Rupert Murdoch isn’t interested in selling his 29.5% voting stake.

However,
Weaven does not personally own the shares, he merely sits atop the
umbrella organisation that services the industry funds. Given that
industry fund hero and long-time fund manager Mike Fitzpatrick is
recommending selling, as are the two industry funds representatives on
the Pacific Hydro board, Weaven’s power looks like it could yet be
tested.

But Weaven is also aware that those Pacific Hydro
directors have legal responsibilities which are different from his as
the shareholder. Stephen Bartholmeusz was most perceptive in The Agetoday
as he pointed out that Weaven simply wants to negotiate an on-going
exposure. Weaven is an exceptionally good negotiator and he knows how
to work Labor state governments as regulators to protect his
investments.

Weaven’s stand is generating the controversial
former ACTU heavy more publicity than he’s ever had as you can see from
this story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Robert Gottliebsen inThe Australianhas
declared him a “super hero” for taking a long term view. Then again,
Gottie seems to think every foreign takeover is bad, regardless of the
price.

Weaven has already graced the back page of The AFR
courtesy of Chanticleer on Tuesday and the tone seems to be that he is
playing games when an attractive offer is on the table. Why walk away
from a cool $210 million profit when the Spanish write out their cheque
for $230 million. It has been a spectacularly successful investment
from a financial point of view, but Weaven now appears to be taking
what critics believe is an ideological position.

Then again,
with super choice on the way, many Australians might prefer to put
their money with a super fund that has a global exposure to renewable
energy and that is the path down which Pacific Hydro was headed, in
spite of the entrenched opposition from Canberra.

Peter Fray

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