General Property Trust has secured its freedom from Lend Lease after a close and acrimonious vote by shareholders which will also be chalked up as a big win for Frank Lowy’s Westfield Group, reports The Australian. GPT unitholders voted 55.9% in favour of the divorce, hardly the stunning endorsement GPT chairman Peter Joseph would have wanted, says the AFR’s Chanticleer. In the end, the independence package got through by the skin of its teeth, says Bryan Frith in The Australian, and for what was billed as a transformational deal it can only be described as, at best, an abject success.
And we witnessed a meeting where corporate governance and shareholder voting was not properly administered or regulated and the party at fault was the ASX, which ignored its ability to use discretion to bar Frank Lowy’s Westfield from voting on an issue in which it clearly had a conflict of interest, says Elizabeth Knight in the SMH. The bottom line is that Westfield should not have been allowed to vote and for the ASX to allow this to happen questions the integrity of the market for listed companies in Australia. There is a clear rule in the Sydney investment community: you don’t publicly criticise the Packers or the Lowys because they are too powerful and generate too much business, says Robert Gottliebsen in The Australian. So when UBS’s Andrew McGrath got up at the GPT meeting, spoke the truth and criticised the GPT/Westfield deal, there was stunned disbelief among institutions.
How could a company whose core business could be acquired by the Victorian Government in 2012 for $598 million possibly be valued at $1.8 billion-plus for its float? The answer is straightforward, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Age. If Tattersalls beneficiaries really believed the group would lose its gaming licence when it expires in 2012, they would be selling into the float in droves and there would be no prospect of the group being priced within the indicative price range of $2.40 to $2.90 a share. It appears a safe assumption they expect to retain the licence.
The Fin Review reports that a shortage of skilled workers for major infrastructure and resource projects and soaring demand for accountants, lawyers and financial advisers before the introduction of super choice, are fuelling double-digit salary increases for key staff. Also in the AFR, Telecom New Zealand has introduced a radical ban – today is email-free day at TNZ’s services business in Australia; actually every Friday is.
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On Wall Street, US stocks closed slightly higher in cautious trading overnight ahead of the government’s May employment report – the Dow Jones ended up 3.62 points at 10,553. MarketWatch has a full report here.