Hissy fits are not very edifying, especially when they come from senior business people.
Leading the way, Chris Corrigan of Patrick and Paul Little of Toll: their “you said, I said, we said” commentary has been pretty tiresome as point scoring.
But one of the big claims was the allegation from Patrick that Toll had been rorting the Pacific National rail joint venture. That went off to arbitration and yesterday the corporate version of Solomon (remember the Gordian knot) delivered a verdict. Yes it was narrow, but it was heavily in favour of Toll by simply decrying some of the Patrick claims. Here’s the Toll statement with some rather strong wording:
The independent arbitrator concluded:
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• The Patrick proposal to establish an internal enquiry controlled by Patrick was a “flawed process” and it was “impossible to say that Patrick, as the accuser, has no conflict of interest.”
• On whether the Patrick proposal was material, “I have no difficulty reaching the conclusion that materiality has not been established. Consequently the condition has not been satisfied.”
• That Patrick pay Toll’s costs of the arbitration.
“Toll considers that the arbitrator’s finding again confirms that Patrick’s claims with respect to Pacific National Queensland are nothing more than an ill conceived takeover defence strategy.”
Well that and especially the last paragraph has obviously got under Corrigan’s skin because today out came a strong reply.
Patrick said the decision supported neither Patrick’s nor Toll’s position with regard to the facts of the serious dispute which had destroyed the relationship between the Pacific National shareholders.
Patrick said that in his findings, the arbitrator narrowly confined his decision to the technical construction of the resolution that deadlocked the PN Board two months ago.
Patrick said it was reserving its right to protect shareholder interests. But I don’t know what all this stuff is about: the ACCC will reveal the problem areas it seems in the proposed merger next week.
They will be of greater difficulty for Toll to overcome than Corrigan’s opposition. And for Corrigan, the ACCC won’t provide much protection because shareholders still want Patrick to get rid of Virgin Blue.