The chairman of Transurban and ABC Learning, accountant David Ryan, is under severe pressure today after shares in the tollroad giant initially plunged by more than 20% in response to yesterday’s $1 billion capital raising and promise to stop borrowing to pay dividends.

Transurban hit a four year low of $4.17 before steadying to be 11% lower for the day at $4.80 as its market value slumped by $670 million to $5.28 billion.

The market has clearly given the thumbs down to new CEO Chris Lynch for this presentation yesterday which essentially confessed that Transurban had a debt problem.

This was despite the Canadian sovereign fund supposedly putting a floor under the market by underwriting a $659 million share placement at an effective price of $5.78 given that it paid $5.49 but won’t qualify for the next 29c distribution.

Transurban disingenuously announced today that the placement was fully subscribed without specifically stating that the Canadians had taken the lot because no-one else wanted a bar of it.

The Canadian Pension Plan is already $83 million under water, before considering the $34.8 million dividend that it won’t receive early in the new financial year. Imagine the howls of outrage if our Future Fund did such a deal in Canada.

If blue-chip stocks like Transurban are in trouble, the market is now really jittery about Australia’s biggest problem – too much debt.

Maybe the state governments will soon make a similar confession and stop pretending they are delivering surpluses and the Feds will stop over-stating their actual surpluses by underfunding superannuation and raiding the Reserve Bank.

The carnage across the broader infrastructure market today has been substantial. Macquarie Infrastructure Group tumbled 17c to a four year low of $2.51 after releasing this market update confirming distributions.

The Millionaires Factory is clearly still in denial and despite MIG itself having $900 million in cash, the specific tollroad assets are loaded up with debt.

The same goes for Macquarie Airports which has almost $1 billion of cash at a fund level, but has saddled Sydney Airport with more than $5 billion in debt to provide on-going distributions. MAP shares plunged 11c to a four year low of $2.11 this morning, so maybe chairman Max Moore-Wilton should have another listen to this exchange about confidence in his model from the recent AGM.

And then you have the Babcock empire. BB Power is down 9c to a record low of 63c after yesterday’s dividend cancellation and fire sale announcement, whilst the massively over-geared BB Infrastructure tumbled 11c to 80c. The market has clearly lost confidence as this statement shows it can’t even make up its mind about the dividend reinvestment plan.

*Today’s Mayne Report video launches the campaign to vote down Owen Hegarty’s outrageous $10.7m golden goodbye at the OZ Minerals EGM on July 18.

Peter Fray

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