1492751032491 - Dramatic ousting of directors in NPT takeover battle

Dramatic ousting of directors in NPT takeover battle

Auckland-based property company Augusta Capital and Salt Funds Management helped oust directors of Christchurch-based National Property Trust after a rowdy shareholder meeting about its future.

Ex-NPT Christchurch-based chairman Tony Sewell lost his seat along with fellow director Jim Sherwin after losing the debate and the vote.

NPT was the centre of a battle in recent weeks for control by Augusta versus a Kiwi Property restructuring proposal.   

NPT is the smallest Stock Exchange-listed company and has performed poorly. It owns Eastgate Shopping Centre in Christchurch and a handful of commercial properties. 

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“If you strip out Augusta Capital and Salt Funds Management from the voting (with 32 per cent), almost 80 per cent of votes cast were in favour of the proposal,” Sewell said.

“However, this was not enough to carry it on the day and so we respectfully stand aside now for the incoming board to develop its own strategy,” Sewell said.

The winner in the battle for shareholder support of director preferences was Augusta managing director Mark Francis who celebrated afterwards with champagne at a social function.

His nominee – Augusta chairman Paul Duffy – was elected, plus two others who will be the independent directors, Allen Bollard and Bruce Cotterill​. Director Carol Campbell retains her position as an independent director.

​”I’m feeling very happy, it’s been a long process,” Francis said.

“It’s time to let the dust settle. We’ll be in regular contact with the new board, Francis said.

The failed proposal that had been supported by Sewell and former directors involved Kiwi Property Group selling NPT two of its Wellington properties, raising capital, and purchasing the management rights of NPT.

All arrangements with Kiwi Property Group, including the sale and purchase agreements and management agreement, have been cancelled.

Francis said shareholders had seen a poor proposal rejected, particularly the plan to raise more equity and dilute the interests of existing shareholders.

“Our next step will be to present a proposal to externalise the management to Augusta. We can run this company for a lot less, which will realise an uplift in earnings and the current net tangible asset backing per share.

“This will also introduce a much needed alignment of interests under a proven manager motivated to deliver greater returns for all NPT shareholders,” Francis said.

Augusta manages $1.7 billion in property assets.

“We have a track-record of successfully extracting value from non-performing assets and we will unlock value and then look to deliver much needed scale to the business.”

Francis said Augusta would put forward a superior proposal to the Kiwi Property deal.

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