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[sharechat] LTI 'Out West' (6) - Fletcher Forests Felled

From: "" <>
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2002 00:07:50 +0000

In August 2002, Fletcher Forest shareholders voted at a special 
general meeting on a controversial deal.  The plan was to buy back 
from the banks, the trees in the Central North Island forest's conjunction with CITIC an investment arm of the 
Chinese government.  Ironically it was a disagreement between CITIC 
and Fletcher Forests that had seen the partnership go into 
receivership in the first place!   Chairman of Fletcher Forests, Sir 
Dryden Spring was championing the deal.  He wanted scale and was 
prepared to tolerate the exit clause that saw an unusually generous 
exit payout for cornerstone shareholder Rubicon.  'Bit' shareholder 
GPG represented by Tony Gibbs, and substantial shareholder Xylem 
corporation opposed the deal.  The meeting adjourned with counting of 
votes going into the night.


The doors of the saloon swung open as a puff of wind wafted an 
odour of sweet plantation pollen into the near empty saloon.  A 
tumbleweed rolled down the main street in botanic sympathy.  It was 
late, so late that only the gas lamps in the first floor bedrooms of 
the hotel opposite and the near full moon broke the town's blackness. 
 The moonlight silhouetted the two horses standing still tied up 
outside the saloon.  These steeds were one of the few clues that this 
was not a ghost town.  It was night time, 'knight time' in more ways 
than one.

At a round table in the centre of the bar were two men cowboy hats 
on their heads, wearing thick crumpled moleskin coats.  Sir Dryden 
and Sir Dampkitchen were old ranchers from the mother land.  They 
were fruit ranchers for all seasons who ran a banana plantation on 
the outskirts of town.  On the table between the two men were two 
piles of papers, by each man's hand was an empty beer flagon and in 
the centre of the table was a small gas lamp, flickering and giving 
the whole Saloon a yellow mustard afterglow.  Behind the bar was a 
third man stacking bottles and dirty glasses by way of a hand held 

"Two thousand and nineteen, two thousand and twenty", slurred one of 
the men at the table.

"Haven't you finished counting those votes yet Wet ('Wet' was 
Dryden's own little nick-name for Dampkitchen)?", said Dryden, 
peeking sleepishly out from under his hat.

"Yes, an hour ago Dry.  I'm just checking our meeting allowance money 
for the day and it's a nice little haul!"  

Dampkitchen beamed as he grabbed the two piles of paper on the table 
and held them out: two closed fists crammed with notes, just an 
eyeballs reach from the other's face.   Both men let out an 
uproarious chuckle, before Dry composed himself again.   

Dry didn't feel too bad about pocketing this money.   The gardner's 
they'd employed had saved that amount of cash on the hedging 
so the shareholders would never miss it.  Besides it was a tiny fee 
by world class international business standards.

  "The vote Wet , the vote.  Are the townspeople going to let us go 
in with the Chinaman or not?"

'The Chinaman'.   As Dry had uttered those words his gut went cold.  

The Chinaman, whose name was Wok Tee Hek, had arrived in town as some 
sort of emissary for the Chinese government.  Dry and Wok
had gone halves in the banana plantation next to his own.  It seemed 
like a good idea at the time, a partnership.  But there was a fearful 
row, east would not meet west and the whole banana plantation split.  
It was a full twelve round verbal slanging match, with no winners.  
Yet now there was Dry, looking to buy the land back off the bank with 
the Chinaman as a shareholder!   Something didn't quite stack up.  
Why would Wok Tee Hek be content with a minority stake in the 
proposed new deal?  In a couple of years, when the gentlemen's 
agreement on management of the crop expired, what would he do?  
Dryden had visions of Wok Tee Hek stealthily stacking his Junk down 
at the river jetty full of banana boxes in the dead of night.   From 
the jetty Wok Tee Hek would Shanghai off down the waterway to the 
ocean and from there to China itself.  Once in China he would further 
process the goods.   But perhaps Dry just had a vivid imagination?  
After all why should anyone slip out of town, solely on bananas?   
And what reason did he have not to trust the Chinaman?

Also on Dry's mind was the payout proposed for his own Aunt Ruby for 
her share of the combined plantation.  Sure she was going to 
be offered near twice the price that the townspeople shareholders 
could get.  But she was family, and in order for the rest of the deal 
to go through, Dry considered this arrangement was fair. 

Thirdly there was the overall debt level all shareholders were taking 
on.  What if there was a downturn in the world market for bananas?  
Dry had a counter plan for that possibility.   If the world wasn't 
buying as many, he'd just make the townspeople eat more!

Any doubts on the proposal were soon erased from his own mind.
What was he thinking of?   He was still the big man around town, 
right?   A wink in the direction of his own waistline was 
affirmation enough of this.  The worst that could happen to him 
within a couple of years was to have to let his belt out a notch or 
two, to prepare his pocket for a bolstering with bullion.  Bright 
metal was ordained to be delivered to him via a golden parachute 
pension plan, should he quit the land!  Fresh from this satisfying 
little day-dream, Dry's concentration snapped back to the present.

"The optimistic way of looking at the result is that we came second 
Dry", Dampkitchen grumbled.   

Dry screwed up his face, prised the hat from the top of his head and 
cast it by the brim forcefully at the floor.  When it came to a vote 
result, ol' Dry didn't like to hear the 'L' word.

"Whiskey!, dry", Dry stuttered to the barman.   The barman had left 
the whiskey bottle on the counter in anticipation.  He brought a 
double with spring-water back to Sir Dryden.

Dry stared at the glass for two or three minutes.  He knew that 
inviting the townspeople to take shares in that plantation of his 
was, in hindsight, asking for dissent.  How could these small town 
greenhorns have dare challenged the superior business brain of a real 
ranch man, even if he did only deal with fruit?  Those rough and 
ready miscreants, Weiss and Gibbs, had been scratching around the 
town for opposition to Dry's deal. They highlighted the 'Aunt Ruby 
con' payout (as they termed it) as one point to argue against.  These 
two were spreading the word that the whole deal was just bananas, 
something that even Dry couldn't deny.   But surely only Sheppards 
would have flocked to the cause of those two former farm advisers?  
Dry grabbed the glass and in two swigs it was empty.  Perhaps his own 
methods of persuasion for the people had been too subtle?

Negotiations between the small shareholders and the big men at the 
top had ended up as rough as sandpaper.  Yet at the top there was no 
friction between Wet and Dry.

"Wok Tee Hek!"  "There's no deal to cut."  "It's all been voted 
down."   "No additional plot of land to exploit, and no additional 
land management fee to pocket.", was the terse verbal tirade that 
came from Dry's lips.

Dry's mind was like a butter churner with all the deals and counter 
deals being tossed around in his head:  share exchanges, asset swaps 
leveraged buyouts - nothing complicated or at all grandiose seemed to 
be workable.  And now his only option on the deal was to lump it.  
Dry's brow furrowed and both ends of his bottom lip dropped as his 
mouth morphed into the shape of a crestfallen inverted banana.

"You know what this means Wet", he said as he gloomily summed up,
to butter up Dampkitchen and salvage what he could from the 
situation.  After all, what had transpired that day could not 
possibly reflect on his own credibility.

"There is nothing for it Wet, I can't see any other way to work the 
business", added a resigned Sir Dryden. "We are just going to have to 
create value out of our own trees by working the land - ourselves!"


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on Pegasus Mail version 2.55
"Dogs have big tongues, so you can bet they don't 
bite them by accident"

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