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Australians boisterous at GPG London meetings

By Nick Stride

Friday 9th June 2000

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Shareholders at GPG's annual and extraordinary meetings in London last week approved a complex new share buyback programme but gave the directors a hard time over a hostile bid for Australian brick and pipemaker Brickworks.

Chairman Sir Ron Brierley fielded complaints from several shareholders, some of whom claimed to represent Australian institutional investors.

They criticised the Brickworks bid, the annual profit, directors' remuneration, GPG's share price performance and the recent share buyback.

Sir Ron conceded less than a fifth of GPG's shareholders had participated in the last buyback but GPG will push ahead with the new programme.

After the meeting he told the Australian Financial Review some of the fuss was "a charade organised by certain people back there in Sydney," a possible reference to the Millner family which controls both Brickworks and Australian pharmacy group WH Soul Pattinson.

GPG is proposing what Sir Ron described as an "unusual" deal in which it pays a nominal $A644 million ($800 million) for Brickworks using Soul Pattinson stock it doesn't yet own.

The two companies have cross-shareholdings. Brickworks has rejected the bid on technical grounds but Sir Ron told the AFR it had not taken issue with the value of the bid. GPG would press on.

The company said it had no plans to hold an AGM in Australia or New Zealand, where most of its shareholders live.

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