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Fletcher shareholders have their say

By Nick Stride

Friday 3rd November 2000

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At press-time shareholders in Fletcher Challenge were poised to approve the $427 million Forests division rights issue at a drawn-out annual meeting.

The meeting was delayed by a power blowout but once it got under way directors were bombarded with questions by holders of all three remaining divisions - Energy, Building and Forests . But the weight of institutional proxy votes was expected to carry the day.

The vote will free FCL to press ahead with its plans to dissolve the letter stock structure and sell Energy to Royal Dutch/Shell and Apache Energy, leaving Building and a recapitalised Forests as separate companies.

Brokers say the rights, which begin trading later this month, will effectively be worthless.

One speculated FCL's partner in Central North Island Forests, China's Citic, could be tempted to gain a stake in Forests by buying up cheap rights. That would give it leverage in its protracted dispute with FCL over the partnership's management.

The breakup plan still faces the hurdle of securing Commerce Commission clearance for the Energy sale. FCL has said the Forests recapitalisation is not dependent on the proposed deal going ahead.

The commission turned down Shell's initial application and will rule on the revised version by November 17.

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