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TTP shareholders overthrow question gag

By Christine Nikiel

Friday 23rd May 2003

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Trans Tasman Properties directors grimly survived another grilling from shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in Auckland.

Chairman Don Fletcher initially insisted on a two-question rule for shareholders but relented after complaints.

Directors were questioned on TTP's latest performance and their confidence in the company.

One shareholder noted of the four directors present ­ John Ferner, Mr Fletcher, Rod Hodge and Carl Peterson ­ only Mr Hodge owned shares.

Mr Fletcher said he would "happily" buy shares. Mr Peterson said insider trading was an issue and he would not comment.

Mr Ferner said he was concerned about previous litigation but "if I had an undertaking from everybody not to sue me I'd invest."

This prompted a strong reaction from shareholder Tony Gibbs, of Guinness Peat Group, who said the responses were unconvincing and if the directors were so worried about litigation they should resign.

John Powell, of Latimer Holdings, the 3% TTP shareholder pursuing a minority buyout lawsuit, was present but silent.

Mr Fletcher's only comment on Mr Powell's action was that "TTP was no longer party to legal proceedings.

"The matter is now solely a shareholder issue."

Majority shareholder SEA Holdings principal Jesse Lu was not present.

Mr Fletcher said TTP would probably announce in the next month it was selling the 20-32 Shortland St site in Auckland proposed for an office building because finding tenants to precommit was proving difficult.

In New Zealand, TTP continued to take advantage of a liquid property market, selling 11 properties for $146 million in Wellington and reducing debt, Mr Fletcher said.

In Australia, TTP sold one property for $38.6 million and was considering selling two properties in Sydney.

The company was moving toward more property development with its 35ha Airpark Business Centre at Auckland International Airport and a proposed office building on leasehold land on Auckland's Viaduct.

TTP has reported losses in four of the seven years since its formation in 1995 and combined losses of $57.3 million while the number of shareholders has fallen from about 17,500 to about 5500. Losses on its New Zealand property sales amounted to $9.6 million.

In the year ended December 31, 2002, TTP reported a net surplus of $160,000.

The net asset backing was 55c, not the forecast 61.5c.

Mr Fletcher said the group was in a strong position to move forward.

"The group is now soundly placed, holding good assets in its portfolios on both sides of the Tasman and funding lines that provide additional capacity, enabling new investment opportunities."

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