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Molopo battle escalates with Bolton bid

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The battle for cashbox, Molopo Energy, is getting a little testy.

In its bid to take over Molopo and install its own management, shareholder Keybridge Capital – who has John Bolton, father of corporate raider Nicholas as its largest investor – has rejected assertions, made by the corporate watchdog, that it has any related parties issues.

Ombudsman: Kate Carnell has discovered big business offers loans to small business in her inquiry into late payments. Ombudsman: Kate Carnell has discovered big business offers loans to small business in her inquiry into late payments.  Photo: Sean Davey

The stoush escalated this week when the Australian Securities and Investments Commission applied to the Takeovers Panel, asking for orders to force Keybridge Capital and its former subsidiary, Aurora Funds Management, to reduce their combined stake in Molopo, which stands at about 37 per cent.

ASIC has sought interim orders restraining Keybridge and Aurora and their respective associated entities from exercising any voting rights, acquiring any further relevant interests in Molopo and disposing of any Molopo shares.

Keybridge, in its response to the panel, on Thursday when most of the world is more focused on other issues, says: “Keybridge maintains that no such association exists between Keybridge and Aurora or others with regard to Molopo and, if the panel decides to conduct proceedings, it will vigorously put forward this position”.

Adding to the twists and turns, Aurora, which owns 17.9 per cent of Molopo, is now owned by former Ernst & Young partner John Patton, who is also chairman of Keybridge.

Under the scheme, Keybridge want to get rid of the Molopo board and slide in their own reps, which includes former securities cop Tony Hartnell, at a shareholder meeting to be held on May 15. 

Hartnell was chairman of ASIC’s predecessor, the Australian Securities Commission, and is now a partner with his old mate John Atanaskovic.

​The panel has yet to decide whether to conduct proceedings in response to these applications.

Carnell knowledge

Kate Carnell is on the warpath over the way big businesses pay small businesses. It is part of her new gig as small business ombudsman and she has enthusiastically rained down fire on companies such as Mars, Kellogg’s and Fonterra, claiming their practises amount to extortion

She is particularly outraged to see these businesses seeking 120 days to pay their bills then offering to hook up loans to cover any cashflow problems. 

“The only reason [the small businesses] need the money is they are being paid really slowly,” she told Fairfax Media.

It was one of the more staggering findings from Carnell’s inquiry into the payment world. She seemed surprised at the findings which one can only assume means she hasn’t been keeping up with developments in all her old patches.

You see, prior to heading the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and after her stint as the chief minister of the ACT, Carnell ran the Australian Food and Grocery Council which represents companies such as Mars and Kellogg’s. 

Ah well, all pipers need reliable people to pay, don’t they? Keep up the good work Kate.

Deputy don’t tell

Myer’s Daniel Bracken was not exactly at his expansive best on Thursday in spruiking Myer’s “rescue” of failed fashion brands Marcs and David Lawrence.

Deputy Daniel – whose full title is chief merchandise and customer officer, deputy chief executive – was happy to chat about how important the new brands were to the company’s $600 million turnaround strategy.

But he was less effusive when it came to the department store’s new shareholder, Solomon Lew. Lew bought almost 11 per cent of Myer last month and speculation is rife about how he will wield that influence.

Nobody is any the wiser after Thursday’s intervention.

Bracken’s was a strict “no comment” on whether Lew had played any part in the deal. 

Then again, he wasn’t willing to talk either on how consumer confidence might be tracking, which CBD thought might’ve been of interest to shareholders such as dear Sol as they weighed the merits of reprieving two brands from discount retail’s death row.

CBD will return after the Easter long weekend

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