Richfield board reject Brierley offer

  • 06/01/2016
Richfield board reject Brierley offer

By Sophie Boot

Richfield International's board has unanimously urged shareholders to reject a takeover offer from veteran corporate raider Ron Brierley's Mercantile Investment.

The ASX-listed shipping firm received an unsolicited on-market takeover offer of 20 Australian cents per share from Mercantile on December 23, which Richfield's directors say is materially inadequate, and doesn't reflect fair value for the shares nor include a control premium.

The shares last traded at 20.5 Australian cents, where they closed on December 31, having gained 135 percent last year.

The timing of the offer is "opportunistic" and Mercantile is trying to take advantage of the company's "proven profitability in the face of the global economic slowdown," the board said in a statement to the ASX.

Brierley-chaired Mercantile has increased its stake in Richfield to 23.6 percent from 19.9 percent, having built its initial holding from a forced sale in August when Australia's Takeovers Panel deemed a transaction breached disclosure obligations.

Richfield's directors also took exception to Mercantile planning to replace non-executive directors if its takeover offer succeeds.

"There is no certainty that these actions will result in improved shareholder value. The RIS directors are not aware of Mercantile OFM having any track record in operating a global shipping business," they said.

In its first-half report, released to the ASX in August 2015, Richfield said profit increased 71 percent to AU$912,000 for the six months to June 2015, while its revenue rose 41 percent to AU$2.02 million. It did not pay a dividend.

Brierley seized control of ASX-listed Mercantile, then called India Equities Fund, in 2012 when shareholders agreed to a deal giving him 54 percent of the company and its chair in return for his stakes in Copper Strike, Trinity Group, ING Community Living Group, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries and Trojan Equity. The dual-listed shares were last at 15 cents on the NZX.

The takeover offer closes at 7pm AEDT (5pm New Zealand time) on February 8.