Neptune faces ownership quandary

Neptune Marine Services chairman Boon Wee Kuah admits he faces a bit of a quandary over the company's ownership.

Mr Kuah's Singapore company MTQ launched a $58 million takeover bid for Neptune two years ago but fell agonisingly short of the 90 per cent threshold for compulsory acquisition.

Instead of further extending the date of the 3.2�-a-share offer, MTQ decided to get on with things and left Neptune on the Australian Securities Exchange boards.

"We made an offer and we closed the offer on the basis of who we thought would accept at the price we offered," Mr Kuah said. "Frankly, we've been very focused on trying to improve the performance so haven't had any preconceived notions about how to address the rather unusual situation we're in now, where we own 87 per cent of the company."

While there are costs involved in remaining a listed company, the legal fees alone in launching an offer to mop up the subsea engineering firm are a deterrent.

"It's not so straightforward," Mr Kuah said.

"It's also predicated on trying to work out what the minority shareholder intentions are."

Those who kept their shares have seen the price improve to a trading range of between 4¢ and 5¢ as Neptune returned to profitability after a few horror years.

"When I first joined the board there were a lot of concerns that clients were not wanting to deal with us because they were worried about whether we'd be around tomorrow," Mr Kuah said. Those problems have gone away.

Neptune's annual meeting yesterday voted to rid the company of another legacy - the 1.8 billion shares it has on issue.

The move will see a 30-to-one consolidation next month designed to give Neptune a share price on par with its $83 million market capitalisation.

Shareholders also backed a $350,000 payment to chief executive Robin King in exchange for the cancellation of share-based performance rights issued before MTQ took control.

The West Australian

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