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Brierley targets Murchison s board
Brierley targets Murchison's board

Sir Ron Brierley, the famous New Zealand corporate raider, wants to overthrow the board of Perth cash box Murchison Metals.

In what is shaping as another twist in Murchison's eventful history, Sir Ron's Mercantile Investment Company claims the cash box is wasting shareholder funds, and it wants managing director Greg Martin and chairman Ken Scott-Mackenzie sacked.

Mercantile, in which Sir Ron has a 49 per cent stake, has amassed a 17 per cent holding in Murchison to be its biggest shareholder. Korean steel giant Posco is the second biggest investor with 13.4 per cent.

Mercantile's requisition of a shareholder meeting comes just three months before Murchison is supposed to be wound up, and excess cash of 3.5¢ to 4¢ a share returned to shareholders. Murchison shares yesterday firmed 0.1¢ to 4¢.

At September 30, Murchison had $27 million cash and forecast outgoings of at least $9 million between now and the company's proposed February wind-up date.

In a statement yesterday, Sir Ron labelled Murchison's forecast expenditure as "excessive" and said if Mercantile's coup was successful and nominees Gabriel Radzyminski and Paul Jensen elected to the board, "their first priority will be to stem the cash outflow".

It remains unclear what Mercantile would do with Murchison and whether it would honour plans for the final cash return to shareholders. Mr Radzyminski yesterday said it was too early to speculate but said he hoped Murchison's board would see "the voice of reason". "We are simply a deeply, deeply concerned shareholder that is seeing what is in our mind a huge amount of shareholder capital being spent," he said. Murchison did not comment beyond confirming Mercantile's push.

The requisition is likely to be the main topic of conversation at Murchison's annual meeting next week and the voting outcome on resolutions on the remuneration report and to re-elect Mr Scott-Mackenzie seen as a straw poll of Mercantile's support.

Their first priority will be to stem the cash outflow."

Sir Ron Brierley