Tiger sees prey in downturn

Peter Williams

The mining downturn has driven down equipment values by up to 30 per cent in the past year, according to a new entrant in the distressed sales business.

Tiger Asset Group director of restructuring and finance Ben Gibson said after holding up reasonably well, the glut of idle equipment had taken its toll.

"Certainly in the last six to 12 months conditions have become increasingly difficult," he said.

Prices had fallen between 20 per cent and 30 per cent.

"You need to work harder to get a sale, you need to look at markets outside of Australia and you need to be very hands-on with your sales approach," Mr Gibson said.

But he said the slump had sparked interest from mostly Asian private equity firms or funds speculating on prices recovering further down the track.

They had been partnering with Australian operators to buy equipment at vastly reduced prices with a plan to park them for between 18 months and two years before re-selling.

An offshoot of US valuation and disposal company Tiger Group, the business was set up in Australia last year, and opens a Perth office today.

One of its first local jobs is to sell materials of failed miner Midwest Vanadium stored in third-party warehouses in Kewdale and Geraldton.

Pickles Auctions, a national seller with 22 sites and 700 staff, is a partner and shareholder in the Australian business. Like a number of people at Tiger, including chief executive Damian McCarthy, Mr Gibson is a former executive of online retailer and auctioneer GraysOnline.

The staff exodus occurred as GraysOnline merged with online department store DealsDirect to create the Australian Securities Exchange-listed entity Grays eCommerce Group.

"Grays is quite a diverse business," Mr Gibson said.

"We saw an opportunity probably to service that (insolvency) market a little better."

Tiger's business model is focused on insolvency prac- titioners, banks and other lenders dealing with assets under stress.

"We speak their language and understand the pressures that are on them in these administrations and receiverships."