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Gunns Growers favour Macquarie

Growers involved in Gunns Plantations Ltd managed investment schemes have ignored advice and voted for Macquarie Bank to become responsible for 63,000ha of Tasmanian plantations. Sources: The Mercury, The Australian

Growers preferred a Macquarie Bank/WA Blue Gum proposal rather than a sale process advocated by liquidators PPB Advisory. But a legal stoush has developed, with a directions hearing due in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The developments are the latest in the dispersal of assets of Gunns, which collapsed last year with $3 billion in liabilities.

In the court case, Gunns Ltd receivers KordaMentha sought an injunction about the vote alleging misleading and deceptive conduct by Macquarie and WA Blue Gum.

Macquarie claim liquidators PPB Advisory and receivers KordaMentha were attempting to sell off Gunns’ land and trees under the scheme in a “fire sale”, while the Macquarie offer is aimed at giving growers the option of allowing the schemes to go to harvest or selling should a cash bid emerge later in the year.

The directions hearing will consider whether the vote was in the best interest of growers and whether there had been misleading conduct.

KordaMentha controls 15,000ha of trees after taking possession of 2910ha of trees owned by growers who defaulted on loans owed to Gunns Finance Ltd.

The Gunns Growers Group welcomed the 97% of growers who backed the Macquarie restructure proposal.

“We believe this is the first step to put us firmly in control of our assets so that we are no longer exposed to other parties making decisions about our assets without consulting us,” a group spokesman said.

“We look forward to working with Macquarie and WA Blue Gum to maximise the value of our assets, either by an orderly sale, which takes account of our interests, or by continuing to harvest.

“No sale will happen unless growers are supportive and believe that the sale proceeds represent a higher value than the alternative of going to harvest. There were 35,000ha of trees not voted on by growers yesterday.”

The growers group said Macquarie and WA Blue Gum had consulted it about the receivers claims yesterday.

“We are confident they will vigorously defend themselves against these claims,” he said.

“We also understand that Macquarie has written to the receivers offering to remedy the alleged breaches of the leases from Gunns Ltd, including for unpaid rent, and we look forward to a speedy resolution of this issue.”