BrisConnections Chaos Continues

Mac Bank Earns World Of Trouble

Of course it’s not going to help the sense of chaos that characterises the whole BrisConnections venture. Now, the second largest shareholder has decided to go for management control.

The company’s second-largest shareholder, represented by Jim Byrnes, and a mysterious finance company in Surfers Paradise have launched a bid to secure management control.

Less than a fortnight after a proposal to wind up the project was voted down by unit holders, BrisConnections said yesterday it had a received a request from Brisbane Toll Road Link, which owns 15.2 per cent.

The request was for a second meeting to consider the appointment of Armstrong Corporate Capital to replace the BrisConnections Management Company.

Another request was for the second $390 million instalment call for BrisConnections shares, due on Wednesday, to be delayed until “Armstrong notifies members that it is due and payable”.

New Hampton Distressed Asset Fund is the owner of BTR but Macquarie and advisers close to BrisConnections are questioning whether the US hedge fund exists.

But Mr Byrnes said in an email last night: “The company does exist.” He provided no other information and declined to answer the Herald’s questions or identify who was behind the fund. According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents, its address is the same as Mr Byrnes’s home address. Mr Byrnes also lodged a statement of claim in his name in the Federal Court yesterday, as part of his planned $1.3 billion class action against the toll road’s advisers, Macquarie Capital Advisers.

BTR director Carl Trad, an importer of luxury cars, declined to say how he became involved with the company, except: “I’ve had some really good advice.”

When the Herald phoned the Armstrong office in Surfers Paradise, the unidentified person who answered the phone said: “I’m sorry, I’m not giving any interviews to the press, thank you.”

The problem for BTR is that even if a meeting is called, the earliest date it could be held is May 12, three days after the final deadline for it to pay the second installment. A Macquarie bid to buy out 80 per cent of the unit holders would do little to solve the problem of many in dire financial circumstances if they were forced to pay the installments.

Don’t you just love the way the craziness begets more craziness?

It’s enough to wonder when ASIC is going to step in and fix this thing. Leaving it to the unit holders or Macquarie Bank or eve this new bunch out of Surfers Paradise is a surefire recipe for horrible repercussions where the tunnel might not get built.

Then there is the consideration whether if Brisbane really needed this tunnel in the first place, and whether Mac Bank were up to their usual tricks in inflating forecasts for just how much traffic is going to use this lousy toll road when current roads already service the airport just fine. It’s certainly starting to stink of the same graft and greed routine that plagued the Sydney Cross-City tunnel fiasco all over again, and surely ASIC has to be wondering if Mac Bank was acting in good faith when it launched these partially paid units. Because so far, if the past record is anything to go by, there’s a lot that “goes to character” sying they were acting in much, much, much less than good faith.

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