Forrest hits at Anglo’s tactics


  □  By Michael Weir
ANACONDA Nickel has accused major shareholder Anglo American of dirty tactics in the way it has lobbied minority shareholders ahead of this month's meeting to axe chief executive Andrew Forrest.
   Mr Forrest said yesterday Anglo was behind a series of meetings being held across Australia where shareholders were paid $50 to attend.
   At the meetings shareholders were canvassed on their views on Anaconda and were only told at the end that Anglo was behind the meeting.

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN WEDNESDAY MAY 2 2001      47

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   But Anglo said its actions were above board and the shareholder focus groups were standard practice.
   "Focus group research is commonly and routinely undertaken by a wide range of organisations, including governments, business, politicians and trade unions to give them an understanding of the attitudes or opinions of various stakeholder groups that are important to them," investor relations senior vice-president Anne Dunn said.
   "Participants are randomly selected from the shareholder register and those who attend are reimbursed a small amount of $50 to cover travel costs associated with attending the meetings. This is a standard fee used by market research firms around the country."
   Anglo has started a series of briefings in Australia this week with market analysts, private client advisers and politicians.
   Next week the 25.4 per cent shareholder plans to give presentations to other major shareholders Glencore International (21 per cent), Sherritt International (9 per cent) and Marc Rich (4 per cent).
   A spokeswoman for the Australian Securities & Investments Commission said no official complaints had been received.
   "ASIC always encourages shareholder democracy and has no problems with one shareholder talking to another," she said. "However, if they engage in misleading or deceptive conduct it could be a breach of the Corporations Law."
   An Anaconda shareholder who attended a meeting in Perth on Monday night told The West Australian she had been contacted by telephone, but had been put under no pressure to attend.
   The 1 1/2-hour interview was recorded and she was told at the end that the research had been for Anglo.
   "I have never seen anything like it," Mr Forrest said yesterday. "To me it seems dreadfully cloak and dagger.
   "This is something which shows to me how desperate Anglo is to get control of this company. They really do want to remove the control premium."
   Mr Forrest has previously accused Anglo of using underhand tactics to thwart a recent capital raising attempt.
   "Credit Suisse First Boston were contacting Australian institutions while we were raising capital, casting great doubts that both Anglo and Glencore were not going to participate in the placement, which is something we at Anaconda did not know and they did not disclose they were acting for Anglo at the time," he said.
   He also said Anglo, with its intimate technical knowledge of the Murrin Murrin nickel project, had timed its attack just when the performance of the plant was starting to turn around. -- © The West Australian, Michael Weir, Wednesday May 2 2001, p. 47

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   A really good lead-in to democratic campaigning against monopoly globa