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Saturday, September 7, 2013

More Sleazy Joseph Gutnik Behavior Exposed

A LISTED mining company controlled by colourful Melbourne magnate Joseph Gutnick has received a takeover bid from Singapore's LionGold, in a deal that bears a remarkable similarity to a failed offer last month for the entrepreneur's Merlin Diamonds.

The cashed-up LionGold is well known in Australian mining circles, where it has left behind a string of failed deals to acquire several miners and explorers over the past two years.

LionGold, which has a market capitalisation of $S1.6 billion ($1.4bn), launched a friendly takeover offer late last month for Canadian-listed Acadian Mining Corp, which is worth only $C7.4 million ($7.9m).

Mr Gutnick is the major shareholder in Acadian -- which is focused on exploring a portfolio of gold properties in Nova Scotia, Canada -- via his stake in a US-based Golden River Resources.

But of particular interest to Australian investors -- especially those in the Mr Gutnick-chaired Merlin Diamonds -- is the fact that one of LionGold's substantial shareholders is Wong Chin Yong, the chief executive of listed Singaporean investment firm InnoPac Holdings.

InnoPac launched a mysterious $60m takeover bid for Merlin Diamonds in January that eventually collapsed last month after revelations that Mr Gutnick had switched allegiances during the offer period.

Mr Gutnick sold his controlling stake in Merlin and became the biggest shareholder in InnoPac.

He sold the Merlin stake in March to a group of Singaporean businessmen who all have links to InnoPac.

The shares were sold for between 20c and 22c -- a significant discount to InnoPac's takeover offer price of 28c a share.

Mr Gutnick disclosed his Merlin sales to the Australian Securities Exchange but shareholders in Australia were not told that their chairman had become the biggest shareholder in InnoPac.

The Australian Shareholders' Association said last month it was concerned that Mr Gutnick, as chairman of Merlin, had not kept the company's retail shareholders fully informed about his share trading.

It is unclear whether Mr Gutnick now intends to repeat his actions by selling out of Acadian and buying up shares in LionGold.

Also unclear is the extent of the apparent links between Mr Gutnick and a group of Singaporean businessman.

Mr Gutnick now spends most of his time in the city state.

According to Singapore financial website Investor Central, the Gutnick-controlled Golden River Resources has an 18.74 per cent stake in Acadian, while Wong Chin Yong, chief executive of InnoPac, has a stake of 8.41 per cent.

Mr Gutnick is also the largest shareholder in InnoPac with more than 10 per cent of the stock.

LionGold has previously taken over Australian miner Castlemaine Goldfields and has an 18 per cent stake in gold hopeful CitiGold.

But it pulled the pin on several other offers, including bids for Navigator Resources and Bass Metals, which took legal action against the Singaporean company.

LionGold said last month that it was primed for acquisitions and had a $S200m war chest.

Mr Gutnick could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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