WOOL grower-owned Graziers Investment Company has declared no monies owed or due to Australian Wool Innovation following a past bail-out arrangement between the companies over GIC assets in India.
Disclosure of a commercial bail-out or ‘asset swap’ deal between Australian Wool Innovation and GIC during a recent Senate estimates committee hearing has prompted WAFarmers to call for GIC funds to go back to the company’s wool grower shareholders or to industry bodies.
Late last month at a Senate estimates hearing AWI Stuart McCullough and chairman Wal Merriman confirmed that AWI had helped GIC Ltd repatriate some Indian assets in the form of cash to Australia as part of the wind-up of the company’s entities globally.
“It was to let them try and wind up and get cash.
“They could not get the cash out of India,” Mr Merriman said.
“So we did a commercial arrangement, with discounts, to take that cash in India and give them Australian dollars so that they could move on to finalise their legacy issues.”
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However, GIC chairman Barry Walker today said there was nothing owed to AWI as a result of the Indian asset arrangement.
“It’s not on loan, there is nothing owed or to be paid back to AWI — that issue was completed.
“It was completed to the satisfaction of AWI and GIC.”
Mr McCullough told the Senate Estimates hearing AWI had worked with GIC on closing some of its overseas entities, “but we have nothing to do with them at all at the moment.”
Graziers’ Investment Company Limited was previously known as Australian Wool Services Limited, the successor to the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation, which once had The Woolmark Company Pty Ltd and Australian Wool Innovation Limited as subsidiaries. AWI was de-merged from AWS in 2002 and The Woolmark Company was sold to AWI in 2007.
GIC Ltd is responsible for concluding the legacy issues inherited from its predecessors and managing the wind-down of its remaining interests. The company expects to distribute an estimated $20 million in assets to GIC shareholders this year. There are 36,594 wool grower shareholders in GIC, mostly in New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria, who holding 2,093,586 issued shares.
WAFarmers livestock executive officer Kim Haywood said every effort must be made to get the money paid to the original shareholders if possible and should not automatically go into AWI accounts, as a preference.
“Any money accrued must go back to the surviving original wool grower stakeholders, many of whom are located in Western Australia,” she said.
“For income that has not got a home, it could either go to the Sheep CRC business model or be split between the Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers Australia.
“We applaud Senator Chris Back for raising the issue during Senate estimates, and for standing up for the shareholders rights to the funds.”
AWI chairman Wal Merriman told the Senate Estimates hearing it would be very difficult to find all the original GIC shareholders to distribute the remaining GIC assets, but Ms Haywood said WAFarmers would not accept this as an excuse not to get money back to them.
“There are absolutely no excuses as to why the money should not make it back to the shareholders, as the original database 2000 can be followed up with GIC’s database, through state farming organisations such as WAFarmers, and state and federal electoral rolls,” she said.
“While we acknowledge that databases change over time with people buying and selling farms, people having passed away, and others changing their contact details or names, it may not be easy to find the surviving stakeholders, but it is critically important that GIC make every effort to restore the funds to the producers involved.”