Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders

NATHAN Tinkler’s plan to unseat five Whitehaven Coal directors over the performance of its Narrabri longwall and its operating costs came unstuck yesterday - with shareholders voting to retain the existing board.
Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders Tinkler rebuffed by Whitehaven shareholders

Nathan Tinkler

Lou Caruana

The mining magnate – who is a 19.4% shareholder of Whitehaven Coal but did not attend yesterday’s meeting – has now retained JPMorgan as an advisor as he ponders his next move.

This follows a week of high drama in which Tinkler revealed he also wanted to take over the job of current chairman Mark Vaile.

Six resolutions regarding the remuneration report and the removal of five directors fell short of the 25% required limit at yesterday’s meeting.

Whitehaven Coal managing director Tony Haggarty – who was the focus of criticism by Tinkler earlier in the week – told the meeting that a main issue for the company was to resolve the automation problems with the Narrabri longwall as it continues to underperform internal targets and industry benchmarks.

“Operator skills are improving and CAT-Bucyrus are supporting until the longwall reaches design performance,” he said.

The longwall’s current 6 million tonnes per annum target based on 65 cutting hours per week.

This compares with industry best practise of 90-100 hours per week.

Narrabri had underground coal-handling capacity and was approved to 8Mtpa and the upgrade to the stage 1 thermal coal crushing system was underway to give an additional 1000tph capacity, he said.

“We need to lift development rates to ensure continuity of longwall production,” he said.

The price of Whitehaven’s major product – semi-soft coking coal – has plunged to $US115 per tonne, leaving the company with little if any margin.

Vaile told the meeting that the outlook for coal prices remained uncertain, but it would still be proceeding with the development of the Maules Creek project after lengthy delays in approval by the NSW government.

“Notwithstanding weaker coal prices, we will be bringing the Maules Creek project into production as quickly as possible. Our clear objective is to be producing coal by Q1, 2014,” he said.

“It is clearly difficult to have a high degree of confidence in predicting future coal prices for FY2013, particularly at this stage of the financial year.

“There is currently little sign of a market rebound, although forward markets are showing improving prices and there is the prospect of renewed demand growth from China in early 2013.”

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