Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger

WHITEHAVEN Coal’s planned $5.1 billion merger with Nathan Tinkler-led Aston Resources and Boardwalk Resources has been overwhelmingly approved by shareholders.
Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger Shareholders approve Aston-Whitehaven merger

Nathan Tinkler

Lauren Barrett

Shareholders voted today on the proposed merger, with proxy votes lodged by Whitehaven shareholders concluding that 90% were in favour of the deal, while 10% were against it.

Meanwhile, 99% of Aston Resources shareholders voted in favour of the Whitehaven-Aston deal.

Whitehaven chairman John Conde said the transaction was a “compelling and unique opportunity” for both Whitehaven and Aston.

The proposed merger was announced on December 12 and would create Australia’s largest independent coal mining company.

The scheme date is scheduled for May 2, with the last trading day for Aston tipped for April 19, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Boardwalk, an unlisted exploration and development company, owns interests in four coal exploration assets across New South Wales and Queensland.

Its purchase is conditional on the merger between Aston and Whitehaven.

The merger of the three companies would create a coal company with saleable production of 6 million tonnes per annum of coal in the 2012 financial year.

It is expected to increase to 25Mtpa by FY2016 and will lead to a commanding position in the growing Gunnedah Basin of NSW.

Independent directors of Aston backed the merger and previously recommended that Aston shareholders vote in favour of the scheme in the absence of a superior proposal.

At the time of announcing the offer, Tinkler said the transaction was an important milestone for Aston shareholders.

“The merger represents the next phase in Aston’s growth, providing shareholders with exposure to a larger and more diversified portfolio of coal mines, projects and exploration opportunities, while continuing to maintain exposure to the Maules Creek project,” he said.

However, the proposed merger has been met with some unease lately, following former Aston chief executive officer Hamish Collins’ decision to take a $157 million claim against the company to the NSW Supreme Court.

Aston is planning to defend the proceedings.