Graziers’ Investment Co bailout

Annabelle Cleeland
By Annabelle Cleeland
Updated May 25 2017 - 7:18am, first published 2:40am
Senator Chris Back's line of questioning toward AWI aimed to clarify the relationship with the Graziers' Investment Company and whether shareholders would receive any of the $20m worth of assets. Photo: Colin Bettles

AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation’s (AWI) chiefs are doubtful shareholders of Graziers' Investment Company (GIC) will receive a slice of the dormant company’s $20 million bank balance once liquidation is finalised.

A commercial bailout relationship between AWI and GIC was revealed during a Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee senate estimates hearing on Wednesday, with questions fired by Senator Chris Back raising doubts about the distribution of funds. 

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“Where they connect with (AWI) is that they had a property in Mumbai, (India) which they sold and they couldn’t get the funds out,” AWI chairman Wal Merriman said.

“It was to let them try and wind-up and get them cash because they couldn’t get the cash out of India.

“We did a commercial arrangement, with discounts, to take that cash in India and give them Australian dollars… so they could move on and finalise their asset issues.”   

GIC, formerly known as Australian Wool Services Limited (AWS), was established in 2001 as a successor to the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation (AWRAP), and comprised two subsidiaries - The Woolmark Company and AWI.

AWI split from AWS in 2002 before purchasing Woolmark in 2007.

Mr Merriman raised doubts about the company’s estimated $20m worth of assets being distributed to more than 36,000 shareholders in GIC, who are located mostly in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.

In my business we bought out some aunts, we’ve sold some companies, I think my left over residual benefit from all that was about $150, so it will be very difficult to find the people who should get that asset.

- AWI chairman Wal Merriman

While more than 30,000 shareholders hold up to 100 shares, major shareholders include Twynam Pastoral Co, John Swire and Sons, Lynoch, NM Rural Enterprises, Emanuel Exports, AJ and PA McBride and F S Falinker and Sons, according to GIC’s 2016 annual report.

Last month it was reported GIC were expecting to receive nearly $700,000 of funds held by the Reserve Bank of India by June 30.  

Senator Back asked about the likelihood of wool levy payers, who were GIC shareholders, receiving shares in the liquidation of GIC.  

“Presumably, the wool levy payers would have been shareholders in the organisation?” Senator Back said.

“Where do they then stand in terms of their shares in that entity which is still actually on the books and still going?”

Mr Merriman said it would be difficult finding shareholders to distribute remaining assets. 

“A lot of the companies aren’t even there, a lot of the people are dead, there are estates and debating entities,” Mr Merriman said.

“In my business, we bought out some aunts, we’ve sold some companies. I think my left over residual benefit from all that was about $150, so it will be very difficult to find the people who should get that asset.”

This was supported by AWI chief executive Stuart McCullough who said the GIC database, which was established in 2000, had not been updated.  

“But there’s has stood still and ours has evolved, as you can imagine, with people buying farms, selling farms, changing address,” Mr McCullough said.

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“We have a very sophisticated database helped by levy revenues services but their’s has remained captured in time from 2000, so it will be a little tough.”

Mr Merriman denied supporting what Senator Black called an “asset swap” with GIC’s financial issues in France.

“To my knowledge they’ve finalised their French legacy issues, and I think they’ve got more money out of India which must have been treated with interest,” he said.

“They’re very close to finalising.”

A statement on GIC said "once all remaining assets are sold, the residual GIC group will be wound up and its surplus assets distributed to shareholders, after the costs of winding up the company have been paid, including redundancy payments to management and directors whose resilience, commitment and dedication, has put the company in the strong position it is in today.”

The board includes chair Barry Walker, OAM, Robbie Sefton, Ian Knight, and managing director Elaine Beever.

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“I don’t want to presume to talk about another company but in my mind, yes, they are there to liquidate holdings back to the shareholders,” Mr Merriman said. 

Annabelle Cleeland

Annabelle Cleeland

National Sheep & Wool Writer

Annabelle Cleeland is Fairfax Media’s national sheep and wool writer. Annabelle joined the Fairfax team in 2012 to nurture her love of Australian agriculture. She began as the Victorian western district reporter at Stock & Land before taking on a senior position as a journalist reporting on all industries statewide. Annabelle’s appetite to report on issues which affect the sheep and wool industry has seen her travel to many parts of Australia and abroad. She is excited to spin industry yarns during a period of substantial demand for the sheepmeat and wool industries. Annabelle enjoys horse riding and climbing mountains, and is a lazy supporter of the Geelong Football Club.

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