Sunday, November 3, 2013

Paladin chief calls for investor calm

Paladin Energy chairman Rick Crabb.

Paladin Energy chairman Rick Crabb. Photo: Erin Jonasson

Paladin Energy chairman Rick Crabb has urged shareholders to cool their lust for executive scalps at the troubled uranium miner, saying that succession planning was in train and that board changes would be counterproductive while an asset sell-down was under way.

Mr Crabb and his managing director, John Borshoff, have been under extra pressure in recent times on the back of shareholder anger at the company's direction.

An Asian hedge fund has been leading a group of Paladin shareholders that are trying to remove Mr Crabb and Mr Borshoff, and their rebel cause has been helped by proxy adviser ISS, which last week called for shareholders to reject a dilutive share placement that Paladin made in August.

The pressure is likely to continue before this month's annual meeting, with the Australian Shareholders Association set to agree with ISS, plus name Mr Crabb at the top of its list of ASX chairmen who should stand down.


Mr Crabb will join Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett, Tatts boss Harry Boon, Aurizon chairman John Prescott, Leighton's Bob Humphris and White Energy chairman Travers Duncan on the ASA's hit list.

Mr Crabb and Mr Borshoff have both been on the board of Paladin for close to 20 years, and Mr Crabb said the company had been discussing a succession plan.

''We do openly discuss succession planning and we do have a conceptual plan for that, but we are in a period of change and there will be a further uplift in the uranium market,'' he said.

Paladin failed to sell a stake in its Langer Heinrich mine in the September quarter, and Mr Crabb said sale negotiations were still under way, making it a bad time to overhaul the board.

''I'm intimately involved in the strategic execution of that, which a number of shareholders have told me they expect me to be involved in, so I do think it would be counterproductive at this important time,'' he said.

''Shareholders considering that need to bear in mind what the company has achieved over the last number of years.

''Under my chairmanship we have built two new uranium mines in Africa, no other company in the world has built any uranium mines in the last 10 years.''

Mr Crabb said the company had four other diverse directors, who were not ''shrinking violets'' in the boardroom.

The ASA disagreed, with chairman Ian Curry saying that Paladin had not once delivered a dividend to shareholders since it started trading in 1994, yet had imposed billions of dollars worth of losses.

''He should retire from the board and ASA will be voting undirected proxies against his re-election,'' he said.
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