Former billionaire miner Nathan Tinkler told a Sydney court that commodity trader Noble Group Ltd. was to blame for the collapse of his planned share investment last year in Blackwood Corp.
Tinkler said in the New South Wales Supreme Court today that he thought he had an agreement with Noble for the Hong Kong-based company to buy his 75 percent stake in a royalty from the Middlemount coal project, valued at A$25 million ($26 million) to A$30 million. He planned to finance a A$28.4 million investment in Blackwood with the proceeds, though the deal with Noble never went through, he said.
“I have a very good working relationship with Noble,” Tinkler said. He had done transactions with Noble “in the A$100 million to A$200 million range and I didn’t think a A$20 million deal would be a problem,” he said. Stephen Brown, a Noble spokesman, declined to comment in an e-mail.
The case continues the setbacks for the electrician-turned-entrepreneur who at the age of 35 was ranked as Australia’s youngest billionaire by BRW magazine in 2011 after he sold his house in 2006 to help buy the A$30 million Middlemount coal lease in Queensland. He sold the lease a year later to Macarthur Coal Ltd. for about A$465 million in cash and shares. He’s now struggling to meet creditors’ demands, with several of his companies threatened with liquidation for not paying debts and taxes.
Blackwood moved to wind up Tinkler’s Mulsanne Resources Pty in November after the company failed to buy the Blackwood shares. Tinkler was ordered to appear in court to answer questions from lawyers representing Mulsanne’s liquidators about the agreement and resisted the effort, failing to attend on March 7 and claiming it was an abuse of the court process. A New South Wales Supreme Court judge dismissed that claim on March 11.
Tinkler had a 19.4 percent stake in Whitehaven Coal Ltd., according to an October statement, making him the company’s biggest shareholder. He testified today that the stake is owned by Aston Resources Investments Pty, with his wife owning the shares of that company.
Whitehaven plunged 2.9 percent to A$2.31 in Sydney today, to close at the lowest since May 18, 2009.
Tinkler owes as much as $700 million to lenders including Farallon Capital Partners, Credit Suisse Group AG and Kuok Group, three people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News in November. That debt exceeds the current value of the Whitehaven stake by more than $200 million.
He lost ownership of his personal jet and helicopter after GE Commercial Australasia Pty pushed TGHA Aviation Pty into receivership in November. Tinkler’s Dassault Falcon 900C jet and AgustaWestland A109S helicopter are now up for sale.
Oceltip, in which Tinkler had a 75 percent share that is now owned by his wife, holds a royalty under which it receives A$1 for every metric ton of coal produced at Middlemount, he testified.
He said he kept records of his discussions with Noble’s Executive Director William Randall over the plans to sell the commodity trader the royalty, although he can’t find his notepads, nor any letters or e-mails relating to the deal.
“I didn’t feel the need to document every little thing,” Tinkler said.
The two also discussed a proposal to buy Australian assets valued at A$400 million from Vale SA, and Noble was willing to back him on the deal, with Och-Ziff Capital Management Group’s Hong Kong office being involved in discussions about financing the acquisition, Tinkler said.
Bank of America Corp., Credit Suisse and UBS AG were the banks he approached to help finance the Blackwood share investment, Tinkler said.
The case is In the matter of Mulsanne Resources Pty. 2012/00296966. Supreme Court of New South Wales (Sydney).