Thursday 20 April 2017 02:45 PM
UPDATE: Abano in spat with biggest shareholder over takeover costs
(Recasts and adds comment from Healthcare Partners throughout)
By Paul McBeth
April 20 (BusinessDesk) - Abano Healthcare Group's spat with its biggest shareholder Healthcare Partners Holdings degenerated into public accusations of lying as the parties prepare to face each other in the court room over a $566,000 bill.
The NZX-listed medical services investor filed papers in the High Court over $566,000 in unpaid costs arising from Healthcare Partners' failed partial takeover bid, saying the entity used by long-term critics Anya and Peter Hutson and James Reeves are being unreasonable and dragging their heels in meeting the bill under the terms of the Takeovers Code. Abano said it had provided "significantly detailed breakdowns of the costs" but that Healthcare Partners had disputed every invoice and didn't accept enough information had been provided about the $1 million bill incurred by the bid.
"The failed partial takeover attempt by Healthcare Partners was time consuming, costly and a distraction for Abano," chairman Trevor Janes said in a statement. "We do not see it as reasonable for Abano and its shareholders to be funding costs properly incurred in relation to Healthcare Partners unsolicited and unsuccessful bid."
In response, Healthcare Partners' Peter Hutson accused Abano of lying and said the company, of which he and his cohorts own 19.02 percent worth $35.3 million, was trying to "slur" them with the court action and side-stepping a direct dealing.
"The truth is that, contrary to what Abano is claiming, it has declined to provide detailed cost information in the appropriate form and detail," Hutson said. "Given that Abano has refused to work cooperatively with us, the court is now the best forum to resolve the issue of costs."
Abano and the principals of Healthcare Partners have been sniping at each other for several years with the Hutsons and Reeves unsuccessfully trying to wrest control of the company through two takeover tilts and an attempt to spill the board.
The latest takeover bid, which failed to attract enough support, saw Healthcare Partners offer $10.16 a share, including the 16 cents per share dividend, in a partial offer to lift its stake to 50.01 percent.
Hutson today said the partial nature undermined the bid, which attracted just 3.6 percent, and that his fellow shareholders would have been more enamoured by a full takeover.
Abano said it has incurred $2 million over the past three and a half years from the Hutsons' and Reeves' machinations, and that the group's baulking at paying those costs was a continuation of their efforts to "delay and avoid their financial responsibilities under the Takeovers Code".
The shares rose 1.1 percent $8.65, having gained 1.9 percent so far this year.