AAC 0.00% $1.11 australian agricultural company limited.

director sell shares

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    Cattle man quits board, sells stock March 27, 2004

    By Sue Peacock

    PETER Holmes à Court will step off the board of cattle company Australian Agricultural Company on June 30, less than six months after his shock departure as the company's chief executive.

    His resignation as a director came as he offloaded shares worth $5.4 million, just under a third of his 8 per cent holding in the cattle empire.

    The company's second biggest shareholder described the sale of 4.5 million shares at $1.20 - from a total holding of 15 million shares plus eight million $1 options - as "ordinary practice".

    "It is just part of the transition from being an executive director to a non-executive director," Mr Holmes à Court said.

    The theatre producer turned theatre baron said yesterday he had only stayed on the board to ensure a smooth transition for his successor Don Mackay.

    "That has happened . . . and it is time to give Don the head space to get on with it," he said.

    At the time of his January resignation as chief executive, Mr Holmes à Court said he looked forward to continuing to support the company and management as a non-executive director and major shareholder.

    A decision by the AACo board to relocate its head office from Sydney to Brisbane sparked his exit from the top job.

    He said at the time he had no desire to move his young family to Queensland.

    Shares in Australia's oldest company closed yesterday unchanged at $1.15, with the announcement of Mr Holmes à Court's resignation and sell down made after the market had closed.

    AACo shares have fallen from a high last month of $1.38, carving more than $3 million from the value of Holmes à Court's holding.

    The eldest son of the late corporate raider Robert Holmes à Court secured his stake in the company via a limited recourse loan from Futuris Corporation, which allowed him to buy 15 million $1 shares in the 2001 float of the pastoral company out of the Futuris stable.

    In January, he said he was negotiating with National Australia Bank to refinance the loan.

    As for his future plans, Mr Holmes à Court said he was still "looking at opportunities" after a 2½ week trip to the US and Britain.

    "It has only been three months and I am very fortunate that we are in a period of low unemployment," he said.

    "There are some great opportunities out there but I am not going to make a quick decision."

    AACo posted a first half loss of $2.9 million due to costs associated with the drought and its failed bid for AMP's Stanbroke Pastoral empire.

    It still expects a full year profit 15 to 25 per cent above the 2003 net profit of $18.3 million based on positive currency movements and strengthening cattle prices.

    © 2004 West Australian Newspapers Limited
    All Rights Reserved.

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