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Abano to sue biggest shareholder

NZN 19/04/2017 Paul McBeth

Abano Healthcare Group will sue its biggest shareholder Healthcare Partners Holdings for unpaid costs stemming from the investor's latest attempt to wrest control of the medical services investor.

The Auckland-based company on Thursday kicked off legal proceedings in the High Court over $566,000 in unpaid costs arising from Healthcare's failed partial takeover bid, having incurred a $1 million bill over the tilt, it said in a statement.

Abano offset those costs by withholding an interim dividend due to Healthcare of some $650,000 in January, and Healthcare's complaint to NZX was unsuccessful.

"The failed partial takeover attempt by Healthcare Partners was time consuming, costly and a distraction for Abano," chairman Trevor Janes said.

"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."

Healthcare, the entity used by Peter and Anya Hutson and James Reeves, wanted to lift its stake to 50.01 per cent from 19.02 per cent, with a $10.16 a share offer, including the 16 cents per share interim dividend, but only attracted 3.6 per cent.

The group wanted to improve the company's performance by halting acquisitions in the medium term in order to reduce debt, while improving the dental practices' operations.

Peter Hutson and Mr Reeves have been lobbying for change at Abano for several years, supporting an informal takeover bid in 2013 by Archer Capital at $6.97 a share.

That would have seen the Australian private equity firm take the healthcare investor's dental businesses and hand the audiology units to Mr Hutson for a nominal sum.

The offer was turned down by the Abano board as being too low.

Peter Hutson and Mr Reeves later tried to oust Abano chairman Mr Janes, calling a special meeting of shareholders, though the resolution was voted down.

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