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Tower's AGM bit of a damp squib

Tower Corporation's annual meeting yesterday failed to shed any new light on the details of its proposed demutualisation.

Wednesday, February 25th 1998, 12:00AM

by Philip Macalister

Tower Corporation's annual meeting yesterday failed to shed any new light on the details of its proposed demutualisation.
However, the chairman Colin Beyer did indicate parties other than Guinness Peat Group (GPG) have expressed interest in acquiring Tower.
Tower says the twin aims of demutualisation are to release value within the group for its members and provide access to new capital for future expansion.
Much play has been made of future expansion including a push a proposed push into the Australian Superannuation fund sector.

Yet there is a school of thought within the industry that the medium sized players are vulnerable to predatory action by bigger groups as rationalisation continues.
Under this scenario Tower is potentially vulnerable.
People expecting fireworks at the meeting between the board and GPG would have been disappointed. Although GPG personnel such as directors Tony Gibbs and Gary Weiss attended the meeting they failed to draw the board on answers to their questions regarding Tower's accounts and membership - two of the hotly contested issues between the parties.
Beyer and group managing director James Boonzaier instead focussed their attention on Tower's results, its financial strength and what it has done for policyholders.
Tower and GPG are set to cross swords in three court fixtures. The first of those is set down for March 12 and 13 in the High Court at Wellington and relates to the role of GPG's lawyers Russell McVeagh.
Tower wants the firm to stop acting for GPG as it has previously acted for Tower.
Tower is also seeking a declaratory judgement regarding a request by GPG for its policyholder register. The third matter is GPG's request for the court to determine the membership status of Tower Australia's policyholders.
This is fundamental to who gets what in a demutualisation.
GPG argues the real owners of Tower are the 181,000 Government Life policyholders, while Tower reckons those people plus the 151,000 Tower Australia policyholders are the owners.
Under GPG's plans the 181,000 Government Life people would receive about $2000 each in demutualisation. If the Australian policyholders were brought into the equation the average benefit would be about $800 per policyholder.
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