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Waltus objectors bury hatchet

The annual meeting of property group Urbus (formerly Waltus)ends with an unexpected outcome.

Tuesday, September 18th 2001, 1:11AM

by Jenny Ruth

After close questioning of the annual accounts at a rather tense annual meeting yesterday, the objectors to last year’s merger of 27 Waltus property syndicates have offered to bury the hatchet.

At the conclusion to the meeting, Whangarei accountant Brian Moyle, who led the court battle against the merger, said it was time for everyone to put the dispute behind them.

"In all of my living days I will never be convinced (the merger) was the right thing to do," Moyle told the meeting.

"I have to say I congratulate your team on your very well prepared proposal and your very well prepared defence of the proposal. I’m not too small to acknowledge you guys beat us," he said.

Last week, the objectors lost the last part of their court battle, although they did win the right to reasonable costs.

"As far as I’m concerned, at the end of this meeting this dispute is at an end," Moyle said.

Earlier, chairman Denis Thom said the progress of the company, renamed Urbus Properties, "confirmed the wisdom of the scheme of arrangement."

The annual report shows the company exceeded many of the prospectus forecasts, including producing a net profit before property revaluations of $6.86 million for the five-month period ended 31 March compared with the forecast $6.065 million.

The bottom line was dragged down by a $3.946 million writedown of the properties. Thom said the writedown had no effect on cashflow.

Among the highlights were that the portfolio’s "over-renting" was reduced from 6.97% to 1.62% and the weighted average lease term increased from 5.56 years to 6.02 years, Thom said.

At one stage during the meeting Thom complained about the technical and negative nature of many of the questions and threatened to restrict the number of questions each person could ask. In the end though, the dissenters were able to make all the points they wished to.

When a shareholder who said he supported the merger suggested the dissenters were responsible for Urbus shares trading at a discount to net asset backing, Thom said "it would be unkind to blame the discount on the dissenters. Property shares are a bit all over the place."

Urbus shares, which began with a nominal net asset backing of $1 each have gone from trading below 60c shortly after the joined the stock exchange’s 'grey' market, to trading between 85c and 90c recently.

Thom said the company is considering listing on the stock exchange’s main board and that might help support the share price.

« Waltus merger objectors lose again but win costsSovereign takes regulation bull by the horns »

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