THE GINA RINEHART FAMILY STORY,FROM MILLIONS TO BILLIONS $$$$

The Rinehart story in pics

FOR iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart’s move this week to become Fairfax’s largest shareholder is nothing if not serendipitous. For the mega-wealthy, control of Australia’s most influential newspaper group, Fairfax, is like an insurance policy against political decisions that run against their commercial interests.

Rinehart has paid less than $200 million for this insurance and while she probably will have to pay more, the investment could yield a hefty return.

According to well-placed sources Rinehart was not the only candidate running the ruler over Fairfax – Forrest and his mate Kerry Stokes were sniffing around as well.

Advertisement: Story continues below
Gina Rinehart

Over on the east coast of Australia another astute investor, Peter Hall from Hunter Hall, was also taking a very keen interest in Fairfax.

His fund was not looking for a big stake but he was prepared to take a $10 million punt that either Rinehart or Forrest would.

He thought Fairfax stock was undervalued late last year but figured he had an insurance policy if Fairfax’s prospects went pear-shaped. Hall’s own insurance policy – the emergence of a billionaire seeking influence – paid off.

Just in time, too. Hall was getting more concerned about the media group’s advertising and readership numbers in December and January. Hall sold his shares in Fairfax to Rinehart this week.

Kerry Stokes may have also had an agenda. Sure, influence would have played a significant part in the appeal of Fairfax and he is a big holder of iron ore assets. But he has also made plenty of money out of media over the past 30 years and has other properties – such as the Seven television network and West Australian Newspapers (WAN) – which could have dovetailed nicely with the country’s largest independent news publisher.

For Rinehart and for Forrest the rationale is simple. Invest several hundred million to gain control of Fairfax, and wrest the political agenda from the government.

In Rinehart’s case this would involve using the editorial influence of Fairfax to get rid of Labor and its expensive (to her) taxes – the minerals resource rent tax and the carbon tax – an outcome that could ultimately save billions.

The more politically agnostic Forrest might have been happy to leave the regime but lose its troublesome policies.

The roughly $200 million spent on Fairfax shares could be a downpayment on saving Rinehart and the other resource barons a multiple of this figure in future tax.

Remember, in the hard world of finance, a $100 million annual saving in tax is the same as adding $1 billion to the value of your business. The splendid kicker for Forrest is that he gets all the benefits of Rinehart’s insurance cover without having to pay for the premium or the excess.

But this may not be a fool-proof plan because taking control of the editorial agenda is not necessarily that easy. Rinehart will first have to acquire enough shares to control the board. The 12.6 per cent she has now probably won’t do.

The investment banking strategy experts contend Rinehart will now need to increase her interests to a whisker under 20 per cent – the threshold set by the corporations law, beyond which a full takeover bid for all shares must be made.

From this point, Rinehart would probably still fall short of the necessary shareholding needed to take control of the board and the company. Once the 20 per cent is reached she will be able to use the corporations law to creep upwards at the rate of 3 per cent every six months.

Within a year she will be able to reach a shareholding of almost 26 per cent without the need to make a takeover – the dynamics of power on the Fairfax board would have her in a strong position of influence.

Ironically the template for this corporate manoeuvre was used by Stokes to get his tentacles around West Australian Newspapers.

Back in 2008, Stokes took control of WAN from the humble shareholding of 22.3 per cent, having crept up the register from just over 19 per cent. It’s slower than a takeover – you can only buy 3 per cent every six months – but cheaper.

It is a matter of law that control is deemed to have passed once a shareholder gets 30 per cent (in the absence of another, larger shareholder.)

Thus, for Rinehart, waiting just one year from now would see her take effective control of Fairfax and the highly regarded editorial integrity of trust, built up over 150 years, could be sacrificed for a few hundred million pieces of gold.

To do this, she would need to inject a few user-friendly editors into the Fairfax newspapers including, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, but this could all be done well in time to influence the course of the next election.

Rinehart has already had some success in achieving influence through the acquisition of 10 per cent of Ten Network last year.

Not only was she readily granted a board seat but the politically like-minded News Corp journalist, Andrew Bolt, was given his own program, some say through Rinehart’s influence.

Bolt’s career ascension also has been helped by Rinehart’s long-time friend and media player and advertising tsar, John Singleton.

Bolt’s voice is also heard on 2GB, the Sydney radio station that is majority-owned by Singleton and home to two of the country’s most strident talk-back hosts, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley.

Singleton, who shares Rinehart’s views on mining and taxes, recently told Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine: ”We (Singleton and Rinehart) have been able to overtly and covertly attack governments … Because we have people employed by us like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, who agree with her thinking about the development of our resources, we act in concert in that way.”

Singleton told Weekend Business yesterday Rinehart would be a great addition to the Fairfax board.

”She is a lot smarter than people like (former chief executive) Fred Hilmer and crooks like (former major shareholder) Conrad Black.” Singleton, who is also a former Fairfax director, claims another, Sir Zelman Cowen, didn’t know what EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) stood for.

Singleton says Rinehart doesn’t need the money or the influence but in his opinion she will be active in having her say at board level about the appointment of editors.

”She is frustrated at the negative way Australia is portrayed (by the media) and the fact that mining is portrayed as the big bad wolf and not the saviour … I reckon she wants to have a say but doesn’t make comments in the media because she is not extroverted … it’s not her style.

”I will say to her when I see her, ‘Good on you kid, your father would be proud of you’.”

But he agrees that a full takeover is not on the cards.

To acquire more than the amount necessary for control would be profligate.

Rinehart needs to play the Goldilocks card – not too much and not too little, but just right.

Analysts agree that suggestions Rinehart will make a full takeover bid for Fairfax are strategically wide of the mark.

Taking into account the cost of mounting a full takeover offer and the cost of the debt inside the company the price tag would be near $3.8 billion. That is a hefty price for insurance – the equivalent of paying the premium for a teenager to drive a Rolls-Royce.

It also assumes that Rinehart’s pockets are bottomless.

She has now taken the mantle of Australia’s richest person and there are suggestions that her worth could be great as $20 billion.

But the value of her assets is entirely different to her access to cash flow and the former must be considered a guesstimate. Suggestions that her fortune could be on track to $100 billion appear to have been plucked out of the ether.

Such talk about her personal life and wealth is an anathema to Rinehart. She is intensely private and opens the corporate veil to no one. One example is her involvement in a desperate legal struggle to suppress the details of the acrimonious court battle she is engaged in with her children.

(Interestingly, she is also engaged in a legal battle with Fairfax and other media organisations on suppression of the court case.)

It is only via the relationship she has with her listed partner, Rio Tinto, that the outside world gets a sneak look at aspects of her financial spreadsheet.

At its most general we understand that her half of the yearly revenue from iron ore project Hope Downs produces royalties of about $2 billion a year, which should expand to an additional $600 million to $700 million, based on today’s price of iron ore.

On top of this the primary operating company earns about $100 million a year from her half share in the Hancock and Wright partnership – a legacy from her father’s 1960s foray into the iron-ore-rich Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The estimate of Rinehart’s wealth has been revised over the past couple of weeks on the back of a 15 per cent investment in the Roy Hill development – giving it a value on paper of $10 billion.

But this project is still in its early stages and will need plenty of capital expenditure in both railway and port facilities.

There are two schools of thought on whether she will seek to use her capital to develop this new iron ore prospect or whether she will scope out a buyer.

If Rinehart wants to develop this and ”live the dream” of Lang Hancock, then there would be less room for capital to be sidelined for the likes of a full takeover of Fairfax.

As immense as her current loyalty payments are they are also subject to variations based on the price of iron ore, which is at present at near-historical highs.

Fairfax shares have now fallen back below Rinehart’s recent 81¢ buying spree price, which is a clear suggestion the market is not expecting a full takeover.

The additional wrinkle in the Rinehart financing story is in the battle being waged over control of a large chunk of the family’s fortune.

Rinehart’s three oldest children, John Langley Hancock, Bianca Hope Rinehart and Hope Rinehart Welker, are trying to remove her as the trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock trust, set up by their late grandfather Lang Hancock. They are alleging ”serious misconduct”.

Regardless of the outcome Rinehart will remain an extremely wealthy woman – one who Singleton contends can always get an audience with any politician. But then so can Andrew Forrest and Clive Palmer.

But the introduction of the mineral resource rent tax is clear evidence that the rich can get the ear of Canberra but not necessarily change policy, as Forrest himself discovered.

The ability to influence a large media organisation is a far better political attention grabber.

If Rinehart increases her investment in Fairfax sufficiently to take control of the board, the potential returns for her interests in mining could be monumental.

It’s certainly a better bet than standing on the tray of a flat-bed ute holding a loudspeaker.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

 

Categories
Search