Emails hurt bid to block farm deal

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Allen Caratti.
Camera IconAllen Caratti. Credit: The West Australian

A complex deal involving Elders, the Caratti family and a famous WA farm took a bizarre twist yesterday when claims of compromising relationships were lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange.

In a notice to the ASX, Agricultural Land Trust — which controls the Linkletter’s Place farm near Esperance — claimed it had emails between Allen Caratti and an adviser to the school teacher leading opposition to the deal.

The email dated January 20 reveals Stephen Blair put forward a proposal for Mr Caratti to support an alternative restructure of ALT, which involved, in part, the Esperance Cattle Company.

Ann Cathcart, a director of ECC, has campaigned against the deal which would see Elders relinquish its shares in ALT and hand control to Caratti entities. She yesterday wrote to investors rejecting any conflict of interest.

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Mrs Cathcart said Mr Blair had contacted Mr Caratti to get a better deal from Elders for ALT shareholders. She said no benefit was sought for ECC during correspondence canvassing a restructure that involved ECC leasing Linkletter’s rent-free until March 1, 2017.

Mrs Cathcart said Mr Blair, an ECC shareholder and the company’s secretary, suggested, among other things, a rent-free option for ECC to guarantee a lessee at the farm so debt financing commitments could be met. Grazing would be “a benefit to the remediation process and management of fire risk”.

“Neither ECC, nor I, were or are, attempting to gain an advantage over other non-associated unit holders,” Mrs Cathcart wrote. “At every step I have been very careful to ensure your interests and mine are aligned.”

ALT shareholders are due to vote on the restructure backed by Elders and Caratti-controlled entities on Friday.

Elders and the Caratti entities hold a combined 78 per cent stake in ALT but are excluded from voting on key resolutions.

These resolutions would give Caratti entities control of Linkletter’s Place and allow Elders to drop its lease over tree plantations on the farm.

Mrs Cathcart, a 1.3 per cent stakeholder in ALT, said last week that she held enough proxies to block the Elders deal.

Mrs Cathcart and Mr Caratti are involved in a separate legal dispute over the lease of Young River Station.

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