Oswal to help find Burrup buyer

Peter Klinger and Neale PriorThe West Australian
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The receivers of Burrup Fertilisers say the ammonia project’s founder and biggest shareholder, controversial Indian entrepreneur Pankaj Oswal, has agreed to help them sell the WA business by providing names of potential buyers.

Receivers at PPB Advisory, which was appointed by ANZ a month ago to recover debts of up to $900 million from Burrup Fertilisers and other Oswal companies, described as cordial and productive their first meetings with representatives of the controversial Indian tycoon and his wife Radhika.

The meetings, in Perth yesterday, were attended by lawyers representing the Oswals, who are in India and not expected to return to Perth in the medium term.

“We have asked them for a list of potential purchasers and they said they were happy to give us the list, ” PPB partner Ian Carson said.

Mr Oswal had been trying to sell his family’s 65 per cent stake in Burrup Fertilisers for most of last year in an attempt to appease ANZ, which had become increasingly concerned about its exposure to the entrepreneur. However, it is thought disagreement over price meant Mr Oswal could not strike a deal with his suitors.

Matters came to a head late last year when Mr Oswal’s relationship with Burrup Fertilisers’ 35 per cent shareholder, Norway’s Yara International, collapsed and allegations of financial irregularities surfaced, prompting ANZ to appoint receivers.

Yesterday’s meetings were a key step in PPB’s effort to understand the workings of Burrup Fertilisers. The receivers are preparing Burrup Fertilisers’ accounts to December 31 as well as a report for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Mr Carson is due to fly to London this week to meet Apache Corp executives to discuss a damaging legal dispute threatening Burrup Fertilisers’ 25-year gas supply deal.

Apache runs the Harriet joint venture, which is in dispute with Burrup Fertilisers. Tap Oil, one of the Harriet partners, has launched legal action against Burrup Fertilisers, which responded with a counter-claim also linking Apache and the third partner, Kufpec.

A hearing is due in June.

The Oswals are resigned to losing Burrup Fertilisers, the company they built from scratch over the past decade into one of the world’s biggest liquid ammonia producers.

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