Rebel Abano shareholders take legal action
TIM HUNTER AND RICHARD MEADOWS
Shares in Abano Healthcare have slipped 4 per cent after rebel shareholders Peter Hutson and James Reeves filed High Court proceedings.
The pair, who together own 18.5 per cent of Abano, are trying to delay a vote on the future of chairman Trevor Janes.
On May 6 they requisitioned a special meeting to vote on a resolution to remove him as a director.
Abano published a notice of meeting on Friday last week, three weeks before the meeting date of June 13 and within the legally required time frame.
The Abano board recommended shareholders vote against the resolution, and gave Janes its unanimous support.
Hutson and Reeves are now seeking a new meeting date "not earlier than three weeks and not more than four weeks from 13 June".
In a statement, they said they had applied to the High Court seeking an order to postpone the special meeting.
"[We] previously wrote to Abano requesting a date in July," Reeves said.
"Abano has ignored our request and set an unrealistic special meeting date."
Abano was providing shareholders with misleading information and had "butchered the meeting process by manipulating the timetable," he said.
Hutson said the application for a court order was aimed at ensuring shareholders had full information before casting a vote.
The pair have spoken to institutional investors, but also want to be given enough time to air their concerns with smaller retail shareholders.
Abano shares dropped 4 per cent to $6.50 in afternoon trading, valuing the group at $133 million.
Managing director Alan Clarke said he had only just received notice of the court action, and the board needed to digest it before commenting.
"We probably also need to take legal advice," he said.
Abano's main business is in dentistry, owning the Lumino chain in New Zealand and Dental Partners in Australia.
Hutson and Reeves were involved in a failed takeover of Abano last year by private equity firm Archer Capital. They then argued Abano's management of the dental business was not delivering value for shareholders.