Solid Energy shakeup new phase - Ryall

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

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The board of state-owned coal miner Solid Energy is quietly emptying out, with most of the directors gone after embarrassing mass redundancies of a quarter of the staff.

Its Government owner is keeping mum on the director changes and whether the directors had been asked to resign.

The company's miserable performance included a $40.2 million loss in the June year with more than $110m of writedowns and the curtailing of underground mining, resulting in a total of 450 job cuts among miners and half the staff at head office.

The departure of former long-serving Solid Energy chairman John Palmer was announced before the shock financial year loss, that the company blamed on a sudden fall in export coal prices and subsequent restructure.

Palmer has since been been replaced by Mark Ford, who has a reputation as being hard-nosed and led the Auckland super-city merger.

Solid Energy director Adrienne Cooper departed in April after serving 10 years on the board.

This month directors who have departed include Simon Marsters, Christchurch-based Michelle Smith, and former deputy chairman John Fletcher, according to the Companies Office records.

Another director, John McDonald, had also left recently, a Solid Energy spokesperson confirmed yesterday.

That means that six of the eight directors shown in Solid Energy's most recent annual report of 2011 are gone.

State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall had little to say yesterday, responding in a brief statement to a set of questions from The Press about the sudden departures. The minister appoints the board, which in turn is responsible for appointing the chief executive.

"A new chair has recently been appointed to Solid Energy and the company is moving into a new phase," Ryall said.

"As has been previously indicated, there would be some changes at Solid Energy, and a number of directors' terms were coming to an end in the next few months."

New South Wales-based Neville Snedden is a recent addition to the board noted by the Companies Office.

Still on the board are the directors David Patterson and Alan Broome. Wellington-based Patterson is a consultant of law firm Chapman Tripp, while Broome is a New South Wales-based metallurgist, who is a director of many other mining-based companies.

Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder said it was not up to him to talk about board changes, which was a matter for the shareholder, that is the Government.

"No comment whatsoever, it is a shareholder matter."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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