Receiver signals hope for Hastie employees
The receiver of engineering company Hastie says the majority of the 2,700 retrenched employees will get their jobs back.PT0M0S 620 349
AUSTRALIA'S big four banks are facing write-downs totalling almost $250 million in the wake of Hastie Group's collapse into receivership at the weekend.
ANZ is the lead lender in a consortium of banks that includes Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac, ANZ , Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, HSBC Australia and HSBC Middle East.
That syndicate is owed an estimated $500 million, according to sources close to weekend negotiations over Hastie's future.
A $150 million December-half loss put Hastie Group under pressure. Photo: Craig Abraham
The debt is believed to be a 50:50 split between loans and bonds.
In total, ANZ is believed to be owed $150 million. Commonwealth Bank, with $20 million, has the smallest exposure of the Australian banks. ''The other two, Westpac and NAB, fall somewhere in between,'' BusinessDay was told by a source close to the negotiations yesterday.
The corporate regulator is now assessing claims that a $20 million ''accounting irregularity'' is in the books of one of Hastie's Queensland divisions. Discovery of that $20 million black hole scuttled a refinancing deal with the banks.
''We've sent the matter to ASIC,'' chief executive Bill Wild said on Friday. ''We'll go step-by-step. We're still working on it.''
In the wake of Hastie's $150 million December-half loss, and a share price that has plunged from $2.17 to just 16¢ in the past year, that accounting irregularity is worth almost as much as Hastie's entire $21 million market capitalisation.
The employee responsible has been suspended and remains on the payroll, but the fate of 2000 other employees was sealed in weekend meetings at the company's Auburn headquarters in Sydney's inner west.
That number of staff will go today as administrator PPP Advisory and receiver McGrathNicol go about their job of salvaging what can be saved for Hastie's staff and lenders.
''There seems to have been some window dressing of the books to make a loss look like a profit, and it dates back to 2009,'' said a source close to the weekend discussions. ''Given the problems in the company, and the high level of debt, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.''
In addition to the banks, a number of large Australian superannuation funds and investment firms are licking their wounds in the wake of Hastie's demise.
Perennial Growth, IOOF Holdings, Schroder Investment, Lazard Asset Management and Mackenzie Financial all hold significant stakes in Hastie.
Perennial Growth, which invests on behalf of a number of superannuation funds, holds 11.23 per cent of Hastie.
Thorney Holdings, the investment arm of the Pratt family, is the second-biggest investor in Hastie with 10.6 per cent.