Sun Hung Kai buys 5.3% share in Ardent Leisure

Aveo’s Malaysian billionaire Seng Huang Lee buys into Dreamworld

The not-so fun park operator, Ardent Leisure, is a long way from the retirement home market – unless you’re a restless Malaysian billionaire like Seng Huang Lee.

Lee is Aveo’s chairman and largest shareholder via his family’s Malaysian flagship group, Mulpha.

He is also the chief executive of their Hong Kong-listed financial group, Sun Hung Kai & Co.

It just so happens that Sun Hung Kai fund acquired a 5.3 per cent stake in Ardent last Thursday for $44.6 million – which sent the Ardent share price soaring on Tuesday when the substantial shareholder notice was lodged with the ASX.

We can assume one arm of the family corporate tree was talking to the other given that the former Ardent boss, Greg Shaw, heads Mulpha’s operations in Australia. He is also Lee’s alternate director at Aveo.

 The two entities are so close they have even been known to do deals with each other in Australia. This includes the sale of Mulpha’s entire stake in PBD Developments to a Sun Hung Kai entity in 2015.

CBD is betting we might see Sun Hung Kai return the favour given Mulpha’s Queensland assets include Sanctuary Cove, and Hayman Island. Didn’t Ardent’s board mention the potential of property development at its fun parks like Dreamworld?

Allerton may find himself in a sticky situation of his own making given he was the poster boy for Adele Ferguson and Sarah Danckert‘s expose on the business practices at Aveo.

He told CBD’s colleagues about the difficulties of sorting out the sale of his aunt Joan’s retirement village unit. In the end, he and his family had to swallow $150,000 worth of exit fees and capital losses.

“I think one of the most galling aspects of the exercise was the fact that my auntie had passed away, the apartment remained in our hands and yet the monthly bills kept coming in …,” Allerton told them.

How safe does Allerton feel now that Aveo’s chairman is a substantial shareholder at Ardent?

The word is that Ardent’s new shareholder had a friendly meeting with the George Venardos-chaired board, which obviously means former Ardent boss Shaw – who was unceremoniously dumped as CEO – has no beef with the current directors.

The question is whether Lee’s Sun Hung Kai is friendly enough to help repel the boardroom raid of Gary Weiss and Queensland developer, Kevin Seymour.

Spiro v ASIC

Spiro Paule, the founder of KKR-backed financial group Findex, has found himself in another tussle with Greg Medcraft‘s corporate cops at ASIC.

In October last year, ASIC pinged Findex with a $21,600 fine for potentially misleading advertising. This includes claims it was Australia’s largest independent financial advice company.

On the latest occasion it appears to have been Paule, and Findex, who have picked the fight with ASIC.

Paule and other senior execs at Findex went to the NSW Supreme Court last year seeking the discovery of documents to obtain the “true identity of the publisher of certain allegedly disparaging and defamatory publications”.

According to a recent court judgment, suspicions settled on a “former disgruntled employee” – and it named David Keith McKay as the alleged transgressor.

This is where ASIC comes in.

It is not party to the proceedings, but the regulator made an application in April this year claiming “public interest immunity” in relation to documents seized from, or produced by McKay, which the Findex crew were obviously trying to get their hands on.

The counsel for the plaintiffs told the court, “We say that it is almost certain that these documents will disclose further causes of action, deceptive and misleading conduct causes of action, defamation causes of action and separate causes of action that we have against Mr McKay”, arising out of the disclosure or publication by Mr McKay of material to ASIC.

ASIC argued that disclosure of the “confidential affidavit” would be “prejudicial to the effective policing and investigation functions performed by ASIC in its capacity as a regulatory authority”.

Which means we should really keep an eye on any developments here.

In any case, Justice Julie Ward decided that the Findex team could have access to the documents once ASIC had redacted anything it deemed necessary to “preserve the immunity”.

Source: The Sidney Morning Herald

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