Lempriere reaches 90% of WSI, hitting mop-up target

Australian wool merchant Lempriere has reached the 90 percent target of Wool Services International, allowing it to mop up the remaining shares.

The Melbourne-based company reached 90.9 percent of acceptances yesterday, according to a substantial security holder notice, meeting its minimum acceptance and letting it compulsorily acquire the remaining shares in the company.

Lempriere launched the takeover last year, offering 45 cents a share, valuing WSI at $31 million, a 22 percent premium to the trading price before the offer emerged. The shares last traded in January at 42 cents.

The Australian company locked up 75 percent of WSI's shares, having bought control when it acquired the majority stake owned by Allan Hubbard-related companies Woolpak Holdings and Plum Duff and entered into lock-up agreements with some of the firm's executives.

WSI's scouring assets attracted a rival bid by Cavalier Wool Holdings, a joint venture between Cavalier Corp, Direct Capital Investments and the Accident Compensation Corp, to build a national wool scouring monopoly, which won Commerce Commission authority to do so.

Lempriere's local vehicle making the bid, WSI Holdings, said it is aware of CWH's interest in the scouring assets, and has "no intention to dispose of those assets".

The Australian company plans to undertake a strategic review of the New Zealand wool merchant, and will align WSI's business practices, systems and processes with Lempriere's.

It will install appropriate board representation and seek a review of WSI's trade finance terms that could lead to changes in its capital structure.

Lempriere owns specialist merino wool merchant The Merino Co, with businesses in the US, Argentina and South Africa, and is one of the world's major suppliers of fine wool to European, Japanese and American fashion houses.

The 150-year-old Australian company has been held in the same family for five generations, with William Lempriere the current managing director.


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