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Current as of 07/12/16 07:39PM NZST

Dissident shareholders seek control of Abano

By Paul McBeth

The board will consider the notice and appoint an independent adviser to appraise the deal. Photo / Thinkstock
The board will consider the notice and appoint an independent adviser to appraise the deal. Photo / Thinkstock

Abano Healthcare Group's dissident shareholders Anya and Peter Hutson and James Reeves are seeking control of the dental clinic and radiology operator in a partial takeover offer, although the company recommends shareholders wait for the board's guidance before acting.

The group wants to buy 30.99 per cent of the company, or 6.65 million shares, at $10 apiece to build a controlling 50.01 per cent stake in Abano, via a new entity they've set up called Healthcare Partners Holdings.

The offer is a 27 per cent premium to Thursday's closing price of $7.90, and the shares closed up by $1.10 yesterday at $9.

Abano's board said it wasn't in a position to comment and strongly recommended shareholders hold off from making any decisions until the directors provide some guidance.

The board will meet shortly to consider the notice and appoint an independent adviser to appraise the deal.

Peter Hutson and Reeves have been lobbying for change for several years, supporting an informal takeover bid in 2013 by Archer Capital at $6.97 a share, which would have seen the Australian private equity firm take the healthcare investor's dental businesses and hand the audiology units to Hutson for a nominal sum.

The offer was turned down by the Abano board as being too low.

Archer was refused due diligence access because it could become a direct competitor to Abano, and Peter Hutson left the board.

They later tried to oust chairman Trevor Janes, calling a special meeting of shareholders, although the resolution was voted down, and they unsuccessfully opposed Janes' re-election at the latest annual meeting.

"We have had concerns about Abano's performance for a number of years," they said. If the bid is successful, the Hutsons and Reeves will seek changes to improve the company's performance by halting acquisitions in the medium term in order to reduce debt, and improving the dental practices' operations. They would install three new directors.

- BusinessDesk

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