Tinkler takes $85m hit as Whitehaven deal fails

For former billionaire Nathan Tinkler, today may be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in his extraordinary business career.

Before the market opened this morning, it was announced that his intended privatisation of Whitehaven Coal would not go ahead.

SMH: Tinkler ditches Whitehaven takeover bid

For the man who has made his name as the expert deal-maker, the failure to complete the takeover ranks as his first notable failure in trying to pull off a deal, even if it was one analysts always thought unlikely.

The market took the news badly. Within minutes of the shares coming off a trading hold at 11am, the stock had slumped more than 18 per cent from yesterday's closing price of $3.48.

By 12.30pm the stock had rebounded slightly to $3.07, still down 11.6 per cent, but for Tinkler - who built his fortune on the back of a $500,000 loan to buy a coalmine in which others saw no potential - the fall makes a big dent in his wealth, costing him about $85 million.

Most of his assets are heavily geared and the value of his 21 per cent holding in Whitehaven, which accounts for the bulk of his fortune, is now worth $655 million. In April the same shares were worth $1.18 billion.

There was intense speculation that Mr Tinkler could face a margin call against his Whitehaven shares, if they were to fall on the failure of the privatisation bid. It is unclear whether that has happened. Tinkler Group had offered $5.20 in cash for each Whitehaven share, and negotiated a month-long period of exclusive due diligence which expired yesterday.

Tinkler claimed support of 48 per cent of Whitehaven shareholders for the privatisation, but the bid has looked increasingly unlikely since early last week when a Tinkler entity, Mulsanne, failed to come up with a promised $28 million in cash to fund a share placement in coal junior Blackwood Resources.

Although the bid had loans worth up to $2.5 billion from UBS, JPMorgan and Barclays, Tinkler Group was understood to be short of more than a billion dollars to pull off the Whitehaven privatisation, and he was trying to raise the necessary equity from a range of partners including commodities trader Noble Group and coal customers such as J-Power.

Amid reports that Mr Tinkler was selling 300 racehorses and that his company, Patinack Farm, had been unable to pay superannuation to workers, one analyst commented earlier this week that potential equity partners were wary of supporting his Whitehaven bid given as they did not want to be caught in the fallout of a corporate collapse or bankruptcy.

Tim Allerton, a spokesman for Nathan Tinkler described such suggestions as "total rubbish" but declined to reveal why the mining magnate had withdrawn his bid.

A source close to the Tinkler camp said given Whitehaven's profitability and outlook, it was impossible to make a bid at $5.20-a-share stack up. Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty briefed investors this morning on a 13 per cent drop in the company's operating profit for 2011-12, to $57.8 million.

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