One of Whitehaven Coal’s largest investors has accused the company of telling a select number of shareholders that it would delay its share buyback program and was interested in buying two massive coking coal mines, suggesting this left the market “misinformed”.

Published AFR, 18 Sep 2023. 

Bell Rock Capital owns just under 5 per cent of the ASX-listed coal major, and has been increasingly public in its campaign to stop Whitehaven from acquiring two mines – Daunia and Blackwater – which BHP has put up for sale with a price tag of more than $US3.5 billion ($5.4 billion).

Bell Rock, along with several brokers, warned the acquisition would result in a significant change for the company’s capital management strategy and end what has been a generous buyback program for good. In August, Whitehaven chief executive Paul Flynn flagged that a pause in the share buyback scheme was unlikely to last for long.

But, in a letter to the Whitehaven board, Bell Rock’s chief investment officer, Michael O’Mara, wrote that he was “seeking urgent clarification” about comments made at an investor event in Singapore after the company’s financial accounts were published.

Mr O’Mara said he understood that Whitehaven had told those invited to the private event that the company would “delay the share buyback program” if it successfully acquired the two BHP mines, but immediately restart it if it did not. The company clarified it was bidding for both mines, he alleged.

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