Billionaire Likely to Sell AGL Stake if Demerger Goes Through

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By Stuart Condie

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SYDNEY–Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes would likely walk away from AGL Energy Ltd. if he is unsuccessful in corralling a shareholder vote against a demerger of coal plants from its retail operations.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of Nasdaq-listed Atlassian Corp. and AGL’s largest shareholder, on Friday said he had been encouraged by discussions with large and retail shareholders since he assembled an 11.3% stake in recent weeks. He didn’t name any of the AGL shareholders with whom he had spoken.

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The entrepreneur wants to halt plans by Australia’s biggest polluter to put its ageing coal-fired power plants into a separate business that he said would face multiple risks and be unattractive to investors. His plan to be a long-term investor would likely change if the demerger went ahead, he said.

“We would have to respect the vote, there’ll be no crazy Trumpian stuff here,” he told a media audience in Sydney. “We would probably have to seriously consider what we’re going to do.”

AGL in March rejected a takeover proposal from Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Mr. Cannon-Brookes, which included plans to shutter the coal plants ahead of schedule and replace them with renewable generation.

AGL has denied that its demerger plan is high-risk and said this month that it would look at accelerating the closure of coal plants following their demerger from the retail operations, without providing further detail.

AGL shares have risen about 20% since the Brookfield-led consortium’s initial approach in February.

Mr. Cannon-Brookes said Friday that he had seen no independent analysis backing AGL’s plans. He wants to see change on the board and would consider joining, he added.

“I’m always open to possibility,” Mr. Cannon-Brookes said. “Right now we’re just focused on getting the vote.”

Write to Stuart Condie at [email protected]


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