Business

Clive bites back at 'misinformation' on nickel refinery cash

CLIVE Palmer has hit back at allegations he met with the Queensland Treasurer to bail Queensland Nickel out.

The Federal Member for Fairfax has issued a statement this afternoon to set the record straight.

"It is evident that I am being personally attacked because I am a politician," Mr Palmer said.

"The simple fact is I have not been a director of any of the companies I own since 2013 when I became a Federal Member for Fairfax.

"I retired from business at that time to become a full time federal politician. Notwithstanding, comments continue to be made about me so I am going to respond.

"Queensland Nickel is in a strong position, 2015 audited accounts by EY show the company has unencumbered net assets of $1.95 billion.

"The Managing Director of Queensland Nickel, Clive Mensink, informs me that as a result of the low nickel price of approximately $3.50 a pound, the company is experiencing a small deficit in cash flow.

"In the global downturn of commodity prices, many resource companies are facing difficult conditions.

"Global miner Anglo American, which employs 150,000 people around the world, is reportedly laying off 85,000 staff worldwide, this is just one example."

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill yesterday appealed to the State Government to help Queensland Nickel before jobs were lost.

Mr Palmer says no jobs need to go at the North Queensland refinery.

"The fact is, not a single job needs to be lost at the Townsville refinery if fairness and common sense prevails," he said.

"Just like many companies with a strong balance sheet and small cash-flow deficit, Queensland Nickel approached the four major Australian banks for assistance.

"Despite unencumbered assets of nearly $2 billion, it was denied a $35 million overdraft by the four major Australian banks. I have been informed Queensland Nickel was told that in the current investment environment they would not lend to a resources company.

"With assets of almost $2 billion, Queensland Nickel's balance sheet is strong. Banks are not supporting the resources sector, which is in a downturn cycle, as a matter of policy and this is a major problem. This should therefore be a matter of concern for both the Queensland and Federal Governments.

"As a result of this concerning policy by the banks affects all Queensland resource companies, the Managing Director of Queensland Nickel, Clive Mensink, approached the Queensland Government.

"At the request of the Queensland Government, Queensland Nickel allowed the Queensland Under Treasurer Jim Murphy to attend meetings with the four major Australian banks.

"The banks reconfirmed their policy in relation to lending to Queensland resource companies and stated if the Queensland Government acted as guarantor for the small amount of money being sought against unencumbered assets of $1.95 billion, the funds would be forthcoming.

"At no time did Queensland Nickel request taxpayer funds, only a guarantee from the Queensland Government and for security of the guarantee for $35 million, Queensland Nickel offered its balance sheet of nearly $2 billion.

"In my assessment, this is a risk free proposition that would ensure the continued operation of the refinery.
Queensland Nickel is not asking for money like the $40 million a year the government pays to the foreign-owned Boyne Smelters in Gladstone.

"It is shocking that Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt gives away $40 million each year to the foreign owned Gladstone smelter but has refused to support Queensland owned company Queensland Nickel, the largest employer in North Queensland.

"Six years ago when I took over the refinery, the then Premier Anna Bligh did everything to encourage me to buy it and my personal intervention in 2009 when BHP was going to close the refinery saved thousands of jobs and the Townsville economy.

"In the last six years the workforce has been exceptional in its efforts to bring the facility up to world class standards and create a debt free business with a strong balance sheet."

"It's disappointing that the Premier and Treasurer Curtis Pitt do not seem concerned about the people of North Queensland, they obviously lack leadership and compassion.

Queensland Nickel:

  •  contributes $1.6 billion to the Townville economy each year,
  • it is responsible for about 722 direct jobs and at least 1,500 indirect jobs
  • positively impacts the lives of approximately 10,000 people in the local region.

Topics:  clive palmer finances mining money queensland nickel



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