Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown

MINING executives fear that brokers and analysts will be the next group targeted by ASIC over rules on forward-looking statements.
Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown Execs warn brokers are next in ASIC crackdown

Investor confidence would grow if regulators were seen policing the rules they lay down

Kristie Batten

The April release of ASIC’s Information Sheet 214, which examined the use of forward-looking statements like production targets and funding, has shaken up the resources sector.

It was once again a hot topic of discussion at a Pitcher Partners lunch in Perth on Friday, which featured a panel of speakers of Resolute Mining boss John Welborn, Toro Energy chief Vanessa Guthrie, Lion Selection Group investment manager Hedley Widdup, Eastern Goldfields chairman Mike Fotios and Pitcher’s Bryan Hughes.

Welborn said the new interpretation of the rules, which has forced many companies to retract studies, undermined the intelligence of investors.

“In terms of protection, it’s not required,” he said.

Fotios, who is also on the board of Galaxy Resources, said the onus had previously been on the investor and things had moved too far in the opposite direction.

He said the ASX’s biggest beef seemed to be with companies using inferred resources to support production targets.

“If that’s the simple answer, why don’t they just come out and say it?” Fotios said.

“I don’t think ASX and ASIC are necessarily on the same page.”

Widdup said listings would drift overseas.

“It’s already pushing information underground,” he said, noting the conduct of some companies at Diggers & Dealers this month.

“In a very short period of time, this has changed behaviours.”

While companies may not be able to release the same information that they previously could, it doesn’t stop analysts from making assumptions of numbers and releasing them.

PCF Capital managing director Liam Twigger said this may lead to the gagging of the financial community.

“The next cab off the ranks will be the brokers,” he warned.

Fotios agreed that ASIC was heading that way.

“That will be a sad occasion if that happens,” he said.

Guthrie, who also chairs the Minerals Council of Australia, said Information Sheet 214 had been like a “nuclear explosion” among the junior sector.

“The junior sector has been incredibly difficult,” she said.

“Extra regulation just makes that harder.”

Toro is hoping to develop the Wiluna uranium project, but is awaiting an improvement in market conditions.

“In a flat commodity market like uranium, it’s almost impossible to predict when you’re going to be able to secure funding,” Guthrie said.

She added that the rules were “nonsensical” and made life even tougher.

“There would be no long-term growth in the industry without the junior sector.”