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Friday, September 23, 2011

Lynas : share down & shareholders demand that chairman steps down.

Philip Wen | September 23, 2011 - the age 

 A VOCAL group of retail shareholders in rare-earths miner Lynas is seeking to remove mining entrepreneur Nick Curtis (pic) as chairman, citing concerns over ''risks to corporate governance''. Mr Curtis, who is also the chief executive of Lynas, had attempted to sell a lucrative rare-earth deposit to a related company, Forge Resources, earlier this year. 

Despite excluding himself from the sale process for conflict-of-interest reasons, the plan was abandoned on feedback from the company's major institutional shareholders. The transaction - which would have delivered Mr Curtis a lucrative parcel of shares, boosting his stake in Forge to close to 40 per cent - also drew the ire of the small group of retail shareholders. 

Having formed the Lynas Shareholders Association, they are now calling for support from more shareholders to put forward a resolution to replace Mr Curtis with an independent chairman at the company's annual meeting next month. The group must have the support of 5 per cent of voting power or 100 shareholders to have its resolutions put forward at the meeting. 

Corporate governance guidelines outlined by the Australian Securities Exchange recommend that ''the role of chair and chief should not be exercised by the same individual''. Lynas declined to comment yesterday, but did announce the appointment of Kathleen Conlon to the board as an independent non-executive director. 

Former Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowski was also appointed to the board this year. Lynas is expected to report a full-year loss before tax of $57 million today as it ramps up towards production. 

Shares in Lynas closed 17.5¢, or 14 per cent, lower at $1.105 - more than 60 per cent off its April high of $2.70.