Abano makes claim for costs of $566,000

The wash-up from a hostile and unsuccessful takeover bid for Abano Healthcare is now in court, including a $566,000 claim for costs against the dissident shareholder group.

Healthcare Partners, representing majority 19% Abano shareholders Peter and Anya Hutson and James Reeves, launched the takeover in November, wanting to increase its stake to a controlling 50.1%, but that fell flat when only 3.5% of other shareholders accepted the offer.

Abano principally operates about 100 Lumino dentists outlets in New Zealand and a similar number of Maven practices around Australia, employing about 2000 people.

During the offer period, to cover its costs of fighting the takeover, Abano withheld more than $700,000 in dividends which were due to Healthcare Partners; which was allowed under the takeover code, but was disputed by Healthcare Partners at the time.

Yesterday, Abano chairman Trevor Janes said the failed partial takeover by Healthcare Partners had been time-consuming, costly and a distraction for Abano.

Abano yesterday started High Court legal proceedings seeking reimbursement of about $566,000 in unpaid takeover costs from Healthcare Partners Holdings Ltd and its directors, the Hutsons and Mr Reeves.

Since the first November takeover notice, Abano had incurred more than $1million in external costs because of the failed bid, he said.

Despite monthly invoices and overdue reminders, Mr Janes said Healthcare Partners had neither accepted any costs nor made any voluntary payment, prompting Abano to withhold the $700,000 dividend.

Because Healthcare Partners continued to dispute every invoice and all costs and had not accepted sufficient costs-information had been provided, Abano had ``no other option'' but starting legal proceedings, he said.

Mr Janes said the failed takeover was the third attempt in three and a-half years by the Hutsons and Mr Reeves to either gain control of Abano or to force board changes. He said Abano and its shareholders had incurred related costs of more than $2million in the period, and only the costs of the latest failed takeover attempt could be recovered.


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