Claim failed bid to sell Chch business 'window-dressing'

Fresh criticism of Delta's failed attempt to sell its Christchurch civil construction business has sparked a war of words.

The volleys came after Auckland-based business broker Murray Stott this week claimed the failed attempt to sell the business was ''window-dressing''.

Mr Stott told the Otago Daily Times he believed Delta had always intended to close its Christchurch civil construction business - with the loss of 40 jobs - and the sale process was ''just due process''.

However, Delta chief executive Grady Cameron hit back in a strongly worded statement yesterday, saying he was ''dismayed'' by the ''unfounded allegation''.

''[Mr Stott's] dissatisfaction would appear to stem from his failure to obtain an agent commission, rather than any genuine concern for our civil construction employees in Christchurch,'' he said.

Mr Stott rejected that, saying any commission would be small and he was concerned only by Delta's process and the fate of the workers.

''The whole thing is indicative of mismanagement.''

The war of words came after Mr Stott last month lodged a complaint with the Real Estate Agents Authority over Delta's sale process.

Mr Stott claimed he was in contact with five potential multinational buyers who could have bought the business, but, despite that, did not hear of the sale process until days before the deadline.

Last-minute talks with Delta staff stalled when the parties disagreed over the need for an agency agreement, he said.

The agreement was an REAA requirement before Mr Stott could pass on details of the sale to his contacts, but also ensured Mr Stott would receive a commission on any sale that followed.

Mr Stott claimed Delta ''did not leave every stone unturned'' in its search for a buyer, and an adviser working for the company may have engaged in work he was not entitled to do.

Under the Real Estate Agents Act 2008, it is an offence for anyone to engage in real estate agency work without being properly licensed.

Mr Stott contacted the ODT again this week to confirm the REAA staff had investigated his complaint and declined to take action, concluding the adviser's work did not amount to agency work.

Despite that, Mr Stott said he remained convinced Delta did not do enough to try to sell its Christchurch business.

The lack of buyer interest, when other major contractors were ''cleaning up'' in Christchurch, ''brings into question how proactive was their negotiation process and their pitch'', he said.

''It seems they made a predetermined decision to close it. The selling was just due process or window-dressing to justify the means - a form of expediency,'' Mr Stott said.

Mr Cameron said the claims were ''not supported by the facts'', as the company had run a ''comprehensive'' sales process between March and June.

That included contacting more than 50 companies - from Christchurch, around New Zealand and abroad - and releasing details to media outlets, including the ODT.

Despite that, no ''firm, credible'' offers eventuated, for reasons including a lack of work for the business, he said.

Mr Stott said he would not take the matter further, although he believed a ''full audit'' was still needed.

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