Plans to oust the beleaguered Australian Wheat Board today (23 February) failed at the company’s annual general meeting.
The monopoly wheat exporter held the meeting under the cloud of the federal Cole inquiry which is probing allegations that during the food for oil scheme the company allegedly paid about AUD$290m (US$215m) in trucking fees that eventually made their way to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
AWB chairman Brendan Stewart said from the outset that he and other members of the organisation could not answer questions on the inquiry. That didn’t spare him or other directors from some difficult moments in Melbourne today.
The Australian Shareholders’ Association put it to the AWB chairman that five directors in place at the time of the payments should resign. Another shareholder called for a resolution to clean out the board but that was rejected because it didn’t have proper notice.
AWB expects profit before tax and amortisation for the 2006 fiscal year would now be in line with AUD184.5m made in 2005. A larger than average Australian harvest is expected this year of about 24 million tonnes.
AWB’s share price was trading on Thursday morning at AUD4.08, well down from AUD6.40 on 12 January. The Cole inquiry continues.