Australia would block any attempt to move BHP Billiton Ltd.’s main sharemarket listing to the U.K. as proposed by activist investor Elliott Management Corp., Treasurer Scott Morrison said.
“It is unthinkable that any Australian government could allow this original Big Australian to head offshore,” Morrison said in a statement Thursday. If BHP implemented Elliott’s proposals “it may commit a criminal offence and could be subject to civil penalties,” he said.
New York-based Elliott is meeting with BHP investors in Australia this week to outline proposals it made public last month for a corporate overhaul, higher shareholder returns and a spinoff of U.S. oil assets. BHP, which held about eight months of discussions with Elliott, has rejected the plans, saying the costs and risks outweigh any potential benefits. Elliott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Elliott has urged BHP to combine its two legal entities listed in Sydney and London into one group headquartered in Australia with a primary listing in the U.K., and pressed the company to use excess cashflow to fund additional buybacks. The fund and affiliates have an interest in about 4.1 percent of BHP’s London-listed shares, according to an April 10 statement.
Elliott’s “chances of getting this up is less than 1 percent,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “It’s going to require a law change.”
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