January 22, 2018 / 12:41 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Australian short-seller target Quintis appoints administrators

* Company cannot pay $30 mln put option price

* Slide in to administration follows short-seller attack

* Shares not traded since May (Adds Glaucus comments and short-selling details)

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Australia’s largest sandalwood forest company, Quintis Ltd, has called in administrators after it was unable to pay one of its bondholders A$37 million ($30 million), the company said on Monday.

Formerly known as TFS Corp, Quintis had been reeling since last March when U.S.-based activist short-seller Glaucus Research Group published a highly negative report, describing shares in the company as worthless.

The research, which Quintis said at the time was “innacurate” and “unfounded,” knocked a quarter from the value of the company’s stock. Its shares ultimately fell 80 percent and the company has been trying to raise new financing.

None of the recapitalisation strategies, including a buyout by the company’s former managing director, reached completion.

Bondholder Asia Pacific Investments DAC, connected with U.S. fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management, triggered a put option last Friday requiring Quintis to buy 400 hectares (988 acres) of plantations for about A$37 million by Feb. 2.

“The Company does not have the financial resources available to it to pay the put option price,” Quintis said on Monday, announcing the appointment of insolvency firm KordaMentha as administrator.

Quintis is one of the last remaining publicly listed managed investment schemes in Australia. It owns sandalwood plantations in northern Australia and oil from the trees is sold to India and China for fragrances, cosmetics and medicinal uses.

Its slide into administration follows the collapse over the past eight years of Timbercorp Ltd and several other large forestry schemes, whose investment model was criticised for frequently involving small investors borrowing money for high-risk operations.

Soren Aandahl, Head of Research at Glaucus, told Reuters by phone from California that the collapse “completely vindicates” Glaucus’ research. Details of the firm’s short position and its execution were confidential, he said.

“It also highlights what we believe is the value of short-sellers in the financial markets,” Aandahl added.

A Quintis spokesman declined to comment.

KordaMentha plans to run the 20-year-old business as normal, while assessing how best to recover value for all its investors, a spokesman for the administrator said.

Quintis shares last traded in May 2017, valuing the company at A$115 million. The stock is the 19th most-shorted Australian stock, according to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, with 8.2 percent held by short-sellers as of last Monday. ($1 = 1.2505 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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