September 19, 2006

B&B Wind chief pledges to buy back securities

Kate Askew

A contrite Peter O’Connell has promised to this week buy back the securities he sold in Babcock & Brown Wind Partners about two months ago.

“I’m definitely buying back,” the chief executive of Babcock & Brown Wind told the Herald last night. “I genuinely have a great interest in the stock.”

Mr O’Connell was inundated with phone calls from institutional investors yesterday after the Herald revealed he had sold his entire stake in the company for about $1 million.

“I have complied strictly with the firm’s policy [in selling the shares],” he said. He had sold in a so-called selling “window” – a period designated by the company during which directors and executives can trade the shares.

Mr O’Connell said he sold at “around” the same time the company’s chairman, Babcock & Brown’s global infrastructure and project finance head Peter Hofbauer, was buying. Mr Hofbauer outlaid about $1.1 million in mid-July at prices of around $1.53 to increase his stake in the wind farm company.

The reason Mr O’Connell gave for selling his 716,000 shares in the company was that he had committed to another investment and, because of timing problems with the sale of a property, needed to liquidate some assets.

“I own a building with a mate and he agreed to buy half from me,” Mr O’Connell said.

When his friend could no longer buy Mr O’Connell’s half of the building he was forced to sell other assets to finance the deal he had agreed to fund.

Mr O’Connell said he had bought the securities in Babcock & Brown Wind Partners through a margin lending facility.

But he planned to now hold the securities he promised to buy back this week through his super fund. “I’m buying back through my super fund,” he said.

It was on August 3 that Babcock & Brown Wind surprised the stockmarket with a profit warning which sent Mr O’Connell’s securities to a record low of $1.25.

The securities were sold to investors through an initial public offering for $1.40 a share in October last year.

At the time Mr O’Connell told the stockmarket there had been low wind conditions in May and June which had affected earnings.

Also dragging down the result were delays in the acquisition of the Olivo wind farms in Spain, coupled with a delay in construction of the Neiderrhein wind farm in Germany.

Assuming Mr O’Connell sold between June and July, he would have reaped between $1.43 and $1.60 per stapled security.

Babcock & Brown Wind fell 1.5c to $1.405 yesterday.

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