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Penrice has also been able to
maintain the confidence of its
As Mr Roberts explained, expan-
sion funding decisions were made
prior to the sudden shift in global
"Equity capital was very hard
to get and debt funding was almost
non-existent. But our main bankers,
National Australia Bank and
Westpac, had sufficient faith in us to
make our plans viable."
But Mr Roberts is also a realist
and he maintains there is a lot more
to be done before Penrice can find
calmer waters after a topsy-turvy
The company s half year result,
announced in February, was very
positive and reported sales revenue
up 5 per cent to $77.9 million,
EBITDA up 10 per cent to $10.9
million, NPAT up $5.5 million to
$3.1 million, gearing levels down
to 41 per cent from 59 per cent
following successful capital raising
and strong earnings growth in
Chemicals and Quarry & Mineral
But by the end of April, volatile
international markets, unusual
rains in the north and falling
third-quarter demand had forced a
In this diverse business, high
rainfall had reduced demand for
Penrice s mining industry products
as well as demand for bicarb used in
Falling demand for glass products
and a rising dollar had also
impacted on the bottom line.
"People would be mistaken if
they think the global crisis is over,"
Mr Roberts told me a fortnight
before Greece s latest problems and
the recent stock market nervous-
"We will still see devastating
examples being played out in the
US and Europe. Australia has been
reasonably well insulated, but there
is still a need for caution."
Despite the ups and downs of
the last two and a half years, Mr
Roberts is happy he came home to
A law graduate from Adelaide
University, the young Guy Roberts
had worked as a judge s associate
with Justice Matheson who
presided over the Truro serial
killings trial in 1980.
Switching to company law locally,
he moved in 1991 to Minter Ellison s
offices in Melbourne before taking
up a senior position with chemicals
industrial giant ICI (now Orica
Over the next 15 years he lived
and worked in New Zealand, Asia,
the US and the UK, specialising in
legal counsel and senior manage-
ment roles with Orica, one of the
world s largest corporations.
When the Penrice job became
available, he saw the chance to
make his own mark on a South
"This was a chance to get my
hands on all the levers in a busi-
ness," he said.
"You get to see what businesses
we are in, what we are not in and
develop a strategy to make the best
"When I came on board, the
physical assets were not well
maintained and a succession of
mechanical failures had affected
our financial performance.
"A succession of owners had
failed to invest sufficient capital.
"In a nutshell, we had to repair
the asset and rebuild the human
One of the biggest changes at
Penrice has been its relationship
with the community at Angaston,
home to its limestone and marble
An expansion plan was first
announced to locals via a letter box
"We should have set up com-
munity consultative groups from
the start," Mr Roberts said.
"We did that in 2007 and our
underlying philosophy now is
that we should have a community
licence as well as an official licence.
"In the last couple of years we
have made significant improve-
ments in noise, dust and truck
movements, and we will continue to
make sure the mine operates with
minimal impact on the community."
Given the circumstances, Penrice
has weathered the international
storm in tact.
When international seas get
calmer, Penrice should be able to
unfurl the big sails.
Bicarb giant's solid formula
From Page 13
It is time for the resource sector
to play Pick-a-Box. As
Australia s miners continue
their fight over the federal govern-
ment s proposed 40 per cent tax
hit on the industry, commentators
have been asking: who is the
best person to front the miners
campaign and win the hearts and
minds of the public?
A quick scan of the mining land-
scape throws up a few problems.
In a canny pre-emptive strike
last week against Australia s two
largest miners, BHP Billiton and
Rio Tinto, Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd moved swiftly in effect to
neutralise their impending criti-
cism, labelling both as "foreigners"
that were taking burgeoning profits
The comments cut close for Rio
and BHP, led as they are by an
American and a South African,
Fortescue s Andrew "Twiggy"
Forrest feels he represents the
everyman but his position as one
of Australia s richest men would
wrong-foot any attempt by the
industry to pit him against his
Clive Palmer, the larger-than-life
mining magnate, is good for a
sensational headline but his
offhanded approach would require
a substantial PR makeover.
TRUenergy s Richard McIndoe
was successful in his high-profile
attack on the now-ditched carbon
pollution reduction scheme but so
far he has resisted taking a role as
Media buyer Harold Mitchell
has suggested the quest to find
a likeable person to front the
campaign could be staged as a
"It really is the ultimate game of
Deal or No Deal," he said.
"But a simple game of tick the
boxes should uncover the best
"Do you have a private jet or
several of them? Do you have a flat
in London? Are you in the top 200
anything? Those few questions
alone would rule out many of the
"The public seem to warm to
someone of the working class.
Paul Hogan did it in the early days.
He became the face of Australian
Mr Mitchell suggests it might
be time to dust off former
Beaconsfield goldminers Todd
Russell and Brant Webb.
"One of them wanted to go into
politics and I think the other one
went fishing," he said.
"If you can track them down
then you could have the winning
Veteran Australian actor Bill
Hunter, whose gravelly voice
spruiked BHP s role as The Big
Australian back in the 1980s,
should call his agent.
Finding a frontman for the miners is no
easy task, writes Mathew Murphy.
Celebrity miners: Former Beaconsfield
miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
Worker safety has improved as Penrice applied the principle "No injuries to anyone ever".
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