In March, Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and his business partner, international asset manager Brookfield, walked away from their bid to buy energy giant AGL and accelerate its transition from coal to renewables.
In February 2022, the consortium revealed a shock $8 billion bid to take over Australia’s biggest power supplier, which was rejected by the company’s board. This was followed by a juicer bid of $9 billion, but it was similarly knocked back.
Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield then decided to cease their ambitious plan to get hold of the company, which is one of the nation’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, at about eight per cent of Australia’s total emissions.
On 6 March, 2022, Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of software developer Atlassian and Australia’s third-richest person, wrote in a Twitter post that the consortium was “putting our pens down, with great sadness” in regards to the takeover bid.
“Our path was the world’s biggest decarbonisation project,” the tweet continued. “The board is proceeding with its demerger path. This path is a terrible outcome for shareholders, taxpayers, customers, Australia and the planet we all share.”
However, Cannon-Brookes’s private investment company, Grok Ventures, has since announced it and its affiliates have acquired a more than 11 per cent interest in AGL, making it the largest shareholder in the company.
Grok Ventures intends to vote against the demerger – which it says is a flawed plan due to slow uptake of decarbonisation and new technologies by the company – and will be actively encouraging all AGL shareholders to do the same.
The investment company still has ambitions for a better future for AGL in accelerating the transition to net-zero emissions while delivering reliable and affordable energy for customers.
“We are at a critical point in Australia’s energy transition, and in AGL’s future,” says Cannon-Brookes.
“This is about delivering cheap, reliable and clean energy to millions of families and businesses. We believe by keeping the company together, AGL can continue its long and proud history as a pioneer through energy market transitions.
“By not transitioning fast enough away from fossil fuels, the board has presided over AGL’s value plummeting to the tune of about 70 per cent in five years. Sweating old coal plants which are expensive to run is not economical or responsible.
“It makes no sense… or cents.
“We intend to vote every AGL share we control at the relevant time against the demerger, and we call on fellow AGL shareholders to vote against the demerger to avoid further value destruction.”