Gunns report delayed for transaction

THE scheduled release of Tasmanian timber company Gunns Ltd's half-yearly report was called off yesterday to give the company time to close a transaction.

Gunns sought permission from the Australian Securities Commission at the start of business yesterday to halt trading until the close of the market next Monday.

Company secretary Wayne Chapman told the stock exchange that the trading halt had been sought to enable closure of a transaction which was relevant to the finalisation of its half-year results release.

"The company is not aware of any reason why the trading halt request should not be granted," Mr Chapman said.

A spokesman for Gunns' managing director Greg L'Estrange said that he would not be commenting about the matter until after the release of the half- yearly report now postponed until next week. It is believed that the trading halt was not brought on by anything to do directly with the company's proposed $2.3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill.

But it could be to do with the incomplete sale of part of the company's assets which it has been selling off since the middle of last year.

The report is for the six months until the end of December last year so would not point to a possible conclusion to negotiations to sell off Gunns' plantations in recent weeks.

Launceston financial analyst Chris Elliott said yesterday that the delay in release of the company's half-yearly report could have happened for a variety of reasons.

He said that Gunns had done the wise thing to call for a trading halt.

"If they hadn't done that and not released their report then everyone would have been speculating that something was wrong and share prices would have been smashed," Mr Elliott said.