FOR the second year in a row , Gunns Ltd's $1.2 million man has been unable to deliver a pulp mill joint venture partner to shareholders.
But an upbeat managing director Greg L'Estrange yesterday told more than 80 people at the company's first annual meeting outside Northern Tasmania that even that was positive.
He urged shareholders at the Melbourne meeting to be patient because the only thing holding up signing with a preferred partner for the proposed $2.3 billion Bell Bay mill was
the European financial crisis _ something outside the company's control.
He said that he was disappointed that he was not able to tell the meeting who had agreed to come in behind Gunns to complete the pulp mill project, calculated at an overall cost
of $3 billion including $2.3 billion capital works.
But he said that the hold-up no longer had anything to do with the Gunns' brand either here or internationally.
``I am more confident of the pulp mill than a year ago _ the real conversation around the brand and government business has changed so that now the conversation has moved
on to returns on the project, can we put it in place and the finalisation of the debt structure,'' he said.
He revealed for the first time that the required Gunns' equity contribution for the pulp mill would be $675 million on top of the company's existing contributing assets of a mill,
land, plantations and infrastructure worth $940 million.
Company chairman Chris Newman said that Mr L'Estrange had agreed to renew his contract to take it out to July 2012 to see the pulp mill project through.
Both he and Mr L'Estrange told shareholders concerned about the company's financial position that there was no plan B for the pulp mill.
``There is no plan B _ we are not talking about failure. I'm focused on the project at hand,'' Mr L'Estrange said.
Preliminary works for the pulp mill costing $240 million including substantial earthworks are due to be completed by next March, Mr L'Estrange said.
Mr L'Estrange's 2011 employment package was $1.2 million.
He did not draw on the substantial bonus that was also part of his contract last year.
Mr Newman's salary as chairman went up from $100,000 to $200,000.