Image for Gunns sticking to August start

TIMBER company Gunns, which remains in a share-trading halt, still plans a substantial start to its $2.3 billion Bell Bay pulp mill this month.

A Gunns spokesman said that the company still planned to have work started at the site by the end of the month when state permits run out.

The spokesman would not confirm whether a successful tenderer had been appointed to undertake the work.

But it is understood that a Melbourne-based construction company has got the job and has started recruiting workers.

A spokesman for Premier Lara Giddings said yesterday that no decision had been made on a possible government payout in return for Gunns getting out of native forest harvesting.

Ms Giddings said when she signed the intergovernmental agreement on forestry with Prime Minister Julia Gillard more than a week ago, that she expected a decision on the payout by the end of last week.

But Ms Giddings was away on leave last week.

It is more than a week since Gunns first sought a share- trading halt, saying that it wanted to see how it would be affected by the intergovernment agreement.

Meanwhile, South Australian newspaper the Border Watch (On Tasmanian Times, HERE) yesterday reported that government-owned Forestry SA had suspended the allocation of softwood logs to Gunns-owned mills at Tarpenna and Kalangadoo.

Neither Forestry SA nor Gunns would confirm the supply suspension.

But the Border Watch said that it understood the suspension was related to the issue of non-payment by Gunns over some time.

Operations at Gunns Bell Bay sawmill were disrupted twice in the past month by supplier Timberlands for similar reasons.

The Examiner, HERE

• Gunns shares still in limbo

GUNNS Ltd shares remained suspended yesterday as the timber company sought more information from the State Government about its claims for compensation under the Intergovernmental Agreement.

The company went into a trading halt on August 4 and then requested a suspension after the agreement was signed.

Gunns said the lack of clarity could create a false market for the stock, which is suspended at an all-time low of 20.5c.

An ASX announcement on Friday said the company “had sought and is awaiting clarificatory information from the Government”.

ASX media executive Leeanne Bland said it was the obligation of every listed entity to keep the market informed.

Ms Bland said the ASX remained in close contact with the company.

On Friday, a South Australian newspaper reported that Forestry SA had ceased supplying Gunns with softwood.

The news came less than a fortnight after a similar situation in Tasmania in which Timberlands withheld supplies from the Bell Bay mill.

Gunns shares still in limbo, Mercury HERE