Australia’s $6.5bn Oakajee project backer holds long record of shady business

Proposed port and rail project in Western Australia’s Mid-West.

After weeks of speculations over who could be behind Padbury Mining’s (ASX:PDY) announced $6.5 billion secured funding to build to build the long-delayed Oakajee deep-water port and railway in Western Australia, Sydney businessman Roland Bleyer has come out claiming to be the main backer.

The revelation, however, is unlikely to improve Padbury’s tainted reputation, as Bleyer is widely known for having a “colourful” business past.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Bleyer claims to have been in negotiations with the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou to lend Greece billions of euros during its debt crisis.

He also says he played a key role at an Azerbaijani bank and had business meetings with Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, prior to his assassination in 2005, and with ministers of the Syrian government.

In 1989 he reportedly admitted to buying an honorary doctorate and professorship from a university in Sicily, Italy.

And if that doesn’t seem enough to make him “interesting,” read this: Bleyer says he was held captive for several hours in London back in 2000 until a ransom was paid after his notoriety led to gangsters kidnapping him for financial gain.

Bleyer, reports The Australian, first became somehow popular in Australia in 1985 when a TV host grilled him on air over a business that was using animal foetal cells to treat children with Down syndrome.

Australia’s $6.5bn Oakajee project backer holds long record of shady businessPadbury, a company with a market value of less than $70 million, told the ASX earlier this month that it had struck a deal with unnamed private Australian investors who would provide $6.5bn in equity to build Oakajee.

The money had been “secured”, Padbury said, and the deal was a “major breakthrough for the company and the region”, which meant the Midwest could finally “exploit its mineral assets.”

The news sent Padbury shares soaring more than 100% to a high of 5.2 cents. On the same day, the miner placed itself in a trading halt because it would not name private equity investors it said would fund the deal. Last week it went into voluntary suspension with the same questions still unanswered.

The Oakajee port and rail project has the potential to become one of the major suppliers of Australian raw materials to Asia, particularly iron ore.

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4:52pm:Australia’s big banks have underpinned solid gains on the sharemarket’s first day of trade after the Easter break.

Westpac and ANZ shares hit record highs with their outperformance correlating with the traditional interim dividend period in autumn.

The benchmark SP/ASX 200 Index rose 25.1 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 5482.7 points, while the broader All Ordinaries Index firmed 22.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5467.1 points.

But volumes were thin, as expected in a week book-ended by Easter Monday and Anzac Day this Friday.

Still, Platypus Asset Management founder and chief investment officer Donald Williams said the performance of the big banks was solid and expected they alone could add another 100 points to the index in coming months.

Mr Williams said the fact the ASX has traded above 5200 points since February was in large part thanks to the banks.

‘‘We are not necessarily expecting major upgrades in the banks but I think they will produce a pretty good set of results. That might give the market a bit more impetus … or at least to maintain current levels if nothing else,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘Their earnings growth rates are pretty solid given how poor credit growth is at the moment, although that is improving now.’’

Westpac leapt 35 cents, or 1 per cent, to $35.29, while ANZ strengthened 40 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $34.28. The biggest company on the ASX, Commonwealth Bank, rose 46 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $78.03, while NAB firmed 13 cents, or 0.4 per cent to $35.49.

The resource sector was winded after Chinese steel rebar futures dropped for the fifth day on Monday on fears demand will be unable to absorb incipient supply.

Index heavyweight BHP eased 9 cents, or 0.2 per cent, to $38.01, while rival Rio Tinto dropped 63 cents, or 1 per cent, to $62.74.

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9:41am: Monday’s gain marked the SP 500′s fifth straight climb, its longest winning streak since October. The SP 500 wrapped up its best week since July last week, boosted by results from such names as General Electric and Morgan Stanley.

The Nasdaq also scored its fifth straight gain on Monday.

Of the 87 companies in the SP 500 that had reported results through Monday morning, 62.1 per cent have topped earnings expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, compared with the 66 per cent average over the past four quarters. On the revenue side, 51.7 percent have exceeded forecasts, below the 54 percent average over the past four quarters.

Dozens of SP 500 components will report earnings this week, including such closely watched companies as Apple, Biogen Idec and Facebook.

A number of Dow components, including McDonald’s, ATT Inc, Procter Gamble and Caterpillar, will also report results.

More than 30 companies in the Nasdaq 100 are slated to report earnings. The Nasdaq 100 represents more than half of the index’s weight.

SP 500 companies’ first-quarter earnings are projected to have increased 0.8 per cent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed. The forecast is down sharply from the start of the year, when profit growth was estimated at 6.5 percent.

“We are certainly in a wait-and-see mode for earnings, which can be volatile, and therefore a lot of money is just waiting on the sidelines to see what happens,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

“Certainly, companies that confirm the rest of the year guidance, even if they miss the first quarter, it’s a good thing because there is still a lot of expectation that we are going to see the economy begin to accelerate and also do some catch-up from the weather-impacted first quarter.”

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