New Hope investment raises shareholder concerns at Washington H Soul Pattinson AGM

10 December 2021

Washington H Soul Pattinson (WHSP) owns 40% of Australian thermal coal miner New Hope, and the two companies share a number of directors, including Chair Rob Millner.

New Hope is pursuing the highly controversial New Acland Stage 3 coal mine in Queensland, and confirmed at its AGM last month that it intends to continue deriving around 95% of its revenue from coal throughout this decade.

WHSP’s investment in New Hope has caused hostility at recent AGMs, with the company going to extraordinary lengths to avoid questions on coal and climate change in 2019, and telling shareholders to “sell their shares” if they’re not happy with its coal exposure in 2018.

In response to shareholder questioning at last year’s AGM, WHSP Managing Director Todd Barlow (who also sits on the New Hope board) suggested the company does not need to consider the implications of policy shifts to achieve net zero emissions globally by 2050, because New Hope’s Bengalla coal mine and New Acland Stage 3 projects would only produce until the late 2030s.

This year, the International Energy Agency found that in a net zero by 2050 scenario, no new or expanded coal mines are required, and unabated coal power generation would be phased out in advanced economies by 2030 and globally by 2040, severely reducing thermal coal demand within the lifetime of New Hope’s mines.

The WHSP board was asked if it had assessed the risks facing its investment in New Hope against the IEA’s net zero scenario.

Despite claiming to have done detailed analysis of all IEA scenarios, Barlow then refers to New Hope’s 2021 Sustainability Report, which fails to address the IEA’s net zero scenario at all.

Given this omission, and the fact that New Hope is pursuing its New Acland expansion project in contradiction to the IEA’s net zero scenario findings, it’s hard to trust Barlow’s claims about WHSP’s investment in New Hope.

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