Economy

Bill Express collapses

SmartCompany /

Embattled payments company Bill Express is in dire trouble after discussions with white knight investor, the Al Othman Group, collapsed. The group was to recapitalise the national electronic payment company as part of a major restructure.

Administrators are expected to be appointed to Bill Express today after discussions with white knight investor, the Al Othman Group, collapsed. The group was to recapitalise the national electronic payment company as part of a major restructure.

Bill Express says it will appoint administrators to the company effective from today. SmartCompany reported early this morning that Bill Express had received notice from the Al Othman Group that the proposal had been withdrawn. The proposal included a major capital injection and new bank guarantees combined with a restructure of the liabilities. In addition the board and management of the company were to be restructured.

Today’s announcement says the company and its advisers are urgently considering the implications of this withdrawal and are “in discussions with its financiers and major suppliers on the impact of the decision.”

Ian Christiansen and Hal Christiansen, founders of the original company Dial Time, which was renamed Bill Express when the company floated in 2004, have also resigned as directors along with other directors Michael Doery and Craig Brown.

ANZ, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are all key creditors of the company, which provides electronic bill payment and call credit for pre-paid mobile phones. Turnover for last year was around $1 billion. Most of this was from the sale of mobile phone-up credit on behalf of Telsta, Vodafone and Optus to its prepaid customers. Until last season it was also the naming rights sponsor of the St Kilda football club.

ANZ has a team investigating the financial situation of Bill Express as does administrator PPB. The company had hoped a white knight would turn around the Australian operations, which has 14,000 point of sale terminals at newsagents and shops across the country.

The Australian Newsagents Blog says that Bill Express has today advised all retailers to suspend selling products or accepting bill payment through its facilities. Already newsagents are asking what they should tell customers, and complain they are not being given enough information.

Billionaire Gerry Harvey is a shareholder in Bill Express.

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