Perdaman, Lanco want speedy trial

PERDAMAN Chemicals and Fertilisers is hoping the trial of its claims against Lanco Infratech will begin in September or October, the company’s corporate director Andreas Walewski said on Monday.

It was in everyone’s interests that the dispute was dealt with quickly. “Hopefully it will be before the end of the year,” he said.

Lanco Queen’s counsel, John Karkar, has pushed for a trial in September to resolve the dispute. “We are anxious to have the trial date fixed so things can happen expeditiously,” he said.

The $3.5 billion legal case returned to the Supreme Court last Thursday after Perdaman was instructed early in the week to amend its claim.

On Monday last week, Chief Justice Wayne Martin told Perdaman to amend its claim against Lanco, to make clear it was claiming damages directly due to Lanco’s actions.

The previous statement of claim had not made that seemingly vital link, according to Chief Justice Martin.

“You don’t actually say, ‘but for the conduct of the defendants of which we complain, the project would have gone ahead’,” the judge had said in an earlier hearing.

Queen’s counsel for Perdaman, Allen Myers, told the court the statement of claim was clear and was not for the defendant to dictate.

“They know what our case is,” he said. “They say, ‘No, that’s not the way you run a case of loss of opportunity’ but that’s for the judge to decide.”

“We have amended the statement of claim and are waiting for the amended defence,” Mr Walewski said.

“The discovery process is continuing.”

Perdaman took Lanco to court over a 25-year coal supply contract signed before Lanco bought Griffin Coal. It says Lanco’s failure to uphold the contract undermined financing of its planned $2.5 billion Collie urea project.

Lanco has said it was willing to satisfy the contract but Perdaman wanted “onerous” guarantees.

Lanco was claiming a victory last week after being awarded costs for the change.

The State Government is known to want the matter resolved swiftly but Perdaman has argued there are procedural issues to sort out before a trial date is set, and Chief Justice Martin agreed.

The trial is likely to be split into two sections, one examining the issues of liability and causation and the other attempting to quantify Perdaman’s losses.

Lanco has disputed Perdaman’s claims it had already spent $169 million on engineering studies before financing was secured.

Late last year The Australian Financial Review reported that Perdaman was at risk of losing its rights to valuable space at the port of Bunbury if its timetable for a 2014 start-up slipped.

Mr Walewski said this week that there would come a time when the space would be needed by others if the urea plant did not go ahead as scheduled.

He added that the port authority “is still behind us and I don’t think it will be an issue”.