Aurora Funds Management Limited (“Aurora”) is an Australian-based alternative asset manager specialising in absolute-return investment strategies.
Aurora’s current ownership group purchased the business on 30 June 2016. At the time of purchase, Aurora’s business was in distress, primarily due to a significant investment made by the former managers in an ASX-listed convertible note that had run into financial difficulty, which had ultimately caused it to freeze certain fund liquidity. Having inherited this illiquid position, the incoming Group worked diligently to restore liquidity for the funds, allowing circa $50 million of redemptions to be processed shortly after its purchase.
The incoming Group was led by John Patton. John had been a partner with Ernst and Young and prior to that, was Chief Financial Officer of a gas transmission business owned by the Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund.
The Group has sought to keep Aurora’s business independent. However, an impression has apparently been formed in some parts of the market that the business is associated with, in particular, its former owner Keybridge. Despite Keybridge retaining the management rights of one of Aurora’s funds (HHY Fund), and Aurora complying with its obligations under that arrangement, that impression is not correct.
This unfortunate impression was entrenched by recent findings in the Takeovers Panel where share acquisitions in an ASX company, Molopo Energy Limited, by each of Aurora and Keybridge had to be unwound. That position has been vigorously denied by Aurora, with the legality of the decision currently subject to judicial review in the Federal Court (NSW).
The Group has also had to deal with challenges associated with a financial theft, that resulted in the immediate termination of its long standing Chief Financial Officer (Ms Betty Poon), replacement of its auditor (Deloitte) and a review of its share registry service provider (Registry Direct).
The Group has continued its focus on rebuilding Aurora and becoming a sustainable funds management business. The key areas of focus for the Group include improving investor returns and correcting public perception, particularly around corporate governance. Aurora management recognises that it needs increased focus in these areas if it is to be seen by investors and the wider market, as what it believes it is – a truly independent, professional and proficient funds management business.
An important step in this direction is to appoint a new independent director to the Aurora Board. Mr Tony Hartnell AM has accepted our invitation to join the Board and to participate in working on the development of transparency, professionalism and independence.
Mr Tony Hartnell AM, who was previously the inaugural Chairman of what is today known as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), is a very welcome addition to the Aurora Board.