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Mike Cannon-Brookes borrows from Musk’s playbook in AGL tussle

·2-min read
Mike Cannon Brookes
Mike Cannon-Brookes has become the biggest shareholder in AGL to oppose the energy company's planned demerger. (Source: Getty)

Another day, another tech billionaire throwing their money around for a social cause they believe in.

This time, it’s not Elon Musk buying Twitter in the name of ‘free speech’, but Aussie billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes using his shareholder power to stop AGL’s demerger in a bid to save the planet.

The Atlassian co-founder has become the largest shareholder at the energy giant in a bid to stop it splitting into AGL Australia, a retail and renewables business, and Accel Energy, which would hold its coal-fired generation assets.

His private investment firm, Grok Ventures, acquired an 11 per cent stake, around $650 million, in the company on Monday night, making it the largest stakeholder in the nation's biggest electricity generator and carbon emitter.

As part of a campaign called “keep it together Australia”, to encourage other shareholders to vote against the demerger, Cannon-Brookes has labelled the move “flawed” and argued it will “threaten AGL’s renewable-energy transition”.

“We believe there can be a better future for AGL that delivers cheap, clean and reliable energy for consumers, and that creates opportunities and increases value for shareholders, and that results in a future that accelerates the transition,” Cannon-Brookes said.

The demerger would diminish shareholder value, according to the campaign website, with Accel Energy likely to struggle to attract investors focused on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing.

“It will only get harder for Accel Energy to access the capital it requires to build more profitable renewable assets or even keep its existing assets running,” the campaign website stated.

If the demerger is successful, AGL Energy would have a target to reduce emissions to net zero by 2040 and Accel Energy by 2047.

In response, AGL said it remained committed to "a responsible transition of Australia's energy system" and planned to go ahead with the merger if it got the 75 per cent shareholder approval it required.

This latest move from Cannon-Brookes followed his failed attempt earlier this year to buy AGL with Brookfields Asset Management, in a bid to shut down AGL’s coal assets early.

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