Transurban chairman in ‘surprise’ resignation

David Ryan resigned as chairman of Transurban today just as the toll road operator announced a swing back to profit. Chief executive Chris Lynch expressed surprise about the resignation in a conference call with reporters. Lindsay Maxted, ex-chief executive of KPMG Australia, takes his place.

David Ryan, the chairman of Australian-listed roads operator Transurban since 2007, has resigned today just as the company swung back into profit, a move that surprised chief executive Chris Lynch.

David Ryan

“David’s decision is entirely David’s decision,” Lynch said during a conference call to present Transurban’s full-year results. “He made that call himself and he let his fellow directors know this week.” But when asked if he had been surprised by the resignation, Lynch acknowledged his astonishment with a curt “yep”.

Lindsay Maxted, former chief executive of KPMG Australia and a member of Transurban’s board of directors since early 2008, is the group’s new chairman, effective immediately.

Ryan oversaw several of Transurban’s key acquisitions including the purchase of the Sydney Roads Group – which includes the Eastern Distributor road as well as the M4, M5 and M7 – the financial closing of Virginia’s Capital Beltway deal and the recent acquisition of the distressed Lane Cove Tunnel, also in Sydney.

But Ryan was also the man in charge of managing the A$7.2 billion (€5.1 billion; $6.5 billion) takeover offer – which Transurban ultimately rejected – from a consortium of CPPIB, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (OTPP) and, later, Australian investor CP2. The rejection led OTPP to exit Transurban's shareholding base.

However, chief executive Lynch refused to acknowledge any connection between Ryan’s resignation and the group’s decision to reject the bid:

“The key thing to take into account with the decision about the proposal for the change of control was that it was a unanimous board decision and we’ve moved on from that,” Lynch said, adding: “I think the long-term value of the company is evidenced in these results today.”

Transurban bounced back to profit in its full-year results for the year to June 30 2010 posting a net profit of A$59.4 million compared to a loss of A$24.6 million in the previous comparable period. Proportionate earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 13 percent to A$629.9 million from A$556.8 million.

Underlying proportional revenues also increased by 6.9 percent to A$842.2 million on the back of a 0.9 percent increase in toll road revenues to A$684.4 million.