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Dow Jones Newswires: Atlassian co-founder becomes largest shareholder at Australia’s biggest polluter to force change

SYDNEY — Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, hoping to force greenhouse-gas emission cuts at Australia’s biggest polluter, has bought a stake in the company so he can vote against its current strategy.

Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of Nasdaq-listed software company Atlassian Corp. Plc.
TEAM,
+4.65%
,
has become the largest shareholder in AGL Energy Ltd.
AGL,
-2.49%

with an 11.28% stake in the electricity generator.

He has told the company he will vote against plans to put its coal-fired power plants into a separate business that he said will face multiple risks and be unattractive to investors.

“We intend to vote every AGL share we control at the relevant time against the demerger, and we call on fellow AGL shareholders to vote against the demerger to avoid further value destruction,” Cannon-Brookes said on Tuesday.

The move represents Cannon-Brookes’s second tilt at shifting policy at AGL, which the Australian government’s Clean Energy Regulator says is Australia’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses.

AGL in March rejected a takeover proposal from a Brookfield Asset Management Inc.-led consortium, which included Cannon-Brookes, that planned to close AGL’s aging coal-fired generating assets 10 years ahead of AGL’s 2045 target and replace them with clean energy and storage. AGL rejected the proposal as too low.

The following month, a unit at AGL’s coal-fired Loy Yang A power station in Victoria state was forced offline by an electrical fault. AGL on Monday cut its earnings guidance for the 2022 fiscal year as a result.

“Sweating old coal plants which are expensive to run–and increasingly break down like we’re seeing today with Loy Yang A–is not economical or responsible. It makes no sense, or cents,” Cannon-Brookes said.

AGL acknowledged that interests associated with Mike Cannon-Brookes had assembled an interest and that the Australian entrepreneur had advised he would vote against demerger.

It said it would press on with the demerger and said that U.S.-based fund Global Infrastructure Partners would take a 49% equity stake in the subsequent generation business’s own low-carbon projects.

“The board has considered these developments and continues to believe that AGL’s proposed demerger is in the best interests of AGL shareholders,” AGL said.

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