17 March 2016, Written by Nick Nichols


THE Gold Coast investment firm that helped Brisbane-based veterinary company Greencross (ASX:GXL) float on the stock exchange is exploring opportunities as diverse as lithium, coffee and agriculture to uncover the next big deal.

Strategic Equity Alliance, headed by Glenn Gaudet and Justin Broad, has appointed youthful mining industry veteran Aaron Thomas to explore new investment opportunities with plans to take six new ventures to the ASX this year.

The move will be aided by the opening of a Singapore office later this year.

"Aaron has tapped into his extensive international network, formed through his time in London, to bring some exciting new ventures to our attention, which our contacts in Australia have verified are solid investments in both Australia and abroad," says Gaudet.

"While we were originally looking to involve him in our core business, we've decided to capitalise on this network and make his focus international management.

"He will be tasked with finding offshore assets that we can fund in Australia and has already secured a lithium mining site in Argentina and is looking at other opportunities in Brazil and Chile.

"Our contacts are excited about the potential to invest in these new sectors."

Thomas plans to bring the new lithium venture, Everlight Resources which is focused on South American assets, to the ASX later this year.

"Lithium is getting a lot of attention in the mining sector because there are just four major producers in the world and fast-growing demand in line with the establishment of mega tech factories by companies like Tesla," he says.

"Some of the largest lithium assets have doubled in value over the last six months alone.

"Everlight has secured an asset in Argentina, capable of producing 8000 tonnes a year of lithium products that can be exported to Singapore and finished for use in applications such as lithium batteries."

South America has become a region of interest for Thomas where he says more deals are in train.

"Brazil, for example, is where North America was 20 years ago, with a massive population, limited infrastructure and a lot of opportunity," he says.

"While the lithium venture in Argentina is the first we are preparing to launch, we are looking for diversification and will consider virtually everything and anything, starting with potential coffee and agricultural projects.

"People have been drinking coffee for a long time and will continue to do so, so it is quite a Warren Buffett style of investing."

Thomas has had extensive experience in South American resources. In 2010, at the age of 22, he raised $US70 million ($94.5 million) to establish Oakmont Resources, a London-based company that held iron ore assets in Brazil.

However, the relationship soured in 2014 with a headline-grabbing trans-Atlantic legal stoush.

Oakmont sued Thomas for $US7 million, claiming he had used company funds for personal expenses. Thomas fended off the US action in the English High Court with a counterclaim for wrongful dismissal.

A spokesman for Strategic Equity Alliance says the case was dismissed when first contested between the parties in the New York Supreme Court. Thomas is understood to have walked away with a settlement.

Thomas, a Melburnian who shot to fame in an early series of Master Chef, moved to the Gold Coast six months ago.

He says he's looking forward to working with Gaudet and Broad, describing them as experienced professionals.

"Glenn and Justin have put together a string of highly successful ASX IPOs, of which Greencross is just an example, so to be a part of their next phase of growth is such a fantastic opportunity," he says.

Greencross listed on the ASX in 2007 after a $35 million IPO pitched at $1 a share. The company is now worth more than $800 million.


Author: Nick Nichols





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