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SP AusNet in A$494.7m settlement over 2009 Victoria bushfires

Survivors of the 2009 bushfires in Australia's Victoria state have secured a near A$500 million payout from Singapore-listed SP AusNet and several other parties, described as the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history.

SINGAPORE: Survivors of the 2009 bushfires in Australia's Victoria state have secured a near A$500 million payout from Singapore-listed SP AusNet and several other parties, described as the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history. The class action suit against the state's largest power distributor SP AusNet -- whose shareholders include Singapore Power -- involved 10,000 people, including relatives of the over 100 people killed in the fire, people who were injured and those who lost their homes and property, Australian media reported.

SP AusNet, whose shares are also listed in Australia, will contribute A$378.6 million towards the A$494.7 million settlement, asset manager Utility Services Corporation will contribute A$12.5 million, while Victorian state parties including the police will provide A$103.6 million.

In a statement posted on the Singapore Exchange today (15/7), SP AusNet said the settlement did not involve an admission of liability by SP AusNet or any other party. It added that its contribution to the settlement will be covered by insurance.

"SP AusNet's position has been, and continues to be, that the conductor which broke and which initiated the fire was damaged by lightning, compromising its fail-safety design in a manner which was undetectable at that time," it said. "This point was accepted by experts called by all parties who provided evidence in relation to the conductor break. It is a tragedy that the conductor eventually failed on one of the worst days imaginable."

SP AusNet also said in its statement it remains a party to another class action proceeding and will vigorously defend that claim. That claim is also covered by insurance.
 

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