By the time Griffin promoted Neal to general manager of the Boral Gas Group in 1970, Boral had acquired brickworks, quarry and concrete operations in Melbourne and brickworks and concrete product operations in Sydney and Brisbane. It had also just acquired a company called Steel Mills Limited in Sydney which had a small Queensland branch. Boral was firmly entrenched in the building materials business - the path was set.
In February 1970 a new company, Boral Basic Industries Limited, was formed to take over the activities of all the group's companies operating in quarrying, sand, pre-mixed concrete and in bituminous road surfacing and bituminous products in all states. Fifteen per cent of the capital was offered to Boral shareholders.
The Gas Supply Company was operating in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. In Victoria, it managed eight or nine country gasworks, Ballarat being the largest branch. Increasingly Boral Gas found itself in competition with the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation (VGFC). The VGFC had a policy of low prices and, being a government organisation, it did not have to make a profit. The price that Gas Supply had to charge its customers to earn an income on its Victorian investments (after tax) was prohibitive.
Finally George Todner, an associate director of Boral, was given the task of negotiating the sale of the Victorian operations to VGFC. Late in 1970 Gas Supply sold right out of Victorian town gas and LPG operations. As part of the deal it also entered into an agreement with the state government utility that it would not compete in the gas market in Victoria for the next ten years.
The Board of Directors at Boral's 1970 Annual General Meeting.
Boral's Gas Division was left with $3.5 million. This money, because it had been originally borrowed under a semi-government trust deed, could only be reinvested in gas utility operations.
Neal pointed out to the Boral board - which at that stage was chaired by John O'Neill with Elton Griffin as managing director - that there was no way Boral Gas could invest that amount of money in LPG operations; there just wasn't the scope for it at that time. Neal suggested that the more sensible course would be to take over the Brisbane Gas Company, which would give Boral's Gas Division an even stronger base in Queensland, where it already had its major gas business.