Thursday, 4 October 2012

SC's bid to disqualify judge rejected

According to this article on the website of The Edge Malaysia, the Securities Commission lost its bid to disqualify High Court Judge Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim to recuse himself from hearing a suit challenging Sime Darby's controversial purchase of a 30% interest in E&O. Hopefully the suit by minority shareholder Michael Chow Keat Thye will continue soon.

This is not the first time that Sime Darby has run into problems regarding a share purchase. Blast from the Past, from the website from the Securities Commission: Sime Darby and its Board of Directors being reprimanded in 1998 regarding the purchase of shares of Sime Bank. Was the reprimand a strong enough punishment, and why were the Directors involved not individually named? Some snippets:

The Securities Commission (SC) today reprimands Sime Darby Berhad (Sime Darby) and its Board of Directors responsible for the take-over of Sime Bank Berhad (Sime Bank)

In the case of Sime Darby and its Board of Directors responsible for the take-over of Sime Bank, the SC had decided to issue them a public reprimand for their indifferent attitude in handling the take-over transaction of Sime Bank resulting in the breach of Rule 34.1 (a) of the Code after taking into consideration their subsequent attempts to fulfill their obligation, which unfortunately could not be discharged as a consequence of the drastic change in the financial position of Sime Bank which resulted in their having to divest their entire shareholdings in Sime Bank.

Chronology of events in Sime Darby's case

On 11 November 1995, Sime Darby entered into a conditional agreement with Datuk Keramat Holdings Berhad (DKH) and UMBC Holdings Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of DKH, to acquire 201,168,890 Sime Bank shares, representing 60.35% equity interest in Sime Bank, for a cash consideration of RM1,300,000,000 or approximately RM6.46 per share. Following this acquisition, Sime Darby was obliged to extend a MGO on the remaining 132,164,322 shares in Sime Bank under Rule 34.1(a) of the Code.

The SC had on 16 February 1996 given its confirmation to Sime Darby that they had to undertake the MGO for the remaining shares in Sime Bank. The acquisition of Sime Bank by Sime Darby Group was completed on 22 April 1996, whereby the acquisition was made through, Sime Darby's wholly-owned subsidiary, Sime Darby Financial Services Holdings Sdn Bhd (SDFS). Sime Darby did not carry out the MGO due to the limitation on its interest in Sime Bank permitted by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) then.

Subsequently, on 12 March 1997, Sime Bank completed a rights issue of 166,666,606 Sime Bank shares at an issue price of RM6.50 per share on the basis of one new Sime Bank share for every two existing Sime Bank shares.

The SC had reminded Amanah Merchant Bank Berhad (Amanah), Sime Darby's adviser, of Sime Darby's outstanding obligation and the need to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Subsequently, Amanah, on behalf of SDFS, informed SC that SDFS had on 17 October 1997 obtained BNM approval and proposed to extend an unconditional mandatory general offer for the remaining shares in Sime Bank not already owned by SDFS. Between October 1997 and January 1998, several applications were made by Amanah, on behalf of Sime Darby, for revisions in the terms and conditions of the MGO.

Change in ownership

Towards the end of February 1998, Sime Darby indicated that it might not be possible for them to pursue the MGO as a change of ownership in Sime Bank was imminent. On 10 March 1998, Rashid Hussain Berhad (RHB), Sime Darby and KUB Malaysia Berhad (KUB) released a joint statement in respect of the signing of a conditional sale and purchase agreement for the acquisition by RHB Group of Sime Bank for the purpose of a merger with RHB Bank Berhad (RHB Bank). Sime Darby through its wholly owned subsidiary, SDFS, decided to dispose of its entire 60.35% equity interest  comprising 301,753,335 shares of RM1.00 in Sime Bank while KUB would dispose of 150,043,120 shares representing 30.03% equity interest in Sime Bank to RHB Bank Berhad (RHB Bank) for a total purchase consideration of RM770 million or approximately RM1.70 per share.

With the new development involving the changes in ownership in Sime Bank, the SC had, on 31 March 1998, written to Amanah to inform them of Sime Darby's outstanding obligation on the MGO and required them to revert on their plan to address the obligation. On 13 April 1998, Amanah replied and informed the SC that BNM via its letter dated 9 April 1998 had withdrawn its earlier approval given via a letter dated 17 October 1997 for SDFS to undertake a MGO and that Sime Darby was in no position to undertake the general offer.

SC issues show cause letter

The SC views seriously the failure of Sime Darby to carry out the MGO and had on the 12 May 1998 issued a show-cause letter to the Board of Directors of Sime Darby seeking explanations on why appropriate action should not be taken against them for failure to undertake a general offer for the remaining voting rights in Sime Bank. Sime Darby explained that the market downturn and the financial problems at Sime Bank and Sime Securities Sdn Bhd had prevented them from discharging their MGO obligation.

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