Datuk Soh Chee Wen and the Blumont-Asiason-LionGold saga; Every counter that Datuk Soh Chee Wen owned in Malaysia used to be sought after by punters and market players because their gains were extraordinary

Updated: Saturday October 19, 2013 MYT 7:43:02 AM

Lim, Azlan claim no link to Soh

BY B.K. SIDHU

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BIZD_MM_1910_p20a_ jaredlim azlan

Soh has been s een as a prominen t mark e t play er in the Malay sian and Singaporean stock exchang es for more than a decade . DATUK Jared Lim and Datuk Mohamed Azlan Hashim have denied any links to tycoon Datuk Soh Chee Wen, whose name has become a topic of conversation at coffee tables and trading rooms of late. The reason is the spectacular rise and collapse of shares in three Singapore companies recently which begs the question as to who is behind the volatile movements of the counters. Lim and Azlan are the Malaysian shareholders in SGX listed-Asiasons Capital, one of the three companies whose share prices once recorded extraordinary gains but caused a mayhem when they plummeted beginning Oct 3. The other two companies are Blumont Group and LionGold Group.“We are not linked to him,’’ Lim says in an interview with StarBizWeek.

“Look, we don’t play the market. So if they start linking us with that, whether or not him or his group, or his companies who have invested in Asiasons … who knows? We are not aware. Clearly not in our shareholding. They are not in there, in our shareholding. However, the way articles (in other publications) have been written, it’s like these guys are one big family. That is damaging.’’

Azlan adds: “Let me clarify that I don’t even know this person (Soh). I wouldn’t want to make enemies with people, and I don’t want to say that people are good or bad. I am not aware of any linkages to so-called market players. So we just mind our own business and go on managing the company.’’

“There are no other shareholders … I wouldn’t want to make an enemy and say his name per se, but there are no other substantial shareholders apart from the three of us, who own more than 5%,’’ Lim says.

Azlan, Lim and Ng Teck Wah hold 53% equity stake in Asiasons.

Azlan adds that “rumours and speculation is something that we don’t want to continue commenting on.’’

Soh has been seen as a prominent market player in the Malaysian and Singaporean stock exchanges for more than a decade now. Soh, popularly known as John Soh, is someone who never fails to excite stock market punters and investors.

The mere mention of his name excites punters and stock market players. Every counter that he owned in Malaysia used to be sought after by punters and market players because their gains were extraordinary.

Incidentally, Azlan was the chairman of Bursa Malaysia from 1998 to 2004 at a time when Soh was being hunted by the authorities for the collapse of Omega Securities.

Soh, together with Tan Sri Tony Tiah, were subsequently found guilty of providing false information to the exchange and was ρned, but that is another story by itself.

In Azlan’s first month as chairman of Bursa, the exchange had singled out Soh in its January 13 circular to broking firms, asking them to report their exposure to single client and single security, although Azlan did clarify that it included other corporate figures too.

That aside, the way the shares of the three SGX companies rose and collapsed has given rise to talk that Soh may have his fingers in these companies. This is because there are ramblings that the manner in which the shares recorded extraordinary gains and collapsed are similar to the ones that was once linked to Soh in Malaysia many years ago, though there is really no circumstantial evidence to say he is the one behind all the three SGX companies.

Soh astounded the Malaysian market with the speed with which he amassed his business empire, leading some to suggest he was merely a frontman for some secretive tycoon. On several occasions, he was labelled “an asset trader,’’ and “stock market maverick”.

Soh started as a shampoo salesman in the 1970s and went on to build an empire of listed and non-listed companies that were into hotels and resorts, massive shipbuilding contracts and even construction.

In his heyday, he used to control more than a dozen companies including Promet Bhd, Kelanamas Industries Bhd, Uniphoenix Corp Bhd, Plantation and Development Bhd, Rekapacific Bhd, Omega Holdings, and Metro Kajang Bhd.

“Whoever it is, (the person) may have been profiting both ways when the shares were going up and down by shorting the market, and this is something only seasoned players can do,’’ says an observer.

There is talk circulating around that Goldman Sachs and some hedge funds may have been involved in some short selling of the stocks when they were on their way down, but this could not be verified.

The companies and investors affected want to know who was behind the massive selldown that has wiped off nearly 90% of the shares’ market value. The SGX must be undertaking its own investigations and until a report comes out, there will be many theories linking many people, including Soh. Will Soh be exonerated and implicated remains to be seen.

All the allegations of Soh’s linkages come from Inno-Pacific Holdings Ltd, now known as Innopac Holdings Ltd. In late 1994, Bintang Piramid (M) Sdn Bhd bought a 19.57% equity stake in Innopac and Bintang was controlled by Soh then. He stepped down as managing director of InnoPac in 2010.

Whether he still holds the stake is not clear but reports are saying the linkages are based on a string of cross-holdings between ρrms said to be controlled by him and the three affected companies. Apart from the cross-holdings, some directors in the ρrms who are said to be aligned to Soh also have a direct interest in the three companies.

The SGX-listed companies linked to Soh are said to be Magnus Energy Group Ltd,Innopac Holdings Ltd, Ipco International Ltd and Annica Holdings Ltd.

Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir, a long time friend of Soh, is also chairman of Innopac. Tan Sri Nik Ibrahim Kamil, who is chairman of LionGold Group, was said to be Soh’s ally when Soh took on Datuk Ishak Ismail in a bid to take control of KFC Holdings Bhd some years ago.

Updated: Saturday October 19, 2013 MYT 8:32:08 AM

Business as usual, board to focus on repairing damaged reputation

Asiasons major shareholders Jared Lim and Azlan

Asiasons is picking up the pieces after a spectacular collapse in its share price. The controlling owners of the company – Datuk Azlan Hashim, DatukJared Lim and Ng Teck Wah – have been fighting fire since the freefall of the company’s shares. Comforting investors, stakeholders and employees that nothing has changed within the operations of the company is the No. 1 priority as the company and its owners go about rebuilding their reputation. Below is an extract of an interview with StarBizWeek.

What is the message you want to tell invertors and your stakeholders now?

Azlan: We want people to know that Asiasons is actively engaged in the business that it is set out to do, which is managing funds and investing and divesting for a gain.

Lim: It is important that we clarify that as far as our operations and businesses are concerned, there is no undue interference from any third party. There is no other person that owns more than 5% of shares other than ourselves. We own 53%.

What has happened in the share price in the last two weeks, it was not something within our control. The market took a life of its own when we did the oil deal for Black Elk. It was less than a month ago actually. After that, there was nothing we could do about it.

Azlan: Clearly the entire board is very concerned about the events in the last few weeks. We need to establish what actually happened. Come up with a full report of all this for the board.

Personally, as the chairman and shareholder of the company, this is something that is totally unacceptable. We want to know what happened. What’s going on.

Lim: And we must disassociate and de-link the directors, management and company itself from what has happened to the share price.

As you can imagine, our core business is in the form of private equity and investments. We manage monies of families, high net-worths, institutions, funds.

And the way it has been portrayed in the papers, its more insinuation more than anything else. Some people would have got the idea that we are involved in this whole share price volatility. That’s extremely damaging for our business.

Azlan: And our reputation. Our business depends on our reputation because we are managing money.

How are you going to repair your damaged reputation, even if it’s possible, considering you’re in a business where everything is about reputation?

Azlan: Sure there is reputation damage. But it’s business as usual. We are talking about timing now. Because some people will require greater clarity before they make commitments and this is to be expected.

So certainly we will need to put in the hard work. It will take time but the damage will be repaired over time. It will be business as usual and our track record that we have painstakingly built up over this time, hopefully, will speak for itself.

Ng: Bear in mind that our business is one that we have always operated with the highest level of integrity. We are custodians to our investors funds. We have always exercised diligently whatever exercises we felt necessary to ensure we put our investors’ money to work responsibly. This recent events have questioned that level of integrity that we have.

There have been rumours that we have been under investigation by the SGX, Monetary Board of Singapore and some other regulatory bodies. For the record, we are not under any investigation by any regulatory board.

Things like investigation has a massive dent on the reputation that we have built. We are a regulated business. Reputation is very important for us. So to the question on how we go about repairing this reputational damage, it is obviously slowly and surely.

What sort of engagement have you been having with your stakeholders?

Lim: It’s all stakeholders, our investors, which there are quite a few. Our business partners. Keep in mind that they decided to partner us or sell their stake to us, in a form of this partnership, to grow their company forward. Our employees. They need to understand what happened.

I think when they hear it directly from us, which is really the sequencing of events, how a large block of shares by a major institutional investor decided to sell down and resulting in a spate of aggressive shortselling, resulting in the SGX, and with good intentions, trying to calm the market by having a trading halt.

Then having the designation, leading then to the eventual panic which resulted in the share price collapse. It’s easier then to understand that we are not the cause of it. But, of course, the articles are focused on other issues and not on that sequence.

Azlan: Who sold, who bought, who are the shortsellers, these things will come up over time. It’s very easy for someone to check the shareholders list, and see where the movements are. Who triggered the selling etc. But clearly, someone triggered this whole thing off.

From these reports that we are now beginning to see, the trigger was an investment bank. From the reading of what has happened, it would appear that it wasn’t even Asiasons.

The trigger were the other two companies, which were very badly affected too. Asiasons unfortunately endured the side effect of it because of its investments in one of those other companies. We happen to own 8% of LionGold.

Having said that, the investment actually represents a very small part of the value of Asiasons in terms of the investments which we have made.

In your conversations with your stakeholders, they did convey their concerns to you? And what was that?

Lim: The main concern they conveyed was that there is clarification. That there is a de-linking between the share price and the management and Asiasons. Most of our investors understand that as far as the funds are managed, it is completely ring-fenced. Asiasons just manage the funds. So there is no monies to be lost. And whether the share price is 5 Singapore cents or S$5, it doesn’t affect how the funds are being managed.

Azlan: Let’s talk about the people who have given us money, and those who could potentially give us money. Ekuinas for instance. None of the money which they have given us has been drawn down. Ekuinas announced that we were one of their partners where they have allocated some money for us to manage.

How much they did allocate to you?</b> 

Lim: Our fund itself is RM125mil. About 80% of that are funds coming from Ekuinas.

None of these guys have asked for their monies back?

Lim: We’ve been very busy talking and engaging them. There are UK, US funds, high net-worth individuals, families.

Azlan: There is also the other dimension of investors, those that we have been working with. Potential new investors.

Lim: Yes, and with what has happened, it makes working with these investors harder, take a little bit more time. Clearly, if they are going to make a commitment, they need everything to be absolutely clean. So we have to work a lot harder. This will result in a delay.

Azlan: This is what makes us very angry. We have worked so hard in the last six years, not just in building the company and track record. We are now in the stage where people are starting to see and accept the company for what it is. And for this thing to happen, it’s totally beyond us.

This may also jeopardise the timing of our deals. We’ve been doing roadshows in the United States, Europe and Hong Kong. Meeting dozens of these people. Many of these people who have shown interest are at the point of doing due diligence. As a fund manager, with what has happened, what would you do? You would delay.

With what has happened, it makes it more difficult to do deals, moving forward. The Black Elk deal, for instance, was going to be funded by Asiasons shares at a much higher price.

Lim: There are two aspects to this. In Black Elk’s case, it wasn’t the funds buying, it was the company buying. It’s difficult because we cannot complete the deal with the price that we have signed. So it is unfortunate because our shareholders got a pretty good deal, and now the price is much lower. We have to negotiate.

Having said that, with what has happened, the owners flew in from the United States, stayed in Singapore for a few days. They didn’t want to terminate the deal. It will send a wrong message. They want to do this deal and said we should sit down and restructure the terms. So the deal is not off.

But you lose leverage with what has happened?

Azlan: Yes, definitely. Which is really unfortunate for our shareholders.

But now you can’t do it anymore, because your shares are so much lower.

Lim: We don’t necessarily have to it at S$1. That’s why I said we will reprice the deal when the deal is more stable. Clearly when the shares are designated, forget it. It’s artificially suppressed.

Initially you were negotiating for a 27.5% stake in Black Elk? Are you still looking at that kind of stake?

Lim: We will still try to get a sizeable stake. We are working around the numbers. I think we will still emerge as the single-largest shareholder. We are doing due diligence now. We have the top oil and gas consultants in the world doing it. We would try our best to keep to the original timeline, although it’s not possible now.

We easily have 10 partners whom we work with. Obviously they are all concerned. If the problem is financial in nature, then they will worry whether it will affect the operations of the business going forward.

The first thing we have done is to explain that operationally, nothing has changed. We are still doing what we were originally doing.

Lets get into the company’s track record.

Lim: It’s more of our track record in how we manage our funds. Today we have about US$300mil and we are in the midst of fund raising for our second fund which is worth US$250mil. We are halfway through raising this fund.

Private equity wise, we are relatively young at six years. But for our vintage year, it was pre-GFC (global financial crisis of 2008/09). And our funds hit around 25% to 30% every year since vintage year.

We will set back a bit with what has happened with LionGold, but it will still be in the twenties. It will affect some of our returns, but it is not detrimental to our track record.

We have spent the last six years investing in an infrastructure that would put us in a unique position in comparison to other funds.

We are probably the only one, if not in the world, then in this region, where we have 40 odd people, half of which are operational people. These people are in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia etc.

We have our own consumer platform, our own branding and marketing team, our own digital strategy etc. We have our own team that does licensing. We design our own merchandise … its very operational in nature.

For our fund, we are focused on what we invest in – food and beverage, healthcare, education, lifestyle and entertainment and media.

For example, when we IPO-ed Chaswood. That was at 3.2 times our investment. We divested a little, but are still holding over 60% of it. We have a public target of achieving a return of five times from our original investment cost.

Is that the best investment you have had so far?

Lim: No, Hi-5 for example. We bought over a year ago. We are negotiating one deal right now where a large company is looking to take a minority stake in the company at above five times our cost.

So what about the LionGold investment?

Lim: The Liongold one, we are still up. Even at this price. Two times up or something.

Why didn’t you cash out on LionGold when you had the chance?

Lim: We were going to. This was going to be the year we did it. We were in negotiations. We were actually talking to a few anchor investors to take our block.

Had we sold it, that would be our No.1 investment in terms of multiples. It would have been a 10-bagger. But in terms of size, not necessarily. It’s only US$6mil. We went in late 2008.

When a share price drops as drastically as it has, rarely do you see it recovering. Is privatisation a route you guys would consider?

Lim: At this point in time, we are not contemplating privatisation. Our main objective is to find the right formula to complete the Black Elk deal. Moping up the shares now is not the right way to get the right value for the company. At $2.70 we did not sell, why would we sell now?

Black Elk would be able to boost our earnings. Right now, our earnings are lumpy, and Black Elk would have been able to smoothen it.

Updated: Saturday October 19, 2013 MYT 8:39:54 AM

Not beyond redemption

BY RISEN JAYASEELAN AND TEE LIN SAY

DATUK Azlan Hashim, Datuk Jared Lim and Ng Teck Wah, the trio who control 53% of beaten down SGX-listed Asiansons Capital Ltd, had a palpable disappointment when informed during an interview on Wednesday that the share price of their stock had hit a low of 10.2 cents that very moment.

Asiasons, along with two other Malaysian-controlled, SGX-listed companies Blumont Group Ltd and LionGold Corp Ltd, have seen their shares in somewhat of a freefall since Oct 3. Their shares were subsequently placed on trading restrictions by the stock exchange which exacerbated the situation. However on Friday evening, the SGX said it was removing the trading restrictions on Monday. This could possibly lead to the share prices of all three appreciating although some brokers warn that there will continue to be some level of selling pressure. Asiasons closed at 12.8 cents on Friday.

On some days since the trading restrictions, Asiasons shares did seem to be making small recovery steps but the 10.2 cents price on Wednesday is prove that there’s still a lot of selling going on.

The almost despondent look on their faces can possibly be explained by this: Asiasons shares were trading close to the price the three of them paid when they first took control of the company six years ago.

Thus in some way it meant that the work that had gone into building Asiasons has come to naught. The six years of painstakingly trying to build a private equity firm has no longer found its reward in the share price of the company.

“It’s been disappointing. And it makes us very angry. We worked so hard the last six years in building the company and its track record. We were just at the stage where people were starting to see and accept the company for what it is, and for this to happen, it’s totally beyond us,” enthuses Azlan.

Sitting across in their dapper jackets, the trio looked tired and rightly so. They say they have been in constant communication and meetings with various stakeholders, partners and investors to assuage their fears.

It’s mentally and physically taxing but amidst the doom-and-gloom, there are however some silver linings.

Lim recalls one such instance. “A friend of mine, who I had not heard from for the last five years, called me up and said: ‘Jared, I’m taking S$2mil of my money to go to my broker to buy your stock because I believe in your guys’,” says Lim.

Indeed, if there’s one point that Lim, Azlan and Ng are trying to expound, it is this: the collapse of Asiasons’ share price does not mean that the company is on the verge of collapse.

The three insist it is business as usual for the existing portfolio of assets that are owned and managed by Asiasons. Some of them are showing promise.

Reputation damage

One of the biggest fallouts for Asiasons from recent events is the reputation damage to the company and its management. As rightly pointed out by Lim, reputation is everything in the world of private equity. “We manage monies of institutions, families, high net-worth individuals. Some people would have got the idea that we are involved in this whole share price volatility. And that’s extremely damaging for our business,” he says.

Adds Azlan: “Sure there is reputation damage. But we are confident that the damage will be repaired over time. Our track record that has been painstakingly built up over this time, hopefully will speak for itself.”

There is also collateral damage. Dian Lee, who is Lim’s wife and the daughter of Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew of Country Heights fame, has been embroiled in this saga too. Via her company Clearwater Development Sdn Bhd, Dian owns close to 7% in Blumont. This came about as a result of a property sale by Clearwater to Blumont a couple of years ago. Blumont paid for those properties in shares.

At its high price of some S$2.45 per Blumont share on Sept 30, barely a month ago, Dian’s block of shares would have been worth some S$440mil (RM1.1bil). It’s now worth a shadow of that figure at S$21mil (RM54mil).

Still, it is understood that Dian just wants to get out of any association with these SGX companies and is about to sell off those shares at current prices. Apparently, a new development of Clearwater called “Blu Constellation” was mistakenly associated with Blumont. The two are not linked in any way.

Using shares as currency hits snag

Another negative repercussion is that the company’s plan of using its shares as currency in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is now in jeapordy. With depressed prices, it would cost the owners too much to use its equity as currency.

The same predicament applies to Blumont and LionGold.

While Asiasons had not previously used its stock for M&A purposes as widely as the other two, it was going to do so for one big deal – buying 27.5% in US oil and gas firm Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations. Asiasons was going to pay the bulk of the S$218mil price tag via the issuance of Asiasons shares at a price of S$1.19 each, more than a 1,000% what it’s trading at now.

Clearly, Asiasons isn’t able to do this deal at current price levels. Asiasons officials insist that this deal is a possibility.

“We confirm that Black Elk’s vendors are committed to negotiating a revised pricing structure that would be mutually beneficial,” Lim says. Lim had earlier said that the deal could be done once Asiasons shares reach an “equilibrium price” post-lifting of the SGX restrictions.

But questions are still abound as to whether Asiasons price will ever recover.

Bringing that sanity back to its stock price is beyond management’s control. Indeed,Lim and Co insist that their share price went berserk after they announced a conditional deal with Black Elk. And mainly because of Asiasons’ 8% stake in LionGold, it was linked with the other two counters, Lim had earlier said.

Azlan, who had served as the chief of Bursa Malaysia for a good six years, also conceded that they are quite helpless in this regard. “Companies can’t control their share price. I think that is the fact of the matter.”

Missed chances and new challenges

Considering what Asiasons was about to do just prior to its share price fallout, it is easy to see why its owners are disappointed. The Black Elk deal would have made them the single largest shareholder of a US-based producing oil and gas player that is hitting some 14,000 barrels of oil per day. That’s the kind of acquisition that many budding companies would dream of, considering that the asset will be cashflow-generating from day one.

The deal would also have paved the way for its private equity business to be possibly carved out of the listed company, making it a pure resource play.

Then there was the block of LionGold shares.

Lim now says that Asiasons was in talks to dispose of these shares at a tidy sum before this crisis took place. “That was going to happen this year,” he says.

If sold around the S$1.60 per LionGold share level – the price it was hovering at less than a month ago – Asiasons would have raked in some S$131.36mil in proceeds.

“Had we sold it, that would be our number one investment in terms of multiples”, says Lim.

Amazingly though, at LionGold’s current price of close to 15 cents, Asiasons is still in the money, having paid only around 10 cents per LionGold shares back in 2008.

Track record intact but will that be enough?

What is going for Asiasons though is its track record as a private equity investor. It is a relatively young player with only six years of operations under its belt and they typically hit an internal rate of return from their investments of between 25% to 30%.

Among its biggest wins so far are ChasWood Resources Holdings Ltd, the largest casual-dining operator in Malaysia and Singapore, and Hi-5, the Australian pre-school television show. Asiasons listed ChasWood last March at a value of 3.2 times its investment. Asiasons only divested some of its shares in the IPO and is still its major shareholder. “We are targeting a multiple of five times from this investment,” Lim says.

In Hi-5’s case, Asiasons has been in the midst of a negotiation with a party to take a minority stake in the company valuing the latter at more than five times Asiasons’ original investment cost. These may be impressive numbers but there are many other private equity players in the market that can boast similar or better track records.

When this crisis struck, Asiasons, which had previously raised US$300mil for its first fund, was in the midst of raising US$250mil for its second fund. Not suprisingly, it is facing some problems with this fund raising. Will investors still trust Asiasons with their money? Only time will tell.

‘We’re not a bunch of cowboys’

Monday, Oct 21, 2013

Anita Gabriel

The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Step inside the sparsely furnished office of Asiasons Capital in China Square Central and you soon see that its founders are deep into damage control after two tumultuous weeks.

The embattled private equity firm has been whiplashed by wild gyrations in its stock price that have in turn kick-started the rumour mill – while wiping out a whopping $2.6 billion off the firm’s market value just this month. The aim now is to put some space between the share market ructions and the firm’s actual day-to-day business.

“The share price volatility has absolutely no link or association with Asiasons’ operations,” said chairman Mohammed Azlan Hashim, a prominent corporate figure in Malaysia who sits on the boards of sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional and IHH Healthcare.

“They (some people) are trying to paint us (as) a bunch of cowboys out to do bad things, but we are long-term shareholders of this company.”

Shares in the company, along with those of LionGold and Blumont Group, were labelled as designated securities by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Oct 7 following sharp price swings.

The unenviable label, which brings tough restrictions on investors willing to trade in the shares, will be lifted by the exchange on Monday.

That will end an anxious time for Asiasons and means it can begin getting its business back on track, away from the unwelcome glare.

“This is a positive message as it obviously means that the volatility is under control. It’s a good step forward,” said joint-managing director Jared Lim.

It also means one fewer hurdle as it re-negotiates a major deal to acquire a strategic stake in Houston-based Black Elk, which produces around 14,000 barrels of oil a day. The acquisition, which was announced a month ago, was to be paid in Asiasons shares, then at $1.1948 apiece.

But the plunge in the company’s shares over recent weeks – they closed on Friday at 12.8 cents – has left the buyout hanging by a thread. “We still need to find the right equilibrium and we’ll revisit the deal sooner rather than later,” said Mr Lim.

Asiasons has a fund management portfolio of about US$300 million (S$372 million) and counts Malaysia’s deep-pocketed state-owned funds such as Ekuinas and government pension scheme Kwap as clients. At current price levels, Mr Azlan admitted that the shares are hovering near the level they were at in 2007 when he and his two partners took control of Asiasons, then a human resources technology firm called Integra2000 and shifted its business focus to private equity investment.

“We have built up this firm painstakingly and there’s a world of difference between the firm today and seven years ago,” he said in an interview with The Straits Times.

Mr Azlan, together with the firm’s other co-founders Mr Lim and Mr Ng Teck Wah, are clearly irked over speculation linking their firm with others, including Blumont, Ipco International and Innopac Holdings, that have seen sharp movements in share prices.

The three men collectively hold 53 per cent of Asiasons and there are no other significant or cornerstone investors holding more than 5 per cent.

“This so-called web of cross shareholdings makes it appear as if we are in cahoots in this whole thing,” said Mr Lim. “We are our own men and no one else is influencing us.” Asiasons owns 9 per cent of LionGold and has a 27 per cent stake in ISR Capital which it plans to eventually divest.

Mr Azlan reiterated that there are no other connections to the other firms. “We have absolutely no relationship with these other firms, including Blumont. The only relationship there is Jared, a director, and his wife but that’s not related to Asiasons per se,” said Mr Azlan.

Clearwater Developments, which is linked to Mr Lim’s wife Dian Lee, owns a 7 per cent stake in Blumont. That investment, Mr Lim said, came about from an “innocent transaction” a few years back when Blumont, then called Adroit Innovations, was scouting around for some properties in Malaysia.

“She went ahead and made the decision herself and it was a small investment which involved shares. Now she and her partners are looking to sell their stake as it was purely an investment and not part of their business,” said Mr Lim.

The three founders also categorically denied another topic hot in the market rumour mill that Asiasons is connected to well-known Malaysian stock investor and businessman Soh Chee Wen.

“I don’t even know him but I’ve heard of him, of course,” Mr Azlan said.

Meanwhile, the Asiasons management team is working on a full report on the gruelling events of recent weeks.

Mr Azlan and partners are keen to figure out what led to the uproar, which could bring reputational fallout, and move forward with the business.

He noted that records indicated that there was some short-selling of LionGold shares just before the SGX moved to halt trading on the three counters on Oct 4.

“People may have seen that and assumed we (Asiasons) would be significantly impacted by it as shareholders and that may have caused a knee-jerk (reaction),” Mr Azlan added.

The three also reiterated that none of them have sold “a single share” in Asiasons over the past six years. That’s quite a contrast from what has been taking place at LionGold and Blumont, which have seen significant trades recently involving insiders, particularly disposals and forced selling involving directors.

Mr Azlan added: “We clearly want to get to the bottom of it but it’s also important for us to focus on the job at hand. This whole thing has been a complete distraction for us.”

anitag@sph.com.sg

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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