Oceanus suspends trading over 'abnormal deaths' of abalones

SINGAPORE - Abalone producer Oceanus Group has suspended trading of its shares after it received a report of unnatural deaths of its abalones in China.

An announcement by the firm on Sunday evening also made reference to an executive director who was recently forced to step down from the board but remains as a key manager.

The statement did not link the reports of abalone deaths with the executive director's departure except to say they had happened at around the same time.

Mr Wu Yong Shou had stood for re-election at the Oceanus annual general meeting on July 31. But the motion was defeated by a 95.51 per cent majority of the shareholders present and voting - so he had to step down as an executive director.

But Mr Wu still serves as the general manager of Oceanus' China subsidiary, Oceanus (China) Aquaculture, which is tasked with managing the firm's overall production and operations in China.

"He (Mr Wu) became increasingly uncooperative towards the re-constituted board ever since he was not re-elected as a director of the company..." said the Oceanus announcement.

Oceanus was notified on Aug 2 and again on Aug 5 by its head of production, of "substantial and abnormal" deaths of abalones at its China farms within a very short span of time.

The deaths started the day after the annual general meeting when Mr Wu lost his board seat, said the company.

Oceanus said its board had been unable to obtain verification of the abnormal deaths from the group's finance team.

"In view of the circumstances leading to receiving such a report (of the deaths), and the lack of verification of such mortality from the finance team, the company decides to request a trading suspension of the shares of the company, to ensure that shareholders and public investors are not trading on an incomplete set of information," said Oceanus.

It said the board is carrying out "all necessary investigations" to look into the situation.

The firm said it is committed to updating shareholders on the matter by the end of this month, and will seek to lift the trading suspension as soon as it is appropriate, without compromising on the interests of shareholders.

Oceanus shares had been halted since last Monday, pending the release of an announcement.

But a halt can last for a maximum of only three market days. Companies that wish for trading to be stopped for longer periods typically apply for the halt to be converted to a suspension, as Oceanus has done.

The stock last changed hands at 2.7 cents on Aug 2.

Oceanus is a holding company originally listed in Singapore in 2008 via a reverse takeover of TR Networks.

Oceanus' two main business segments are aquaculture production and abalone processing and distribution. It also operates the Ah Yat Tian Xia chain of restaurants, with outlets in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Ah Yat Tian Xia's food offerings include abalone-based meals.

Oceanus had not responded to The Straits Times' queries for additional details by 9pm last night.

jonkwok@sph.com.sg


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