Kimly sponsor says ex-Pokka CEO Alain Ong not mastermind of IPO; CAD probe ongoing

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

SINGAPORE - PrimePartners Corporate Finance said Kimly executive director Vincent Chia was the key person driving the coffee shop operator's initial public offering (IPO) - not Pokka's former chief executive Alain Ong, who is being sued by the beverage giant alleging he was part of a conspiracy that had caused the drinks maker to suffer at least $10 million in losses.

PrimePartners was the sponsor of Kimly's IPO in 2017, and is its continuing sponsor.

Pokka has accused Mr Ong of working with others to divert business to another beverage company, Asian Story Corporation (ASC), and of inflating the value of ASC in anticipation of its acquisition by Kimly.

Pokka alleged that Mr Ong, whose wife is actress Vivian Lai, has breached his duties as a director and employee.

In response to queries by the Singapore bourse and referring to a media report that Mr Ong was the mastermind of Kimly's IPO and the acquisition ASC, PrimePartners said Mr Chia was the key person who dealt with the issue manager during the IPO due diligence process.

The sponsor added that its contact point with the company is Karen Wong, the former chief financial officer who is now an executive director of finance at Kimly.

As the continuing sponsor is not part of the working group for the acquisition of ASC, PrimePartners mainly communicated with Ms Wong on the company's disclosure obligations under the Catalist Rules, according to Kimly's responses to SGX queries.

In November last year, it was reported that Kimly backed out on its $16 million acquisition of drinks manufacturer ASC - a deal the authorities have asked about as part of an investigation.

Kimly noted on Tuesday that the investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is still ongoing.

Asked by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) of the present duties of the directors involved in the investigation, Kimly noted that executive chairman Lim Hee Liat continues to oversee the overall performance of the group, while Mr Chia is responsible for strategising and implementing key improvements to the group's processes.

Kimly said it is not aware of any formal charges made against the directors, and that the other board members are of the view that the directors should continue to discharge their responsibilities to "ensure business continuity".

As at 9.32am on Tuesday, Kimly shares were trading at 22 cents, down 2.2 per cent or 0.5 cent.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.