News analysis

Ezra's trading halts do little to serve investors

Moves may have inconvenienced them more than offered material info

Beleaguered Ezra Holdings sought three share trading halts last month alone - moves which likely inconvenienced traders more than provided material information.

After all, the mainboard-listed oil services provider has been behind the curve when making announcements related to its joint venture, Emas Chiyoda Subsea.

Debt-ridden Emas Chiyoda, in which Ezra holds a 40 per cent stake, said on Tuesday it has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Emas AMC AS, a wholly-owned unit of Emas Chiyoda, has filed for bankruptcy in Norway as well. But Ezra, aside from calling for a trading halt that same morning, has yet to come up with any related Singapore Exchange (SGX) filings. It has not yet said anything about an arrest warrant for one of Emas Chiyoda's vessels, Lewek Express, obtained by subsea services provider Bibby Offshore. The warrant was dated Feb 21, according to a document seen by The Straits Times.

Neither has Ezra mentioned a move by US oil and gas services group Helix Energy Solutions to foreclose Emas AMC's spoolbase in Texas, reported by a trade publication on Feb 27.

Ezra Holdings has yet to say anything about an arrest warrant for one of Emas Chiyoda's vessels, the Lewek Express (above), obtained by Bibby Offshore. Emas Chiyoda, in which Ezra holds a 40 per cent stake, said on Tuesday it has filed for bankruptcy
Ezra Holdings has yet to say anything about an arrest warrant for one of Emas Chiyoda's vessels, the Lewek Express (above), obtained by Bibby Offshore. Emas Chiyoda, in which Ezra holds a 40 per cent stake, said on Tuesday it has filed for bankruptcy under the US Bankruptcy Code. PHOTO: EMAS CHIYODA SUBSEA

As Stamford Maritime executive director Jeremy Punnett said in a blog post: "You can be a listed company and make no announcement when a creditor takes control of a US$500 million (S$705 million) asset, and its spoolbase is also repossessed, but incorporate a minor subsidiary with 200 shares at a nominal price and you rush out an announcement."

The minor subsidiary he was referring to is the newly minted Ezra Holdings (NY) Inc. Ezra announced the incorporation of the unit on Feb 27 - a week after the arrest warrant for the Lewek Express was made.

To be fair, Ezra has a lot on its plate, as it tries to stave off possible liquidation and may want more time to sort out actions to be taken before making an announcement.

The group is still playing within the rules. Its trading halt has not yet exceeded three market days, as stipulated in the SGX rulebook.

Should it fail to explain the trading halt by the end of today, however, trading of its shares will be suspended.

But Ezra's moves to stall for time may be leaving investors in a rut.

The announcements resulting from the three latest trading halts appear to have been made in reaction to what the group's partners or creditors have already said, rather than to provide material information. Mr Punnett said: "Investors and capital markets are not well served by these sorts of events when it is clear... (the) Ezra group of companies has extensive financial problems."

Shares of Ezra, once a stock market darling, last traded at a record low on 1.9 cents on Monday.

KGI Securities analyst Joel Ng told The Straits Times: "I think the market can see Ezra is basically on life support from the banks. There's really not much more they can say, even with the trading halts.

"It will be difficult (for them) to emerge from this downturn."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Ezra's trading halts do little to serve investors'. Print Edition | Subscribe