No rescue offer for PnP retail investors from new white knights of Hyflux

No offer has been put on the table to the 34,000 retail PnP investors, who are owed $900 million in total.
No offer has been put on the table to the 34,000 retail PnP investors, who are owed $900 million in total.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - None of the new potential white knights for beleaguered Hyflux have lodged rescue offers for the 34,000 investors of its failed perpetual securities and preference shares (PnP) who have been waiting over two years to recoup their losses, Singapore's investor watchdog noted.

The Securities Investors Association (Singapore) or Sias said on Sunday night (July 19) that it "is unable to support any potential investments which do not contain a concrete proposal to resolve the debts due to the PnP shareholders".

No offer has been put on the table by potential investors - Pison Investments, Unilegend Investments, Aqua Munda, Longview International Holdings and FCC Aqualia - to the 34,000 retail PnP investors, who are owed $900 million in total.

But instead, Pison and Unilegend have both stated that they will not consider making an investment if founder Olivia Lum and her management and board are removed or if Hyflux goes into judicial management or liquidation.

This is despite Hyflux and its current and former directors being investigated over suspected false and misleading claims and breaches of disclosure rules that may have occurred over several years.

Pison is a Singapore-incorporated investment vehicle for Mr Johnny Widjaja, an Indonesian businessman who expressed interest in investing up to $300 million into Hyflux, while Unilegend has an unnamed client interested in exploring an investment.

Two others - Singapore-based Longview International Holdings and Spain-based water management firm FCC Aqualia - previously expressed interest in investing.

Sias president David Gerald noted that while Hyflux has announced that Pison's offer is backed up by $200 million in PT Bank Mandiri, Pison has not yet extended any offer to PnP holders.

Likewise, while Aqua Munda has committed $208 million to buy the senior unsecured creditors' debt and to fund Hyflux's capital requirements, Sias has not received any offer to the PnP holders despite its representatives saying they will make one, Mr Gerald noted, adding: "Sias urges Aqua Munda to table its offer to the PnP holders at the earlier opportunity before July 27."

On July 27, the High Court will hear applications by an unsecured working group (UWG) of banks and by ESR-Reit that they be carved out of Hyflux's debt moratorium, which has been extended until July 30.

If this is approved, the UWG plans to file an application to appoint judicial managers to oversee Hyflux in place of the present management.

 
 
 

So far, the only offer on the table for PnP investors is from United Arab Emirates utility Utico, whose rescue offer keeps changing every few months.

Its latest has been revised to a minimum of $485 million, comprising cash and stock. This came after Utico in May backed off a $400 million restructuring deal struck in November last year and demanded that all Hyflux creditors accept shares of Utico and Hyflux as payment instead of cash.

Under the latest offer, the return to senior unsecured creditors and the retail PnP investors is expected to be "more than 10 per cent" higher than what had been available under the $400 million deal, Utico said.

Small PnP holders - those holding less than $10,000 - can now expect 15 per cent to 50 per cent recovery, as they will each get $1,500 or 50 per cent, whichever is lower. Larger PnP holders will see at least 10 per cent recovery.

Utico did not specify if investors will get this in cash and if it will be an upfront or deferred payout.

Mr Gerald noted that the $485 million offer has issues to be addressed, namely the fact that neither Hyflux nor Utico have released full details of the new plan to PnP holders.

"Under the revised offer, it appears that the PnP holders will no longer be given a choice to elect between an upfront payment and a deferred payment," he said.

"Sias is also concerned that the cut-off mark of $10,000 between small and large PnP holders is arbitrary, and may be prejudicial to the large PnP holders.

 

"(They) would be forced to take Utico and Hyflux shares without knowing the true value of (these) and without any certainty that Utico would achieve listing status on a recognised stock exchange."

Despite repeated Sias queries, the Hyflux board has not stated if they will abstain from voting on the latest Utico offer and if they would give up their entitlement for the benefit of the PnP holders.

It also remains unclear whether there will be a release of claims against Hyflux directors under the latest offer, Mr Gerald said.