Axington calls for trading halt after ex-US ambassador to Singapore quits board; company linked to group in Newcastle bid

Kirk Wagar (right) had earlier resigned from his position in Axington, in which cousins Nelson Loh and Terence Loh are controlling shareholders.
Kirk Wagar (right) had earlier resigned from his position in Axington, in which cousins Nelson Loh and Terence Loh are controlling shareholders.PHOTOS: NOVENA GLOBAL LIFECARE, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore-listed Axington, a company linked to the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group, requested for a trading halt pending an announcement before the stock market opened on Wednesday morning (Aug 26).

Overnight, former US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar told The Straits Times he had resigned from his independent director position in the professional advisory services firm after the BN Group, which grabbed global headlines last week by announcing its bid for English Premier League football club Newcastle United, admitted to doctoring photographs of former United States president Barack Obama.

Axington is also due to respond to the call by Singapore Exchange's regulatory arm that investigations should be undertaken, where necessary, on the suitability of its professional advisory services firm's board of directors. Its non-independent, non-executive chairman is Ms Evangeline Shen, who is a co-founder of BN Group, alongside cousins Nelson Loh and Terence Loh.

The Lohs are the new controlling shareholders of Axington after they bought over the company in July.

BN Group was formed in July this year following a merger of the Lohs' Dorr Group and Ms Shen's Bellagraph Group. Ms Shen, who is also known as Shen Che, is a Chinese jewellery merchant.

On Tuesday, Axington shares sank again to close down three cents or 13.6 per cent to 19 cents.

The SGX on Monday said its regulatory arm SGX RegCo had engaged Axington's sponsor, Novus Corporate Finance, on its obligations under Catalist rules, and expects a response soon.

The firm on July 29 had proposed to change its name to NETX, as well as to change its core business to providing medical and consumer wellness services, and investments in medical technology, robotics and artificial intelligence technology. But on Tuesday night, a page that lists the partners of NETX was removed.

On Tuesday, the BN Group claimed that "errant individuals, possibly with malicious intent" were behind the controversial marketing material including photos of Mr Obama that were doctored to make it look as if he had attended a meeting with its executives in Paris. In reality, the photos were taken at a charity gala event in Singapore last December sponsored by Novena Global Lifecare, which was founded by the Loh cousins.

This came after the BN Group earlier on Tuesday withdrew press statements distributed by PR Newswire in the past two months. 

One of them, issued on July 10, was titled Welcome To NETX - Global Conglomerate Bellagraph Nova Group Launches Latest Technolgy (sic) Platform Focusing On AI + Robotics + Healthcare. BN Group said then that NETX "was born" as a result of a "historic" closed-door meeting that its co-founders had with Mr Obama last December.


The Lohs meanwhile on Tuesday took down the website of a foundation linked to them, saying that it had been "released prematurely". The website had claimed as its board members SGX RegCo chief executive officer Tan Boon Gin as well as Senior Counsel Sreenivasan Narayanan, among others. The Straits Times understands from sources that Mr Tan is not a board member of the foundation, though Mr Sreenivasan is a board member.