SINGAPORE - Axington Inc, the Singapore-listed company linked to the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group, requested on Monday (Aug 31) before the stock market opened that trading in its shares be suspended.
Catalist-listed Axington called for the voluntary suspension pending the release of an announcement "in relation to strategic changes to be made in the business direction of the company".
Singaporean businessmen Nelson and Terence Loh, who are cousins, bought out professional advisory services firm Axington in July. Their business partner, Ms Evangeline Shen, is Axington's non-independent non-executive chairman. The Lohs do not sit on the board.
Axington had halted trading of its shares last Wednesday after they plunged 14 per cent to 19 cents the previous day on a report that the regulatory arm of the Singapore Exchange had recommended an investigation into the suitability of its board of directors.
Last Friday, Axington said it had postponed an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) that was to have been held on Thursday, saying "recent developments in the media" made the board require "more time to conduct an internal assessment of the circumstances and the strategic plans of the company".
The plan had been to change Axington's core business to providing medical and consumer wellness services and investments in medical technology, robotics and artificial intelligence technology, along with a name change to NETX. Axington shareholders had been scheduled to vote on these, as well as a proposed acquisition of Malaysian medical equipment and medical aesthetics products distributor Vesta Apex Trading for $12 million and a rights issue to help fund it.
The Lohs and Ms Shen, a Chinese lawyer and jewellery merchant, co-founded the newly formed BN Group, which has come under increasing scrutiny following news of its bid to take over English Premier League football club Newcastle United.
Since the Aug 15 news of its £280 million (S$506 million) bid for the club, the BN Group has been called out for doctored images of the founders with former United States president Barack Obama. Other inconsistencies in their publicity material surfaced. Checks by The Straits Times also uncovered a pattern of outlandish and questionable claims in the interviews, press releases and social media accounts of the founders, ranging from exaggerations to misinformation.
Meanwhile, individuals and organisations have distanced themselves or denied any ties with the group.
The controversy made former US ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar resign as an independent director at Axington, as he "urged more transparency".