Ezra calls for trading suspension in S'pore

Ezra Holdings' subsea construction vessel Lewek Constellation.
Ezra Holdings' subsea construction vessel Lewek Constellation.PHOTO: EZRA HOLDINGS

Beleaguered Ezra Holdings called for trading in its shares here to be suspended yesterday - a day after it filed for bankruptcy in the US .

The group's yard operating arm Triyards Holdings, the last of its three Singapore-listed units still trading last week, had also requested a trading halt.

Ezra shares last traded on March 15 at an all-time low of 1.1 cents, down 77.6 per cent this year, while Triyards shares finished at 28.5 cents last Friday, dropping 1.7 per cent from Thursday's close. Shares of the group's other Singapore-listed entity, Emas Offshore, have been in suspension since earlier this month, last trading at five cents on March 3.

Ezra announced on Sunday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code to facilitate its financial restructuring. Its debt-laden joint venture Emas Chiyoda Subsea sought the same process late last month.

"The prolonged challenging operating environment in the oil and gas industry made it difficult for Ezra to carry out fund raising as a company listed on the SGX-ST," said Ezra.

Documents showed Ezra has declared estimated assets of between US$500,000 (S$699,000) and US$1 billion against estimated liabilities of between US$100 million and US$500 million. It also has $150 million of 4.875 per cent notes due in May next year. But Ezra's total debt numbers could be higher. It faces over US$1 billion of short- term debt, going by its 2016 earnings report, and has at least US$900 million in total exposure to guarantees extended to charter hire liabilities and loans for Emas Chiyoda.

According to the court papers, Ezra's largest unsecured creditors include all three Singapore banks: DBS Bank with claims totalling US$281.4 million, OCBC Bank at around US$207 million, and United Overseas Bank (UOB) with US$22.8 million. In terms of secured debt, OCBC and DBS each have claims of more than US$47.2 million, while UOB has US$10.2 million. OCBC also has a secured claim of over US$26 million against Ezra Marine Services.

CIMB head of research Lim Siew Khee said it was likely that the banks' exposure to Ezra exceeds their exposure to Swiber Holdings, which filed for judicial management here in July last year.

A DBS spokesman said the bank had moved the loans of Ezra and Emas Chiyoda into non-performing loans in previous quarters and "suitable provisions have been made". OCBC and UOB said they have made provisions for vulnerable accounts in the sector.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Ezra calls for trading suspension in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe