Shareholders' bid turns up the heat at Natural Cool

Natural Cool's board has been fighting disgruntled shareholders since last October, including calls for two EGMs to be held in the space of two weeks last month.
Natural Cool's board has been fighting disgruntled shareholders since last October, including calls for two EGMs to be held in the space of two weeks last month.PHOTO: NATURAL COOL HOLDINGS

The fight for control at Natural Cool Holdings lit another fire under the air-conditioning firm's share price yesterday. The stock shot up 33.33 per cent or 4.1 cents to close at 16.4 cents after briefly touching a high of 18 cents. It was the top active counter on the bourse, with 122.7 million shares changing hands.

The unusual jump comes after a disclosure by the company late on Tuesday night that it had received a letter from two shareholders on Monday stating that they intend to call an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to vote to replace the entire board except for chief executive Tsng Joo Peng.

Natural Cool's board has been fighting disgruntled shareholders since last October, including calls for two EGMs to be held in the space of two weeks last month.

Speculators may have jumped in again yesterday on hopes that the power struggle could instigate the parties to accumulate more shares.

A trading surge similar to the one yesterday occurred ahead of the company's Dec 22 EGM, when literal "vote-buying" by substantial shareholders Ong Mun Wah and Lim Teck Chuan sparked a rally.

Now, Mr Ong, together with shareholder Edi Ng, is seeking to oust five of the company's six board members. Mr Ong and Ms Ng wrote: "The substantial sale of the shareholdings of two of the executive directors, Mr Joseph Ang and Mr Eric Ang, have led us to question if their interests remain aligned with the company."

On Dec 14 and 15, Mr Eric Ang sold down his stake in Natural Cool from 3.13 per cent to just 0.0005 per cent, in trades that totalled $1.57 million. He sold his shares at an average price of 20.2 cents and 19.6 cents on each day.

On Dec 14 and 16, Mr Joseph Ang cut his stake from 11.46 per cent to 0.35 per cent. These trades totalled $3.59 million. His shares sold at an average price of 21.5 cents and 11.8 cents on each day. The stock price tumbled after that.

Asked why he had sold, he recalled the EGM on Dec 12 when he narrowly survived an ouster bid. His winning margin was very small and so he considered it a "defeat", he said.

The Angs have argued that the investors demanding the last two EGMs and now a third have links to HMK Energy, an oil exploration firm that Natural Cool divested last October.

Among the names that Mr Ong and Ms Ng have proposed to install as directors in their latest letter is Mr Wong Leon Keat. Mr Wong has the same registered address as Ms Ng, something the existing board had pointed out previously.

In 2013, the Monetary Authority of Singapore took civil penalty enforcement action against Mr Joseph Ang for breaches relating to false trading and intending to mislead on the prices of Natural Cool shares in order to prevent margin calls in 2008 and 2009.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2017, with the headline 'Shareholders' bid turns up the heat at Natural Cool'. Print Edition | Subscribe