Sponsor of Kimly IPO clarifies role of ex-Pokka CEO

Kimly's initial public offering is one factor in an unfolding saga surrounding the coffee-shop operator and former Pokka chief executive Alain Ong. Pokka says Mr Ong worked with others to divert business to another beverage firm, Asian Story Corporat
Kimly's initial public offering is one factor in an unfolding saga surrounding the coffee-shop operator and former Pokka chief executive Alain Ong. Pokka says Mr Ong worked with others to divert business to another beverage firm, Asian Story Corporation (ASC), and inflated ASC's value in anticipation of its acquisition by Kimly.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Alain Ong not key man in listing, it says in response to SGX queries

Claims that former Pokka chief executive Alain Ong played a leading role in the initial public offering (IPO) of coffee-shop chain Kimly are incorrect, according to statements yesterday.

PrimePartners Corporate Finance, which sponsored the IPO, said Kimly executive director Vincent Chia was the key person in the listing and not Mr Ong, who faces accusations of breaching his duties as an executive.

The comments from PrimePartners came in response to Singapore Exchange (SGX) queries about Mr Ong's possible role in the IPO of the coffee-shop operator.

The IPO is one factor in an unfolding saga surrounding Kimly and Mr Ong, who once served as CEO at drinks giant Pokka.

Pokka, which is one of Kimly's beverage suppliers, alleges that Mr Ong breached his duties as a director and employee. It claims he was part of a conspiracy that caused the firm losses of at least $10 million.

Pokka said Mr Ong, who is married to actress Vivian Lai, worked with others to divert business to another beverage company, Asian Story Corporation (ASC), and inflated ASC's value in anticipation of its acquisition by Kimly.

Kimly shed light on Mr Ong's role in the IPO yesterday. It told the SGX that Mr Ong visited the firm when he joined Pokka in or around 2008. When it began to consider an IPO, it appointed Mr Ong as non-executive and non-independent director in 2017 on the basis of his industry experience.

 
 
 

He was kept regularly updated on the IPO process and helped the management leading up to the listing, Kimly added. Mr Ong ceased to be a director in January last year and did not seek re-election due to his "other principal commitments".

Last November, Kimly backed out of its $16 million acquisition of ASC - a deal now under the scrutiny of the authorities.

The idea of acquisition arose in early 2017, when Kimly said it was approached by ASC owner Amos Wang about a sale. After a series of financial evaluations, Kimly signed a sale and purchase agreement in July last year but rescinded it on Nov 29.

The SGX said that in a Kimly announcement last year on the proposed acquisition, it was stated that ASC made and distributed beverages, but Pokka's involvement was not mentioned.

A Pokka filing to the SGX noted that ASC never had any manufacturing and distribution capabilities and appeared to have only one employee.

Kimly pointed out yesterday that ASC owns the brands of its Asian beverages, drinking water and other juices, and engages third-party manufacturers such as Pokka to produce its products.

"Due to the nature of its business model and operations, ASC had two employees at the time of the acquisition, comprising the vendor assisted by a marketing executive."

ASC appointed Pokka as its exclusive distributor for its branded Asian beverages, drinking water and other juices in January last year.

These drinks are mainly distributed to coffee shops, supermarkets and minimarts, Kimly said.

It added that the company had not provided these details in its announcement on July 2 last year due to their "commercial sensitivity".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Sponsor of Kimly IPO clarifies role of ex-Pokka CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe