Starburst chairman, MD on bail amid CPIB probe; shares plunge 65%

Starburst Holdings executive chairman Edward Lim in a photo from 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Catalist-listed Starburst Holdings executive chairman Edward Lim Chin Wah and managing director Yap Tin Foo are on bail amid an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

According to the company's exchange filing at about 10pm on Sunday night (Nov 15), they were interviewed by the CPIB last Thursday (Nov 12) in connection with Starburst Engineering, a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Between the start of trading on Nov 12 and its close on Nov 13, Starburst's share price dropped by three cents to 37.5 cents.

The stock was the Singapore market's biggest decliner on Monday, with the shares plunging 24.4 cents or 65 per cent to 13.1 cents.

Also interviewed by the CPIB were the company's chief financial officer Wu Guangyi and senior project manager Josiah Lawrence Ng Eng Long, according to the filing. Mr Ng is also currently on bail.

Mr Yap's passport has been retained while Mr Ng's passport has been requested to be provided on Tuesday.

"The board wishes to inform that the aforementioned matter is not related to the current projects of the group, and accordingly does not affect the business and operations of the group," the company said in the filing.

"The board is unable to provide further details at this time, as the CPIB's investigation is ongoing," it added.

The company also said the board - with Mr Lim and Mr Yap recusing themselves - are of the view that Mr Lim, Mr Yap and Mr Ng should continue with their respective responsibilities and duties in the operation of the group's businesses "to ensure business continuity". The board will "reassess its position where appropriate in due course", it said.

The company, which is headquartered in Singapore, specialises in the design and engineering of firearms-training facilities. Its customers include law enforcement, military and security agencies as well as civil authorities in South-east Asia and the Middle East.

In March, the company announced that Starburst Engineering had clinched the group's largest order to date - a $40.9 million contract to build a firearms training facility in South-east Asia. Starburst Engineering would design, supply, deliver and install range specialist and associated works for the new facility, scheduled to be completed by February 2022.

In August, Mr Lim and Mr Yap, who are Starburst Holdings' controlling shareholders, each sold 3.2 million shares, or a total 2.6 per cent stake in the company, to a group of investors at 39 cents. The shares were sold at a discount of 7.9 per cent to Starburst's then one-day volume-weighted average price of 42.34 cents. Mr Lim and Mr Yap hold 35.81 per cent and 33.86 per cent respectively of the company's shares, The Edge Singapore reported, citing a Nov 5 note by UOB Kay Hian.

In its latest business update in October, Starburst Holdings reported third-quarter net profit of $2.1 million, reversing from a net loss of $692,000 for the year-ago period. Group revenue in the three months to Sept 30 jumped 80.5 per cent to $4.8 million from $2.6 million a year ago.

This was mainly due to the start of design work for a firearm shooting range project and a tactical training mock-up project in South-east Asia, and design and fabrication works for a firearm shooting range project in the Middle East, the company said.

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