Axington board, which includes BN Group's Evangeline Shen, should be probed for suitability where necessary: SGX RegCo

Ms Evangeline Shen pictured here with former US president Barack Obama at a charity gala event in Singapore in December 2019.
Ms Evangeline Shen pictured here with former US president Barack Obama at a charity gala event in Singapore in December 2019.PHOTO: BELLAGRAPH NOVA GROUP

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Exchange's regulatory arm has said that investigations should be undertaken, where necessary, on the suitability of professional advisory services firm Axington’s board of directors. The board includes Ms Evangeline Shen of the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group that is making a bid for English Premier League club Newcastle United.

Ms Shen, who is also known as Shen Che, is a Chinese jewellery merchant and business partner of investors Nelson Loh and Terence Loh.

Ms Shen is the non-independent non-executive chairman of Axington, a Catalist-listed company in Singapore.

The Lohs, who are cousins, are controlling shareholders of Axington after they bought over the company in July. 

The Lohs and Ms Shen are co-founders of the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group. 

On Saturday, the BN Group admitted that it had doctored photos of its co-founders taken with former United States president Barack Obama.

Responding to media queries on Monday (Aug 24), the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) noted that the Lohs are not directors of Axington, and that Ms Shen is.

"In general, all directors appointed to the board of a Catalist issuer are required to be assessed by the issuer's nominating committee and continuing sponsor to be suitable to sit on the issuer's board, taking into account their experience, expertise, character and integrity," said SGX RegCo on Monday (Aug 24).

"Where necessary, appropriate investigations should be undertaken to evaluate suitability in light of recent developments."

The statement said that SGX’s regulatory arm has engaged Axington’s continuing sponsor, Novus Corporate Finance, on its obligations under Catalist rules, and expects a response soon. 

The regulator's comments follow news that Axington's new owners, the Lohs, as well as Ms Shen, are co-founders of the Bellagraph Nova Group which admitted to doctoring photos of themselves with former United States president Barack Obama.

The BN Group had earlier said it was at an “advanced stage of negotiation” for the purchase of the English Premier League club Newcastle United.

BN Group was formed in July this year following a merger between the Lohs’ Dorr Group and Ms Shen’s Bellagraph Group.

Among other things, it claims to own over 30 entities across 100 countries in major business fields including finance, sports, healthcare, luxury goods, entertainment and robotics. It also said it is Paris-based and worth an estimated US$12 billion ($15.6 billion).

Its publicity photos include photos of the co-founders with Mr Obama.

On Saturday, Reuters reported the group’s spokesman admitting that some of the photos had been altered to make them look as though Mr Obama had attended a meeting with the co-founders in Paris.

In reality, the photos were taken at a charity gala event in Singapore last December sponsored by Novena Global Lifecare, which was founded by the Loh cousins.

Other inconsistencies have also surfaced in BN Group’s publicity material and social media posts, such as how it claims to operate over 10,000 private jets.

The Lohs and Ms Shen are also involved in Axington.

In July, the Lohs made a mandatory unconditional cash offer for all of Axington’s shares through Dorr Global Healthcare. Axington’s board includes Ms Shen.

Axington jumped to a year-high of 26.5 cents last Wednesday, two days after BN Group’s announced its Newcastle bid.

On Monday (Aug 24), the company’s stock plunged as much as 22 per cent within minutes of opening to 18 cents, but later recovered to close at 22 cents.

Axington is holding an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday. Among other things, it is proposing a $6 million share placement, and a compliance placement of 150,000 new shares at the same price to restore its free float.

Axington is also proposing a $9.4 million two-for-one rights issue, and looking to change its core business to providing medical and consumer wellness services, and investments in medical technology, robotics and artificial intelligence technology. To that end, it is proposing to change its name to NETX.