Ezra gets nod here for cross-border bankruptcy protocol

The High Court yesterday approved an application by Ezra Holdings for a cross-border protocol between the Singapore court and the US Bankruptcy Court in relation to the firm's bankruptcy proceedings.

Ezra Holdings, which filed a Chapter 11 plan in the US last year after it received two statutory demands from creditors, had also applied to the Singapore court on March 1 for leave to seek a meeting with its creditors under the Companies Act.

The application here is to allow the firm time to work out an arrangement with creditors where the firm is restructured in order to settle its debts.

According to documents filed in the US Bankruptcy Court in New York earlier this month, the secured creditors include DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank. The Chapter 11 plan and the application in Singapore also spell out the terms in which the firm's board and management can legally sustain the company's operations so debts can be settled.

Ezra was a leading global offshore services provider for the oil and gas industry whose divisions comprise Emas Offshore, Emas Energy and Triyards, which provides engineering, ship construction and fabrication services.

The firm's board of directors, and its subsidiary and associated companies, announced yesterday that the cross-border protocol application is meant to coordinate the efficient administration of the bankruptcy proceedings in the US and restructuring proceedings in Singapore.

The application for the cross-border protocol is also to establish a framework of general principles to address issues that may arise out of the cross-border nature of the restructuring proceedings.

The firm's move to seek endorsement of such a protocol dovetails with an October 2016 initiative by the Singapore Supreme Court known as the Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN).

Under the initiative, judges of various jurisdictions established guidelines and a common framework on how courts in different countries can communicate and cooperate with one another in cross-border insolvency cases.

Among other things, the guidelines provide a structure for joint hearings, enabling two or more courts to simultaneously hear arguments and examine evidence.

Ezra Holdings is expected to ask the New York and Singapore courts to jointly decide under the JIN Guidelines where conflicts of laws might arise.

Ms Robin Chiu, Ezra Holdings' court-approved chief restructuring officer, was quoted in last week's issue of Global Restructuring Review as saying "the debtors are aware of no precedence for seeking both approval by a US bankruptcy court and a Singapore court" for confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan and the application for a creditors' meeting in Singapore.

The firm has also separately applied to the US court for approval of the cross-border protocol and the hearing is due later this month. If approved there as well, it may see the first reported hearing in which the JIN scheme is applied.

Ezra Holdings had also sought other High Court orders through Drew & Napier senior lawyer Sushil Nair yesterday, but the matters were adjourned to a later date.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Ezra gets nod here for cross-border bankruptcy protocol'. Print Edition | Subscribe