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Deal with Swiber still alive: AMTC CEO

PE firm says deal delayed as it needed more time after consultant advised against the investment

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London-based private equity firm AMTC's deal with beleaguered Swiber Holdings is still "alive", although it is likely to take another form now that the firm is under judicial management, its chief executive Smith O'Connor said.

Singapore

LONDON-BASED private equity firm AMTC's deal with beleaguered Swiber Holdings is still "alive", although it is likely to take another form now that the firm is under judicial management, its chief executive Smith O'Connor said.

"Our team, including the legal and compliance desks, are working on how we can do this deal with Swiber . . . in a different way. We have a representative who flew in to Singapore today," Mr O'Connor told The Business Times in a phone interview.

AMTC (its full name is AMTC Global Investment Solutions, according to its website) was originally meant to provide a lifeline to Swiber through a US$200 million subscription of its preference shares.

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According to an affidavit filed by Swiber to support its judicial management application, the payment from the UK-based fund was delayed and Swiber eventually refused to extend the deal's completion date as requested by AMTC.

In the meantime, AMTC had agreed to provide a bridging loan but even that had not come through, piling more pressure on Swiber.

Help came from DBS Bank, Singapore's largest bank and Swiber's primary lender, which provided a bridging loan and overdraft facility for the ailing offshore firm to redeem two bonds worth a total S$205 million in June and July.

Mr O'Connor said: "We were happy to do a deal with Swiber. It's a good company with nice people trying their best to go through the obstacles (facing the industry)."

Even so, AMTC's investors, comprising investors from the Middle East and Russia, needed a little more convincing that the deal was a sound investment given the headwinds facing the oil and gas sector. This was all the more so because a Singapore-based consultant hired by the private equity firm had not deemed the investment to be a wise one, Mr O'Connor said.

"It's not that we didn't want to transfer the funds. We sent a strong message that the deal will go ahead but we have a right to protect our investment.

"We needed some more time to go through the report (prepared by the consultant) and run it by our board and investors," he added.

Time, as it turned out, was not on Swiber's side. Faced with a cash flow crunch, mounting debt repayments and a flood of letters of demand, the firm took the drastic step to wind up its operations, only to rescind the move a couple of days later and opt for judicial management following a pep talk with its key bankers from DBS.

"That news (of the winding up) - and the resignation of directors - was a big shock for all of us," Mr O'Connor, who has a 10 per cent share in AMTC, admitted.

Then, he added: "But we are still interested to support Swiber . . . there is good value. The deal is alive."

In a separate announcement on Friday night, Swiber said a brief outline of an Interim Judicial Managers' Report will be submitted to the High Court by Aug 19. Creditors may request a copy from its interim judicial managers' solicitors, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP.

The actual Interim Judicial Managers' Report will be submitted to the High Court by Sept 2 and a judge pre-trial conference will be held on Sept 5.

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