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Probe news hits stocks in Pacific Andes stable

MAS, CAD investigating an offence under Securities and Futures Act
Saturday, August 22, 2015 - 05:50
Monetary Authority of Singapore.jpg
Shares in the Pacific Andes stable were sent reeling on Friday by news that the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Republic's white-collar crime investigation agency Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) are investigating an offence under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

Singapore

SHARES in the Pacific Andes stable were sent reeling on Friday by news that the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Republic's white-collar crime investigation agency Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) are investigating an offence under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

By the close of trading on Friday, Singapore-listed Pacific Andes Resources Development (PARD), which does seafood trading and ocean logistics, shed 1.2 Singapore cents, or 28.6 per cent, to close at three cents.

PARD's indirectly owned subsidiary China Fishery Group, an upstream fishing firm and fishmeal producer also listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), saw its stock almost halved to 7.2 Singapore cents from 14.2 cents.

Trading in both the SGX stocks, which had been halted from Wednesday at the request of the companies, resumed on Friday.

The two companies' Hong Kong-listed parent, Pacific Andes International Holdings (PAIH), also saw its stock slide seven Hong Kong cents, or 30.8 per cent, to 17 HK cents.

On Thursday night, PARD and China Fishery announced that they were notified by MAS and CAD of the probe into an offence under the SFA and they were required to produce certain information and documents for the period from Oct 1, 2011, to the present relating to the group. MAS is conducting the probe through the Secondary Markets Conduct and Enforcement Division of its Market Conduct Department.

The information and documents the group has to provide include dealings with certain third parties who are not interested persons, and one of whom is the group's trading party.

PAIH was also notified by Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission "to produce records and documents in connection with an investigation".

Among other things, the SFA Act deals with market misconduct offences, such as making or disseminating false or misleading information, market manipulation, and insider trading.

A person who commits an offence under Part XII of the SFA is liable on conviction to be punished with a fine of up to S$250,000 or to imprisonment of up to seven years or both, in respect of each offence committed.

Civil penalties can be up to three times the profit made or loss avoided from the misconduct, with a minimum statutory penalty of S$50,000 for an individual or S$100,000 for a corporation.

In cases where there was no profit made or loss avoided, the civil penalty would range from S$50,000 (for an individual) or S$100,000 (for a corporation) to S$2 million.

"The business and operations of the group are not affected by the investigations and will continue as normal," the group said in the Thursday announcement. "The company has extended and will continue to extend its full co-operation to the investigations and make such further announcements as required."

In response to queries from The Business Times, Geoff Walsh, group director of public affairs and communications at Pacific Andes Group said: "In line with confidentiality requirements, we are not able to comment beyond what is contained in the stock exchange announcements."

An MAS spokeswoman said that MAS and CAD have obtained documents from China Fishery and PARD. "As investigations are ongoing, we are not able to provide further information," she said.

The probe is a further blow to shareholders of the companies. They had to contend with share price declines in recent years after political troubles in Russia, as well as when a substantial amount of debt was incurred to fund a hostile takeover for Peruvian fishery Copeinca.

PAIH reported a net profit of HK$37.7 million (S$6.9 million), down 90 per cent from HK$373 million a year ago, for the three months ended June 28, 2015. This was due to lower sales of fishmeal and fish oil, finance-related costs and the absence of a one-off gain in the previous year from disposing its interest in an associate.

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