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Court dismisses Oei Hong Leong's lawsuit against Raffles Edu chairman

Oei Hong Leong (right) and Chew Hua Seng having champagne and shaking hands after signing a handwritten document that became the subject of a lawsuit.

SINGAPORE'S High Court has dismissed the lawsuit of tycoon Oei Hong Leong against Raffles Education chairman Chew Hua Seng over an alleged promise by Mr Chew to procure a buyer for Mr Oei's shares in the mainboard-listed education provider.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin wrote in a 55-page judgement issued on Monday that it is clear from the context of the discussions between Mr Oei and Mr Chew that the full terms of any sale and purchase agreement between the buyer and Mr Oei would have to be negotiated.

Justice Lee said: "Both Oei and Chew are experienced businessmen. They could not have contemplated that a transaction involving some S$60 million would be completed without the involvement of lawyers to sort out the compliance issues as well as the details of how payment would be effected."

On Sept 28, 2017, Raffles Education announced that it would issue up to 95 million new ordinary shares at 30 Singapore cents per share.

Mr Oei questioned the placement, which had diluted the stake that he and his company held from 14.04 per cent to 12.88 per cent.

Mr Oei then asked for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), calling for the disclosure of the identities of those who were issued shares and the removal of Mr Chew from his appointments.

On Oct 16, 2017, Mr Oei and Mr Chew met at the house of Mr Oei's sister to discuss the dispute. After the discussions, Mr Chew composed a note with the words “Confidential Agreement” at the top and wrote that they had come to an amicable solution. Mr Oei agreed to withdraw his request for an EGM. After both copies were signed, they shook hands and posed for photographs.

Mr Chew contends through senior counsel Alvin Yeo that there was no intention by the parties to enter into a legally binding agreement at the casual meeting, held to mend fences over dinner and drinks. The note was jotted down at Mr Oei’s request to show their families that they had reconciled, he said.

Mr Oei, relying on the record – which was rewritten, word for word, so that each side could have a copy – sued Mr Chew for allegedly reneging on his promise. He and his company, Oei Hong Leong Art Museum, claimed damages of between S$15 million and S$26.5 million.

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