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High Court grants troubled Hin Leong interim judicial management

HAMMERED by a US$4 billion debt pile and an ongoing probe by Singapore's white-collar crime buster, the city-state's largest oil trader Hin Leong Trading (HLT) was granted interim judicial management on Monday by the High Court.

The Business Times understands that Goh Thien Phong and Chan Kheng Tek of PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services (PwC) have been appointed as interim judicial managers.

They have eight weeks to file a preliminary report which will include an assessment on whether the commodity trader can be restructured or rehabilitated.

The virtual hearing at the Singapore High Court was earlier scheduled for April 30 after the trading firm filed an application for judicial management (JM) last week, but the session was brought forward to Monday instead following requests from some lenders, BT understands.

HLT had earlier sought a debt moratorium from the court but has since withdrawn the application after its bank lenders pushed for it to go down the JM route.

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Sources said the lenders were more comfortable with the interim judicial managers taking charge of the company's affairs after it came to light that HLT had hid from its financial statements some US$800 million in losses incurred from futures trading.

The troubles at HLT, which is part of a massive empire comprising one of the world's largest owners of oil tankers and Singapore's third-largest bunkering firm, have roiled the oil and gas sector amid a crippling pandemic-led oil crisis.

"It's shock and horror, really. Everything happened so fast and nobody has had much time to process it," said a representative for one of over 23 creditors exposed to the group.

The fallout has been widespread, with claims coming in fast and furious.

On Monday, a wholly-owned power generation unit of Sembcorp Industries launched legal proceedings to assert ownership over gasoil reserves that are Universal Terminal - a commercial storage facility on Jurong Island that is part-owned by the Hin Leong Group. It cited the possibility that the gasoil reserves designated for Sembcorp Cogen may be subject to competing claims by one or more third parties for the move.

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