Axington postpones EGM, citing ‘recent media developments’

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The Catalist-listed firm linked to the Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group that recently made a £280 million (S$506 million) bid for Newcastle United Football Club has postponed an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) that was to have been held on Thursday.

“In the light of recent in the , the board (feels) it requires more time to conduct an internal assessment of the circumstances and the strategic plans of the company,” said in a Singapore Exchange (SGX) filing before markets opened yesterday. It added the postponement would give shareholders “sufficient time to consider the proposed resolutions”.

Axington is a professional advisory services firm owned by Singaporean businessmen and cousins Nelson Loh and Terence Loh, although they are not directors. Their business partner, Chinese jewellery merchant Evangeline Shen, is Axington’s nonindependent non-executive chairman. The trio co-founded the newly formed BN Group, which recently lodged a takeover bid for English Premier League club Newcastle United.

It later emerged that the group had doctored photographs of the three founders with former United States president Barack Obama. Other discrepancies in its publicity materials also surfaced.

The disclosures prompted the SGX’s regulatory arm to call for Axington’s Catalist sponsor, Novus Corporate Finance, to assess the suitability of Ms Shen as a director as well as other directors.

A further twist came late on Tuesday night when former United States ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar told The Straits Times he had resigned as an Axington independent director, given the recent developments.

The board announced Mr Wagar’s resignation in a separate SGX filing yesterday. It added that this was “a result of recent revelations… involving the BN Group’s marketing materials used to publicise the group”.

Novus said Mr Wagar “urged more transparency”, given the revelations when it held an exit interview with him on Thursday.

The board also announced it was reviewing the composition of members to comply with the Code of Corporate Governance.

There were at least 200 public shareholders of Axington as at Aug 18. They held an aggregate of 42.1 million shares, representing about 22.12 per cent of the company’s total issued stock.

There were few details released yesterday regarding the postponed EGM, but the firm did note that not all the resolutions to be tabled at the postponed EGM will be the same as those that had been set for Thursday’s meeting.
A publicity picture (left) distributed by Bellagraph Nova Group that purports to show its owners in a private meeting with former US president Barack Obama in Paris. In reality, the photo of Mr Obama was taken at a Dec 14 charity event in Singapore. PHOTOS: BELLAGRAPH NOVA GROUP

There were few details released yesterday regarding the postponed EGM, but the firm did note that not all the resolutions to be tabled at the postponed EGM will be the same as those that had been set for Thursday’s meeting.

That EGM was to approve a name change from Axington to NETX and to change its core business from professional advisory services to providing medical and consumer wellness services and investments in medical technology, robotics and artificial intelligence technology.

Axington also proposed to acquire Malaysian medical equipment and medical aesthetics products distributor Vesta Apex Trading for $12 million – $6 million in cash and the issuance of around 33.3 million Axington shares at 18 cents apiece.

Shareholders were to have voted on this at the Thursday EGM.

Details on the postponed meeting will be sent to shareholders.

Axington shares have see-sawed in the past week since news broke on Aug 17 of its Newcastle United takeover bid. They jumped as much as 20.5 per cent to 26.5 cents on Aug 19, before closing at a one-year high of 23 cents.

But after Reuters broke the news of BN Group admitting to doctoring photos in its publicity materials, the stock nosedived.

It plunged as much as 22 per cent on Monday before closing down 2.2 per cent for the day, only to resume its fall on Tuesday, when it dropped nearly 14 per cent to 19 cents – its last traded level before the trading halt on Wednesday.

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