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McClatchy-Tribune  06/13/2014 12:01 AM ET
Alliance Select caught in worsening management conflict [The Manila Times, Philippines :: ]

June 13--TWO concerned Singaporean investors of Alliance Select Foods International Inc. show no interest in leaving the company despite worsening management ties with the other heads of the listed seafood supplier, pinning their hopes for a resolution to a dispute over board representation on the firm's long-term potential.

Earlier, two Alliance Select minority shareholders, Hedy Yap-Chua and Albert Hong Hin Kay, filed separate cases against the majority shareholders of the company, led by the Pasig-based firm's president Jonathan Dee and chairman George Sycip.

The pleas accuse directors from the majority bloc of railroading minority shareholders to open the boardroom door to Strong Oak, Inc., which is now the second biggest stockholder in Alliance Select with a 27.8-percent stake.

The two Singaporean investors, in a briefing held on Thursday, claimed that Strong Oak is a "questionable" company as nothing has been disclosed so far about it except that it is a subsidiary of Seawood Resources Inc., an investment holding firm.

When asked for comment, Seawood Resources opted not to give any statement regarding the matter.

The conflict among the management heads of the listed firm has become even more complicated with the filing of a criminal complaint by the majority owners of Alliance Select led by Dee against Yap-Chua and Hong, alleging that the two directors have "revealed secrets with abuse of office."

"The company has reasonable cause to believe that Yap-Chua and Hong, in breach of their fiduciary duty to the company, revealed information relating to the company's financials given to them in confidence," the company told the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) on Wednesday.

Despite this, the two Singaporeans show no inclination to leave the company despite the worsening management conflict, instead calling for transparency from the firm's majority leaders.

"We wanted this company to succeed. There's no question about takeover [of Strong Oak or other companies], we could have done that earlier as well. But since it is a publicly listed company, we are more worried about the smaller shareholders. We want the truth. Please tell us your [the Alliance directors] problem," Hong said in an interview with reporters on Thursday.

According to Yap-Chua, they have no intentions to "unwelcome" any investor as long as the reputation of the investors is well-established.

"Who is Strong Oak and what they plan to do? Their plans are not clear to us. This is very detrimental to the company and the shareholders. The performance of this company is highly questionable. We know nothing about it," Yap-Chua further said.

In a statement, Strong Oak described itself as an investment vehicle wholly owned by Seawood Resources, Inc., an investment company whose website describes it as "a multi-billion investment company focused on strategic assets."

"Seawood's primary focus is to seek strategic, long term investment opportunities and helps bring companies to the next level of growth. The company is backed by a group of local and Hong Kong-based financial investors," the Strong Oak statement added.

Despite the ongoing conflict, Yap-Chua said they still believe Alliance Select has a potential to grow further in the long term, citing their overall trust in Philippine companies amid this issue.

For his part, Roel Refran, chief operating officer of Philippine Stock Exchange Inc., indicated that the case has not gone so far as to warrant action on the part of the PSE, as it does not appear that the issue is affecting the public or the greater number of the company's minority shareholders at this point.

"If it's an intracorporate dispute, then it's a matter outside the jurisdiction of the PSE," Refran said in a text message.

 

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