Financial statement anormalies force Hippo Valley parent into suspension

Harare – Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates’ JSE listed parent Tongaat Hulett has requested for suspension from trading on the JSE pursuant to the announced delay in the publishing of the company’s financial statements and what the company termed as the continuing review into past financial practices.

The sugar producing company with a wide regional exposure in Southern Africa said following further discussions with the JSE Limited and the company’s auditors, forensic investigative team, legal advisors and management, its board has requested that the JSE suspend the listing of the Company’s securities with immediate effect.

As at day end Monday the JSE granted this request, and accordingly the listing of the company’s securities on the JSE has been suspended. The listing of the securities on the London Stock Exchange, on which the Company has a secondary listing, has also been suspended, reads a statement on the JSE SENS, a stock market news and update feed run by the JSE.

Tongaat footprint

The sugar operations in Zimbabwe consist of Triangle and a 50,3 percent stake in Hippo Valley Estates, representing a combined installed sugar milling capacity of more than 640 000 tons. At the beginning of the 2017/18 season, the Zimbabwe operations were supplied by 45 245 hectares of sugarcane land (own-estates and private farmers) with a potential to produce more than four million tons of sugarcane.

The total refined sugar 60 000 tons and the Triangle ethanol plant has an installed capacity of 41 million litres over a 48-week production season.

Last week the local unit said it has adequate supplies to carter for local demand together with Star Africa. The following day the company announced that it has set recommended prices of sugar at circa RTGS$10.

In its submission pending relisting the company said it aims to publish the audited consolidated financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2019 (“March 2019 Financial Statements”) by the end of October 2019; and reinstate the listings at that point in time, or, possibly, at an earlier point in time at which sufficiently reliable information can be released.

Tongaat said at the same time it will continue to formulate its ongoing strategic review and comprehensive turnaround strategy entailing among other things cost reductions, possible sales of certain assets, restructuring of operations and improvements in operating performance.

The rest of the published statement read as follows “Shareholders were advised in the announcement of 31 May 2019 that the Board has concluded that the Company’s audited consolidated financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2018 (“March 2018 Financial Statements”) will need to be restated, and that the financial information therein should not be relied upon.

The Board has now reached a conclusion that the need to restate the March 2018 Financial Statements, and the consequential impact on the 30 September 2018 statement of financial position, renders reliance on the unaudited interim results for the six months ended 30 September 2018 no longer appropriate.

This follows further discussions with the JSE and the Company’s auditors, forensic investigative team, legal advisors and management. Similarly, reliance on the Company’s Trading Statement for the twelve months ended 31 March 2019 (“February 2019 Trading Statement”) is no longer appropriate.

As the Board does not have the necessary degree of certainty to apportion the restatement across the different financial periods, there is not currently sufficiently reliable information to enable the Board to update the financial information in the September 2018 Interim Results or the February 2019 Trading Statement with confidence Owing to the Board’s concern that there is insufficient information in the market to enable investors to make informed decisions, the Board has voluntarily approached the JSE with a request for a suspension of the listing of the Company’s securities.

The Board’s primary objectives in requesting the suspension are to protect investors in circumstances where there is insufficient reliable financial information in the market on which informed decisions can be made, and accordingly a risk of speculative trading to allow management more time to support the completion of the forensic investigation and the restatements, in order to release the March 2019 Financial Statements, and to seek the reinstatement of the listings, as soon as reasonably possible to address any possibility of there being two levels of information in the market arising from the various processes necessary to be undertaken to restructure and reduce the Company’s debt; and to allow the Company to complete the strategic review, implement remedial actions and accelerate the turnaround strategy.

This decision has not been taken lightly. Whilst the Board is conscious that some shareholders or potential investors would prefer to retain the ability to buy and sell shares, the Board believes that the temporary suspension is in the best interests of shareholders as a whole.

The Board views the suspension as a temporary measure until the Company is in a position to provide sufficient further information to the market. It is expected that the suspension will be lifted no later than the time of release of the March 2019 Financial Statements.”

-Equity Axis News

Respect Gwenzi

Respect is the Lead Analyst and Managing Director at Equity Axis. He has 8 years experience in respective fields of finance and media. Particular areas of expertise include Asset Management, Stockbroking and Financial Media. Respect is on a mission to change the course of Financial Media in Africa through digitalization

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