ASX cracks down on Molopo after $47m spent and nothing to show
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The ASX will be referring Molopo Energy to the regulator over alleged lapses in disclosure around a $47 million “Orient Transaction”.
As part of a saga that began in early 2017 — when the ASX told Molopo (ASX:MPO) that it wasn’t doing enough to warrant remaining on the bourse, — the market operator has publicly unveiled the history of its communications with the company.
In doing so it has outlined for the first time a series of transactions that Molopo entered into between January and March this year, says major shareholder Keybridge Capital (ASX:KBC).
Molopo was told in February last year to get its act together but that any transaction would have to be approved by the ASX.
Yet in August, Molopo told investors that it had spent $US7 million on buying half of a company called Orient FRC without first running it by its ASX handler.
Orient had petroleum assets in Florida.
The ASX has been quizzing the company about its dealings since February 1.
It has questioned where the project is, whether Orient vendor Dr Gil Feiler had paid his share of a $US4.5 million loan to the company, and about alleged inconsistencies in Molopo’s disclosures around the deal.
Only in April and after a meeting with Molopo’s legal and corporate advisors, did the ASX winkle from the company this disclosure:
It had bought the whole of Orient for another $US7 million and had then spent $US23.5 million on the petroleum project in addition to $4.5 million spent in December.
Molopo then sold the whole thing to Drawbridge Energy Holdings for a 30 per cent interest in Drawbridge.
Keybridge Capital said that for the total $US35 million spent on the Orient project so far, Molopo had exchanged the lot for a non-voting minority stake in Drawbridge.
“Our concerns have now turned to outrage as Molopo has entered into a series of questionable transactions that have resulted in the vast majority of your shareholder monies being dissipated to third parties,” Keybridge said in a letter to shareholders which has been made publicly available as an ASX announcement.
“On 7 March 2018, Molopo finalised a transaction that has seen another $US23.5 Million in cash leave Molopo in exchange for a 30 per cent non-voting share in an offshore entity (Drawbridge Energy Holdings Ltd) with little in the way of discernible assets (apart from the cash injected by Molopo).
“These actions have seen a total of $US35 Million or approximately $47 Million leave Molopo in return for assets that Keybridge believes are essentially worthless.”
The ASX said in its letter, which has been made public as an ASX announcement, that it will refer Molopo to ASIC over possible breaches of the Corporations Act for making alleged misleading disclosures to the market.