The battle between Oando Plc and Ansbury Investments Incorporated has assumed another twist as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) has ordered two companies owned by the Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu, and his deputy, Mr. Mofe Boyo, to pay a total debt of US$680 million (N244.8 billion) to Ansbury Investments, owned by Mr. Gabriele Volpi.
The court in its resolution on July 6, 2018, ruled that Ocean and Oil Development Partners (OODP) of British Virgin Islands, which owns 55.96 percent stake in Oando Plc was indebted to Volpi’s Ansbury Investments to the sum of $600 million or N216 billion.
The Arbitration Court also held that Whitmore Asset Management Limited, whose ultimate beneficial owners are Wale Tinubu and Mofe Boyo, are indebted to Ansbury Investments to the tune of another $80 million (N28.8 billion). This brings the total debt owed Ansbury Investments by the Oando managers to $680 million.
It also held that an existing “Third Shareholders Agreement” between the parties is fully and legally binding on the parties as claimed by Ansbury Investments. Ansbury Investments will immediately submit an application to the LCIA in which it will be asked to charge Whitmore Asset Management Limited for all the due interests and legal expenses.
The Journey so far
Recall that in 2012, Ansbury Investments reportedly invested about $700 million in Ocean and Oil Development Partners Limited (OODP BVI), a special purpose vehicle registered in the British Virgin Islands by acquiring a 61.9 percent stake in the firm, while a company owned by Tinubu, Withmore Limited, held 38.10 percent of the stake in OODP BVI.
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The Oando boss had reportedly approached Volpi to invest in the British Virgin Islands-registered firm when Oando Plc was seeking to acquire ConocoPhillips’ upstream oil and gas assets in Nigeria for $1.5 billion.
OODP BVI, in turn, owns 99.99 percent of the shares of Ocean and Oil Development Partners Nigeria Limited (OODP Nigeria), which holds 55.96 percent of the shares in Oando.
The relationship, however, went south last year after a petition from two aggrieved shareholders, Gabriele Volpi and Dahiru Mangal. They accused the senior management of poorly running the firm. Dahiru Mangal has since withdrawn his petition.
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In the petition, they also cited page eight of the company’s annual report of 2016, alleging that a “strong uncertainty regarding the going concern status of the group had already risen in 2015 and strengthened in 2016 as clearly pointed out by the auditors in their report”.
The petitioners had also alleged that “operational management closed with a consistent loss of over N7.68 billion, significantly worse than 2015”, arguing further that “the net loss for the year from continuing operations in 2016 amounted to N25.8 billion, adding to the net loss of N34.9 billion of the previous year”.
In addition, Ansbury Investments had also informed SEC that Oando’s “current liabilities as at December 31, 2016, far exceeds the current assets by N263.7 billion, confirming serious financial imbalance from the previous financial year”.
The SEC then ordered a forensic audit based on its preliminary findings. After a legal battle with the regulators, the company then stood down its opposition to the audit. The final result of the audit is still been awaited.
The battle has also led to several victims this includes the suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, who alleged that he was suspended by Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, because of a refusal to stop the audit. An allegation she vehemently denied.