March 9, 2011 by Goddy Egene
Worried by the mounting opposition to its planned delisting from the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and become a private company, the Board and management of Nigerian Bottling Company Plc have begun to woo some stakeholders for support.
THISDAY checks revealed that the management of the company has planned a series of meetings with groups perceived to be against the delisting so as to convince them for their support. One of such meetings, it was learnt took place last week in Lagos, where the company was said to have explained the reasons it has to quit the stock market. Sources at the meeting told THISDAY that the management of NBC claimed that the company has been seen by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC), S.A as operating in the periphery because of its listing status.
“The management said that delisting from the NSE is one of the conditions for the investment that the parent company wants to make. But we asked them why can’t the company delist and remain a public limited one. They told us it is business decision. From every indication, there is more to it than meets the eye,” the source said. Although Nigerian laws allow for free entry and exit of companies into the nation’s economy, the planned delisting by NBC has attracted criticism by some stakeholders.
Some shareholders had vowed to resist the move if they were not treated fairly in the deal. Stockbrokers recently expressed concerns about the development, saying the decision of the NBC to quit will impact negatively on the capital market in particular and the nation’s economy in general. The President of CIS, Mr. Mike Itegboje, who spoke on behalf of the brokers at a press conference, had stated that the main reason the company wanted to delist is to become a wholly owned subsidiary of its majority shareholder (CCHBC).
“Any other excuse given by the company is beside the point. The supposed investment of $14 billion is only a ruse to drive Nigerians out of NBC. The company will be re-registered as a private company in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) and as a private company, the activities of the company are no longer subjected to public scrutiny.
The Nigerian workers would also be worse for it in terms of the treatment they would get from the foreign dominated board of directors,” he said. Itegboje had said that as stakeholders in the Nigerian economy and people who have monitored the growth of NBC over the years, the brokers owed it a duty to point out the negative implications of the intention of CHBC.
“Having been nurtured to a very comfortable and rich position, the majority Greek owners of NBC are not only delisting, they are also dumping the Nigerian shareholders who have helped to sustain them over the years. They do not want any dilution,” Itegboje said. He noted that despite having Nigeria as its third largest market among the 28 countries where it operates, CCHBC was planning to deny Nigerian investors and other stakeholders their benefits.
( Source: Thisday)