Donaco back on the share market after suspension

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Donaco doesn?t plan to sell properties despite financial challenges 

The Australian Securities Exchange said after market hours on Monday that shares in Asian casino operator Donaco International were once again free to be traded on that bourse.

GGR Asia reports the shares had been off the market since December 2, pending the “appointment of sufficient directors” as required by Australia’s Corporations Act, which demands a minimum of two Australian resident directors, according to a previous filing from the company.

Donaco’s flagship venue, Star Vegas Resort and Club, is located in Poipet, Cambodia.

In Vietnam, the group runs the Aristo International Hotel and accompanying casino, which manly serves players from neighbouring and mainland China.

At the same time as the share reinstatement announcement, Donaco said in a filing that it had newly appointed two “independent and resident non-executive directors”: Mel Ashton and Simon Vertullo.

Mr Ashton, a seasoned listed-company director said to have 37 years of experience, and a founder of PPB Advisory – an Australian firm specialising in corporate restructuring that is now part of business services group Price Waterhouse Cooper – becomes a Donaco chairman.

Mr Vertullo is described as an “experienced chartered accountant with broad financial, transactional and operational expertise,” at listed and large privately-owned companies in Australia, part of Asia and the United Kingdom.

He has worked for the corporate restructuring practices of business advisory group KordaMentha and business services conglomerate KPMG International.

The incoming chairman Mr Ashton said in a prepared statement in the filing: “The board of Donaco is focused on supporting the management team, transitioning to a new chief executive over the coming six months and on resolving distractions that have hampered the company’s performance in recent times.”

Last week, it was announced that Paul Arbuckle – a gaming executive recruited after a senior role at Genting Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa complex – had tendered his resignation as chief executive of Donaco after only six months at the helm.

News of his departure came shortly after a Donaco annual general meeting on November 29 that was designed to air a request by some minority investors for a clearout of the board, and that resulted in a number of board candidates proposed by the management being rejected in a vote, and the removal of the previous chairman Stuart McGregor.

The new chairman, Mr Ashton, said in a statement on Monday that, with the help of a new board with people that had “strong” credentials in business turnarounds, the focus would be on “stabilising the company and delivering for shareholders.”

The new chairman added the directors would “look for opportunities to strengthen the board further with additional industry expertise.”

Donaco has been embroiled in a number of issues over the past 12 months.

They included its long-running dispute with representatives from Thailand that sold the group the rights to run the Star Vegas, and the extended leave of absence of then chief executive Joey Lim Keong Yew.

In March, Mr Joey Lim was sacked as chief executive officer, and in July, he and his brother Ben Lim Keon Hoe were dropped as Donaco directors.

Lim brothers ousted from Donaco

In July, shareholders of Donaco International got together to determine whether or not Joey Lim and Ben Lim, often referred to as the Lim Brothers, should retain their spots on the company’s board.

After a short vote that saw substantial input, the Lim brothers have been forced to give up their sports and are now virtually removed completely from anything related to Donaco, Calvin Ayre reported.

In a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange, Donaco acknowledged that the duo had been ousted after 90 per cent of the voting shareholders agreed to have them give their seats back.

It brings to a close a long battle between the two and company investors over concerns of how the company was being managed.

Joey Lim is the founder and former managing director, as well as former CEO of the company.

He was forced out of the top spots in March when the company’s investors relieved him of his duties.

Ben Lim then stepped in as interim CEO until Paul Arbuckle was appointed new CEO in June.

The removal rom the board follows a call by the Spenceley Family Trust and Family Superannuation, represented by trustee Spenceley Management, called for the extraordinary general meeting along with shareholder Antonia Carolina Callopy.

The three entities control 5.04 per cent of the company and had entered the resolution to vote on the issue of the Lim brothers’ places on the board when the meeting was announced last month.

James Spenceley owns directly, or through entities owned by him, around 4.68 per cent of Donaco’s shares.

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