Tuesday 24 October 2017

Siteserv share register to be made public immediately

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

Donal O'Donovan and Philip Ryan

A register setting out who owned shares in Siteserv when the construction support company was sold in 2012 is likely to be available to review from today, the Irish Independent understands.

Siteserv liquidator Kieran Wallace is expected to be in a position to make the document available on request as early as this morning.

Share registers for stock market listed companies, which Siteserv was back in 2012, are public documents and are therefore normally available to be inspected under certain conditions as long as the company is trading.

The Siteserv register was kept by market data company Computershare until Siteserv PLC was placed into liquidation in July 2012 following the sale of its main assets. The register was then handed to liquidator Kieran Wallace, of KPMG, who would have used the information in the register to disburse a controversial €4.96m payment to shareholders.

While formal legal checks are likely to be made in the morning, the Irish Independent understands there is unlikely to be any reason not to make the register public again, as it was in 2012. This newspaper has asked to see the register once it is available.

Yesterday, Tánaiste Joan Burton said she would like all information on the sale of Siteserv out in the open and said documentation surrounding the sale of shares might also be sought by the Government.

"I want to see all of the relevant information being made available and published and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has appointed the liquidators to address those issues and report back in a number of months," Ms Burton said.

The Tánaiste also referred to trading in Siteserv shares following a weekend report of heavy trading in the stock in November 2011, around the time the offers for the company began to be made.

"If that data and information is available because I presume in reference to the story the transactions were through the Stock Exchange so we may need information on where that documentation might be," she added.

In November 2011 a total of 6.4 million Siteserv shares changed hands at prices ranging from two cents each to 3.5 cents each, meaning the total value of shares traded was between €128,000 and €224,000. The stock had peaked in value in 2007 at €1.17 a share. It was sold in the March 2012 deal at 3.92 cents a share.

Controversy around the sale of the formerly Irish Stock Exchange listed company's trading assets flared up this week with the emergence of documents showing that the Department of Finance raised queries about the deal with the managers of State-owned bank IBRC after the sale was agreed in 2012. As Siteserv's biggest lender the bank had to approve the sale.

The crux of the controversy is a payment of almost €5m for Siteserv's shareholders out of the €45.4m paid for the business by Millington, a company backed by businessman Denis O'Brien.

Shareholders received the cash even though State-owned lender IBRC suffered a €105m loss.

Walter Hobbs, the independent expert who oversaw the sale at the time, has said the payment reflected the need to get shareholders' approval for a sale quickly in order to maximise the return for taxpayers.

Denis O'Brien's bid for Siteserv was accepted because it was the best offer, Mr Hobbs told RTÉ. Mr Noonan is today expected to formally appoint insolvency experts Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of accountancy firm KPMG to conduct a special review of the sale of Siteserv and more than 40 other deals worth more than €10m involving IBRC.

The two men have been the Government-appointed special liquidators of IBRC since February 2013, and as such are already well acquitted with the issues involved, the minister said when he announced the review.

Mr Wallace is already in possession of the Siteserv shareholder register due to his previous role as that company's liquidator, and the file can therefore be released outside the terms of the review.

Irish Independent

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