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Tropicana director resigns while Bursa queries group about Top Glove share buy

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 8): Tropicana Corp Bhd announced a couple of boardroom changes today, including the resignation of an independent director and the redesignation of one to a senior independent director's post, while the company was asked to justify its recent acquisitions of RM78.47 million worth of shares in Top Glove Corp Bhd.

In separate filings yesterday, Tropicana said its independent and non-executive director Loh Chen Peng, 66, who is also a member of the group's risk committee, has resigned from the board due to health issues, with effect from Dec 5.

At the same time, another independent director Datuk Tang Vee Mun, 47, has been made a senior independent director, with effect from yesterday.

Meanwhile, Tropicana also announced it has been requested by the stock exchange to, among others, justify the rationale behind the group's purchases of 11.25 million Top Glove shares last Friday via the open market, given that the business is different from Tropicana's principal activities.

The bourse also wanted to know why Tropicana, which shares a common shareholder and chairman with Top Glove in Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai, chose Top Glove over other glove companies. The group was also asked to elaborate on the prospects and risk factors of the acquisitions, given "the commercialisation of Covid-19 vaccine in the near future which may hamper the demand of gloves globally as well as the possible negative impact to the share prices of gloves companies including Top Glove".

In response, Tropicana said the Top Glove shares were transacted at prevailing market prices from the open market on the dates, between RM6.528 and RM28.898 (before Top Glove's two-for-one bonus issue) apiece.

It said Lim, who is the founder of Top Glove of which he controls a 25.68% stake — he is also among the top three substantial shareholders with an 11.07% stake in Tropicana — had voluntarily abstained from deliberating and voting for the acquisitions.

It also said the acquisitions were undertaken as part of its investment strategy to capitalise on the potential robust growth of Top Glove.

"The company has chosen to invest in Top Glove instead of other glove companies as Top Glove is the world's largest manufacturer of gloves. It currently captures approximately 26% of the world market share for rubber gloves. Top Glove has also demonstrated steady growth with a compound annual growth rate of 23.1% for revenue and 28.2% for profit after tax over the past 20 years," Tropicana said.

"The acquisitions allow the company to benefit from the prospects of the manufacturing and trading of gloves, which are largely contributed by the increased demand globally for gloves due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and also the growth in the global healthcare services industry," it added.

Last Friday, The Edge reported that Tropicana's purchases of shares in Top Glove had raised questions about why it was buying into the group, whose share price had been declining, weighed by developments in the vaccine discovery space, and the surge of Covid-19 infections among its workers that had caused the temporary closures of 28 of its factories, or half its production capacity.

Shares in Tropicana slipped one sen or 1.14% to close at 87 sen today, giving the group a market capitalisation of RM1.2 billion.

Top Glove, which has spent more than RM1 billion to buy back its own shares since September as its share price retreats, ended the day at RM6.60, down five sen or 0.75% from the previous day's close for a market capitalisation of RM54.1 billion. While the stock has declined 25% since the start of September, it is still up 320% year-to-date.

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