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SC to release review on Sime-E&O saga when ready

KUALA LUMPUR: Securities Commission (SC) chairman Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar declined to pinpoint a tentative date when the regulatory body would make public its findings from investigations into Sime Darby Bhd's acquisition of a 30% block in Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O).

"We will let you know when it is ready," she merely told newsmen after an event at the SC on Wednesday, Sept 14, without divulging any details.

Her statement came after the SC on Monday said it was viewing "all stock transactions by all parties" in Sime Darby's acquisition of the stake in the Penang-based property developer following queries by the investing public and shareholder activists alike.

Zarinah and her husband Datuk Azizan Abd Rahman, who is E&O chairman, have been in the spotlight as Azizan accumulated 450,000 shares in the property developer between April and August this year, prior to Sime Darby taking over the 30% block. This included 100,000 shares on Aug 12, a mere two weeks before Sime Darby announced its acquisition of E&O.

However, Zarinah recused herself from the onset in accordance with the SC's internal governance processes. The two most senior commission members, Datuk Francis Tan and Datuk Gumuri Hussain, are leading the review.

Questions were rife as to when the SC would complete its review and make known the findings, with many looking for a quick decision.

To recap, Sime Darby had at the end of last month announced that it proposed to pay RM2.30 per E&O share for a block from three major shareholders — Datuk Terry Tham Ka Hon, Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah and GK Goh Holdings Ltd — at a price that worked out to a 60% premium on the market price.

Some quarters suggested that Sime Darby should be forced into making a mandatory general offer for E&O as the company, together with the three shareholders who sold the 30% block, have about 41% equity interest.

This notion of Sime Darby and the three shareholders acting in concert has been vehemently denied by all parties involved. The parties said the deal was done on a willing-buyer-willing-seller basis with no ulterior intentions.

There is also talk that other parties are looking to buy into E&O. They are Datuk Desmond Lim Siew Choon and E&O's existing shareholder ECM Libra Investment Bank Bhd, which has more than 6% equity interest in E&O.

E&O was the second most active stock on Wednesday with 21.89 million shares changing hands. The stock ended trading at RM1.51, sliding down 11 sen.

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