Lifestyle set to bail out jeweller EganaGoldpfeil

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 September, 2007, 12:00am
 

Laus propose equity involvement

Lifestyle International Holdings, the retail flagship of brothers Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Thomas Lau Luen-hung, has proposed acting as white knight to bail out EganaGoldpfeil Holdings, a troubled Hong Kong-listed jewellery and watch manufacturer, according to sources.

The deal would include 'equity involvement' between Lifestyle International and EganaGoldpfeil, said the sources, who gave no details.

Shares of Lifestyle were suspended from trading yesterday. EganaGoldpfeil shares have been suspended from trading since September 11 but sources said they would resume today.

Lifestyle's chief financial officer Terry Poon Fuk-chuen yesterday said he had no comment.

EganaGoldpfeil shares have slumped 87.54 per cent since July 26, when a shareholder activist questioned the company's accounting and the Independent Commission Against Corruption charged executive director David Wong Wai-kwong with fraud.

Wong, also EganaGoldpfeil's corporate secretary, resigned last month due to an unspecified 'possible conflict of interest'.

EganaGoldpfeil had earlier warned that it was unsure if it could obtain credit extensions to maintain operations, while a review by accounting firm KPMG showed that the company might not be able to retrieve HK$2.28 billion that it was owed.

EganaGoldpfeil chairman Hans-Joerg Seeberger was staying in Spain indefinitely for medical reasons and would be unable to carry out his duties, the company announced last month.

The company's bank borrowings amounted to HK$2.25 billion at the end of November, according to its interim report.

Any debt restructuring proposals would require approval of the majority of the company's creditors.

'A hair cut was unavoidable, probably about 30 to 50 per cent [of EganaGoldpfeil's debt],' said a banker involved in the deal.

EganaGoldpfeil's troubles have further made many bankers became more cautious on lendings to Hong Kong's small- and medium-sized companies.

Banks were also hit by the collapse of Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings and Ocean Grand Holdings in recent years.

'That's where you always get hit,' said one banker yesterday.

'You just don't really ever know what's really going on with these kinds of firms.'

Lifestyle International Holdings operates two Sogo stores in Hong Kong - in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui.

The retailer, which operates a Shanghai store under the Jiuguang brand, is expanding aggressively in the mainland and has secured six sites on which to open stores.

In the spotlight

EganaGoldpfeil's then executive director was charged with fraud

The decline in the share price of the Hong Kong-listed jewellery and watch maker in the past two months 87.5%

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