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Titan fights liquidation as it seeks return to market

Oil and logistics operator looks to raise fresh capital despite court action by major investor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 3:43am

Titan Petrochemicals says it hopes to have creditors' demands for its liquidation set aside and its shares trading again by the end of the year after it releases its financial results for last year.

Trading in Titan shares has been suspended since June last year, pending a court decision on demands for its liquidation by creditors and until the publication of its interim and final results for the year.

The debt-ridden oil trading and logistics firm will also consider adding more strategic investors, now that it has secured HK$130 million of new investment from Singapore-listed offshore oilfield services provider Falcon Energy Group, said its executive director, Patrick Wong Siu-hung.

"We do not rule out any possibility," Wong said, when asked if Titan would consider international private equity firms of similar stature to United States-based Warburg Pincus, which became a substantial shareholder in Titan in 2007.

Titan's board also plans to propose raising up to HK$396 million by issuing a five-year, zero-coupon, unlisted bond that will be convertible to shares. The bonds will be offered to all existing shareholders.

A previous agreement to sell preference shares to Titan's largest stakeholder, Guangdong Zhenrong Energy, so that it will own 75 per cent of Titan, was rejected by independent Titan shareholders.

Titan management's relationship with Warburg soured last year, as the US firm pursued court action to wind up the oil trader and recover debt, before coming up with a takeover and debt restructuring proposal to rival Titan's white knight, energy and metals trader Guangdong Zhenrong Energy - 44.3 per cent owned by state-owned oil and commodities trader Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Titan, which expanded its business aggressively into oil transportation, storage and ship-building and repair, borrowed US$400 million in 2005 by selling bonds convertible to shares. It also formed an oil storage joint venture with Warburg, which issued a large amount of bonds.

As the global financial crisis took a toll on its business, Titan was forced to restructure US$315 million of the bonds it issued in 2005. It also struck a deal to sell its shipyard for HK$1.8 billion. But the buyer, Grand China Logistics, part of state-owned aviation firm HNA Group, did not complete the deal after making a HK$913 million deposit.

Titan is now trying to get a mainland court to force Grand China to complete the deal, but Wong said a ruling might take three to four years, given his understanding of mainland legal procedures.

A Bermuda court hearing of a petition by Warburg to wind up Titan will be held on May 1, with the court also hearing Titan's request to strike the petition out.

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