Shares of DVN Holdings, controlled by Hong Kong businessman Johnson Ko Chun-shun and state-owned Citic Group, surged 7.3 per cent after it appointed Erik Prince - former owner of controversial US security firm Blackwater - as chairman, and granted him more share options.
DVN, an online financial markets information provider, said in an announcement to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing that its board decided to grant Prince three-year options for the right to buy 102.56 million new DVN shares - or 9 per cent of its issued shares - at HK$1.50 each.
This is in addition to five-year options granted to him that allowed him to buy 205.1 million shares at 73 HK cents each in late November, as part-payment for a start-up East African aviation and logistics firm injected by Prince into DVN. The two options mean he could own about 23 per cent of DVN.
"The board invited [Prince] to be an executive director and chairman in view of his extensive business and commercial knowledge and network in the aviation and secured logistics industry," DVN said.
Prince last November sold to DVN a company that plans to build a pan-Africa provider of aviation, logistics, risk management, security services and exploration support services, needed by many Chinese businesses active in Africa. He received US$3 million plus the first batch of options.
DVN shares yesterday closed at HK$1.61, up 115 per cent from November when DVN first announced Prince's business injection, giving Prince a potential profit of HK$180.5 million on his first batch of options.
Prince has logistics, aviation, manufacturing, resources and energy business interests in Africa, the Middle East and North America, and is the founder of Frontier Resource Group, a private equity firm active in African aviation, exploration, mining and logistics, DVN said.
He was also the founder of Blackwater, which he sold in 2010 and was renamed Xe Services and then Academi, after four years of federal investigation into allegations of sanctions violations, illegal exports and bribery against the firm and its staff. Blackwater was a security services firm that protected US officials in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The firm subsequently paid US$42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of US export rules, to avoid criminal charges, The New York Times reported.
Five Blackwater guards were accused of killing 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007 at a crowded Baghdad intersection, but a US federal judge dismissed the prosecutors' case in early 2010, saying it was based on sworn statements given under a promise of immunity.
DVN's board has proposed that the firm be renamed Frontier Services Group.