Judge: Sale of shares ‘vastly under-valued’

A High Court judge yesterday expressed concern over the apparent “vast” undervalue of the sale of shares in two companies linked to insolvent developer Treasury Holdings just as it was about to be wound up.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern said there now appears to be “a significant issue” that the sale of shares in two Treasury-linked Chinese companies to a Jersey-registered company controlled by Treasury co-founder Richard Barrett was “at a significant under-value”.

The shares in those companies were bought at around €2.21m, payable between August 2012 and August 2014, while there was a suggestion from investment experts Goldman Sachs that they were worth around €31m, the judge said.

These issues were canvassed on affidavit supplied by Treasury and it seemed to him they were matters for the joint liquidators which he appointed to wind up the company as well as for the Director of Corporate Enforcement. He was speaking as he made formal orders winding up Treasury after it said last week it was no longer resisting KBC Bank’s application to have it and related companies wound up over a debt of €55m to it. Treasury has debts of about €2.7bn.

He appointed Paul McCann and Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton as joint liquidators, ordered the company directors to file a statement of affairs within 21 days and made the matter returnable to the High Court examiner’s list.

KBC initiated the winding-up proceedings earlier this year and while NAMA, which is owed more than €1 billion, initially adopted a neutral position on KBC’s application, it later supported the application due to its “serious concerns” following the announcement of the transfer of Chinese assets on the Singapore stock exchange.

Lyndon MacCann SC, for KBC, agreed with the judge it was something the liquidators could look at and that they were in fact mandated to look at any criminal or civil issues which may arise. The bank had “very serious suspicions” about the transfer of the shareholding but it had confidence in the ability of the liquidators to investigate the matter, he said.

A solicitor for Nama said he echoed Mr MacCann’s concerns and regarded Treasury’s explanation as unsatisfactory and incomplete.

Michael Collins SC, for Treasury, said he was a little taken aback at the way the bank’s position was being presented now.

Had there been a wish to do anything contrived, there were weeks and months in which this could have been done, he said. There is a dispute about the reasoning for doing so but it was done in a very public way through an announcement on the Singapore stock exchange.

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