Business

Ezra shares plummet over liquidation fears


Ezra shares plunged to an all-time low yesterday as investors bailed out of the embattled oil services firm over fears its huge debts may send it into liquidation.

The stock, which had been suspended since last Wednesday, dived 37.5 per cent to three cents once trading resumed.

A striking 267.6 million shares changed hands in the selling frenzy, making it the day's top active counter.

The firm faces what is called a "going concern" issue given it may not be able to restructure its businesses and balance sheet in time.

Ezra has said it may have to take a US$170 million (S$240 million) write-down from its investments and loans to the troubled joint venture Emas Chiyoda Subsea.

Emas Chiyoda also has unsettled charter defaults with trade creditors for which Ezra is a guarantor.

Last month, Strategic Offshore Research said in a newsletter that there was a chance that Emas Chiyoda might get a cash injection from a shareholders' deal as joint-venture partners Chiyoda Corp and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha had only bought in months ago.

But many are now sceptical that a white knight will step in, especially after the two Japanese partners revealed last Tuesday that they would take combined write-downs of $637 million relating to Emas Chiyoda.

The same newsletter said: "The Lee family that started Ezra went for the top-end of the subsea market. That's a high-stakes game.

"When demand disappears, the most expensive projects can for years go into hiding... No one would blame them if they didn't have the stomach, or had other priorities, to indefinitely stick things out on the subsea side."


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