Business

Under-fire Raffles Education boss asks for more time


Raffles Education boss Chew Hua Seng urged investors yesterday to give him more time to deliver on his promises, despite the company sinking into a net loss over the last year.

Mr Chew refused to discuss matters related to local billionaire Oei Hong Leong - his long-time investor turned antagonist who served a notice to the board on Thursday calling for his removal.

When asked what he was doing to turn the business around, Mr Chew told a packed room for the firm's annual shareholder meeting at Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay: "I recognise that the profit is not showing. I just need you to give me continued support and this year I can already tell you that our numbers are positive."

Still, some shareholders were apprehensive, one referring to Mr Chew's recent decision to place out new shares at 30 cents apiece as way below the net asset value (NAV) per share. The group had a NAV per share of 54.6 cents in June.

Mr Chew said the company needed fresh cash to fund expansion. In his letter to ask for an extraordinary general meeting, Mr Oei had also asked that Raffles Education disclose the identities of the people who received stock in the placement exercise.

Mr Oei's hostility was a surprise as the market had thought he and Mr Chew were friends. Mr Oei's motives remain unclear but the placement diluted his stake in the company from 14.04 per cent to 12.88 per cent.

Mr Chew said it was not his right to make the disclosure, saying that it rested with the people who had received the stock.

The counter surged four cents or 12.5 per cent to 36 cents yesterday, on volume of 30.3 million. Raffles Education has a market cap of about $381.8 million, down from $2.6 billion in 2008.

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