Astro Over­seas Ltd’s fate up in the air

> Ralph Mar­shall no more a di­rec­tor of Ananda Krishnan’s Usaha Te­gas, its par­ent com­pany

The Sun (Malaysia) - - MEDIA & MARKETING - BY LEE WENG KHUEN

PETAL­ING JAYA: Ananda Krishnan’s pri­vate ve­hi­cle Usaha Te­gas Sdn Bhd is be­lieved to be mulling over the fate of its re­gional in­vest­ment arm, Astro Over­seas Ltd (AOL), fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Au­gus­tus Ralph Mar­shall, the Malaysian ty­coon’s long-time lieu­tenant.

Checks with the Com­pa­nies Com­mis­sion Malaysia show that Mar­shall is no longer listed as a di­rec­tor of Usaha Te­gas, which has as­sets worth RM25 bil­lion, where he was once ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. He is, how­ever, still listed as a di­rec­tor of AOL, of which he has been deputy chair­man since April 2011. Another of AOL’s key ex­ec­u­tives CFO Sean Dent, left the com­pany in June 2016.

It is un­der­stood that Usaha Te­gas, which has pumped bil­lions into AOL to date, is even con­sid­er­ing liq­ui­dat­ing the com­pany which has con­tin­ued to make in­vest­ments de­spite years of losses.

Ef­forts to get Usaha Te­gas’ com­ments were not en­ter­tained.

AOL reg­is­tered a net loss of RM100.55 mil­lion for the fi­nan­cial year ended Jan 1, 2015, com­pared with a net loss of RM494.18 mil­lion for the fi­nan­cial year ended Jan 1, 2014. Its re­serves stand at zero, with non-cur­rent and cur­rent as­sets standing at RM809.6 mil­lion and RM328.9 mil­lion, re­spec­tively.

It is un­der­stood that AOL’s ac­counts for the fi­nan­cial year ended Jan 1, 2016 have not been signed off pend­ing a de­ci­sion by the board of Usaha Te­gas on the fate of the com­pany.

AOL was in­cor­po­rated on Aug 18, 2000. Its pres­ence in the me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment scene spreads across five seg­ments – plat­form and dis­tri­bu­tion, con­tent, IP & pro­duc­tion, e-com­merce and dig­i­tal me­dia. Its in­vest­ments are spread across Asia, the Mid­dle East, the UK and the US.

Its woes, how­ever, are cen­tred on its more than US$360 mil­lion in­vest­ments in In­dia. AOL owns a 98.5% stake in GETIT In­fos­er­vices Pte Ltd, which in turn owns now-de­funct, on­line clas­si­fieds plat­form Ask-Me and ecom­merce store AskMe­bazaar, through sub­sidiary Astro En­ter­tain­ment Net­work Ltd, Mau­ri­tius (AENL).

AENL re­port­edly has pumped in some US$300 mil­lion over six years, with no re­turns, into GETIT. Its main­stay AskMe halted op­er­a­tions in Au­gust 2016 from lack of fund­ing.

AOL also has to ac­count for about US$60 mil­lion in To The New Me­dia com­pa­nies TTN Ven­tures and TTN Dig­i­tal, a provider of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, tech­nol­ogy and con­tent so­lu­tions.

AOL told an In­dian pub­li­ca­tion that it did not owe an “un­lim­ited obli­ga­tion” to fund any com­pany in­def­i­nitely.

AOL’s other di­rec­tors in­clude Datuk Badri Masri, Chin Kwai Yoong, Bernard An­thony Cragg and Datuk Mo­hamed Khadar Mer­i­can. The com­pany did not list its share­hold­ers.

Mar­shall re­mains a di­rec­tor in another Ananda-re­lated listed en­tity, Astro Malaysia Hold­ings Bhd. In July 2015, Maxis Bhd an­nounced that Mar­shall had re­signed as di­rec­tor in the group.

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