Trail­ing to an end?

For­mer di­rec­tor wants his as­sets back

Finweek English Edition - - COMPANIES&MARKETS - MARC HASENFUSS marc.hasenfuss@finweek.co.za

IT’S BEEN a tor­tu­ous road for share­hold­ers in un­listed ven­ture cap­i­tal pro­ject Su­per­tow In­ter­na­tional. As far back as the late Nineties wide-eyed in­vestors had hitched their “get rich” dreams to this “maker” of spe­cialised com­mer­cial trail­ers that had as a sell­ing point the abil­ity not to jack-knife when re­versed. Finweek uses the term “maker” guard­edly, be­cause it’s patently clear that Su­per­tow’s trail­ers have never got any­where near a level any­one could term mass pro­duc­tion.

In­deed, the progress of this drawn out pro­ject can’t be quan­ti­fied – least of all by share­hold­ers, who ap­pear to have not been given the priv­i­lege of scan­ning au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments for a good num­ber of years. A prospec­tus is­sued in 2007 – in an ef­fort to raise around R35m – pen­cilled in turnover of R109m and net in­come of R17,5m for its 2009 fi­nan­cial year. We doubt Su­per­tow pro­duced even a smidgen of those en­vis­aged prof­its – which might ex­plain its ret­i­cence in pub­lish­ing au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments.

In fact, there’s not much of an “in” at Su­per­tow. Its web­site has been un­der con­struc­tion for years and CEO Jo­hann Fourie seems dis­in­clined to chat to us.

The only of­fi­cial gauge we could use to de­ter­mine whether Su­per­tow still has its wheels on is its last set of au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments from AltX-listed fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany Strat­Corp. Strat­Corp – which helped Su­per­tow raise cap­i­tal by util­is­ing funds ob­tained from clients in its StratEquity sub­sidiary – holds a 13% stake in Su­per­tow. It would ap­pear that be­tween 2008 and 2009 Strat­Corp ad­vanced fur­ther funds to Su­per­tow as its share­hold­ing in­creased from 11% to the cur­rent level.

Strat­Corp’s 13% stake was ac­corded a value of around R3m, which in­fers a value of around R23m for Su­per­tow. That’s not much of a value for a busi­ness that’s been in ex­is­tence for more than a decade (es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing it’s ru­moured that around R40m has been raised for Su­per­tow since in­cep­tion), but at least it sug­gests the en­ter­prise is still a go­ing concern.

How­ever, that “go­ing concern” sta­tus may be un­der ques­tion. Finweek has learnt a for­mer tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Su­per­tow – Eric Al­bers – has launched legal pro­ceed­ings against Su­per­tow in or­der to re­claim as­sets al­legedly ven­dored into the com­pany. Ap­par­ently Al­bers sold his Press Com­po­nents Tech­nol­ogy (PCT) into Su­per­tow, but a fi­nal pay­ment tranche (pur­port­edly R1,3m) hasn’t been set­tled.

Al­bers, who didn’t want to dis­cuss the in­tri­ca­cies of his case at this point, con­firmed he’d ap­ply for the liq­ui­da­tion of that Su­per­tow in April un­less the out­stand­ing monies re­lat­ing to the PCT trans­ac­tion were paid over.

Al­bers says ef­forts to se­cure pay­ment had been met with claims Su­per­tow no longer had the funds to set­tle the trans­ac­tion. That’s wor­ry­ing for share­hold­ers. With trail­ers not yet in com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, a claim – even if it’s spu­ri­ous, that Su­per­tow is short of funds – can’t eas­ily be dis­missed, as there’s no way share­hold­ers can delve into au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments to pla­cate sol­vency con­cerns. How Strat­Corp – a listed com­pany – man­aged to pro­duce a val­u­a­tion for Su­per­tow with­out ac­cess to au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments is any­one’s guess.

If op­er­a­tions at Su­per­tow are in­deed stalled, then share­hold­ers would prob­a­bly be very keen to un­der­stand why their funds have been so im­pru­dently mo­bilised over the years. It’s cold com­fort, but share­hold­ers may get some inkling into Su­per­tow’s fis­cal sta­tus if Al­bers does haul the com­pany to court later this month. If things are qui­etly set­tled be­fore­hand then its year to end-Fe­bru­ary re­sults from Strat­Corp – due at end-May – will be the sole clue.

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