Trailing to an end?
Former director wants his assets back
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.