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Leopard to invest in ACLEDA

Investment fund to buy 7.7 percent stake, according to preliminary agreement

ACLEDA Staff Association Plc (ASA) is set to sell a 7.7 percent stake in the major Cambodian bank to Leopard Cambodia Fund for an undisclosed sum, officials said Wednesday.

Svay Hay, chairman of ASA and vice president and head of ACLEDA’s capital markets division, said that ASA had decided to sell 7.7 percent, or 5.24 million shares, to the investment fund. ASA had owned 19 percent, or 12.9 million, of ACLEDA’s total shares and had been an investor since 2000.

“Cambodia is working towards introducing a stock exchange, so we want an experienced partner to join with us to share their experiences and help the bank progress in the future,” he said, declining to disclose the price of the purchase.

The Post has calculated, by using data from the bank’s annual financial statement, that the 7.7 percent stake has a book value of around US$8.17 million.

Svay Hay said that ASA had negotiated with Leopard for about three months and expects the deal, which is in its “final stage”, to be concluded by the end of February.

In an email Wednesday, Leopard CEO Douglas Clayton confirmed that a preliminary agreement had been signed, but said the transaction is not expected to be complete until a couple of weeks from now. He said the bank “is on its way to becoming a regional multinational”. It also has branches in Laos.

The prospective deal comes after ACLEDA’s profits for 2009 dropped 49 percent to $9.9 million from $19.4 million in 2008, according to its unaudited income statement. By the end of last year, its total assets were $922 million.

The share sale also follows business group Jardine Matheson’s announcement in December that it expects to purchase 12.25 percent of ACLEDA shares from FMO, the Dutch international development bank, by the end of the month.

According to a news release from Leopard issued Wednesday its investment committee has given conditional approval to three more proposals. The investment targets are minority stakes in a microfinance institution, a seafood-processing factory, and a WiMax Internet company.

On January 29, it added, the general partner issued a drawdown notice to limited partners for $7.9 million.

Several Internet service providers (ISPs) in Cambodia want to introduce WiMax technology to the Kingdom. However, the future of such a service is currently in doubt due to the government issuing overlapping licences to distribute the technology through the radio frequency spectrum.

Last month, it was discovered that a TV company had been given a licence already distributed to nine ISPs. Multiple companies using the same frequency, experts said, would make WiMax impossible to use. Seven of the companies affected have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen for clarification on the issue.

On Wednesday, an unnamed executive from one of the ISPs said: “The ISPs remain worried about their businesses, which are still affected on a real-time basis.

“We still have not received a viable proposal from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and have had no response from the Prime Minister.”

Their strategy, he added, was to work through the problem with the Government-Private Sector Forum.

Leopard Capital’s CEO Douglas Clayton did not disclose details of the other investments.

“We haven’t fully closed these deals, so we think it is better to delay describing them in greater detail,” he said. “There is always a chance they won’t happen.”

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