NOL Apologizes For Share Suspension, Price Drop

Thursday, August 16, 2001
Neptune Orient Lines Ltd (NOL), the world's sixth largest container shipping group, apologized to shareholders in a Singapore newspaper advertisement on Thursday for its recent one-day share suspension and price drop.

"It is regrettable if the suspension has caused you concern and inconvenience," Flemming Jacobs, NOL Group president and CEO, said in a Business Times announcement.

"I am sure you were as disappointed as I was at the suspension and the subsequent drop in the share price after the suspension was lifted."

The Singapore Exchange suspended NOL shares last Friday after Jacobs said in an interview carried in local newspapers that the Singapore-based company's reults would be lower this year.

"The expectations now are for much lower results than what we saw last year," he was quoted as saying.

Jacobs said in the advertisement concerns were expressed in Singapore and overseas about the suspension and that "there was uncertainty over what it meant" for the company.

NOL shares, which drifted to a 17-month low of S$1.01 on Thursday morning in active trade, have shed about 13 percent of their value from the pre-suspension price.

NOL said it had been informed by the stock exchange of concerns it gave the media information about its business outlook that was not generally available and that the firm should have issued an announcement.

"We filed a statement basically reiterating information that has been in the public domain and the suspension was lifted," the ad said.

Some institutional investors said the warning was not surprising as the group had guided down analysts' expectations as freight rates had been drifting lower since March on the back slowing global economies.

"Expectations have been tuned down for a while," said a fund manager with a European asset management group.

Separately, several brokerages - including G.K. Goh, ING Barings and Daiwa Institute of Research - have downgraded their earnings forecasts and ratings for NOL in the last two months on concerns over the sharp drop in freight rates.

NOL said the global downturn in the spring months of this year was more severe than originally anticipated and that it would not be able to meet earlier expectations.

"We have consistently, frequently and publicly highlighted this point previously," it said.

The shipping firm said it still expected a profit for the full year despite significant challenges facing its liner and logistics businesses.

"We understand that the Singapore Exchange (SGX) were genuinely concerned and we recognise that they do have a responsibility to ensure the regulations relating to public disclosure are upheld," NOL said.

"However, the suspension in the trading of our shares on Friday, 10 August was unexpected. We are working closely with SGX to avoid a similar occurrence."

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