Sotrapil General Assembly last non-ordinary meeting managed to be quite fiery . For its first public appearance, the new CEO Ahmed Souibgui went through a hard time. He has even toned down small shareholders’ ardour, unleashed in front of managers who were keeping silent while a part of listed shareholders who have no representatives within the board of directors were asking for explanation from the former management.
Requests for explanation, for reparation and for information.
By the end of briefing on the meeting key issue i.e. the sorting out of the company fiscal situation, the first speaker who took the floor asked why the former management had not tendered resignation as soon as Skhira-Sahel pipeline project collapsed. Another one wondered “who is responsible for this game with shareholders …” asking for explanation from those executives. A third small shareholder claimed “compensation for the false information we were given about this project, by the company former managers”. A financial broker who was attending the meeting, mentioned Article 36 of the law pertaining to CMF work regulation turning mandatory the information release as far as listed companies are concerned.
In the meantime, he wondered how we can easily move from information welter as provided by former CEO to a total lack of communication. It should be recalled in this regard, the last f June 2008 Sotrapil Extraordinary general meeting during which all shareholders were waiting for the outcome of the tender for Skhira-Sahel project. A month later, the government, which was informed but kept silent, took the decision to abandon the project, but shareholders were brought up to date only in December. This concealment led one shareholder to claim” a take over bid in order to make the stock market get rid of this company since you have something internal that we do not know”. The speaker got a roar of applause.
A firm and a public service…., and the government’s decision.
Faced with all this small investors’ fury , the CEO Ahmed Souibgui unwittingly gave the impression of wanting to end soon, even if he took time to argue with almost each shareholder taking the floor. Shareholders fully inflated were upset of being treated as second-class investors, not informed of decisions made and promptly cancelled by the managing staff,cried out their anger. Souibgui said nevertheless that” he understands the shareholders’ disappointment and bitterness “.
He went on however repeating that het can provide no information about the new Sotrapil project. After lengthy holding forth on the public nature of the business and public service it provides, he suggested that the decision to stop the Skhira project is the responsibility of the government, and tried to convince shareholders that the government decision is sound.
“No information can be provided.”
For the record, the Tunisian government has decided to abandon the project to build the Skhira-Sahel pipeline, replacing it by the repurchase of a Chines-Tunisian-Kuwaiti old pipe. It was up to listed shareholders and the General meeting to endorse this decision by means of cancelling those which were aiming to finance the project. That was the purpose of the meeting.
The new management refuses, however, throughout the meeting and even behind the scenes, to say anything about the cost of the new project. “I can tell you nothing about the profitability” of the new project. “I can not tell you the amount of investment needed for this new project,” repeated the CEO who cut short the shareholders’ questions on the amount and the profitability of the new project, saying: “I am not ready to give information which I’m not sure of yet.” These are facts.
The management had long fooled the shareholders for a project that finally has not been implemented. For more than five years, small shareholders have never seen dividends coming from this project, nor those of the normal business of Sotrapil. Shareholders helped increase the capital for a project that has remained a dead letter.
A new management is now leading shareholders towards a new project it is keeping silent about. It is interesting to note that only listed small shareholders ignore all about it. The remaining shareholders including board members know all, and more than the listed shareholders.