HAGL to sell stake in agriculture subsidiary

By Thien Ngan   December 29, 2020 | 06:30 pm PT
HAGL to sell stake in agriculture subsidiary
Agrico mainly grows passion fruit, banana, chili, and dragon fruit for domestic consumption and exports. Photo by VnExpress/Phuong Dong.
The Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group will sell a 4.28 percent stake in subsidiary HAGL Agrico to restructure its debts.

It registered to sell 47.5 million shares of the subsidiary between December 31, 2020 to January 29, 2021 via the put-through option, according to a filing made Monday with the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE).

With the Agrico ticker HNG trading at VND14,200 (62 cents), the deal is expected to fetch VND675 billion ($29.29 million). It will reduce Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group’s ownership in the company from 40.83 percent to 36.55 percent.

HNG’s current price is currently 31 percent higher than its most recent nadir, which was VND10,850 on November 13.

The decision to divest comes two weeks after Agrico notified the HoSE that it planned to hold an extraordinary general meeting in January to seek shareholder approval on a private placement to swap debts and supplement capital for business activities.

According to its third quarter financial statement, 2020 has been a difficult year for the agricultural firm, posting a net loss of VND80 billion in the first 9 months, down from VND853 billion the same period last year.

Rising expenses, administrative costs, financial expenses and falling revenue from financial investments caused the loss, Agrico said. Net losses suffered in the first quarter have also caused the HoSE to restrict trading of HNG shares since April this year, only allowing transactions in the afternoon session.

As of September 20, HNG had VND12.25 trillion in short- and long-term loans, accounting for roughly 50 percent of its total assets.

While the company has been paying off debt it borrowed from banks, it has borrowed more from leading auto firm Truong Hai Auto Corporation (Thaco) and Truong Hai Agriculture Joint Stock Company (Thadi). Loans from these two companies now account for 38.12 percent of Agrico’s debts.

Thaco and related companies have been instrumental in bailing out Agrico, which has been growing mostly fruits since 2016, for several years.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai chairman Doan Nguyen Duc had revealed in early 2018 that he had pleaded with Tran Ba Duong, chairman of Truong Hai Motor (Thaco), for investment at a critical time when HAGL lacked the funds to grow fruit trees and debts had fallen due.

After trips to HAGL’s farms in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and ongoing property projects in Myanmar, Thaco decided to invest in both, and pumped a total of $1 billion into Agrico and sister companies via purchases of convertible bonds and loans that year.

It continued to gradually buy up shares in Agrico, and currently owns 26.29 percent in the agricultural firm, up from 7.86 percent in May last year.

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