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AP settles $35m Access Bank debt

By Innocent Anaba & Peter Egwuatu
LAGOS — The dispute between Access Bank Plc and African Petroleum (AP) Plc, over the oil marketers’ delay in paying its outstanding $35 million (about N5.6 billion) loan facility to the bank ended amicably yesterday. AP was said to have issued an Afribank Nigeria Plc draft number 381342, dated 4/08/09 for the sum of N2, 945, 305,039.69 in favour of Access Bank Plc.

Going by the agreement mutually entered into by the parties, the $35,153,822.15 debt amounts to N4,499,689,235.20 at the rate of N128/$. The value of the draft represents net settlement after taking into consideration AP’s credit balance of N1,554,384,195.51 on its account with the bank.

The amicable settlement of this rift according to a top official of Access Bank, “is a collective achievement for corporate Nigeria and all parties end up winners.”

This media had reported yesterday that the rift between the duo was under threat as AP was not forth coming with the payment of its debt.

Last Wednesday, Access Bank”s Group Managing Director, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had met with Chairman, AP Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola, to find an amicable resolution to the face-off.

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had,  yesterday, dismissed a petition by Access Bank Plc seeking for the winding up of African Petroleum (AP) Plc on the ground of misrepresentation of the financial state of the company.

Access Bank had asked the court to grant it relief to wind up AP on the ground of insolvency following its failure to repay the $35 million loan granted to it by the bank.

Trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, in the interim order earlier granted to the petitioner, held that the petitioner deliberately concealed and misrepresented some facts to the court at the point of getting the order to advertise the petition and that the petitioner failed to comply with the provisions of the Company Winding Up Rules.

According to the court, since there was dispute as to the actual debt being owed by the defendant, only evidence adduced at the trial of the matter would resolve the dispute, directing the petitioner to approach the appropriate court.

The court said, “to wind up a company is not a simple matter and it is very technical, and that is why there are rules. The petitioner did not deem it fit to serve the respondent with the processes in the matter in accordance with section 4 of the Company Winding up Rules.

“The petitioner was not fair to the court on the ground that if the responses of the defendant to the letters demanding the said debt were attached to the petition, the order for advertising the petition would not have been made”, the court said.

The court set aside the order for the advertisement of the petition and awarded N50,000 costs against the petitioner. It also struck out the petition.

Access Bank through its lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), in reaction to the ruling argued that the defendant did not dispute the fact that it was owing the bank, but only challenged the exchange rate used in arriving at the sums demanded.

While reacting to the court ruling, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of AP Plc, Mr. Tunde Falasinnu, said the court found that AP was solvent and Access Bank concealed facts from the court by not disclosing to it that AP had N1.55 billion in its accounts with Access Bank and that the bank still owes underwriting commitment of N4.8 billion to AP in respect of its 2008 hybrid offer.


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