The management of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCOL) has proposed 80:20 per cent equity share holding as the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) pressurises it to go to the stock exchange.
It was gathered that the company’s chairman, Mr. Taiwo Afolabi made the “unusual” offer to sell 20 per cent of the shares to the public and the staff while he and the current management retain the remaining 80 per cent.
NewsGazette gathered that officials of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) led by its director of post privatisation, Mr. Ibrahim Chiroma Baba visited the company last Friday to enquire why the ground handling firm was yet to be enlisted on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) contrary to BPE Act which stipulates a five-year post-privatisation listing for every government privatised company.
SAHCOL, which was a department in the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways was privatised in 2009 and was supposed to have been offered to the public since 2014.
It was further learnt that the acting managing director of the company Mr. Basil Agboarumi led the management team and both parties went for a closed door meeting after the officials of BPE had toured the facilities of the ground handling company taking pictures.
A source at the meeting who preferred anonymity said instead of 41 per cent expected to be held by Afolabi while 51 per cent goes to the public, the chairman settled for what the source described as the “unusual offer.”
The source said the composition of the 20 per cent shares as proposed by the management indicates that 10 per cent would go to the company’s workers while the remaining 10 per cent would be sold to the public.
“We already suspect shady deals in whatever the BPE is having with the current management of SAHCOL. First, the unions who were part of the privatisation process of the company were not informed of the coming of the BPE officials even when they have always been a part of their meeting in the past.
“The chairman has been going to BPE in Abuja for months now, trying to tell them while the company could not be enlisted on the stock exchange, nine years later. The Act of BPE stipulates that any government company that is privatised must be enlisted on the stock exchange five years later. That was what happened in the case of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, which went to the stock within five years of privatisation. I don’t know why ours is different.
“The selling of just 20 per cent to the public doesn’t change anything. It’s a continuation of the old order. Mind you, there is even a way that they can manipulate the 20 per cent, which goes to the public and ensure that their cronies still get a large share from it,” said the source.
He said the offer “is already causing ripples in the company as some of the management staff feel that the mere 20 per cent proposed to be sold to the public if accented to by BPE would set a bad precedent not just in the industry, but in the country.”
Agboarumi who confirmed the visit of the BPE said the management was waiting for BPE to come up with modalities for the company to be listed on the NSE.
“The BPE came in to see if the time has come for them to sign up and in signing up means we have to shed a percentage of the share to the public. The ball is now in their court,” he said.
On the 80:20 per cent equity, he declared: “All I know is that certain percentage would be made to the market. It has to do with the final thoughts between BPE and the investors that would finally tell the direction that we are going but I know that at the end of the day, it will continue to be better. You will agree with me that there is already a success on our part and we are working seriously to do more to make the place even much better and than what we are doing.
“It now depends on what is on the book. Whatever the book says, I still believe that for now we have it 100 percent which was part of the agreement.”
It would be recalled that the director-general of BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh visited SAHCOL last December on the same issue.
At the meeting, Okoh, explained that he visited the ground handling firm to have a firsthand account of the processes of enlisting the company on the NSE.