Source: “Outlook - A Privatisation Unit Publication of June 1998
Westmont Owns 49% shares in UCBL
Hon. Matthew Rukikaire, then Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development (Privatisation), reiterated that 49% shares in Uganda Commercial Bank Limited (UCBL) were bought by, and are in full possession of, Westmont Land Asia Berhad and not any other entity.
Hon. Rukikaire was responding to a recent New Vision story that Greenland had taken over full control of UCBL and that Westmont had 51% shares in UCBL which it had assigned to Greenland Investments.
Hon. Rukikaire also observed that no Divestuture Account funds were used by Westmont when buying UCB as has been suggested in some quarters. He said such a scenario would not occur as the rules on the utilization of divestiture funds clearly do not allow it. He explained that by the evidence sought, and in possession of Government, Westmont remitted the funds used in the transaction to Citibank of Newyork through American Express, Bankers’ Trust and Unibank of Copenhagen. Citibank then transferred the funds to the Divestiture account.
“it is not true that Greenland Investments has taken control of Uganda Commercial Bank,” said Hon. Rukikaire. Government executed agreements of the sale of 49% shares in UCBL to Westmont on 27th October 1997.”
Hon. Rukikaire noted that Westmont completed compliance with the conditions of payment in March 1998 after which they were allowed to assume management of the bank. He further explained that the sale agreements provide, among other things, that Westmont shall not transfer any of its shares without the consent of Government, which consent can only be given by the Minister of Finance with the approval of the Divestiture and Reform Implementation Committee (DRIC). Hon. Rukikaire pointed out that the management contract appoints Westmont for a period of three years and this appointment cannot be varied without Governments’ consent.
“It is clear that Westmont is not in a position to sell or assign any of the shares they presently hold nor cede control of the bank to Greenland Investments or any other interested party,” emphasized Hon. Rukikaire. “Any contract by which Westmont assigns shares to Greenland Investments would be unenforceable and inconsistent with the terms of UCBL sale agreements.”
Hon. Rukikaire revealed that Westmonts’s nominees to the Board of UCBL are Mr. Joseph Chong Chek Ah, Dr. Muhammad Ghazali Bin Shafie and Hung Beng Guan (all Malaysian nationals) and Mr. P. Sebalu of Sebalu and Lule Advocates.
The management staff nominated by Westmont, pursuant to the management contract, and approved by Bank of Uganda are Vijay Anandan (Chief Executive), Chris Chan Kwai Weng (General Manager, Financial Services), Yuen Siew Kien and Cheng Liang Haw (responsible for management information systems) and two Nigerian nationals responsible for credit and branch banking.
This arrangement is contrary to allegations that Westmont has assigned its shares to Greenland Investments, said Hon. Rukikaire. Westmont has acquired only 49% shares in UCBL, with Government retaining a majority shareholding of 51%.
“Although Westmont has the option acquiring a further 2% shares, this option can only be exercised with the consent of government but more specifically after Government has put out more than 25% of the shares for sale to the public,” explained Hon. Rukikaire.