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Danish investors mull class action over bankruptcy of shipping firm

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A group of Danish institutional investors including seven pension funds has launched an investigation into the collapse of shipping fuel company OW Bunker – which is set to cost them hundreds of millions of kroner in investment losses.

Statutory pension fund ATP and labour-market funds PFA, AP Pension, DIP, Industriens Pension, JØP and PensionDanmark, as well as companies SEB and Maj Invest, said in a joint statement they had initiated an investigation into the company, which filed for bankruptcy in early November.

The statement said: “The purpose of the investigation is to understand the events leading up to the bankruptcy and to obtain information that can be used to determine whether there are grounds for asserting legal liability.”

The investors described the demise of OW Bunker as “a significant, extraordinary and highly negative event” in the Danish stock market.

ATP has said it invested around DKK150m (€20.1m) in OW Bunker. 

Engineers’ pension fund DIP said it stood to lose DKK16m because of the collapse, and lawyers and economists’ pension fund JØP put its exposure to the failed company at DKK9m.

Meanwhile, Industriens Pension said it had lost DKK15m from the collapse – equivalent to an average of DKK35 per scheme member.

The group of investors said there was an strong need to understand events leading up to the collapse, as well as to determine who was responsible.

They had a duty to members and clients to find out whether they could recover some of the losses, they said.

The investigation will be carried out by law firms Accura and Bruun & Hjejle, and assisted by audit firm EY, the investors said.

It will cover not only the events leading up to the bankruptcy but also those surrounding the IPO in March this year.

“The investigation will especially focus on errors and flaws in the prospectus prepared in connection with OW Bunker’s IPO, liability in connection with the offering and sale of shares in OW Bunker, as well as the management’s liability for OW Bunker’s operations in the period from the IPO until the bankruptcy,” the investors said.

They said each participating investor would decide what course of action to take, based on the findings of the investigation.

OW Bunker, whose main business was to supply fuel to ships, was the second largest Danish company in terms of turnover in 2013.

Its shares were listed on the Copenhagen stock exchange on 28 March this year, with new shares being issued and those of its main shareholder, Swedish investment fund Altor, being sold.

In early November, OW Bunker said it discovered a fraud in its Singapore subsidiary and that preliminary findings suggested it could lose around $125m (€100m) from the crime.

However, it also said that, separately, it had discovered a “significant risk-management loss” of around $150m.

It said it was forced to file for bankruptcy after banks failed to provide financing for a restructuring.

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