Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Portsmouth FC Owner suspected to be 'Wanted' after collapse of second bank with further assets missing

Last week saw the collapse of Snoras Bank in Latvia – the majority shareholder; one Mr Vladimir Antonov, 75% majority shareholder as we know in Portsmouth FC. The bank was seized by the Lithuanian Government on November 16th discovering 300 million Euros ($406 million) of assets may be missing which raised the risk of insolvency.

Snoras Bank is the major shareholder of Latvia’s Krajbanka; a Latvian Bank where operations were suspended today citing a “deficiency of funds.” New management has been appointed and the General Prosecutor has been informed of the findings.

“At the moment, we can talk about 100 million lati ($191 million)” that’s missing from the lender, Ints Kuzis, the chief of Latvian police, said at a press conference today.

“These resources are collateralized for the good of a third party,” said Irena Krumane, the country’s bank regulator, referring to the 100 million lati. The collateral agreements can’t be found, she said, and involve three countries, which she declined to name.

Kuzis has said that Latvia may decide to list Vladimir Antonov, the majority shareholder of Snoras Bank as wanted.

The board of the lender has been detained, with the lender’s President Ivars Prieditis remanded to custody, the newswire Leta reported, citing Prieditis’s lawyer. Saulvedis Varpins, Prieditis’ lawyer, said his client had turned to the police and offered to work with investigators and that the detention has been a shock to his client.

In December of last year the following was reported; Latvijas Krajbanka AS announced that its Board has resolved to increase the stock capital of its subsidiary company SIA Krajinvesticijas by capitalizing the loan obligations and investing funds in total amount of LVL 5,931,000.00. Upon completion of increase, the stock capital of SIA Krajinvesticijas shall comprise LVL 8,063,000 (EUR 11,472,615). The decision has been adopted in order to facilitate the activities of the subsidiary with regard to long-term investment management.

Mr Antonov see’s this groups business interests follow a pyramid scheme with Snoras Bank sat at the head of operations and now facing insolvency along with Antonov facing possible criminal charges. Alongside Latvia’s Krajbanka which also controls Krajinvesticijas; a Real Estate Developer in Latvia, it also includes; Finasta Holding, VKVP a real estate developer in Lithuania and SNORO turto valdymas again a Real Estate Developer in both Lithuania and Russia.

So where could the missing assets have possibly gone?

Last August after Antonov’s move for Saab was blocked by the European Investment Bank, plans were alleged to spend $400 million on gold mining in the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Africa over the next five years.

Finasta, his investment company, was set to bid for the Dzheruy gold deposit in Kyrgyzstan with reserves of 2.4 million ounces, the Vilnius, Lithuania-based business reported. Gold has risen 14 percent in London trading this year to $1,619 an ounce. Finasta will set up a joint venture by end-2011 to hold the assets, including some in Russia, taking at least a 50 percent stake.

We await the announcement to hear whether Mr Antonov is to officially face charges relating to the missing assets of both banks.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

CSI Move to re-assure fans after Snoras Bank placed into administration Part I

Today CSI released a statement to the media in a bid to re-assure Pompey fans that the problems in relation to the Snoras Bank had no bearing on the businesses operations of CSI and that the purchase of the club had been solely financed through the private wealth of its owners and that the football club is operationally unaffected by the bank entering into what they call temporary administration. Well that’s OK then we can all go bury our heads into the sand and not panic at all.

Sadly though the statement seems to have missed a couple of area’s that might be cause for concern to the long term safety of the club. Being placed into administration as fans will well remember isn’t like forgetting your pin number at the cash point and having your card swallowed up by a machine. It means your business is in financial meltdown. Its one step away from liquidation, a last throw of the dice as you will to find someone to step in and save your ailing business. If Snoras Bank is part of what supposedly makes up the wealth of owner Vladamir Antonov’s so called personal fortune, then it’s safe to assume and to allegedly suggest that a huge chunk of that wealth is in serious danger of no longer existing. Just how bad is the situation with the bank? Well the government has taken it over citing concerns that they believe it to be insolvent. The synonym of being insolvent; That the company is bankrupt. And we all know that when you go bankrupt it means you have no money and are unable to pay the bills anymore.

So in short the government believes the bank to be insolvent which should set some alarm bells ringing as the aforementioned Mr Antonov is the largest shareholder in the Bank with 68.10% of the shares issued.

The problems don’t stop there; Lithuania’s banking regulator also believes that more than one billion litai (which is the equivalent to $392 million) worth of assets may be missing. The regulators have halted the banks operations until Novemeber 21st and have appointed a state administrator after the Bank ignored recommendations to reduce its credit risk. So in other words the warning signs have been there for quite a while but were ignored by the bank and those who run the business or in other words they knew they were sailing close to the wind and in trouble but carried on regardless. This isn’t putting much faith in me that they have the business acumen to run businesses in any way shape or form. I don’t know about anyone else but things like that tend to make me slightly nervous especially giving the past few seasons at Pompey under previous owners.

A statement was released from the Central Bank which read; “The decision was taken to effectively protect the interests of the bank’s clients and the public interest to ensure confidence in the domestic banking system and its stability,” or in other words in had no confidence in the ability of its current shareholders to responsibly continue to run a business which it already suspects is insolvent.

In a further statement issued about the situation, accusations are levelled that the lender  “avoided providing information needed for the supervisory purposes,” and that “there are indications that information submitted to the supervisory institution was false.” So in other words a direct contradiction to the words in the CSI statement which point towards a temporary administration. The banks is now in the hands of the government who have suspended its operations and will now take over as guarantors of anyone who has money with the bank in the same way that the UK government did when it bailed out Northern Rock, Lloyds and Barclays.

Its worth noting at this juncture that this isn’t the first time the business activities of Mr Antonov have been called into question. Remember this is the man that now owns a 75% controlling stake in Pompey. In July Antonov was barred from investing in Saab by the European Investment Bank which didn’t provide a reason for its decision. In February 2009 the UKs Financial Services Authority denied Snoras permission to operate in Britain because the bank’s executives withheld information. They described the tactic as “an ongoing pattern of behaviour by institutions controlled by Mr. Antonov.”

So how big is Snoras Bank in relative terms? Well its Lithuania’s third biggest bank by way of assets, yet its net income for the first nine months of the year only totalled 5.6 million litai which is $2.23 million dollars. Compare that to a British banking operation like Barclays Wealth for example and that sort of income would be achieved in about an hour on an average day and not nine months. The news of the administration saw the shares in the bank fall 4.1% to 0.234 Euros or $0.31.

For those of you reading this and are thinking can we do this in pounds and pence instead let’s break it down for you. The current exchange rate between the dollar and the pound is 0.6346 or in simple terms for every dollar you have per se, you would get 63 pence in exchange based on rounding down. This places the values of shares in the company in Sterling terms at £0.196726 per share. On paper the bank based on share price is worth 93,290,813 million pounds and 54 pence. This means on paper that Mr Antonov’s share of the bank would be worth 63,531,044 pounds and two pennies. That’s a figure not to be sneezed at and this figure as the CSI statement suggests would make up part of the owners personal wealth which is funding the club. Only the government thinks the business is insolvent and has no money, hence why it has been placed into administration. So in reality if the bank has no money then 68.1% of nothing is still nothing. Also remember the assets that are said to be missing; which in Sterling equates to £248,763,200. That’s not like misplacing your car keys down the back of the sofa let’s be honest. A lot of questions are going to be asked about where those assets have gone let’s be fair. You can forgive the odd fiver or even tenner going missing but that’s a serious amount of lose change to have gone missing right there!

Now if Mr Antonov was a footballer and the business he worked for went bust then like Sol Campbell and others owed money by Pompey I’m sure he would be walking around not sweating over anything right now. The fact that his 68.1% controlling stake in a bank that is argued to be insolvent by the Lithuanian government is now allegedly largely worthless it seems would to me suggest that he might be panicking somewhat especially as the government are preparing to do a full investigation into the bank and its missing assets. Remember though according to the CSI statement the club is being funded by the personal wealth of its owners so there's no need to panic. Of course unless the pockets of someone on paper allegedly just got a whole lot lighter.

To be continued…

Saturday, 5 November 2011

We should have won - Would you have expected anything else from Mr Cotterill post match?

“We were the better side and the score masks this, to play really well and end up losing by three goals,” a post match quote from ex-Pompey boss Steve Cotterill after this afternoon’s 3-0 home win to the boys in Blue. The team he manages might have changed but the same old excuses come trotting out at the final whistle when he’s watched his side. I must have missed the comments about how great it was to see a side he fundamentally created starting to gel and get the results that he failed to bring as Manager in the first eleven games in all competitions this season.

In those first eleven games in charge under Steve Cotterill Pompey won only twice, drew three, lost six scoring ten in the process and conceding fourteen. In total they collected just nine points from ten games and got knocked out of the Carling Cup to lower league opposition in the form of Barnet FC. Pompey recorded only three clean sheets and there wasn’t a single game where at least one Pompey player didn’t get booked in each game. Whilst you can point to the quality of some of the opposition during those eleven matches; Middleborough, Cardiff, West Ham and Leeds United being the stand out sides let’s not forget the words of Dave Jones on the first weekend when he pointed to the fact that Pompey on paper can still put out one of the best sides in the league on their day. Whilst our squad may be small we should still have enough to compete with most teams in the league come kick off.

Under the tenure of Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray who’ve taken charge in the last six games, Pompey have won three times, drawn once, lost twice, scored nine and conceded only five times picking up ten points so far, one more point than Cotterill managed in four games less and with only one extra face added to the squad; that of Razak currently on a month’s loan from Manchester City. They’ve had to cope with the loss of Greg Halford for the Crystal Palace game and of club captain Liam Lawrence today against Forest. In those six games Pompey have recorded a clean sheet three times and more importantly on the discipline front managed to end three of those games having seen no players booked at all. The only down side is that Pompey still await their first away record of the season, though the mid week draw against Crystal Palace will bring hope that this statistic will soon be rectified very soon.

Whilst the first half at Derby County last week was a completely one sided affair, the team did rally around to win the second half 1-0 although in all honesty this was scant consolation as Derby cruised to a 3-0 lead by half time. The second half was testimony to a shift in attitude from the players who seem to want to play for the temporary managers way more than they did under Cotts earlier on in the season. Ricardo Rocha’s return to the side has helped provide more stability in the back four, although we know it’s still not a 100% cohesive unit just yet but things are improving in the right direction and the last two games have brought with them two clean sheets so it’s definitely a massive improvement. The quality of the wins we have managed has also improved as the scorelines would suggest. Yes Forest are only one place above us in the league but they have a great squad and shouldn’t on paper really be where they are now. The 3-1 win against Doncaster Rovers shouldn’t be underrated either after they went to Ipswich Town away who are just outside of the play offs and comfortably strolled to a 3-1 away win. It’s also worth pointing out that in the 1-0 loss to Town, Pompey were the better side and should have in retrospect have recorded their first away win of the season.

Offensively the last six games have seen a total of thirty shots on target; thirty five off target and there have been thirty nine corners in total In terms of discipline Pompey have conceded sixty one fouls, received five yellow cards and seen none of their players sent off.

Averages under Cotterill per game in all competitions, Whittingham and Gray averages in brackets

Shots on target – 4.55 (5)

Shots off target – 6.36 (5.83)

Corners – 5.55 (6.5)

Fouls – 14 (10.17)

Yellow Cards - 2.73 (0.83)

Clean Sheets – 1 in every 3.67 matches (1 in 2)

OK so this isn’t conclusive proof by any means and there will be those who will point to the opposition we’ve played in the last six but football is a results business and in the last six games, we certainly have done way better than the first eleven of the season under Cotterill. The average number of shorts on target has gone up, whilst the figure for shots off target has come down. We’re now on average getting one more corner every game which alludes to the more freedom the players are giving under a 4-4-2 formation which the current managers are employing to great effect. The biggest change is the player’s discipline which has resulted in a huge total of less fouls conceded on average each game and the tally of yellow cards which was in danger of surpassing all league records at one point has now improved beyond all recognition.

Credit should be given to not only the players who’ve responded so well to the new management in recent weeks but also to the temporary two for holding the ship so well until a new manager is finally found.
Typically being Pompey things are dragging on a bit in that respect but hopefully the club will make the right choice eventually and see the continued renewal of results on the pitch. If we can shake the voodoo of the away win of our backs, then we should start to see the side climb up the league into a position of mid table security and stop having to look over our shoulders just yet. I can’t see us as candidates for promotion just yet but it’s nice to see the fortunes on the field slowly starting to turn around. With a 66.67% undefeated record so far it’s a shame that the pair don’t want the jobs fall time. But compared to Cotterill’s record of 45.45% although over a longer period, all signs still point to whoever coming in joining the club at just the right time as things start to hot up on the pitch.

Come on you Blues!!!

P.S. – Steve – wouldn’t it be nice if you changed your post press conference spiel?