- Shareholders holding only 61% of Oceana’s shares voted to retain PwC as external auditors.
- PwC raised accounting issues, which added delays in publishing group results and affected shareholder value.
- Oceana’s board noted the strained relationship with the auditor and will consult shareholders about the matter.
Oceana shareholders were reluctant to retain PwC as external auditors for the group, votes at this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) revealed.
Oceana owns canned fish brand Lucky Star and also has a presence in other global markets where it sells fishmeal, fish oil and fish. It also owns a logistics company specialising in cold storage and transport of products such as fish, fruit and vegetables, poultry and meat.The AGM held on Thursday saw most of the resolutions passed with strong majority votes, bar that of the reappointment of PwC.Shareholders holding 61.98% of shares were in favour, while those with the remaining 38.02% were against.In a shareholder notice issued after the AGM, the board said that shareholders would be consulted regarding the external auditor, given the votes.”Our consideration of the vote and consultation with shareholders will aim to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of the group and achieves the highest standards of corporate governance,” the statement read.READ | Oceana results delayed yet again – as auditor flags issue with insurance claimThe board said it “acknowledges the strained relationship with the external auditors”. However, the Oceana stressed that it is “fundamental” to have a “strong and effective” external audit that is supported by corporate governance and compliance.
“This is particularly important given the current SA and global environment of significant audit and corporate failures,” the notice read.Oceana has come through a difficult period, having several times delayed the publication of its financial results for the year-end September 2021.Earlier this year auditors PwC also raised concerns about the dating of signatures on an internal document relating to a $4-million insurance claim. PwC also required some other technical changes in the accounting treatment of the group’s investment in Westbank Fishing. This also contributed to delays in publishing financial results.Chairperson Mustaq Brey said despite the challenges, PwC still signed off on an unqualified audit opinion and was still willing to serve as auditors.Brey said the group has raised concerns about the audit process and the “adverse impact” it has had on business and shareholder value. PwC required an increased sample size of 40 000 documents – which showed minimum errors and no misrepresentation, Brey assured.He acknowledged the difficulties of the period the group faced and apologised for anxiety caused to shareholders and stakeholders. Most recently, the group saw departures of people in top positions.Chief financial officer Hajra Karrim was suspended in February, followed by the resignation of CEO Imran Soomra shortly after. Company secretary Adela Fortune left to pursue other opportunities, Fin24 previously reported.Furthermore, a forensic probe by ENSafrica was concluded during the period. ENSafrica looked into concerns raised by a whistleblower about the accounting treatment of the group’s 25% shareholding in New Orleans-based company Westbank Fishing. There was no evidence of “fraud, misappropriation or loss of funds or management of override of controls arising from any of the matters raised,” Brey said.
As at 6 May, the share price declined nearly 18% in the past six months. The share price opened at R54.49 on Friday.