Femi Otedola battles Abdulwasiu Sowami over accumulated debt

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Femi Otedola
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Aug. 15 (THEWILL) — When businessman and investor, Femi Otedola and his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas company, reached an agreement with AbdulWasiu Sowami and his company, Prudent Energy, to purchase 74% of the share capital of Forte Oil Plc in 2019, Otedola was unaware that four years later he would have no choice but to fight Sowami for full payment of the cash equivalent of the shares.

Otedola sold the shares of Forte Oil for $200 million at the time. The deal was structured in such a way that Ogun State-born Sowami would pay the money in installments, instead of paying it in full. With this historic transaction, Sowami became the owner of Forte Oil, which was later renamed Ardova.

However, Sowami, who was paying, stopped paying this year. The balance of the payment due to Otedola currently stands at $6 million and despite the debt and the payment not yet being completed, Sowami has decided to buy a competitor, Enyo Retail and supply approximately 95 retail stations throughout the country.

With the current state of the economy, not wanting to lose the bidding process for the five national integrated power projects (his energy company, Amperion Power Distribution Company, the parent company of the Gerugu power station, is doing part of the 16 energy companies listed by the State Bureau of Public Enterprises qualified for the tender) and also not willing to risk the sale of its First Bank shares, in order to maintain its dominant position in the banking sector, there’s no denying that Otedola is in dire need of money.

Ironically, one of Sowami’s companies, Ardova PLC is also among the 16 lucky winners who will bid for the energy assets. Tired of delivering demand letters to Sowami to repay his debt, which is long overdue, Otedola went to court over Sowami’s inability to pay his debt. Whether Otedola will have the upper hand in the unfolding drama remains to be seen. Ardova Plc itself, formerly Forte Oil, has not been without its share of challenges.

Last month, the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) lifted a suspension imposed on trading in the company’s shares for failing to file its audited financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2021. But after the company filed its audited financial statements and unaudited financial statements for the quarter ended March 31, 2022, in accordance with all applicable NGX rules, the trading house has lifted the suspension.

In addition, the company suffered losses from its subsidiaries, Axles and Cartage, and the newly acquired Enyo Retail and Supply Limited, resulting in a net loss for the group of N3.8 billion.

Unlike Femi who is well known publicly, Sowami likes to operate in the background and hates the spotlight. He and Otedola are alike when it comes to philanthropy. Sowami established the Abdul-Lateef & Sanni Foundation to build schools and provide scholarships to indigent students. He holds an M.Sc. in Corporate Governance from Leeds Beckett University, England and a B.Sc. in Sociology from the University of Maiduguri. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria.

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