Shipping company's mega bank debt revealed

Scuppered shipping company Reef Group, which sported former All Black Michael Jones on its management team, owes almost $28 million to ANZ, receivers reveal.

Reef Group and its numerous subsidiaries was placed In receivership in late November.

The  privately-owned group provides sea freight services between New Zealand, Australia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Interests include a joint venture fish processing operation in partnership with the Niue government.

Receivers Colin McCloy and David Bridgman of PwC say the company was placed in receivership because its banking facilities were in default.

The first receivers report reveals Reef Group owes $27,727,847 to ANZ Bank, its first ranking secured creditor.

Recoveries for unsecured creditors owed a further $2.6 million, including $2.5 million to trade creditors, are unlikely.

Messrs McCloy and Bridgman sold the shipping business on December 27 but they have not revealed the sale price. Settlement occurred on January 4.

NBR ONLINE asked PwC if the sale was enough to cover the group's debt to ANZ, but PwC said it was inappropriate to comment.

Assets yet to be sold include two fishing vessels and the Noni juice business, as well as land, buildings and plant in Niue and Samoa.

Since their appointment in November, PwC was also appointed as receivers to several associated companies that are not registered in New Zealand. They include Reef Fishing (Cook Islands), Southern Reef Cook Islands, Reef Fish Marketing and Reef Investments (Samoa).

The private company was majority-owned by executive director Phillip McNicholl, who started working in the company with his father, Tom, when it launched a shipping service between New Zealand and Fiji in 1967.

Mr Jones joined the company as group strategic manager in 2006 and is also a shareholder alongside executive directors John Gresson and Kim Gordon.

Mr Jones also leads Reef Group’s fruit juice export business Pure Pacifika, which ran into financial strife early last year because of an unrelated corruption allegation investigation involving controversial Chinese businessman and major client Jack Chen.

gbond@nbr.co.nz

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