Wan Azmi lists firms in London


  • Business
  • Thursday, 20 Dec 2007

Sweetener maker PureCircle latest to float on AIM

PETALING JAYA: Although Land & General Bhd (L&G) founder Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah has kept a local profile in recent years, he remains the shrewd investor with a string of successful listings overseas. 

The most recent was PureCircle Ltd, a maker of plant-based sweetener, which went public last week on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). 

Early backers of the biotech firm, including the Kelantan-born Wan Azmi, sold 14.28 million shares to the public at 170p each to raise £23.4mil (RM157mil) for expansion. 

According to the listing document, PureCircle was founded in Malaysia in 2002 and is headed by managing director and co-founder Magomet Malsagov. 

Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah

It also showed Halfmoon Bay Enterprises Ltd as the company’s second biggest shareholder with a 10.3% stake post-listing. 

Halfmoon Bay is Wan Azmi’s family investment vehicle. The same firm used to own shares in Amway (M) Holdings Bhd when Wan Azmi was the company's chairman. 

Wan Azmi withdrew from the local corporate scene after the collapse of his flagship company, Land & General Bhd (L&G), due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997. His other known listed firm, Rohas-Euco Industries Bhd, is on the verge of being taken private by Temasek Team Sdn Bhd, a company that Wan Azmi, his wife and associates have set up for the exercise. 

Wan Azmi, 57, has maintained a 6% stake in L&G. 

While he stayed in the background at home, the protege of former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin had stepped up his international ventures in recent years. 

At least three companies he is involved in, including PureCircle, were floated in London over the past two years. 

They include Steppe Cement Ltd, in which Halfmoon Bay and another of Wan Azmi’s private entities are among the major shareholders. 

Steppe Cement, which was floated on AIM in September 2005, has several cement manufacturing complexes in Kazakhstan. 

In an interview with StarBiz in October this year, Steppe Cement chief executive office Javier Del Ser Perez said that he, Wan Azmi and Malaysia-based investor David Crichton-Watt each owned a third of the shares in the cement maker. 

The company is worth £286mil (RM1.9bil) at the current market price of 251p. 

Wan Azmi and Perez also have stakes in a Kazakh real estate company known as Chagala Group Ltd, which was listed on the London Stock Exchange's main market in February this year. 

Wan Azmi and Crichton-Watt have been business partners for over a decade. 

In the StarBiz interview, Perez said both Wan Azmi and Crichton-Watt were invited by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1995 to look at opportunities in the then fledgling nation. 

Meanwhile, PureCircle is said to the world's biggest producer of Redaudioside-A (Reb-A), a natural high-intensity sweetening extracted from the Stevia plant. 

The company's stock hit a high of 186.5p on its first day of trading, but has since drifted back to near the IPO level. At Tuesday’s closing price of 178.5p, the company had a market value of £232.6mil.  

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