Elizabeth Wilson, the Hong Kong-based managing director of Bondholder Communications, has left in the wake of that company's tainted relationship with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) to join forces with UK-based Lucid Issuer Services to offer similar services.
New York-based BondCom set up shop in Hong Kong in August, 2003, to locate and communicate with the beneficial owners of a company's bonds. The service is designed to facilitate voting and support transaction execution through to settlement, filling a gap left by clearing systems.
Two weeks ago, BondCom reported that a vote among APP bondholders concerning its China operation won court approval based on fraudulent votes and that someone had allegedly "stuffed the ballot box", according to its president, Robert Apfel. BondCom subsequently learned many allegedly fraudulent votes came from people working at APP in Indonesia.
APP is based in Singapore, but its operations are in Indonesia and China, and committed the biggest ever emerging markets default.. BondCom was helping facilitate $6.7 billion in debt from APP, which is controlled by the Widjaja family of Indonesia.
Wilson says the disaster is prompting BondCom to close its Hong Kong office, leaving one official who will work from home. She quit last week, citing differences with BondCom's management. She declined to comment on the APP case.
In an interview with FinanceAsia in March, Wilson said the APP China restructuring deal was what attracted BondCom to set up an office in the region, and the firm saw the most opportunity in distressed situations.
She will now partner with Lucid to provide a similar service to Asian companies and bondholders.
For now she has her own company, which is slated to commence business on July 2 and is implementing a fee-sharing agreement with Lucid, an arrangement that could later evolve into an equity swap. She will work both to identify Asian bondholders of European companies, as well as help Asian companies contact their European lenders.
Lucid is run from London by Sunjeeve Patel, a restructuring expert formerly with Bank One and Bank of New York.
Wilson has been a bond lawyer for 13 years who came to Hong Kong four years ago from the US with White & Case, and then worked as legal advisor to UBS' debt capital markets team before joining BondCom. Now she'll be marketing Lucid's services to law firms, investment banks and investment advisors, noting that with BondCom's meltdown there isn't anyone else providing this service in Asia. She will also look to add project managers with local language abilities as business dictates.