“I accept the censure in my personal capacity … to go and fight the JSE could last three years,” Vontas told Moneyweb.
On Monday, the JSE imposed a censure on Bonatla for causing it to lift the suspension of the company’s shares when it was not appropriate to do so.
In 2004, Bonatla was suspended for not publishing its financial statements on time. This came at a time when the company was disposing all properties in its portfolio. Its suspension was lifted in 2009 when the JSE gave it a second chance to reconstitute its asset base by acquiring properties.
Subsequent to this, the JSE launched an investigation into Bonatla which lasted more than four years, drawing to a close in January. The investigation also resulted in a fine of R500 000 being imposed against Vontas (of which R250 000 is suspended for 24 months) for misleading the JSE, by providing written undertakings for lifting Bonatla’s securities in August 2009.
In its investigation, the JSE also took a swipe at Bonatla for contravening listing requirements including: failing to ensure full and timeous public disclosure regarding the activities of the company that are price sensitive, and disregarding the standards of disclosure needed to promote investor confidence in the market.
The contravention relates to Bonatla’s two key operational issues which stem from August 2009. The first relates to the company’s operational forecast for January to December 2009 which, at the time, Bonatla said it could achieve in 2009. But its operational targets were achieved in 2010.
“At the time we felt the information supplied to the JSE was correct according to the information from our attorneys. The moment the company was informed of the incorrect information we corrected it.”
Vontas says it corrected the issue through its interim results in September 2009, “less than one month after it was announced [on a JSE circular]. The JSE picked it up only later.”
“If we wanted to mislead the market, we would have not included the correction in the interim and annual results,” Vontas told Moneyweb.
The second issue relates to the transfer of properties into Bonatla’s portfolio which it declared to the market, but was not successful. Vontas, who was part of Bonatla’s listing in 1997, says instead of the property being transferred to Bonatla, the company decided to acquire the company that owns the property.
The JSE found that Bonatla failed to publish “a clear and precise announcement” as soon as the company became aware of the unsuccessful transfer of properties.
“I have no gripes at all, but I take the brunt as the CEO. Personally I am at peace,” Vontas explains
Shareholder activist Theo Botha said it’s a daring move the JSE has made towards Vontas, as “it is not often you see a Sens [announcement] like that.”
“The onus is now on shareholders to ask questions and issues on what is happening in the company,” Botha told Moneyweb.
Despite the corporate governance issues, Vontas says he has no doubt that shareholders have not lost confidence in him and the company.
“When you are suspended, you have to respond to capital requirements and regulations. You have to find the resources to continue with the business. The shareholders put money where their mouths are and funded us. We have the support from shareholders and the public,” Vontas says.