Oceana CEO Imraan Soomra resigns with immediate effect

The timing raises red flags following several delays in the group publishing its financial results and its CFO being suspended last week.
Imraan Soomra has been with the Oceana group since 2013, and CEO since August 2018. Image: Supplied

Imraan Soomra, the CEO of embattled Cape Town-based fishing group Oceana which also owns the popular Lucky Star tinned fish brand, has resigned with immediate effect.

This was confirmed by the group in a JSE Sens statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The timing of Soomra’s resignation raises red flags as it follows several delays in the group publishing its latest financial results and comes just a week after Oceana placed its CFO Hajra Karrim on a “precautionary” suspension.

“Mr Soomra voluntarily submitted his resignation on the terms provided for in his contract of employment and his resignation was accepted by the company,” Oceana’s Sens statement notes.

“Mr Soomra’s resignation as director is with effect from 14 February 2022 and his employment will terminate with effect from the end of February 2022.

“The company thanks Mr Soomra for his service to it over the years of his employment since 2013 and wishes him well in his future endeavours,” it adds.

Read: A conflict of interest and possible corruption

Soomra, who has a CA(SA) qualification and has held senior management positions at JSE-listed MultiChoice and Netcare before joining Oceana, previously held the position of group financial director at the fishing firm before being appointed CEO in August 2013.

He leaves at a turbulent time for the group, which is yet to publish its annual results for the year ending 30 September 2021.

The delays in publishing its financial results (initially flagged in October last year) comes as Oceana has had to implement forensic investigations largely related to its United States fishing interests in Westbank Fishing LLC, which is held by Daybrook Fisheries Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the JSE-listed group.

JSE suspension risk

Oceana, which has a history going back more than 100 years (established in 1918), risks being suspended by the JSE due to the delay in publishing its financial results. However, it has noted in several Sens statements that it has been “engaging” with the bourse regarding the issues resulting in the delays.

According to the JSE’s listings requirements, financial results should be published within three months, and audited financial statements within four months, of a listed firm’s year-end.

With both Soomra’s resignation and the suspension of Karrim this month, it means that the group is without its two top executives at a time when it is under tremendous pressure to bring out its financials.

Oceana announced the appointment of Neville Brink as its interim CEO, with the sudden departure of Soomra.

Brink joined Oceana from Federal Marine in 1995 as the marketing director of what was then the Oceana Fishing Division.

“In 2005, Neville was appointed as managing director of Oceana Lobster and Calamari Fishing, and then to the position of managing director of Blue Continent Products from 1 February 2011,” according to the group.

“With a career spanning more than 30 years in the fishing industry, Neville has a wealth of experience in leading businesses successfully in this industry. He has deep operational knowledge of all areas of the Oceana divisions and is supported by a capable executive team which will play a crucial role to ensure stability through this period of change.”

Oceana’s share price closed over 4.5% down (at R55.51) on the JSE on Tuesday, following the news of Soomra’s resignation. It has lost over 13% of its value over the last six months, with the company’s current market capitalisation sitting at R7.6 billion.

Oceana share price

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Guess he is not from a seafaring background!!

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