JSE-listed construction company Group Five's share price fell by nearly 68% on Thursday morning after it announced that it had been informed of a new claim of $60.5-million from client Cenpower, which late last month terminated its contract with Group Five for the construction of the Kpone gas and oil-fired combined cycle power plant project, in Ghana.
The new claim represented the client’s evaluation of the costs to be incurred to complete the works on the contract, as well as amounts relating to the recoupment of estimated losses and damages the client believed it incurred as a result of delays on the project.
The new claim followed a previous claim to Group Five’s bank guarantee providers in November for $62.7-million to be paid for contract delay damages at Kpone.
Group Five has been in discussions with its legal advisers and senior counsel, as well as its bank guarantee providers, regarding the claim and is considering available legal options.
The company strongly disputed the amount claimed, stating that the client had confirmed that the construction of the plant was complete, with only testing and commissioning left to be performed.
Group Five said it could not complete the testing, since the fuel provided by the client was contaminated.
Group Five said its legal advisers believe the company has merit and a reasonable prospect of recovering payment from the client.
Group Five has submitted the dispute to the International Chamber of Commerce, in Paris, for resolution, since it is a quicker process than arbitration. The first disputes were expected to be completed in early 2019.
Group Five had last month applied to the High Court of Johannesburg to interdict Cenpower’s demand, but the application was dismissed.
The judge confirmed, at the time, that the contractual claims and disputes presented are complex, but as the bond represents a standalone financial instrument separate to the contract, it had to be independently assessed.
His ruling therefore did not address the contract, the contractual claims process or provide judgment on whether the contractual claims or parties have merit, Group Five said last week.
As outlined in Group Five’s annual financial statements, stakeholders’ attention has in the past been drawn to the contingent risk of claims on guarantees relating to the the Kpone contract of a performance bond of $62.3-million, a retention bond of $41.5-million and an advance payment bond of $2.6-million.
The construction company has previously indicated that, notwithstanding any further potential delays to the project or to the dispute resolution process, the gross maximum delay damages exposure remained capped at $62.5-million.
Following Cenpower’s payment demand in November, Cenpower received payment for the maximum amount of the delay damages, Group Five said last week.
The group continued to challenge the liability for delay damages, with liability to be independently determined through a dispute resolution mechanism set out in the contract.
Group Five outlined that the remaining value of on-demand bonds in issue, from financial institutions to Cenpower, post the settlement of the $62.7-million, amounted to $43.8-million.
The construction company said it would continue to progress its contractual rights and entitlements for payment of all amounts due to it.
Group Five's share price fell to 11c a share in early morning trade, compared with Wednesday's close of 34c a share. Its shares were still trading down 23.53%, at 26c a share, by 10:50 on Thursday.