JSE. Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK
JSE. Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK

Ascendis Health’s main investor has been forced to offload more of the company’s shares after facing margin calls from a bank.

Ascendis said in a stock exchange filing on Thursday that parties linked to mainstay investor Coast2Coast have sold R5.5m more in stock in recent trading days. That follows forced sales totalling R13m, which were announced late on Friday last week.

The sales were “involuntary” as they were linked to equity finance transactions, and margin calls were triggered.

Less than a year ago, Coast2Coast bought 37-million new Ascendis shares at R20 a share. However, partly due to concerns about Ascendis’s high gearing levels and tepid organic growth, the stock retreated to less than R4 in the first half of November.

Coast2Coast founded Ascendis in 2008 and listed it on the JSE in November 2013.

The parties said on Thursday Coast2Coast is a “long-term shareholder of Ascendis and remains confident in the strategy of the company”.

Ascendis’s shares rose 2.78% to R4.80 on Thursday afternoon.

Analysts have become increasingly critical of directors who hold instruments that can trigger share sales, such as leveraged stock positions that can give rise to margin calls.

In December 2017, a 35% decline in EOH’s share price in a single day was attributed to margin calls against equity-financed transactions. In September, an MTN director was forced to offload R14.8m in stock.

Just One Lap founder Simon Brown said at the time he would “fire the director” as leveraged positions placed unnecessary risk on shares.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za