Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Ascendis Health’s anchor investor, private equity firm Coast2Coast, said last week it had been forced to offload another R140m worth of the health-care company’s shares.

Since November Coast2Coast has had to sell about R231m worth of Ascendis shares, equal to 8% of the health-care company’s market capitalisation on Friday.

Coast2Coast CEO Gary Shayne, also an Ascendis director, and his spouse have been forced to sell the shares to meet obligations to lenders since the stock was used as collateral for loans.

Ascendis’s shares slumped through 2018, partly on concerns about high debt levels and tepid organic growth. The sell-off was compounded by the forced share sales, which were mostly triggered by margin calls.

By December 12 the company’s share price had reached a record low of R3.26.

But the stock has since climbed, partly on optimism that the forced sales would slow. It closed at R5.95 on Friday.

Shayne said earlier in January the forced share sales were coming to an end. He said in December his private equity firm was working on measures to shore up liquidity and avoid further margin calls.

“Coast2Coast has initiated a number of projects, some of which are well progressed, which will provide additional liquidity … at which point we expect to see an end to the current overhang on the Ascendis share,” Shayne said at the time.

Coast2Coast, which also owns majority stakes in consumer goods companies Bounty Brands and Marlin Brands, had been forced to rely on cash flows from those assets to support its shrinking investment in Ascendis.

The firm is considering a partial sale of Bounty Brands to a private investment company and would also consider listing the business on the JSE “within the next two years”, after an earlier plan to do so was shelved, he said.

Bounty Brands, 75% owned by Coast2Coast, owns the Serena range of Mediterranean food products and refuse-bag maker Tuffy, and holds licences to international apparel brands such as Levi’s.