Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Ascendis Health, whose shares have slumped on debt concerns and forced share sales by a former director, said it expects to appoint a new CEO within three months.

The troubled maker of Bettaway vitamins said in May that it had parted ways with its CEO of less than 14 months, Thomas Thomsen.

Chair Andrew Marshall, who has led fishing group Oceana and packaging giant Nampak, and who joined Ascendis in early May, was appointed acting CEO after Thomsen left.

“The board anticipates that it will make the appointment of a new CEO within three months,” it said.

Meanwhile, Ascendis said Phil Roux had resigned as a nonexecutive director with effect from Friday, just a month after he and Marshall were appointed to the board.

Roux, the former CEO of Pioneer Foods, would “offer greater value to the company in a consulting role”, Ascendis said.

“The board has requested that he consult on an ongoing basis and he has agreed to this role, and we look forward to utilising his extensive experience within the group’s local and international operations.”

The board would look for another independent nonexecutive director, it said.

Ascendis also said in Friday’s update that it was in “ongoing negotiations” regarding a possible sale of its Remedica business in Cyprus.

In January, the company said it had received an unsolicited offer for Remedica. The deal is seen as key to reducing Ascendis’s debt.

Ascendis’s shares have plunged from a high of R28.97 in September 2016 to just R4.75 on Friday afternoon, a 3.1% decline on the day.

Ascendis’s private equity backer, Coast2Coast, sold more shares in the company in May. Coast2Coast subsidiary Gane Holdings reduced its stake to just 14%, Ascendis said at the time in a regulatory filing. 

Coast2Coast, which has board representation at the healthcare company until recently, owned 25.5% of Ascendis in December 2018. A year before, it had held 30.9% of the company.

The private equity group has been forced to offload large chunks of Ascendis shares in recent months to meet obligations to lenders, as the stock was used as collateral for loans.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za