Former Omnia chair Rod Humphris. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Former Omnia chair Rod Humphris. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Chemicals and fertiliser maker Omnia, which, last week, drew criticism for its plans to raise new equity despite saying a month before it was adequately funded, says chair Rod Humphris has stepped down with immediate effect.

Humphris was to retire from the board at the group’s AGM in September, but “in order to facilitate a smooth changeover”, he had decided to step down as chair “immediately”.

Ralph Havenstein, the board’s lead independent director, will succeed Humphris, who has spent 20 years on the board, including in the capacity of non-executive chair since June 2017. He was previously the company’s MD.

“I personally enjoyed, in the latter part of my career, the challenge of building up a chemical company with a myriad of chemical services from a company that was renowned as an agriculture company,” Humphris said.

“The company today is vastly different from the one that I joined in 1982 as a young project engineer.”

Omnia’s shares slipped to a 10-year low this week after the group said it needed to issue fresh equity to cut debt.

Amid talks with lenders, Omnia said in April that “there is no requirement for any unscheduled repayment or recapitalisation”. But last week it said it planned to raise R2bn in new equity.

“They have broken trust and basically misled the market,” independent analyst Anthony Clark said last week.

Omnia’s shares were 1.2% up at R43.89 after the announcement on Thursday. A year ago, the stock was at R130.50. The decline is partially attributable to concerns about the company’s debt.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za