Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Oceana Group, Africa’s biggest fishing company, has made Imraan Soomra’s appointment as CEO permanent, and named a new interim finance chief.

Soomra was chief financial officer when he took on the job of interim CEO in February, upon the surprise resignation of Francois Kuttel, who is buying 75% of US group Westbank Fishing in a deal that has raised eyebrows.

The group has appointed Trevor Giles as interim group finance chief.

Giles is a chartered accountant who has been with the company for 19 years, Oceana said in its statement on Tuesday.

Oceana was unable to secure the Westbank deal directly due to US law.

Oceana said earlier in 2018 that Makimry Patronus, a company majority owned by Kuttel, would proceed with a deal to acquire 75% of Westbank, a move that raised eyebrows and accusations of possible corruption.

Oceana holds 25% of Westbank, which has a 30-year deal to supply Oceana’s Lousiana-based fish processing subsidiary, Daybrook.

Oceana had a put option to acquire the remaining stake in Westbank, but was unable to do so due to requirements in the American Fisheries Act, including that US-based fishing vessels be majority owned and operated by US citizens.

Fund manager Benguela Global criticised the deal after it was announced in February, saying it pointed to possible corruption and questionable governance standards.

Benguela, which had divested from its direct shareholding prior to its criticism, said Oceana’s board, among other things, should have been aware of the requirements of the American Fisheries Act.

At 10.30am Oceana’s share price was down 2.78% at R73.66, having fallen 13.34% so far in 2018.