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Insider trading? Investors irate on why Leviste-Nati’s Italpinas postponed annual meeting

The owners of Italpinas Development Corp. have been accused of insider trading after the company’s shares dropped following their decision to postpone the annual stockholders meeting on November 25.

Investors were expecting IDC to announce its dividends (which triggered the 131 percent spike in its stock price over the last four months) in the ASM and suspected that the surprise postponement was meant to pull down Italpinas’ stock price.

Italpinas is controlled by its president, Sydney-based Filipino lawyer, Jose D. Leviste III (32.21 percent) and its chairman and CEO, Italian architect Romolo Nati.

The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) halted trading of Italpinas for one hour (9:30 am to P10.30 am) on November 25 to “to give all market participants sufficient time to digest” the company’s explanation on the postponement of its ASM.

The stock peaked at P3.75 on November 23 or the day when the Leviste-Nati board agreed to move the ASM from November 25 to January 22, 2021. IDC tumbled 13.7 percent to 3.15 at the close of trading on November 25.

In its report to the PSE, Italpinas corporate secretary Christine P. Base said: “We have no knowledge of any accumulation of shares that resulted in the increase in the market price of Italpinas shares because as stated, circumstances relating to the declaration of stock dividend, if such is the identified cause of the share movements, remain the same. There can be no insider trading and there was nothing to speculate on, except that the date of the meeting of the ASM is moved to a new date due to the circumstances explained above.”

Base said it could not end out the necessary definitive information statement to shareholders prior to the ASM because of the delay in approval by authorities due to COVID-19.

“Consequently, it made it impossible for the Company to disseminate the notice of meeting and IS to shareholders of record at least twenty one calendar days prior to November 25, 2020 or on or before November 3, 2020 as required under SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission),” said Base.

“The IS was not approved and finalized in time for the regulatory period required for such dissemination. Therefore, for prudence and optimal conservatism, the Company opted to move the date of the ASM,” she added.

She said the approval on the stock dividends was still on the agenda with the “same up to amount and no record date has yet been set” and the record date for the ASM was still October 15, 2020.

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