Turbulent waters at Oceana Group as CEO unexpectedly tenders his resignation

SOUTH AFRICA – Africa’s largest fishing company, Oceana Group, has announced the appointment of Mr Neville Brink as the company interim CEO.

Neville takes over the helm of the company from Imraan Soomra who tendered his resignation as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the company.

“Mr Soomra voluntarily submitted his resignation on the terms provided for in his contract of employment and his resignation was accepted by the Company.

“His resignation as director is with effect from 14 February 2022 and his employment will terminate with effect from the end of February 2022.

“The company thanks Mr Soomra for his service to it over the years of his employment since 2013 and wishes him well in his future endeavours,” highlighted Oceana.

Soomra, who has a CA(SA) qualification and has held senior management positions at JSE-listed MultiChoice and Netcare before joining Oceana, previously held the position of group financial director at the fishing firm. He was appointed as its chief executive effective 1 August 2018.

The new company head, Neville, joined Oceana from Federal Marine in 1995 as the Marketing Director of what was then the Oceana Fishing Division.

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In 2005, he was appointed as Managing Director of Oceana Lobster and Calamari Fishing, and then to the position of Managing Director of Blue Continent Products from 1 February 2011.

With a career spanning more than 30 years in the fishing industry, Neville has a wealth of experience in leading businesses successfully in this industry.

“He has deep operational knowledge of all areas of the Oceana divisions and is supported by a capable Executive team which will play a crucial role to ensure stability through this period of change,” stated the company.

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Fishy business at Oceana

The timing of Soomra’s resignation raises red flags as it follows several delays in the group publishing its latest financial results and comes just a week after Oceana placed its CFO Hajra Karrim on a “precautionary” suspension.

The delays in publishing its financial results for the year ended September 30, 2021, initially flagged in October last year, comes as Oceana had to implement forensic investigations largely related to its United States fishing interests in Westbank Fishing LLC, which is held by Daybrook Fisheries Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the JSE-listed group.

According to reports by Fin24, the fishing company has concluded the investigation on the issue and found no evidence of “fraud, misappropriation or loss of funds or management of override of controls arising from any of the matters raised.

However, recently a “new concern” was discovered by auditors on the dating of signatures on an internal document relating to a US$4 million (R60.5 million) insurance claim.

The auditors are concerned whether the claim should have been recognised in the previous financial year.

Oceana, which has a history going back more than 100 years (established in 1918), risks being suspended by the JSE due to the delay in publishing its financial results.

However, it has noted in several Sens statements that it has been “engaging” with the bourse regarding the issues resulting in the delays.

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