New Era (Windhoek)

20 November 2012

Namibia: Komsberg Liquidation On Hold

Windhoek — Judge Kobus Miller last week on Thursday postponed judgment on an application by the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (AgriBank) for a final liquidation order of Namibia's grape export farm, Komsberg Farming.

Simultaneously, Judge Miller postponed judgment on an opposed motion for an extension of the provisional liquidation order he made in September by Komsberg Farming through the Louis Group South Africa.

Advocate Raymond Heathcote for the Louis Group argued that the applicants "needed at least another three months" as they have a secure investor ready.

He told Judge Miller it is the only offer on the table "at the moment", but that the investor does not want to invest in a liquidated asset.

Heathcote noted the new investor is willing to invest N$145 million of which N$116 million will go to creditors.

He said it is a serious offer that deserves consideration.

He wants the court to extend the rule nisi issued in September to March 31 next year to offer the grape company time to complete the harvest.

Heathcote argued that if it were not for the intervention of his clients, the farm would have fallen into decay and would have been deserted by the close to 200-strong workforce.

On behalf of AgriBank, Advocate Theo Frank argued that the Louis Group was like a chameleon in the desert that you cannot pinpoint, always one step ahead.

He was of the opinion that they were not open with the court and that the extension request must be denied.

Frank said AgriBank has the right to a final liquidation as the applicants started out with a loan account from the Bank.

Komsberg Farming is situated on the northern bank of the Orange River and consists of two farms, namely Komsberg and Stolzenfels and measures 24 387 hectares.

The farms are worth an estimated N$130 million, the court was told during the initial request for liquidation in July.

It was further stated that around 200 hectares of the land are under irrigation, producing an estimated half a million boxes of export quality table grapes each year. This year alone the company expects to harvest grapes with a total value of around N$40 million, the court was informed. The court was also informed that Komsberg Farming owes AgriBank about N$105.75 million at this stage, but according to AgriBank, the debt is substantially more than that.

During April, AgriBank filed a case against Komsberg Farming in the High Court when it claimed a total of about N$133 million from the company, and also wants the court to allow it to sell Komsberg Farming's immovable property in an effort to recover the money it claims it is owed.

If this is allowed, AgriBank would not only be favoured ahead of other creditors of the company, but the company's employees and seasonal harvesters would be losing their jobs and income, and some also their current homes, the court was informed.

The major creditors of Komsberg Farming include AgriBank, the Receiver of Revenue, which is owed N$42.9 million, Louis Group South Africa, which is owed N$17.2 million, the Colia Louis Family Trust, which is owed N$25.27 million, the Industrial Development Corporation, which is owed N$20.69 million, Standard Bank, with a claim of N$2.7 million, and Bank Windhoek which is owed N$1.5 million, the court was informed in the initial liquidation hearing.

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