17 May 2017

Ethiopia: Access Capital Bursts Back On the Scene, Keeps Ermias As a Chairman

Ermias Amelga, who is also the CEO of Access, decided to give up his post during the meeting

After three years of silence, the contentious Access Capital Services S.C. has voted for the embattled Ermias Amelga to continue as a board chairman of the company. The move comes a year and a half after the Board of Directors of Access Real Estate had removed him from the same position.

Access Capital Services has also installed new faces in one of its highest posts, with its shareholders electing three individuals to the board of directors. Yosef Asrat, Getachew Bekele and Antonio Silla were elected to the board during the meeting, held at the Ministry of Trade, on Marshal Tito Road, on Saturday, May 13, 2017.

Ermias, the re-elected Chairman of Access Capital, decided to give up his position as a CEO during the meeting, shareholders who have attended the meeting told Fortune.

The mood at last week's shareholders' meeting, held in the presence of 48pc of the over 100 shareholders, was one of anger and revolt against Ermias, these shareholders disclosed.

The shareholders' meeting was unlike other share companies. It was more of low-key, with attendants required to check in, and present identification documents before admitted to attending the meeting. The press was not invited to be part of the meeting. Attempts by this newspaper to cover the meeting was frustrated by the board of directors.

While Ermias is a businessman behind the launching of the brand "Access," he is also the brain behind the first private company to engage in the market bottling water, Highland Spring Water Company.

Ermias was repeatedly trying to cool angry shareholders down, who were adamant in raising tough questions while he was presenting a report of the company.

"Give me some time at least until I finish the report," Ermias, who owns 25 million Br worth of shares in the company, told one of the shareholders. "If you don't believe me, you can leave."

Ermias reported that the company holds assets valued at around 126.5 million Br, a shareholder told Fortune. But, the figure might be higher after an audit is conducted, Ermias reportedly said.

This figure cannot reflect the real value of the company, according to Ermias, who believes the company owns hundreds of millions of Birr in assets.

Founded in 2007, Access Capital Services has invested in various sectors of the economy such as the Thermoplastic Industries, Piko Juice Factory, Real Water, Polytech Bags, and Access Leasing. Much remains unclear on which companies are operational from those that are closed down.

Raising over 67.3 million Br in equity, Access Capital's original idea of launching Ethiopia's marketplace for shares was frustrated by government policy of viewing any shares in stock no different than a casino. Shareholders, later on, decided to use the company's funds to launch a successful bank in Zemen and a failed real estate firm, Access Real Estate S.C. The controversies surrounding Ermias in his involvement with Access Real Estate was also a primary reason for the disappearance of Access Capital over the past three years.

Unhappy with the state of performance of the company, shareholders have assigned the newly elected board last week to hire an audit firm and come up with an audited report to the next annual meeting, which is likely to be held next year.

Shareholders remain discontented.

"The meeting was not formal," a shareholder, who owns 200,000 Br worth of shares, told Fortune. "We didn't even manage to get a printed report which shows the status of the company."

Some shareholders, however, choose to remain optimistic after the meeting.

"There is good ground to say that the company has a chance to survive," Getachew Degago, who invested 20 shares with a par value of 5,000 Br in the company, told Fortune. "But, the help of the government is essential in the process of saving the company."

Yosef, one of the newly elected directors, shares the optimism. "I'm sure the company will revive again. The first job to do will be identifying challenges."

This content is edited after the original content mistakenly asserted that Ermias decided to give up his position as a Chairman during the meeting, while he decided to give up his position as a CEO.

We would like to apologise to Access Capital S.C. Chairperson and our readers for the above mistake we have done, thus the inconvenience it has caused.

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