Highland African Ventures Ltd (HAV)
Highland African Ventures Ltd (HAV). When it comes to determining who bears ultimate responsibility for a company’s dubious acts of commission or omission, no industrial sector yields more problems, twists and turns, than that of mining. By mid-2009 an AIM-listed company called Noventa Ltd (there’s no lack of inventive names to cover a company’s tracks or confuse the public at large) was on the rocks.
Or rather – it wasn’t, since the rocks in view were ones containing tantalum; a rare, refractory metal used in alloys and capacitators. Noventa’s key concessions are in northern Mozambique and, when it listed on UK AIM in March 2007, it boasted ownership of one of the world’s biggest, lowest-cost, industrial-scale tantalum deposits anywhere [MJ 24 July 2009].
A man called Clinton Woods had set Noventa rolling amid the breakers of the Channel Islands’ tax haven the previous year. But he was sacked without explanation by a majority of the company’s shareholders on July 9 2009. His successor is a “corporate restructuring expert” called Eric Kohn, who has failed to reveal the identity of the stock holders which booted Clinton out. However, as suggested by Mining Journal resident doyen, Ken Gooding: “[I]t is inconceivable that Noventa’s biggest shareholder, Highland African Ventures Ltd…did not lead the charge” [MJ ibid].
According to Mr Gooding, HAV is controlled by a trust, one of whose beneficiaries is UK high-flyer Roddie Fleming. Indeed, Noventa’s 2008 annual report acknowledges the company’s “ultimate controlling party” to be Fleming Family and Partners AG in Liechenstein (yet another locale where books can be cooked if it gets too hot in the kitchen). And the Flemings are a force to be reckoned with. Despite having to offload their banking business to Chase Manhattan bank nine years ago, the clan has launched a number of key mining plays in Russia and remain shareholders (at 4.59%) in Highland Gold, where the world’s premier gold producer, Barrick, has 20% of the stock.
BlackRock Investment Management, one of the most important global backers of mining finance, held 10.8% of Noventa until recently, but appears to have now sold out. There are three other currently-registered important Noventa shareholders: an outfit dubbed Varroville Finance (with 6.69%), one called Lochside International (4.48%), and Kerias Management Trading Ltd (5.13%) [Hemscott 6 August 2009].
A fourth, going under the superficially-reassuring moniker of Mozambique Trust apparently holds 2.05% - which puts it beneath the bar whereby a fund has to declare an interest under LSE rules). None of these groups yield substantial information when “googled”. But, according to Ken Gooding, Kerias and the Mozambique Trust are formally connected with HAV.
On 3 August 2009, Noventa’s share price rose when the company announced that it expected soon to resume its northern Mozambique operations [Mineweb, 3 August 2009].