N175 million Debt: No cause to panic, Guinness assures

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Guinness Nigeria Plc has urged its employees, customers and shareholders not to panic over a winding-up lawsuit filed against it by a pharmaceutical company, Pharma-Deko Plc.

Pharma-Deko, in a suit it filed before Justice Hadizat Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court in Lagos, claimed that Guinness owed it N175,669,317.99.

It is praying the court to appoint an official receiver, who would act as a provisional liquidator of Guinness Nigeria Plc.

But Guinness had, through its lawyer, Mr. Babatunde Fagbohunlu (SAN), filed an objection, urging the court to strike out the suit.

In a statement on Friday, Guinness assured its employees, customers and stakeholders of its readiness to contest the alleged debt in court, adding that its solicitors had put up a robust defence to that effect.

Besides, Guinness’ management dispelled the possibility of it being wound up, stating that “the amount claimed by Pharma Deko Plc in the court process is an insignificant amount when compared with the revenue, cashflow and balance sheet of the company.”

The statement read in part, “(Guinness) management is very confident of being able to repudiate the claims in court.

“The management of Guinness Nigeria wishes to assure its employees, customers, shareholders and other stakeholders that it is capable of meeting its financial and other obligations to its various stakeholders and that it continues to operate as a going concern.”

In the affidavit it filed in support of its winding-up petition against Guinness, Pharma-Deko claimed that the alleged debt of N175.6m stemmed from alleged breach of contract on the part of Guinness.

The Production Manager of Pharma-Deko, Olukayode Ishola, who deposed to the affidavit, said the parties had earlier gone through an arbitration proceeding where the N175.6m was awarded on July 1, 2016 in favour of Pharma-Deko.

Ishola claimed that Guinness participated fully in the proceeding, adding the decision was binding on Guinness.

But Guinness, in response urged the court to strike out Pharma-Deko’s suit for want of jurisdiction.

Among other things, Guinness argued that a winding-up proceeding was not the proper mode of enforcing an arbitral award as set out in the law regulating arbitration proceedings in Nigeria.

Besides, it contended that the award, which Pharma-Deko sought to enforce, was statute barred and unenforceable in law.

Justice Rabiu-Shagari has adjourned hearing in the case till March 28, 2017.

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