Brent King explains what he got wrong on Dorchester & ICP Bio

Brent King explains what he got wrong on Dorchester & ICP Bio

Investment Research Group Managing Director Brent KingBrent King, the Managing Director of the now renamed Viking Capital, delivered an unusual 'Mea Culpa' over disastrous investments in ICP Bio and Dorchester Pacific at the annual meeting of his listed investment company Investment Research Group. "I do not want to hide from anything. I got it wrong. We got it wrong," King said. King, who was the driving force behind the expansion of Dorchester Pacific before he left, said he had not been able to stop bad decisions by Dorchester's management. "Simply put - we backed the Management of Dorchester Pacific to cease making the poor decisions that they had been. We had 36% of our assets invested in Dorchester Shares. This has been a disaster for us," he said."We have reflected on our reasons for maintaining the holding. It was a very good business for over 17 years. It did have a strong brands, strong profits and strong cash flow. It was in the top 4 companies in the sector. It was engineered to sustain a down turn," he said. "What we did not understand was how quickly the directors moved the focus to illiquid assets. And just how costly the St Laurence purchase was, and how little attention they were paying to the market." King said Viking Capital lost over NZ$5.5 million on this investment over 2 years. He said ICP Bio had also been a disappointment for us. ICP Bio owned a plant that produced animal related blood products. "ICP Bio would purchase animal plasma (blood minus the red Blood cells) and use a process called chromatography to separate the component parts. The individual parts where then sold to pharmaceutical companies for use in the production of various drugs," he said. "On paper it was great. The business had a good build up through 2007 and they achieved some good sales in the last quarter. The Directors where advised that there where orders in the pipeline; as at December these where deferred to January then February then they disappeared. At the same time the production was building up and significant costs where being incurred," he said. "The company was getting sales orders for its Animal fertility products but could not fulfil these due to lack of supply from freezing works. The simple fact was it had demand it couldn't meet for one product and had excessive stocks of a product for which demand was slow in building." The result was massive cash flow problems and the secured lender calling in receivers, said. Viking Capital lost NZ$8.6 million on ICP Bio. King said IRG had agreed to sell the freeze dryers used by ICP Bio at book value. "What did we learn? Firstly, the old adage about Venture Capital is right; the ratios are so low. Maybe 1 in 30 or maybe 1 in 50 work," he said. "We will not be making this type of investment in the future. It is simply too risky and not our strength." "Secondly, the other old adage of how do you make a little business in New Zealand: start with a big one." "Our lesson is don't trust people with your money unless you have significant influence," King said, adding he lacked influence in both situations. IRG was now focused on building its investment advisory and information business. "The management is focussed on turning Investment Research Group Ltd into a very significant business."

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