24 March 2018
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Ezra gets High Court nod for cross-border protocol on bankruptcy proceedings

Business Times
14 Mar 2018
K.C. Vijayan

The High Court on Tuesday approved an application by Ezra Holdings for a cross-border protocol between the Singapore court and the US Bankruptcy Court in relation to the firm's bankruptcy proceedings.

Ezra Holdings, which filed a Chapter 11 plan in the US last year after it received two statutory demands from creditors, had also applied to the Singapore court on March 1 for leave to seek a meeting with its creditors under the Companies Act.

The application here is to allow the firm time to work out an arrangement with creditors where the firm is restructured in order to settle its debts.

According to documents filed in the US Bankruptcy Court in New York earlier this month, the creditors include DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and UOB.

The Chapter 11 plan and the application in Singapore also spell out the terms in which the firm's board and management can legally sustain the company's operations so debts can be settled.

Ezra is a leading global offshore services provider for the oil and gas industry whose divisions comprise EMAS Offshore, EMAS Energy and Triyards, which provides engineering, ship construction and fabrication services.

The firm's board of directors, and its subsidiary and associated companies, announced yesterday that the cross-border protocol application is meant to coordinate the efficient administration of the bankruptcy proceedings in the US and restructuring proceedings in Singapore.

The application for the cross-border protocol is also to establish a framework of general principles to address issues that may arise out of the cross-border nature of the restructuring proceedings.

The firm's move to seek endorsement of such a protocol dovetails with an October 2016 initiative by the Singapore Supreme Court known as the Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN).

Under the initiative, judges of various jurisdictions established guide-lines and a common framework on how courts in different countries can communicate and cooperate with each other in cross-border insolvency cases.

Among other things, the guide-lines provide a structure for joint hearings, enabling two or more courts to simultaneously hear arguments and examine evidence.

Ezra Holdings is expected to ask the New York and Singapore courts to jointly decide under the JIN Guidelines where conflicts of laws might arise.

Robin Chiu, Ezra Holdings' court approved chief restructuring officer, was quoted in last week's issue of Global Restructuring Review as saying "the debtors are aware of no precedence for seeking both approval by a US bankruptcy court and a Singapore court" for confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan and the application for a creditors meeting in Singapore.

The firm has also separately applied to the US court for approval of the cross-border protocol. If approved there as well, it may see the first hearing held under the JIN scheme.

Ezra Holdings had made other legal orders through its Drew & Napier lawyer Sushil Nair on Tuesday but the matters were adjourned to a later date.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.