It’s hard to imagine a company with a greater need for financial transparency than Ambre Energy.
In the midst of a global downturn in coal markets, the firm is trying to move forward with two controversial coal export projects in Oregon and Washington, for which it will have to raise about a billion dollars in start-up capital from increasingly skittish investors. The company is also hoping to win the public’s confidence and support for its export plans—an especially critical need, given that the company misled the public about the scale of their export ambitions in their initial permit filings. After that kind of start, the company just can’t afford to look like it’s hiding something now.
Yet for the past year, Ambre has been remarkably secretive about its financial situation. A few weeks ago, a reporter from The Australian uncovered evidence that Ambre had failed to disclose its 2012 year-end financial results. This may have put the company in violation of Australian securities law, which requires unlisted public companies, such as Ambre, to publish their financials within four months of the end of the fiscal year. For Ambre, that meant that they’ve been in violation of the disclosure rules since May 1.
But the website of the the Australian securities regulatory agency shows that Ambre has finally submitted its financial report for the 2012 fiscal year. Better late than never, right?
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Well, sort of. As the company is no doubt aware, it could take a while for Australian regulators to post Ambre’s financial documents online. Meanwhile, Ambre doesn’t seem to be interested in speeding the process along. In the past, the company promptly posted its financial results on its website. The company made its June 2012 report available as soon as it was published.
But there’s still no sign of Ambre’s 2012 year-end results on the company’s website.
The only thing I can think is that Ambre wants to keep its precarious financial situation bottled up for at least a little while longer. The company has been under intense public scrutiny during the public hearings on its Millennium coal terminal, and the last public hearing just happens to be tomorrow. Ambre’s finances certainly seem to be troubled: see, e.g., the company’s admission that its Morrow Pacific export project can’t make money at current prices, and its failure to secure financing to complete the purchase of a Montana coal mine. Revealing those financial troubles under the spotlight of the hearings could have given fodder to the project’s opponents while disheartening its supporters.
So perhaps Ambre figures that it’s even riskier to reveal the truth about its finances than to continue keeping the public in the dark.