Fans of English football team Newcastle United have been sceptical of the takeover bid by Singaporean company Bellagraph Nova Group (BNG) which is reportedly in talks with club owner Mike Ashley.
When the bid was announced by BNG in mid-August, the company said that it had been working with Newscastle legend and former player Alan Shearer as well as Michael Chopra to secure the bid. The announcement, which came as a surprise to many, followed soon after a previous takeover bid by a Saudi Arabian company worth S$390 million fell through.
Curiously, Mr Shearer’s management told Reuters that he was not actually involved in the bid. Though Mr Chopra did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment. He did, however, retweet a picture of himself at the BNG offices just a day before the bid was announced.
The Reuters report also raised several questions about BNG as a whole including that it is headquartered in Paris. The news site said there is no such company registered in France according to online records and that a reporter who visited the office address at 10 Place Vendome found that BNG used the space but staff was ‘not always present’.
Though it appears BNG does have an office in Singapore located on the top floor of a four-storey building, above a restaurant and pet shop.
An independent Newcastle United fan news site, The Mag, featured a photo taken of the building by a fan who happened to be working in Singapore.
Mr Jonathan Drape-Comyn, who is a regular contributor to The Mag, said: “I had a walk to the Bellagraph Nova Group / Novena Global HQ address this morning. Turns out its actually above one of my favourite restaurants. They do a great Hor Fun (takeaway equiv to beef in black bean sauce). That top floor doesn’t scream ‘billionaire owner’ if u ask me.”
I had a walk to the Bellagraph Nova Group/Novena Global HQ address this morning. Turns out its actually above one of my favourite restaurants. They do a great Hor Fun (takeaway equiv to beef in black bean sauce)
— Jonathan (@_jonathandc) August 22, 2020
He posted the photo and comment on Twitter, which elicited several responses from other fans who questioned the legitimacy of BNG, and asking if there was any sign of the 23,000 employees which BNG claims to have in their office.
Photoshopped images and contradicting claims about companies owned
Another questionable move by BNG relates to a photo it put up on its website showing former United States President Barack Obama with the company’s owners Terence and Nelson Loh—cousins—and Evangeline Shen during a charity even they sponsored last year in Singapore.
While the three of them did have their pictures taken with Mr Obama at the event, BN Group’s principals, Nereides Antonio Giamundo de Bourbon, head of investor relations, said that some of the photos published in press releases on the website and shared with the media had been photoshopped to look like they were in a meeting with the former president in Paris.
“We are serious people … the only ambiguous thing has been the photoshop picture,” he said. “There wasn’t any malicious aim behind it.”
In fact, the photographer who took the photos confirmed with Reuters that it was in fact taken during the gala event in Singapore.
Other issues that raises questions about BNG include the company claim that financial technology firm, Hyra X, is part of its global empire and that it is implementing a trading system from the Singapore Exchange. Both Hydra X and Singapore Exchange has denied these claims.
However, Mr Bourbon apparently maintained to Reuters that BNG does own Hydra X and is in the process of merging them into the group, adding “Sometimes the marketing moves faster than the process.”
As for the question of its modest Singapore office, Mr Bourbon said that the company is in the process of moving all its realty to Europe.
According to a Reuters report, Newcastle United has declined to comment on the bid or on BNG while owner Mike Ashley has not responded to requests for comments.
Ms Shen also declined to be interviewed for the story while the Loh cousins did not respond.