17 Oct 2008

Solomons government firm on RIPEL

12:44 pm on 17 October 2008

The Solomon Islands government says it will fight any bid by an Australian businessman to seize the assets of a company that was once the country's biggest employer and major copra exporter.

Businessman Patrick Wong, who holds 15 per cent of Russell Islands Plantation Estates, or RIPEL, has demanded the repayment of nearly seven million US dollars owed to his finance company - or he will take ownership of all the company's shares.

The Solomons Star newspaper reports Mr Wong has given the other RIPEL shareholders, who include the Solomons government, until October the 26th to pay up or he will seek a takeover in the High Court.

Production at RIPEL is at a standstill after more than four years of strikes and disputes, but the company was formerly a pillar of the Solomons' economy and a key export earner for years.

A spokesman for the prime minister's department says the government would challenge any takeover bid.