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Numeria goes it alone

By Deborah Hill Cone

Friday 11th July 2003

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High-tech entrepreneur Evan Christian has given up on his fledgling finance venture Numeria and gone overseas.

The dotcom highflier with a swashbuckling reputation has sold the finance company to former Pacific Retail Finance chief executive Kelly Wright and two other second-tier finance operators Neal Nicholls and Wayne Douglas.

Numeria, which is chaired by former Countrywide Bank managing director David Wolfenden, launched last November offering individually branded finance products for retailers.

But despite being described as "pulling in millions" from investors Numeria raised only $1.2 million from its first offer and its major client was listed company Provenco (formerly Advantage Group), a supplier of Eftpos and e-commerce terminals and servers which has Mr Christian as its major shareholder.

Numeria was at the centre of a complex related-party transaction with Provenco and Zintel, a company owned by Provenco shareholder Nick Gordon.

But the sale of Numeria had seen those transactions unwound, Numeria chief exec utive Kelly Wright said, and it is now a "bog-standard finance company" with deposits on one side of its ledger and loans on the other.

The previous ownership structure saw Numeria Finance owned 100% by Numeria Corporation, which was owned by interests of Mr Christian.

Under the new structure it is owned 66% by Numeria Holdings, which Mr Wright said was owned by Mr Nicholls and Mr Douglas, and 33% by Parker Vernon Investments, Mr Wright's own company.

The details of the transaction were not disclosed and finance industry sources questioned whether Mr Christian had lent Mr Wright some cash to enable the deal to be done.

But Mr Wright said that was incorrect and said there was now no connection between Mr Christian and Numeria, although Provenco remained a major client of its finance services.

Mr Wright said Mr Christian had reviewed his portfolio and decided the finance venture "did not fit anywhere with what he wanted to do."

Mr Christian was sailing in France and was not available.

Numeria has issued a new prospectus, which says Numeria has developed long- term relationships with well-known companies to supply retail finance.

Its clients included Brasilia, the New Zealand importer of upmarket commercial coffee machines and Home Improvement Finance, which lends cash to people for DIY projects.

Mr Wright said neither company had a connection to Provenco or Mr Christian.

Numeria's new shareholders Mr Nicholls and Mr Douglas have a background in commercial property, Mr Wright said.

They are shareholders in a separate finance company Capital and Merchant Finance, which has also just appointed Mr Wright a director.

Capital and Merchant Finance managed funds of more than $265 million over the past three years its most recent prospectus said.

Mr Wright said the amount raised by Numeria's first prospectus was not a gauge of success.

'This time last year Numeria didn't even exist," Mr Wright said.

Numeria chairman Mr Wolfenden said there would be no visible change to Numeria Finance, with the same offerings, rates and structure that had proved successful for the company since it launched last year.

Companies Office records show Numeria Holdings has Mr Nicholls and Mr Douglas as directors but is solely owned by Mr Christian's investment vehicle Wiltshire Equities.

Mr Wright said that was because the shareholding details were not required to be updated until the company filed its next annual return.

When they were filed it would show Numeria Holdings was owned by ICTL, a company owned by trusts linked to Mr Nicholls and Mr Douglas.

"We can now be seen as being a true provider of arm's length finance services," Mr Wright said.

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