UPDATE 2-SBM probes possible improper sales practices

Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:59am EDT

Related Topics

* Possible improper practices involve third parties

* Appoints new governance and compliance officer

* New officer to report back in 4-6 weeks

* Shares drop 8 percent

By Anthony Deutsch and Sara Webb

AMSTERDAM, April 10 (Reuters) - Dutch maritime oil and gas engineer SBM Offshore, which recently posted losses arising from disputes with clients, on Tuesday warned it had found evidence of possibly "improper" sales practices involving third parties.

SBM said last year its management board had launched a review of the company's compliance procedures, including anti-corruption guidelines, and their implementation.

"As part of this review, the company has recently become aware of certain sales practices involving third parties which may have been improper," SBM said in a statement.

"Outside counsel and forensic accountants, reporting to both the Management and Supervisory Boards, have been engaged to investigate these practices thoroughly."

The news sent SBM's shares down nearly 8 percent early on Tuesday.

SBM said it had taken the necessary steps to terminate any such practices and had disclosed its internal investigation to the appropriate authorities.

Newly appointed chief governance and compliance officer Sietze Hepkema declined to discuss any details of the practices under review or in which countries they took place.

He said in an interview that external authorities were not currently investigating the practices and that he would report back on next steps "within four to six weeks."

Hepkema's appointment comes amid ongoing conflicts with Canadian group Encana, which is working on the Deep Panuke gas project off the coast of Nova Scotia, and Talisman Energy, which is developing the Yme oilfield, offshore Norway.

Reviewing what when wrong at those projects would be a top priority in coming weeks, Hepkema said.

SBM has said it expects impairment charges relating to those projects of more than $850 million.

Hepkema was a partner with Allen & Overy and has specialised in international corporate law, with a particular focus on corporate governance and corporate finance, the company said.

He will begin work immediately and his appointment to the management board will be subject to shareholders' approval.

Losses on the Encana and Talisman projects prompted a bigger-than-expected net loss for 2011, forced SBM to scrap its dividend and prompted a management shake-up, with the appointment of a new chief executive and a new finance chief.

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