SBM Offshore says may face criminal probes over possible bribes

AMSTERDAM, April 3 Wed Apr 3, 2013 11:27am EDT

AMSTERDAM, April 3 (Reuters) - Dutch maritime engineering group SBM Offshore said on Wednesday it might have violated anti-corruption laws and could be subject to criminal investigation for alleged payments of bribes to officials in African countries.

Last year the company started investigating alleged payments involving sales via intermediaries between 2007 and 2011.

Dutch and U.S. prosecutors have been informed, but a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday she was not aware that any criminal proceedings have been launched. The spokeswoman also declined to comment on which countries were involved.

SBM Offshore disclosed the possibility of criminal investigations in a 205-page prospectus for its rights issue, which is intended to finance costs related to a dispute over its abandoned Norwegian gas platform, Yme.

"The company may have violated anti-corruption laws, which, if true could harm the company's reputation, reduce its revenue and profit, and result in monetary penalties, criminal and civil sanctions and other remedies," SBM said in the prospectus.

SBM Offshore made no mention of possible criminal prosecution when it gave an update to investors and journalists on March 28.

A "failure to comply with laws and regulations to which the group is subject may lead to disciplinary, administrative, civil and/or criminal enforcement actions," SBM Offshore said in its prospectus.

SBM shares were down 2.72 percent at 1526 GMT.

SBM Offshore told journalists and investors last week initial investigations had shown "substantial payments" had been made by third parties working for SBM Offshore.

It declined at the time to provide further details, citing ongoing investigations.

SBM Offshore has been forced to take $1.4 billion in charges and costs related to Yme over the past three years, leading to a shake-up of its management and hefty losses. (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Sara Webb and Jane Baird)

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