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Former Vocus chair charged with insider trading related to cancelled 2019 sale

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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has charged former Vocus chair Vaughan Garfield Bowen for allegedly performing insider trading after he sold millions of the company’s shares just prior to the announcement it had failed to be acquired for the third time in as many years.

Bowen has been accused of two counts of insider trade for the disposition of more than 5.6 millions shares. Bowen allegedly had knowledge that EQT Infrastructure withdrew its proposal to acquire Vocus.

Bowen currently serves as an executive director of Uniti Group. He was also the founder M2 Group, which merged into Vocus in 2016. Following the merger, Bowen had a stint as Vocus’ chairman in early 2018 [PDF]. 

EQT Infrastructure had offered Vocus to be acquired at AU$5.25 a share in May 2019, but it was unable to do so due diligence.

Vocus received multiple interest from potential suitors during that time but was unable to seal the deal. In 2017, private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Affinity Equity Partners both submitted separate offers to acquire Vocus, but both of those offers were eventually terminated due to the network provider missing its FY17 net profit guidance.

Two years later, EQT Infrastructure presented its offer before quickly rescinding. AGL, an energy provider, then made an offer. However, it was also withdrawn due to “insufficient certainty of creating value”.

Vocus was purchased by a consortium of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets and superannuation fund Aware Super for AU$3.5billion, or AU$5.50 each share.

MIRA started its chase of Vocus at the start of February, while Aware Super joined the fray later that month after it was spurned by greenfields fibre company Opticomm last year.

Bowen could receive up to 30 year imprisonment if found guilty.

Bowen will have a committal discussion hearing at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in Dec. 

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