CRITICS CALL FOR MORE INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS ON BLUE SKY BOARD

CRITICS CALL FOR MORE INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS ON BLUE SKY BOARD
BLUE Sky Alternative Investments (ASX: BLA) has defended its governance and valuation processes in response to several critical reports from analysts that have emerged in the media recently.

Concerns have been raised about the company's lack of independent directors on its seven-member board, where only the chairman is independent, and the risk that poses in relation to its alternative investment portfolio.

However, in a release to the ASX this morning, the company says it puts a "strong focus" on governance and risk management through its independent chairman and legal staff.

"This focus is supported by an independent chairman who is a recognised expert in corporate law, three internal legal staff, two dedicated compliance staff and a compliance committee comprised of three independent experts," says the statement.

The company has pledged to hire another two independent directors in March, but it will still fail to meet the ASX recommendation for a majority of independent directors.

It also had to deal with the sudden departure of its founder, Mark Sowerby, last year, but new managing director Rob Shand recently assured Business News Australia that it was a planned succession in line with the company's growth plans.

In regards to valuing its investments, Blue Sky uses KPMG in private equity and venture capital matters, JLL for private real estate, Colliers  for real assets, and NAB for hedge funds, and these valuations are reviewed each reporting period by Ernst & Young.

"These valuations are also reviewed by our institutional investors (where relevant to their investments) and are signed off by the board of Blue Sky each reporting period, as well as the board of the Blue Sky Alternatives Access Fund (ASX: BAF) (where it has an investment)," says the company.

"As previously reported, for the 30 assets that we have realised since inception, 27 have been at a value either in line with, or higher than their book value and our realised returns are superior to our overall returns."

Reports the company has high levels of debt were also described as inaccurate.

"Only nine out of 25 portfolio companies have any core debt and each of those nine companies are conservatively geared (with debt levels typically less than 2-3x EBITDA).

"Blue Sky's own underlying balance sheet remains in a significant net cash position."

Blue Sky says it continued its strong growth in the first half of FY17 and is on track to meet its earnings guidance for the full year.

"We expect to deliver underlying NPAT of $24-$26 milllion for FY17 and be well through $3.0 billion in fee-earning assets under management by 30 June 2017," it says.

"This will represent approximately 50 per cent growth from FY16."

There are also questions about the September departure of Adam Vaggelas, who established Blue Sky's student accommodation business in 2014 with Nick Singleton.

Singleton has since taken on the role of heading the division alone.

"Blue Sky's student accommodation investments continue to perform strongly. Our first development was delivered on budget and ahead of schedule. It is now operational, is performing above our investment targets and is on track to pay fund investors a 10 per cent per annum yield in its first year of operations.

"Our second development will be completed in the next few months and is also on budget and well ahead of schedule.

"Similarly, all of our other sites are performing in line with, or ahead of our investment targets."

Blue Sky (BLA) is trading down 0.29 per cent at $6.970 per share this morning on the ASX.

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