UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Cipla silent on reason for suspending CEO

Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:04pm IST

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* Chairman says matter 'not material'

* CEO suspended on Wednesday over 'serious allegations'

* Shares down more than 5 pct (Adds details)

CAPE TOWN, Aug 16 (Reuters) - South African drug maker Cipla Medpro said on Thursday the suspension of its chief executive was not based on any major financial wrong-doing, even as nervous investors sent its shares sharply lower.

South Africa's third-largest pharmaceutical firm said late on Wednesday it had suspended company founder Jerome Smith pending an investigation into 'serious allegations', without identifying the charges.

Chairman Sbu Luthuli declined to give details at the company's earnings presentation in Cape Town on Thursday.

"We can't disclose the nature and specifics, but I want to assure everyone that the matter is serious. But from a monetary value, if you look at the company, it is not material," he said.

"I want you to be at ease. You are not going to think that suddenly there is 100 million rand ($12 million) missing from the company."

Investors nonetheless sent shares of the $450 million drug maker sharply lower. The shares were down 5.8 percent at 7.80 rand at 1019 GMT, after earlier falling more than 10 percent.

Luthuli said the investigation would not impact Cipla Medpro's supply agreement with Indian drug giant Cipla Ltd .

Cipla Medpro has appointed Johan du Preez, an independent non-executive director, as acting chief executive, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Separately, the company reported a 31 percent increase in first-half earnings on Thursday. ($1 = 8.2248 South African rand) (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

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