OSLO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Hexagon chief executive Ola Rollen’s knowledge that Next Biometrics had signed a major client when he made an investment in the Norwegian company was not material, an Oslo court was told on Monday.
Rollen, who denies wrongdoing, is on trial for alleged insider trading related to a 2015 investment in Next Biometrics through Greenbridge, his part-owned investment firm, which is the biggest investor in the company with a 17 percent stake.
During his testimony at Oslo’s district court, Next Biometrics’ former CEO Tore Etholm-Idsoee, who is now its acting chairman, said the essential information about the major client Next Biometrics had won was already known in the stockmarket.
“All the substantial information was already out: that it was one of the big five, Acer, Asus, HP , Lenovo or Dell, and that we would start deliveries in the second half of 2015,” he said on Monday.
“The only thing was to confirm which one of the big five it was,” Etholm-Idsoee said in court, adding that Rollen did not know that Dell was the client in question. The prosecution alleges that a purchase of shares in Next Biometrics on Oct. 6 and 7, 2015 by Greenbridge amounted to illegal insider trading, as Greenbridge was also involved in talks to take a larger stake in Next Biometrics at a higher price.
It was also alleged that Rollen, who faces six months in prison if found guilty, knew the release of the name of the client would increase Next Biometrics’ share price and that his knowledge amounted to privileged information.
Etholm-Idsoee said the pricing of Next Biometrics’ share issue at 60 crowns per share was not a question that Rollen was much interested in when the two men discussed its plans.
“Ola was clearly more interested in other things: what does it take to be successful in the smart card business going forward...I don’t remember a discussion about the pricing.”
Etholm-Idsoee also said the cancellation of a royalty agreement was agreed around midday Oslo-time on Oct. 7 and that Rollen was not involved in that negotiation. The prosecution has alleged that the cancellation contributed to a share price rise and had motivated Rollen’s investment in the firm.
Rollen and his lawyers have said that he did not possess privileged information about Next Biometrics at the time of the share purchase, which was motivated by his own independent analysis of the Norwegian company.
Next Biometrics’ share price jumped by 85 percent to 89 crowns on Oct. 9, 2015 after Rollen’s investment was made public, but later dropped after Next Biometrics carried out a private placement in February 2017.
Shares in Next Biometrics, which is due to release its third-quarter results on Tuesday, closed down 5.66 percent at 50.0 crowns on Monday.
The trial continues. (Writing by Gwladys Fouche; editing by Alexander Smith)