Sasol Limited (NYSE: SSL) Investor Securities Class Action Lawsuit 02/05/2020

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Company Name(s): 
Sasol
Case Name: 
Sasol Shareholder Class Action Lawsuit 02/05/2020
Case Status: 
Lawsuit Filed
Affected Securities
NYSE: SSL
Lawsuit Overview
Type of Lawsuit: 
Shareholder Class Action
Date Filed: 
02/05/2020
Class Period Begin: 
03/10/2015
Class Period End: 
01/13/2020
Court of Filing: 
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
Deadline To File for Lead: 
04/06/2020
Summary: 

An investor in shares of Sasol Limited (NYSE: SSL) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York over alleged violations of Federal Securities Laws by Sasol Limited in connection with certain allegedly false and misleading statements made between March 10, 2015 and January 13, 2020.

South Africa based Sasol Limited operates as an integrated chemical and energy company in South Africa. On October 27, 2014, Sasol Limited announced the construction of a of an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, dubbed the Lake Charles Chemicals Project (“LCCP”). According to the Company, the LCCP includes seven manufacturing units, some of which are in continued development, including the low-density polyethylene (“LDPE”) facility and Ziegler alcohol, ethoxylates and Guerbet alcohol facilities, among others. On June 6, 2016, Sasol Limited l reported “that the expected total capital expenditure for the [LCCP] could increase up to US$11 billion, including site infrastructure and utility improvements”; a slower rate of capital “resulted in an extended project schedule and contributed to further project cost increases”; “[t]he expected returns for the project have reduced due to changes in long-term price assumptions and the higher capital estimates”; and “[t]he increase in the estimated LCCP capital cost and extended schedule will reduce the expected project returns by approximately the same amount as the Company’s lower long-term price assumptions.”
Sasol Limited reported that its Total Revenue rose from over 172.4 billion ZAR for the 12 months period that ended on June 30, 2017 to over 181.46 billion ZAR for the 12 months period that ended on June 30, 2018, and that its Net Income over those time periods declined from 20.37 billion ZAR to over 8.72 ZAR.

On May 22, 2019, during pre-market hours, Sasol Limited disclosed that “the cost estimate for the LCCP has been revised to a range of $12,6 to $12,9 billion which includes a contingency of $300 million.” Sasol cited a $530 million change in the project’s cost forecast because of a “[c]orrection for duplication of investment allowances of approximately $230 million”; a “[c]orrection for certain contracts and variation orders managed by Sasol, outside the primary engineering, procurement and construction contract, of approximately $180 million”; and forecast improvements that were “not expected to be realised and adjustments for potential insurance claims and procurement back-charges of approximately $120 million.”

On August 16, 2019, Sasol Limited revealed that the announcement of its financial results for fiscal year 2019 would be delayed due to possible "control weaknesses" at its Lake Charles chemicals project in Louisiana. Additionally, Sasol Limited announced that the Lake Charles project, which initially was expected to cost $8.9 billion, has experienced delays and rising costs. As a result, cost guidance for the project has skyrocketed to at least $12.6 billion. Finally, Sasol Limited announced that will delay the start of an ethane cracker at the project due to a technical glitch related to a large heat exchanger.

Then, on October 28, 2019, Sasol disclosed that its review of the LCCP control weaknesses had brought to light “errors, omissions, and inaccuracies in the [LCCP] cost estimate,” and a number of unethical and improper reporting activities that took place at the highest level of management. Sasol also announced the resignation of, inter alia, its Joint Presidents and Chief Executive Officers (“CEOs”), effective November 1, 2019, and Senior Vice Presidents and others previously in charge of the LCCP.
Finally, on January 14, 2020, Sasol issued a press release confirming that on January 13, 2020, the Company “experienced an explosion and fire at its LCCP low-density polyethylene (LDPE) unit.” Sasol stated that “[t]he unit was in the final stages of commissioning and startup when the incident occurred” and “has been shut down and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the incident, the extent of the damage and resulting impact on the LDPE unit’s [beneficial operation] schedule.”

According to the complaint the plaintiff alleges on behalf of purchasers of Sasol Limited (NYSE: SSL) common shares between March 10, 2015 and January 13, 2020, that the defendants violated Federal Securities Laws. More specifically, the plaintiff claims that between March 10, 2015 and January 13, 2020, the defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that Sasol had conducted insufficient due diligence into, and failed to account for multiple issues with, the LCCP, as well as the true cost of the project, that construction and operation of the LCCP was consequently plagued by control weaknesses, delays, rising costs, and technical issues, that these issues were exacerbated by Sasol’s top-level management, who engaged in improper and unethical behavior with respect to financial reporting for the LCCP and the project’s oversight, that all the foregoing was reasonably likely to render the LCCP significantly more expensive than disclosed and negatively impact the Company’s financial results, and that as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.