News story

Manitou denies Irisman's claims

Thursday, 16 March 2006 ( #251 ) - TAIPEI, Taiwan
Cooper Lin
Cooper Lin
French rough-terrain forklift specialist Manitou has rejected a series of claims against it of unfair business dealings. Last September, Manitou BF acquired an 85 per cent majority shareholding in Hangzhou Irisman Material Handling Equipment Corp, leaving founder Cooper Lin with 15 per cent share. Manitou said in a statement at the time that it would subscribe to two capital increases to increase capital and subsequently Manitou would have a 90 per cent shareholding in Hangzhou Irisman. Cooper Lin emailed News this week and said he had been dismissed from his executive position at Hangzhou Irisman for breach of contract. However, he denied he had breached the contract. When contacted by phone, Lin, a Taiwanese national, put News on the phone to Irisman Material Handling Equipment Corp vice president Helen Hwang to communicate his claims on his behalf. Hwang said Manitou tried to increase its registered capital without giving notice to Lin. Manitou BF had said in the statement that once it had a 90 per cent shareholding in Hangzhou Irisman, the company would be renamed Manitou Hangzhou Material Handling Co Ltd. Huang said: "The Hangzhou Irisman board consists of three Manitou directors and Cooper Lin. The Manitou directors tried to submit modified documents to the Chinese government authority to change the name of Hangzhou Irisman and increase its registered capital without informing Lin. "Manitou also unfairly dismissed Lin from his position, with no compensation, despite signing a two-year agreement with him," she said. Manitou executive vice president Bruno Fille said in a statement: "Following problems which have occurred with Cooper Lin since his appointment as managing director of the Irisman company on December 2, 2005, the Irisman board of directors has been forced to terminate his duties as managing director on February 13, 2006, for reasons of internal problems. "This change in management of the company has temporarily suspended the procedures required for the company name change and for the increase in capital which would allow Manitou to increase its share from 85 per cent to 90 per cent. "Considering the behaviour of its former manager since that date and the attempts which have been made to disturb the normal operation of the business, the board of directors decided on March 10, 2006, to suspend production for several days to implement measures necessary for the preservation of rights," Fille said. Huang said Lin founded Irisman Material Handling Equipment Corp in Taiwan in 1987, before moving the company's factory to China and collaborating with Chinese partners Hangzhou Jing Wei Investment Co Ltd Zhejiang and Jieshun Automobile Bodywork Mould Co Ltd on Hangzhou Irisman in 2003. Manitou BF bought shares from Lin's Chinese partners and said Hangzhou Irisman's range of industrial IC masted forklifts, with lifting capacities from 1.5 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes, would complement Manitou's range of high tonnage industrial trucks. Manitou has dismissed all Huang's claims against Manitou as "false allegations", saying the only purpose was to harm Manitou's image and good reputation. Huang alleges:
  • Manitou fired a team of technicians that had been working at Hanzghou Irisman for two years. She claimed the technicians had wages owing.
  • Manitou's purported claim that one of the Taiwanese technicians stole drawings and parts is "ridiculous".
  • Manitou wants to buy Lin's shares at a big discount off the book value, the same way it allegedly purchased the Chinese partners' shares. Manitou allegedly received a big discount and paid around RMB7.5 million (USD933,137).
  • Manitou suspended production at Hangzhou Irisman from February 20.
  • Manitou sought to increase its registered capital and change the name of Hangzhou Irisman Material Handling Equipment Corp to Manitou Hangzhou Material Handling Co Ltd without giving Cooper Lin notice and getting his signature of approval.
Lin met Manitou Group CEO Marcel Claude Braud on February 27 for talks at the Pudong Airport Ramada Hotel, Shanghai, but both parties' issues remained unresolved, Huang said. She said Lin was willing to talk to Manitou about selling his shares or buying Manitou's shares in Hangzhou Irisman. Irisman Material Handling Equipment Corp in Taiwan, which owns the Irisman brand is the R&D company for Irisman forklifts.