SANTIAGO, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The chairman of Chilean fertilizer group SQM and top executives at its holding companies are facing charges of market manipulation by the local securities regulator, which is investigating share trades made between 2009 and 2011.
The regulator, SVS, late on Tuesday accused Julio Ponce, SQM’s chairman and late dictator Augusto Pinochet’s son-in-law, of buying up shares below market prices and then reselling them at above-market prices.
SVS is also accusing Patricio Contesse, chief executive officer of the Potasios holding unit; Aldo Motta, CEO of the Norte Grande, Oro Blanco and Pampa Calichera holding companies; and Roberto Guzman, Ponce’s close advisor.
Ponce controls SQM through his ownership in these holding companies.
“The accusations relate to the alleged actions of the accused in various operations carried out in a systematic and recurrent fashion during 2009, 2010 and 2011, which allow us to presume the existence of a trading scheme with Calichera A, Oro Blanco and SQM shares,” SVS said.
The executives have 20 days to respond. If SVS decides to press charges and the accused are found guilty, an unspecified penalty will be applied, the regulator said.
SQM could not immediately be reached for comment.
Shares of SQM were down 3 percent at 15,710 pesos in early trading on Wednesday. They had already dropped about 20 percent in the days after Russia’s Uralkali quit a potash cartel in July, heralding a price war for the key crop nutrient.
Following the Russian move, SQM said it was cutting its planned spending for this year and would invest even less in 2014.