A decent year for Singdollar bond market, says OCBC

Bank raises share of market to 22.8%, and is optimistic about next year

The Singapore dollar bond market shrugged off a shaky start to enjoy a "decent and active" year despite volatile financial markets.

OCBC yesterday noted that 161 Singdollar bonds amounting to $22.66 billion were offered from Jan 1 to Dec 11 - slightly lower than the $23.51 billion recorded for the whole of last year.

OCBC capital markets head Tan Kee Phong told a briefing: "The Singdollar bond market has caught up quite a bit after a slight lag since the start of the year... If it is above $20 billion every year, we are fine.

"We have done that, and it's a sign that generally the market still functioning and active."

OCBC said it has gained market share in the Singapore dollar bond sector, closing in on top-ranked DBS Bank. It said it helped issue about $5.16 billion of Singdollar bond offerings, boosting its market share to 22.8 per cent, up on the 12.1 per cent last year when it arranged $2.86 billion Singdollar bond offerings.

DBS Bank held the lion's share of the market at nearly 41 per cent, working on $9.27 billion in Singdollar bond offerings up to Dec 11, according to Bloomberg.

Mr Tan said it is hard to say how the Singdollar bond market will do in 2016 but hopes it could hit more than $20 billion again.

He said it is "positive", given forecasts that the local economy will still grow next year, albeit at a modest pace. And there are potential opportunities ahead.

"A lot of issuers took the chance in the last two years to borrow ahead. So next year there are refinancing opportunities. And if mergers and acquisitions activity picks up, then there will be funding along with those activities," Mr Tan added.

He estimated that $13 billion in Singdollar bonds and US$33 billion in Singapore syndicated loans will likely mature next year.

OCBC also noted that issuers have sought consent from bondholders to "loosen covenants" or change the terms of the bond.

Mr Tan said: "If they are at the challenging part of the cycle, they need some additional room or buffer with regards to the covenants."

Amendments to bond convenants could be in the area of interest coverage, net gearing or total equity.

OCBC said five issuers had sought approval to amend covenants or terms of bonds in recent months, and this number could rise next year. The five were: Pacific Radiance, Marco Polo Marine, Dyna- Mac, Otto Marine and Tat Hong Holdings.

Mr Tan said OCBC will continue to focus on the Singdollar bond segment: "Naturally in the home market, we have a comparative advantage, we will definitely be more active there."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'A decent year for Singdollar bond market, says OCBC'. Print Edition | Subscribe