Why It Matters

Delisting firms cause for worry

The impending exit of another illustrious brand, traditional Chinese medicine firm Eu Yan Sang International, from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is provoking considerable hand-wringing.

It follows the departure of other companies such as Tiger Airways and Osim International - with few new listings to fill the holes.

It is no secret that SGX has faced an initial public offering (IPO) drought. But word that managed healthcare provider Fullerton Health, Manulife US Reit and Frasers Centrepoint are planning listings has offered respite - a sign Singapore has not entirely lost its attractiveness as a fund-raising destination.

 

So far this year, there has been no new listing on the mainboard except Manulife, due to list on Friday. Last year, there was just one IPO, BHG Retail Reit, and one spin-off listing. There have been six listings on Catalist so far, compared with 14 last year.

Another privatisation candidate, logistics firm CWT, confirmed yesterday controlling shareholder, C&P Holdings, is discussing a "potential transaction" with Chinese conglomerate HNA Group.

The delisting of companies is "part and parcel of any well-functioning capital market, providing opportunities for shareholders to exit, and investors to uncover hidden gems within the market", an SGX spokesman said yesterday. But several analysts are troubled by this trend, saying recent privatisation targets are quality firms that have been suffering "very depressed" trading volumes and valuations.

"This may set a bad precedent because, on the one hand, you are trying to draw more regional players to the Singapore market and yet, when they see Singapore companies delisting, what kind of message does that send?" asked Mr Terence Wong, chief executive of investment firm Azure Capital.

It is disturbing that maintaining a public listing seems to be increasingly seen as an onerous liability, but some comfort can be drawn from the fact that in the case of Eu Yan Sang, Osim and Tigerair, they still remain largely in Singapore hands, for now.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Delisting firms cause for worry'. Print Edition | Subscribe