Question mark over goodwill payments by SingPost

SingPost's building in Paya Lebar.
SingPost's building in Paya Lebar. PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr Gerald notes that SingPost has made efforts to improve its corporate governance since chairman Simon Israel took charge in May.
Mr Gerald notes that SingPost has made efforts to improve its corporate governance since chairman Simon Israel took charge in May.

Mr David Gerald, president of the Securities Investors Association of Singapore, said ahead of the company's annual shareholders' meeting today that SingPost has taken steps to improve its corporate governance since new chairman Simon Israel came on board in May.

But shareholders will still expect the company to keep watch on its strategy and financials, he said.

He flagged the huge goodwill payments that SingPost made to acquire subsidiaries TradeGlobal, Jagged Peak and Couriers Please over the last two years.

Over the 12 months to March 31, SingPost fell from a net cash position of $345.8 million in 2014 to a net debt position of $153.6 million. Goodwill on acquisitions rose to $493.5 million from $167.2 million two years ago.

E-commerce firm TradeGlobal alone accounted for $169 million in goodwill and $43 million in customer relationships, an intangible asset.

"TradeGlobal was acquired when it was not profitable. What are the board and management's financial and operational targets for these new acquisitions?" Mr Gerald asked.

He also felt that more light could be shed on the group's mergers and acquisitions policies.

"The acquisitions have increased revenue but profits have not followed," he said.

He urged shareholders to ask what investment hurdles a potential investment would have to cross in order to be considered by the board, and what financial targets the board uses in its analysis, such as the level of returns on assets and invested capital, for example.

Mr Gerald also noted that logistics and e-commerce is a highly competitive sector, with many big boys like Yamato, DHL and UPS all investing heavily in the sector.

"How viable and profitable is (SingPost's) strategy of being essentially a B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce logistics pure play that does not own the customer?" he asked.

He encouraged shareholders to find out if SingPost is intending to make more acquisitions, and what firms it is looking for if so.

On board renewal, Mr Gerald noted that SingPost now has a fairly new team helming the company, so the search for new hires should consider that "any new addition to the team will have to hit the ground running".

How effective the new team can be at integrating past acquisitions and delivering profits to shareholders will be important, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Question mark over goodwill payments by SingPost'. Print Edition | Subscribe