Singapore market in quiet opening on Monday

The Straits Times Index was trading down 17.21 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 3,409.01 at about 9.30am.  -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 
The Straits Times Index was trading down 17.21 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 3,409.01 at about 9.30am.  -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI 

SINGAPORE - Singapore shares opened slightly lower on Monday following news on Sunday that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and is undergoing surgery on Monday.

He is expected to recover fully after a week's medical leave, his office has said.

The Straits Times Index was trading down 17.21 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 3,409.01 at about 9.30am.

Mr Phuah Keng Keat, Voyage Research investment analyst told The Straits Times: "I see a drop of about eight points but that's very normal. I don't think it's got much to do with PM's condition, which seems to have a rather high survival rate. I don't think it will affect the market much."

"The Greek talks will be investors' top concern this week. We have yet to see any timeline on any solution and until that appears, the market will remain nervous about Europe."

Agreeing, Mr Wong Sui Jau, Fundsupermart's general manager said: "I haven't seen any major reaction, nor will there be any, in my opinion, partly because the surgery has a 99 per cent recovery rate according to reports. PM Lee might be out of action for only a week."

"This week, investors will continue to look at the situation in Europe, where the sovereign debt negotiations with Greece have shown no progress. Oil prices, though stabilising, will also be a factor."

Mr Desmond Leong, a remisier, noted that this is also Chinese New Year week, "so many people are already leaving Singapore, and the market is already muted."

One big mover on Monday morning was United Engineers (UE) whose shares fell 15 per cent on opening after Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) and its insurance arm failed to reach an agreement to sell their stake in the company. They were trading down 46 cents, or 14.5 per cent, at $2.71, their lowest since August 2014, with 9.5 million shares traded in the first few minutes of trading, nearly twice their average 30-day volume.

OCBC and Great Eastern Holdings had entered into exclusive talks with TCC Top Enterprise, a company controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and his wife, over the stake sale in August. OCBC and related companies own around 36 per cent of UE.