Delisting a new strategy in firms' arsenal

Once, firms aspired to have an "exit strategy".

Many business founders courted investors to help grow their seeds of ideas.

Once the seeds grew, founders and investors alike would harvest the fruits of their labour or capital.

This was when the company's shares were publicly traded on a stock exchange via an initial public offering.

Now, we witness a counter-trend of sorts.

More companies are delisting their shares, either out of choice or circumstance.

When the economy slows, companies find it difficult to deliver high returns to shareholders.

Delisting frees a company from this mission.

Listed companies are strictly regulated, which puts pressure on executives to deliver short-term results at the expense of long-term development. Board members are scrutinised for diligence on their part. Hence, companies may delist to regain control.

Lack of interest in the company's shares, thin trading volume and the inability to meet the minimum trading price can also make exiting sensible.

In lean times, companies consolidate. Companies merge or are acquired by another, which makes delisting necessary.

Financial markets match suppliers and demanders of funds quickly with price information.

With delisting, the process of valuating companies is slowed. Investors may be hard put to determine the fair value of a prospective business. Industrial benchmarks and historical transactions may be helpful.

With fewer counters on the stock exchange, investors have fewer choices, but the remaining counters may benefit from more liquidity.

But a stock exchange must also be a good gauge of market sentiments for various industries in the real economy.

Investors could then look at overseas stock exchanges.

Companies come and go in a free-market economy. Financial markets are no different.

When interests are not served on either side, participants exit. It is part of the process.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Delisting a new strategy in firms' arsenal'. Print Edition | Subscribe