Fairer procedure needed when allotting shares in IPOs

The procedure for corporate bond sales is not the only investment process that needs to be more transparent and fair (Make corporate bond sales open and fair, by Mr Goh Geok Huat; June 13).

Initial public offerings (IPO) have to be as well.

It is near impossible for a retail investor to get shares in a new IPO, as priority is always given to institutional firms with connection to the underwriter, high net worth investors and brokers.

Often, even before the public tranche is announced, people who have close connection with the issuers and placement agents would have been pre-allotted a big chunk of the shares.

Retail investors are last in the line, and unless you trade frequently with a significant amount of money with your broker, you will not get the shares.

This is unfair to retail investors.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) should increase the amount of shares allotted to retail investors from 5 per cent to 10 per cent, and change the procedures of allotment.

Currently, the allotment of shares for retail investors is based on ratio. For example, if you apply for 100,000 shares, the ratio is 10:100 and you will probably get 10,000 shares if you are lucky.

A better way is to give all retail investors who apply at least 1,000 shares. This will deter people from applying for more in the hope of getting more.

It will also discourage flipping for a quick profit, where retail investors sell on the first day of trading for a huge gain, as it makes more sense for them to keep their 1,000 shares for the long term.

The SGX should also review the IPO by-law on contra and short selling to shorten the contra period while also imposing a margin on short sellers.

We need to make the target market of underwriters small retail investors who hold the stock for the long term, and not speculators.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Fairer procedure needed when allotting shares in IPOs'. Print Edition | Subscribe