Spike in transport shares being probed

The authorities are looking into why land transport stock prices soared just before a landmark restructure of the bus industry was announced. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
The authorities are looking into why land transport stock prices soared just before a landmark restructure of the bus industry was announced. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The authorities are looking into why land transport stock prices soared just before a landmark restructure of the bus industry was announced.

The Straits Times understands at least one police report has been filed pertaining to the spike in SMRT and ComfortDelGro shares on May 20. That was a day before the Government said it would assume ownership of all buses and depots, and that transport firms would bid for routes to operate in competitive tenders.

The investment community views the change as largely positive for transport companies.

Community worker and National Solidarity Party member Ravi Philemon, 46, lodged a police report last Saturday. He did so after reading a newspaper article on the share price spikes, "which troubled me a lot", he said yesterday.

In his report, he asked the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and police to "investigate if any land transport company's shareholders (had) engaged in insider trading".

"The police told me that they would refer the matter to the MAS or CAD," he said.

An MAS spokesman told The Straits Times it could not comment on ongoing police investigations. In any case, he added, MAS also "does not comment on specific cases, nor on our dealings with individual parties". It was unclear if the central bank had been aware of the share spikes earlier.

On May 20, SMRT's share price shot up by 14 cents or 10.9 per cent to reach an 11-month high of $1.48. It was among the day's top gainers in the Straits Times Index's 3.04-point rise.

ComfortDelGro rose by seven cents or 3 per cent to hit a seven-year high of $2.38. Its subsidiary, SBS Transit, climbed eight cents or 5.7 per cent to reach a seven-month high of $1.40.

This led some to wonder if trading of the stocks should have been suspended pending the announcement. Asked for comments, the police gave their standard line on all queries pertaining to the CAD: "It is inappropriate to comment on investigations, if any."

christan@sph.com.sg