DeClout aiming to complete more acquisitions by year end

DeClout's chief executive Vesmond Wong (far left) and vCargo Cloud's chief executive Desmond Tay. DeClout started investing in vCargo Cloud in 2015, and now holds a 50.01 per cent stake.
DeClout's chief executive Vesmond Wong (far left) and vCargo Cloud's chief executive Desmond Tay. DeClout started investing in vCargo Cloud in 2015, and now holds a 50.01 per cent stake.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Catalist-listed incubator for start-ups also lining up another spin-off as it rebuilds business

Tech firm DeClout is looking at three to four acquisitions that can be completed this year, while lining up another spin-off for 2018.

These developments should put the Catalist-listed company, which incubates start-ups for "harvest" through initial public offerings (IPOs), back on the growth track following an unforeseen divestment that disrupted its plan.

The $75 million sale of its majority stake in the emergent infotech firm Acclivis in October was "an offer too good to reject", DeClout chief executive Vesmond Wong told The Straits Times in an interview recently.

"But the fact is, we did not plan for that, and the outcome is posing some challenges to our bigger plan. We must now rebuild our business pillars, especially in the infocomm technology space."

The potential acquisitions DeClout is discussing are in the area of data analytics and cyber security.

Meanwhile, this will be the year that its Internet and data centre company Beaqon must show it is fit for listing, "potentially in the second quarter in 2018".

DeClout has cashed out on two harvests since its own IPO in 2012. Beside the Acclivis deal, the mainboard IPO last July of Procurri, which focuses on data centre equipment and maintenance, was another breakthrough for DeClout.

"In the past four years, we have an internal rate of return (IRR) of 71 per cent, frankly an incredible performance," Mr Wong noted. The IRR tracks how profitable a company's investments are.

  • 71 %

    Internal rate of return over the past four years for DeClout.

    $12m

    DeClout's profit before tax last year, a figure that has been growing every year since 2012.

DeClout draws recurrent income from the 47.3 per cent stake it still holds in Procurri, which contributes about 44 per cent of the group's total revenue. Mr Wong said DeClout's business model is to retain stakes in future spin-offs.

DeClout's full-year revenue has been rising year on year to hit $304 million in 2016. Profit before tax was $12 million last year, a figure that has also been growing every year since 2012. "Since our IPO, we have grown our revenue from $50 million to over $300 million, and our assets - after 18 acquisitions and joint ventures - have grown from $60 million to over $320 million," Mr Wong said.

Its growth as a technology firm and incubating platform has had national recognition, with the company getting $10 million of venture capital funding from the National Research Foundation in May.

Another key development is the growth of vCargo Cloud. DeClout started investing in the firm in 2015, and now holds a 50.01 per cent stake.

The trade-facilitation company, led by chief executive Desmond Tay, runs a cloud platform for the data and documentation generated over an entire trade process - from Customs clearance at the government level, to logistics and e-commerce at the business level.

"A lot of tech companies say they are facilitating trade, but I believe we're the only one doing that at a macro level, working with governments for cross-border trade and logistics," Mr Tay said.

Its clients include the Singapore and Mauritius Customs, among government agencies, and DHL and DB Schenker in the private sector.

The technology provided by vCargo Cloud is running the Eastern Africa Single Customs Territory project launched last month.

In September, a similar platform will be created to link up Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia in central Asia.

"Because it's in the cloud, it's not difficult for us to create an entire ecosystem for trade processes. For instance, by working with the banks, we can and plan to integrate trade-financing solutions into our systems," Mr Tay said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'DeClout aiming to complete more acquisitions by year end'. Print Edition | Subscribe