Hedge fund Ascapia weighing partial takeover of Datapulse

Ms Ng Siew Hong emerged with a 29 per cent stake in Datapulse last November after she picked up the block from the firm's co-founder Ng Cheow Chye at a premium of 55 cents per share versus the price then of 36 cents.
Ms Ng Siew Hong emerged with a 29 per cent stake in Datapulse last November after she picked up the block from the firm's co-founder Ng Cheow Chye at a premium of 55 cents per share versus the price then of 36 cents.BT FILE PHOTO

It owns 410,000 shares, seeks to set things right at feud-hit firm

Singapore-based hedge fund Ascapia Capital is mulling over a possible partial takeover offer of cash-rich Datapulse Technology, in which it already owns some 410,000 shares, with the hope of setting things right at the firm.

"That is the game plan. We want a 27 per cent (stake) so we can have a say," Ascapia portfolio manager Wesley Widjaja told The Straits Times. "But it's on pause for now although we remain open to it as the company's shareholder base is fragmented and we need to examine our options."

Datapulse had about 9,000 minority shareholders as of Jan 25.

Ascapia, a registered fund management company that Mr Widjaja described as a "value investor", currently has an investment portfolio of 25 to 30 firms across the world, including a stake in Singapore's Catalist-listed Isoteam.

"Our approach is fundamental-based investments in companies where the management is in line with minority interests," he said, adding that the investment firm is also interested in picking up a stake or launching an offer for minority shares where there is doubt - as may be in the case of Datapulse.

ST understands the Securities Industry Council has given the go-ahead to Ascapia for the partial offer. If that materialises, it could add another dimension to the Datapulse saga that has caught the attention of governance hawks and the ire of some minority shareholders.

In November last year, Ms Ng Siew Hong, a 51-year-old accountant, emerged with a 29 per cent stake in the digital media storage maker after she picked up the block from Datapulse co-founder Ng Cheow Chye at a premium of 55 cents per share versus the stock price then of around 36 cents. The stock closed yesterday at 34 cents, up 1.5 cents or 4.6 per cent.

 

MULLING OVER OPTIONS

That is the game plan. We want a 27 per cent (stake) so we can have a say. But it's on pause for now although we remain open to it as the company's shareholder base is fragmented and we need to examine our options.

ASCAPIA PORTFOLIO MANAGER WESLEY WIDJAJA, on the possible partial takeover of Datapulse Technology.

Following this sudden ownership change, the company found itself in the middle of a full-blown shareholder feud, sparked by a board revamp and $3.5 million buyout in December of Wayco Manufacturing, a Malaysia-incorporated haircare products maker.

Ms Ng, who is not related to Mr Ng, told ST then: "I have good intentions coming into Datapulse. I felt there was a gap there and I would be able to help fill that with my knowledge of accounting and investments."

The shareholder fight will culminate in an extraordinary general meeting on April 20 that was requisitioned by Ms Ng Bie Tjin - a former finance director at the firm and daughter of Datapulse co-founder Ng Khim Guan - to contest the board overhaul and company's diversification agenda.

Yesterday, the Datapulse story took a legal turn with the company announcing it had filed a writ of summons and statement of claim against Ascapia.

In an announcement to the Singapore Exchange, Datapulse said the claim was related to Ascapia's open letter to minority shareholders dated Jan 25 which contained "baseless allegations". "Ascapia were given reasonable opportunity but had refused to withdraw their allegations and remove the letter from the website in spite of the clarifications made in the company's announcements," said Datapulse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2018, with the headline 'Hedge fund Ascapia weighing partial takeover of Datapulse'. Print Edition | Subscribe