Midday market: STI rise bucks regional trend; Rowsley still most actively-traded

SINGAPORE - Activity on a few key counters helped lift Singapore shares on Friday morning (July 21), bucking the regional trend as cautious investors held back in other markets.

At 12pm, the Straits Times Index (STI) was up 0.4 per cent or 14.4 points to 3,308.

Rowsley was once again the most actively traded counter on the bourse, though its share price held steady at 17 Singapore cents with almost 144 million shares changing hands.

The counter skyrocketed 93 per cent on Wednesday after controlling shareholder and billionaire Peter Lim unveiled plans to inject medical assets - namely, Thomson Medical and Malaysia-listed TMC Life Sciences - said to be worth up to S$1.9 billion into the firm.

Union Gas Holdings, a provider of fuel products, made its trading debut on Catalist on Friday. The counter opened at S$0.295, slightly above its IPO price of S$0.25.

Its IPO was 7.1 times subscribed, with applications of 424.3 million shares for the 60 million shares on offer.

Civil engineering company Swee Hong's shares rose by 35.7 per cent to S$0.019. This came after it announced the end of the scheme of arrangement between the company and its creditors on Thursday, which took effect in December 2015

Nam Cheong requested for trading on its shares to be suspended. The Malaysian shipbuilder announced on Wednesday it will freeze all debt repayments, including a bond coupon payment due on Sunday, in a final bid to conserve cash and avoid liquidation.

The loss-making company had run up RM1.84 billion (S$586 million) of outstanding debts at the end of March, versus a cash balance of RM116 million. Its three tranches of outstanding bonds - S$90 million due on Aug 28, S$75 million due in July next year and S$200 million due in 2019 - are all trading at distressed levels.

More companies also released results amid the ongoing earnings season.

Capitaland Mall Trust was up 2 per cent to S$2.04 after posting a 0.4 per cent rise in second-quarter distribution per unit to 2.75 Singapore cents, despite the closure of Funan Mall for redevelopment from July last year. Net property income for the three months ended June 30 rose 1.2 per cent to S$117.6 million from the same period a year ago.

Other Asian markets fared less well than the STI. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 0.13 per cent at noon, while the Nikkei had slid 0.23 per cent.

This came after mixed overnight performances from the United States and European markets. The S&P 500 slid 0.02 per cent, while the Dow dipped 0.13 per cent and the FTSE closed up 0.77 per cent.

"Notably, defensive sectors could be seen gaining on the S&P 500 index following news that the probe on United States President Donald Trump had been widened while the IT sector remained supported on positive earnings reports," said IG market strategist Pan Jingyi.

"The former could lead to some cautiousness within Asian markets in the day, particularly after the record run in recent weeks."