Singapore's neighbours are catching up in IPO leaderboard

Singapore's rival stock markets like Malaysia and Thailand are becoming more attractive. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - The local market is on track to keep top spot as the leading South-east Asian listings market for the second straight year but rivals are closing in.

More than S$4 billion will have been raised here by the end of the year, according to Deloitte Southeast Asia on Thursday (Nov 23).

Around S$3.66 billion has already been clocked up and November continues to be a busy month.

RE&S Holdings listed on the Catalist board on Wednesday, Mindchamps debuts on Friday (Nov 24) and No Signboard commences trading on Nov 30. And Cromwell European Reit lodged a revamped prospectus on Wednesday after aborting a first IPO attempt.

But the momentum for initial public offerings (IPOs) elsewhere in the Asean neighbourhood is gaining pace with rival stock markets like Thailand and Malaysia becoming more attractive.

Dr Ernest Kan, deputy managing partner for markets at Deloitte Southeast Asia, said: "Other countries in Southeast Asia are getting more exciting. Five, eight years ago, I wouldn't even talk much about them but in the last two, three years other countries have come up.

"Now, the other markets really have something to compare with us. They are catching up."

In fact, Thailand is the clear leader with regards to the size of companies that sought listings from 2014 to 2017.

IPOs in Thailand have added a combined market cap of S$11.5 billion to the Thai bourse so far this year. By contrast, the total market cap of Singapore companies that went public from the start of the year until Nov 15 is about S$6.56 billion, said Deloitte.

And while the funds raised through IPOs in Singapore this year has jumped from S$2.26 billion in 2016 to S$3.66 billion as at Nov 15, NetLink NBN Trust's IPO accounted for a whopping S$2.3 billion of that.

Malaysia IPOs have raised S$2.35 billion so far this year - six times what was raised last year - but that figure was likewise boosted by the blockbuster listing of petrochemical producer Lotte Chemical Titan.

Thailand ,on the other hand, consistently raises at least S$2 billion through IPOs every year with S$2.34 billion racked up so far this year.

A big part of that - S$1.34 billion to be exact - has come from the energy and resources sector. Thailand is rich in natural resources such as coal, noted Dr Kan.

Moreover, the Thai government has pledged to increase the use of renewable energy by five-fold by 2036, he said. The amount raised by this sector has also grown steadily over the past four years.

Thailand's Reit segment is gaining ground too. Over the past four years, Reit IPOs in Southeast Asia raised a combined S$7.1 billion. Singapore-listed Reits accounted for S$4.4 billion, those in Thailand accounted for S$2.5 billion and Malaysia for S$154.9 million.

Indonesia has consistently raised S$1 billion a year in IPOs for the past four years, and has reached S$1.04 billion so far this year.

Vietnam has a high IPO count, with many names coming from the consumer business and industrial products segments, but these firms also tend to be smaller in size.

In Singapore, the appetite for IPOs has also returned in a big way this year.

Ten of the 15 IPOs here in the year to Nov 15 offered a public tranche, whereas only eight of the 16 companies that debuted last year did the same. This year's IPOs were over-subscribed at a median of 31.8 times, versus a median of seven times in 2016.

As well, the 10 Catalist listings so far this year had a median IPO price-to-earnings ratio of 11.3 times, versus 9.6 times last year and 8.7 times in 2015.

Ms Tay Hwee Ling, audit and assurance partner at Deloitte, said: "The market is willing and able to attach a higher valuation to these Catalist companies."

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