Why It Matters

Taking stock of the Singapore bourse

The news that businessman Ron Sim wants to take his company, Osim International, private could be read by some investors as yet another sign of the local market's malaise.

Some have long argued that the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is not doing a good enough job of attracting - and holding onto - listings, especially those of established local names.

The potential delisting of Osim - best known for its massage chairs - follows the privatisation of other household names such as Popular Holdings and SC Global. There have also been smaller local companies, including Zagro Asia and Pacific Healthcare Holdings, that have delisted for various reasons in recent years.

Critics blame the dearth of fresh listings and the outflow of companies on an overly restrictive regime, high regulatory costs and lacklustre trading, which has led to stagnating share prices.

Mr Sim's move has also set tongues wagging that more privatisation bids may follow. DBS Group Research named hotel chain Banyan Tree, oil and gas industry supplier Baker Tech and mobile crane rental firm Tat Hong among potential candidates.

It is too soon to call this a trend, but it is far from a bad thing for the market. Such events - and the speculation they spark - spur trading, boosting liquidity and interest in local stocks.

It also reminds investors to take a closer look at the hidden gems in the market. For even as some local firms have delisted, others have joined.

The firms that have debuted on Catalist over the past couple of years serve as a smorgasbord of future Osims. They include household names such as jeweller Soo Kee but also lesser-known yet solid companies such as security firm Secura and environmental technology group Eindec.

Singaporeans can rightly be proud of how far Osim has come and lament its departure from the stock market, but it is important too to continue investing in the local firms following in its footsteps.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Taking stock of S'pore bourse'. Print Edition | Subscribe