Hyflux investors staging police-approved protest at Hong Lim Park on Saturday at 3pm

Signs which several Hyflux investors are planning to display at the Speakers’ Corner on March 30, 2019. PHOTO: ALEX LEONG

SINGAPORE - Several Hyflux investors will be staging a protest at the Speakers' Corner at Hong Lim Park on Saturday (March 30) to vent their anger over the state of affairs at the troubled water treatment company, The Straits Times has learnt.

They also intend to appeal for goodwill from national water agency PUB over what they see as a raw deal for investors. PUB had said it will take control of Hyflux's Tuaspring desalination facility at zero dollars and waive any compensation claims PUB has against the company if the firm does not rectify its defaults.

The protest, which is planned from 3pm to 4pm, comes days before an important scheme meeting on April 5, where Hyflux creditors will vote on a rescue plan.

Protest organiser Alex Leong, 43, said he has already received approval from the police and the National Parks Board on Monday (March 25) for the protest. He expects many people to turn up, based on an interest poll that he had put out to Hyflux investors several weeks ago.

Mr Leong had invested around $100,000 into Hyflux preference shares as part of the group's fund-raising efforts in 2011, and had also reinvested all his dividends back into Hyflux.

A restructuring plan offered by white knight Salim-Medco consortium, SM Investments (SMI), could potentially wipe out 97 per cent of what he has invested so far if creditors vote in favour of the plan.

The restructuring plan has to be approved by April 5 by at least 50 per cent in number and 75 per cent in value of each creditor class.

SMI had offered to bail out Hyflux with a $530 million lifeline for 60 per cent of the restructured company, but it had also threatened to leave the deal on April 1 unless the defaults were rectified.

On Monday, Mr David Gerald, the president of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or Sias, wrote to the Hyflux board, stating that PUB's notice of default and SMI's threat to walk out have caused anxiety among investors.

"It is generally felt that the company is creating further uncertainty by not issuing the revised scheme document to the creditors," wrote Mr Gerald. The revisions would incorporate his association's proposal to let creditors share the upsides from contingent claims.

The cancellation of a scheduled town-hall meeting by Hyflux has also created anxiety and the meeting had not been reconvened, Mr Gerald added.

He said: "The company is not giving confidence to investors that it will resolve all outstanding issues to keep the restructuring deal with SMI on track."

The Sias told ST that it was not aware of Saturday's protest.

Meanwhile, Mr Leong worries that if the original restructuring vote goes through, his investments, which make up a large portion of his savings, could vanish.

"Enough is enough. Many of us are fed up with the rubbish that we have been seeing about Hyflux," said Mr Leong, adding that protestors will be wielding placards to indicate their frustration.

PUB's takeover of the desalination plant at Tuaspring without payment would not go down well with individual investors like him, said Mr Leong, especially since the plant is still operational and holds value.

"We understand the need for PUB to get its compensation as Hyflux has failed its obligations under their water agreement, but we are trying to appeal to PUB to exercise goodwill towards investors like us," he said.

Another investor, former polytechnic lecturer Raymond Koh, 47, said he, too, stands to lose around $100,000 from a 2011 investment.

Mr Koh said: "I think the authorities have to recognise that behind the numbers, there are real people with real families and for many of them, a 97 per cent wipeout can be very devastating."

Although the protest might not reap any change for investors, Mr Koh said it is good enough that Hyflux, the authorities and other parties mired in the Hyflux saga take notice.

"Every small effort counts," he said.

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