SGX faced queries over salaries, trading outage at AGM

The SGX logo.

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Exchange (SGX) faced a slew of queries and criticisms in a drawn out annual general meeting where shareholders voiced out on concerns ranging from remunerations, the struggling stock market to trading disruptions.

Around 800 shareholders attended the AGM held at the Star Theatre on Thursday (Sept 22), and their exchange with the SGX board and management was active from the start.

Shareholder Mr Mano Sabnani asked why chief executive Loh Boon Chye was paid $3.2 million in the last financial year despite the flattish company performance. He urged the board to cut down on remunerations as a means to spur the top management into doing better.

In response, chairman Chew Choon Seng said that the company performance was subjected to market forces beyond control, and the salary structure is to attract and retain talent at the company.

The SGX recorded a net profit of $349 million in financial year ended June 30, just a hair above the $348.6 million a year ago.

In his opening speech, Mr Loh stressed that the volatility in the Asia Pacific markets and the low interest rates are macro-factors affecting the SGX. Nonetheless, it has progressed further as a multi-asset platform, maintaining the position as the largest FX centre in Asia Pacific while launching an over-the-counter bond trading platform in December, he said.

But several shareholders did not appreciate what they heard. A shareholder, who identified himself only as Mr Tan, questioned why the high spending on technology - $127.8 million in the last financial year compared with $115.9 million previously - did not prevent the massive trading outage in July.

Mr Loh said the disruption, caused by hardware failure, was prolonged mainly due to the longer than expected time needed for broker firms to conciliate their market data, and the SGX's back-up system was actually functioning properly.

Several others questioned the SGX on the implementation of the minimum trading price, and the lack of resolution on the penny stock saga in 2013.

The range of issues suggested that the SGX is out of touch with the feedback from market participants, said one Mr Koh, whose comments drew some applause.

Mr Loh noted that the SGX has been actively listening to market feedback, which was shown in its recent proposal to make counters with market cap of over $40 million exempt from the rule.

Chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin added that the market manipulation case is now before the court, and the prosecution has said that charges will be brought before the end of the year.

The back and forth exchange slowed the AGM to a crawl and the voting for the very first resolution could not start until 1.5 hours into the session.

The whole meeting eventually ended almost three hours after the start, with all resolutions passed.