SGX still in the race for tech listings

Singapore has missed clinching some hot tech listings from companies groomed on these very shores but the Singapore Exchange still has more to offer than people realise, a senior official has said.

Mr Chew Sutat, SGX head of equities and fixed income, told an exchange event yesterday: "The US, we do acknowledge, is a great market for tech today. There are companies like Snap that have no profits that can actually raise quite good money.

"But in Asia today, there isn't a single market that is a pre-eminent market for technology."

He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the SGX-CIMB Disruptors' Day yesterday.

Earlier this week, investors heard that Singapore-based Sea, formerly Garena and reportedly South-east Asia's most valuable start-up, had filed for an initial public offering in the United States. Local biotech firm Aslan Pharmaceuticals is planning to debut on the Taipei Exchange next month.

In recent years, a number of smaller local tech firms have also opted to launch their IPOs in Australia.

Mr Chew noted that within the region, Australia has had the most number of tech listings in the last three years, but these tend to be small. "There's very little follow-through after (they debut in the) market and in fact, the companies that then want to grow further often will look at other platforms in North Asia, in the US, in Singapore."

Liquidity on the Catalist board, measured by turnover velocity or how often a stock is traded, is also much higher than in the larger growth markets like London's AIM and Hong Kong's GEM board, he said.

Mr Chew attacked the "myth" that Singapore's investor base has no appetite for risky tech bets. "In fact, investors here can take oil and gas risk. And Singapore retail investors actually trade a lot of high-risk penny stocks. So clearly, there is an interest in risk."

The SGX-CIMB Disruptors' Day yesterday was attended by 40 global asset management companies and about a dozen companies both private and listed, including Internet provider MyRepublic, which is planning an IPO next year but has yet to decide where.

Mr Greg Mittman, MyRepublic's chief operating officer, said: "Really, it's frustrating because there's no perfect venue.

"It's literally a process of deciding which poison you want to drink. For example, if you come from Asia, Nasdaq is very far away and there's a size issue, so there's a risk that you get lost. Singapore is not perfect and has well-known issues. But then again there is no silver bullet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'SGX still in the race for tech listings'. Print Edition | Subscribe