Singapore Press Holdings and its journalists win SIAS awards

Sias president and chief executive David Gerald said companies should communicate well with shareholders.
Sias president and chief executive David Gerald said companies should communicate well with shareholders.PHOTO: SIAS

SINGAPORE - Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has bagged a big haul of awards at the local Oscars of corporate governance and financial journalism at a gala event on Tuesday evening (Sept 19).

SPH's track record in transparency paid off again, as it secured the Securities Investors Association (Singapore)'s "Singapore corporate governance" award for companies in the discretionary consumer products and services sector.

Apart from SPH in the corporate governance award category, honourable mentions also went to hospitality firm Banyan Tree Holdings and ornamental fish trader Qian Hu Corporation.

The category - which replaces the Most Transparent Company Award - is meant to recognise listed companies that best help investors to make informed decisions.

The media and property group was crowned most transparent company for the 12th time in 2016 and has also clinched the runner-up position four times.

SPH chief executive Mr Ng Yat Chung, said of the company's corporate win: "It is a reflection of our commitment to uphold good corporate governance and transparency, and to build trust with our investors and shareholders."

Other winners at the awards last night included Singtel and DBS Group Holdings.

The CapitaLand family of property companies also did well with a six-medal haul that included the top "golden circle award" for corporate governance.

Five out of the seven accolades for financial journalism also went to SPH reporters, in the 18th annual iteration of the Sias Investors' Choice Awards.

Straits Times' correspondent Grace Leong scooped her second big award with a fresh "special award", after picking up a Financial Story of the Year prize in 2012 during her time with The Business Times.

She was lauded for "consistently being the first to break the story on prominent corporate developments", her award citation said.

The association also tipped its hat to her analysis of the impact of Swiber Holdings' collapse on the Singapore economy.

Ms Lee Su Shyan, business editor at The Straits Times, noted that Ms Leong chases stories "even if they seem to have hit a dead end".

"Her persistence and patience paid off, yielding several exclusive corporate stories such as the victory of Sakae Holdings in a shareholder dispute and reasons why the iconic heritage project at Capitol Singapore stalled," said Ms Lee.

Singapore Exchange chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin had said in a speech earlier on Monday afternoon that, compared with the disclosure-based regime in the more litigious United States, "we need to have stronger public enforcement in both disclosure and corporate governance".

Along those lines, two new categories at the 2017 Sias Investors' Choice Awards - which were launched in 2000 to celebrate excellence in companies' governance and transparency - were for sustainability and excellence in shareholder communication.

Mr Tan noted growing interest elsewhere in sustainability reporting, and the need to cultivate such an emphasis in Singapore as well, with the proportion of Singapore-listed companies that voluntarily hands in sustainability reports at just 20 per cent, compared against 75 per cent of S&P 500 companies.

"This is of course just the beginning of a journey, which will, I very much suspect, be similar to the one taken by corporate governance in Singapore," he said.

"That also started out with regulatory backing on a 'comply or explain' basis, and now has gained recognition from 'a nice to have' to a 'must have' that has the potential to impact investor confidence and a company's share price."

Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, the guest of honour at the awards ceremony on Tuesday night at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, said: "Businesses are increasingly recognising that a focus on sustainability can help them manage their social and environmental impact, while improving their overall governance and operating efficiency. At the same time, enhancing transparency and stakeholder engagement helps to foster public trust and may provide firms with better access to capital."

Ms Sim, who is Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, added: "In the face of global economic uncertainty, we mut continue our efforts in developing an informed and educated investor community. This will lead to a stronger investor voice and spur companies to upgrade their products and services."

Sias president and chief executive David Gerald said: "Many companies do not communicate very well, especially the mid- and small-caps. Especially when you're in a bad situation, communicate well. Talk to your shareholders."

Meanwhile, Business Times correspondent Jamie Lee took home the prize for financial journalist of the year for the second time, sharing the trophy with Lianhe Zaobao correspondent Hu Yuanwen, a first-time winner.

First-time special award recipient Claire Huang and Lianhe Zaobao associate business editor Suzane Quek, who was investor education journalist of the year, rounded out the SPH contingent's highly successful evening.

Ms Quek split the honours for that award with Channel NewsAsia presenter Dawn Tan, while Today's Ms Angela Teng was most promising journalist of the year.