Trading of Hyflux shares, perpetual securities halted

Hyflux’s overseas projects include the Magtaa Desalination Plant (above) in Algeria and Tianjin Dagang Desalination Plant in China.
Hyflux’s overseas projects include the Magtaa Desalination Plant (above) in Algeria and Tianjin Dagang Desalination Plant in China. PHOTO: HYFLUX
Hyflux’s overseas projects include the Magtaa Desalination Plant in Algeria and Tianjin Dagang Desalination Plant (above) in China.
Hyflux’s overseas projects include the Magtaa Desalination Plant in Algeria and Tianjin Dagang Desalination Plant (above) in China. PHOTO: HYFLUX

Group chief operating officer to leave; investors worry whether company can redeem securities

Hyflux called for a trading suspension of its shares and perpetual securities yesterday as shareholders tried to digest the news that the water treatment firm is seeking court protection.

In the evening, the company announced the resignation and departure of group executive vice-president and group chief operating officer Wong Lup Wai.

Mr Wong joined Hyflux in 2013 and was appointed to the posts in 2014. He will leave at the end of the month.

He was responsible for Hyflux's global projects execution, operations and maintenance, and engineering resources, as well as developing group-wide strategies in manufacturing, procurement, and membrane and systems sales.

Retail investor body, the Securities Investors Association of Singapore (Sias), said Hyflux had reached out to it.

Hyflux has reassured Sias that it will actively engage stakeholders as it reorganises its business.

Over the next 30 days, the water project developer will have to come up with a convincing business plan to satisfy its key lenders - and the Singapore High Court - that it deserves a six-month moratorium to revive its business and reorganise its debts.

  • Projects and operations in S'pore and overseas

  • SINGAPORE

    Water treatment firm Hyflux's upcoming project TuasOne Waste-to-Energy Plant is scheduled for completion next year. It will be Singapore's sixth and largest plant to produce energy from the incineration of waste.

    Hyflux also built the Tuaspring Integrated Water & Power Project. Boasting the largest desalination plant in South-east Asia, the unique feature of the facility is its integration with a power plant, which supplies electricity to the desalination plant. This landmark facility is 250m away from its SingSpring Desalination Plant.

    The Bedok Newater Plant was Singapore's first such plant and marked Hyflux's entry into the municipal water treatment market.

    ALGERIA

    In Magtaa Algeria, it developed a desalination plant, partnering the state-owned Algeria Energy Company (AEC) and state-owned national water company L'Algerienne Des Eaux.

    An earlier facility - the Souk Tleta Desalination Plant - was a joint venture project with Malakoff Berhad of Malaysia and AEC, and marked Hyflux's entry into the water treatment market in the region.

    CHINA

    The Tianjin Dagang Desalination Plant is the largest membrane-based seawater desalination plant in China and supports the industries in Tianjin city.

Hyflux has appointed Ernst & Young Solutions as its financial adviser and WongPartnership as its legal adviser.

NUS Business School's Associate Professor Lawrence Loh said: "Hyflux's ongoing reorganisation move is necessary to ensure that any asset divestments will get the best value for its stakeholders, particularly creditors and shareholders."

He added that seeking court protection and suspending share trading are "a broad, open admission of its festering business problems".

He summed up some of the shareholders' sentiments when he noted: "While there were already market expectations for the troubles at Hyflux, the issue has probably brewed for a time much longer than necessary. Hyflux has probably seen this coming and could have been more expeditious and decisive in its restructuring efforts along the way."

Market observers agree that a six-month moratorium would allow Hyflux to focus on two ongoing projects that are nearing completion.

The first is the TuasOne Waste-to-Energy Plant in Singapore, which is slated for completion next year. TuasOne was valued at around $750 million in 2015, and Hyflux owns a 75 per cent stake.

The second is the US$250 million (S$336 million) Qurayyat desalination project in Oman, which faced delays but has entered its final stages of testing and commissioning. Hyflux has an 85 per cent stake in the facility.

Once these are operational and generating income, they are likely to fetch a better price when sold.

A retiree, who bought into Hyflux at its initial public offering in 2001, described himself as "very worried".

Another investor, who bought about $50,000 worth of perpetual securities in 2011, is concerned whether Hyflux will have enough money to redeem the securities.

Hyflux did not redeem the 2011 tranche last month, with the result that the coupon rate went from 6 per cent to 8 per cent, based on the terms and conditions.

Hyflux also announced on Tuesday that it would not be making the coupon payment due May 28, which relates to the 2016 tranche.

The upset investor said: "In April, (during the first-quarter results) we got the impression that Tuaspring could be sold, just give them time. We also got the impression that the company was still okay."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'Trading of Hyflux shares, perpetual securities halted'. Print Edition | Subscribe