A local coffee shop chain might soon get a boost from an upcoming listing on the Singapore Exchange.
Home-grown food services operator Kimly Group, which runs a chain of coffee shops and zi char stalls, is seeking a public listing.
If successful, it will be the first local coffee shop chain to be listed.
The Straits Times has learnt that the company has hired law firm Rajah and Tann to handle the legal paperwork related to its listing application on the Catalist board of the Singapore Exchange.
It has also appointed communications specialist August Consulting to handle the announcement.
Kimly declined to comment when approached, but a source said the company is expected to make the announcement "very soon".
Acra records showed that Kimly Group owns more than 70 businesses, including coffee shops, zi char stalls and a central kitchen.
Number of coffee shops in Singapore.
Number of large coffee shop operators here.
Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) records showed that the group owns more than 70 businesses, including coffee shops and zi char stalls, as well as a central kitchen in Woodlands that also serves as the company's headquarters.
The investment holding company has a paid-up capital of $35.4 million and there are 27 shareholders, including Mr Lim Hee Liat, 50, a low-profile businessman who owns 51 per cent of the shares.
As one of four large coffee shop operators - alongside the Kopitiam Group, Chang Cheng Group and Kim San Leng - Kimly's move to seek public financing comes as the market faces heightened competition.
There are about 1,200 coffee shops in Singapore and the number will not go up by much more, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, which represents 400 coffee shops.
"Nowadays, the Housing Board only rents out stalls, so they can't be bought," he said.
But running coffee shops is still perceived as a lucrative business, given the number of busy Singaporeans who opt to eat out.
Some popular coffee shops have been sold for record prices in recent years. One in Bukit Batok was sold for $31 million in 2015 and another in Hougang went for $23.8 million in 2013.
The news of Kimly seeking a listing has created a stir in the coffee shop business.
Mr Kenneth Lee, chairman of the Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar Owners Association, said: "It is good news and will boost the image of the coffee shop trade."
He added: "That will encourage more players in the coffee shop business to also seek a listing, which will give them more resources to expand within the sector."
Mr Lee's association represents more than 300 coffee shops.
Several Kimly customers were surprised by the news of the planned listing.
Among them was Singapore Polytechnic lecturer Amos Tan, who was buying dinner from a Kimly zi char stall in New Upper Changi Road on Wednesday.
"With the funds, I would expect the food quality and service to improve," said Mr Tan, 39, who buys food there about once a week.
Another customer, factory worker Loh Oy Khuan, 55, said: "As long as they don't raise the price of their assam curry fish head, which I always come for, it's good news."
Mr Hong said the move is unlikely to affect food prices.