Founder, President & CEO, SIAS
Greetings to everyone
A new year will inevitably bring with it fresh challenges and opportunities. A handful of Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) have already been given permission to go public and retail investors will soon have a range of new companies who will be using this novel method of listing in which to invest, the takeover tussle for Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) between Keppel Corp and a consortium known as Cuscaden Peak has yet to be concluded and there is a large-scale merger of two Mapletree real estate investment trusts for the market to digest.
These are just some of the major corporate developments on the immediate horizon for 2022. There will surely be many more in the months ahead and whilst some are likely to be controversial and might not meet with the approval of all investors, the investing public should rest assured that whatever forms these might take, the Securities and Investors Association (Singapore) or SIAS remains firm in its resolve to continue performing the role it has for the past 23 years, which to protect the interests of small investors.
This was very much the case throughout 2021 when SIAS played a central part in promoting good corporate governance and communication through its engagement with companies and investor education initiatives.
Ensuring shareholders were given the full picture
Companies such as Singapore Airlines and Sembcorp Marine that proposed unpopular, large-scale capital raising exercises had to answer a series of detailed questions posed by SIAS on why the money was needed and whether more exercises might be forthcoming.
In both cases, SIAS also conducted online dialogue sessions with senior managements which were then posted on YouTube for shareholders to view. In the case of Sembcorp Marine, SIAS also published articles urging shareholders to cast their votes within the specified deadline, and clarifying why Temasek was obliged to make a mandatory general offer for the company.
Similarly, when Keppel and later Cuscaden tabled their takeover offers for SPH, both parties had to answer SIAS’s questions on those offers, some of which were gathered from shareholders who had voiced their concerns to SIAS. An online dialogue session was also held with Keppel’s management and answers to SIAS’s questions were carried in the press and published on SIAS’s website.
Helping companies get their messages across
SIAS was also approached by companies who valued its ability to communicate important messages to retail investors through the mainstream media. For example, when semiconductor firm AEM Holdings proposed to buy all the shares of contract manufacturer CEI Limited, a key consideration was the future dividend policy of the combined entity. SIAS laid out all the options in an article that was published in the Chinese and English newspapers so that shareholders could make a proper, informed decision.
Investor education and corporate governance
In the field of investor education, SIAS contributed several commentaries to the Sunday Times Invest section, from “5 things investors should do in 2021: stick to the basics’’ in January 2021 to “SPACs: 5 things to know before investing’’ in November 2021.
Among the other commentaries also published in Invest were those aimed at raising the governance bar, such as SIAS’s call to make hybrid annual general meetings (AGMs) and “live’’ voting mandatory because the current arrangement of allowing companies to conduct AGMs fully online whilst requiring shareholders to submit their questions and votes in advance is wholly unsatisfactory.
As the year progresses, I am confident that the local economy and market will rebound from the slowdown brought on by Covid-19. Already there are signs that the new variants of the virus are less threatening than the original and that with an increased vaccination rate, some semblance of normalcy can be expected.
On the other hand, inflation is seen as being a problem, and central banks are expected to tighten their monetary policies. Markets are therefore expected to be volatile in the face of a rising interest rate environment.
In other words, although there is light at the end the tunnel, there are many challenges that still lie ahead. However, I am confident that SIAS will be able to play a major role in helping you navigate the months ahead.
12 Jan 2022