Just last week, The Edge Singapore celebrated our 1,000th issue, marking nearly 20 years of diligent coverage of the Singapore market and business scene. As we dug through our own archives to put together the commemorative issue, we are reminded that when companies stumble, we don’t shy away trying to find what went wrong. And when companies do well, we are happy for the management and their shareholders too. One way we hope to give them their due recognition is by organising this annual Billion Dollar Club awards.

Over the last couple of years, headlines in the financial and business media have focused on how the pandemic has affected economies and companies.

Quite a few of the standout winners for this year’s Billion Dollar Club as well as the accompanying Centurion Club for those with a market value below $1 billion, are companies from industries that have turned the pandemic into a growth opportunity.

This year’s overall Billion Dollar Club winner, the Company of The Year, goes to Top Glove Corporation, which as the world’s largest glove maker, has seen demand for its products surge. Riverstone Holdings, another leading glove maker, and Medtecs International, which makes medical consumables, figured in the awards as well.

Among the overall winners, two companies are worth a special mention: AEM Holdings and iFast Corp. At last year’s Billion Dollar Club, we predicted that both of these companies, who were both named winners in the Centurion Club, might just join the big league this year given the growth momentum they were enjoying.

See also: Booster shot by the ecosystem, for the ecosystem

As it turned out, our predictions have come true. iFast has been named overall sector winner for the financial services industry category. AEM, meanwhile, swept all four awards in the industry category for technology equipment and telecommunication services. 

The exciting prospect of SPACS

Financial journalists love to observe and report about the ebb and flow of different industries. And it is satisfying for us to write about the fledgling companies of today that might just develop into market darlings a few years later.

In short, what excites the markets makes us sit up as well. And here’s an interesting recent development. With effect from Sept 3, SGX has put in place a new framework for Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, or SPACs, as an alternative route to attract a pipeline of companies to list here and to make this market more vibrant.

As Carolyn Lim, vice-president, media communications of SGX RegCo, puts it: “A lot of sweat equity went into the SGX RegCo SPAC listing framework that has just been announced, not to mention sleepless nights, long days and you can imagine the rest.”

In finalising the new SPAC listing requirements, SGX’s public consultation exercise received around 80 responses — the largest number for any recent consultation exercise for such regulatory initiatives. Major financial institutions, accounting and legal firms, and even several individuals commenting in their private capacity weighed in.  

In an unusually proactive move, the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) will appoint research firms from a panel to analyse and evaluate the proposed acquisitions by the SPACs and help retail investors make informed investment decisions.

Some naysayers may say SGX has missed the boat as super app Grab is already heading for the US to complete its SPAC deal with Altimeter Growth Corp by end of the year. Grab raised the possibility of Singapore secondary listing at a later date but we know at best this is a consolation prize.

However, the headline grabbers of today won’t necessarily be the same the next day. The start-ups of today, desperately seeking any kind of media coverage and attention, might just grow up to become an entity that journalists trip over one another to cover. Such is what makes the market more interesting than just banks, developers and REITs.

Last October, Nanofilm Technologies International made its debut as a hotly-anticipated tech unicorn that was never seen before on the SGX. Its share price more than doubled from IPO in eight months before a lower-than-expected earnings surprise sent it down by a third. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic is still raging on and new variants of the virus infecting even those already vaccinated, dampening sentiment.

Thus far this year, the market’s trading volume was still decent but there were just three IPOs, not including Sri Trang Gloves’ secondary listing. Widely-anticipated big issues such as the beer business of Thai Beverage has been postponed.

So, will the SPACs framework change that? Perhaps. Loke Wai San, chairman of AEM Holdings, one of the top winners in this year’s Billion Dollar Club, has another job managing private equity firm Novo Tellus, which has invested in a string of tech companies. As Loke told The Edge Singapore last week, he is keen to put together a SPAC deal and will “be working on it as soon as we can”.  

Besides Novo Tellus, Vertex Holdings, a Temasek subsidiary, and Turmeric Capital, an investment firm led by former L Catterton Asia head Ravi Thakran, are reportedly mulling SPAC listings too.

This burst of interest in SPACs listings is good for SGX as it may even jumpstart the IPO market or spur the secondary fundraising market. If this happens, everyone will profit.

Chan Chao Peh
Editor, The Edge Singapore

Photo at SGX: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore