The year 2021 has been another year of navigating change and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is encouraging to see how Singapore-listed companies have remained resilient and agile, responding effectively to new challenges.

In Singapore, even though border controls and safety measures have extended well beyond what was previously expected, our collective resolve has put us on track for a gradual return to normalcy. Our economy grew 7.7% in the first half of this year and as vaccinations gain pace, we are optimistic that as a country, we will remain competitive in an environment where Covid-19 becomes endemic.

Against this backdrop, we are pleased that The Edge Singapore’s Billion Dollar Club and Centurion Club awards continue to highlight the achievements of home-grown and regional champions listed in Singapore.

Highlighting successes

The winners of the Billion Dollar Club awards exemplify what it means to thrive in the face of adversity. It is important that we recognise the efforts and resolve of Singapore-listed companies, particularly those who have excelled in these trying times. This year, we saw businesses harness opportunities and make the most of the current climate to strengthen their position as market leaders. The awards highlighted companies that retained or improved their standing, and also welcomed newcomers in various categories.

Last year’s winner of the Centurion Club “Overall Company of the Year” award, AEM Holdings, made its way into the Billion Dollar Club this year after record-breaking earnings for the first half of this year. Notably, AEM Holdings made a clean sweep of its industry sector for the BDC awards.

Similarly, iFAST climbed up the BDC ranks this year, securing three awards in its industry sector along the way. This move was on the back of surging sales, a growing B2B business and an expansion of its Malaysian stockbroking service.

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Those companies whose sectors align with the needs brought upon by the pandemic continued to see successes this year, with Medtecs International, Riverstone Holdings and Top Glove all enjoying outsized earnings. Top Glove, a leading manufacturer of disposable rubber gloves, achieved significant profits and was recognised as the Overall Winner of the Billion Dollar Club category.

The awards also saw some familiar names in the mix — Genting Singapore, Keppel DC REIT, Sheng Siong, ST Engineering and ValueMax all maintained their standing as top listed companies on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). Silverlake Axis was a regular winner in previous years except for 2020. This year, it bounced back to pick up both the highest ROE and overall sector winner for the Software & IT Services; Technology Equipment industry category.

Among the many companies who have made headway in terms of overall market capitalisation, profitability and revenue growth, Union Gas, Kimly and APAC Realty have overcome a challenging landscape to clinch awards in their respective categories.

A focus on sustainability

This year marks the third time that The Edge Singapore is using sustainability scores as one of the criteria to assess companies, and SGX is glad to play its part in driving the use and adoption of ESG data.

Climate action is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues of our time. It has gained increased interest from market participants, with climate resilience and decarbonisation at the forefront. Investors increasingly using ESG-related factors to assess risks and opportunities.

Sustainable investments have reached US$35.3 trillion, or more than a third of all assets in five of the world’s biggest markets. According to a recent MSCI 2021 Global Institutional Investor survey, around 50% of investors in Asia-Pacific countries, excluding Australia, New Zealand and Japan, consider climate change metrics for decision-making.

Directing capital towards building a climate-resilient and low-carbon future requires access to quality data for informed investment decisions. The limitations thus far in ESG data and disclosure have been long-standing hurdles, and hence this is an area of key priority for SGX as we believe what is disclosed by companies must be relevant for, and accessible to, investors.

The complex nature of sustainability presents new challenges for companies and investors. We recognise that companies are at different stages of their sustainability journey. SGX is thus embarking on various capacity-building efforts to lay the foundations of understanding so that we can equip the ecosystem with the necessary skills.

As part of our efforts to future-proof companies, SGX RegCo has released a consultation paper that proposed a progressive roadmap to encourage climate-related disclosures in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), as well as to promote board diversity.

Providing support by way of tools, guidance and regulatory measures, we want to help companies disclose material information and data that is relevant for investors. We are also developing an ESG reporting tool to allow data to be easily collected from companies and shared with end-users.

A trusted and vibrant marketplace

All these efforts go towards building a trusted and vibrant marketplace that is positioned for the future.

Since the pandemic started, we have seen a resurgence in investor participation in our stock market. In our past financial year ended June 30, daily average trading value amounted to $1.35 billion, the highest in eight years. There was robust trading in companies beyond the large-cap stocks, reflecting broader interest in our market. Participation from retail investors increased almost 40% during the year, with the market seeing more diverse participants including those who trade our equity derivatives.

In today’s volatile markets and low-interest rate environment, SGX continues to introduce more products for investors which capitalise on the strengths of our cash equity and equity derivatives businesses. Singapore remains the REITs growth capital of Asia, attracting both global institutional and retail investors looking for steady returns. Since the first REIT listing on SGX almost 20 years ago, we have established a strong REIT ecosystem with increasing investor interest, deep liquidity and active issuer participation. We now offer a comprehensive product suite — ranging from stocks, REIT ETFs to REIT futures — solidifying Singapore’s position as the most international REIT hub in the world.

We have also positioned ourselves as one of Asia’s largest international trading venues for Chinese fixed income ETFs. The world’s largest pure Chinese government bond ETF listed on SGX has reached a fund size of $2 billion and continues to grow. With our latest maiden SGD money market ETF in Southeast Asia, dual-fund class ETF and the China tech-focused ETF, we have seen record growth in ETF assets under management to $10 billion.

As an international listing platform, SGX supports companies in their efforts to tap global capital at every stage of their growth. In FY2021, companies successfully raised $18 billion on our primary and secondary markets. To provide more fundraising avenues, we recently launched our much-anticipated Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) framework, making SGX the first exchange in Asia to do so. Our SPACs framework has generated significant interest from prospective sponsors and the investor community. We hope it would not only support fast-growing enterprises but also provide investors with more choices and opportunities.

As global economies turn the corner, we are optimistic that Singapore-listed companies will continue to attract the attention of astute investors who appreciate the long-term value and resiliency of our stock market. We encourage all companies to persist in innovating and upholding strong governance and stakeholder communication. Everyone in the ecosystem, working hand in hand towards joint success, will provide the booster shot that is needed to spur greater growth and vibrancy for our markets.

Loh Boon Chye is CEO of Singapore Exchange

Photo: Bloomberg