SINGAPORE (July 30): The red-and-blue KILLFIRE brand of fire extinguishers is a ubiquitous sight in Singapore buildings today. But the listed company behind the brand, Asiatic Group (Holdings), now seems to be fighting fires related to its power plant investments, which have drawn a barrage of criticism from some shareholders.
In 1966, Tan Ah Kan started Asiatic Engineering Services Co, which distributed and supplied firefighting equipment. In 1983, he established the KILLFIRE brand. In 2002, Tan diversified his business with the acquisition of Colben System, then a lossmaking manufacturer of uninterrupted power supply devices. That year, both businesses were organised under the same parent company, Asiatic. In 2003, Asiatic listed on Sesdaq (now the Catalist board), at an IPO price of 22 cents a share. Tan was then chairman and his son George was managing director. Tan’s two other sons, Boon Siang and Boon Yew, were executive directors.
The public-listed company then had a relatively simple structure, with just two wholly-owned subsidiaries — Asiatic Fire System and Colben System. Its earnings base was also modest: It reported just $1.18 million in earnings for its financial year to March 31, 2004, with $351,000 in net cash flows from operating activities. But it soon began trying to diversify into the power generation business.