SINGAPORE (Mar 13): The catastrophic slump of Singapore’s much-vaunted water and power company, Hyflux Ltd., has stunned 34,000 retail investors who were lured by the promise of a 6% annual return forever from a company that seemed to have a gold seal of government approval.

At the heart of the debacle is Tuaspring, a desalination and power plant that cost $1.1 billion and was heralded as one of the “national taps” for an island that had long depended on importing water and harvesting rainwater for survival. The company’s glowing prospects encouraged investors including Li Meicheng and Violet Seow to funnel some of their savings into $900 million of junior debt to help fund the venture and group expansion.

Tuaspring was opened to great fanfare in September 2013, with the head of the Public Utilities Board and two government ministers flanking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called the plant “the latest milestone in Singapore’s water journey,” praising its “unique and cost-efficient design.”

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