SINGAPORE (Mar 20): UOB Kay Hian, as a listed company, has been in the news recently for another reason. UOB Bank is now its single largest shareholder, with a stake of 38.14%. Separately, Wee Ee Chao, UOB Kay Hian’s chairman and managing director, has been steadily buying up shares of the company from the open market. The most recent purchase was made on March 18, with 128,200 shares bought at $1.13474.This means Ee Chao now owns 29.74% of the company — a hair’s breadth below the 30% general offer (GO) trigger point. Is a privatisation of UOB Kay Hian in the works?
“Personally, I take the view that I am a director of the company, and I don’t own a single UOB Kay Hian share, mainly because of disclosure reasons. If you are not careful, you will trip up,” says Choo, referring to the blackout periods before and after the quarterly reporting where company directors are not to trade their own shares.
Choo says there is no clear answer if the bank, which is run by Ee Cheong, the elder brother of Ee Chao, is considered concerted parties. If so, then there is no issue of triggering a GO as the two stakes combined, at nearly 70%, is already above the next trigger threshold of 51%. “I don’t really know. Even if I ask [Ee Chao], he won’t tell me,” says Choo with a laugh.