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Briefs: Economists’ GDP forecasts unchanged; former Broadway Industrial Group CFO charged for insider trading

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore7/22/2021 07:01 PM GMT+08  • 7 min read
Briefs: Economists’ GDP forecasts unchanged; former Broadway Industrial Group CFO charged for insider trading
Former Broadway Industrial Group CFO Tan Chee Keong was charged in court on July 22 for insider trading.
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Diners enjoying their meal on July 21 at a coffee shop, on the eve of renewed measures banning dining-in till Aug 18. Singapore reverted to Phase Two (Heightened Alert) to curb a new wave of infections believed to have originated from the Jurong Fishery Port. Workers from the port are believed to have spread the Covid-19 virus to KTVs and various other wet markets and food centres. Photo: Albert Chua / The Edge Singapore

Quoteworthy: "We are at risk of an uncontrollable rise in cases, which could potentially result in many severe illnesses or even deaths." — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, on why the resumption of tighter measures are needed.

Economists keep growth forecasts unchanged Following the return to Phase Two (Heightened Alert) measures announced by the Singapore government on July 20, economists have kept their GDP forecasts unchanged for now, albeit cautiously.

Bank of America (BofA) has kept its Singapore GDP growth forecast for this year unchanged at 7.5%, though it highlights that risks are skewed to the downside.

“We see downside risks to near-term growth of around 0.5 percentage points,” it says in a July 21 research note.

The brokerage notes that the measures will impact consumer-facing sectors the most, though this may be offset by stronger contributions from the manufacturing and modern services sectors.

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“Furthermore, the size of the likely rebound once the outbreak is under control depends on the government’s reopening plans, which are not clear to us,” BofA adds.

BofA also mulls the potential delays the government’s latest shift in focus towards vaccination rates among the elderly could cause for the transition to managing Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

OCBC Bank’s treasury research team is similarly cautious on the measures. “This presents another setback for the 2H recovery and probably warrants some extension of support measures for the affected industries,” the team says.

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They add that a larger FY2021 deficit may be “reasonable to expect”, and foresees full-year GDP growth coming in “a shade below” 7%, though this will be highly dependent on the pickup in vaccination rates and the frequency and duration of any further bouts of restriction tightening.

At RHB Group Research, economists have kept their GDP forecast at 5.8%, which is lower than consensus.

Meanwhile, UOB economist Barnabas Gan takes a more upbeat view on the impact of the tightened measures, seeing it as a “minor setback”.

He says that the previous Phase Two (Heightened Alert) measures imposed during May to June “did little to dent Singapore’s growth prognosis” and is confident that the measures will be effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 cases in 3Q2021.

While the restrictions will likely impact the services sector, “Singapore’s externally-facing sectors should remain relatively unscathed,” he adds.

Gan has kept his GDP growth forecast, which stands at 6.5% for this year, pending further clarity on how the Covid-19 situation will evolve. — Atiqah Mokhtar

Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations makes plea for additional support

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After surviving 16 months of a pandemic, businesses continue to be burdened by the loss of revenue, the ability to sustain jobs and afford rentals — the largest cost components of businesses in retail and F&B services.

Thus, The Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations made an urgent appeal asking for rental relief, additional wage support and extended loan moratoriums.

The alliance is made up of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), Singapore Retailers Association and the Singapore Tenants United for Fairness.

In a media briefing on July 21, RAS president Andrew Kwan says: “After some 16 months of a roller coaster endemic crisis, businesses who have managed to survive thus far are burdened by the loss of revenues and our ability to sustain jobs and afford rentals.”

According to ASME president Kurt Wee: “Since the last Phase Two (Heightened Alert) in May, the vast majority of frontline businesses have not received significant support from landlords for our rentals. The main rental help came from the government and it is coming next month.”

“There has been sporadic and selective help given by landlords… We can easily say that about 80% to 90% of tenants within our communities have yet to receive any help from landlords since May. In fact, the last time we had any significant help from landlords was last year during the ‘circuit breaker’ when it was mandated by the government.”

Amongst other things, the alliance is asking for support to help pay both local and foreign employee wages and an extension of bank loan principal moratorium to June 2022.

The F&B and retail trade sectors reportedly employ an estimated 370,000 workers between them. — Samantha Chiew

Former Broadway Industrial Group CFO charged for insider trading

Former Broadway Industrial Group CFO Tan Chee Keong was charged in court on July 22 for insider trading. He resigned from the company in August 2017, citing the desire to “pursue other opportunities and personal interests”.

According to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Tan allegedly leaked news to one Tay Yew Khem and Hui Choy Leng that the company had reached an agreement to sell two of its businesses.

Tay and Hui then purchased Broadway shares ahead of the company’s announcement on Aug 22, 2016.

The duo, who bought Broadway shares in July and August 2016, were charged together with Tan.

In addition to allegedly leaking the information, Tan received $30,000 from Tay as benefits.

Tan faces three charges, comprising two counts of communicating insider information and one count of acquiring property which represented his benefits of criminal conduct.

Tay, who paid Tan, faces 13 charges, comprising 12 counts of insider trading and one count of transferring property which represented Tan’s benefits of criminal conduct.

Hui also faces seven charges, comprising six counts of insider trading of Broadway shares and one count of unauthorised trading.

She is also accused of deceiving OCBC Securities, by using her father’s account to purchase Broadway shares without notifying the brokerage that she was the person conducting the transactions.

The investigation was jointly conducted by the MAS and the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force. — The Edge Singapore

New Covid-19 cluster at Marina Bay Sands’ casino found, earnings missed forecast

A new Covid-19 cluster has formed at the casino of Marina Bay Sands. On July 21, the Ministry of Health said 11 new cases are linked to this location.

“To break the chain of transmission and enable deep cleaning of the premises, Marina Bay Sands Casino will be closed to all members of the public from July 22 to Aug 5 2021,” said the ministry.

Members of the public who had visited the casino between July 7 and July 21 are asked to be tested, for free.

Las Vegas Sands Corp, the company that owns Marina Bay Sands, reported adjusted loss per share of US$0.26 ($0.35), versus US$0.17 seen, for its 2QFY2021.

Revenue for the quarter surged to US$1.17 billion from US$62 million in the year earlier quarter. However, analysts were expecting a revenue of US$1.37 billion.

As a result of the earnings missing forecast and with news of the casino closure, Las Vegas Sands Corp shares dropped as much as 3.8% in overnight US trading to US$47.55.

Given the persistent surge in the number of newly-infected cases, Singapore has re-entered a semi-lockdown phase with all dining-in banned from July 22 till Aug 18. — The Edge Singapore

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