Stocks in the media and entertainment sector were stuck in cold storage for much of 2020 and 2021, as Covid-19 restrictions put a freeze on cinemas and concerts.
Riding on the reopening theme, one local company hopes to take another crack at it, while elevating Singapore’s entertainment scene to its former glory.
NoonTalk Media, founded in 2011, is headed by executive director and CEO Dasmond Koh. The company specialises in multimedia production and artiste and talent management.
NoonTalk debuted on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Catalist board at 22 cents on Nov 22, reaching a high of 24.5 cents that same day before closing flat.
The company raised gross proceeds of $4.8 million. Some 4.5 million shares in the public tranche met valid applications for 5.3 million shares, which made the IPO 1.2 times subscribed.
Some 17.5 million placement shares were also fully subscribed. Lim Hock Leng, better known as the managing director of Sheng Siong Group, was the biggest anchor investor, taking up 4.4 million shares.
Union Energy Corp, known for selling liquefied petroleum gas tanks to households and coffeeshops, took up two million shares.
Besides Lim, a few other local towkays are known to have placed their respective bets on Singapore-listed entertainment companies.
Sam Goi Seng Hui, better known for heading a foodstuffs business, and Oei Hong Leong of Indonesia’s Widjaja family jointly invested $19.5 million in mm2 Asia by taking up new shares at five cents each.
Ron Sim, founder of lifestyle products company Osim, was an anchor investor in GHY Culture & Media at 66 cents per share. Sim is also a substantial shareholder of mm2.
Other key investors in NoonTalk are Qilin Wealth Fund, a Singapore-based family office, and Chong Weng Chiew, a former member of parliament, who took up 1.35 million shares each.
Chong is now an executive director of Citic Envirotech, a water treatment company previously listed on the Singapore Exchange.
Koh, a former Mediacorp artiste, fondly remembers Singapore’s vibrant film landscape from decades ago. “I grew up knowing that Singapore productions were recognised overseas; the Chinese and Vietnamese used to watch our dramas. Over the years, other players emerged: Japan, followed by Korea, then China,” he says.
Singapore can do a lot more for its entertainment scene and gain cultural capital, Koh tells The Edge Singapore. “We want to create a wave that lets people recognise and understand Singapore culture.”
People may know Singapore as a financial hub, but they might not have seen a lot of our beauty; this can be translated via productions, just like how people watch Korean movies and travel to Korea.
The looming threat of a recession has forced multiple listing hopefuls to delay their plans. NoonTalk is only the eighth Catalist listing this year — marked more by de-listings than listings. Why is Koh choosing to list now?
“How many years [has this IPO been] in the making? Only about a year. We are quite blessed; our business is not as complicated as a lot of others,” he says. “Everybody knows that the market might not be too good, but the only piece of advice that I kept hearing was: ‘Since it’s already like that, how much worse can it get?’”
Between FY2020 and FY2022 ended June, NoonTalk Media reported revenues of $3.04 million, $3.83 million and $6.37 million, respectively. Of the latest figure, some $2.21 million, or 35%, came from talent, equipment and events management.
NoonTalk is linked to 10 full-time and affiliated artistes. They include Xubin, Kimberly Chia, Zong Zijie, and Chinese actor and television personality Zheng Kai. Zheng also plays an ambassador role, says Koh, scouting for projects and collaborations in China on behalf of the company.
NoonTalk also has a business development manager in Hong Kong, where the entertainment scene is “still quite vibrant”, he adds.
Outside of Singapore, Noontalk’s potential talents could come from China and Thailand. “We haven’t actually inked anyone overseas yet, but a couple of them are in talks,” says Koh. “We wanted to wait until we clear this IPO hurdle, which makes it easier for us to attract prominent artistes.”
By the end of the next financial year, Koh hopes NoonTalk can represent five regional artistes, up from its current blank slate. Under such arrangements, NoonTalk represents these artistes in specific regions and countries with limited rights over managing their projects.
At home, the challenge is much tougher, and Koh is careful to manage expectations. “People don’t see being in the entertainment industry as something prestigious; they would rather go into banking. I think we need probably three to five years to rebuild this confidence,” he says.
NoonTalk’s executive director and COO, Jed Tay, has directed projects like the National Day Parade, Shopee Super 9.9 Shopping Day in 2021, and the 2021 and 2022 Chingay Parades. “He was also approached to do Fifa openings overseas,” says Koh.
According to Koh, NoonTalk is not limiting itself to local clients. “If there are any other projects, be it in China, the US or even European countries, that is something we would be looking forward to.”
NoonTalk is also launching two recurring events: a year-end countdown party for end-2022 and an exhibition fair showcasing “wedding and interior” themes, slated for April 2023.
It also plans to produce concerts, which are back in a big way after the pandemic restrictions eased.
The majority (65%) of NoonTalk’s FY2022 revenue came from its film, video and multimedia productions. This segment grew 80.9% y-o-y, owing to additional revenue of some $1.4 million from the Chingay 2021 project and revenue of approximately $244,000 from the Thai drama, Dear My Happy Working Life, in July 2021.
In June, NoonTalk furthered its foray into Thailand with The Antique Shop, a film featuring artistes from Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
“We intend to further cultivate our relationships and connections with existing and potential partners across the Asia Pacific region, including in Thailand and China, where we have extensive relationships with our partners,” reads NoonTalk’s prospectus.
NoonTalk’s net profits after tax between FY2020 and FY2022 were $73,939, $189,244 and $22,407, respectively. However, these bottomlines were supported by government grants, property tax rebates, rental rebates, and gains on partial extinguishment of a convertible loan. Without the above, NoonTalk would have booked a net loss after tax of $547,041 for FY2022.
According to Koh, the company has reinvested much of its earnings. For example, since 2019, NoonTalk has maintained its own studio within a 20,000 sq ft space at Mediapolis.
“There is no point for a small company to keep all its profits sitting in the bank. It doesn’t make sense. If you have the vision that you want to grow a company, you must be willing to invest,” he says.
Its new shareholders may need to be enticed to share that vision. For FY2023 and FY2024, NoonTalk’s directors plan to distribute dividends of at least 20% of the company’s earnings to shareholders.
“We hope that we are given ample time to perform and let them see a healthy growth,” says Koh.
NoonTalk’s listing adds to a growing list of related companies, including mm2 and GHY. Its artiste management operations could be compared to GHY’s joint venture with video streaming platform iQiyi.
Launched in 2021, the Singapore-incorporated Uni-Icon Entertainment aims to manage artistes active in Southeast Asia.
At the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in March 2021, local actor Tay Ping Hui was announced as one of the first artistes to join Uni-Icon.
Its events and concert production operations could be compared to mm2’s subsidiaries, such as the Catalist-listed concert producer Unusual and immersive media studio Vividthree Holdings.
According to Koh, NoonTalk is a “more 360, integrated media agency”. He says: “We offer a one-stop service, from providing new artistes to production and even a platform via our artistes’ social media for publicity. This is something that probably sets us apart from them.”
Still, NoonTalk joins a languishing sector, although there are some signs of a pick-up.
In May, mm2 and Unusual reported net losses of $42.1 million and $4.2 million, respectively, for FY2022 ended March.
To their credit, the two companies had halved their losses from FY2021; their losses had begun with Singapore’s “circuit breaker”.
In November, mm2 reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of $4.1 million for 1HFY2023 ended September. Over the same period, Unusual returned to the black with a net profit of $1.0 million.
Meanwhile, GHY’s gross profit plunged 59% y-o-y to $5 million in 1HFY2022 ended June. The company, with its operations and market largely in China, sank into a net loss of $1.78 million for the period, reversing from a net profit of $3.5 million in 1HFY2021.
Shares in mm2, Unusual and GHY surged between 6.38% and 11.86% on March 24, after Singapore announced an end to restrictions on all live performances, including theatre shows, concerts and street busking. The trio’s share prices have mostly moderated since.
Year-to-date (ytd), as of Dec 5, shares in GHY are down 21.8%, similar to mm2’s 23.3% ytd decline. Unusual, with its concert production focus, is up 14.2% ytd.
Still, the entertainment scene might get livelier, with at least one more listing aspirant.
Singapore-based “edutainment-tech” company iGet says it plans to list in 2024. Its entertainment arm focuses on training Korean artistes in singing, acting and dancing; while its tech arm includes a content production unit in Shenzhen, China, which is developing an “artiste-based metaverse” complete with games and non-fungible tokens.
In a Nov 1 press release, iGet says it has signed an offer letter from US-based Boulevard Capital Partners for US$60 million ($81.4 million) in funding.
The company has also signed an MOU with concert promoter JP Entertainment and its founder Jimmy Loh, and it will bring Cantopop singer Aaron Kwok, American saxophonist Kenny G and Japanese musician Kitaro to Singapore in 2023.
iGet’s founder is Alan Chan, creator of Singapore’s first K-pop group, SKarf, which is set to relaunch in 1Q2023 along with a separate male group.
According to iGet, its South Korea-based team is headed by Lee JT, a former director at SM Entertainment.
The South Korea-listed company made headlines in Singapore on Dec 2 when it confirmed plans for a regional headquarters here. As the company behind popular K-pop groups Girl’s Generation, Super Junior and Exo, SM’s Singapore office will reportedly be managing joint ventures in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Photos: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore