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Briefs: Singapore must recognise stock-market challenges: DPM Wong; StarHub and M1 potential merger said to be back on

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 8 min read
Briefs: Singapore must recognise stock-market challenges: DPM Wong; StarHub and M1 potential merger said to be back on
According to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Singapore must be realistic about the global trends affecting its equities market and what can be done about them. Photo: Bloomberg
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Quoteworthy: "I listen carefully to everyone’s views. When I go into a meeting, I do not start off assuming that I know all the answers" –— DPM Lawrence Wong, in an interview with The Economist, ahead of him taking over as Prime Minister on May 15

Singapore must recognise stock-market challenges, DPM Wong says

According to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, Singapore must be realistic about the global trends affecting its equities market and what can be done about them.

 It is still challenging for Singapore to attract listings, Wong said in response to a parliamentary question on May 8. However, he said that stock exchanges in places like the UK and Hong Kong have the same issue.

“Strong-growth companies backed by private equity and venture capital have the option to remain private for longer in the high-for-longer interest rate environment,” said Wong, who is also Minister for Finance.

Wong said that companies that go public tend to “gravitate” to the US due to its deep and liquid capital market and investor base. He added that the government will continue encouraging Singapore-incubated companies to list in the city-state.

See also: Hong Kong and Singapore top world's most expensive city list for expats in 2024

Singapore is studying proposals to revive its stock market amid a widening gap in the local bourse’s performance with regional peers, the Financial Times reported recently. — Bloomberg

Singapore biotech firm Mirxes refiles HK IPO with target valuation of US$600 mil

Singapore biotech firm Mirxes has refiled its draft prospectus for a Hong Kong IPO, with a target to raise at least US$100 million ($135.28 million) for a valuation of some US$600 million. This news comes a year after Mirxes first filed to list on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (HKEx) last July.

See also: Singapore’s ship-fuel sales surge as global trade flows jolted

If so, this will make Mirxes, which focuses on cancer diagnostics, one of the largest listings of a Singapore biotech company. The company intends to complete the listing within the next six months.

According to its latest draft prospectus lodged with the HKEx in April, Mirxes recorded losses of US$70.4 million for its FY2023 ended Dec 31, 2023. The company incurred costs in R&D, typical of such deep tech firms and booked US$20.2 million in non-cash items, where preference shares accounted for US$11.1 million of losses, while depreciation for property, plant and equipment accounted for another US$7.98 million. 

Revenue for FY2023 was US$24.2 million, up 36% over the preceding year. 

Founded in 2014 as a spinoff from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Mirxes focuses on the early detection of multiple cancers using proprietary RNA-powered blood tests. 

In 2022, Mirxes was said to have considered listing in Singapore but denied the announcement a week later. It was reported that the company would raise US$300 million then. 

In July 2023, Mirxes announced that it had secured US$50 million in its Series D funding round, with funds from new and existing investors such as EDB Investments, A*STAR and Mitsui & Co. Other investors include Beijing Fupu, which the Management Committee of Zhejiang Anji Economic Development Zone has an indirect majority stake in.

The company said it would use the funds to scale the adoption and penetration of its flagship stomach cancer blood test in major Asia Pacific and accelerate the development and commercialisation of its maturing clinical pipeline. — Nicole Lim

To stay ahead of Singapore and the region’s corporate and economic trends, click here for Latest Section

Intel’s Gaudi 3 chips will be sold ‘wherever they legally can’, says APJ CTO at Singapore AI Summit

Intel is seeing demand globally for its newest artificial intelligence (AI) chip, Gaudi 3, and will sell them and bring them wherever they legally can, says Alexis Crowell, Intel’s chief technology officer for Asia Pacific & Japan at Intel’s AI Summit in Singapore on May 9.

Crowell’s comment comes a day after the US revoked Intel and Qualcomm’s licences to sell its chips to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, the latest development in the US-China semiconductor trade war.

Following that, Intel reported that it expects its second-quarter revenue to fall below the midpoint of previous projections of US$12.5 billion ($16.94 billion) to US$13.5 billion, which helped send its shares down by 31% in April, their worst month in more than 20 years as reported by Bloomberg. 

Intel’s Gaudi 3, which was launched in early April, boasts that it is over twice as power-efficient as and can run AI models 1.5 times faster than Nvidia’s H100 graphics processing unit (GPU) chip.

Intel has been reported to expand its strategic focus in Asia Pacific, Japan and India, like many of its peers in the semiconductor industry hoping to de-risk its supply chains.

At Intel’s AI Summit in Singapore, a report commissioned by Intel identified Singapore as a leader in AI maturity among eight economies in Asia Pacific. The report was conducted by global market intelligence firm IDC.

IDC found that Singapore’s strategic position as a regional hub, coupled with its burgeoning AI start-up ecosystem, reputable academic institutions, and substantial government backing, helped propel the nation to the forefront of AI competitiveness and innovation in the region.

This puts it ahead of countries in the Asia Pacific such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.

In Singapore, the banking, financial services and insurance sectors were identified as key sectors driving AI adoption and spending in the country, alongside the retail industry with the rise of omnichannel shopping.

Yet on a panel at Intel’s AI Summit, IDC’s VP in data analytics, AI, sustainability, and industry research, Chris Marshall, said that Singapore’s challenge in scaling AI is its small and ageing population.

Likewise, Manoj Prasanna Kumar, head of digital enterprise platforms at Digital InfraCo, Singtel, says that the lack of physical space to house data centres will be a constraint for the city-state.

At present, Singapore is heavy on inferencing, in which banks and financial institutions use existing large language models like Llama and fine-tune those data sets, says Kumar. But not a lot of foundational models, which takes a few hundred to a thousand GPUs to train, are being built.

Nevertheless, IDC forecasted that Singapore’s AI expenditure will grow at a CAGR of 25.3% from US$1.7 billion in 2023 to hit the US$4.2 billion mark by 2027.

On a regional level, IDC forecasts that AI spending in Asia Pacific (excluding China) will grow at a CAGR of 28.9% from 2023 to reach US$90.7 billion by 2027. — Nicole Lim

Scoot launches inaugural flight with Embraer E190-E2 

Scoot, Singapore Airlines C6L -

’ low-cost subsidiary, debuted its first Embraer E190-E2 aircraft on May 7, flying to Krabi and Hat Yai. In the coming weeks, it will also fly to Sibu and Koh Samui. This aircraft is part of Scoot’s new line of Embraer jets, with nine more expected by the end of 2025.

Currently holding the title for the industry’s quietest and most fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft, the interior of the E190-E2 aircraft includes 112 seats in a two-by-two single class configuration. The aircraft also features a standard seat pitch of 29 inches and larger cabin windows.

Designed for short-to-medium range operations, the E2 series of Embraer jets provide access to new routes to smaller growing markets, enhancing Scoot’s network connectivity and strengthening its presence in the region. 

The second E190-E2 aircraft has since arrived in Singapore and is nearing completion for preparations for operations. The remaining seven aircraft of the new Embraer fleet are also expected to be delivered by the end of 2025.  

Scoot covers flights to 67 destinations across 15 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe. — Ashley Lo

StarHub and M1 potential merger said to be back on: TMT Finance

Telco firms StarHub CC3 -

and M1 are heard to be considering merging their businesses again, as reported by TMT Finance, citing five familiar sources.

According to three sources, ST Telemedia-backed StarHub is working with a US bulge bracket bank to work on a potential merger, but it is unclear if Keppel-backed M1 is working with a bank on this. StarHub is 56.3% owned by various Temasek portfolios, including ST Telemedia and STT Communications, while M1 is also indirectly owned by Temasek through Temasek’s SeaTown Holdings 21.3% stake in Keppel.

According to TMT Finance, a London-based trade publication, discussions are in the early stages, with no assurance of a deal emerging.

On the matter, a StarHub spokesperson says: “StarHub is executing an ambitious multi-year organic transformation. In addition to this, we continue to evaluate strategic opportunities to enhance shareholder value. If and when any definitive agreement or material event relating to such opportunities occurs, we will make disclosures by our listing obligations.”

In November 2021, StarHub launched DARE+ for a business transformation. DARE+ aims for sustainable revenue growth, potential dividend growth, better margins from new 5G products, cost savings through digitalisation and decreasing fixed costs via evolving operating models. StarHub aims to intensify digital integration with DARE+, endlessly driving value, expansive growth, and enriching customer experiences.

In April 2023, the two companies were reportedly working on a network optimisation deal, which could include active network sharing. The deal could see the duo setting up a spectrum joint venture (JV) and sharing assets, including spectrum, equipment and manpower, to manage costs better.

Sources at the time cautioned that the deal was not a merger as no ownership would exchange hands. However, sources also said the process could be a precursor to a merger deal. The companies engaged management consulting firm FTI Consulting to assist with the spectrum JV. However, sources said financial advisers had not been appointed at the time.

In 2020, there were discussions about a merger, which then-CEO Peter Kaliaropoulos denied. M1 and StarHub, two of Singapore’s four telcos, have collaborated before, including forming a consortium to enhance 5G spectrum coverage and capacity in the city-state. — Samantha Chiew

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