SINGAPORE (Dec 28): When asked to describe the state of minority shareholder rights in 2018, market watchers gave mixed reactions. S Suressh, Eversheds Harry Elias partner, says it is stronger, but to corporate governance don Mak Yuen Teen, it is “horrible”. And some retail investors, like Teo Hee Huat, say they feel suffocated by the spate of corporate shenanigans.

But among the various parties The Edge Singapore spoke to, there was a general consensus: In 2018, mom-and-pop investors were more vocal with their grievances than before.

Some examples include the outrage over the corruption probe at Keppel Corp spilled over from last Christmas into early 2018. Once-promising rail parts maker Midas Holdings got trapped in a freshly uncovered web of unauthorised loans in February. Cash-rich Datapulse Technology made a controversial haircare business acquisition in April, but now wants to reverse the deal. Under a new major shareholder, it wants to buy a hotel in Seoul, Korea.

Nonetheless, Singapore Exchange has welcomed this increased engagement from minority shareholders.

SGX has also announced some changes to listing rules after the Monetary Authority of Singapore accepted amendments to the Code of Corporate Governance in 2018. One major change is that from 2022, independent directors need to make up at least one-third of the board.

Another change effective from 2022 is that a director would not be considered independent if he has served on the board for more than nine years. Exceptions are to be approved in a two-tier vote: by a majority of all shareholders, as well as a majority of all shareholders excluding those who are the company’s CEO, directors and their associates.

It remains to be seen whether 2019 will bring any DCS IPOs to our shores. Regardless, experts hope more can be done for minority rights here.

Can minority shareholders continue to make their voices heard in 2019? And what issues should they anticipate?

Find out more in this week’s issue of The Edge Singapore (Issue 863, week of Dec 31), on sale now at newsstands.

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Sharanya Pillai was a writer at The Edge Singapore