Singapore proposes market reforms after penny-stock scandal

The SGX Centre, which houses the Singapore Exchange Ltd. headquarters, stands in Singapore, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.
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Singapore is proposing wide-scale reforms to its equity market rules in the wake of a penny stock scandal, its central bank and stock exchange announced on Friday.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Singapore Exchange Ltd (SGX) are consulting the market on a series of changes including minimum trading prices, new collateral rules, short-selling reporting, and new independent committees to vet listing applicants and impose regulatory sanctions.

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"This consultation allows us to have a conversation with all stakeholders on how to make the market strong and more mature," said Lee Chuan Teck, assistant managing director for capital markets at the MAS.

Singapore is one of Asia's leading financial centres, but its stock market has struggled recently with a drop in trading volumes and "ultra penny stocks", which trade for as little at S$0.001, becoming some of the most actively traded shares.

Potential problems in the market surfaced in October when shares in three companies - Blumont Group Ltd, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Ltd - crashed and wiped out about S$8 billion ($6.31 billion) in value after huge run-ups in their share prices.

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SGX is the front-line regulator of the city-state's stock market and the crashed raised questions about whether it has a conflict of interest.

SGX and MAS's consultation will run until May 2, 2014.