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Singapore Exchange goes after tech start-ups to boost appeal as a listing destination

Singapore's sole stock exchange is gunning for more initial public offerings from technology firms as it seeks to alter perception that the city state is an attractive listing destination only for real estate investment trusts (REITs).

To do that, it has tied up with the city state's technology and media regulator to help young tech companies in Singapore prepare to list on the exchange.

The partnership between the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Infocomm Media Development Authority will see the two parties work with lawyers, audit firms and IPO sponsors to offer advisory and financial support to companies looking to list on the exchange.

Doing so will lower the barriers for tech companies to access the Singapore capital markets, SGX and IMDA said in a statement on Wednesday.

SGX CEO Loh Boon Chye speaks after the exchange announced its latest effort to attract more IPOs.
Yen Nee Lee l CNBC
SGX CEO Loh Boon Chye speaks after the exchange announced its latest effort to attract more IPOs.

"The actual (listing) cost is one aspect of it, any efficiency on that ground is a good thing… but the key (advantage) is time-to-market," said Chew Sutat, SGX's equities and fixed income head. He added that getting start-ups prepared earlier to go public can speed up the listing process. A listing on the exchange's Catalist board, for example, can be completed in as quickly as two months, he said.

SGX has in recent years stepped up efforts to lure a greater number of IPOs amid concerns of its waning appeal as a listing destination. Departures outnumbered new listings on the exchange last year, and several Singapore companies have opted to list overseas such as in Hong Kong, Australia or the United States.

Competition for IPOs has also heated up, with several exchanges in Asia, such as those in South Korea and Thailand, setting up trading platforms for start-ups in an attempt to lead them to eventually list on their stock exchanges.

The SGX, too, wants a slice of growing tech start-up pie in the region.

"We think a lot of the news out there about Singapore not being a growth market, Singapore not being an exciting market for growth stories for technology is probably overblown," said Chew.

He added that there are about 80 tech companies listed on the SGX today with a market capitalization of 80 billion Singapore dollars ($57.8 billion). That is larger than the better known REITs and business trusts, whose market capitalization is about 75 billion Singapore dollars ($54.2 billion).