Temasek Holdings and GIC on worldwide buying spree

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From January to September this year, companies in Singapore have gone on a US$91 billion buying spree around the world. This is more than twice the amount of US$41.9 billion spent in the same period last year, according to data from Bloomberg. 

The big buyers, Temasek Holdings and GIC, are still major players, but other companies are entering the scene as well.

This spending spree is a good indicator that businesses in Singapore are taking a firm stand despite the trade war between the United States and China. Singapore’s economy is set to grow at the slowest pace it’s had since 2016, which is further impetus for businesses to look overseas for expansion. 

Citigroup Inc’s head of Southeast Asia corporate and investment banking, David Biller, says, “We’re certainly seeing a desire among Singapore Inc. companies to globalize. Many of the next-generation leadership teams in these organizations are helmed by executives with multinational experience and they bring a focus on cross-border growth.”

At the moment, Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd has consulted with Citigroup regarding a US$630 million deal, the biggest transaction it has had so far, in purchasing an aircraft engine components group from General Electric Co.

In the meantime, CapitaLand is buying a portfolio of multifamily properties in America worth US$835 million, its biggest transaction outside of Singapore in eight years. 

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) acquired student accommodations in the United Kingdom for S$321 million, also the biggest overseas transaction for the company.

The number of Singaporean companies acquiring assets globally has also grown by nearly 8 percent from last year, in comparison to mergers and acquisitions in the world as a whole, which only rose 2 percent.

The co-head of South-east Asia investment banking and capital markets at Credit Suisse Group, Pankaj Goel, said, “Achieving organic growth in a relatively small market like Singapore is difficult, and building capabilities and scale will be increasingly important for corporates to stay relevant globally.”

Oriano Lizza, a sales trader at CMC Markets Plc., says that China is particularly attractive.  “Many Chinese companies have too much leverage and are selling off assets to strengthen their balance sheet. Being familiar with the region, Singapore companies are coming in and many do cut-price offers.

Singaporean companies have bought 68 firms from China this year alone. From US$3.8 billion last year, there has been US$19.5 billion worth of transactions in the area this year, the biggest one being the US$14 billion capital injection in Jack Ma’s Ant Financial from Singapore. This was announced last June, including a GIC and Temasek-backed dollar tranche.

Temasek also injected 3 billion euros for Bayer AG to finance the takeover of Monsanto Co. Meanwhile, GIC had an involvement in the acquiring a majority stake in Thomson Reuters Corp’s financial and risk unit.

According to Oriano Lizza “The Singapore government has been encouraging companies for years to expand abroad to develop the country’s profile. GIC and Temasek have been at the forefront of it.”

There is talk of the buying momentum still going strong. Tay Ee Ching, PMorgan Chase & Co’s head of M&A for Southeast Asia, says that Singaporean companies are buying “new technologies, new sources of growth. The trend should continue as they become more experienced in competing for assets abroad.”