Singapore: Investors in Hylux Ltd, the country’s controversial water and power company, may stand to lose the most amidst the troubles the company has been facing.
Some of the 34,000 retail investors could lose up to 90 percent. The collapse of the company is but the most recent out of 15 credit-market shocks in the last four years.
Hyflux’s retail investors were once attracted by two things: the company seemed to be not only backed but endorsed by the Government, as well as a 6 percent annual return rate.
Central to the Hyflux fiasco is desalination and power plant Tuaspring. It cost S$1.1 billion to build, and was once touted as one of Singapore’s “national taps,” and seemed to be a lifeline in a country that had grown used to importing water and harvesting rainwater for everyday needs.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself opened Tusapring in September 2013, along with the head of the Public Utilities Board (PUB) with other Government officials in attendance.
PM Lee lauded Tuaspring’s “unique and cost-efficient design” and called it “the latest milestone in Singapore’s water journey.”
However, Tuaspring has seen no profit and has, in fact, sustained considerable losses to the tune of S$2.7 billion. At this point, Hyflux appealed for court protection from creditors in order to restructure.
And, contrary to the expectations of many of Hyflux’s investors, the Government chose not to intervene and aid the company, as they considered the problem to be a “commercial matter,” according to Bloomberg.
At this point, Tuaspring’s plant owner was served a notice of default for operational and financial lapses, and the company was told that it had 30 days to fulfill their obligations, lest the Government end the contract and take over the plant.
Bloomberg interviewed investors who greeted this with dismay. A self-employed businessman named Li said, “I’m very disappointed that the government has decided to take a tough stance instead of offering a helping hand to an iconic Singapore company. This is another dagger in the chest for retail investors.”
April 5 is the deadline Hyflux was given for compliance. On that day, the company’s creditors will take a vote on its restructuring plan—either they take a workout deal or possibly lose their investment.
The company needs to get over half of the attendees to and 75 percent in value of claims to support the reorganization. After this, a Town Hall will be scheduled for the investors who have indicated they wish to be present.
Bloomberg reports that Ang Chung Yuh, a senior fixed-income analyst at iFast Corp, says, “This adds to the urgency and pressure on Hyflux and its creditors to pass the restructuring plan. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
The restructuring proposal could cause retail investors to lose up to 90 percent of their capital. It would entail that Indonesia’s Salim Group and energy company Medco Group will get a 60 percent stake in exchange for a S$530 million cash injection.
For banks and senior bondholders, their losses could be as much as 75 percent.
One retail investor named Seow says she feels “abandoned and sacrificed.” She added, “The new investor isn’t a white knight when it only wants the assets but not the debt.”
Hyflux’s problems could be indicative of a bigger issue within Singapore’s S$386 billion credit market. Bloomberg quotes Lawrence Loh, director of Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organizations at NUS Business School in Singapore, as saying, “This episode is really a wake-up call for the Singapore financial sector, how we promote such novel and risky instruments, the role of financial intermediaries and the education of the investing public.”
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