Hundreds turned up at Hong Lim Park on Saturday (30 Mar) to protest against Hyflux’ restructuring plans and its beleaguered water treatment plant and lamented how their investment into the organisation has left them high and dry.
About 34,000 perpetual securities and preference shareholders who invested in Hyflux are owed a total of S$900 million, but only stand to receive a recovery rate of 10.7 per cent comprising of 3 per cent in cash and 7 per cent in equity.
Noting that these investors “were just ordinary investors wanting to have a reasonable rate of interest without taking too much risk,” ex-NTUC Income chief Tan Kin Lian, who donated funds to organise the event and spoke at the event said, “If they wanted to take risk, they would have bought shares.”
Mr Tan said the 900 million that retail investors have pumped into Hyflux is almost twice the 500 million amount 10,000 retail investors lost in the Lehman Minibonds fiasco, in 2008.
One retail investor, Mr S.H Lee, who invested his retirement savings into Hyflux told CNA that he made the investment even though he “did not have financial knowledge” because he trusted Hyflux and its regulators. He lamented:
“I invested a significant amount of my retirement funds. I placed a lot faith in Hyflux, and also because water is our strategic resource, I thought this (investment) would give us sufficient funds to cover our expenses, our medical needs, for the rest of our retirement years.”
Another investor, 67-year-old retiree Mdm Koh Ah Kiw, told ST that she had lost about S$40,000 that she had invested to “get pocket money for retirement”. The former Changi General Hospital nurse had previously lost a S$30,000 investment in Lehman Minibonds.
One couple in their fifties lost a hefty S$200,000 of their retirement funds after they became a retail investor in Hyflux thinking that the company’s water desalination plant was a “strategic national asset”. Asserting that she and her husband plan on voting ‘no’ to the restructuring deal, Mdm L. L. Hong told ST:
“I’m voting ‘no’ on April 5. If someone takes away your money and then gives you back 3 per cent, and tells you that you should be very thankful, how would you feel? I can’t believe they are telling us that something is better than nothing…Please don’t insult us further.”
Another retail investor, 62-year-old Mdm B Chua, lost S$6,000 while her husband lost under S$100,000 of his investment. She told the national broadsheet:
“Many of us had kept quiet initially. But I felt I had to come to the protest. We must voice that we do care. We invested in Hyflux because government support for the company was very strong. We invested because Temasek had invested. And Temasek must have done its due diligence.”
Mdm Chua added: “When banks sold the securities to us, they told us ‘Temasek invested, so don’t worry. And if you don’t buy, somebody else will. Investors went in because it was a national asset.”
In a letter to the Straits Times today (Apr 1), Temasek said that it have not had investments in Hyflux since 2006. The letter from Temasek International signed-off by its Head of Public Affairs, Stephen Forshaw, said:
“Temasek’s investment in Hyflux was part of an initiative during the early 2000s to invest in Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to support their growth in promising sectors, such as water technology.
Upon completion of its investment objectives, Temasek exited its Hyflux investment.
This was before 2006…well before the issuance of Hyflux preference shares in 2011 and their perpetual bonds in 2016…
Neither Temasek nor Heliconia has had any investments in Hyflux since 2006.”
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