Technology stocks, the lack of which has made Singapore one of Asia’s worst markets this year, are slowly starting to win more clout in the city-state.
The Southeast Asian market has had three distinct developments to show for it, all within a span of a month or so. Put together, companies tied to these moves have a market value of about $93bn, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A change in MSCI Inc’s rules has potentially paved the way for internet giant Sea Ltd’s entry into the MSCI Singapore Index.
Data centre operator Keppel DC REIT has has become the third tech company to be a part of the nation’s benchmark Straits Times Index, joining electronics contract manufacturer Venture Corp and high-tech building owner Mapletree Industrial Trust.
Smartphone solutions provider Nanofilm Technologies International Ltd went public in Singapore’s largest primary listing since 2017 excluding real estate investment trusts.
To add to that, Singapore’s government is rolling out the red carpet for top talent in the technology sector. Earlier this month, it launched a programme to initially attract 500 individuals with a proven track record of contributing to the global technology ecosystem.
The changes have come as the absence of technology stocks – which have proved to be darlings globally in the Covid-19 era – has been a key factor keeping Singapore’s benchmark gauge from recouping the losses suffered during March’s market meltdown.
The Straits Times Index is down 11% for the year, even as the regional MSCI Asia Pacific Index is up 13%. Meanwhile, the US-listed shares of Singapore-headquartered Sea have more than quadrupled in 2020.
“Index providers are probably hoping that tech additions will start reflecting the global economy and help cut Singapore’s underperformance,” Brian Freitas, a New Zealand-based analyst at Smartkarma, said by phone. “It will improve Singapore’s visibility in global markets among both passive and active investors.”
Earlier this month, index provider MSCI announced that foreign listings will become eligible for addition in its Singapore gauge starting from May 2021. That could mean Sea’s inclusion in the measure, according to some investors and analysts.
Sea could command the biggest weighting in the MSCI Singapore Index, Freitas said. Passive funds tracking the benchmark will have to buy shares worth about $2.8bn in the case of the inclusion, he added. Sea now has a market value of almost $88bn, compared with about $49bn for DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Singapore’s biggest stock.
That said, the above developments in Singapore’s technology space are coming when positive vaccine results are starting to stall the sector’s eye-popping equity rally, as investors shift into shares depressed by the economic impact of pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
Sea’s inclusion in MSCI’s gauge will be “a step in the right direction,” but not a final solution, said Alan Richardson, a fund manager at Samsung Asset Management in Hong Kong. “The solution is having a pipeline of similarly sized tech-related stocks listed on the exchange so they can be represented in benchmark indices.”
In a bid to attract new offerings, Singapore’s stock exchange extended its partnership with Nasdaq Inc earlier this year, making documentation easier for firms seeking a second listing in the city-state.
“We do expect to see more tech listings coming to SGX in the near future, which is a reflection of the newer generation of companies stemming from Singapore and in particular Southeast Asia,” Emelia Tan, a research analyst at Singapore Exchange Ltd, said in an e-mailed interview.
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