Singapore’s stock exchange won approval from its listing advisory committee to allow dual-class shares, as it seeks to lure international businesses.
Companies will be permitted to have weighted voting rights, subject to various corporate governance safeguards to mitigate the inherent risks of such structures, according to the report by Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) committee published 29 August.
The move may help narrow the city’s gap with Hong Kong, Asia’s biggest market for new listings, where minority-control voting structures are not permitted. Hong Kong lost Alibaba Group Holding’s US$25 billion initial public offering (IPO) to the US after regulators rejected the Chinese e-commerce company’s governance structure. Singapore paved the way for dual-class shares by amending laws governing companies earlier this year.
“Definitely, this is a positive move,” said Steve Melhuish, chief executive officer of Singapore-based PropertyGuru, which raised the second-largest amount by a tech company in Southeast Asia last year. “But there is still some work to be done,” including lack of comparable tech startups and difficulty in valuing companies in the market, he said.
Singapore has been introducing rules to try to attract more public companies, including allowing the listing of resource firms without an earnings track record and dual-currency trading for stocks and exchange-traded funds. Any change to the listing rules will only occur after a public consultation process, SGX Chief Executive Officer Loh Boon Chye said in an e-mailed statement.
“The envisaged dual-class share structure listing framework is intended to enhance SGX’s attractiveness as a listing venue and to broaden and deepen Singapore’s capital market,” the advisory committee said in its report. “Unlike many other countries, Singapore does not have a vast hinterland providing a continuous pipeline of IPO-ready listing applicants.”
The committee said the “one-share, one-vote” structure will remain the default for new listings unless there is a compelling reason for a dual-class model.
The listing group’s approval ends a debate over whether such structures compromise the city-state’s levels of corporate governance, a discussion ignited in 2011 when Manchester United was considering to list in Singapore. The UK soccer club scrapped its Singapore sale due to market conditions and eventually listed in the US under a dual-class share structure.
In the US, listed companies with more than one type of share class, including Alphabet and Facebook, are subject to more stringent reporting requirements and shareholders have the ability to band together on lawsuits.