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Market ends week on a dismal note

Saturday, November 9, 2013 - 06:00

Singapore

SINGAPORE shares sank further yesterday, ending the week on a decidedly downbeat note with across-the-board selling, despite some solid third-quarter results and new contracts announced in the offshore & marine sector.

Selling in heavyweight bank stocks DBS, OCBC and UOB and in the big-cap blue-chip counters such as Wilmar and ST Engineering (ST Engg) drove the Straits Times Index (STI) lower, with the index closing down 24.85 points or about one per cent to 3,177.25.

Losers led gainers by a wide margin.

Brokers said trading remained lacklustre, with the market staying mostly immune to good news, numb to any property news and with institutional buying switching to more interesting markets in Thailand and Indonesia.

In fact, the only gainer on the STI was aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) group SIA Engineering, which rose three cents to $5.09 on the back of a strong set of interim earnings; its net profits were up 6 per cent year on year at $71 million.

The aircraft maintenance engineering group also announced the payment of an unchanged interim dividend of seven cents per share.

Blue-chip defence and engineering group ST Engg lost 15 cents to $4.05 on relatively heavy volume of almost seven million shares, as analysts downgraded the stock following a weaker-than-expected set of Q3 2013 results. ST Engg posted a 10 per cent year-on-year decline in its Q3 2013 net profit on Thursday, with the stock beaten down on rating downgrades by brokers such as Maybank Kim Eng and UOB Kay Hian.

Agri-business group Wilmar, a market darling in recent months, slid seven cents to $3.38 on profit-taking, despite turning in ahead-of-expectations results, with Q3 2013 net profit of US$416 million (+59.3 per cent quarter on quarter, +0.7 per cent year on year).

Its chairman and chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong remained upbeat on prospects, highlighting the group's investments in capacity expansion and new businesses, and downstream products having a positive impact on margins and revenue growth.

Noble Group shed 1.9 per cent or two cents to $1.045 on heavy volume of 26 million shares traded.

Among the offshore and marine stocks, Keppel Corp gave up some of the gains it made in previous sessions from its announcement of its US$1.1 billion new offshore rig-building contracts from Transocean. The stock closed down 0.18 per cent to $10.91 on relatively light volume. A broker said: "Keppel remains a key holding for many, but what you are seeing is just some profit-taking after the news of the contract, which the market had been talking about for a while."

China-based shipbuilding group Cosco Corp sank 1.3 per cent to 74 cents, despite announcing that the group had signed a letter of intent to build two semi-submersible accommodation vessels for Prosafe for over US$400 million. The contract failed to offset negative sentiment towards the company following a weak set of results released this week.

Bucking the trend was offshore vessel owner Ezion Holdings, which gained 3.5 per cent or seven cents to $2.08 on 6.7 million shares traded, or a value of $13.7 million. The stock went ex-bonus on Thursday for its one-for-five bonus issue.

Brokers said they expected the thin volume of trading to continue into next week, as the Q3 2013 results season draws to a close. "It's going to be even quieter over the next couple of weeks, and then it's the holiday period," said one of them.

Volume traded yesterday was just 1.66 billion shares worth $938 million.

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