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Singapore games publisher takes Hong Kong's GEM route

CMON's placing of 323m shares at HK$0.23 apiece gives the company a market capitalisation of HK$415.4m

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Mr Ng (left), seen here with Mr Doust, says: "With SGX, we never got beyond the stage of 'hi'. In terms of gaming companies, there is nothing really high-profile here. We don't want to be the guinea pig."

Singapore

CMON, a local tabletop games publisher behind popular games Zombicide and Arcadia Quest, has come onboard the Hong Kong stock exchange's GEM board - an alternative stock market for growth companies - in a placing listing that gives the company a market capitalisation of HK$415.4 million (S$76.5 million).

The placing comprised 323 million shares at HK$0.23 apiece. Dealings in the shares on GEM begins on Friday. Magic Carpet, CMON's largest shareholder, offered 17 million shares for sale in the placing, from which it will receive some HK$3.7 million in net proceeds.

CMON co-founder and chief Ng Chern Ann told The Business Times that a major reason behind CMON's public listing is to capitalise on a consolidating gaming industry. "There are a lot of merger and acquisition opportunities right now. The sooner we go out into the market, the better. If we are late in the game, the consolidation will happen without us."

He added that the public listing will allow CMON to retain key talent, as shares in the company will become liquid assets, making the stock option scheme more attractive to employees. CMON hires some 50 people worldwide - 19 in design and production - including in the US, Brazil and Canada. It has four employees in Singapore - its headquarters - who handle administrative and strategic work.

Mr Ng said: "We're one of the most active publishers of tabletop games, owing to a good team. We got most of our talent from being flexible; we don't require our staff to move to any one city. We know that artists tend to be most productive in environments where they are most comfortable."

Under the public listing, CMON will receive about HK$49.3 million in net proceeds from the issue of new shares - 40 per cent of which will be used for game development, 32 per cent for sales and marketing, 16 per cent for acquisitions, and the rest for working capital and expanding into the mobile games market.

Asked why CMON chose the Hong Kong stock exchange, Mr Ng said that it had the most pull factors, compared to Singapore Exchange (SGX) and US stock markets, all of which CMON had also considered. The pull factors included volume, liquidity, and the existence of several gaming companies.

Mr Ng said: "With SGX, we never got beyond the stage of 'hi'. In terms of gaming companies, there is nothing really high-profile here. We don't want to be the guinea pig."

CMON plans to expand in Europe, South America and Asia, in particular Brazil and China. It has also set its sights on acquiring a few gaming companies and game titles. When asked which ones, Mr Ng said: "We are not in talks yet, but they are your usual suspects."

Since its incorporation in 2009, CMON has launched 43 tabletop games. Of these, 23 debuted through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, all of which reached their funding goals and raised over US$26 million. Today, half of CMON's revenue hails from Kickstarter, and the other half from wholesale.

Mr Ng said: "We will definitely maintain our presence on Kickstarter, and continue to launch new games through it. It's good for marketing and to connect with fans. Half of our backers are regulars. Growth, however, cannot be based on Kickstarter entirely as we can only launch a finite number of projects a year."

Last year, CMON had US$17.2 million in revenue, up 36.5 per cent from 2014. For the five months ended May, CMON posted a loss of about US$2.4 million, due mainly to contribution from Kickstarter sales that would only be realised as revenue when the products are shipped in the second half of 2016. Prior to this public listing, CMON raised a round of financing: US$5.3 million in Series A funding from Magic Carpet in January 2015. CMON is short for Cool Mini Or Not, which Mr Ng and other co-founder David Doust founded in 2001 as a community website for users to upload and vote on pictures of painted miniatures.