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Hot Stock: Raffles Education closed 12.5% up as tycoon Oei seeks chairman's ouster

SHARES in Raffles Education closed at S$0.36 or 12.5 per cent higher on Friday, on news that tycoon Oei Hong Leong is seeking to oust chairman Chew Hua Seng.

Some 30.33 million shares changed hands, making it one of most heavily traded stocks on the Singapore bourse. The stock had surged as much as 23.4 per cent intraday on Friday.

Fuelling interest in the stock is a brewing battle between a well-heeled veteran of high-profile corporate skirmishes and the company's major shareholder.

Mr Oei, who has not given a reason for his request, is seeking an extraordinary general meeting to remove Mr Chew from his position and replace him with an independent director who will serve as a non-executive chairman. Shareholders of the company were meeting on Friday for the company's annual general meeting.

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The Singapore tycoon also wants Raffles Education to disclose the identities and the number of shares issued to each of these people during a recent share placement. That placement of 95 million shares raised net proceeds of S$28.2 million, and represents 8.96 per cent of the company's enlarged share capital. These shares were issued and allotted on Tuesday at an issue price of 30 cents apiece.

Mr Oei has been picking up shares in the private college operator from the market over the past year, and currently holds a 12.88 per cent stake in the company. He most recently bought 1.07 million shares from the open market for about S$360,007.48, or about 33.79 Singapore cents per share on Tuesday. Despite his purchase, his interest in the company was diluted from 14.04 per cent as a result of the placement.

If Mr Oei is to achieve his goal, he will have to overcome Mr Chew's direct and deemed 33.58 per cent stake in Raffles Education. Mr Chew also happens to be the company's largest shareholder and has not given a formal response to Mr Oei's requisition.

Mr Oei is a well-followed investor in the Singapore marketplace. He was a key figure in the takeover saga of Natsteel in 2007, and was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to buy Intraco in 2012.

In January 2016, Catalist-listed Asia-Pacific Strategic Investments Ltd (Apsil) announced that it had sold 2.6 billion new shares at S$0.0054 apiece to Mr Oei to raise S$14.2 million. Following that, Apsil's counter was the most active on the Singapore Exchange with more than 55.3 million shares changing hands.

More recently in September this year, Mr Oei also announced that he is investing US$5 billion to set up a new company, named One Belt One Net, that will build data centres.

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