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1990: Debut of ultimately ill-fated CLOB

Stock markets cement split, Singapore sees biggest corporate takeover yet and finds first firm guilty of insider trading.
Monday, April 11, 2016 - 05:50

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AS Singapore entered a new decade, the spotlight swung away from international affairs and onto highprofile developments in the local scene that marked the country's coming into its own and set the stage for more to unfold. Succession in domestic politics, with Goh Chok Tong taking the reins as Singapore's second prime minister, was accompanied by significant changes in the financial arena.

One major move was the Stock Exchange of Singapore's setting up of an over-the-counter market for Malaysian and foreign shares, CLOB International. This came about after the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) told Malaysia- incorporated firms to delist from Singapore.

CLOB got off to an optimistic start. Its end, though, was to be quite different. Few would have expected it to wind up at the centre of a saga several years down the road, when Malaysia imposed capital controls in the Asian Financial Crisis and froze CLOB shares collectively worth billions of ringgit, held by around 172,000 Singapore investors.

But all that was yet to come. More immediate events included the dramatic S$2.6 billion hostile takeover that tycoon Oei Hong Leong launched for SingLand through UIC. The biggest corporate takeover in the region then, it burnished Mr Oei's reputation as a canny corporate raider. The takeover's success made UIC Singapore's biggest property group overnight, but came at the cost of revealing its vulnerability to a takeover too. In another twist, Mr Oei ended up selling the bulk of his UIC stake to Indonesia's richest tycoon Liem Sioe Liong.

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Singapore also saw its first case of a company being charged and found guilty of insider trading. That was a Wah-Chang Electro Plating Ltd (Wepco) subsidiary, United Insulation Services, which was fined S$45,000. It pleaded guilty to illegally acquiring 30,500 shares of Wepco on Oct 20, 1989.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at bt.sg/bt_40

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