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1992: Lots to chew on with Creative, free trade

First S'pore company on Nasdaq makes waves, while gum gets banned.

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DEVELOPING homegrown entrepreneurs was a major policy focus in the 1990s, and nobody embodied the ideals of the self-made new economy success story better than Creative Technology's Sim Wong Hoo.

Mr Sim, a two-time winner of the Businessman of the Year award, led his sound card business into history in 1991 when it became the first Singapore company to list in the United States. Creative's initial public offering on Nasdaq comprised 4.8 million shares at US$12 per share, which drew a robust subscription rate of more than five times.

The stock opened in positive territory right from the get-go, climbing from US$13.25 to US$13.75 within a couple of hours on its first day of trading.

The Sound Blaster, Creative's top product, would help the company to dominate the personal computing sound card business for much of the 1990s. But changing technologies that reduced demand for sound cards and an ill-fated strategy of going against Apple's iPod in the 2000s would eventually push Creative off its peak.

On the political stage, the end of the Cold War also led South-east Asian nations to confront the question of how to adapt to the new world order. At the Fourth Asean Summit, the original six member countries of Asean - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - endorsed the creation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta), a move that was heralded as a new chapter in the history of the 25-year-old grouping.

The other thing that stuck in 1992: The government's ban on selling chewing gum. While some cheered the move, others complained that it was overkill. Shopkeepers were the most disgruntled of all; they had to dispose of their stock at a loss. Decades later, Singapore's gum-free status continues to be a point of curiosity and amusement for visitors.

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