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Singapore online bond mart's top picks after rough 2015

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It's been a rough 15 months for Singapore's bond market.

[SINGAPORE] It's been a rough 15 months for Singapore's bond market. Local online trading platform iFast Corp says the losses have created some opportunities.

Prices for a basket of 452 corporate notes with S$114 billion face value gained 0.4 per cent on average this year, after the members trading last year lost 1.6 per cent, Terence Lin, assistant director of bonds and portfolio management at the Singapore-based investment consultancy, said in an interview. Oil services company Swiber Holdings Ltd. and shipping firm Neptune Orient Lines Ltd were among losers, while Housing Development Board and Temasek Holdings Pte gained.

Singapore's market suffered its first defaults since 2009 with Indonesian phone retailer PT Trikomsel Oke failing to repay in November and fishery group Pacific Andes Resources Development Ltd in January. Risks escalated on oil and shipping-related debt as drillers canceled rig orders from local yards and freight rates remained in doldrums. Amid the increased credit risks are attractive coupons that will drive returns, Mr Lin said.

"Active bond picking appears to be more relevant at this juncture to capture the available credit opportunities as opposed to a more passive 'indexed' approach," Mr Lin said. iFast, whose shares have risen 36 per cent from the offer price in Singapore in December 2014, reported a 41 per cent gain in profit last year as revenue climbed 13 per cent.

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Here are five of Mr Lin's bond picks, which all offer more than the 3.89 per cent weighted average coupon in his Singapore basket.

1. AusNet Services 

Its 5.5 per cent debentures due in 2076 yield 5.27 per cent to their next call date, Bloomberg-compiled prices showed. The Victoria-based power company is backed by state-owned shareholders Singapore Power Ltd and State Grid Corp of China. The hybrid is a rarity because of its investment-grade ratings from all three major rating companies, Mr Lin said. It offers a pick-up over the 4.5 per cent yield on similarly-rated perpetual notes from Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust, he said.

2. Genting Singapore Plc 

Its 5.125 per cent perpetual notes traded at 96.4 cents on the dollar on March 17 to yield 6 per cent, Bloomberg-compiled prices showed. They will hand investors a 7.7 per cent yield through Sept 12, 2017, should the casino operator choose to redeem the S$1.8 billion securities at face value then. With US$1.1 billion net cash, US$1.1 billion in average annual operating cash flow and interest coverage of 5.3 times, Genting should have little difficulty in servicing its obligation, Mr Lin said.

3. Perennial Real Estate Holdings Ltd

Its S$125 million 4.9 per cent 2019 debentures yield 4.76 per cent. At a 353 basis point spread over government bonds, the 2019 notes offer the meatiest pick-up among the developer's three bonds, Lin said. More than 76 per cent of the company's shares are held by four key shareholders - Kuok Khoon Hong, Ron Sim and Pua Seck Guan - and Wilmar International Ltd.

4. Rowsley Ltd

S$100 million 6.5 per cent notes yield about 7.45 per cent, according to Bloomberg-compiled prices. The builder is backed by billionaire Peter Lim with 49 per cent shareholding while the Johor royal family of Malaysia owns 12.4 per cent. Rowsley has very low gearing, with net debt-to-assets at 18.4 per cent, which makes its yield attractive with two years to maturity, according to Mr Lin.

5. Singapore Technologies Telemedia

Its 4.05 per cent 2025 bonds yield 3.91 per cent. The company owns stakes in Starhub Ltd, U Mobile and Level 3 Communications. The notes offer investors a 184 basis point premium over the 10-year government bond yield, wider than the spreads on bonds sold by other Temasek-linked entities, Mr Lin said.