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36 companies make debut on 2019's SGX Fast Track programme

CHRISTMAS came early this year for companies that found themselves on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Fast Track programme list.

The SGX Fast Track programme was launched by the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) in April last year to reward companies with good corporate governance. The incentive comes in the form of prioritised clearance for selected corporate-action submissions to SGX RegCo. These include circulars, requests for waiver and applications for share placement.

This year, some 36 companies made their debut on the Fast Track, SGX announced on Tuesday. Most of them are mainboard-listed companies while three are from the Catalist: Asian Healthcare Specialists, SLB Development and Union Gas Holdings. This is in addition to the 59 companies that remained on the list since April last year, bringing the total number on the Fast Track to 95.

Starting this year, companies will stay on the Fast Track for two review cycles, said SGX RegCo head of listing compliance June Sim in her opening speech at the 2019 SGX Fast Track companies launch on Tuesday.

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This means companies which entered Fast Track in April 2018 will continue to be on it till the review in 2020. The new entrants, on the other hand, will be reviewed in 2021. 

According to SGX, selection is based on internal and external criteria focused on corporate governance standards, compliance track record and the quality of the company's submissions.

In his closing remarks, SGX RegCo chief executive Tan Boon Gin noted that the 11 per cent of Catalist-listed companies on the Fast Track is an indicator that high corporate governance standards are "achievable by companies mature and high-growth, big and small".

He also noted that media reports tend to emphasise on errant companies, making it tempting for regulators to go hard on all companies. 

"There is a tendency I feel to focus on the bottom end of the market rather than the top end, even when there is much to celebrate at the top," Mr Tan said.

He had previously mentioned that it is perhaps time for regulators to move away from the "stick" and instead offer "carrots" to encourage companies to raise their corporate governance game. 

And this appears to be paying off as companies have shown keen interest to be part of the programme, he said. 

For companies which want to remain or be part of the 2020 list, they can expect more emphasis to be placed on sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement.