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HC Surgical eyes stake in medical goods retailer; Serene Tiong to appeal defamation suit loss

Serene Tiong has lodged a summons for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, HC Surgical Specialists said on Wednesday night.

SERENE Tiong is seeking to appeal against the High Court's Oct 2 decision in HC Surgical Specialists (HCSS) surgeon Julian Ong's defamation suit against her.

She has lodged a summons for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, the Catalist-listed firm announced late Wednesday night.

Dr Ong had sued Ms Tiong for claiming that he and psychiatrist Chan Herng Nieng, who does not work in the HCSS group, colluded to take sexual advantage of vulnerable women patients. Although a district judge had ruled in favour of Ms Tiong in April, Dr Ong went on to appeal to the High Court, where he succeeded on Oct 2.

The High Court overturned the lower court's decision, finding that Ms Tiong had defamed him and ordering her to pay S$40,000 in costs to the surgeon for court proceedings. It also granted the surgeon an injunction, restraining her from publishing, or causing to be published, defamatory words against him.

That being said, Justice See Kee Oon on Oct 2 noted that despite Dr Ong's legal victory, the two doctors had no moral victory. The judge said that both men "may be competent doctors and their sex lives are of course private matters, but their blatant treatment of women as sex objects sullies whatever professional reputations they have built up for themselves".

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Separately, Ms Tiong, who is also a minority shareholder of HCSS, earlier sought the court's permission to sue, on behalf of the company, its chief executive Heah Sieu Min for allegedly breaching director's duties when HCSS bought an additional 19 per cent stake in Dr Ong's clinic. The court had dismissed this application with costs, prompting her to file an appeal in August. In decision grounds issued last week, Justice Chua Lee Ming said Ms Tiong lacked "good faith" and was "motivated by her desire to punish" Dr Heah when she made the application.


Meanwhile, HCSS on Wednesday night announced it is planning to subscribe for new ordinary shares in Healthcare Essentials Pte Ltd (HEPL), which is wholly owned by HCSS non-executive non-independent director Gjan Lim Chye Lai. This will result in HCSS holding a 20 per cent interest in HEPL.

Likewise, another Catalist-listed firm Medinex - which is controlled by HCSS - has also proposed to take a 20 per cent stake in HEPL by subscribing for new shares. Mr Lim is considered a third party to Medinex, it said in a filing on Thursday morning.

The Singapore-based target company retails pharmaceutical and medical goods as well as provides management consultancy services, both HCSS and Medinex said in their respective bourse filings.

HCSS inked a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with HEPL on Oct 7, while Medinex signed a similar MOU on Sept 25. On completion of the deal, the shareholders of the target company will comprise HCSS, Medinex and Mr Lim.

The proposed consideration will be 20 per cent of an amount that is double the net tangible asset value of HEPL as at Aug 31, 2020, subject to the completion of due diligence and the entry into a definitive agreement. HCSS and Medinex will thus each fork out an estimated S$182,000 for the proposed investments.

The HCSS board is of the view that the share subscription will enable the group to acquire an interest in a medical-related company as part of its inorganic growth plans.

Medinex - which provides medical support and consultancy services such as licence application, accounting and clinic space setup - said the investment will enable it to tap into HEPL's expertise to sell pharmaceutical and medical goods to its clients.

HCSS shares closed flat at S$0.30 on Wednesday, while Medinex shares last traded at 19.6 Singapore cents on Monday.

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