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Sales activity surges to 42 disposals, buying falls to 79 purchases

INSIDE MARKETS

Fund manager sentiment turns negative, while companies’ buybacks stay sluggish for third straight week

THE buying was low while the sales activity by directors and substantial shareholders was high last week, based on filings on the Singapore Exchange from Feb 11 to 15. A total of 26 companies recorded 79 purchases versus 16 firms with 42 disposals. The buy figures were down from the previous week’s two-and-a-half-day totals of 33 companies and 83 purchases, while the sales were up from seven companies and 21 disposals.

The fund manager sentiment was negative last week with 10 asset managers that posted 33 disposals against nine institutions with 18 acquisitions. The figures are a sharp turnaround from the 12 institutions that recorded 41 acquisitions and seven asset managers that posted 18 sales in the previous week.

The buyback activity was also low last week with only three firms that recorded 13 repurchases worth $18.9 million. That was the third straight week of low buyback activity by listed firms. An average of only 1.4 companies and 2.5 trades were recorded per day since Jan 28, versus the daily average of 7.1 firms and 11 buybacks from Jan 7 to 25. Overall, a total of 33 repurchases worth $55.9 million were recorded in the past three weeks versus 165 trades worth $74.5 million in the previous three-week period.

The most active firm in the past three weeks has been United Overseas Bank (UOB) with 2.5 million shares purchased worth $44.3 million at an average of $17.65 each. That brought its buybacks since January to 5.14 million shares worth $91.2 million. Investors should note that UOB has cancelled more than 1.1 per cent of its issued capital since it started its second buyback programme in June last year.

There were several significant trades in the market last week. On the buying side, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Hiap Seng Engineering recorded his first buys since 2002 following the 61 per cent fall in the share price.

Meanwhile, Tembusu Growth Fund acquired more shares of Hongwei Technologies at below its subscription price.

Lastly, there was a rare buy by substantial shareholder Lim Eng Hock in FJ Benjamin Holdings which boosted his stake by 17 per cent. On the negative side, Cohen & Steers recorded its first sale in Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust at below its purchase price.

Hiap Seng Engineering

Purchases by chairman and CEO Tan Ah Lam in mechanical engineering firm Hiap Seng Engineering from Jan 21 to Feb 11 totalling 1.8 million shares accounted for nearly 7 per cent of the stock’s trading volume. The acquisitions, which were made at 39 cents to 34 cents each, boosted his direct holdings by 153 per cent – to 2.98 million shares or 0.98 per cent of the issued capital. Mr Tan also has deemed interest of 70.1 million shares or 23.1 per cent.

The purchases in the past month were made on the back of the 61 per cent drop in the share price since the last week of September 2007, from 94.5 cents. The counter is also sharply down since mid-July 2007, from $1.22.

Despite the fall in the share price, the CEO resumed buying at sharply higher than his previous purchase price based on the 150,000 shares that he acquired in February 2002 at 17 cents each. Hiap Seng announced its H1 results in November 2007 with net profit after tax down by 47.9 per cent to $3.90 million for the six months to Sept 30, 2007. The stock closed at 38.5 cents on Friday.

Hongwei Technologies

Tembusu Growth Fund Ltd has acquired more shares of polyester differential fibres manufacturer, Hongwei Technologies, at below its subscription price in May last year. The group picked up 800,000 shares on Feb 6 at an estimated price of 25 cents each. The fund manager previously acquired 794,000 shares on Jan 23 at an estimated price of 21.5 cents each.

The trades in the past month totalling 1.6 million shares have increased its direct holdings by 14 per cent – to 12.8 million shares or 5.7 per cent. Prior to those acquisitions, Tembusu Growth Fund subscribed for an initial 11.3 million shares or 5 per cent in May 2007 at 33 cents each. The stock has fallen sharply since October 2007, from 38 cents to 26 cents on Friday.

FJ Benjamin Holdings

Substantial shareholder Lim Eng Hock recorded a rare buy in fashion retailer and timepiece distributor, FJ Benjamin Holdings, with 10.9 million shares purchased last Monday at an estimated price of 59.5 cents each, which increased its holdings by 17 per cent to 75.9 million shares or 13.4 per cent. That was his first acquisition since September 2006. He previously sold 4.5 million shares in March 2007 at an estimated price of 70 cents each.

Prior to that sale, Mr Lim bought nearly three million shares in September 2006 at an estimated price of 49 cents each and 1.5 million shares in January 2006 at an estimated price of 37 cents each.

Investors should note that Lloyd George Investment Management (Bermuda) Ltd ceased to be a substantial shareholder on Jan 24 following the sale of 1.7 million shares at an estimated price of 61 cents each, which reduced its deemed holdings to 27.9 million shares or 4.9 per cent. The fund manager previously reported an initial filing on Aug 1, 2007, of 2.4 million shares at 84 cents each, which raised its interest to 5.4 per cent. The stock closed at 60 cents on Friday.

Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust

Cohen & Steers Inc recorded its first sale in Fortune Real Estate Investment Trust since it became a substantial shareholder in February last year, with 4.1 million units sold last Monday at an estimated price of $5.20 each. The trade reduced its deemed holdings by 7 per cent – to 52.9 million units or 6.5 per cent.

The group previously acquired 16.7 million units from February to July 2007 at $5.73 to $6.30 each. Cohen & Steers reported an initial filing on Feb 8, 2007, of 641,000 units at HK$5.90 each, which raised its interest to 5 per cent. The stock closed at $5.28 on Friday.

The writer is managing director at Asia Insider Limited

 

Source: Business Times 18 Feb 08

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