STI inches up on news of PM's successful op

RELIEF FOR THE MARKET: Local stocks ended the day in positive territory after news that PM Lee's operation for prostate cancer had gone well.


    Feb 17, 2015

    STI inches up on news of PM's successful op

    THE local bourse was weighed down for most of the trading day by a shortselling attack on Singapore agricultural conglomerate Noble Group.

    But local stocks managed to claw their way back into positive territory - only just - after good news on the political front was released yesterday afternoon.

    "The market was cheering the success of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's surgery, which came as a relief," remisier Alvin Yong said. Mr Lee's surgery for his prostate cancer went successfully and he is now recovering, said the Prime Minister's Office in a statement yesterday.

    The benchmark Straits Times Index closed up a mere 0.94 point at 3,427.16, with 891.2 million shares worth $952.8 million changing hands.

    Noble, among the most heavily traded stocks, sank almost 10 per cent at one point before ending the day 7.9 per cent or 9.5 cents lower at $1.11, with 63.6 million shares changing hands.

    British-based Iceberg Research had issued a scathing note on the company, alleging that Noble "exploits the accounting treatment of its associates to avoid large impairments and fabricate profit".

    Noble said it "completely rejects the allegations" posted in Iceberg's report on Sunday.

    CMC Markets analyst Nicholas Teo noted that Noble's Australian associate Yancoal was singled out to have been a recipient of such an "impairment transfer" amounting to nearly to $600 million.

    "While numbers quoted by the research house remain unverified, traders nonetheless are having a field day, jumping all over this sensational report with the new target price of Noble set by Iceberg at 10 cents," Mr Teo said.

    On Monday's Budget, Phillip Futures analyst Howie Lee said market participants hope there will be surprise SG50 goodies. "We need a fiscal stimulus in the face of slowing growth, in the form of tax breaks, a relaxation of constraints on foreign labour hiring, and maybe, property cooling measures and more funds channelled into infrastructure upgrading."

    Other heavily traded stocks included Singtel, up 1.9 per cent or eight cents to $4.28, with 28.7 million shares done.

    United Engineers (UE) dived 15 per cent or 49 cents to $2.68, with 26.9 million shares changing hands on disappointment over OCBC Bank's failure to seal a deal to sell its $692 million stake in UE to Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

    The deal, which could have led to a multi-billion-dollar takeover of the company, was called off because controlling shareholders OCBC and Great Eastern Holdings, and Mr Charoen's TCC Top Enterprise were "not able to reach an agreement on an appropriate transaction structure".

    The exclusivity agreement for discussions in relation to the possible deal has also lapsed, it said.