F J Benjamin on SGX watch list after 3 years of losses

F J Benjamin on SGX watch list after 3 years of losses

The tough retail scene has meant that fashion group F J Benjamin Holdings, which has now racked up losses for three consecutive years, has failed to meet the financial entry criterion set by the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

It was placed on the SGX watch list yesterday for not meeting this criterion. It had already in March failed to meet the minimum trading price criterion.

Chief executive Nash Benjamin said yesterday: "There's nothing specific to report now except that the management has been working tirelessly to strengthen our business across all geographies in this challenging retail environment. Our group restructuring, which started three years ago, is nearly completed, and we believe we are now on a stronger footing to move ahead."

Last month, F J Benjamin, which made international headlines when the Duchess of Cambridge wore its label, Raoul, in 2012, said it was in talks with a potential international investor.

Its net loss grew 35 per cent to $23 million in the 12 months to June 30 while revenue fell 14 per cent to $253.6 million - the third consecutive year of losses.

F J Benjamin said that business is continuing as usual.

Analysts said the retail scene remains challenging, with no signs of abating soon. Mr Kean Chan, senior analyst at unit trust platform fundsupermart.com, said: "The retail scene in Singapore has been struggling as consumers reduce their discretionary spending alongside a slowdown in economic momentum over the past two quarters."

Mr Roger Tan, chief executive of Voyage Research, said that Singaporeans do not have as much cash to splash about. Previously, he said, loans were easy to obtain, which made consumers feel like they had more disposable cash to spend.

"But now the reduction in retail spending is, to a certain extent, due to the tightening of the money supply. Their wealth, also due to property prices, has also been coming down," he noted.

Mr Chan said that traditional brick-and-mortar businesses are also struggling with the structural trend of e-commerce globally.

Mr Tan noted that the retail sector was hurt by cautious Chinese tourists, as the country cracks down on corruption, as well as higher costs owing to rentals and hiring constraints due to tighter labour rules.

"All these together mean it was a challenging year for the retail sector and the stressed environment doesn't seem to have changed, and will continue in 2017 and maybe even into 2018."

The SGX said 14 companies have been removed from the watch list, after meeting the minimum trading price or market capitalisation. The list now has 54 firms.

Those taken off from yesterday include Serial System, Vicplas International and Hiap Seng Engineering.

This article was first published on Dec 6, 2016.
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