SGX suspends trading in three stocks

PHOTO: SGX suspends trading in three stocks

The share market was rocked on Friday when the Singapore Exchange (SGX) suspended trading in three stocks that have all recorded huge price swings recently.

The unprecedented move came after the counters - Blumont, Asiasons Capital and LionGold - went into free fall on Friday after several sessions of dizzying price rises on record trading volumes. One dealer said: "It's a shocking move by the SGX to do this, not to one, not two, but three stocks. But it was waiting to happen as it's crazy how the prices have shot up."

Rumours about the firms that had been swirling around the market in recent days finally prompted jittery investors to bail out. The falls began late on Thursday but gained momentum once the market opened on Friday at 9am.

Prices plunged between 40 per cent and 60 per cent, wiping out $5 billion in market value right before the halt kicked in at 9.40am.

The SGX said it acted "to safeguard the interests of the market as there could be circumstances that would result in the market not being fully informed".

Remisier Desmond Leong told The Straits Times: "It serves as a good wake-up call and reminder to those playing these stocks that the exchange is constantly watching the market for irregularities."

The SGX also asked the firms, which have all announced various corporate moves in recent weeks, if they could explain the unusual price movements.

Blumont and LionGold cited the step by broking house UOB Kay Hian to list their shares as designated securities - a sign that the firm saw them as risky.

It meant clients would have to make upfront payments to buy the shares and were prevented from trading the stock online.

The rumour mill went into overdrive yesterday, with talk that a team from the Monetary Authority of Singapore had been sent to Asiasons, a Malaysian- linked private equity firm and major investor in miner LionGold, to carry out investigations.

Asiasons told the SGX: "The company confirms that such market rumours are false." Its co-founder and managing director Jared Lim told The Straits Times that operationally, "nothing has changed and the direction we've set remains intact".

"It's (the trading suspension) a trading issue," he remarked.

Asiasons shares have soared from 80.5 cents at the end of last year to a high of $2.83 on Tuesday. It recently announced that it was acquiring a 27.5 per cent stake in a Houston-based energy firm for US$172 million (S$214.5 million) payable in new shares.

Blumont was trading between 20 cents and 30 cents late last year, but skyrocketed to a record high of $2.45 on Monday before slipping to 88 cents yesterday.

There were warnings from the SGX on Monday when it flagged that Blumont's market value had jumped from $508 million to $6.3 billion over nine months, and demanded an explanation.

It was an unusually specific query and alerted market watchers that the regulator was concerned. LionGold stock has also drawn spectacular interest, gaining 40 per cent this year.

"Gravity will soon set in and these counters that have shot up irrationally will get their just deserts," said an analyst.

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