Temasek raises stakes in financial sector

PHOTO: Temasek raises stakes in financial sector

Temasek Holdings has boosted its exposure to the financial services sector with two deals announced on Wednesday.

The Singapore investment firm acquired a stake in Markit, a fast-growing global financial information services company, and also upped its existing holdings in the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

Temasek paid US$500 million (S$624 million) for a 10 per cent share in Markit, which competes in the same space as bigger rivals Bloomberg and Reuters.

Markit started out by providing data for the credit markets, but has since expanded to offer other services ranging from data valuation and trade processing to business and economic surveys, such as the widely-watched Purchasing Managers' Indices.

The London-headquartered company has 2,800 employees in 10 countries around the world, including in Singapore, according to its website.

Private equity firm General Atlantic, which recently appointed former Fraser & Neave chairman Lee Hsien Yang as a special adviser, took a 7.5 per cent stake in Markit in 2010.

That deal valued the company at about US$3 billion; Temasek's investment values it at about US$5 billion.

A Markit spokesman said yesterday that Temasek's investment would enhance Markit's presence in Asia, where it has also set up offices in Hong Kong, India and Japan.

"The investment increases Markit's links to Asia through a partnership with one of the most prestigious investors in the region," the spokesman said.

Mr Lance Uggla, who founded Markit in 2001 and runs it now as chief executive officer, hailed Temasek's investment as a "significant milestone" for his firm.

"Temasek is an expert investor in entrepreneurial growth companies with a track record in increasing shareholder value," he said.

"The strength of their position and profile in Asia, an area where we see significant potential and opportunity, will help fuel our growth in the region."

The deal comes at a vulnerable time for Bloomberg, the financial data industry's behemoth.

Its competitors are stepping up efforts to gain market share amid recent controversy over Bloomberg journalists accessing confidential information about customers of the firm's financial data services.

Markit and Reuters were reported to be developing an alternative to Bloomberg's widely-used chat messaging network, and major banks such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are said to have agreed to use the new service when it is introduced.

Temasek also picked up 280 million shares of ICBC on Wednesday, taking its stake in the world's largest bank by market value from 6.71 per cent to 7.04 per cent.

Temasek paid an average price of HK$5.50 a share, or a total of HK$1.54 billion (S$248 million), for the additional stake, according to a statement filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday.

The shares were purchased on the same day that Goldman Sachs exited its ICBC investment, selling 1.58 billion shares for US$1.1 billion.

This is the third time in a year that Temasek has upped its stake in ICBC.

Temasek's two deals yesterday seem to reaffirm its commitment to the financial sector, which made up about a third of its portfolio as of March last year, said CIMB executive director and regional economist Song Seng Wun.

"The bottom line is that Temasek is sticking with the plan of staying invested in a few core sectors," he said.

Other recent Temasek deals have been focused in the commodities and property sectors.

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