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Reit mergers gather pace in Singapore

OUE real-estate investment trust (Reit) merger follows Viva-ESR; hope is to create better liquidity in stocks.


Singapore's financial centre, Raffles Place

There’s not a whole lot for investment banks to do in Singapore these days: very few new listings, tech companies who are quite content with private market funding, local debt markets that are strong, but somewhat commoditized.

However, there is a new game in town: Reit mergers.

On Singapore’s somewhat illiquid and listing-starved stock market, Reits have long been a mainstay of volumes.

There are 42 Reits and property trusts in Singapore, which have a combined market capitalization of S$90 billion at the end of 2018, representing 8% of total market capitalization, making it the biggest such market in ex-Japan Asia.

But here, too, there are challenges. Most of the obvious real estate you can see on the Singapore skyline is already securitized. Singaporean investors have gone right off trusts that hold questionable emerging-market assets.

In recent years, the best chance has been to build Reits filled with European and US property, and list them in Singapore; more than 75% of Reits here own property outside Singapore. In fact, there are only eight that don’t.

To bolster the sector, Singapore has sought to consolidate some of its existing Reits to give them greater heft and, crucially, liquidity.

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