Business

Trading halt sparks speculation over tycoon Wee's holdings

The time may be ripe for veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw to try to consolidate his companies given the local property market is picking up after the Government relaxed some cooling measures.

Three companies that are substantially owned by Mr Wee - UOL Group, United Industrial Corp (UIC) and investment holding firm Haw Par Corp - called for a trading halt yesterday, sparking speculation that the tycoon may be about to restructure his holdings.

That could mean a potential privatisation, partly because many listed property companies here are deemed undervalued.

It isn't the first time Mr Wee's firms have attempted to go private.

In 2014, UIC, which is controlled by Mr Wee and Philippine tycoon John Gokongwei, offered to take its Singapore Land unit private due to the stock's low trading liquidity and to ensure a more optimal use of its capital resources.

SingLand was privatised in 2014.

There is speculation now that UIC may be delisted if Mr Wee can buy out Mr Gokongwei's 37 per cent stake.

UOL owns about 45 per cent of UIC, with Haw Par holding a sliver as well.

UIC in turn owns almost 80 per cent of Singapore Land.

The Wee family held a 49.65 per cent stake in UIC as at March 15.

Mr Wee and Mr Gokongwei have tried to buy out each other's stakes in the past decade but the attempts failed.

But things may change as Mr Gokongwei had said he would retire once he turned 90 in 2016.

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