School defends stock market listing

School defends stock market listing

CEO Kelvin Yew Hock Koh of SISB Co Ltd was optimistic after the first day of trading on the Market for Alternative Investment, even though prices of the stock fell. (Photos provided)
CEO Kelvin Yew Hock Koh of SISB Co Ltd was optimistic after the first day of trading on the Market for Alternative Investment, even though prices of the stock fell. (Photos provided)

SISB Co Ltd, the operator of Singapore International School of Bangkok, has shrugged off criticism about its listing on the stock exchange, arguing it complies with SET and Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Kelvin Yew Hock Koh, chief executive officer of the company, insisted on Thursday the company's listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is acceptable, and the company had consulted the Education Ministry about it. The ministry did not oppose the listing, nor did it raise any concerns, he said.

He was speaking on the first day of the SISB's trading on the Market for Alternative Investment (MAI).

SISB shares effectively tanked. They opened the session at five baht and closed at 4.36 baht, down 16.2% from the IPO price of 5.20 baht, in trade worth 879 million baht.

It was the third instance this year of a stock closing below its IPO price after the first day of trade.

CEO Mr Koh said the company has strong fundamentals with sustainable income and hopes to grow with long-term investment.

SISB's share price fell below the IPO price because of poor market sentiment. As for reports that there has been opposition from the government to the listing of international schools, Mr Koh said the company had done everything in accordance with the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

He said everything was discussed beforehand with the Education Ministry, which had no restrictions or objections.

"We don't worry if the price goes down, because we are confident in the fundamentals and intend to develop education in Thailand," Mr Koh said.

SISB is the first education institution to be listed, with an IPO of 260 million shares.

Education Minister Teerakiat Jaroensettasin raised questions on Wednesday about the "morality" of the move, and whether SISB's schools should still enjoy tax-exemption privileges offered them. When any school operator goes public, it becomes a profit-oriented business and should pay taxes like anyone else, he said.

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said Thursday the tax-exemption privileges for education institutions and a school listing on the stock market are two different matters. Listed or not listed, all education institutions should be treated equally when it comes to tax exemption, he said.

Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said his ministry has no duty to consider SISB's listing, as it falls under the responsibility of the SET and the SEC.

Mr Koh insisted SISB is keen to contribute to Thai education and stands by its principle of putting education before business. The company is ready to pay taxes currently waived for its schools if the government agrees to change its regulations, he said.

If government rules it must collect business tax from the school, the company will accept the decision and pay the tax if it has profits from operations, he said.

As for concerns over the possibility that the schools' tuition fees will rise dramatically after SISB listing on the stock market, Mr Koh said fees charged by SISB schools are regulated by the Education Ministry and the company cannot simply raise them at will.

Tuition fees are in the medium range compared with all other international schools in Thailand, he said. If parents cannot afford the fees, there are 200 or so international schools in the country to choose from. "Several other educational institutions are also interested in raising funds through the stock market and are looking at SISB as an example," he said.

He said there were no concerns about an investigation or revocation of licence as a result of the listing.

Democrat Party secretary-general Juti Krairiksh petitioned the Administrative Court to suspend SISB's listing. The court summonsed the SEC to testify next Thursday regarding Mr Juti's petition.

Mr Juti said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha should revise the policy that allows educational institutions to list on the stock market. On Sept 6, a group calling itself the network of people against fraud and corruption petitioned the premier against SISB's listing. The group accused the SISB of causing more education disparity in society.

SET president Pakorn Peetathawatchai said SISB followed the listing rules for the MAI, especially regarding information disclosure.

Somphop Keerasuntonpong, managing director of Finansia Syrus Securities, SISB's financial adviser, said objections to bringing an education business to list on the bourse likely weighed on the share price but the company is fundamentally unchanged.

"However, we must monitor the operations of the school to see whether it improves education or not, but it will take time to measure this," Mr Somphop said.

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