World’s top activist fund eyes Singapore bank

Singapore • The world’s best- performing activist fund returned 103% in seven months by targeting mainly smaller Asian companies in industries from commodities to engineering and food.

Now, it’s getting ready to take on one of Singapore’s banks, according to Judah Value Activist Fund’s July newsletter obtained by Bloomberg.

“We are building a bigger position in this bank before we craft an open shareholder letter with proposals to improve operational efficiency that will unlock and increase value in the company,” the newsletter said. It didn’t name the lender.

The US$44 million (RM180.4 million) Judah, based in Singapore, likes to work behind-the-scenes and will only engage with firms that are receptive to “positive activism”, according to manager Roland Thng, a former Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) trader.

The holding that powered this year’s returns was Hong Kong-listed coal miner Agritrade Resources Ltd, which climbed 116% over the period. While Asian companies have been the targets of high-profile campaigns by the likes of US billionaire Paul Elliott Singer, activist investors born and bred in the region are relatively few. In Singapore, such firms include Quarz Capital Management Ltd and Metrica Partners Pte Ltd.

The city-state’s three main lenders are DBS Group Holdings Ltd, OCBC and United Overseas Bank Ltd.

The FTSE Straits Times Financials Index has slipped 3.7% since January versus a 5.2% decline in the benchmark Straits Times Index.

In other investments, Judah plans to bulk up in Singapore-listed Ramba Energy Ltd via a private placement that will be accompanied by a five-year call warrant for more shares, according to the newsletter.

Ramba, which produces oil and gas in Indonesia, has a market value of about US$31 million after slumping from a 2013 peak.

Judah will take an initial 5.8% stake in Ramba. — Bloomberg