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Image - screen capture from STOnline

Web of businesses for company in Sengkang columbarium project

Image - screen capture from STOnline
Image - screen capture from STOnline

By Gangasudhan

Most of us would have heard of Life Corp, the company embroiled in the construction of the columbarium in Sengkang. Some have judged its competency with the project. But do we know all its business links?

Life Corporation Ltd was originally known as Cygenics Limited and set up in 2004 to explore the business of cordblood storage. It was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) and subsequently known as Cordlife Limited from 2007 onwards.

The company officially changed its name to Life Corporation Ltd when the core business was sold on 28 June 2013 to Cordlife Group Ltd which is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), for S$5.5 million. This was following the inclusion of Victor Hoo Kwok Chye, founder of Singapore Funeral Services (known as SFS Care Pte Ltd since 2012), on its board as an executive director on 23 May 2013.

On that same day Victor Hoo joined, Kenneth Lim Chee Kwang – credited as being “pivotal in the negotiation and implementation of the acquisition by the Company of SFS Care Ptd Ltd” in September 2013 – joined the board as the Corporate Affairs Director.

Existing Chief Financial Officer Simon Hoo Kia Wei became CEO, and Group Development Officer, Simon Lee, resigned.

With those changes, Life Corporation Ltd was effectively run under the direct stewardship of Simon Hoo, Victor Hoo and Kenneth Lim. On 1 December 2013, SFS Care Ptd Ltd had been successfully bought over for S$8 million by Life Corporation Ltd and became the only subsidiary of the company.

Just a few shareholders

Life Corporation Ltd is majority owned by the investment funds of HSBC Custody Nominees Australia (18%), Citicorp Nominees Pty Limited (11.41%) and UOB Kay Hian Hong Kong (10.83%), followed by a 10.24% stake by City Challenge Global Limited which is owned by one man, Lau Wai Chi Stellan.

Mr Lau also owns a 9% stake in Cordlife Group Ltd – the company that bought over Life Corporation Ltd’s original core business.

What this means in effect is that as long as the investment fund managers of the three funds and Stellan Lau approve, Kenneth, Victor and Simon are free to make the decisions with regard to the company’s dealings.

Meanwhile, the non-executive Chairman of Life Corporation Ltd is Kam Yuen, whose business involvement is practically a web of investments and cross-holdings, including Cordlife Group Ltd (the company that bought over the core business) and Life Corporation Ltd – both through Golden Meditech Holdings Limited registered in the Cayman Islands, of which he owns a 24% direct stake and another 24% indirect stake (giving him at least a 35% control in voting influence).

Life corp ltdOn 12 June 2014, Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd was set up by Kenneth Lim, Victor Hoo and Simon Hoo, using the same address as that of Life Corporation Ltd - 988 Toa Payoh North. This new company has been declared “a wholly-owned subsidiary by Life Corporation Ltd”.

On 8 July a tender was submitted by Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd for an amount of around $5.2 million to take a 30-year lease on the land parcel in Sengkang, and on 17 July this tender was declared successful. A deposit of S$260,000 was then paid with the balance on 13 August and 14 October.

Merry-go-round funding

In order to pay the balance, Life Corporation Ltd entered into a convertible bond agreement on 22 July 2014 with GM Investment Company Ltd and Northeast Capital Pte Ltd to borrow S$3 million from each.

GM Investment Company Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Golden Meditech Holdings Limited, and since this parent company is largely under the influence of Kam Yuen, it can be described somewhat as Kam Yuen giving a loan to himself.

Meanwhile, the company offering the other half of the loan, Northeast Capital Pte Ltd, is registered to Hoo Hung Chye, who is the brother of Victor Hoo, under the same address as SFS Care Pte Ltd – at Blk 3 Toa Payoh Industrial Park.

Interestingly, Hoo Hung Chye is also listed as an executive of Life Corporation Ltd under the title of Client Services Director, which essentially means that an employee of the company is lending it money.

While all this financial meandering is not necessarily illegal, it goes towards demonstrating how convoluted the operations of Life Corp and its related businesses are.

There appears to be no safeguards to assure residents that Life Corporation Ltd, through Eternal Pure Land Pte Ltd, won't just circumvent the legal requirements and focus on its funeral services business instead.

Note:  Most of the information was sourced from Life Corporation Ltd’s latest annual report, dated 20 September 2014 (as filed with the ASX), which appears to have more details on the developments of the new core business direction as compared to the annual report document found on the Life Corporation Ltd website. All other sources have been hyperlinked directly in the article for easy reference and verification.