by K. Pelly Periasamy
Hyflux was once hailed as a model of innovation and entrepreneurship; Olivia Lum (its founder) and Hyflux were bestowed with awards and accolades for their pioneering entrepreneurship.
The company’s bold endeavor in water treatment was hailed as an innovative solution to address Singapore’s critical need for fresh water and another strategic step in the nation’s long-term goal of being independent of Malaysia for its water needs, a factor which is constantly reinforced by the negative statements stemming from Dr. Mahathir and other politicians from across the Causeway.
Hyflux‘s value in this regard and the company’s characteristics and endorsements from the government authorities gave confidence to many investors, particularly retirees and laymen, to invest their hard-earned money in Hyflux bonds and shares. Today, Hyflux is on the brink of bankruptcy and billions of hard-earned money of trusting citizens would disappear. An Indonesian consortium has made a bid to keep the company alive but this , at best, offers only marginal relief to the Singaporean investors who are set to lose billions nonetheless. And PUB is threatening to take over the BIllion-Dollar Tuas Spring plant for FREE because of some default on the part of Hyflux.
From a pure business perspective, Hyflux could continue to function under foreign ownership (Indonesian, Malaysian or others, depending on who offers the best deal) but this arrangement would be a perpetual dent on Singapore’s entrepreneurship and innovation spirit and history, and would offer little to the Singaporeans holding Hyflux bonds, preference shares and stocks.
Hyflux, a critical national asset, needs to be saved in a meaningful manner such that it remains Singaporean and continues to function but not at the expense of the 50,000 Singaporeans who had invested billions in what was once a model Singapore company endorsed and herald by the government. Hyflux is certainly far more worthy to be saved than companies like Olam which have been saved by Temasek in the past.
Hyflux is a strategic asset, as once stated by the PM, enabling the nation to meet a critical need – water. Can there be a more worthy organisation which should be saved by the government?
This is a letter written by a member of public and it does not represent the publication’s view on the matter.