Business News

Saturday, 3 May 2014 | MYT 12:00 AM

Story behind penny stock crash

THIS week’s crash of four small-cap stocks which dented sentiment across the local bourse has the market abuzz about a foreign market personality by the name of Christian Kwok-Leun Yau Heilesen (pic).

Kwok, the founder of Hong Kong-based mobile content developer Funmobile Holdings Ltd, is no stranger to the local market.

Hailing from Copenhagen, the 30-year-old Dane has been emerging as a substantial shareholder in various small, mostly loss-making tech firms listed on Bursa Malaysia from as far back as 2011.

Coincidentally, the stock prices of these companies always sky-rocketed after his emergence and fell back flat after he sold out, sometimes in just a matter of weeks.

This time round, the four stocks which crashed were Visdynamics Holdings Bhd, MNC Wireless Bhd, Solution Engineering Holdings Bhd and Industronics Bhd.

On Monday, all four, which had been on a general uptrend for some time, crashed, with MNC losing the most value in terms of percentage, falling by 60%.

Now, Kwok is again being bandied about by stock dealers as the common person involved in all four stocks.

Apparently, the four companies each had a block of shares that had been rolled over a few times with “no real money” coming in to pick up the blocks.

Dealers say the bubble finally burst after one stockbroking house, among several, stopped the line of credit.

As far as links between the firms go, Solution Engineering is 10.8% owned by Industronics, an electronics company of which Kwok was the chairman from April 2013 to June 2013.

While the market is still trying to connect the dots, Kwok has openly come out to say that he had divested his investments in Malaysia several months ago.

“I have not been to Malaysia for several months now ... I sold all my investments several months ago to investors from Macau,” Kwok told StarBiz when contacted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the buzz among those in the market does not stop here.

In a seemingly related event which took place last year, a CEO of a public-listed firm had a major falling out with his broker.

“This event had resulted in investigations being made and basically opened a can of worms which led to the gradual departure of a few active traders from the country,” one seasoned dealer reveals.

Interestingly, Kwok’s departure from Malaysia was not well-publicised although his emergence a few years back in the local market was accompanied by much fanfare.

The broker reveals that this week’s crash of these four stocks – which were all in the red as at yesterday’s close except for Solution Engineering which ended flat – had resulted in some RM40mil in losses for remisiers from brokerages across the country,

Kwok first emerged in Malaysia in 2011 with Raymond Yip Wai Man, a Hong Kong citizen, and reportedly bought a 15% stake in DVM Technology Bhd.

They had then asked for an EGM to remove several directors from the company.

In the end, what was supposed to be a boardroom tussle which got some investors excited, never happened. Instead Kwok and Yip sold out of DVM, less than three weeks after they had bought in.

Not long after that, DVM’s share price plunged to 13.5 sen after reaching 25 sen earlier, its highest in five years.

A couple of months after that, Kwok emerged in another local IT firm, GPRO Technologies Bhd, where the stock price surged after his emergence. He was appointed executive chairman of the company but has since ceased to be a substantial shareholder.

In March 2012, Kwok surfaced in Cybertowers Bhd, once again sending the firm’s share price flying high and then hitting limit-down in a relatively short span of time.

Kwok sold his entire 8.3 million share block in Cybertowers less than five months after he emerged as a substantial shareholder in the company which is involved in automated vehicle locating systems.

More legs for small-caps

Meanwhile, the crash of the four stocks has evidently affected sentiment on penny stocks on Bursa Malaysia although experts feel that it is not time to be too concerned.

Fundamentally, market experts agree that the FTSE Bursa Malaysia Small Cap Index, which tracks smaller companies, has become pricey at 11.5 times 2014 price earnings (PE), having run up for at least the past 18 months.

Any profit-taking at the moment is healthy, they say.

“The recent crash is probably an isolated case but sends a signal that traders should be cautious,” says a senior market analyst.

The index has lost some 400 points from its all-time high of 17,867 points reached last Tuesday, due to this week’s selldown.

While the pause in the rally may continue for a while buoyed by the “sell in May” factor and the World Cup in June, it still has legs and should continue, moving on, some analysts predict.

“Going forward, we may see the continuity of “a tale of two markets’ whereby large-cap stocks will continue to trade sideways with limited upside, while small- and mid-cap stocks could extend their rally after May and June,” JF Apex Securities tells clients.

The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI which tracks the 30 largest firms on Bursa Malaysia remains one of the indexes with the richest valuations in the region, trading at more than 16 times 2014 PE.

“We advise investors to be selective on small-cap stocks by looking at fundamentally-sound companies.” JF Apex adds.

Tags / Keywords: penny

Property Related