Singapore’s Hyflux Faces Liquidation After Investor Talks Fail

Singapore’s highest-profile distressed company Hyflux Ltd. is headed for a potential piecemeal selloff of its assets, capping a years-long saga that has left retail investors and creditors in the lurch.

The judicial manager in charge of the water treatment company since November said that “the remaining value of the Hyflux Group are best realized in a liquidation,” according to a statement late Friday. Such a move would aid the sale of individual assets after negotiations with a potential investor to take over the entire group failed, the manager Borrelli Walsh Ltd. said.

Hyflux -- founded by Olivia Lum, an orphan who went from abject poverty to build one of Singapore’s most successful home-grown brands -- was behind the country’s biggest desalination plant opened in 2013. The company’s fortunes began to unravel in the following years as it stretched its balance sheet to expand in the Middle East and in the power generation sector.

The company began a court-supervised debt restructuring process in 2018 and faced about S$2.8 billion ($2.1 billion) of investor claims. It had received seven offers from investors, including the bid for the entire group, the judicial manager said last month. The remaining six bids involve purchase of individual assets in Hyflux Group and can be facilitated through a winding up of the company, according to the statement Friday.

Continuation of the judicial management is no longer necessary and the managers on Friday filed an application to court to wind up the company.

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About 34,000 individual investors had put money into the once-highflying firm before its stumble, in the days when Olivia Lum had been likened to an Elon Musk of Singapore. Such investors, who bought products including perpetual notes and preference shares, had last year expressed concern about recovering much of any money.

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