Turkey Of The Year: The rally in penny stocks and their subsequent plunge

TheEdge Tue, Jan 05, 2021 03:30pm - 5 months ago

IN September this year, The Edge ran a piece titled “Hidden hands behind penny stock surge”, which showed the relationship between 21 companies, all connected via similar shareholders and/or directors and all exhibiting unusual peaks and troughs, jolting share prices for no apparent reason.

Behind these companies is an individual or a small group of individuals controlling things and making a mockery of corporate governance standards.

Interestingly enough, it is understood that there are about 40 companies controlled by the hidden hands.

At the apex of the maze of companies is Fintec Global Bhd, a company that does not have a core business except to act as an incubator. On Fintec’s website, it says, “The name ‘Fintec’ mirrors our motto of ‘financials before technology’, that is, we first and foremost look to the existing and/or potential financial performances of the companies in need of capital injections before all other merits such as technology, business nature and business plan are considered.”

According to its annual report, it has investments in start-ups but it is worth noting that Fintec also invests in several small-cap, publicly traded companies.

Companies under Fintec’s belt include Saudee Group Bhd (21.55%), AT Systematization Bhd (28.29%) and Focus Dynamics Group Bhd (25.04%). There are also companies such as Green Ocean Corp Bhd and Trive Property Group Bhd, in which Fintec has indirect stakes via Saudee Group and AT Systematization. It is also noteworthy that at end-November, Fintec ceased to be a substantial shareholder of NetX Holdings Bhd.

Some of these companies, such as Fintec and AT Systematization, were in the news for announcing new ventures, including into glove making. It remains to be seen whether they are successful in these ventures.

Nevertheless, Fintec’s “jewel in the crown” is Focus Dynamics, which operates seven food and beverage outlets. It mustered a net profit of RM7.26 million from RM42.88 million in revenue for the nine months ended September this year. Despite having accumulated losses of RM40.26 million, Focus Dynamics at the time of writing was trading at 65 sen, giving the company a market capitalisation of almost RM4 billion, and was listed on the MSCI global small-cap indices last month.

Whether such a high market value is justified for a company that raked in RM7 million in net profits is questionable. So far this year, Focus Dynamics’ share price has shot up more than 390% from 13 sen as at end-2019, with no apparent reason for the meteoric rise.

Just prior to this article, Fintec pocketed RM26.74 million in cash, selling 768.15 million of Focus Dynamic’s warrants on the open market.

This year alone, Fintec has completed two share placements and one rights issue with free warrants, raising RM182.6 million. Note that as a reprieve to companies hit by the pandemic, Bursa Malaysia relaxed the rules on private placements, allowing listed companies to place out not more than 20% of the total issued shares, from the existing 10%, until Dec 31, 2021 — subject to shareholders’ approval.

Most of the companies in which Fintec invests are loss-making and small in terms of market capitalisation, and seem to lack a clear business direction or strategy.

Other stocks (besides Focus Dynamics) that have shown simi­lar gains but plummeted include loss-making Anzo Holdings Bhd, a company dealing in timber products that gained more than 1,000% from mid-May to hit a high of 26 sen in July. It closed at 8.5 sen on Dec 23, losing 67% from the peak.

PDZ Holdings Bhd, an ailing shipping company, was trading at one sen in mid-March but, at end-June, it gained more than 500% to reach its peak of 32.5 sen this year — a remarkable feat, considering it is mired in lawsuits and has no significant shipping assets. Closing at 7.5 sen on Dec 23, it is down 77% from the peak.

Meanwhile, loss-making XOX Bhd, which is involved in cellular telecommunication services, gained more than 430% from mid-July to hit a high of 39.5 sen at end-August. In mid-March, XOX was trading at one sen.

Anzo, PDZ and XOX are linked to Fintec via its directors. All three companies have announced corporate exercises, including placements of shares and rights issues.

Meanwhile, Saudee Group’s stock hit a low of eight sen on March 17, but picked up momentum in June to hit a 52-week high of 67 sen on Aug 13, gaining more than 300%. It closed at 50 sen on Dec 23 — down 25% from the peak.

While there is reason to believe that the regulators are indeed looking into the companies and their erratic share price movements, and that the authorities have actually commenced investigations, it is unclear whether there will be any follow-up action aside from an unusual market activity (UMA) query by the exchange.

Also worth noting is that investigations and subsequent action against any wrongdoing through the courts can be time-consuming. Nevertheless, such pursuits are necessary to ensure market integrity and maintain investor confidence.


Related Stocks

ANZO 0.045
AT 0.070
BURSA 8.020
FINTEC 0.035
FOCUS 0.045
FOCUS-PA 0.010
NETX 0.095
NETX-WC 0.020
SAUDEE 0.160
TRIVE 0.075
XOX 0.045


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