OPINION: Whither Singapore Inc? - Dr. Lai Kok Fung

Techinasia.com, 26 May 2014
I published a pair of articles recently on two stewards of ‘Singapore Inc’ – SPH and SingTel. These are local giants of media and telecommunications. Their success, or lack of it, considerably impacts Singapore’s startup ecosystem.
In terms of SPH, I compared this pseudo media monopoly to Naspers, a dominant media group based in South Africa. I argued that the lack of competition has caused SPH to underperform. Protected by the monopoly, SPH has taken the easy way out to shore up its financials by leveraging its capital base onto the property business. In contrast, Naspers was more successful in transforming from a traditional newspaper business. It has become a major ecommerce player in emerging markets and currently owns significant stakes in Tencent (maker of QQ and WeChat) in China and Mail.ru in Russia.
When it comes to SingTel, I questioned its execution on the acquisition of Amobee. SingTel has failed to realize the investment thesis: combine Amobee’s agency and platform business to monetize SingTel’s digital assets. With a huge operating loss, SingTel will have spent a whopping S$1 billion on this acquisition by next year. SingTel’s failure stems from its gatekeeper mindset, demonstrated by its CEO’s recent appeal to regulators to give carriers the power to charge WhatsApp and Skype for use of their networks. Full story