Singapore companies reach new high in governance and transparency
The SGTI has surged to an all-time high score as companies improved their corporate governance practices
Singapore-listed companies have shown greater transparency even as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on businesses. The Singapore Governance and Transparency Index (SGTI) 2020 has in fact, charted a new record, having surged to an all-time high score of 67.9 points, compared with 59.3 last year.
Published annually by NUS Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO), CPA Australia, and the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), the annual SGTI assesses companies on their corporate governance disclosure and practices, as well as the timeliness, accessibility and transparency of their financial results announcements.
Companies that did well included SATS, SingTel and City Developments, while CapitaLand Commercial Trust remained top of the REIT and Business Trust Category.
“It is heartening that the assessment process of listed companies for SGTI 2020 was not significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The necessary disclosures by companies were largely made well and on time, in line with Singapore Exchange Regulation’s stipulation. On an even brighter note, companies have achieved remarkable progress as seen in the all-time high of the index score – this reflects the strong momentum driven by the ongoing regulation enhancements,” said NUS Business Associate Professor Lawrence Loh, Director of CGIO.
Mr Chng Lay Chew, Singapore Divisional President of CPA Australia, added, “The COVID-19 pandemic is a generational crisis currently faced by organisations today and comes on top of global trade and political tensions, technological disruptions, and increasing cyber threats. In times of crisis, strong leadership and sound corporate governance processes are fundamental to a company’s ability to survive and position itself to thrive in the recovery that is to come. Corporate governance frameworks and processes have to adapt, and remain relevant and effective in a COVID-19 new normal.”
CPA Australia is one of the world’s largest professional accounting bodies and has been operating in Singapore for 66 years.
This year’s index ranked a total of 577 Singapore-listed companies in the General category, and 45 Trusts in the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) and Business Trust category.
SATS emerged at the top of the General Category with 131 points. SingTel, which had led the index for five consecutive years, slipped to the second position with 128 points.
While most of the top 10 saw slight dips in their rankings, SATS, City Developments, and Keppel Corporation improved. Another company which made notable improvements is SingPost, jumping up 20 places to 12th this year.
In the REIT and Business Trust Category, CapitaLand continued its dominance, with its subsidiaries CapitaLand Commercial Trust, CapitaLand Mall Trust and Ascott Residence Trust in the top three positions. Netlink NBN Trust, Cromwell European REIT, Manulife US REIT and OUE Commercial REIT each jumped over 20 spots to enter the top 10.
In terms of corporate governance disclosures, companies also fared better compared to 2019.
“It is encouraging to note the improving trend of overall scores and accompanying greater accountability and transparency in disclosures. The global pandemic has renewed focus on sustainability reporting and on taking a long-term view. As companies reassess their business models and strategic outlook, this is an opportune time to recalibrate and emerge stronger from the crisis,” said Mr Tham Sai Choy, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors.
For the General category, companies recorded an average score of 67.9, an increase of 8.6 points year-on-year. Mean scores have been improving consistently since 2011, with the largest jump recorded this year.
Companies were awarded an average of 11.6 bonus points this year, compared to 8.6 in 2019. Bonuses are awarded for good practices such as producing an annual sustainability report and providing comprehensive disclosures of shareholders’ rights.
Fewer penalties were meted out this year, falling 2.4 points to 8.4 this year. Penalty items reflect issues that are indicative of poor corporate governance. They are assigned on a company-specific basis and are usually event-triggered.
In the REIT and Business Trust Category, the mean overall score increased by 6.2 points year-on-year to 84.8. Bonuses increased by 3.2 points to 17.2, while penalties decreased by 0.2 points to 5.0.