Photographer: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg

Singapore Traders Lunching Again 'Good News' for Michelin-Starred Chef

Updated on
  • City may soon see 3,400 finance professionals given break
  • Singapore canceled midday pause in 2011 to boost volume

Singapore’s stock traders lost their lunch break weeks after Osvaldo Forlino opened a restaurant in the heart of the city’s business district in 2011. As the Michelin-starred chef readies a new cafe, he’s looking forward to welcoming the dealers, who may once again get a midday intermission.

“This is good news,” Forlino said in his No Menu restaurant, a five-minute walk from the office of Singapore Exchange Ltd. “Traders will feel the buzz. We have lots of business people talking business during lunch here, or they can go to No Menu bar which we’ll open just behind.”

Forlino isn’t the only one excited by the prospect of about 3,400 traders with more time to eat away from their desks. Next door at Cheek by Jowl, which opened in February 2016, Denise Khan Tan is thinking of ways to reach out to the trading community.

“If these traders haven’t had a proper lunch break for six years, how do you get them to know about us and choose us?” said Tan, a spokeswoman at the Unlisted Collection Group, which runs Cheek by Jowl.

The exchange is expected to have a public consultation on bringing back a midday break, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. In March 2011, it abolished the 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. daily halt in a bid to boost trading. That year also saw the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. trim their lunch hours.

Andrew Clarke, Hong Kong-based director of trading at Mirabaud Asia Ltd., said scrapping the midday break hasn’t helped volume in Singapore.

A consultation on whether to bring the break back is “possibly a sign that the experiment by the exchange hasn’t worked,” he said.

Peaceful Lunch

The daily average value of shares traded on SGX this year has risen to $831 million in the first two months from $760 million in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But that’s still down from $1.12 billion a day in 2013 -- the year of a penny-stock crash that has been blamed for shaking confidence in the city’s markets -- and $1.18 billion in 2010, before the intermission was abolished.

SGX fell 0.4 percent to S$7.47 in Singapore trading on Wednesday. The stock has climbed 4.3 percent this year, compared with an 8.4 percent gain for the benchmark Straits Times Index.

Jimmy Ho, president of the Society of Remisiers, which represents Singapore’s commission-based brokers, said the move shows that the exchange is paying more attention to brokers and is open to their feedback.

“Most of us take turns to have lunch but it’s very pressurizing,” Ho said. “We can’t have our lunch in peace.”

— With assistance by Abhishek Vishnoi

(Updates SGX share price in ninth paragraph.)
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