Caixin
Mar 18, 2021 04:36 AM
FINANCE

Tencent-Backed Futu Taps Retail Trading Frenzy From Singapore

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Chinese online broker Futu Holdings Ltd. is setting up a base in Singapore to tap a retail investor trading boom in Southeast Asia.

The Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed company opened an office in the city-state last week, a market seen as a key driver of its international expansion alongside the U.S., Gavin Chia, director for Futu Singapore Pte. said in a recent interview. It’s currently looking at Malaysia and Thailand to expand, he said.

“More people are working from home, and they are trading” Chia said. “In Singapore, all the brokerages are doing well with revenues rising three to five times year-on-year. That’s where there’s strong demand and not many competitors.”

Online brokers like Futu, China’s version of the U.S. favorite Robinhood, have profited from the retail mania that grew from the pandemic. Bored, stuck-at-home individuals found solace in low-commission trading apps, even using them to challenge institutional investors. Futu’s Nasdaq-listed shares have more than tripled this year after soaring 343% in 2020, amplifying founder Leaf Hua Li’s fortunes.

The company chose Singapore as its Southeast Asia headquarters because of the country’s support for the technology sector and the high smartphone adoption rate, Chia said.

Despite some consolidation in which the likes of Charles Schwab left the market, Singapore still has at least 10 local brokers serving retail traders alongside behemoths such as Interactive Brokers Group Inc. and TD Ameritrade.

The company forecasts winning 700,000 new paying clients for its online brokerage business in 2021, a 135% expansion, with Singapore and the U.S. accounting for 20%, Li said Tuesday at a virtual results briefing. Most of its revenues come from users in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

Futu, which said it has more than 13 million users globally, launched its zero-commission, retail-focused trading app in the city-state last week Investors can trade Singapore, Hong Kong and U.S. stocks on the trading platform. The U.S. market is the “most popular” with existing clients in Singapore showing continued interest in tech and gaming stocks, Chia said.

Not only are the so-called FAANG shares and Tesla Inc. among the favorites, “clients in Singapore love to buy Disney shares whenever there’s a new movie popping up,” he said.

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