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Tencent-Backed Futu Taps Retail Trading Frenzy From Sin...

Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Tencent-Backed Futu Taps Retail Trading Frenzy From Singapore

Shoppers walk past shophouses in Little India in Singapore, on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. With their terracotta roof tiles, French-style timber windows and brightly-colored facades, Singapore’s distinctive shophouses are becoming the latest sought-after property asset for family offices, tycoons and real estate funds. Photographer: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
17 Mar 2021 0

Nasdaq-listed Chinese online broker Futu Holdings Ltd. is aiming to tap a retail investor trading boom in Southeast Asia with Singapore as a home base to expand in the region.

The Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed company opened an office in Singapore 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. In Singapore, all the brokerages are doing well with revenues rising three to five times year-on-year,” Chia said. “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 shares have more than tripled this year after soaring 343% in 2020, amplifying founder Leaf Hua Li’s fortunes.

Futu's shares have soared since 2020 as retail trading accelerates

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

Despite some consolidation that saw the likes of Charles Schwab leave 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% growth, with Singapore and the U.S. accounting for 20%, Li said separately at a virtual results briefing on Tuesday. Most of its revenues come from users in Hong Kong and mainland China.

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 when it opened its office for business.

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 added.

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