Southeast Asian superapp Grab Holdings Ltd (Grab) was listed on Nasdaq on Thursday with the opening bell rung in Singapore.
The deal valued Grab at US$40 billion (RM165 billion) and the tech giant planned to raise US$4.5 (RM18 billion) billion from the listing.
The milestone was much celebrated by Malaysians, since it was a former Malaysian company with a headquarters in Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.
Yes. I repeat.
A “FORMER” Malaysian company because it is a classic case of how a startup incubated in Malaysia was eventually lost to a neighbouring country.
In 2015, Grab which was previously known as MyTeksi had applied to Khazanah for a financial grant of US$10 million, but was rejected.
Temasek, however, agreed to finance Grab, prompting both of its Malaysian founders, present CEO Anthony Tan and COO Tan Hooi Ling to set up its headquarters in the island republic that same year.
The company’s growth from strength to strength had since attracted Japan’s Softbank and carmakers Toyota and Hyundai to invest funds as well.
American-based Uber’s Asean market business in 2018 in Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam were also swallowed by Grab.
Today, its valuation is more than double the market capitalisation of Malayan Banking Bhd, which is the country’s largest listed company.
Yet Grab is not the only “gem” that Malaysia has lost in the past.
Many other homegrown companies have preferred listings in other stock exchanges, including Hong Kong and Australia, compared to Bursa Malaysia.
In a written reply to the Dewan Rakyat back in 2019, the Finance Ministry said 68 Malaysian companies have been listed on foreign exchanges as of 30 June 2019.
These Malaysian companies have left the country in search of greater market accessibility, more diversified capital options and a high-quality talent pool.
It is a sign of lack of confidence in the domestic market.
If more homegrown companies seek to leave the shores in future, Malaysia stands to lose huge economic opportunities and the chance to strengthen the domestic talent pool.
So there is a pressing need for the government to address the issue, and this fine-tuning must be done fast with a decisive mindset by the regulators.
The country has the ecosystem for startups to be built and strengthened, which is why companies like Grab can be conceived.
But the ecosystem has to be strong to bring these companies to the next level.
Additionally, the traditional business model may not apply in assessing new startups.
Hence a different approach is needed in approving funding or other assistance for the companies.
Other areas that require government attention are taxation and access to financing via the open market.
Lee Heng Guie, the executive director of Socio-Economic Research Centre in an interview in April this year said, Singapore has an attractive corporate tax rate, alongside a vibrant and liquid market for investors.
He is right on that, as the Singaporean government and opposition have both spent many years fine-tuning policies for the betterment of the country.
But our politicians, from BN, PN and PH were busy bickering over petty issues like the 51% Bumiputera equity and Timah whisky.
Source : Malaysia Sentinel