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Singapore Issues Online Securities Guidelines

The Ministry of Finance, Registrar of Companies and Businesses and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) this week jointly announced new guidelines for the offer of shares, debentures and unit trusts online.

The move, which the government says are in line with international practices, are aimed at making the Internet a safe and reliable source of information for investment decisions "without constraining issuers' ingenuity in making such offers cheaper, faster and more convenient for the investor".

Among the key guidelines, the government expects all offerors to lodge a printed copy of their prospectus with the Registrar before making an offer on the Internet. In addition, any offer of shares or trusts through the Internet must be accompanied with an electronic prospectus.

"The electronic prospectus must contain the same information in substantially the same sequence as the printed copy lodged with the Registrar" and prospective investors must be given access to the electronic prospectus before the application form, the government statement said.

In addition, the electronic prospectus must be clearly demarcated on the Web site to distinguish it from other material.

Hyperlinks created by offerors to the prospectus must bring prospective investors directly to the front page of the prospectus. No detour to other Web sites are allowed, it said.

The government said that financial services are increasingly being offered through the Internet as it is a cost efficient system from the point of view of the providers. But the guidelines, drawn in consultation with industry agents like corporate lawyers and issuing agents, aim to clarify the authorities' policy perspective on public offers of securities.

These guidelines support "the government's efforts in promoting the measured and orderly growth of commerce and finance done over the Internet and in making Singapore a e-commerce hub," it said.