HFC’s Stefan Nilsson checked in with Omar Taheri in Singapore to talk about Spark Plus’s expansion into Australia. Spark Plus provides listed companies access to accredited investors across the Asia Pacific region.
Having already established yourself with operations in Singapore and Hong Kong, you recently opened an office in Perth, Australia. Was Australia the obvious next step for Spark Plus?
Given that most of our clients are ASX listed, we thought it was a good idea to have our operations and sales team built in Australia. One really has to be close to the capital markets and be on the ground to be able to grow one’s businesses. We knew that travelling back and forth was not sustainable in the long run so we hired Mr Daniel Rootes to head up our Perth operations and grow the business.
Is the new office focused on hosting roadshows and events in Australia or is it more focused on marketing your Asian capabilities to listed companies in Australia? Or both?
The current offering is to take Australian companies to connect them with Asian investors on a non-deal roadshow basis. However, we are thinking to expand the offering to also have Australia as a roadshow leg for non-Australian corporates.
Perth is a city known for companies in the mining, petroleum and agricultural services. Was this a major factor in the decision to locate your Australian office in Perth?
The main reason we chose Perth as our first office is due to the same time zone, proximity, and our client base. We have a lot of firms coming from Perth given that it only takes five hours to get up to Singapore which is nearly the same as flying from Perth to Sydney. We realised that Perth for its population had a lot of entrepreneurs and a broker network that is very supportive of taking companies up to Asia.
In Asia, you have recently been active in sectors such as natural resources and healthcare. What are the hot sectors for Spark Plus in 2019?
We are actively looking for industries that are disrupting the status quo. We are quite bullish on the e-sports segment. The interest coming from large brands, sponsorship, tournament prize pool and viewership in this space is getting us excited. There are only a few companies listed in this space currently so we are hoping this trend will change as the industry matures. I highly recommend your readers to check out an e-sports event to understand the magnitude of the industry and how some of the major stadiums in the world are now getting filled with a whole new sub-sector of fans and followers. The other sector that we are looking at is the aircraft leasing sector. We do tend to find that this industry has great potential and yield. We constantly see rise in passenger numbers and a rising middle class in Asia, so hence we realise that airlines will need to purchase more planes and lessors will benefit greatly from this.
Spark Plus is providing independent corporate access, something which was earlier done by banks and brokers. Do you see any potential in partnering with banks and brokers to provide your service or do you see Spark Plus continuing to operate independently?
Currently, we do work with niche brokers to give them access to our Asian investor base. However, the larger investment banks already have this space covered given that they have an office in all major financial cities. We have had plenty of success with brokers that don’t have a presence in Asia but are looking to get connected to our buyside. We are also actively signing MOUs with new partners in Japan, China and the UK, which will allow us to mutually benefit each other’s organisation.