Tech world will see more M&As than IPO: Stefanie Yuen Thio of TSMP

Singapore based law firm, TSMP Law Corporation, has been in the midst of some big technology deals in Southeast Asia. The firm was awarded the “ASIAN-MENA COUNSEL Deals of the Year 2015” for its involvement in the S$175 million fundraising by PropertyGuru, with an investment led by TPG. It has also been involved in the resolution of numerous IP/IT related disputes. Prominent among them have been representing IBM against the CPF Board Singapore in what was described by the media as the largest IT litigation case in Singapore; and representing a national broadband service in its claims against an MNC systems integrator. TSMP also represented StarHub in its S$18million acquisition in TV content producer mm2 Asia. Cloud-based business management software provider Deskera Holdings is planning to list on the Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) Catalist Board. TSMP is acting for Deskera Holdings in the listing. Most of the cases above have been lead by Stefanie Yuen Thio, Joint Managing Director, TSMP Law Corporation, who has been a key member in setting up the firm in 1998, and is now its Joint Managing Director, heading its Transactional Practice. Her areas of expertise include Mergers & Acquisitions, equity capital markets and corporate transactions, in each of which fields she is an acknowledged leading professional. Her core belief is “Why walk when you can run?” She is an adrenaline junkie who takes guilty pleasure in the punishing timelines of the M&A world, both a tough opponent across the boardroom table as well as deeply invested in each client relationship. And why can’t a woman have it all and do it all? In an exclusive interview with Techseen, Stefanie Yuen Thio, talks about the challenges, the technology world is facing. Excerpts: Techseen: You have been associated with multiple international technology deals, how do you manage to keep updated with different international laws and how do you manage them? Stefanie: While there may be specific differences between jurisdictions, technology is a developing field across all jurisdictions and it is exciting to watch the law being made organically across different sectors and territories. We work closely with Best Friends law firms in various jurisdictions to co-educate ourselves. Techseen: Lately, the Southeast Asian market has been impacted by the slow stock market and devaluation of the Chinese currency. That has directly-indirectly, impacted IPOs for the technology sector. What’s the direct fall out of that on technology deals? Stefanie: The lagging equity capital market has given extra momentum and opportunity for private equity M&A deals to flourish. For example, Alibaba recently took a high profile stake in Lazada. As large technology companies are usually able to react more quickly and to provide more aggressive valuations for acquisition, I believe we will see more of the private M&A deals rather than IPOs, until the tech target is large enough for a mega listing. Techseen: When it comes to the technology sector, what kind of legal consultations do companies come to you largely for? Stefanie: We service the tech sector from infancy to IPO. Entrepreneurs often come to us to structure incentive packages and share option plans early on in their company’s development. This morphs into a discussion on Series A and B investments and finally into their IPO or exit strategy. Techseen: Different governments, like the Indonesian government are making it mandatory for electronic service providers to have the data centers in the country itself. And Singapore being a technology startup hub has numerous data centers. What’s your observation on the Singapore scenario? Stefanie: TSMP Law Corporation handled the acquisition of one of Singapore’s first largest data centers when we helped Digital Realty buy this from a listed company in 2010. Singapore has a well-earned reputation for being efficient and technologically advanced. I believe we have some of the most advanced and high-tech data center facilities in the world.
As a financial and banking hub, Singapore’s data center security is also top-notch. I believe that Singapore is at the forefront and well positioned to be a global leader even as cyber security becomes increasingly important for both large governments and small businesses.
Techseen: With technology evolving too fast, do you think governments are doing enough to update their laws and policies? Stefanie: Territorial laws are not keeping up with technological changes. This is inevitable given the rapid pace of change in technology. However, Singapore, which is small and nimble, and which understands the need to stay ahead of the curve, is probably one of the best placed nations to adapt to these changes. That said, more can always be done. Techseen: Why do you think some technology companies prefer the ASX over SGX? What would be your argument to go for the SGX? Stefanie: The ASX offers aggressive valuations for technology companies which can be very attractive for a company seeking an IPO. However, the after-market support on the ASX is not strong and companies will find difficulty having their stocks actively traded and raising further funds from the equity capital market after IPO. As such, the SGX maybe a better venue for long term growth. Techseen: As an outsider, who is not directly involved in the development of technology and as an observer, what do you find most fascinating about the developments in the technology sector currently? Stefanie: Technology used to be confined to the tech world, inhabited by geeks and techies. What is fascinating about technology is how it has invaded every aspect of the human existence, from how we drive our cars to how we communicate with one another.
It is the human element in its interface with technology and how technology is arguably becoming the master, that is fascinating.
Techseen: One of the futures of technology is going to be the deployment of Internet of Things in businesses. [In fact Singapore has a plan to be the first smart nation.] Do you think the current laws of different countries are ready to handle the legal issues it will throw up? Stefanie: I agree that data privacy is a big concern. In addition, Singapore is a very crowded city and our systems have to work seamlessly or there will be a general gridlock. This applies to our roads and to our Internet channels for communication. I am concerned about whether our infrastructure for the Internet is robust enough and has the capacity to support our usage. I am also deeply concerned about the possibility of cyber attacks crippling our community and our economy. Such cyber attacks could come from mischievous hackers or terrorists. Techseen: While there are lots of enterprise software for customer relationship management and ERP and even talent management. If you had a suggestion for developers to build a software to make work of law officers and consultants easier what would it be? Stefanie: Artificial Intelligence will soon be transforming the provision of legal services. Good research software will replace legal research assistants. Well-designed legal templates that allow for easy customization will replace junior associates and paralegals. Only lawyers at the top of their game will survive this onslaught. Developers should take these into consideration.

Abhinav Mohapatra

An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’ <!--more-->An author who has a keen interest for the ‘off-beat’, he has covered and explored multiple facets of the marketing, advertising

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