About this series
Building Asia is a collection of business stories on CNA that examines the financial forces driving Asia’s position as an economic powerhouse.
BRC Asia – Creating a market leader is the sixth episode in the Building Asia with UOB series and was first aired on 3 May 2021. It looks at how UOB helped a local business acquire its competitor and expand into the region.
Seah Kiin Peng (Executive Director & CEO, BRC Asia):
BRC Asia has been promoting the use of prefabrication in steel reinforcement works, in construction sites in Singapore.
We use state-of-the-art machinery with minimum manpower in our factories in Singapore. We would like to promote our solutions internationally and we believe that China is our next growth frontier.
The last building boom ended in 2015. We started to see destructive competition in Singapore. With limited capital, we were thinking of shrinking, pulling out of places like China. In 2017, we had a new shareholder and we worked out a plan to acquire our local competitor Lee Metal.
We needed support. UOB stepped in, they were from day one, very open, very committed. Without them providing a loan, it would probably have been very difficult to have done this acquisition.
Lim Chen Chen (Head, Group Structured Trade & Commodity Finance, UOB):
When BRC first approached UOB on the acquisition deal, it was not immediately compelling as the sector was highly price driven.
The merger would bring together two major companies that are margin challenged.
This is not what a bank would readily finance. When we got deeper into the transaction to understand about the economics and the value proposition, we felt that the acquisition deal would help them become the largest producer of its kind in Singapore. They could leverage on economies of scale and this would help them tremendously when they go into the region.
Seah Kiin Peng:
We have managed to integrate the two companies together well. This stability has given us more confidence to grow outside of Singapore. We have managed to bring our solutions to the high-speed railway industry in China. We think we can promote our products there further, deeper into the country.
Lim Chen Chen:
Understanding BRC’s vision and business model, was very important to us… to provide a holistic banking solution in their value-chain.
With UOB’s financing, BRC is able to bring an entrepreneurial approach to the construction sector. We hope that with their solutions, they can also build well-connected cities in Asia just like Singapore.
We see the opportunity for the company to leverage on UOB’s strong regional footprint, to connect the players in the entire value chain from steel producers to the final end-users in the construction sector.
Seah Kiin Peng:
BRC Asia is today the largest steel fabricator in Singapore.
We have been here since the 1930s. We started building the nation together with this government post-independence, starting with the public housing programme primarily.
We have contributed to at least half of all public housing projects in Singapore. From hotels to resorts… we have, I suppose, helped in our very small way, with the building of the Singapore skyline. Proud, proud to be part of this.