Keppel Corp was the largest buyer of its own shares on the Singapore Exchange in 2022, according to data from the city state’s bourse.

It bought back SGD 500m ($380m) worth of its shares last year at an average price of SGD 6.59 per share as it looked to create currency for potential merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions.

This compares with less than SGD 15m spent by the shipbuilding group on its shares in 2021 at an average price of SGD 5.10 per share.

In January 2022, Keppel said its buyback programme would allow the company to purchase its shares when such shares may be “undervalued due to market conditions”.

Keppel Corp disclosed in October last year that it was looking at quite a lot of M&A transactions, but still had not used the shares that had been bought back.

The company is currently in the process of merging its offshore activities with Sembcorp Marine to create an industry powerhouse.

Earlier this week, the SGX gave its approval to the union. Sembcorp Marine is expected to call for a shareholder vote on the merger soon.

Singapore commodity giant and major charterer Wilmar was the second-largest buyer of its own shares last year.

The company spent a total of SGD 277.8m over the 12 months, buying back 67.8m shares for SGD 4.11 per share.

Wilmar bought more than 50% of those shares in the fourth quarter alone when it spent SGD 140.5m to purchase 34.6m shares, according to SGX data.

Yangzijiang Financial was in fifth place, spending a total of SGD 98.5m to buy back 258.6m shares at a price of SGD 0.38 per share.

In June 2022, the company announced it had established an SGD 200m share buyback programme in a bid to increase shareholders’ value and improve the return of equity of the group.

The company was spun off from parent company Yangzijiang Shipbuilding in April this year and listed separately on the SGX.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding was also a major buyer of its own shares last year, spending SGD 12.8m to buy back 10m shares at an average price of SGD 1.28 per share.

The Straits Times Index (STI) generated an 8.4% total return in 2022, with 86 primary company listings in Singapore conducting SGD 1.7bn in combined share buybacks.

This was up from SGD 1.18bn in 2021, conducted by 85 stocks and 100 primary-listed companies buying back SGD 1.03bn the year before that.

Motivations for share buybacks can also include employee compensation plans such as share option schemes or employee share purchase plans as well as long-term capital management.