SINCE last November, five more companies have made their way into the Singapore Exchange's most unloved list of stocks - that is, those suspended from trading for 12 months or longer.
As at end-April, the tally was the highest in three years - 41 companies stuck in trading purgatory and struggling to clean up their act.
In May 2016, when the SGX first started giving half-yearly updates of such stocks, there were 20 companies in this "twilight zone", so the number has doubled in three years.
The newest members on this roll of dubious honour include social media firm Yuuzoo Networks Group Corp and Midas Holdings, which is on the way to being wound up. Both firms are under investigation.
The SGX named China Sports International, Full Apex Holdings and Pacific Radiance as the remaining three new additions to the list in its latest update this week.
Like their peers, many of whom have been stuck in suspension for well over two years, these companies ultimately face one of three fates:
If they are lucky enough to find a white knight under a rescue plan, trading in their stocks will be resumed.
The companies could also be booted - delisted - by the bourse operator, with an exit offer or, in some cases, nada for their shareholders.
The third scenario: Continued suspension.
SGX's latest data points the way down a slippery slope for most companies upon pbeing suspended. This year, two - Anwell Technologies and Oriental Group - were delisted.
Many on the list are businesses hit by the oil-and-gas slump, such as Swiber Holdings, Ezra Holdings, Linc Energy and Pacific Radiance.
S-Chips, China companies listed on the SGX, also feature prominently among those with stocks suspended from trading; examples are JES International, Yamada Green Resources, China Fishery Group and China Sky Chemical Fibre.
Other companies in this club have suffered credibility fallouts resulting from alleged irregularities. Examples are Midas and Yuuzoo, a number of S-Chips and those bogged down by litigation issues such as Attilan Group (formerly known as Asiasons Capital and one of the three battered penny stocks in Singapore's largest market manipulation case).
National University of Singapore associate professor and governance hawk Mak Yuen Teen said: "There are 41 of them, which is more than 5 per cent of all issuers."
He said that although it is important for SGX to act to suspend stocks when investors are not getting enough information and clarity, the regulator should also suspend stocks of companies undergoing independent reviews for serious issues.
Silver linings are few and far between among the lot. The most recent involved Jason Holdings, which was suspended two years ago amid audit discrepancies in its half-year 2015 accounts. Just this week, trading in its stock resumed on the Catalist under the name Revez Corp, following a reverse takeover (RTO) of a technology business.
Among the current suspended batch, 22 companies are exploring trading resumption, said SGX. This "exploration" could take a while, given that more than half of these trading hopefuls were already on the list SGX released at its last update in November 2018.
Examples are China Hongxing Sports, which has inked a pact with a third party for an RTO, and Sinopec Holdings, which has been granted until the end of this year to seal a deal that could also result in an RTO.
Prof Mak urged investors not to hold their breath for better days ahead, because many of these firms do not appear to have promising futures - even if they resume trading.
The SGX appears relatively more forgiving of such troubled companies. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, for example, gives suspended companies up to 18 months to sort out their issues, on pain of a delisting.
On the SGX, stocks such as Sino Techfibre and China Hongxing have been suspended for as long as eight years.
SGX's approach appears to recognise that it takes time and toil to sort out the issues at these companies.
Its spokesman said: "We allow prolonged suspension as opposed to directed delisting to enable compliance with the rules requiring an exit offer to be made by the controlling shareholders.
"An extended period of suspension may also occur to issuers seeking to inject a new business with a view of resuming trading. Where the issuer is suspended and has appointed a liquidator, the process will, as in the above instances, also take a protracted period of time."