A MAJOR operator of maritime support vessels controlled by Malaysia's richest man is seeking to raise up to US$380 million (S$476 million) in an initial public offering (IPO) in Singapore.

This is a boost to Singapore's stock market, which has seen just one other mainboard listing this year.

The deal from PACC Offshore Services Holdings (Posh), the largest Asia-based international operator of support vessels for offshore oilfields, comes as Singapore's IPO market has struggled in recent years. Most big-ticket listings in Asia opt for Hong Kong where there is more robust demand from Chinese and international investors.

But Singapore is carving out a niche as the preferred market of choice for the offshore oil and gas industry, building on its position as a regional energy and shipping hub. Singapore is home to the world's two biggest rig builders, Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine, as well as smaller oil services companies such as Ezion Holdings.

"The Singapore Exchange presents a great market for these companies. The market has gained a critical mass of offshore energy companies and thus has a good sector full of peers," said Mr Vincent Fernando, an analyst at Religare Capital Markets.

Posh, controlled by Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, is aiming to raise between US$304 million and US$344 million, according to its term sheet. The offer represents roughly 19 per cent of its outstanding shares, excluding a greenshoe option.

If the greenshoe option is exercised, the total amount raised could reach US$380 million. Pricing for institutional investors is expected on April 16 and it is scheduled to list on April 25.

Funds raised will go towards expanding its fleet, currently 112 vessels, which serve offshore oilfields in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The deal has fanned hopes that more IPOs will find their way to Singapore's stock market.

"The first half of the year will be a stretch, but most of us are looking at the second half to see some larger deals coming through," said Mr Raymond Tong, capital markets partner at Clifford Chance in Singapore.

"Hopefully we can see more non-property or business trust deals, otherwise there's a risk the market will become too narrow."

In another encouraging sign, India's Larsen & Toubro has been tapping investors for a planned listing of toll road assets in Singapore. A source with direct knowledge of the matter said the deal could raise between S$500 million and S$1 billion. A spokesman for Larsen & Toubro declined to comment.

While proceeds for Singapore's IPO market jumped 29 per cent last year to US$4.9 billion, it still slipped behind Thailand in IPO league tables last year.

This year represents the slowest start for Singapore's IPO market since 2005, and shares in the one completed listing this year, OUE Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust, are still trading below their IPO price.

Lotte Shopping Co Ltd, South Korea's biggest shopping mall owner, has delayed a US$1 billion

real estate investment trust listing following an emerging market selloff which prompted investors to demand higher yields, financial sources familiar with the matter said.

A spokesman for Lotte Shopping declined to comment.

Frasers Centrepoint Ltd, a company controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has yet to decide on the formal launch of a S$600 million hospitality Reit IPO after it won approval from the Singapore Exchange to list in March.

Singapore-listed equity and equity-related transactions also showed steep declines of around 60 per cent in both proceeds and new issuance in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier, falling to US$2.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data up to March 24.

The Kuok Group has stakes in companies such as Hong Kong-listed Kerry Properties, Shangri-La Asia and Wilmar International which is run by the Malaysian tycoon's nephew, Mr Kuok Khoon Hong.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, DBS Group Holdings and OCBC Bank are the joint issue managers, bookrunners and underwriters.

Hwang Investment Management and Fortress Capital Asset Management are cornerstone investors in the deal.