Sembcorp Marine has just requested a trading halt pending an announcement from the Singapore contractor that has been struggling with escalating costs and delays to projects under construction at its main Tuas Boulevard Yard.

Sembmarine has been in talks about a possible merger with compatriot and sometimes rival Keppel Offshore & Marine although company officials had been keen to stress that such discussions were only at a preliminary stage.

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Sembmarine posted a first half 2021 net loss of S$647 million (US$478.3 million), including provisions of S$472 million, on revenues of S$844 million.

The company's provisions included the expected significant increase in costs for it to complete existing projects at its yards — most of these projects have been hit by delays of more than a year as disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic continue.

The reintroduction of Covid-19 measures earlier this year have disrupted supply chains and exacerbated the shortage of skilled manpower at Sembmarine's Singaproe facilities. This further impacted the its operations and the scheduled completion of projects with increased risk of terminations.

Sembmarine's request for a trading halt came around two hours before Singapore's Stock Exchange closes at 17.00 local time.