atans1

Temasek: the significance of Seatown

In China, Investment banking, Temasek on 22/02/2010 at 3:45 am

Seatown is Temask’s new toy: an absolute return fund. But with a reported US$3 billion available for playing in the pen:in the context of Temasek’s reported US$120 billion in assets, and the world’s biggest hedgies http://hedgefundblogman.blogspot.com/2009/08/top-100-largest-hedge-funds.html, US$3 billion is”Peanuts,” as Mrs Goh Chok Tong might say. Seatown doesn’t even make it to list of 100 biggest hedgies: the smallest of which manages US$4 billion +

So what is Seatown’s significance?

Since Ho Ching became its CEO, Temasek has done a series of big deals, taking controlling or strategic stakes in high profile companies like Shin, Merrill Lynch, Barclays, ABC Learning, Bank of China, China Construction Bank , Hana, ICICI Bank, NIB Bank, PT Bank Danamon Indonesia, and Standard Chartered.

Some were real dogs, others were good performers, and the balance were average performers.% of those still in its portfolio.

But whatever they were, the size of the investments meant that they could not be done discreetly. When things went badly, S’poreans knew, and knew whom they blamed.

It could be that Temasek will slow down Buffett-size deals, using Seatown to do lots of smallish deals that will not appear on the radar, and depending on rapid turnover (i.e trading) to make $. And if Seatown comes a cropper, US$3 billion is a rounding error. But if it does well, financial engineering will magnify its returns: supposing if Temasek funds Seatown from the proceeds of its recent bond issues, the cost of the capital could be “peanuts”, leading to great returns when calculated using the cost of these bonds. Or so I’ve been advised by the same people who tell me that SingTel should have taken an impairment charge (at least A$3 billion) for Optus and SIA for Virgin Atlantic (sum unknown but sure to be in billions whether in US$ or sterling).  And no they are not members of SDP, they are accountants’ accountants.

Moral of the story: don’t do a Buffett, unless you got a brain to match. Scholars, SAF generals, or FTs from top biz schools do not a Buffett make.

Maybe Temasek thinks that a Soros or John Paulson can appear from one of these  scholars, SAF generals, or FTs from top biz schools, though based on the exit from BoA (that bought ML), “Dream on baby”. John Paulson was buying as Temasek was selling.

And maybe the Chinese can teach Singapore Inc something. FT reports: “China Investment Corp, Beijing’s sovereign wealth fund, has agreed to invest $1.5bn in the private equity secondary market through custom accounts with three of the biggest specialists in buying second-hand buy-out and venture capital fund interests.

‘Lexington Partners, Goldman Sachs and Pantheon Ventures have each agreed to manage $500m for CIC through special accounts, which are to be kept separate from their main funds … The move is the biggest injection of capital into the secondary market.”

“It underlines how CIC is using its size to win special terms from private equity groups, including lower fees and transfer of knowledge on specialist markets … The era of big public pension funds and sovereign wealth funds accepting the same terms as smaller investors is over,” David Rubenstein, founder of the Carlyle Group, said.”

Outsource to the best, using wagga to get good terms.

But then the S’pore govmin is as mercantilist as the French.

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