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Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

How TRE can monetise its popularity

In Media on 31/12/2012 at 4:19 am

– By taking a page from successful US-based webcomics

I came across this while reading an article on the rise of webcomics in the Economist:

One thing they have in common is how they make their money. The typical audience for one of the leading web comics is between 1m and 10m unique browser visits per month, comparable to a medium-sized newspaper website (the website of the Daily Mail, the best-read newspaper on the web, gets around 48m per month). But unlike on newspaper websites, where advertising is the main source of revenue, the audience on web comics are not just readers—they are also customers. Most artists sell T-shirts, books, mouse mats, posters and other paraphernalia. The most successful at monetising content is said to be Mr Inman: his site, “The Oatmeal” made $500,000 in 2011 from its audience of around 7m unique visitors per month.

Try this. If it works, gd for S’pore and TRE. TRE  may be ableto cover costs and pay the team shumething. If it doesn’t, then S’poreans, especially TRE’s “We hate the PAP” readers, deserve the PAP as the ruling party.

And the article goes on:

Amplified by social media—Mr Inman has some 700,000 Facebook followers—this audience can be powerful. One extremely long and exceptionally geeky comic last summer on “The Oatmeal”, extolling the virtues of the inventor Nikola Tesla and attacking his better-known rival, Thomas Edison, somehow snowballed into a campaign to save one of Tesla’s labs on the outskirts of New York. By leveraging his immense traffic to attract donations and to sell T-shirts and other gear, Mr Inman raised $1m in nine days—enough, with matching funding from New York State, to buy the building.

 

For 007 fans: Holiday treat

In Uncategorized on 30/12/2012 at 5:32 am

How the various Bonds stack up against one another on booze, violence, gals

Great piece: warning only those who know something the main UK political figures will appreciate the jokes.

Jappo banks step up presence in ASEAN region

In Banks, Japan, Vietnam on 29/12/2012 at 10:09 am

This week:

– Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFJ), Japan’s biggest bank, bought a 20%  stake worth US$743m  in state-owned VietinBank, the largest-ever merger or acquisition deal in Vietnam’s banking sector. The deal aims to boost “support for Japanese companies operating in Vietnam”, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ president Nobuyuki Hirano said, and to tap South-east Asian markets; after seeing its profits tumble this year, like other Jappo banks.

The Japanese bank last month reported profit in the six months to September dived 58 per cent year on year to US$3.6 billion, due partly to declines in stock holdings.

VietinBank, or Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade, said State Bank of Vietnam will still own the majority of its shares. For the record, it is Vietnam’s second largest bank by asseys.

– SMFG said it plans to expand its consumer finance business to target the growing middle classes in South-east Asia.

The new Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere?

BANZAI!

No ASEAN round-up this hols week.

Li Jiawei proves TRE readers right

In Political governance on 28/12/2012 at 6:21 am

When she retires, what does she do? Move on from S’pore, back to China.

Juz shows that the many TRE readers who doubted her loyalty to S’pore were right! Readers that were criticised by govt ministers with lots of academic qualifications.

Ministers, in yr NatCon, listen to TRE readers, though I must admit some of them are wackos. The wackos are the s’pore self-loathers.

Indons no “hue” UK governance rules

In Corporate governance, Indonesia on 28/12/2012 at 5:58 am

UK Takeover Panel is asking questions of Bakries and another Indon investor in Bumi for time being can only vote 29.9% of their shares.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/dec/19/nat-rothschild-bumi-resume-conflict

 

Why S’pore wants to be Arctic Council Observer

In Economy, Energy, Logistics, Shipping on 27/12/2012 at 5:50 am

And it’s not because of the polar bears, or Santa and his elves (FTs?) or reindeer.

It’s the new sea route: the NE passage. It’s nothing for the “We love to rubbish S’pore” readers of TRE and TOC to get worked up about. Very few ships use this route (I think 40 this year). And while this number will increase, most ships will sail the traditional route via the Malacca Straits. For one, ships have to be specially built for this route. First gas tanker crosses the Arctic to Japan.


Polar route

Antidote to the PAP’s tales of doom and gloom

In Uncategorized on 26/12/2012 at 5:51 am

Watch the BBC video on the Encyclopedia Paranoiaca by New York humourists Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf. It is a semi-serious cross-referenced compendium of hundreds of household items, activities and illnesses that – the authors say – could seriously ruin your day.

Wimmin, keep away from our cocks: PAP, Govt

In Humour, Political governance on 24/12/2012 at 10:43 am

Here’s what of JG (smart gal except she believes in WP) view of why Laura Ong was exposed: to tell gals to lay off PAP MPs. The punishment is being exposed publicly. Or put put it another way, cut off the supply of gals so as not to put temptation in the way of the PAP MPs.

Hey, you got it wrong!! How dare Laura sleep with Palmer??? She’s the one who is in the wrong!! Let the media dogs go after her!!

How dare Laura’s BF expose the affair to TRE and TNP? He’s also in the wrong!! Let the media dogs go after him too!!

Hence most of the expose is about Laura and his BF. Including camping outside their house, or their parents’ house, or asking neighbors about their actions. None of these stuffs when it comes to Palmer.

Seen in this perspective, everything makes sense. The PAP is whiter than white. If they are blemished, its the blemish-er that’s in the wrong. Let everyone learn his lesson – don’t ever touch a PAP MP, OK??

And maybe this is why Sue’s pix appears so often in SPH’s publication. The govt wants to send the message to customer service ladies that customer service does not include providing sexual gratification to civil servants.

Postings may be light until after 2 or 3 January. Happy partying or whatever you may be planning to do or are already doing.

HSBC: great customer & shareholder service

In Banks on 23/12/2012 at 10:12 am

Among the details to emerge in the US investigation of HSBC as the narco barons banker of choice were the larger-than-usual cashier windows in Mexican branches to get more notes through. Nice to see that the bank that I use and invest in is so customer-friendly.

And its continuing to try to improve investor returns:

– The selling selling of its entire 15.6% stake in Ping An Insurance, the big insurer based in Shenzhen, to Charoen Pokphand Group* means HSBC has sold more than 40 noncore assets since the beginning of 2011 and booked about $4 billion in gains on those sales this year alone, DealBook reports.  HSBC expects to book an after-tax gain of US$2.6 bn on the Ping An sale (more than enough to pay the US$1.9bn US fine).

– In October, it announced that it will close its Islamic finance operations in six markets, maintaining its presence only in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and a scaled-down operation in Indonesia.

*controlled by the Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont. The deal is to be financed partly by the state lender China Development Bank,

Lions YES! FTs YES! FAS NO ((((

In Footie, Humour on 23/12/2012 at 6:33 am

Glad the Lions were parking five buses outside the goal mouth. Glad they were SBS buses. If SMRT buses, the PRC FT drivers would have driven the buses away.

I’ve bitched about Roman before here, but gd for him, and our other FTs in footie team: Duric and Evertonian Bennett. The last two are the kind of FTs I want here. They are part of our community.

But FTF, FAS appointing Roman as Technical Director: the Serbians tua kee BS continues. FAS kept him five yrs too long. The “S” is FAS stands for Singapore, not Serbia!

Asean round-up

In Uncategorized on 22/12/2012 at 6:44 am

“President Thein Sein of Burma is The Straits Times’ inaugural Asian of the Year. Mr Thein Sein, 67, was chosen by top editors of this newspaper for his role in making his country oosening political and economic controls in Myanmar. This has led to democracy icon and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi taking a seat in Parliament, the lifting of Western sanctions and a surge of investor interest in the once-reclusive nation.”

Constructive, nation-building ST at its best. LKY’s remarks about Burmese generals (they are stupid) and PM’s public row with the Burmese govt few yrs back means that TLCs, GLCs and ordinary S’porean cos are finding it difficult to get the goodies in Burma, unlike the Thai, US, Brit, EU companies. So ST trying to improve relations. BTW, the Lady’s team has no time for S’pore too. S’pore upset both sides. George Yeo’s fault.

The Teletubbies, 24-hour news and Doctor Who are being introduced to Burma as the BBC launches three pay-TV channels there next January.

KKR has achieved its goal of raising $6bn for its new Asia fund making it the largest such regional fund.

Palmer’s no gentleman, PAP’s double standards, & PA & MSM are scum

In Political governance on 21/12/2012 at 5:49 am

No goodwill from me for Palmer, the PAP, PA and our local media, this season of goodwill to all men because of the way they treated Laura.

When Laura Ong was unmasked by PA, Palmer should have asked the media to respect her privacy. He didn’t. Shows that he doesn’t care. She was juz another sex object. Shows his wife, and us, the public, what kind of man he is. But to be fair, maybe the public castration, left him in shock*. One day, a tua kee strutting cock, the next day the balls were brutally hacked-off in public, albeit humanely.

As for PA, it had good reasons for naming her, which strangely it didn’t use. PA has an interest in ensuring that staff not  sleep around with PAP MPs, in order to advance careers. So naming here would be a good deterrence. It also needed to show the tax-payer that the close relationship between PAP and PA doesn’t include providing sex for PAP MPS and cadres.

Where PA went wrong, morally and ethically, was not asking for her privacy to be respected, when it made the announcement  If Zorro Lim had at that time asked for space for her, I’m sure our constructive, nation-building media would not have disturbed her and the others.

(“PA deputy chairman Lim Swee Say said on Friday that the organisation deliberated at length on whether to identify Ms Ong as the woman involved in the Michael Palmer affair but ultimately felt they could not keep it under wraps.

He said that although they did not want to “add to her pain” by identifying her, they recognised that the case had attracted much public attention.” — MediaCorp report)

(Of course, PA might have motives for not behaving properly ethically and morally.)

The call of the CEO of PA to give her space came too late. Her space and that of others were brutally violated by our constructive, nation-building media.

As to the constructive, nation-building media’s behaviour, what can I say that David Boey (once someone who walked on the Dark Side: he was a ST hack) hasn’t already said. If they didn”t dare hound the Palmers, they should havethe  decency to leave her and her connections alone.

But there is justice after all. The media did the PAP and PA no favours because the public saw the contrast in the behaviour of the media, ministers, PAP and PA:

– minister and PAP leader told media to respect Palmers’ privacy: they did;

– but because another PAP minster and a PA leader, didn’t tell  media to give other lady space, they violently violated her space and that of others.

Net result: public disgust and disquiet. The public castration of Palmer did not have the effect that the PAP wanted: that it is puritanical when it comes to the sexual behaviour of its MPs, and that, unlike the WP, it is willing to publicly humiliate MPs who break its rules. There isn’t any of the “rumours, what rumours?” that the PAP’s near-clones used to justify keeping on Stag Yaw until public disquiet made the WP’s defence of Yaw untenable.

LKY is right to despise the local media. It can’t even do the right thing by its masters, the MIW.

—-

*Sima Qian could not bring himself to describe the horror of castration. He talks instead of going down to the “silkworm chamber”. A castrated man could easily die from blood loss or infection so after mutilation the victims were kept like silkworms in a warm, draught-free room.

I look at myself now, mutilated in body and living in vile disgrace. Every time I think of this shame I find myself drenched in sweat.”

SMRT: Buying target price

In Infrastructure on 20/12/2012 at 7:03 am

OSK DMG has a target price of $1.60 (6% above current price) and a Neutral call. I’ll monitor price to see if it falls to below or near that level. And then evaluate it to see if worth buying for dividend yield. The CEO’s talk of getting rid of FT drivers’ supervisors, could if carried out herald a change of culture.

BTW broker has a  Nneutral” call on the sector, with preference for ComfortDelGro (S$1.72 BUY TP S$1.85) for its cheaper valuations and overseas growth potential.

Lions pls park the bus

In Footie on 20/12/2012 at 5:37 am

When in Bangkok park two buses in front of the goal mouth.

Productivity in action in retailing

In Uncategorized on 19/12/2012 at 6:25 am

In Seattle. No need for grumpy local aunties or clueless kiddos. And no need for smooth-talking Pinoys who help remove $ from yr wallet or purse for things you don’t need.

But you gotta buy a smartphone first.

Govt may be right on limiting access to uni education, discuss.

In Economy, Political economy, Political governance on 19/12/2012 at 5:46 am

Given that Christmas is the season of goodwill to all men (including the PAPpies) and given that the PAP has had a torrid time, and given that Fabrications about the PAP is not doing its job, I tot I should post some facts and analysis (not Hard Truths) that support a policy that has pushy parents and netizens upset.

Sometime back, when

– PM said the desire  for “personal growth” 9i.e. a university degree has to be balanced with jobs; and

– the education minister said that while the govt would increase the number of places in local universities for locals, there would be a limit (I think he said 40% of some “mark”),

both were given a hard time by netizens and pushy parents.

I was reminded of the above recently, when I surfed across a few articles recently that discussed the skills needed to get jobs in a developed economies.

In a McKinsey survey of Western countries, nearly 70% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, yet 70% of education-providers believe they suitably prepare graduates for the jobs market. Similarly, employers complain that less than half of the young whom they hire have adequate problem-solving skills, yet nearly two-thirds of the young believe that they do have such skills.

Perhaps the young and their teachers need to take a reality check said the Economist writer who reported this.

Then there is thisAs some Canadian industries struggle to find skilled workers, others face a glut of qualified candidates and not enough jobs to go around. University professor Peter Fragiskatos says emphasising the importance of a university education only makes the problem worse.

He writes: Notions of success in Canada have been, and remain, intimately connected to obtaining a university degree. Why? After all, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be discovered just as easily at a public library and for a much cheaper price.

All of this might sound strange coming from someone who teaches at a university. While the joy I feel when working with my students cannot be put into words, the experience has made me realise that a love for learning is not their leading motivation, if it ever was.

Most have been raised with the idea that a secure future will only be possible with a BA or a BSc, and they enrol in university for this reason. As they get older, today’s students are likely to pass along the same message to their kids.

The reality is that Canadians are living in a new era, one where a technical education – usually obtained at a community college – has the prospect of delivering not only a steady job but better pay than what university graduates typically make.

Engineering, mining and many health-related professions – the three areas identified by Tal’s report as most in need of qualified applicants – do not require a university degree.

Finally from an Economist blog  the work of Cambridge economist Chang Ha-Joon, has noted that Switzerland*—one of the richest countries in the world and the nation with the third-highest ratio of Nobel scientists per person—has a lower rate of college enrollment than every other rich nation, as well as other beacons of prosperity like Argentina, Lithuania, and Greece. In fact, once a country has crossed some very low threshold, there is no relationship between the number of graduates and national wealth. The explanation is simple: a typical college education does not linearly increase labor productivity. This is not necessarily a bad thing—there is more to life than making money, after all.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/09/college-enrollment

So maybe, the govt is right to put the emphasis on vocational education, with scholarship schemes like this?

Fat chance that most readers of TRE and TOC, and pushy parents would concur. For the former, the govt, PAP, NTUC and related entities are always wrong. Take Zorro Lim’s statement that NTUC says ‘no’ to equal pay for all nationalities because “Same job-equal pay” rule will put local workers and families at a disadvantage. Facebookers and some bloggers were bitching about this. If he had said “yes”, they would be bitching too.: S’poreans must come first. Wonder how these people feel, now that ST (whom they rightly bitch abt) agrees with them that sMRT should only use the English station names in its public announcements. LOL

—————————–

*S’pore’s spending on education is only around 3% of GDP (about halve of Switzerland which is in line with developed countries), so we got to spend a lot more to have a Swiss-style standard of education. Unless the govt wants us to be third world in education, like on workers’ and refugees’ rights.

 

AirAsia is eating SIA’s lunch

In Airlines on 18/12/2012 at 7:17 am

(And that of every other Asian legacy airline like Cathay, Qantas, Thai and MAS)

When SIA sold to Delta its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for US$360, which it has owned since 1999, it said it was selling because of increased competition in its local market, where it wants to keep its focus.

In the same week, last week, AirAsia announced a US$9bn order for 100 A320 planes. AirAsias’s order is for 64 of the A320neo (new engine option) and 36 of the A320ceo (current engine option) aircraft.

M’sia Boleh!

Background info on SIA sale, so I don’t get dumb comments

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/12/11/singaporeairlines-virgin-sale-idINDEE8BA09V20121211

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20576420

Why is son of JBJ wayanging with WP?

In Political governance on 17/12/2012 at 5:47 am

(Update after 16 January 2012: Opps waz wrong. He didn’t back out as I expected. Must think loss of cred if he skunked away again with tail between his legs, would be too great. Will lose his deposit.)

“Furthermore in GE 2011 we were prevented from being able to contest any SMC, even in areas where we had been conducting outreach for some time. For these reasons we are strongly considering contesting this seat if and when a by-election is called”. http://theonlinecitizen.com/2012/12/the-reform-party-statement-on-michael-palmers-resignation/.

Why is KennethJ, son of JBJ and self-styled and self-appointed keeper of JBJ’s flame, seemingly picking a fight with the WP? It was NSP that refused to allow RP to contest a SMC, not WP.

Goh Meng Seng, wayang kung fu artiste extraordinaire, after being humiliated by the WP over Moulmein-Kallang GRC,  vented his anger on KennethJ, the paunchy. GMS gave flying kicks to said KJ’s face, paunch, balls and behind, refusing to allow the son of JBJ to contest in Radin Mas, which said son said had some affinity with said father. GMS had the quiet support of the ex-RP members that joined NSP. They were getting their own back on KennethJ’s ill-considered, ill-judged and ungracious remarks on their motives and character in leaving him alone to play with his toys in the RP mud play-pen. Their behaviour was dignified and gracious, and showed up KJ’s low EQ, up-bringing and manners. He behaved like a PAP man, not the son of JBJ, who for all his low IQ (unlike said son), was a man of dignity and charisma, not petulance.

As this is the second time, he is “seriously considering” peeing on WP’s territory (remember Hougang?), one can only assume he is sore with WP: for dethroning daddy from his throne (which he KJ had expected to inherit?)?

Anyway, somehow I don’t think KJ got the balls to fight in a WP area. Even his dad would have lost his deposit in a three-way fight there with WP and PAP. Palmer won the seat because the Chinese PAP grassroot activists brought out the votes for a non-Chinese. Who would want to help bring out the heartlander votes or vote for someone who can’t recite the Pledge correctly, and who talks in an ang moh accent, despite being back for many a year?

If KennethJ wants us to continue putting JBJ on a pedestal, he should move on out of politics. If he continues, the bravery and idealism of JBJ may be forgotten. He may be remembered as the dad of one KennethJ, a clownish opposition politician: more suited to be a PAP member because of his arrogance, petulance, and low EQ and inter-personal skills.

Update: See comment below on another reason why he is more PAP than JBJ: high IQ. LOL

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

In Uncategorized on 16/12/2012 at 9:14 am

Embracing the psychopath within. Sometimes psychopaths are needed.

Asean round-up

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 15/12/2012 at 6:14 am

The government in Burma has apologised to Buddhist monks for the injuries sustained during a police operation outside a copper mine two weeks ago.

Indons love their Blackberries (still): now they can transfer money to one another using their Blackberries. Maybe some rich Indon should save RIM, Blackberries’ manufacturer.

The BTS Group, a Thai elevated-railway operator, is looking to raise at least US$1.5 billion through an I.P.O. of its infrastructure fund, “which would make it the country’s largest-ever I.P.O.,” WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Iskandar getting desperate: want our SMEs. One time, see our SMEs no ak. Only wanted MNCs, TLCs and Arabs.

Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan, who owns 75% of the HK-listed Guoco Group, offered to take the company private for about US$1.1 billion, WALL STREET JOURNAL 

 

WP changes mind on nationalising SMRT & SBS

In Political governance on 14/12/2012 at 6:08 am

This blog at regular intervals reminds readers that the Wankers’ Workers’ Party had been silent on public transport nationalisation, despite it being in the Wayangs’ party’s 2011 manifesto and despite Gerald Giam advocating it in ST in July 2011 (here, here); and despite the seeming failure of the govt’s public tpt policy (I mean does the pumping in of S$1.1bn show that the “for-profit” policy working?)

Finally WP and GG have broken their silence: “If PTOs are unable to do so because of their obligations to shareholders, public transport should be taken out of private hands and run by a not-for-profit corporation which focuses on providing efficient and quality public transport, instead of generating shareholder returns.”

Err this was what is written in Manifesto: “Instead of public transport being provided by profit-oriented companies, all public transport including the MRT & public buses servicing major routes should be brought under a National Transport Corporation, a public body, to ensure a smooth integration of the overall national transport network and to avoid unnecessary duplication of services and overheads incurred by multiple operators.”

Spot the difference? The Manifesto call was unconditional. Now the operative word is “IF”.

Second time WP changing its mind on a Manifesto call. The first was on the benchmarking of ministers’ salaries. Like this change, one GG was behind that one too. Maybe Eric Tan (remember him?*) was right to rubbisg GG.

If the Manifesto is juz toilet paper, pls tell us WP. And tell us which first-world opposition party treats its manifesto with such contempt?

Related post

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/why-wp-mps-are-not-first-world-parlimentarians/

*GG called him his Si-Fu. Si-Fu lost NCMP seat to GG. Si-Fu had been promised NCMP seat before GE 2011, if East Coast team was entitled to one.

Corporate governance Indon style cont’d

In Corporate governance, Energy, Indonesia, Uncategorized on 14/12/2012 at 6:00 am

The  Bakrie Group said this week some documents used to justify an investigation at Bumi Resources PLC were stolen or accessed by hacking.

“Some of these documents appear then to have been ‘doctored’ to give a purposely misleading impression of a number of business transactions at Bumi Resources,” a Bakrie Group spokesman, said on Dec. 10. The Bakries plan to submit a report to U.K. police and regulatory authorities, while Indonesian police are probing the hacking complaints, Fong said.

Nathaniel Rothschild described the allegations as a “desperate attempt to divert the inquiry” by the Bakries and Chairman Samin Tan. He said e may seek to remove the board of the coal venture he founded with Indonesia’s Bakrie family in the coming weeks because it has failed shareholders.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-12/bumi-seeks-to-end-ties-with-bakries-as-von-schirnding-named-ceo.html

How to be a hi-tech entrepeneurial hub

In Uncategorized on 13/12/2012 at 6:34 am

Berlin is fashionable, edgy, artistic: cool. And Berlin is the home of choice for many new hi-tech entrepreneurs from around the world. With global giants like Google now opening offices in the city, the German capital’s “Silicon Allee” is now rivalling London’s Silicon Roundabout as Europe’s tech hub.

Forget A*STAR etc. Juz be a place that cool people want to live in. And cool people don’t want to live in a place where marital fidelity is a must. Adultery is cool, not a hanging offence.

Lions! Lions!

In Footie on 13/12/2012 at 6:32 am

Well done boys.

Thinking about it, the Filipinos have an interesting FT policy that S’pore should think about. Their FT footie boys play in the lower European leagues: there being no footie in the Philippines where basketball rules.

But let’s not take anything away from our boys!

How S’pore can win Nobel Prizes, and pushy parents’ kids ace exams cheaply

In Financial competency, Humour on 12/12/2012 at 5:17 am

(Or “Uniquely S’porean: Correlation = Hard Truth)

Forget about spending money on R&D or attracting FT researches. Or spending money on tuition.

The govt should juz give S’poreans lots of free chocolates, and parents top up the govt’s supplies to their kids.

I kid you not. Look at this chart: The Swiss who eat lots of chocs are runaway winners when it comes to winning Nobel Prizes. So do the Danes, Austrians, Norwegians and Brits.

Graph showing countries' chocolate consumption per head and Nobel Laureates per 10 million people

“When you correlate the two – the chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel prize laureates per capita – there is an incredibly close relationship,” Franz Messerli of Columbia University says.

“This correlation has a ‘P value’ of 0.0001.” This means there is a less than one-in-10,000 probability of getting results like these if no correlation exists.

Link here and here.

My serious point is that juz because there seems to be a correlation (like 48% of druggies are Malays) doesn’t mean that we should get worked up. This is something that the Malay MP who highlighted the issue and ST who headlined it should appreciate. And so should the ladies who bitched about the ST report, who I criticised. Article

There may be cause and effect somewhere in a correlation, but there may be not. This is a genuine Hard Truth of Science.

Maybe the PAP and the ST should send its MPs and journalists (including the Deputy Editor who tried, but failed, to talk sense on the issue of Malay druggies) to a course in stats and causation. And the PAP should include one LKY in the course.

FTs running SGX wanted this turd

In Corporate governance, Financial competency, Uncategorized on 11/12/2012 at 6:40 am

Earlier this year F1 annced that it would list here. It then pulled back its listing citing market conditions. This could have been true as markets were volatile when it pulled its IPO. But F1 is now shown to be in one big legal mess.

On its face, the investment by CVC Capital Partners in Formula One seems like a winner. But thanks to recent lawsuits, “this enormously rewarding investment may now be in jeopardy,”Steven M. Davidoff writes in the Deal Professor column. A firm that was a competing bidder for Formula One, Bluewaters Communications Holdings, recently sued CVC, the bank BayernLB and Bernie Ecclestone, the Englishman who built the racing business. The claims are over a payment that has already been a source of legal headaches. Bluewaters says the payment was to “steer the sale of Formula One to CVC,” Mr. Davidoff writes, and the firm is “claiming at least $650 million in damages, the lost profit it would have earned had it bought Formula One.”

Well investors and S’pore have been spared this dog with fleas. No thanks to the CEO and COO of SGX, FTs all. And they are advertising in FT, six other posts hoping to get more FTs to keep them company.

And this despite S’pore slipping further down the IPO league tables, with KL at 5th place and HK at 4th. There are no FTs in KLSE.

Meritocracy’s feet of clay: Ong Ye Kung

In Corporate governance, Political economy, Political governance on 10/12/2012 at 5:29 am

(Update on 3 January 2013: He has joined Keppel Gp, a TLC, and not as expected his father-in-law’s property company. I’ll be blogging on this next week. Want to try to find out if his in-laws scared that their workers’ will go on strike or be unhappy if he joined them. I mean his record at SMRT/ NTUC not too good.)

Our nation-building constructive media are ignoring the white elephant in the space where of the circles of TLCs/GLCs, PAP, NTUC and the civil service meet: sometimes also known as S’pore Inc.

Once upon a time, Ong Ye Kung, was S’pore Inc’s poster boy of meritocracy.

Just in April 2011, before the May GE, our nation-building constructive media praised him as an example of meritocracy at work. Son of a Barisan Socialist MP (and no friend of one LKY), he was a scholar* who rose to a senior civil service post**, then became a senior NTUC leader, and then a PAP MP candidate. It was whispered that he was Zorro Lim’s anointed successor as NTUC chief; and was tipped by ST as a future candidate for ministerial office. He did became the NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General in June 2011.

But by then his slave worker drawn chariot had gotten stuck in the mud . He was a member of George Yeo’s losing Aljunied GRC team. Worse was to follow in 2012: the wheels came off his chariot of gold and ivory and he was thrown-off, and cast into the darkness and mud and became a person that the constructive, nation-building media knew not.

Earlier this year, SMRT’s S’porean drivers made known publicly their unhappiness over pay proposals that had his endorsement as Executive Secretary of NTWU (Nation Transport Workers’ Union). As he was also a non-executive director of SMRT, if he were an investment banker, a US judge would have rebuked and censured him for his multiple, conflicting roles.

Then he resigned, effective last month, from NTUC to “join the private sector”.

In perhaps a farewell, good-riddance gesture, FT PRC workers went on strike (illegally) and we learnt:

– they lived in sub-standard accommodation (SMRT admitted this);

– unlike most SBS FT PRC drivers, most of SMRT’s PRC drivers were not union members; and

– Ministry of Manpower reprimanded SMRT for its HR practices.

All this reflects badly on Ong: NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General,  Executive-Secretary of NTWU and SMRT non-executive director. And on the system that allowed him to rise to the top. After all his ex-boss said the following reported on Friday, which given Ong’s multiple roles in SMRT, can reasonably be interpreted as criticism of Ong:

In his first comments on the illegal strike, which saw 171 workers protesting over salary increases and living conditions, the Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said the labour dispute “shouldn’t have happened” and “could have been avoided”. [So where was Ong: looking at his monthly CPF statements and being happy?]

NTUC is thus reaching out to SMRT’s management to persuade them “to adopt a more enlightened approach to embrace the union as a partner”, he added. [Hello, NTUC's Deputy Secretary-General was on SMRT's board, so what waz he doing?]

Mr Lim, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Labour Movement Workplan Seminar, cited the example of SMRT’s rival SBS Transit where nine in 10 of its China bus drivers are union members. Only one in 10 of SMRT’s China bus drivers are union members, according to union sources. [So, why didn't Ong advise SMRT to help unionise these FTs, and if he did, why didn't NTUC push harder ehen SMRT refused?]

SBS Transit’s management “recognised the constructive role of the union”, while union leaders “played the role of looking after the interests of the drivers”, said Mr Lim.

“And as a result … they work very closely as one team, it’s a win-win outcome. In terms of how workers are being treated and respected, how management are responsive, how they work together, I think it’s a kind of model that we ought to see more and more in Singapore.” (Today)

Apparently, Ong is supposed to join his father-in-law’s property development business: but with this revelations, it should come as no surprise if his in-law’s family has reservations about him: he might mismanage and upset the workers. Property development companies are fragile because of their leverage: they can’t afford executives who can’t execute.

And if anyone is wondering about the origins and meaning of the term “feet of clay”:

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. (Daniel 2:31-33)

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. (Daniel 2:41-43)

…………………….

*From 1993 to 1999, he was in the then Ministry of Communications, where he helped develop the Land Transport White Paper and was part of the team which established Singapore’s Land Transport Authority. Taz right, he was there at the beginning of the great SMRT cock-up.

**He was the Principal Private Secretary to one Lee Hsien Loong, then became the CEO of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

Buffett talks to NYT

In Financial competency on 09/12/2012 at 7:05 am

Enjoy ))). Love the bit about starving broker: I was one. Broker that is, not starving.

And he thinks short-selling is hard. He gave it up many yrs ago. I’m sure Olam would like to prove him right.

Asean round-up

In Indonesia, Malaysia on 08/12/2012 at 9:12 am

Indonesia’s  increased piousness has led to a demand for the services of Islamic or Sharia banks: growth is at 40% a year.

In the report*, called Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific 2013, Singapore fell to third place in the rankings, losing the top place it held for the last two years to Jakarta. “The main issue in Singapore is a glut of new supply that’s arrived just as financial sector firms have been shedding headcount,” said Mr Colin Galloway, ULI’s Research Consultant and the author of the report.

Jakarta is seen by the 400-over industry experts surveyed for the report as the best bet, especially in the retail and office segments. Its jump to the top from its previous mid-table position has been driven by strong investor interest tied to the country’s economic growth. “It’s really boom times in Indonesia now,” said one of the surveyed developers. “The demographics look good, it’s a country as big as America in terms of headcount and corruption seems to have been at least partly reined in.”

Singapore may face further competition in attracting real estate investment as it may lose out to countries offering better yields across the region, such as emerging and frontier markets like Cambodia and Myanmar, the report said.

Thai coup coming? An analyst speculates.

S’pore minister endorses Iskandar.

So does Peter Lim. And why he likes it.

*According to a report co-published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

SMRT did not brief FT drivers on labour law?

In Infrastructure on 07/12/2012 at 5:17 am

I’m glad that the four FT PRC drivers that are facing charges for instigating an illegal strike are going to get help from some civic-minded lawyers.

Following the guilty plea by one driver who it seems had no lawyer to advise him, I was dismayed.

I had heard via Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole that the PRC FT drivers had never ever been briefed on the labour law here: particularly that there was a procedure to be followed before striking. And that SMRT has no documentary evidence that it ever briefed its FT drivers.

So when I read that one driver had pleaded guilty, I tot it was unlikely that these issues,  assuming they were true, or even probable would be raised in public by the drivers.

Now that the remaining four charged drivers have legal advice, if these allegations are probable, they would be raised, in mitigation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. But ignorance of the law particularly when it is in a foreign language should be taken into consideration when passing sentence: especially if the employer did not brief its FT employees about the legal process involved in taking industrial action.

As to whether SMRT could have been so dysfunctional as not to brief its FT drivers on labour law, fact is that its HR department is pretty dysfunctional.  “MOM [Ministry of Manpower"] said it has reiterated to SMRT that labour and contractual grievances raised by the workers should be a priority and addressed quickly.” And after all, SMRT only introduced the following after the strike:

– “[T]old its drivers at the sessions that it has set up a 24-hour hotline for drivers to call if they have concerns or grievances”; and

– “They have also appointed liaison officers who can speak Mandarin to deal directly with the drivers, said SMRT.”

(CNA report)

Avoid the stock especially as SMRT’s focus on profit is one of the many factors why SMRT has been facing problems, according to its CEO Desmond Kuek. If the CEO talks like this, you can be pretty sure good dividend payouts are not one of his KPIs.

Have kids, live longer

In Humour on 06/12/2012 at 6:27 pm

Not having a child “may increase likelihood of early death”. This is not government propaganda or a LKY Hard Truth.

Dr Helen Nightingale, a clinical psychologist, said: “Being childless without a doubt reduces your fight for life.

“If you draw on cancer as an example – the support of a family, the focus on your children – your grandchildren and the desire to watch how they will turn out drives your psychological resistance to survive. 

Olam: Snake bites itself

In Accounting, Commodities, Corporate governance on 06/12/2012 at 10:00 am

Opps looks like Olam tried to be too clever by half. By calling a rights type issue but not answering two of Muddy Point’s questions (that it is spending lots of $ on lousy investments and the restatements), investors have decided to sell given that there will a lot more debt, at expensive prices, a possible dilution, and that Muddy Waters might just be right.

Then there is the cred of management: saying it had lots of cash but then calling yet another bond issue. And having to retract a statement on the approach to Temasek.

In such a confused situation, investors might as well sell esp with the year end in sight.

And on a technical issue: leaving the warrants to be priced tomorrow was asking for trouble.

All in all, management and its investment banks have not covered themselves in competency.

Update:  “The latest Temasek-backed transaction raises significant issues, as it is extremely expensive debt and equity capital, capital that Olam spent a week telling the market it didn’t need,” said Dee. “Muddy Waters is not the issue here, it is Olam’s strategic and financial decisions that have brought this situation to a head.”

Good-bye Kra canal, Hello Thai-Burmese highway

In Logistics on 06/12/2012 at 4:54 am

Burma and Thailand want to build a highway linking a to-be built port in Burma to a port in Thailand. This will enable cargo to by-pass the congested Malacca Straits.

Will this remain a dream like the Kra canal, then the Kra oil pipeline? I suspect not as there are benefits for Thailand and Burma.

Might even attract TLCs: there will be a need for industrial and logistic parks.

As for the Straits of Malacca as a shipping lane? Well the development of the US inter-continental port, highway rail system to move containers from the West Coast to the East, hasn’t affected the traffic using the  Panama Canal. It is being enlarged to take bigger ships.

S’pore: A great place to be born in

In Economy, Humour, Political economy on 05/12/2012 at 5:39 am

In 1988, S’pore was the 36th best place to be born in: same as East Germany. M’sia was 38th and HK was 7th. In 2013, according to an article (The lottery of life) in an Economist publication, S’pore will be the 6th best place to be born in, M’sia will be 36th and HK 10th.

Switzerland will be 1st, followed by Oz, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Bang yr balls in frustration S’porean self-loathers: KennethJ, Goh Meng Seng, Tan Kin Lian, Tan Jee Say, Ravi, and born- loser readers of TRE and TOC.

Maybe the WP MPs have a point in being so supportive of the PAP govt? Maybe NSP is right that the party is not ready for govt: PAP still going strong?And maybe PM Lee and Chief Clerk Goh ain’t that bad?

I’m surprised that ST didn’t see fit to publicise this. Must be full of subversives.

But this good ranking does raise a question: If so good leh, home come S’poreans are refusing to breed? Shumething must be wrong? Maybe with S’poreans?

Or do the stats leave out things that matter most to S’porean couples that decline to breed or stop at one.

NTUC leaders would never say this

In Humour on 04/12/2012 at 9:47 am

“If at any point the owners start singing my praises, there’s only one thing for you to do, and that’s fire me.”

Union members would fire them from their million-dollar jobs.

The above words were said by Marvin Miller, a former head of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), who has just died. According to an Economist blog. “Mr Miller’s canny collective bargaining led to …  the majority of each dollar spent on baseball in the United States (in the form of tickets, broadcasting contracts or merchandise revenues) now ends up in the pockets of the athletes who provide fans with entertainment.”

 

What our MSM doesn’t tell us about Virgin Atlantic

In Airlines, Humour, Media on 04/12/2012 at 6:40 am

It’s in crisis. Deep crisis.

Auntie’s still a great way to fly but its record in investing in other airlines is horrible: think NZ Air.

And now the Arab airlines are stealing its premium customers via slightly better service, and just as good connections via the Gulf hubs. And lower costs: our S’pore Aunties are no longer that cheap. But bit susa to pass of PRC, Pinoy FTs as S’pore Gals. Only M’sians can get away with pretending to be S’poreans.

Good backgrounder (added at 8.50am on day of posting)

Olam: Snake confuses mongoose

In Commodities, Corporate governance, Temasek on 04/12/2012 at 5:58 am

Olam proposed an underwritten rights issue of US$750m in principal amount of 6.75% bonds due in 2018, along with 387.4 million free detachable warrants. The issue price of the bonds will be 95% of the principal amount and the gross proceeds from the issue of the bonds are US$712.5 million. Terms of bond are generous.

Olam said the transaction was fully backed by  Temasek which owns a 16% stake in the company. Temasek’s commitment “is a very strong, decisive action (for investors) not to have any worries about any of the allegations,” Olam’s CEO said.

The issue is underwritten by four major bank creditors: Credit Suisse, DBS, HSBC and JP Morgan. Again another sign of confidence.

So Temasek and the banks are onside. Goes without saying that the Indian conglomerate controlling Olam will subscribe for its share: It would, wouldn’t it?

And the shortists will have to cover their positions as investors recall their shares to make sure they get their rights.

Yr move, mongoose.

PS (at 8.50am): Gd counter by snake (must be King Cobra) to offer to pay for credit rating. Ang Moh Kaws must never underestimate Indians.

Update (1.15pm)

Shares of Olam climb more than 8%

Olam: Mongoose bites snake

In Commodities, Corporate governance on 03/12/2012 at 7:25 am

Muddy Waters offers to pay for Olam to get debt rating. It is a cheeky response to Olam’s “shock and awe” response (constructive, nation-buildingST’s description) to its allegations.

Wonder what excuse Olam will give when refusing to accept offer? After all Temasek, its investee, has a debt rating. And it is a SWF

Wonder what Olam’s banks’ will think if it rejects offer?

 

NatCon: Dialogue in the Dark

In Political economy, Political governance on 03/12/2012 at 7:09 am

“Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) is a social enterprise that aims to educate the public on the experience of blindness, ” writes MSF S’pore (Kee Chui Chan’s ministry)

Tot it should be appropriated as a description of NatCon.

Now to more serious matters.

PM on Wednesday talked of the need to have a government prepared to plan long-term. Bit rich of him to talk about this given the admitted problems in public housing and public transport that the govt’s policy of bringing in FTs by the container-loads have caused. I mean what were Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim doing? They even denied there were problems in public housing and public transport.

And waz the point of long-term planning if the plans are  lousy or execution bad? I’ve remarked before that the drive for greater productivity began around the time I started work: in the late 1970s. I’ve retired since then, and still there is a problem about productivity. And in the early 1980s, one LKY was ordering graduate S’porean mothers to breed, lest S’pore depopulates. His son is pleading with S’poreans to have more babies.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the National Conversation important in govt’s decision making. So important that the govt finds it necessary to frame the questions that we can ask it? “By early next year, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat expects to announce themes which the committee spearheading a national conversation about Singapore’s future will focus on,” CNA report.

Might as well prepare model answers? From the papers coming out from the Institute of Policy Studies (like the one setting out various growth scenarios dependent on the level of immigration) and government ministries (like the one on growth and population by the National Population & Talent Division of the PM’s office), and the articles in the constructive, nation-building ST by its economics correspondent and various senior writers, I will not be surprised if “model” answers will soon be available.

(Even the BBC and BBH, an ad agency, are helping out on the birth rate issue.)

And there will be prizes for the WP MPs who recite these answers perfectly. Yes, yes I know WP will not take part in NatCon, but they regularly support the PAP, after saying they disagree with the govt (instances).

And yesterday, PM highlighted three key goals (OB markers?):

–  “a vibrant economy by creating good jobs for everyone, as well as a harmonious society where people can enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life.”

– “a meritocratic system where people succeed based on their effort and contributions, along with special effort to help those who start off with less to do well in school and upgrade at work.”

– “to build a Singapore where citizens belong and feel as one, as well as an open, cosmopolitan city that welcomes foreigners with the skills and talents to help the country succeed.”

Mr Lee said the balance between these goals — just like yin and yang elements — will change will over time.The government, he said, is in the process of adjusting them.”

Right, so on top of given questions and model answers, boundaries are set. We can only talk about asking govt to adjusting them.

Err, is there anything left to discuss?

And if get scared by all the talk about the future doom and gloom if the PAPpies don’t the rule the roost, this is a useful antidote from America: it may not be our problem. We might be dead by then.

Two simple diversification strategies

In Financial competency on 02/12/2012 at 5:25 am

a native diversification strategy for those who do not know what the future holds (which means all of us). A 50% bonds/50% equities split would have worked well over the last 20 years, but would have been disastrous in the stagflationary 1970s. So he suggests a four way split – 25% equities, 25% government bonds, 25% cash and 25% gold.

The annual return from this strategy would have been highly respectable – 5% real since 1971, compared with 5.5% in equities and 4% in government bonds. But the volatility is much lower – the maximum drawdown was 20% in the early equities, compared with 50% (twice) for equities and 40% for government bonds. Investors would have found it easier to sleep at night.

And

similar naive strategy, involving just equities, bonds and cash; one took the expected return from the three asset classes and dividend the portfolio accordingly. The expected return on bonds and cash is the current yield; the expected return on equities was the dividend yield plus nominal GDP growth. So if cash yielded 4%, bonds 5%, equities 3% (with nominal GDP growing at 4%), expected returns were 4/5/7. The three returns added up to 16, so one put 4/16 in cash, 5/16 in bonds and 7/16 in equities. The beauty of this system is that it made you rebalance when asset classes looked expensive; at the time (back in 2005), it also had a record of low volatility.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2012/11/asset-allocation

Asean round-up

In Malaysia on 01/12/2012 at 5:33 am

The Philippines economy grew 31.5% more than forecast in the third quarter, boosted by increased consumer and government spending and a recovery in exports.

Following violent anti-govt protests at the weekend, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, on Wednesday, easily survived a no-confidence vote. She was accused her of failing to crack down on corruption.

The actions against this protest shows that the changes in Burma are still a work-in-progress. The protest also highlights China’s growing image problems amid intensifying local opposition to its extensive natural resources and infrastructure projects. In fact, one of the reasons why the generals opened up was their fear of Chinese domination.

“Najib said the 13th general election would be the decisive point for the future of the country and the people should be able to judge for themselves the advantage of choosing BN over the opposition.” (CNA). Actually what he means is that it determines his wife’s position as FLOM: First Lady of M’sia. LOL. She gets heself called FLOM, even though she is not the queen. Non-parisan analysts don’t expect Bn to lose power, but neither do they expect BN to regain its two-thirds majority in parliament, UMNO’s holy grail. If Najib can’t deliver this, there will be a new PM.

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