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Archive for the ‘Investment banking’ Category

Why our local banks shld stop wasting resources on China proper

In Banks, China, Investment banking, Temasek on 07/06/2012 at 5:14 am

(Or “Why Temasek’s big bet on Chinese banks makes sense“)

DBS is the 6th largest foreign bank in China proper. It has a strategy of expansion into China. So have UOB and OCBC.

Well, its a tough biz to be in. Non-Chinese banks have only 2% market share. Even HSBC, StanChart and Citi have problems http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-04/china-wall-hit-by-global-banks-with-2-market-share.html

DBS, OCBC and UOB shld juz not bother abt China.

Worse than insurance or used car salesmen

In Investment banking, Wit on 30/01/2011 at 6:21 am

This is how this blogger describes investment bankers.

If you want a piece of the deal, and the mouthwatering fees and bragging rights that come with it, you will suck up as shamelessly as possible to the beautiful lady and tell her anything she wants to hear.

The client holds all the cards in these situations, and the most an investment banker can hope to do is hop a ride on the gravy train and ladle off as much as he can. It is not a scenario which encourages or supports professionalism, integrity, or carefully weighed judgment. It encourages blatant prostitution.

investment bankers are pretty good salespeople, and we will use our sales wiles on our own clients when we think it’s necessary. Accordingly, we will try to overcome any objections (like price, terms, etc.) a client may come up with that may stand in the way of closing a deal. For another, investment bankers are highly motivated to close deals, because in almost every instance that’s the only way we get paid. A client should never hire an investment banker for pure, unbiased advice as to whether it should do a deal, because often the right answer to that question is no, and that’s just not what we’re selling.

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.

Minibonds Revisited

In Investment banking, Investments on 02/01/2010 at 5:44 am

I nearly bought minibonds in 2007, and since the failure of Lehman Brothers last year, I’ve been trying to understand why I nearly bought them. It is important to me as it could help me avoid a future disaster.

I always knew why I didn’t buy — greed. Dr Money sums this greed up nicely when he wrote, “Your money gets invested in risky bonds and derivatives. It means total returns are much higher, like 13 per cent or more. But all you see is your safe-looking 5 per cent return.

‘The difference of 13 – 5 = 8 per cent goes to the deal-maker while you must take all the risks. If the bonds default, you lose.”

Then there is the issue that if interest rates collapsed, the arranger could recall the note, while if inflation went to 10% (remember the price of oil then), I’d be stuck with 5%.

But I didn’t know why I nearly bought i.e. think it was a safe product, despite being “aware” of the risk premium. This is worrying. I could misanalyse again.

I’ve very recently come to the conclusion that my mind (without me being conscious of it — mindlessness in Zen) divided the risk element into two bits.

Risk 1

I “knew” (I was relying on the ads and a BT newspaper article) that

– I was (with many others) insuring someone against the failure of one of the six entities

– the product was highly leveraged

– derivatives were being used

– the combination of the last two meant that it was likely that if one entity got into trouble I would lose my money.

(Having read the prospectus last yr, the above points were confirmed.)

Risk 2

The probability of a default by Lehman or one of the entities.

My conscious mind came to the conclusion that the probability of default by Lehman or one of the six entities was very, very low (so far none of the six entities are in trouble). Dr Money had a great take on the improbability of an LB failure. I can do no better.

The very low probability of failure must have made me conclude that it was a safe product, and that LB had found investors who had mispriced risk — willing to pay the 13% mentioned by Dr Money. Not surprising as my experience as an arbitrageur (risk and straight) had taught me that risk is usually mispriced (investors are too cautious — Yes if I were still arbitraging, my employer would have lost big time in 2008 )

What has all this to do with forcing a settlement that Tan Kin Lian and others wanted? That the MAS refused to even think about.  It told them to bugger off.

Supposing there was no mis-selling: investors in minibonds and DBS HN5 notes were told everything and I mean everything. Would investors still have bought?

I think that most would have. Of course they would deny this today. “They would, wouldn’t they?”

They would have been advised, and rightly so (at the time), that the very low probability of failure, meant that their principal was safe.

The lessons of the story- better to be lucky than smart and going for yield is dangerous.

Good 2010 and decade.

The perils of buying on NTA calculations

In Corporate governance, Investment banking, Investments on 17/12/2009 at 7:36 am

Recently I read a report on United Engineers by CIMB.  “We maintain our Outperform rating and target price of S$2.15, still based on a 20% discount to our end-CY10 RNAV estimate of S$2.68. Our positive view remains founded on its attractive valuations against underlying assets backed by improving operating indicators and an improving net gearing. We see stock catalysts from further stabilising of commercial rents. UE trades at a depressed 0.5x P/BV”

No-one I know ever got rich buying UE. And this reminds me of what I wrote in June 2009.

——

The perils of buying NTA

The share price of United Engineers is falling after its high of S$2.37 on 29 May. This illustrates that buying a counter at a deep discount to its NTA can be problematic, if there is no catalyst to unlock value. To recap. As part of an asset rationalising swap, Straits Trading and its controlling privately-owned shareholder swapped assets.

12% of UE was sold to Tecity at around S$1.52 a share, and 7% of WBL Corp was sold to ST as part of the asset swap. ST ended up with 19% of WBL. BTW WBL has another 10% of UE.

There was speculation that Tecity had immediate designs on UE. UE’s shares are at a deep discount to its published NTA of S$3.43. They remembered Tecity’s bid for ST which ended with Tecity paying S$6.70 for assets (revalued) worth S$6.52 a share. What is forgotten is that Tecity busy coping with the consequences of having spent S$1.1bn to own 82% of ST; is not likely to want to reward other UE shareholders at Tecity’s expense.

Assuming it bids at published NTA, it would have to spend S$679m. And if, the other major shareholder, GE Life starts a bidding war, the cost could escalate, like in ST. In early 2008, there were estimates that UE’s NTA could be S$6. And if it did bid at NTA or more, any time soon, ST’s minority shareholders would rightly cry foul.

TeCity’s founder, the deceased Tan Chin Tuan, would spin in his grave hearing his heirs being accused of being unfair to minorities.

Incidentally the cost of selling UE’s assets are likely to be very high.

Maybe future UE annual reports should give an estimate of the costs of selling these assets to unlock the published NTA. And maybe advisers to the independent directors of a target company; and the acquirer should subtract the costs of liquidating the assets when toying with NTA values in their reports.

If this had been done in ST, Tecity could have got away with a lower bid.

 

Base Metal into Gold: no not Alchemy. It’s all in the Accounting

In Accounting, Corporate governance, Investment banking on 13/12/2009 at 9:58 am

Here’s an explanation of how accounting turned an investment banking loss of £160m into a profit of £3.65bn. And so made “hundreds, and possibly even thousands, of staff at the state supported Royal Bank of Scotland group (RBS)” eligible “for bonuses totalling about £1.5bn”.

Wow!

The moral of the story: be sceptical, very sceptical of the headline financial numbers. And read the footnotes cynically.

Where value investing can go wrong

In GIC, Investment banking, Investments, Temasek on 24/11/2009 at 8:25 am

“A study by Standard & Poor’s, one of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, has raised questions over the financial strength of some of the biggest banks ahead of new rules that could require them to raise more funds.

‘The analysis by S&P showed that HSBC is the best capitalised bank in the world, while Switzerland’s UBS, Citigroup of the US and several of Japan’s biggest banks are among the weakest.”: an excerpt from the FT.

No the purpose is not to show that highly paid managers at GIC goffed, or how smart I am. I have been a shareholder of HSBC since the 1980s. Even during Green’s (Christian + McKinsey, a lethal combination that always leads to problems) tenure as CEO, I kept the faith.

Now that the CEO is a man who joined the bank as an International Officer from a minor public school with I think A-levels, and he is basing himself in HK, one can only expect the return to the values that made HSBC great during the tenures of Sandberg, Purvis and Bond. Oh Purvis won the Military Cross in Korea, when he disobeyed orders to withdraw. He claimed he couldn’t hear the radio messge.

Sorry I am digressing. When Temasek bought into Merrill Lynch and Barclays and  GIC into UBS and Citi, I realised that they were buying into highly efficient banking machines. There was just enough capital for regulatory reasons and to provide a buffer for some things going wrong.  They needed a bit more cushion and GIC, Temasek were providing it.  Risky but history was on their side.

When the world recovered from the credit crunch of 2006, 2007, GIC and Temasek would reap the rewards of these finely tuned cash machines. They were the equivalent of the best of the best F1 cars.  I thought we had smart boys and gals. And that the risk would pay off.

But then came Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, and the rules changed. The winners were the better capitalised banks. If HSBC had as little capital as Citi, I’d be a poor man. The amounts it had to write-off on US sub prime would have shmed Citi. But it had capital.

So value investing doesn’t always pay off.

Free Option on Revival of a Swiss Bank

In GIC, Investment banking, Investments on 21/11/2009 at 9:39 am

“Analysts at Credit Suisse reckon that even though UBS will not be able to pay any dividends for the next few years, its shares are so cheap relative to the aggressive profit-targets that it has announced that they are a “free option” on a revival of the investment bank.” : Economist.

The issue is will the Swiss regulators allow the bank to expand as aggressively as it wants t,o especially as Switzerland had to rescue the bank.  Albeit the Swiss government made a good profit.

Readers may remember that GIC first bought into UBS in December 2007 and has been sitting on a loss ever since then.

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