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Posts Tagged ‘ComfortDelgro’

Tpt minister looks after shareholders, the poor and the disabled?

In Infrastructure, Public Administration on 15/01/2014 at 4:27 am

What about other disadvantaged S’poreans?

The Public Transport Council (PTC) will release its decision on raising fare adjustments for public transport tomorrow and a reasonable person would conclude that fares will go up based on what Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew wrote  on a Facebook post on Monday.

“I told (PTC chairman Gerard Ee) that the government was ready with our package for the low-income workers and persons with disabilities and that we would like to announce this together on Thursday. These two concession schemes will be fully funded by the government,” wrote Mr Lui, stressing that the schemes would make transport fares much more affordable for both groups.

Isn’t he telling the PTO, pls feel free to help out the tpt companies (and their shareholders*) because the govt (us tax-payers, including said poor and disabled: remember that they too pay GST) will absorb the increases for said groups.

Mr Lui also said that the discount under the scheme for low-income workers would lower their fares to around the same levels as 10-15 years ago, depending on the journey. Meanwhile, the discount for those with disabilities will be “even more significant”.

Hey what about retirees and those who never got pay rises?

BTW, the WP’s silence on nationalisation is deafening, even though WP Low told us last yr that WP still believes in it. I have my doubts  http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/wp-changes-mind-on-nationalising-smrt-sbs/

Backgrounder: In December, transport operators SBS Transit (SBST) and SMRT applied to the PTC to raise bus and rail fares this year, with SBS – Singapore’s biggest bus operator – citing cost pressures.

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*Some shareholders do get a free lunch:despite claims by scholar and ex-general running SMRT that its biz model is broken:

Using back-of-the envelope calculations and figures in annual reports, since it was listed SMRT (over a decade ago) has paid S$562.79m in dividends to Temasek, and ComfortDelgro has paid the S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC) dividends of  S$150.46m*since 2003 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort). The amount that ended up with the government was S$713.25m, with SMRT contributing 79%. But ComfortDelgro is likely be the main beneficiary of the S$1.1bn bus plan**, given that, at present, SBS Transit (a listed co 75% owned by ComfortDelgro) provides most of the buses. Taz an example of how messed up things are.

The funds’ flows also show that the government is putting back all the dividends it received from these two companies and then adding 35% more. So it’s wrong to say that the SMRT and ComfortDelgro are getting free lunches. At most the government is subsidising their lunches by 35%.

The government should get credit for ploughing its share of the “loot” (as the proponents of nationalisation would put it and MPs Puthu, PAP, and PritamS, WP, might put it), but it doesn’t. Taz how messed up are.

(Incidentally, one could reasonably argue that the other shareholders — and the minority shareholders of SBS Transit, remember ComfortDelgro owns around 75% – are getting a free lunch while the government returns its share of the dividends. But let’s nt get into that today.)

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave-mrt-comfortdelgro-and-the-government/

Small wonder that foreigners snapped up ComfortDelgro at gd discount last year though tapering caused some wobbles http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/. Now above price bot. in.

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Central bank cautions on Reits

In Property, Reits on 12/12/2013 at 6:02 am

[A] Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) report … warned that a rise in rates will hit Reits – and lower their dividends.

Reits own a portfolio of property and pay investors regular dividends out of their income – the property rentals received.

The central bank’s financial stability review noted that Reits need to distribute 90 per cent of any taxable income to unitholders.

So these vehicles have limited retained earnings and are dependent on capital markets and banks to meet their financing needs.

The MAS estimated that the ease with which Singapore-listed Reits would be able to pay their interest bills would fall markedly once interest rates headed north.

The median “interest cover” for Singapore-listed Reits would fall from 6.8 to 3.5 times if interest rates were to rise by 3 percentage points, the MAS estimated.

The interest cover is a ratio used to determine how easily a company can pay interest on its debt – the higher the ratio, the easier the interest can be paid.

The MAS also warned that higher interest rates would likely increase interest expenses and lead to lower dividend payouts. Reits might then appeal less to investors, capping their ability to raise more cash from capital markets.

On the bright side, the debt maturity profile of Reits is better now than before the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

A smaller proportion of borrowings by Reits are due for refinancing in the next two years.

The MAS also issued a warning over the larger corporate sector.

“If interest rates were to rise from their currently low levels, firms’ debt-servicing burdens could increase significantly.”

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={1011063489-19666-9955500363}

Don’t blame govt if Reits tank after you buy buy.

Possible gd alt to Reits for the KS: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/temaseks-fab-5-spore-blue-chips/. While the yields are not as high, some pretty lowish in fact, they are not highly leveraged and have maintained steady pay-outs.  And think ComfortDelgro and even SMRT (fare rises leh)

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/where-reits-can-go-wrong/

SMRT: Rights issue coming?

In Infrastructure on 08/10/2013 at 5:54 am

Reading the u/m, I can’t shake the feeling that a rights issue is coming: the capex and running costs seem to call for it. Given that the share price has fallen from the 1.40ish level (at the end of July), to the present level of 1.29, it  might be interesting to buy if one expects a rights issue is in the offing. A rights issue will signal that Temasek expects dividend levels to be maintained at current levels, or slightly reduced, not slashed drastically. It took the results of 1Q 2013- 2014 to bring the shares to below the 1.34 level, a level brokers had been targeting since January.

Let you know if I buy after I buy. BTW, still not bot ComfortDelgro http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/. Share price recovered 10% while I was thinking about it (blame QE reprieve). Shares are now near the price that institutions took a placement off the S’pore Labour Foundation.

CREDIT ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has lowered its outlook on SMRT Corp from “stable” to “negative” over concerns about its financial position, particularly its cash flow.

S&P said [on 27th September 2013] that the transport operator’s operating expenses are higher than expected. It also pointed to high capital spending over the 12 months to June, while noting the uncertainty over government financial support such as funding for the firm.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={435478142-19258-9361788629}

“… the lack of timely government support could delay a recovery in SMRT’s key financial metrics.”

SMRT’s “moderate” financial risk profile is weakening, S&P added.

It said it expects the group’s bottom line will be hit by increased operating expenses such as wages and repair and maintenance costs, without the offsetting factor of higher fares.

S&P added that SMRT’s capital expenditure will likely remain high at about $600 million.

It noted that the group’s capital spending will likely ease in 2015 as it implements a new rail financing framework. This, in turn, will ease its debt situation.

“Nevertheless, we base this on a positive and timely outcome for the ongoing discussions between the company and the Government.”

S&P said SMRT’s business risk profile remains “excellent”, backed by its dominance in Singapore’s rail sector.

Its passenger numbers have grown steadily over the past two years despite breakdowns in December 2011.

The agency predicts that passenger numbers will continue to rise as the economic environment improves and it retains its dominant position here.

S&P continues to believe that the likelihood of “extraordinary government support” for SMRT Corp is “extremely high”.

It said: “This is based on the company’s critical role as a provider of essential public transport service in Singapore, and its very strong link with its majority owner, the Government, through Temasek Holdings, which owns 54.2 per cent of SMRT.”

Why I’m not selling my Reits yet

In Financial competency, Property, Reits on 08/07/2013 at 5:14 am

I’ve been long Reits since 2008.

Despite the recent turbulence, I’m still not a seller because the global economy (and S’pore’s) faces four potential outcomes: a return to healthy growth (in which case Reit incomes should rise); a low-growth, low-inflation period in the doldrums (in which case the income appeal of Reits should help); a return of rapid inflation (as a real asset, property should offer some protection and Reits offer property and leverage); or a deflationary slump. Only in the last case would property suffer. Three-out-of-four sounds good odd for any racing man. And the last in S’pore is impossible to imagine. Easier to imagine a S’pore where the PAP doesn’t form the govt.

As to whether I’m a buyer http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/s-reits-why-stay-away/. Look at dividend yielding stocks.

BTW, since http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/bad-timing-st-article-on-reits/, I’ve been told the Reits index is down about 14%.

BTW2: Still looking at Comfort Delgro. http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/when-raising-fares-sbs-smrt-govt-dont-have-this-problem/ explains why it looks interesting.

When raising fares, SBS, SMRT & Govt don’t have this problem

In Infrastructure on 17/06/2013 at 5:33 am

SBS and SMRT are grumbling loudly that their present biz model (after delivering golden rivers of dividends for Temasek and the S’pore Labour Foundation) doesn’t work. SLF even sold 8% of SBS’s parent at a huge discount to the market price. Great move as this was done before market meltdown. (BTW, at current price, tempted to buy into ComfortDelgro. It closed last Friday at 1.755, up 3% from Thursday. The co’s fundamentals havenot changed since institutions bought SLF’s stake at 1.94. It is likely that when they bot from SLF, they would have been given assurances of the fundamentals at that price.)

And govt has been pouring our money ($1.1bn and counting) at the public the transport system. And the Wankers’ Party remains quiet* about its Manifesto call to nationalise the public transport system.

If the PAP govt weren’t concerned that it would lose votes if fares were raised without a marked improvement in service standards, fares would have gone up by now to keep the dividends flowing. Screwing the public (by making the public pay-and-pay) is the PAP way pre the 2011 GE and PE.

Anyway, SMRT, ComfortDelgro and the govt should be grateful that this doesn’t happen here when faresw are raised: Protests against bus and underground fare rises in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo have turned violent.

Police fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas, and detained more than 200 people. Police say they seized petrol bombs, knives and drugs.

Violence has also been reported at protests in Rio de Janeiro.

Prices for a single ticket in Sao Paulo were raised on 2 June from 3 reals ($1.40, £0.90) to 3.20 reals ($1.50, £0.96).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22899748

For that, they have to thank people like this TRE reader

My Middle name is AhLong:

We need to organise a movement similar to BERSEH of Malaysia now to demand clean election. We need to ensure a proper way to secure and account for the ballot boxes en-route to the counting station …We must demand at the counting station, after all ballot boxes are accounted for and examined, all the ballot tickets should mixed into a single bunch and count from there. In this way, the sly election department will not be able to get the data for gerrymandering in the next election.

Finally, to have a level of playing field, election department should NOT be under PMO!

If he is serious, he should be trying to organise shumething, instead of juz bitching anon. His use of the word “We” is simply a way of saying “You”.He juz wants to let out hot air, like VivianB, Auntie and her favourite Singh, the M’sian gals from S’pore Writers, and the Nairs, Gopalan and Rajan. He doesn’t want to do the hard slog, like Low, Ah Huat, Ah Lian, the NSP’s Dynamic Duo, the Ravis (M and P) and Team SDP. If you’re wondering why Siow is not on the list, he’s away in the US until year-end. And no, he is not attending the CIA’s regime change course.

*To be fair, Low mentions it in passing, now and then.

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.

Demonising cabbies again?

In Uncategorized on 08/06/2012 at 5:35 am

(Or “How to get more taxis on the road, increasing rentals, and still screw the consumer”)

Last Saturday, MediaCorp’s freesheet carried an article that screamed

Taxis could become harder to flag down

More may obtain a taxi licence to rent cabs for personal use instead of plying the roads

It went on: more people could possibly be getting taxi licences for the wrong reasons – as suggested by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in a press interview … Noting how, with the exception of those owned by ComfortDelGro, taxis are hired out mostly to cabbies who drive a single shift per day, Mr Lui said the authorities “need to be even more vigilant about this … because now driving a taxi can, with high COE prices, become a substitute for owning a car”.

Right, it’s the fault of cabbies gaming the system that we can’t get a cab. Not the fault of ComfortDelgro, the govt, or SMRT.

In mid April, there was a ST report that taxi drivers’ take-home income have gone up by as much as 30% since the increase in taxi fares at the end of last year. “ComfortDelGro, the biggest operator here with about 15,600 taxis, said average net income per cab per day has risen by 12 per cent to $210.93 … up from $188.69 in November, excludes costs drivers have to bear, such as rental and diesel.”

In the run-up to the fare increase late last year, our nation-building, constructive media were full of stories of the plight of cabbies. And when fares were increased, there were stories of drops in income as people stopped taking cabs. Poor cabbies. The media also reported extensively that the fleet owners were NOT increasing their taxi rentals. The benefits of the  increase were all going to the cabbies.

So I was surprised (in February or early March) to read in the same said media that S’pore had plenty of  taxis (about 27,000 of them) but that taxis were under-utilised because some work on one shift with one operator per taxi who “once they earn enough would call it a day”.

In April, we were told that they are doing well: to to 30% increase in take-home pay. So will there be shortages again as more of those taxis with one operator are AWOL because the operators call it a day after they earn enough? Now we are again reminded that many cabs are only operated by one person a day, and worse: that increasingly cabbies are gaming the system by using the taxi as a car, not as a cab. Juz earn enough to pay rental, then use taxi as car, for what we are not told. Transport gds? Visit clients? Or rent to senior members of Home Team or other scholars to have sex in in return for favours?

A shortage that will be solved when the fleet owners increase their charges so that the cabbies have to work longer hours again?

In other words, are we “being conditioned” for operating costs (not fares) for cabbies to go up to increase the supply of available taxis.

Then we will read stories in the media that taxi drivers are suffering, and that fares have to rise. And we shouldn’t complain if we are compassionate.

The cycle of spin goes on. Bit like the cycle of life.

Instead of inceasing rentals to increase supply, why not insist that each taxi must have mutiple operators working in shifts? Incentives, disincentives could be introduced to force cabbies into sharing? Afraid of too many cabs on the road, forcing down rentals because cabbies are leaving the industry?

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ComfortDelgro: Int’l value investor kept selling

In Infrastructure on 18/04/2012 at 6:59 pm

Obviously it is not impressed with ComfortDelgro getting $733m or 67% of the $1.1bn package despite paying the state only 20% in dividends over the years*

Silchester International Investors LLP sold 21.49m shares in Comfortdelgro Corporation on March 30 at an estimated price of $1.56 each. This reduced its holdings by 15% to 123.893m shares (5.92%).

It had sold 42.62m shares from Nov 8 to Dec 12, 2011 at estimated prices of $1.425 to $1.44 each and 63.37 million shares from October 2009 to February 2011 at estimated prices of $1.62 to $1.54 each. Overall, the fund manager’s stake is down by 127.48m shares or 51% since October 2009.

Note the 13% rise in the share price since the second half of December 2011 from $1.385.

——

*The S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC which has 12%) has received dividends of roughly $150.46m from FY2003 to FY2010 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort.

“Subsidy” is NOT a four letter word

In Financial competency, Political economy, Political governance on 06/03/2012 at 5:33 am

Many bloggers are upset that the govmin is giving S$1.1bn to SMRT and ComfortDelgro to help improve bus services. Seems to them, “subsidy” is a dirty word. Hmm, didn’t they get the idea that subsidies are always bad from the PAP idea, particularly one LKY?

But maybe, the PAP has changed its mind that the word “subsidy” is a dirty word. Reminds me of what Keynes is supposed to have said In response to an accusation of inconsistency: Keynes is often reported to have said “When the facts change, I change my mind — what do you do, sir?”. More to the point, he is reputed to have said: “When circumstances change I change my mind. What do you do?”

Well the facts and circumstances have changed. The PAP’s share of the popular vote is only 60% and its perceived presedential candudate won by just 7000 votes or less than 1%.

I’m not complaining that the PAP is being pragmatic by addressing the hot issue of overcrowded public transport: I take the bus. I’m not one of those who don’t take the bus regularly, has one car per family member, doesn’t pay income tax, and bitches abt this subsidy.

BTW, I don’t own shares in either company, nor in SBS Transit. I never bot as I tot dividends might not be sustainable. Juz look at the share prices in recent years. The yield remains highish because share prices have collapsed i.e. dividend payments have fallen.

But now the 2011 dividend payments for ComfortDelgro and SBS Transist look sustainable.

Anyway, here’s an example of a subsidy. I own shares in HSBC which I’m glad took advantage of the European crisis to get a subsidy from the European Central Bank. Let the BBC’s Robert Preston tell the story,

“HSBC, widely perceived to be the strongest of the UK’s banks and one of the strongest in the world, borrowed €5.6bn from the ECB … The reason it may be controversial that British banks have borrowed so much from the ECB – a bit less than 4% of all the money on offer – is that the interest rate is so low, just 1%. So arguably eurozone taxpayers are subsidising UK financial institutions.

Oh what a tangled web we weave: MRT, ComfortDelgro and the Government

In Infrastructure on 02/03/2012 at 5:58 am

According to the Christian doctrine of the trinity, there is only one God but God is three persons: the Father, the Son ( Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. But each person is God, whole and entire.

Well our public transport system is some sort of trinity: the government*, ComfortDelgro and SMRT. Except while they are legally separate entities, in practice there is a kind of blending. This makes the Christian doctrine of the trinity easy to understand by comparison.

I’ll use the flow of funds between the companies and the government to illustrate an example of S’pore’s unique trinity at work. Using back-of-the envelope calculations and figures in annual reports, since it was listed SMRT (over a decade ago) has paid S$562.79m in dividends to Temasek, and ComfortDelgro has paid the S’pore Labour Foundation (a statutory board affiliated to the NTUC) dividends of  S$150.46m*since 2003 (Comfort and Delgro merged in 2003, and SLF had a stake in Comfort). The amount that ended up with the government was S$713.25m, with SMRT contributing 79%. But ComfortDelgro is likely be the main beneficiary of the S$1.1bn bus plan**, given that, at present, SBS Transit (a listed co 75% owned by ComfortDelgro) provides most of the buses. Taz an example of how messed up things are.

The funds’ flows also show that the government is putting back all the dividends it received from these two companies and then adding 35% more. So it’s wrong to say that the SMRT and ComfortDelgro are getting free lunches. At most the government is subsidising their lunches by 35%.

The government should get credit for ploughing its share of the “loot” (as the proponents of nationalisation would put it and MPs Puthu, PAP, and PritamS, WP, might put it), but it doesn’t. Taz how messed up are.

(Incidentally, one could reasonably argue that the other shareholders — and the minority shareholders of SBS Transit, remember ComfortDelgro owns around 75% — are getting a free lunch while the government returns its share of the dividends. But let’s not get into that today.)

What a mess. Even the government implicitly accepts that the present “rojak” system of organising the public transport here is not something that it would have introduced, if it had been prescient:

– it is is now planning to publicly funding the bus fleets of Comfort Delgro and SMRT with S$1.1bn; and

– in 2009, the then transport minister, a private sector PAP “catch” (“retired’ after the 2011 general election when the WP almost won the GRC he was helming) that joined the government was trying to fix the system while not admitting that the system was broken even then. (Thank Alex Au’s write-up on this for reminding us what that minister said in 2009.)

So it is no surprise that the the WP’s call in its 2011 general election manifesto to nationalise the public transport system**** is getting a lot of support (the nationalisation, not the WP’s call) from netizens. There may be merit in a nationalised public transport system: instead of being run for shareholders who are only interested in profits, and dividends, the system is run for the benefit of commuters. One of these days, I may run through the arguments. But don’t hold your breath. I think the debate is sterile as it all depends on one’s assumptions and definitions.

Sorry, back to the “rojak” system:  in the short-term, there is a problem of overcrowded buses. And this problem needs fixing. Nationalising the system ain’t as easy as passing a law. Shareholders have to be compensated and this requires valuations to be made, and agreed upon, or adjudicated. And it ain’t as though the shareholders are FTs. As mentioned earlier:

– Temasek owns 54% of SMRT; and

– The S’pore Labour Foundation, a statutory board linked to the NTUC, holds 12% of Comfort Delgro. SLF is Delgro’s single largest shareholder.

(Incidentally these stakes especially Temasek’s controlling stake shows how absurd the system is. S’pore has public transport private monopolies that are partially owned and controlled by the government. And the government regulates the fares and the routes. And as mentioned earlier, the government’s share of the dividends are now ploughed back and added to, but not appreciated by the public.)

Meantime, who is to run the system, and fund the fleet expansion? Public has to wait while these issues are sorted out? It’s OK for those critics who don’t use public transport that often, especially those who have one car per family person. But most S’poreans are not that fortunate.

To me, the government spending on the buses is a pragmatic quick fix both for the public and itself. The commuting public (self included when forced to travel during peak periods, admittedly a rare occurrence) gets less annoyed with the government, while the government is seen as publicly responding positively on a matter of public unhappiness.

As to the concern that the system is being fixed to bring more FTs in, let’s reserve judgement on that. Too early to even speculate. To even speculate, shows the level of mistrust that some people have of this government. I’m not one of them.

So while longer term, nationalisisation may be the best way to run a public transport system, it ain’t a short-term fix. The short-term fix is what the government is doing, throw money at the problem.

Critics should focus on whether the fix is the most cost-effective means of solving an immediate problem, not focus on a possible long-term solution. They should be making a case (not juz asking) for ComfortDelgro and SMRT to make massive rights issues to fund bus fleet expansion. Or asking for detailed details on what taxpayers get in return? Or how to ensure that the other shareholders don’t get a free lunch because of the S$1.1bn package.

Plenty of things to do to keep the government on its toes.

BTW, the full quote in the title is:

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

——-

*I’ve simplified: there is a universe within the government — including the Land Transport Authority, the Ministry of Transport, the committee that fixes train and bus fares, the S’pore Labour Foundation, the Minister of Finance (owner of Temasek), the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the police force.

**Dodgy this calculation as I’ve used a dodgy, lazy assumption, but near enough for all but CFAers, or investment analysts, or myself when analysing an investment)

***The government has allocated S$1.1bn to the purchase of 800 new buses, 550 of which will be paid for by the government (that is, through public funds), with the remaining 250 paid for by the PTOs. The S$1.1bn is also to fund running costs over the next 10 years. More on the use of the money, and an assurance that the operators will not benefit because it is a subsidy for us commuters. [Last sentence is an update on @ March 2012 at 9.00am]

****Unless the WP has quietly ditched this too like its benchmarking of ministers’ pay to the poor. I am not being mean or nasty. In January 2012, Gerald Giam had to be reminded in a private conversation where I was present that nationalisation was in the party manifesto for the 2011 general election. GG seems to have difficulty remembering things. He had some problems in parliament during the ministers’ salaries debate.

SMRT: Ask judge to step down?

In Infrastructure on 03/01/2012 at 5:38 am

PM did the right thing by us S’poreans who use public transport* by appointing a judge that regularly commutes by train as the chairman of the Commitee of Inquiry that willl look into recent train breakdowns. But is this appoitment open to challenge by SMRT?

If SMRT were keen on shareholder value it should ask the judge tasked to lead the Commitee of Inquiry, Chief District Judge of the Subordinate Courts, Mr Tan Siong Thye, to step down because he was reported by ST as saying:

As a daily user of the MRT myself, to and from work for more than 10 years, I share the concerns of many who want to know what went wrong and how to restore confidence in our MRT system.”

He said the breakdowns on Dec 15 and 17 were “quite unprecedented”, adding that “they caused significant disruption and inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of commuters”.

“Such incidents can also potentially pose a public-safety issue if they are not well managed.”

SMRT’s lawyers could cite the legal principle, “Justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”. They could point out that if the judge has been commuting for over 10 yrs (What no can afford car or cab to work meh?), he would have personally experienced the increase in overcrowding and congestation over the years, and that this would prejudice him against SMRT.

(I was an occasional train user but I tried avoiding the trains for the last  few yrs because of the congestion in off-peak hours.  Only since the May GE, have I resumed using SMRT trains during the off-peak periods given the government’s assurances that the trains are less crowded. But it’s all relative. My 88-year mum recently tried taking the SMRT on Saturday mornings around 7.00am. She has returned to taking the bus because she can’t always get a seat even at this time on the train. The bus is almost empty at 7.00 am. If anyone is wondering, she can afford a cab.)

But if SMRT’s lawyers make such a challenge, we could have riots if S’poreans decide to show SMRT and its controlling shareholder, Temasek, what they think of SMRT.

Looks like SMRT is the stock from hell for the time being, just like  Quan Yifeng is the “artiste” from Hell. Buy ComfortDelgro or SBS instead?

*shumething can be right and popular, PAP. Juz because shumething is unpopular, diesn’t mean it’s right, PAP.

SMRT v Delgro: Who treats us better?

In Infrastructure on 22/12/2011 at 8:48 am

Depends on what you mean by “us”.

Usually when I have to go to and from Raffles City or Place, or Shenton Way, I take the bus, as it is the most convenient means of transport (driving included).

On Tuesday at about 4.20pm, I was at Outram and decided to take the train to Eunos and then switch to a bus to return home. When I boarded the train, it was full. I was very fortunate to get a seat as I had a heavy load (I had juz bot six books). When it got to Raffles Place, more people entered than departed. But the number entering was light (The slaves don’t leave until 5.30pm at the earliest). But at Raffles City, the train became very packed as masses got in, and not so many left. The train got less crowded at Bugis. But until Eunos it was full (but not packed), standing room only, as more people got off than in And this was at 4.20- 4.40pm!

Now at 4.20 –  4.40pm if I were at Raffles Place or City, I would have no problem getting a seat on the bus. The bus would only be at best three-quarters full of sitting passengers.

Draw your own conclusions.

As an investor, I can draw the conclusion that Comfort Delgro is not extracting full value from commuters. This could affect shareholder value? Management should learn from SMRT. Maybe bring in SVP “Better you die than my train or bus gets damaged” Goh Kong Chee from SMRT*

*OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/

ComfortDelgro: Income Opportunity

In Uncategorized on 21/12/2011 at 6:03 am

There is a story going around that ComfortDelgro’s management sent an e-mail to SMRT’s management saying, “Thanks for the income opportunity.  Christmas came early for us. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep on doing what you are doing. Our mgt and shareholders love it.”

Seriously, I hear that analysts are tweaking their numbers for ComfortDelgro upwards to take account of a temporary switch from trains to bus, while commuters await further developments at SMRT.

As reported earlier analysts are lowering lower revenue forecasts for SMRT to take account of the coming fines, severance packages for senior managers, and higher maintenace costs. Compared to other metro train systems, SMRT has lower maintance costs as a % of revenue. But don’t start ranting like Goh Meng Seng. Our MRT system is a baby by int’l standards. London and NY have lines going back to the late 19th century. HK’s system is older. Only Shanghai, among major int’l cities, has a system that is younger than ours.

(To see where SMRT’s incremental profits come from see slides 9, 29, 30. They come from rents and ads not from fares. Fare growth is “peanuts” see slide 8 http://www.smrt.com.sg/investors/documents/presentations/DB_Conference_Investor_presentation_1QFY12.pdf )

SMRT shares fell 3.6% on Monday, and 1.1% on Tuesday the lowest in three months, following the three breakdowns last week. Looks like the head of communications attempt to show how he and SMRT valued shareholder failed. SVP Goh Chee Kong (retired SAF colonel and MINDEF spokesman) told us publicly that that it is better for commuters to die rather than damage SMRT property if emergency systems fail to work.  (OK, OK. I exaggerate a little, but not that much

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/smrt-svp-is-great-believer-in-shareholder-value/

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/smrt-another-commuters-can-choose-comment/)

Failed twice. He can’t prevent SMRT share price from failing, despite showing us publicly that he is a failure, morally and ethically. Hmm, wonder if his parents, wife and children still respect him?

Taxi fare rises: Notice the attempt at emotional blackmail?

In Media on 13/12/2011 at 5:50 am

No-one believes Delgro’s and the National Taxi Association’s claims that the taxi fare increases are meant to help taxi drivers.  Stockbrokers are already factoring into their forecasts, the assumption that sometime soon, Delgro will increase the rentals it charges taxi drivers.

So it wasn’t that surprising that yesterday, the constructive, nation-building ST carried a big headlined article on the front of its “Home” section on how “peanutty” were the earnings of the average taxi driver.  Of course, it wasn’t written that way. The headline and story were about how an enterprising taxi driver can take home S$3,000 a month. The sub- text was, however, two-fold:

– S$3,000 wasn’t that much, taking into account the long hours, worked; and

– most tax- drivers took home S$1,500. “Peanuts” by any reasonable standard. But then how come taxi drivers “cheery pick” their customers? They can’t be that poorly paid? Read this on how they “cheery pick” customers by gaming the system.

The message at this time of the year, when charities round the world, resort to emotional blackmail to part consumers from their cash, is, “Spare the taxi drivers some money, don’t complain”.

This is a variant of the government’s much vaunted tripartitism at work. Usually the parties are the government, the employers and the NTUC. Here the parties are Delgro, SPH and the taxi drivers out to con the public.

No wonder SPH, and Delgro are good dividend-paying stocks.

Update on 12 December 2011 at 9.55am

Notice how the ST and other local media are playing down the drop in the number of people taking taxis? The cabbies they are quoting are talking rubbish. They notice the drop, blame it on the fare rises, but then say its the school hols. Sigh.

Comfort Delgro: Give CEO and PR people credit

In Infrastructure, Wit on 08/12/2011 at 8:37 am

Amid all the rubbish and abuse thrown at them, let’s remember that the CEO and his PR team are not like those of SMRT. I hear the lady in charge of public communications, an ex-ST biz editor (must be a rare breed) is one smart lady who likes Victoria’s Secrets underwear.

Taxi users have not been told, “You have a choice. Don’t like our fare hikes, talk a walk, train or bus, or buy a car.”

Instead of complaining so much, if you use taxis and buses a lot,  think of buying Delgro shares to hedge against taxi and bus fare rises. Management in Delgro are smarter than the average SMRT managers.

Update at 10am 8th December 2011

Profit boost for ComfortDelGro unlikely: analysts. Fare hikes not likely to see immediate cab rental revision, they say.

SMRT: CEO stupidity discount?

In Infrastructure on 08/11/2011 at 6:00 am

Wonder if analysts will be building into their models, the assumption that SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa will continue making stupid remarks that upset commuters, thereby making it harder for SMRT (and Delgro) to get their desired fare rises? Will they also make the assumption that such gaffes reflect her inability to manage a public transport company?

In a recent ST report, the SMRT CEO commented that the MRT system is “still reliable compared with other systems” and “I don’t see anything significant” in the number of disruptions and delays.

She attributed the train breakdowns to higher service frequency, new trains that “need to break in”, and more rainy days in Singapore. She cites the newly installed platform screen doors at surface stations, which need to synchronise with train doors, as another factor in train disruptions.

Maybe by M’sian Chinese standards (she refuses to become a citizen, preferring to be a PR), comparisons with third world cities and even NY, London and Tokyo are in order. But she should not forget that she is the CEO of a transport company in a city that has aspirations to be a leading edge global city. If our ministers can set the global bench-mark paywise, SIA for premier service or or our local banks for solid balance sheets,  why can’t she set the global city benchmark disruption-wise when it comes to MRT systems?

Her other verbal gaffes: The SMRT chief had annoyed commuters last year when

– the issue of overcrowding was raised, “People can board the train, it is whether they choose to”; and

– she told commuters that they had a role in ensuring that trains were properly secured when there was a break-in at a train depot. She want us to volunteer to guard her train carriages.

Depends on which hat you wearing PM

In Corporate governance, Political governance on 25/07/2011 at 7:20 am

“Our interest is not to help the transport companies make big profits. There is no reason for us to do that,” so said the PM on Saturday.

Correct if the cabinet is wearing its politicial hat. SMRT and Comfort Delgro making big profits by gorging commuters lose the PAP votes. Ask Raymond Lim.

But if the cabinet is wearing its shareholder hat, then it is in the interest of the  government to allow these companies to squueze the last cent from the commuting public.

SMRT is a TLC, Temasek owning 54%. “Temasek is an active value-oriented investor … to create and maximise shareholder value,” says its charter.

The S’pore Labour Foundation, a statutory board linked to the NTUC, holds 12% of Comfort Delgro. SLF is Delgro’s single largest shareholder. We all know how stat boards and NTUC affiliates try to maximise their profits.

Whether the PM and his cabinet want the companies to make big profits or not, depends on which hat they are wearing.

Odd the timing of fare rise request

In Political governance on 15/07/2011 at 6:38 am

With the government worried that many S’poreans are itching to use the presidential elections to send another signal to the PAP that they remain unhappy with PAP policies (remember DPM’s Teo yellow card abt the difference between electing an MP and a president), the timing of the request for a fare rise by the two tpt cos is strange for two reasons.

Both companies have strong links to the government. SMRT is a TLC, Temasek owning 54%. The S’pore Labour Foundation, a statutory board linked to the NTUC, holds 12% of Comfort Delgro. SLF is Delgro’s single largest shareholder. They shouldn’t be in the business of making people angry with the government when there is an election coming.

Then there is the fact that they had been told that the issue of a price rise would only be addressed at the end of the year, after all the elections. The PTC, in February, and  transport minister Lui Tuck Yew, in June, said that any consideration of fare increases should be done in relation with the opening of the Circle Line’s final two stages in October. This would have meant that this “hot” issue would not have been a major talking point during both elections.

Following the request for a price hike, the “talk cock, sing song” brigade aka the “lunatic fringe”, and responsible bloggers are all over the issue. As the new media space is Injun, Taliban, outlaw and bandit territory all rolled into one,  S’poreans are reminded that we (I too  take the bus and train) that we, commuters, are always being screwed for the benefit of mgt and shareholders. Come the presidential election, at least 40% will not vote for Tony Tan.

So why did the two companies request the rise at this time, when they had been told that October was the earliest date when increases would be considered?

Four explanations. All this action is Wayang. PAP MPs would protest, and the PTC would reject the request before the election. The govmin will tell us it is listening to us, the commuters, and thus make us more amendable to voting for Tony Tan. The new media pundits (rational and looney) would look stupid.

Or the PAP wants to show that it can still shove a  finger into the eye of the ordinary S’porean and still win his vote? Given the GE results, this is a most unlikely explanation unless the PAP leaders are daft.

Or another mess-up by the tpt cos? Incompetent mgt accidentally saboing the government?  SMRT has form in this area; from unguarded depots to scolding commuters for its mistakes to a perceived uncaring attitude towards a badly injured Thai girl.

Or maybe mgt of these companies are anti Tony Tan and the government? They want to fix Tony Tan and the government?  Maybe that dynamic duo of Goh Meng Seng and Tan Kin Lian have friends in high places, and are smarter than we think.

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