atans1

Posts Tagged ‘ST’

S’pore bonds are a lousy investment

In Financial competency, Media on 01/10/2013 at 5:06 am

SINGAPORE bonds were the second-worst performer in Asia in the first seven months of this year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said.

Losses were largest in Indonesia, down 17.8 per cent, followed by Singapore, where bonds were down 7.8 per cent in the January-to-July period, said the latest report by ADB’s Asia Bond Monitor.

Market returns on Asian bonds have fallen sharply so far this year with the iBoxx Pan-Asian Index falling 3.5 per cent in US dollars in unhedged terms, it said yesterday.

Only bonds in the Philippines and China recorded gains – 7.5 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

Reported in BT 27 September 2013, but not in ST or Today. Why? ST and Today only report the “right” news? Note that ST regularly talks of the benefits of investing in S$ bonds, and bonds generally.

BTW, here’s shumething SunT didn’t tell us about the Finnish education system: Angry Birds creator Rovio has brought Angry Birds Playground, a schools initiative devised with the University of Helsinki in Finland, into the kindergarten classroom of children, aimed at six-year-olds.

With the initiative already in use in Finland, Rovio has now entered into an agreement with schools in China.

“With small children, the Finnish approach to education is very much play-orientated,” says Sanna Lukander, vice president of book publishing at Rovio Entertainment.

“These characters and their world seemed to inspire children. You can’t not think about how you might motivate children to do more than play.”

Why it matters that ST & Today got the facts wrong on Ng’s IOC bid

In Media on 16/09/2013 at 5:16 am

Readers cannot have missed that ST and Today were trumpeting for weeks, that S’pore’s Ng Ser Miang had a good chance to be in the International Olympic Committee (IOC). president. He was not only a contender but one of the two favourites. As the volume got shriller and the headlines more bombastic and bigger fonts were used, I turned to the int’l media like the BBC and the Guardian. They said that the German, Bach, was the favourite. If he didn’t get the job, it would be an upset.

I didn’t get upset at our papers’ “kampung” boy stance: to be expected from “provincial” papers. Ever read the Cardiff or Belfast Times? Or even the NY or London papers on city matters? Besides ang mohs are always dismissive of Asians.

What has got me writing this diatribe is that it is now beyond reasonable doubt that the papers must have been wrong to label Ng a favourite. Ng tied in the first round with the Taiwanese guy our papers called a long shot. Ng squeaked thru on a re-vote. Then “Mr Ng received six votes and came in a distant third, behind German former Olympian Thomas Bach, who won the elections with 49 votes, and Puerto Rican banker Richard Carrion who received 29 votes …”.

Come on, if he was a “hot” favourite, how come so bad a result? He should have come in a decent second, or a close third. Our papers didn’t think much of the banker’s chances, rating him below Ng. He got thru the first round easily, unlike Ng, and came in a credible, if distant, second.

Both papers moved on to whisper about conspiracy theories. Today muttered including a belief making the rounds that Tokyo’s successful bid to stage the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games was a factor.

With next year’s Youth Olympics in Nanjing, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, there is a perception that the IOC was reluctant to give too much power to Asia. This doesn’t wash because Ng didn’t get many Asian votes, did he? One reporter also said that Asians don’t support Asians.

Gee so how come we weren’t told these facts earlier? ST and Today only found these up after Ng lost? Whatever it is, they must have got the facts wrong to come up with the assertion that Ng was a favourite.

Clearly, the voting showed that Ng was no favourite: in fact going by the numbers, he along with the Taiwanese guy were long shots. And that he never had a base of Asian supporters, let alone supporters. As WSJ wrote: Ng appeared to struggle to find company. On Sunday night, as Bach was finishing dinner with International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta of Italy and their spouses, Ng was sharing a drink with reporters. The next day Bach had lunch with IOC member Ung Chang.

The two papers got it wrong: Ng was not a favourite, as claimed; and should admit to their getting their facts wrong, rather than throw smoke in order to cover-up the mistake of getting the wrong facts, leading to the wrong conclusion.

I once suggested that P Ravi and PM use this method (used successfully by a secret police force) to evaluate the quality of the data they get from their sources. Maybe ST and Today should use the method for their sports news coverage.
Let me be very clear, I’m not saying anything derogatory about Ng. But I’m saying that our papers, based on the evidence of the votes cast, did not get their facts “right” about Ng being a favourite alongside Bach. Were they beating the DRUMS rather than reporting the “right” facts?
This leads me to a most serious issue.
Recently, a retired Imperial Stormtrooper general (Keyboard corps) criticised the role of the local mainstream media in the loss of trust between the people and the govt. Wow! Bit like a few German generals and soldiers trying to assassinate Hitler, when the Germans were losing the war that they started? OK maybe she had a Paul-like conversion after she got retired?

Well, if we can’t even rely on the media to get the facts “right” on a simple sports story involving a S’porean, how can we trust the media when it reports on news that touches on the govt: remember the local media prides itself on being “constructive” and “nation-building”, and I have yet to hear of a senior editor being less than 150% pro-govt. Example, the media only waited for the govt’s response to Dinesh family’s legal suit before reporting the case. TOC and Bertha Henson (aforesaid keyboard general) had, to their credit, already reported the details of the family’s suit days earlier.

Yaacob and the MDA should ponder the implications of this failure of  the govt’s poodle “constructive”, “nation-building” media to get the facts right on a simple sports story, rather than beat on the skin of P Ravi, the DRUMS to the tune of RAVII to discredit the new media. http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/ingratitude-uniquely-sporean-blame-the-internet-not-really/

Remember ST’s “promotion” of Reits in May & June?

In Financial competency, Reits on 03/09/2013 at 5:09 am

ST wrote last Saturday about S-Reits as follows, In short, this means that you would have got a better deal if you had bought in 2010 and 2011, compared to now.

However, buying now would still be better than if you had bought in May this year: At that time, the average yield of the sector was as low as 4.3 per cent, Bloomberg data shows.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={493433871-18886-1315537690}

Regular readers will know that in late May (here), two weeks in a row in June (here and here), I grumbled about ST’s “promotion” of Reits, saying it wasn’t the time to load-up on Reits.

As to whether to load up on Reits, I’m thinking about it. Let you know after I buy some, Or if I decide not to.

Related post: http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/why-im-not-selling-my-reits-yet/

If you are blur about why the yields of different types of reits are different, read this http://atans1.wordpress.com/?s=Reits+%2B+primer. BT is not ST.

DBS Vickers likes Cache Logistics Trust, Suntec Reit and CapitaRetail China Trust, saying that “most of the negatives are already priced in” for these counters.

It also likes hotel owner CDL Hospitality Trusts, though technically, the vehicle is a stapled security rather than a pure Reit (ST report)

ST’s bearish on reits! Time to buy?

In Financial competency, Property, Reits on 10/06/2013 at 5:08 am

Fee-fi-fo-fum; I smell the blood of reporters and analysts that were bullish on reits. Be they alive or be they dead, I’ll grind their bones to make my bread.

ST has finally given up promoting reits (something I’ve been bitching about recently here and here), reporting: MAYBANK Kim Eng Research has gone against the long-prevailing view and downgraded Singapore’s red-hot real estate investment trust (Reit) sector amid a period of increasing price volatility.

Reits have come under heavy selling pressure the past fortnight amid fears the golden days of low interest rates may be ending.

The FTSE ST Reit Index, which tracks the sector, dropped 1.68 per cent yesterday and is down 8.2 per cent since May 22, when the United States Federal Reserve’s chairman raised the possibility of ending its money-printing.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={309678777-17695-45587420}

Gee, less than a month and two bullish stories, ST is now reporting bearish news on reits. Even when I waz an equities salesman, I didn’t change my views so fast. ST Money Desk practicing to be salespersons.

But before rushing into reits, think. The prices of reits were helped by institutional equity investors* buying them for the yield. Now those who chased yields in the equity markets may switch into cyclicals and defensives, if they think the yield party is over. If so buying into reits may face a stampede out of reits, and then relative underperformance.

*Remember, bond investors don’t buy reits. They stick to bonds, moving to junkier bonds for yield. When cautious, they sell the junk and buy US govt bonds.

What happens in ST newsroom

In Humour, Media on 30/05/2013 at 6:29 am
It’s not nice to have to wonder about phone calls in the night or an email to demand that a post be deleted. And it’s not nice to have to second guess what the G (or which god in which department) thinks about this post or that and that particular god-person’s threshold of “sensitivity’’.

Sharp-eyed Siow Kum Hong spotted this from Bertha Henson’s piece http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg/?p=4858. Read it as it contains lots of rational criticisms of the new MDA regulations, unlike most of the noise and rubbish coming from netizens’ behinds.

In case, you didn’t know, she was a high ranking, keyboard-wielding Imperial storm trooper dedicated to keeping S’poreans in the dark, before she retired after having repented. She was Dark enough to have been considered to be one of the front runners to be  ST’s editor.

But let’s not hold it against her. There are not enough Jedi for us to be choosy.

Bad timing! ST article on Reits/ Will mkts continue rising?

In Financial competency, Humour, Property, Reits on 28/05/2013 at 5:29 am

On 22 May ST screamed “Reits look like good bets to yield-hungry investors”

The opening para read “SINGAPORE real estate investment trusts (Reits) are among the hottest assets in town to own”.

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={332593593-17481-7717667817}

On 23 May, Japan’s stock market fell by about 7%. “It was no different in Singapore, where the benchmark Straits Times Index sank 61.2 points or 1.8 per cent to 3,393.17, its worst one-day plunge in percentage terms since its 2.2 per cent reverse on May 7 last year” (“Markets tumble amid US, China fears”: ST headline. Didn’t have the balls to tell us, reits here were off about 5%*. They have since recovered slightly.

Fee-fi-fo-fum; I smell the blood of reporters and analysts. Be they alive or be they dead, I’ll grind their bones to make my bread.

For what’s it’s worth, I repeat my take first expressed here http://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/s-reits-why-stay-away/. But I’m not selling, yet, juz collecting the distributions, and watching to sell.

Update after first publishing: Juz read in FT that while the Topix index is down 10%, reits there down 1%. Seems investors want to own real assets, given that Japan wants to raise inflation.

Update, Update: However, there are three good reasons why stock markets, a few blips aside, will continue to grow for some time: central banks are scared; there is lots of money waiting to be invested; and returns on all other assets are low … Strapped to these three rockets, the market can still soar. Of course, Spain could yet go bust or China grind to a halt. There could be a natural disaster, an act of terrorism or war. History tells us a bust is waiting down the track, but while the world economy recovers and governments and central banks maintain their pledge to keep printing money, we should expect prices to rise.
Phillip Inman from Guardian

 

ST misreps yet again

In Footie, Media on 24/06/2012 at 6:18 am

(Or “Four unexplained mystries in WofflesGate”) 

So Germany beat Greece, and are into the Euro semis, which reminded me that even footie facts are misrepresented by the nation-building, constructive ST to promote government’s FT is “betterest” policy (See below. To be fair, ST published the rebuttal. Balls-up or subversion? Or someone with a conscience?). Is nothing sacred? What next? Footie scores get misreported? More likely is that goals scored and saves made attributed to players that fit ST’s agenda of nation-building, constructivism.

I am exaggerating? Look at an ST report of WofflesGate: [in relation to the incident in September 2005,] . . . Wu got Mr Kuan, then 76, to tell police that he was the driver of a car speeding at 95kmh on Lornie Road. Mr Kuan is said to have lied again about a speeding offence committed at 9.45am on Nov 10, 2006. The car was then travelling at 91kmh on Adam Road.

The speed limit in both instances was 70kmh and involved Wu’s car. Court papers did not state who the actual driver was.

The court heard that a notice was sent to Wu to reveal the identity of the driver. Concerned that he would accumulate demerit points were he to accept liability for the speeding offences, he roped in Mr Kuan, then a maintenance technician in his clinic. Now 83 years old, Mr Kuan was also described as a close family friend of the doctor. He has not been charged.

The report makes it clear implicitly that Woolly Wally was the driver by stating that hr was concerned about getting demeit points.  Yet we now know that both the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Law minister said that investigations were ongoing, as to who the driver actually was; and that the case has not been concluded.

Funnily, ST has not retracted its story. Nor have the authorities asked for a retraction. These are four  mysteries that need to be explained to convince S’poreans that the rich are not different.

———

Read the u/m in ST Forum about two weeks ago.

Go for local football talent

CONTRARY to what the report (‘Talent mining in the sports world'; May 25) implies, Germany does not have an official programme recruiting foreign-born footballers.

Circumstances that led to Polish-born strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski representing Germany differ completely from the mechanics of Singapore’s Foreign Sports Talent scheme.

Klose moved to Germany at age seven, while Podolski did so at two. Both are therefore home-grown German players.

The only non-native player recruited by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) who can be considered home-grown is Daniel Bennett, who came here as a toddler.

Many Singaporeans rightfully question the ‘Singaporean-ness’ of foreign sports talent, something that even Bennett himself is concerned about.

He was quoted two years ago in the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club official website as saying: ‘I am more Singaporean than many of the other foreign players who took (up) citizenship more recently, as I grew up here and it’s my home.’

Apparently concerned by the excessive use of imported players contravening the spirit of the game, football’s world governing body Fifa tried to introduce regulations in 2008 to restrict such usage.

Unfortunately, the FAS remains stubbornly persistent with its push to recruit more foreigners. It claims foreign sports talent plug the gaps in its youth development programme (‘Change of heart by NSAs'; May 28).

Our national football administrators should find answers to why, after almost two decades of S-League football where would-be Lions play with and against foreign players weekly, and years of employing foreign technical directors, the FAS is still struggling to develop quality international-level talent.

It is impossible to prove, but perhaps native and home-grown players strive harder for their country.

Michael Ang

Bending low: a journalistic skill that ST teaches students?

In Humour on 30/05/2012 at 6:12 am

When I saw the photo (B7 of today’s ST) that accompanied the headline “Students pick up journalism skills at ST camp”, I did a double take.

There was a huge photo of a young person crouching low, almost kneeling (OK, OK I exaggerate, but only a bit. I tot, “Wow, what a revealation abt what happens at ST”. Err wonder if those allegations abt “sucking or licking bums and sexual organs” are true”?

Well turns out he was crouching to take a photo. Then I tot, bit like posture needed to promote nation-building, and constructive criticism of the government.

BTW, a gd source for gossip in SPH tells me that SPH is finding it difficult to recruit young, smart S’poreans as journalists despite a starting pay of above $3,000 a month. They are too ashamed to work for SPH. So SPH is recruiting young, smart M’sian Chinese and Indians instead. Why not go for PRCs and Aryan FTs? Apparently,they don’t blend into the local scene so easily. Given the anti-FT mood, they could be the subject of the news, rather than the reporting of it.

SIA Engineering financially engineered?

In Corporate governance, Temasek on 11/01/2010 at 3:43 pm

“A possible major catalyst for SIAE [SIA Engg] is if parent company SIA decides to divest its substantial ownership in the company as it did Singapore Terminal Airport Services (SATS) earlier this year. SIA currently owns an overwhelming 80.6% stake in SIAE,” says Kin Eng Securities.

My tots in mid June 2009:

SIA does in specie share dividend of SIA Engg saying:

“Distributing shares through an in specie dividend will unlock shareholder value by giving SIA shareholders direct ownership of SIA Engg at no cost to them …The proposed distribution will allow SIA to concentrate on its airline business, something advised by MM Lee in 2004 … SIA Engg will be able to independently pursue opportunities to aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul businesses. The Proposal will improve trading liquidity of SIA Engg shares, potentially enhancing value.”

Then after some time has passed

SIA Engg announces Acquisition of 100% of ST Aerospace from ST Engg

“Acquisition consistent with SIA Engg previously announced long-term strategic plan”

ST Aerospace is the “Largest aircraft MRO company by commercial airframe man-hours” and has “Strategic partnership with RSAF”

Rights issue with Temasek taking up its entitlement and prepared to subscribe for shares that other shareholders don’t want.

Remember you first heard it here. But based on the companies’ past performance, SIA Engg should only buy ST Aerospace, if the price paid reflected Aeo’s lower margins. SIA Engg’s margins are consistently better than those of Aero. EG In financial yr ending Dec 2008, Aero’s turnover was S$1.9b with PBIT of S$272m, while SIA Engg turnover was S$1.1b but PBIT of S$301m.

But what price another national champion? And financial engineering by Temasek?”

GIL: Worth Analysing?

In Investments on 16/11/2009 at 1:31 am

(GIL) surely must be worth further analysis as a special situation. Published NTA is 35 cents a share as at June while it is now trading at 25 cents (up 2 cents).

But I’ll give detailed analysis a miss as there will be a change of manager. The present manager is part of the defunct Babcock & Brown group (in fact GIL was once Babcock & Brown Global Infrastructure Fund). The directors want to appoint as manager a ST Gp company, while a shareholder with about 20% wants a relatively unknown Australian fund manager.

So better to wait to see who becomes the manager (there is EGM later in November). And in the meantime,  I will try to find out more abt both managers.

Preview of what to expect

In Uncategorized on 14/11/2009 at 9:38 am

For a preview of what I will be writing about below are some pieces I did in mid June for two weeks for a project that did not take off. They are in chronological order.

Winning whatever the price of oil

Last week, it was announced that PetroChina (subject to Chinese regulatory approvals) would buy from Keppel its entire stake of 46% in SPC for S$6.25 a share.

Immediately one thought of 2003, when Keppel sold a 28% in SPC to Hong Kong-based (but Indonesian owned) Kapital Asia for S$1.50 a share, and said it was considering divesting its entire stake.

In 2004 the price of oil took off and Keppel decided to keep the refiner to expand its oil and gas production in SE Asia. Could Keppel be repeating its mistake of selling SPC shares, just before the oil market takes off? It could.

But Keppel shareholders (especially Temsek) should not complain. In the announcement of the deal, it was said “PetroChina and Keppel also plan to explore opportunities in the offshore oil industry and in other areas of mutual benefit as such opportunities become available”.

Things like this are usually to be ignored as fluff. Maybe not in this case.

PetroChina is one of China Inc’s two flagship oil companies, tasked with developing oil and gas resources globally to meet China’s energy needs. The Chinese have been active recently making oil-for-loan deals with national oil companies of Brazil, Russia and Kazakhstan, all very good for the likes of PetroChina.

Keppel’s off-shore rig business, is only one of two world-class companies in Singapore Inc’s local portfolio. Should the value of SPC explode upwards, then Keppel has, at the very least, the goodwill of PetroChina when it bids to build rigs for projects where PetroChina has an interest.

And should the price of oil collapse, Keppel and its shareholders will have S$1.47 billion in the bank to fund the rig business.

And if anyone thinks that it is a no-brainer to buy SPC because PetroChina said it could serve as a platform for future transactions, suggesting it might try to use SPC to make takeovers that it would be blocked from making directly — think again.

There would still be concerns of takeovers by Chinese state-run firms, done directly or indirectly, through a Singaporean subsidiary.

Managers turn swashbucklers? Can pigs fly?

Short of plans to buy assets, NOL does not need the S$1.4b. NOL, which has S$400m in cash reserves, would have almost less than 2% net debt. (45% of equity at the end of 1Q) against container sector average between 60 and 65.

NOL intends to use about S$700m to repay debt, the remainder for investments and working capital.

But the prognosis for the entire shipping industry for 2009 and early 2010 remain gloomy, so likewise does NOL operational gearing.

Buying into NOL (its shares have risen from 0.85 in early March to 1.68 yesterday) is to believe that NOL’s management can use its great financial gearing into something tangible. EG buying ship at bargain prices from highly leveraged shippers in distress, and shipyards.

And increasingly its gearing again in the process.

Imagine going into the next cycle with cheaply acquired ships and a gearing of 45%. Wow Bam. This is an unproven thesis. NOL is one of the most conservative container lines and has taken a higher proportion of its ships out of service than other lines to tackle over-capacity.

Can cautious managers turn into swashbuckling asset buyers? There are the Greeks and Chinese buccaneers out there too on the prowl for ships.

Writer has some NOL shares in his CPF portfolio.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth or  Why new SAT shareholders should be grumpy

On May 14, SIA announced that it was going to distribute to its shareholders its 81% stake in SATS by way of a dividend in specie. Since then share price is up 5%. This comes after SATS has become cash poor.

In January 2009, SATS launched a takeover bid for its Temask stable-mate SFI. According to the takeover documents, the pro-forma balance sheet as at September 2008 would have shown that the net cash position of the SATS (including SFI) group deteriorated to minus S$21 from S$528. In particular, cash in fixed deposits would have fallen from S$573 million to S$64 million.

But SATS needs cash because “SATS is committed to growing its 2 core businesses of airport and food services”.

It could borrow big-time, pro forma net gearing is 0.04% from (0.35)%. But in Singapore, where debt is a dirty word in GLCs (NOL comes to mind), a rights issue is reasonably probable.

Temasek as the new controlling shareholder of SATS has $356 million from its sale of SFI shares to fund any rights issue. But do other new SATS shareholders have the cash?

Finally, looks like MM Lee gets his way. In 2004, he said SIA should divest itself of SATS and SIAEC. SIA’s management demurred.

Will SAEC be divested despite SIA mgt saying last night that the SAEC holding is strategic? Stay tuned.

Backward into the Future

November 8, 2009 [OK I did get this wrong, but it could still happen]

SIA announces that it is proposing a dividend in specie to its shareholders of the Company’s entire shareholding in SIA Engg.

“Distributing shares through an in specie dividend will unlock shareholder value by giving SIA shareholders direct ownership of SIA Engg at no cost to them.”

“The proposed distribution will allow SIA to concentrate on its airline business,”something advised by MM Lee in 2004.

“SIA Engg will be able to independently pursue opportunities to aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul businesses. The Proposal will improve trading liquidity of SIA Engg  shares, potentially enhancing value.”

May 14, 2010

SIA Engg announces Acquisition of 100% of ST Aerospace from ST Engg

“Acquisition consistent with SIA Engg previously announced long-term strategic plan”

ST Aerospace is the “Largest aircraft MRO company by commercial airframe man-hours” and has “Strategic partnership with RSAF”

Rights issue with Temasek taking up its entitlement and prepared to subscribe for shares that other shareholders don’t want.

Remember you first heard it here. But based on the companies’ past performance, SIA Engg should only buy ST Aerospace, if the price paid reflected Aeo’s lower margins. SIA Engg’s margins are consistently better than those of Aero. EG In financial yr ending Dec 2008, Aero’s turnover was S$1.9b with PBIT of S$272m, while SIA Engg turnover was S$1.1b but PBIT of S$301m.

But what price another national champion? And financial engineering by Temasek?

Temasek’s recently revised investment priorities R SGX Listcos

Yes this was Temasek week, and we will end the week by looking to see which non-Temasek SGX-listcos fit into its recently revised investment priorities:

  • non-West (It got its timing wrong with Merrills and Barclays coming-in and exiting. And misanalysing ABC Learning),
  • poised to capitalise on the growth of middle class consumer credit in Asia, and
  • with plausible competitive advantages, following its reinvestment in Olam.

What about the following?

  • Bayan – manager and developer resorts, hotels and spas in the Asia Pacific.
  • Creative – remember its MP3 player predated iPOD and Apple paid it damages for breaching its patents. All it needs is a bit more Zen meditation and it could have a mega hit on its hands.
  • Eu Yan San – has reached the limits of what it can do with its resources in Chinese medicine. Needs outside capital, but family squabbles prevail. But Temasek is different.
  • Raffles Education – big in Chinese education (and indirectly in property). In a bit of bother now but controlling shareholder and manager has a track record.

Bayan, Creative and RE are run by home-grown and-bred entrepreneurs. What better way of encouraging the growth of entrepreneurs with global ambitions, then by supporting these three companies?  We will keep you posted as we trawl through SGX listcos.

This continuing series will help us fill the gaps on those days when we wake up late or have nothing more interesting to say.

Whither the markets?

Fund managers, analysts, traders and media pundits are struggling to contain their confusion at what global equity markets have been doing since March.

The markets’ upsurge defies all rational explanations: just ask Temasek’s scholars and foreign-talent MBAs.

The conventional view is that this is a bear market rally. There will be a double-dip recession – a so called “W” recovery, where there is a steep fall, followed by a steep recovery and then another fall before another recovery finally appears which becomes more sustained.

Pundits pont out that, while not widely reported in the regular news, the bond markets had a mini crash in May. There’s talk of the ending of the multi-decade bull market in bonds, what with all the debt that governments have to raise.

My views on whether we are in bear market rally are just as irrelevant as anybody’s else.

But I heard something interesting on the FT (my second favourite newspaper) website a few weeks ago.

The strategist, from CLSA, belived that we are in the midst of a bear market rally. Nothing new here. But unlike other pundits, he said this rally could run for another two years before collapsing. He cited what happened after the dotcom bubble bust in 2000/ 2001.

He said, with hindsight, it was clear that the recovery from 2003 to 2007 was a bear market rally. Bottom line: A bull run or bear market rally can only be predicted in hindsight. Seating tight and doing nothing is not an option for a fund manager unless he is Warren Buffett.

Another reason to remain invested in Singapore mkt?

Could the plans to celebrate big-time the 50th anniversary of self-rule be a signal that the PM wants to calls a GE in the first half of next yr?

Remember that 50 years of self-independence coincides with 50 years of PAP rule, something that the celebrations are sure to link.

Have a good time tonite. And the next insight will be on tues morning.

Tempting the shorts

“China’s property market has been bouncing back over the last several weeks,” reports a FT publication. “Statistics from the China Real Estate Index System showed that residential property sales in 30 large cities increased by 11.42% April from March and transaction prices for new residential developments were up 3% week on week to the highest level this year between May 11 to 17.”

So it was not surprising that the CEO of CapitaLand over the weekend implicitly reminded investors that CapitaLand is NOT a Singapore property play but a China (property) play, “In 2008, our China operations accounted for about 26% of total group assets and contributed approximately 45% of the group’s earnings”.

The target is for China to make up 40 or 45% of assets in the next few years and for more than 45% of earnings. (Incidentally, if China assets are at 45%, then China earnings should be at 90%)

Is he reminding himself how big a bet CapitaLand is putting in China?

CapitaLand has just secured a S$5b three-year credit line with Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. What this means is that CapitaLand is gearing up just after completing a rights issue a few months back. It had reduced its net debt from S$5.6b to S$4.6b, a 18% improvement. Its net debt to equity had fallen to 0.32 from 0.47.

Now, making an assumption on drawdown by end FY2009, it will have net debt of S$9.6b and net debt to equity of 0.67. All very good if the Chinese property continues its bull run

But if it implodes (note that China super bull, Jim Rogers, is avoiding recommending property to investors: in 2008 he was negative about Chinese property) and CapitaLand has not sold assets before the downturn: another rights issue?

Hedge funds who are negative on China property could do worse than start to build up short positions in CapitaLand.

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.

What price growth?

Bharti’s proposed acquisition of a 49% stake in South African MTN would give SingTel (at 30% Bhart’s biggest shareholder) exposure to markets in Africa and the Middle East, where there are a lot more mobile phones than people. Australia and Singapore (its biggest markets) are the opposite.

But the complex deal involving cash and a cross-shareholding by MTN into Bharti would mean that SingTel’s share of Bharti would drop to 19%. SingTel has indicated that it wants to rebuild its stake back up to 30%, if the deal goes through. At current prices, this means coming up with about US$5.3bn or S$7.7bn.

It has net debt of S$6.5bn and net gearing of 24%. But raising net debt to S$14.2bn and net gearing to 52% is not an option in a GLC, though it could make sense in any other telco that has stable underlying cashflow. Qwest (albeit it is now trying to reduce debt) has a ratio of 110%. (more debt than equity).

So if the Bharti/ MTN deal goes through, a SingTel rights issue will be necessary.

As to how dilutive this will be — S$7.7bn works out to only Singapore 48 cents a share, or 16% of its market capitalisation based on yesterday’s closing price of S$2.95.

Not too dilutive for exposure to fast-growing markets where there are more people than phones.

Long short pair

DBS Research’s economist issued a report suggesting Asia is on its way to an economic recovery because the region’s production is rebounding in a V-shaped fashion. “Asia is perched on a recovery path at the moment … we do not expect a W-shaped path in the near term.”

DBS Vickers Securities raised its 12-month target price for the stock of Singapore Exchange (SGX) to S$9.10 – the highest now among the target prices of 20 analysts polled by Bloomberg.

But does how does SGX look in the medium term vis-a-vis its rival, HKSE? Remember HK would benefit from a V-shaped recovery too.

Traditionally, an important measure of the success an exchange vis-a-vis its peers is the new IPOs it attracts According to Dealogic, some US$1.6bn has been raised this year through eight listings in Hong Kong. And the outlook is improving By contrast, Singapore raised US$12.5m from 3 IPOs all second board (sorry “Catalyst”) IPOs: with gloom pervasive, “2009 may be the worst year in memory for the IPO market”.

Funnily this just when FT reports that “Asia is expecting a strong pick-up in market listings in the second half of this year thanks to a steady flow of flotations in Hong Kong and amid growing expectations that Beijing could soon allow domestic listings for the first time in almost a year.”. It quoted Dealogic’s Ken Poon, “Given the strong liquidity flows into the region, I would expect 2009 IPO volumes will exceed 2008 … As Asian IPO volumes in 2008 was US$23bn while in the first half of 2009, it’s less than US$2bn … That would mean a really surprising second half. Sentiment is strong and liquidity is there to support new issues.”

And Hong Kong can look forward in 2010 to the AIA listing, the $5bn-plus IPO of AIG’s Asian life insurance unit This IPO is set to be the world’s largest IPO since 2007, when incidentally thanks to the Chinese, more money was raised in HK than in New York. So shouldn’t hedgies be thinking of shorting SGX, and buying HKSE? Even though SGX’s forecasted PE is below 20x, while that of HKSE is closer to 30x.

SIA’s Investment Prowess

If SIA were not such a great airline operationally and financially, I should be worried about its: “still keeping an eye out for possible acquisitions in China and India, despite the current economic downturn”.

The last time it went on a buying spree between 1999 – 2001, it showed that investing in airlines was not a core competency.

In April 2000, SIA purchased a 25% stake in Air New Zealand for 426 million New Zealand dollars (352 million Singapore dollars), or NZ$3 a share. Yes it was the usual “strategic” investment. SIA also participated in a subsequent rights issue, paying an additional S$51 million, to avoid diluting its 25% stake. The original purchase plus rights amounted to S$403 million.

SIA in 2001 tried to invest more, failing only because the NZ government was dilatory in approving an increase in its stake in Air NZ. Phew!

When 100% owned subsidiary Ansett failed in late 2001, pulling AirNZ down with it, SIA’s unapproved offer of NZ$1.31 a share was still on the table.

And in late 1999, a cash-strapped Richard Branson sold a 49% stake in his airline, Virgin Atlantic, to SIA for £600m (US$960m), a very good price for Mr Branson. SIA still has the stake and the much talked about synergies have been quietly forgotten.

There were also rumours of rows between Mr Branson and SIA on Branson’s plans to muscle-in on SIA’s lucrative UK to Oz route. So has the idea of selling the stake, what with valuations of airlines falling.

But let’s be fair. The then CEO of SIA has moved on to become chairman of OCBC, not bringing with him his deal-making enthusiasm: for that OCBC shareholders should be happy.

And recently SIA kept its nerve and refused to up its offer for a stake in China Eastern Airlines, which is now in financil difficulties. So maybe SIA is a more disciplined investor.

But being disciplined has its perils. Ask PSA which refused to outbid the Arabs for a stake in a choice HK terminal, only to have play catch-up on a second-rate terminal.

Things might not be as they seem

Consoling yrself that higher petrol prices are the price to pay for a V-shape recovery? The Western and Chinese economies are on their way to recovery, and rising oil and commodity prices are foreshadowing this recovery.. Think again because this NYT article http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/11/business/economy/11commodity.html?ref=business reports that growing evidence suggests that a sizable portion of this buying has been to build stockpiles in China, and may not be sustainable.

Core competency of new Temasek CEO

Could the new CEO of Temasek finally sort out the strangeness of Temasek having

  • two world class competing offshore rig builders in two separate listed listcos; two property listcos — one big, one tiny
  • two MRO aerospace cos – one listed and the other part of a listed conglomerate?

Surely the national interest could be served by merging these and creating national champs. Yes, these have discussed inside before, but nothing happened. Gossip says that the bosse at the helms of TLCs are protective of their turfs: bit like Chinese lawlords throughout history. It always took a great leader to unify China over and over again.

But this is unlikely to be his priority. Neither is going into natural resources.

When he was hired to be CFO of Melbourne-based miner BHP in 1999, the “Big Australian” had lost its way.  In the 1990s, it did a series of ill-conceived acquisitions and failed projects, amid historically low commodity prices.

The former investment banker was one half of an American duo. The other was CEO Paul Anderson, who came from Duke Energy.

In their first two years, BHP got rid of 2,000 jobs and A$6.9bn worth of assets. They then merged BHP with Billiton, createding the world’s biggest miner.

Goodyear then became CEO and a key legacies, analysts say, is the financial discipline he brought to BHP. He ensured it grew fast enough to capitalise on the commodities boom while avoiding the ill-conceived spending of the past; and all the while,  returning cash to shareholders.

Shortly after he took charge as CEO,  it was announced that BHP would increase its capital management programme by more than four times to US$13bn, beginning with a US$2.5bn off-market return in Australia.

With the Singapore government tapping the reserves, someone with a track record of returning  cash to shareholders while growing the portfolio is needed.

There is no Singaporean with these skills.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 200 other followers