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Posts Tagged ‘value investing’

Jap stocks cont’d trading below book value

In Accounting, Financial competency, Japan on 17/09/2012 at 7:06 am
On Wednesday last week “the broad Topix index closed at 0.89 times book value, a whisker away from its widest discount to the MSCI World for five years, and near its lowest level relative to the S&P 500 for almost eight years,” reported the FT.
 
What is cheap can stay cheap. But do remember that in the 1950s and 1960s, a few ang mohs bot Jap stocks because they were very cheap by Western standards. They became investment legends.

United Engrs and Desmond Choo

In Financial competency, Humour on 24/05/2012 at 9:02 am

When a stock is at a deep discount to RNAV, there are always some hard-core lovers whose love is never returned: bit like Desmond Choo’s love for Hougang voters who rejected him decisively in 2011 and who will reject him again soon.

http://sgstockscreener.blogspot.com/2012/05/united-engineers-outperform-by-cimb.html

What I wrote abt CIMB’s love for it in 2009

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/the-perils-of-buying-on-nta-calculations/

United Engrs is another tan ku ku stock like Haw Par. Except that the controlling shareholder behind Haw Par is the Wee family behind UOB. Behind United Engrs is Ms Chew Gek Khim. Her track record is unproven, her bet on Straits Trading has yet to pay off. Her chief claim to fame is that she is the granddaughter of Tan Chin Tuan (Tony Tan’s uncle), a mythical figure in local business.

I mean she could turn out to be like Yaw, disappointing investors, rather than the people of Hougang.

What is value?: One view

In Uncategorized on 12/07/2010 at 5:56 am

Is this view of value,  profound, PR banality, or pure BS? If one of the last two, remember the speaker is one ballsy lady: she took on the much, much wealthier OCBC Lees in the fight to control Straits Trading, taking on debt in the process.

She is now the executive chairman of Straits Trading.

STC [Straits Trading]is an investment company and its subsidiaries should be viewed as business investments, she said. Does that mean every business is potentially for sale? ‘If we are true to what we say, that we must realise shareholder value, anything at the right price we must consider it for sale. One should not be so married or so emotionally attached that nothing is for sale,’ she said. ‘But having said that, the considerations are plentiful; it cannot just be today’s price, it cannot just be 10 per cent above today’s price,’ she said. The group is prepared to hold for 20-30 years if that’s what it takes, in order for value to be realised.

Calling STC’s real estate division as the ‘meat’ of the group, she is mulling over what the balance should be in terms of how much should be developed for sale and what to hold for rental income. STC’s real estate assets include its flagship Straits Trading Building, a 28-storey building at Battery Road, 4 developed bungalows and 5 plots of bungalow land…

Part of a BT report in April that I rediscovered while file-cleaning.

Indonesia: Value investor bullish

In Emerging markets, Indonesia on 07/06/2010 at 5:17 am

Obama did it again. The  “Canceller-in-chief”,  has again postponed  his trip to Indonesia.  If I were an Ondonesian, I’d be upset. Waz so difficult abt vistiing the Gulf, do a tv special, explain that you have already postponed one trip to Indonesia,  http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/our-neighbour-the-new-brazil/, and that a second postponement is an insult to the the new Brazil?

And Indonesia is impt — Mark Mobius says so.

Indonesia has a “good” outlook due to its resources and large population, putting the nation in a favorable position to attract investment, Templeton Asset Management Ltd.’s Mark Mobius said.

“Overall we have a positive take on investment opportunities there,” Mobius, who oversees about $34 billion in emerging markets as Templeton Asset Management’s Singapore-based executive chairman, wrote in his blog dated yesterday. “Indonesia has a young, growing population and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is expected to be the largest city in the world within two decades.”

Full article from Bloomberg.

Is this market efficient? Or is there value?

In Emerging markets on 20/05/2010 at 7:56 am

I don’t track Thailand so I was surprised to see this chart in the FT. I tot that with the events there, foreigners would be breaking down the walls in an attempt to exit the country.

Where to from here?

FT went on to say, Investors do not wish to pull out of one of the most open and investor-friendly of east Asia’s fast-growing economies, where the government has, within the past month, raised its 2010 GDP increase forecast from a range of 3.3-5.3 per cent to 4.3-5.8 per cent.

In a note published on Beyond Brics, the Financial Times’s emerging markets hub, Standard Chartered Bank said the baht had been “remarkably stable during the political turmoil”, because the market had largely accounted for the unrest, and economic fundamentals were “relatively solid” in view of Thailand’s big foreign exchange reserves, substantial current account surplus and economic growth.

Could we see a delayed reaction? Or are those still in there the value investors. Time to check out the place?

Value investing: Ask the right question stupid

In Investments on 07/05/2010 at 5:16 am

Those who consult Kwan Im and other deities, know that asking the right question is the key to a successful consultation.

Likewise in business, asking the correct question is the key to success. Google did, Yahoo didn’t.

In the mid-nineties, Yahoo! tried to figure this [what web search is] out by asking of every website “where does this belong?” They created categories, then had an actual live human look at each site and make a judgment, like a librarian. … But the web grew exponentially, and there weren’t exponentially more librarians for hire. Google beat Yahoo! by asking a different question: instead of “where does this belong”, they asked “who linked here?” A link became a proxy for a human decision; to link to something is to decide that it’s in some way relevant. Google reads links as human intent i.e. web search is an attempt to figure out what people want, not what librarians say where something belongs.

So in investing prior to and during the recent crisis, Buffett (“Is there value?”), Paulson (“Is sub-prime over-valued”) asked the right questions, GIC, Temasek and many others didn’t.

Value investing at its best

In GIC, Temasek, Uncategorized on 02/05/2010 at 7:05 am

Buffett has a big stake in Goldman Sachs and the recent problems there had “experts” saying that he must have lost serious money. But no: the fall is gd for him, “Heads he wins, tails he still wins”.

FT reports:

In a surprising turn however, Mr Buffett, also explained that the travails at Goldman had been specific net positive for Berkshire, which bought $5bn of preferred shares paying a 10 per cent coupon at the heart of the credit crisis when Goldman was in need of additional funds.

Despite the roller coaster share price ride, Mr Buffett said that the headline challenges facing Goldman made it less likely that the bank would call its preferred shares. Those earn Berkshire almost $500m a year. If it the shares were called Berkshire would get $5.5bn back, but could only deposit that in low interest accounts earnings less than $20m a year.

“Every day that Goldman does not call our preferred is money in the bank,” Mr Buffett said. “Our preferred is paying $15 per second … so as we sit here… tick tick tick … its $15 in the bank. I don’t want those ticks to go away.”

If only the FTs, scholars and ex-SAF generals were quarter as gd, GIC and Temasek could make better returns, giving government more money to help the needy. They should realise, as FT’s Lex says, Funny how “once in a lifetime” opportunities roll around every few years or so.

Perils of buying on NTA III

In Corporate governance, Investments on 01/04/2010 at 5:20 am

Today, five companies no longer are listed after posting losses for five straight years: General Magnetics, Chuan Soon Huat Industrial, ASA Group, Fastech Synergy and Ionics EMS.

These delistings show yet again the danger of buying on NTA.

One, even if a firm has the cash for a buyout, most shareholders will not benefit. Ionics EMS’s exit offer of 1.5 cents per share, for example, was a 23.86 per cent discount to the 12-month volume-weighted average price (VWAP).

And as BT reported on tuesday, “With most of the companies experiencing drastic sell-offs since the de-listing notice was issued on March 2, their counters’ last-traded prices have fallen significantly below net asset value (NAV). General Magnetics’ case is the most vivid, with a $0.19 NAV per share against its last-traded price of $0.085.”

And as BT pointed out,  “Should VWAP feature more prominently than NAV in determining the exit offer, the price may end up being ridiculously low and shareholders of the five companies that face de-listing may find the options to stay or to go are not really options at all.”

But some gd news for value investors:  the investors in Lion Asiapac have gotten something — 15 cents a share via special dividend. Gd for them and great that they stood up and shouted for the money. And all without that self-proclaimed small shareholders’ champ.SIAS

http://atans1.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/perils-of-buying-on-nta-ii/

Perils of buying on NTA II

In Investments on 18/03/2010 at 5:33 am

It was reported in Today that ” Minority shareholders of Lion Asiapac are making another push for the company to pay out special dividends. Previous calls for such distribution were ignored.”

‘Mr Mano Sabnani, a Lion Asiapac shareholder, said: “The company has got more money than it needs. It can easily pay out 20 cents a share and still have a big cash hoard for new businesses.

‘Shareholders had previously petitioned Lion Asiapac’s chairman Othman Wok, calling for the distribution of special dividends to boost the stock price, which is trading at a heavily-discounted 33 cents to its cash value of 47 cents.”

The problem is that the company is a subsidiary of Lion Group, a M’sian listco, which means that Lion Group has the votes to block any such resolution.

Buying on a deep discount to NTA only works if the value investor can see some catalyst that will unlock value. Where there is a controlling shareholder or shareholders, this catalyst often does not exist. Witness Haw Par http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/hidden-tiger/,

Chemoil http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/when-a-controlling-stake-goes-at-a-massive-discount/ and

UE http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/the-perils-of-buying-on-nta-calculations/

And bear in mind that such a discount could also be a sign that investors are concerned that the cash or assets  could be used up in unprofitable businesses, rather than given back to shareholders. Again where there is a controlling shareholder or shareholders, this is more likely to happen.  Not because the shareholder wants to screw the others but often because his time horizon is very, very long.  And he has other reasons for his holdings say sentimentality.

Chinese dot.com companies listed on Nasdaq were trading below their net cash positions after the dot.com bust. Investors rightly assumed that they would not see the cash.The cash would be used to fund internet ventures etc. Anything else except be returned to shareholders. They were right.

OCBC: Value to be unlocked, cash returned to shareholders

In Investments on 08/03/2010 at 5:41 am

[Note on 26 April 2010 11.30 am, this piece was updated as the 2009 annual report was made available on website]

If OCBC mgt wants to unlock value and return cash to shareholders, this is how to do it.

First by reading the FT. “Prudential, trading at roughly 1 times embedded value, appears to be overpaying by offering 1.7 times EV for a business [AIG]with lower-quality profits. The valuation appears less outlandish, however, when compared with prevailing multiples in Asian markets of about 1.7-1.8 times”. EV means embedded value.

At its present share price (S$15.90), OCBC’s GE Life is trading 21% above its 2009 embedded value because GE LIfe’s free float is tiny: OCBC has 87% of GE Life.

At 1.7 X EV share price shld be 22.35 or 41% up.

And in 2009, AIA had 5% growth at operating level. Based on GE’s annced results, GE’ s is several times that. So given GE life’s smallish size and profitability, 2 X EV would be fair (even taking into account its very weakish presence in China: but then it is building up mkt share in Indonesia) .   At 2 X embedded value, share price is almost $26.30 — 65% up.

OCBC mgt:  Time to call, Allianz or Aviva? Or Temasek? That bull on Asian financial stocks.

After all, OCBC  can keep the bankassurance model (OCBC retains exclusivity in branch selling insurance where it has a decent branch network) ), and can buy shares in an insurance co that is buying GE Life (to participate in growth of insc biz). And remember OCBC has no access to GE Life’s cash flow. It can only equity account GE Life.

The sale would bring in around S$10.5 billion in cash to OCBC or $3.15 a share.

But I doubt whether mgt or the controlling shareholder would want to do this deal. The downside is that OCBC would shrink and be smaller than DBS once shorn of GE Life. Its engine of growth would be gone and it would be a takeover target. So long term, one could argue that deal would be bad for OCBC.

Still if I were the OCBC Lees, $2.8 billion(assuming all the proceeds are paid out)  is not to be sneered at.

Wondering why writing abt this fantasy deal? Showing off that my CF skills as gd as my writing skills. Hoping that sumeone will contact me offering me some freelance analytical work instead of word spinning work. Here’s hoping!

Buybacks: problematic in bear markets

In Accounting, Corporate governance on 03/03/2010 at 5:20 am

Based on filings with SGX in the last week of February, “the buybacks among listed firms surged last week, after very low activity for three straight weeks. A total of six companies posted 17 repurchases worth $2.1 million. The number of transactions was more than the seven repurchases from Feb 1 to 19. Among the stocks that recorded significant buybacks last week were KTL Global, HTL International, and InnoTek”, reports BT.

The theory is that a company buys back its shares when it thinks the market is undervaluing the shares.  But buying in a bear market can cause problems especially since bear markets can only be recognised in hindsight.

In a bear market, buybacks become a bad tool of creating shareholder value, and can cause management problems if they want to issue  new shares to fund an investment.

One Warren Buffett said a few months ago, ” What we know with certainty, however, is that Kraft stock, at its current price of $27, is a very expensive “currency” to be used in an acquisition. In 2007, in fact, Kraft spent $3.6 billion to repurchase shares at about $33 per share, presumably because the directors and management thought the shares to be worth more.

‘Does the board now believe those purchases were a mistake and that Kraft’s true value is only the current price of $27 per share – and that it is therefore fine to structure a major acquisition based upon that price? Would the directors use stock as merger currency if the price were, say, $20 per share? Surely the true business value of what is given is as important as the true business value of what is received when an acquisition is being evaluated. We hope all shareholders will use this yardstick in deciding how to vote.”

A week is a long time

In China, Investments on 14/01/2010 at 5:41 am

The “future’s bright” buying we saw  in the S’pore mkt in the first week of 2010 has turned to “no future” selling, since Tuesday. Looks like the penny-stock syndicates may have got their timing wrong.  Watch out for forced selling as punters ignore margin calls.

Blame the Chinese government for spooking global mkts.

To recap:

– China increased the amount banks must set aside as reserves in the clearest sign yet that the central bank is trying to tighten monetary conditions amid mounting concerns of overheating and inflation as a result of the credit boom.

– The central bank also raised interest rates modestly in the inter-bank market on Tuesday for the second time in less than a week.

Trumpets pls for my 2010 strategy: ” Look for strong balance sheets and dividends that will compensate if brokers’ optimism turn to be wrong.” http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/investment-strategy-for-2010/

We could be going back to the future. In 1993, America discovered emerging Asian mkts. Come Jan 1994, these mkts were expected to continue flying. Then Greenspan started raising US rates.

Funds started selling and mkts went down and quiet. This time it could the emerging hegemon that causes investors and brokers to  reassess their bullishness.

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.

 

Hidden Tiger?

In Investments on 11/12/2009 at 5:13 am

Haw Par historically trades at a big discount to its assets and businesses. The discount has got even bigger. Its 4% stake in UOB is now worth more than Haw Par’s market capitalisation — by about 4%.

UOB closed yesterday at S$19.84. This works out to S$6.05 a Haw Par share. Haw Par closed at S$5.83.

And Haw Par has a rat-bag of businesses and assets  ranging from healthcare products (‘Tiger Balm’), oceanriums, an aquarium (there seems to be some legal trouble here),  properties, and 5.2% of UOL (an SGX-listed property company where the UOB Wees have a controlling interest (29.13); like in Haw Par (30.6%). OK rat-bag is unfail,  its businesses are usually profitable, and the assets have value.

So at the these prices of Haw Par and UOB, one gets UOB shares at a 4% discount if one buys Haw Par shares. And the other businesses and assets are thrown in for “free”.

And who knows, one day the  value of Haw Par’s UOB shares; and its other assets, and businesses may be unlocked. Two long-term value investors have been around for years: MacKenzie Cundill Investment Management has 11.67% and Arnhold and S.Bleichroeder has 14.74%.

Meantime, we long-term investors get decent dividends: present yield is 4%.

 

Too clever by half?

In Investments, Property on 03/12/2009 at 9:57 am

The new-cosponsor MacarthurCook Industrial Reit (MI-Reit), AMP, and the new investors looked like they got a great deal when the recapitalisation of MI-Reit was annced in early November. Their entry price was 19.9 cents (taking into acct the entry price of 28 cents and the  rights issue of 2 for 1 at 15.9 cents). In the case of AMP,  it didn’t pay any cash for its initial investment. It sold properties and got shares valued at 28 cents. Ask Cambridge Reit about this.

There was a bun fight as Cambridge Reit said the deals destroyed value.

At the time the deal was done, the share price was 30 something cents. Having gone ex everything, it is now hovering at 20 cents.

So an investor coming in at 20 cents comes in almost at price that AMP etc entered. Now if I were AMP or one of the other 28-cents investors, I’d not be pleased at the engineers who planned and executed the deal.

So it is no surprise to read in today’s BT: “The new co-sponsor of MacarthurCook Industrial Reit (MI-Reit) yesterday said that it will focus on regaining unitholders’ trust before embarking on new acquisitions, likely industrial properties in Singapore and Japan.”

Cheapos (sorry value investors) like me will wait to see if it mkt price can come closer to rights issue price. All it needs is for Dubai to scare the markets one more time or another bad set of US economic numbers.

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.

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.

Mission Statement of Thoughts of a Cynical Investor

In Uncategorized on 13/11/2009 at 2:33 am

The purpose of this blog is to entertain by providing, I hope, witty,  critical and acerbic analysis of companies’ strategies, financials,  and management.  In particular to analyse the difference between what managers say they are doing, and the truth.

Just so everyone is clear where I am coming from — I analyse and write from the perspective of  a small investor who tries to invest in “special situations”: unfashionable companies that are experiencing change in their returns due to internal factors, such as restructuring, or external factors, like industry changes. Or whose high, consistent dividend payouts are ignored by the the market. Trading is not my style.

As I do not hold any adviser’s licence, I will have take care to ensure that no-one can complain that I am giving advice. And please do not ask for advice on market conditions or stocks.

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