Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

US hegemony declining?

In Energy on 31/01/2011 at 6:00 am

The US may soon be self-sufficient in energy.

Antidote to Hard Truths

In Uncategorized on 31/01/2011 at 5:12 am

Get hold of Lee Kuan Yew: The Beliefs Behind the Man by Michael Barr if you want to find out and understand the assumptions behind Hard Truths.

BTW, dipping in and out of MM’s book, I find this ST report abt the heroism of the journalists challenging MM extremely funny. Got no balls, juz keep quiet. Don’t pretend, pretend. The book shows MM was not challenged. It he was, it would have been a better book.

Or were the challenges taken out in the editing? Because MM could not counter them? Or because they showed how “spastic” the journalists were? I suspect the latter?

Overheating economy: Gd excuse for VAT rise?

In Economy on 31/01/2011 at 5:11 am

Morgan Stanley thinks that the economy here is overheating. Other countries in this category are China, South Korea and Argentina.

Expect more FTs to dampen wage inflation. And a stronger S$. Taz the usual policy response from this government.

It’s also Economics 101 (although not Politics 101) to raise taxes. Higher VAT (after elections)? You heard abt the possibility of higher VAT here first.

Yes, I’m assuming the PAP will will the next GE.

MM on Muslims: He has a point

In Uncategorized on 30/01/2011 at 6:23 am

When this can happen in M’sia to Muslims who belong to a minority branch of Islam

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but when it comes to Islam, the country’s official religion, only the Sunni sect is permitted. Other forms, including Shiite Islam, are considered deviant and are not allowed to be spread.

Mr. Mohammad was one of 130 Shiites detained by the religious authorities in December as they observed Ashura, the Shiite holy day commemorating the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Ali, in their prayer room in an outer suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

… While sectarian divisions are associated more with countries such as Iraq and Pakistan, Islamic experts say Malaysia is a rare example of a Muslim-majority country where the Shiite sect is banned. They say the recent raid reflects the religious authorities’ reluctance to accept diversity within Islam, and was part of the authorities’ continuing efforts to impose a rigid interpretation of the religion.

NYT article

Worse than insurance or used car salesmen

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

This is how this blogger describes investment bankers.

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

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

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

Coming EGM: There goes the Malay vote

In Uncategorized on 30/01/2011 at 5:27 am

In the 2006 GE, the PAP did rather worse than expected: 67% of the popular vote and 67% of the votes in PM’s GRC. An NTUC minister had said that the PM would get over 80%  of the vote in PM’s GRC.

The one consolation was that the Malays had finally swung behind PAP.  And juz in time too. They saved BG Yeo from the shame of losing a GRC to the WP.

But since then relations  between the PAP and the Malay community have gone downhill. The Malays were disappointed that they didn’t get the second cabinet seat that they tot shld have been their reward for preventing the WP from winning a GRC.

Then when the recession hit, the word is that the Malays suffered disproportionately when it came to the repossession of HDB flats. They were less prudent than other races when it came to managing their finances: they bot bigger flats than they could comfortably afford to service.

Then MM wrote them out of history late last yr, when he told a Moscow audience that the two main racial gps here were Chinese and Indians. The Malays at 14% of the population are the second largest group.

Then we have MM’s latest comments, the lest said abt the better.

What can swing the Malays behind the PAP again? What abt promising them that the next president will be a Malay of gd standing in the community, if they vote PAP?

But is there any Malay that MM trusts enough for the job, given that the job is more than ceremonial.  And if there is such a Malay, is he of gd standing in the Malay community?

Update at 5.39:

Juz read this by the Minister for Malay Affairs trying to explain MM’s words. Don’t think he succeeded.

Right idea, wrong audience

In Uncategorized on 29/01/2011 at 10:38 am

To “win fans and friends” for the Republic, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) will be going where it has never gone before: For the first time, it has appointed a public relations consultancy to help come up with a strategy “to market Singapore holistically”, Today reported.

Juz like VivianB to goof up., was my initial tot.

The target audience should be S’poreans. Tell us why we should continue voting for VivianB and his friends?

Or maybe, and more likely, the cabinet tot abt it, but concluded that a mere PR agency (with all its airhead China babes) was not up to the task? And that anyway it would be unconstitutional. One cannot use government money to perputuate PAP rule.

Hence the wheeling out of MightMind and his “Hard Truths”?

Genting S’pore: Give it a break

In Casinos on 29/01/2011 at 8:41 am

Recently, there was an ant–terrorist exercise at RWS. Shouldn’t it have been held at Marina Sands?

In addition to being a casino, there are two more compelling reasons for it being a target for Paki terrorists. It is owned by an American and a church uses part of the place on Sundays to hold services.

Genting on the other hand is HQed in a Muslim nation and is no friend of Flipper — “The enemy of an enemy is my friend”.

Casinos: Trouble at Marina Sands?

In Casinos on 29/01/2011 at 6:52 am

CEO is going, This would be second major resignation in months.

Could it be that MM waz right that the ramp up in Sands would be slower than what mgt expected?

Or that mgt couldn’t get the little people from M’sia, Indonesia and S’pore to patronise the casino? Too ang moh for their taste?

Muslims: Cut MM sume slack

In Uncategorized on 29/01/2011 at 5:25 am

MM has a point abt some younger Muslims refusing to eat at where non-halal food was being eaten. “And they tend to sit separately so as not to be contaminated. All that becomes a social divide.”

And remember last yr juz before CNY, a Malay principal was overruled when he made the school tuckshop halal. Only halal food could be sold. And kids were not allowed to bring non-halal food to school. His reasoning waz that over 50% of students were Muslims.

This and this are replies from Muslim organisations, but this Hard Truth of MM was not addressed, Why?

Because it is a Hard Truth?

BTW, I find the silence of the minister for Malay matters, PM and SM worrying on this point worrying. They may disagree with MM on the other points he makes abt Muslims, but on this point they should support MM.

And where is the “constructive, nation-buiding” on this issue? Most reports omit the bit, “And they tend to sit separately so as not to be contaminated. All that becomes a social divide.”

Come on ministers and media, rally behind MM!

[Last two paras added at 8.30am, after I skimmed thru the papers]

First Reit — First among equals?

In Uncategorized on 28/01/2011 at 5:43 am

OCBC Securities issued a report a few days ago.

First Reit’s Q4 2010 results were within expectations. Gross revenue declined 0.2 per cent y-o-y but increased 0.2 per cent q-o-q to $7.65 million; net property income decreased 0.3 per cent y-o-y but increased 0.5 per cent q-o-q to $7.56 million; while distributable income increased 2.8 per cent y-o-y and 1.6 per cent q-o-q to $5.43 million. FY2010 gross revenue increased 0.4 per cent to $30.27 million, which was 0.2 per cent above our estimates; it would have increased 4.4 per cent to $31.49 million if we include the deferred rental income from Pacific Cancer Centre’s asset enhancement initiative. Net property income grew 0.1 per cent to $29.88 million, which formed 99.9 per cent of our estimates.

Distributable income for the same period rose 1.8 per cent to $21.35 million and was 1.4 per cent higher than our forecast.

First Reit’s growth was largely driven by higher rental income from its Indonesian properties, thanks in part to the variable rental component in its master leases. First Reit’s Indonesian properties formed 86.7 per cent of its gross revenues (including the deferred income from Pacific Cancer Centre) for FY2010, and we expect Indonesia to play an even more pivotal role in First Reit’s development. Read the rest of this entry »

Risks in the global economy

In Uncategorized on 28/01/2011 at 5:39 am

A gd roundup.

India and China may get it wrong in their fight to control inflation. Too tight policies will badly affect growth round the vworld. Too loose, and bubbles are a’coming.

MM and Lucky Tan could both be wrong

In Political economy on 28/01/2011 at 5:28 am

MM and Lucky Tan disagree on many things (see this piece by Lucky) But as the piece shows they agree that if the PAP cannot deliver material prosperity, it will get kicked out fast. They of course disagree on whether the PAP is delivering prosperity, and what is prosperity

But they both could be wrong on the PAP quickly losing power if the PAP cannot deliver prosperity. Think Japan and the LDP. After holding power continuously from its inception in 1955 (with the exception of a ten-month period in 1993–1994), Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost control of the national government only in September 2009. This despite failing to fix the economy for 16 years. An economy that had crashed after a huge bubble had burst in the early 1990s.

One reason, among several. The people knew the LDP was incompetent but they tot the Opposition was worse. So they kept voting LDP, in the hope that the LDP would get its act together, until they decided that the Opposition could not do any worse. Note the party in power, the JDP, since 2009 has been lurching from crisis to crisis.

Don’t enter the dragon

In China, Corporate governance on 27/01/2011 at 5:20 am

To avoid being shafted.

I was reading these Shanghai Asia related letters to the press a couple of weeks was and preening myself myself for giving Shanghai Asia a miss several yrs ago. What attracted me then was that the company was making foil paper for cigarette manufacturers. And the Chinese were (and are) smoking all the way to hell.

But fast forward to today and this business is being sold at an unattractive price. Minority shareholders are rightly upset but can’t do anything because the controlling shareholder supports the deal.

I gave it a miss because S-Chips were then in the Wild, Wild West when it came to corporate governance. They still are it seems, notwithstanding the efforts of SGX and the SIAS, the shareholders’ champ, to assure us that S-Chips are well regulated.

Even Chinese companies listed in the US are considered dodgy by this widely followed writer on all things investments.

So let’s give S-Chips that have everything in China except a few independepent directors here a miss, shall we?

Starhill Reit: Worth a look at?

In Property, Reits on 26/01/2011 at 5:25 am

Yield of 6.2%  is decent, even though one can find reits with higher yields, even within its sub-sector,.

But it trades at 64.5cents, a large discount to its lasyed reported RNAV of 89 cents. There is room to gear up further given its gearing is 31%. In other words it doesn’t need to calls a rights issue to fund run-of-the mill acquisitions.

Better still rents along Orchard Rd are likely to go up further by another 3-5% yearly (no new supply) likely, analysts say. Remember Starhill generates two-thirds of its revenue from Ngee Ann City and Wisma Atria.

Kim Eng is bullish on Starhill noting that about 20% of its retail leases in Singapore are expiring this year and that so far, the rates of those leases are about 30 per cent below rentals in the fourth quarter of last year. Kim Eng sees a positive rental revision in the next two years.

Might buy some for myself. Better than keeping money with CPF.

Election goodies: What to judge them against

In Economy on 26/01/2011 at 5:17 am

Well the goodies bandwagon is rolling with S$235m in educational goodies. Then there was last yr’s annc that HDB had budgetetd S$550 million budget under its Main Upgrading, Interim Upgrading and Lift Upgrading programmes: around 54,000 flat owners in Pasir Ris, Hougang and Tampines can expect new amenities in their neighbourhoods, including new car porches, covered linkways and children’s playgrounds.

S$785mn so far on election goodies.Any other smaller ticket items I missed out YPAP*?

Sounds pretty decent.

But in analysing the amount S’poreans are getting back, S’poreans should judge the figures against the total of two numbers

— S$8.7bn that Temasek lost on Barclays and Merrill Lynch. In financial year ending March 2008  the government injected abt S$10 billion into Temasek. This sum was more or less equal to the amount that the government took in property sales for that year. “Easy come, easy go, Ho, Ho Ho,” because in the following yr Temasek could have lost as much as S$7bn on Merrill Lynch. And S$ 1.7bn  on Barclays. Err not much change left over from injection: only S$1.3bn, “peanuts” as Mrs GCT might have put it, except she didn’t.

— S$4.8bn that went into govmin coffers (net of welfare spending) as a result from the increase in GST from 5 to 7%. See RP’s Tony Tan analysis. Don’t look down on scholarship winners, juz because PM and Mah Bow Tan won scholarships. Scholars usually have great analytical skills.

Let’s see if govmin gives us goodies close to S$13.5bn, or juz “peanuts”.

Or if we want to be absolutely fair, see if the goodies exceed the S$4.8bn from the GST increase. After all, we all know that gambling is risky, and that the S$8.7bn loss could have been a gain. Ho,Ho,Ho.


*You people might as well do sume useful work for the PAP, rather than embarrassing the party by the crass, boorish and stupid behaviour of yr members.

Why partying hard is better than studying too hard

In Uncategorized on 25/01/2011 at 5:15 am

Or why the party animals do so much better than the swots. At the very least, they have more fun.

New York Times columnist David Brooks says that while practising a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, a sleepover with a group of 14-year-old girls is far more intellectually demanding.

“Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group – these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.”

Cheo Ming Shen and me

In Internet on 25/01/2011 at 5:13 am

Not exactly. It’s abt me and one of his co’s, Nuffnang. I heard a Cheo pontificating on BBC on Nuffnang (he was founder and CEO) , which spotted the chance to put advertising in blank spaces on online blogs.

Anyway, make up yr mind abt him based on my experiences with Nuffnang.

On 21 December 2010 I emailed Nuffnang. I had some queries on whether their ad services could help me and them make money. I got this response:

Our office is closed from 6 December till 10 December for team building trip and we’ll have no access to the Internet. As such, we’ll not be able to respond to your ticket immediately.

However, rest assured that all tickets submitted will be responded to latest by 13 December.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused. Thank you.

Your support ticket has been created and sucessfully dispatched to the Blogger Enquiries/Suggestions department. Your ticket information is as follows:

I replied

Hi, note today is 21 Dec.

Hit the booze early?

As it was the hols, I promptly forget abt Nuffnang until I saw Cheo Ming Shen’s name and pics all over the blogsphere. I googled and found that he and founder of Nuffnang waz the same person.

Can sumeone tell Cheo to tell Nuffnang to reply to me?

FSLP: For the brave heart

In Shipping on 25/01/2011 at 5:10 am

First Ship Lease Trust offers a  gd yield (a shade under 11%%) and trades (46.5cents) at a respectable discount below last reported RNAV of 57cents.

But as DBS Sec which calls it “Hold” says

While the distribution per unit (DPU) payout was maintained at 0.95 US cents for the quarter, the trust had to draw down US$0.7 million of working capital to distribute the US$5.7 million to unitholders, after the usual quarterly loan repayment of US$8 million.

The product tankers continue to be deployed in the spot voyage markets, but utilisation rates and net bareboat equivalent income remain below expectations. While freight income was higher q-o-q in Q4 2010, expenses were higher as well and the two tankers generated bareboat charter equivalent revenue of US$0.2 million in Q4 2010, compared to the US$3.8 million revenue per quarter applicable during the original charter. With tanker rates unlikely to perform in the near term, we choose to remain conservative on our earnings assumptions from these vessels in FY2011.

While the trust did not provide an update on fleet valuation of US$700 million as at end-Q3 2010, a big change is unlikely. This puts the current value- to-loan ratio at 154 per cent, and implies about 160 per cent coverage at the end of the waiver period in June 2011, above the requirement of 145 per cent. We expect DPU payouts to remain at the current level in the near term, and given that we have not yet seen any acquisition funded by the US$28 million placement proceeds raised in FY2009, we maintain our ‘hold’ call at an unchanged target price of $0.45.

TOC & the Economist

In Uncategorized on 24/01/2011 at 5:43 am

[Update at 9.51 am

The article (with a govmin rejoinder dated 21 January has appeared dated 19th January. Funnily it wasn’t there on Saturday or on Sunday. Ah well, this is S’pore]

TOC has published an extract it claims comes from the Economist on its gazetting.

As a subscriber to the Economist, I can’t find the original article.

I’ve even used the search engine to try to locate the piece. No luck.

Someone has also queried TOC. No response. In fact TOC repeats the claim.

Kingmaker is deluded?

Harbinger of a gd yr for US and the world?

In Uncategorized on 24/01/2011 at 5:33 am

With its diverse portfolio of business and finance units, including the nation’s largest nonbank financial institution, G.E.’s latest report presented a glimpse of expectations for US economy as it recovers from the downturn, and for the potential of global markets where the company is aggressively looking around for opportunities. Witness China where it is prepared to sell advanced avionics even if it transfers technology to China, a tranfer that can be used to hurt US commercial and military interests. “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them,”Lenin said.


George, S’poreans can multi-task?

In Uncategorized on 24/01/2011 at 5:32 am

Singapore is likely to hold general elections in the second quarter of this year, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said ruling out the third quarter because of the presidential election due by August.

Waz so difficult abt voting on two separate issues if we have to*, George?

And George, not all of us are like the PM.

Backgrounder:  the PM in the last GE implied that he couldn’t multi-task. He said if we voted in more opposition candidates, he would be too busy fixing opposition, to gd things for S’pore.

Going by the unhappiness of S’poreans on public tpt overcrowding, rising HDB prices, influx of FTs, and the failure to capture a terrorist suspect, and the presence of three Opposition MPS , PM was right, wasn’t he abt his multi-tasking skills?

But let’s give it him. He is humble abt his abilities, not like KennethJ, the wannabe leader of the Opposition. More like the destroyer of the SPP and SDA, if you ask me.


*I mean we have had only one election for the post of elected president. It’s president by nomination, not election. Let’s see if Tan Kin Lian tries to stand. His petition to himself still exists .

Sounds like PAP govmin

In Wit on 23/01/2011 at 7:22 am

The Sunday Telegraph has a story about the owner of a Bournemouth gift shop who says business is booming after he put up a sign saying customers can buy two but pay for three. BBC Online

Church Of Our Saviour on a roll

In Wit on 23/01/2011 at 7:21 am

First it was AWARE, ST and then TOC. Who next?

Remember several years ago some members of COOS hatched the takeover of “anal sex and being gay are normal”AWARE? They lost that battle but they got what they wanted: MoE took AWARE off the list of organisations allowed to provide sex education in schools, and tightened the criteria for admission to that list. I understand that organisations teaching traditional Christian values  now dominate the list. Not because they are Christian, but because what they teach resonates with the PAP’s family value ethos. None of this “anal sex and being gay are normal” subversive stuff.

ST got scolded by a minister for its coverage of the AWARE story: too pro gay and ant-Christian. ST denied this. It would deny it, would it?

TOC was a big supporter of the AWARE people that retook control of the mgt. Now TOC is gazetted*.

Looks like the god COOS worships is powerful. Enemies of COOS got beaten up thrice.

Now what will “If God is with us, who can be against us?” COOS do for an encore?

Cause problems for Siew Kum Hong? Why Kum Hong? He was at the AWARE EGM, supporting the  “anal sex and being gal is normal” team against the people of COOS. He also presented a petition to parly on behalf of the GLBT gang.

What can the god of COOS do?

God of COOS makes his hair sprout again? He will lose brand recognition. BTW, he had a full head of hair in first yr law school.

Or the Siews having a baby accidentally? If  COOS’ god can do virgin births, he can do accidental births. Now that will bugger up Kum Hong’s civil society activities. For one he will have a lot less sleep.

*Wonder if Pastor Derek Hong offered a public prayer of thanks for this and were hosannas sung?

Dying for other S’poreans, an alternative?

In Wit on 23/01/2011 at 7:12 am

Err wonder if MM minds if I buy his latest book instead of being willing to die “for each other”?

Seriously, why should I be willing to die for Malaysian Chinese who live here for yonks, profess to hate M’sia but refuse to become citizens?

Or for light-skinned Aryan PRs or citizens who call my fellow S’poreans, “low caste Hindus”.

Or an Indian FT telling me and a policeman (Tamil S’porean) that S’pore laws didn’t apply to her. She was Indian.

Or for new citizens from Pakistan who say they only became S’poreans because they wanted the S’pore passport: less likely to be quizzed at immigration for being terrorists.

MM should remember why British soldiers had a reputation for not willing to admit that they were beaten. They served in regiments from a particular region or sometimes same occupation (In WWI, there was a regiment of artists, I kid you not). The soldiers belonged to a community and were filling to die for one another.

With a third (going to a half) of the population being foreigners, is there a community of S’poreans in S’pore? One was forming (with the active encouragement of the government) until the government (thinking they could get away with community and low wages) decided to let the foreigners in.

China: Not selling US treasuries

In China on 23/01/2011 at 6:47 am

Juz buying via London

If S’pore is as close to China as MM, PM, SM and other ministers, and our “constructive, nation building” media say they are, surprised that the Chinese do not do it via S’pore.

China: Link between weak currency and inflation

In China, Economy on 22/01/2011 at 6:06 am

A gd explanation from a biased economist. He wants to use tariffs to “fix” China.

[I]nflation is the market’s way of undoing currency manipulation. China has been using a weak currency to keep its wages and prices low in dollar terms; market forces have responded by pushing those wages and prices up, eroding that artificial competitive advantage. Some estimates I’ve heard suggest that at current rates of inflation, Chinese undervaluation could be gone in two or three years — not soon enough, but sooner than many expected. Read the rest of this entry »

A mainlander, Taiwanese, Hongkie & S’porean

In Wit on 22/01/2011 at 5:26 am

A mainlander, a Taiwanese, a Hongkie and a S’porean all sit on a chair with a nail pointed up.

The mainlander yells, then picks up the nail and tosses it away.

The Taiwanese says “ah a nail!” and puts it into his pocket because it might be useful later.

The Hongkie says “ah a nail!” and puts it into his pocket because he thinks he can sell it.

The S’porean just sits down right on top of it and stays there because he thinks that is the way the things are supposed to be.

And what does the Malaysian Chinese do? He puts it away, planning to put it on a chair that another M’sian, or a S’porean will sit on.

Casinos: Flies in the ointment

In Casinos on 22/01/2011 at 5:25 am

The casinos have done better than anyone could have dreamed of. Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa generated $420 million in net revenue for the government between April and November last year.And also collected $130 million in casino entry levies on behalf of the Tote Board for the same period.

Too bad Turf Club and clubs scan0009.

But it could have been better. I’m saying this as sumeone who tot S’pore had missed the cruse boat on casinos first by refusing to allow them until 2004 (mid 1990s would have been “betterest”) and by insisting that casinos play down the mass market side of the trade with the integrated resort and high roller concepts. The govmin wanted casinos as part of IRs. It wanted high rollers in dinner jackets, dancing gals and dolphins, fancy eating places: anything but the ordinary punter.

The numbers show that casino and hence the tax revenues could be higher if not for the govmin. As Sentosa has shown with a vengeance, the ordinary punters from M’sia and S’pore with the help of middle class Indon tourists  are the main stay of the casinos, not the high rollers the govmin wanted. And they don’t go there because of the food or gals or for anything else. They go to gamble.

And one problem why the high rollers are not coming: the rules on junket operators have not been finalised.

This takes me to the second “fly in the ointment”. Too tight the rules, and the operators will not bring in the high rollers. Too lax the rules, and there goes the banking and wealth mgt aspirations or worse. A reputation as a money laundering centre will kill the banking and wealth mgt industry overnight. The fear and danger is that  serious money can be laundered by a few unscrupulous junket operators, the majority of whom focus on servicing genuine high rollers.

Uniquely S’pore: having as major driver-industries, gambling on one hand, and banking and wealth mgt industry on the other.

MM: not mean, juz trying to show affection?

In Uncategorized on 21/01/2011 at 5:44 am

Maybe S’poreans are daft to misunderstand MM’s comments about S’poreans that many take to be “disrespectful”, “unfair”  (Tan Kin Lian for one I think) and “mean-spirited”.

Maybe MM picked up the British sense of humour, along with with a Double First (with Star) and Mrs Lee when he was at uni there?

Anyone from anywhere can be cruel, anyone from anywhere can be witty, but there is something particularly British about cruel wit. John Lennon, with his withering remarks about Ringo Starr (“Not even the best drummer in The Beatles”) and the avant-garde (“French for bullshit”), had it. Writers past (Evelyn Waugh) and present (AA Gill) have it. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has it, and gets into political scrapes when he flaunts it.

The anything-goes approach applies as much to everyday conversation as it does to comedy, where the subject of British irreverence has been analysed to death … It feels natural to those of us who grew up with it, but British banter—the playfully barbed conversational style adopted by groups of friends in bars, offices and even classrooms up and down the country—can baffle and perturb foreigners. It is especially jarring when set against the popular image of Britain as a more decorous and civil place than most. Even tamer badinage in this country can, to a foreign ear, sound like enmity. The moment the ice is truly broken between two newly acquainted Britons is when one teases the other about something. Reginald D Hunter, an American comedian who does most of his work over here, says Britain is the only country where people will introduce you to a friend by saying, “This is my mate Barry, he’s a bit of a twat.”

Economist blog

Declaration of interest: I like the British way. Yes it’s mean and cruel but it is fun.

China: What we don’t hear from our MSM

In China, Economy, GIC, Temasek on 21/01/2011 at 5:16 am

In their new book, “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise” (John Wiley & Sons), Carl E. Walter and Fraser J.T. Howie paint a troubling portrait of China’s economy and its financial system. Despite the nation’s mind-boggling growth and images of gleaming skyscrapers and luxury cars, the authors say China’s growth model is flawed and fragile, and they warn about substantial risks accumulating in its banking system.


Backgrounder: S’pore Inc has big bets on China

Citibank: What our MSM doesn’t tell us

In Banks, GIC on 20/01/2011 at 5:35 am

Our MSM focused on the fact that last yr was Citi’s first profitable yr since 2007. But it didn’t say much abt fact that Citi’s latest quarterly profits disappointed the mkt because they are due to a tax credit and a transfer from its reserves, nothing to do improving operations.

Could it be because GIC stills owns a lot of it? And with a GE coming, the “constructive, nation building” media don’t want to remind us that returns for shareholders are not going to be great for some time?

20-sumethings don’t do gratitude

In Economy, Property on 20/01/2011 at 5:34 am

As you will be aware, UMNO in Malaysia has, since the mid 1990s, been losing the support of younger Malay voters. In an attempt to correct this, UMNO in the early and mid noughties conducted dialogues between the senior politicians and Malay voters in their 20s. An intellectual who attended a few of these sessions told me how they went: comically tragic.

The politicians reminded the young Malays of what UMNO had done for the Malays and told them that they shld be grateful for the affirmative policies and vote UMNO.

The young responded by saying, “Why should we be grateful? We were born after the implementation of these policies. If you remove these policies, you are the bigger losers, not us. What concerns us is the future and not history.” They then went on to list their grievances: lack of job opportunities, inflation, corruption and so on.

My friend says the politicians couldn’t accept this answer and called the young, ungrateful and rude. Something he said that did the UMNO no good. UMNO did not get their votes. But he says post-2008, UMNO is learning to accept that young Malays don’t do gratitude, and has begun addressing their concerns, rather than lecturing them, telling them that they should be grateful.

Translating this into our context, reading the ST articles on their collaboration with MM on his latest book, I get the sense that MM is not happy with younger S’poreans because he thinks that they do not appreciate (and are not grateful) for what he and the PAP have done for them.

Read the rest of this entry »

S’pore equities: Can’t argue with this safety first approach

In Economy, Investments on 20/01/2011 at 5:31 am

UOB Kay Hian says that with the prospect of slowing economic growth and reasonable stock market valuations in 2011, investors should balance their portfolio with a combination of high-yielding large-cap and mid-cap counters that offer a higher margin for growth.

Despite the moderate earnings [8%} outlook for Singapore compared with its regional peers, we think Singapore’s safe haven status will continue to attract selective investor interest amid the uncertain external outlook.

Investors will be best served by having a balanced portfolio comprising firstly of counters that promise high and sustainable dividend yields.

These would be local telcos StarHub and M1, along with real-estate investment trusts K-Reit, Sabana Reit and CapitaCommercial Trust.

And’laggard’ large-cap stocks that offer good growth prospects eg. the banks. Its top pick in this segment is OCBC, followed by DBS. (I prefer Haw Par because of its stake in UOB).

Investors should also be on the lookout for the so-called Garp (growth at a reasonable price) stocks in both the mid-cap, like  Ezra and Ezion, CDL Hospitality Trusts, First Resources and Super Group, and large-cap space.

Its ‘sell’ calls include Keppel Corporation, SingTel, Tiger Airways and CapitaLand. Surprised abt Keppel call because the offshore marine sector is looking gd, what with firm oil prices and offshore projects in Brazilian waters.

2011: In the shadow of the volcano

In Economy on 19/01/2011 at 5:49 am

Great description of the situation: In the shadow of the volcano

The central theme was that we shouldn’t be gulled by the clear evidence of recovery into thinking it’s business as normal again.

There are signs of new bubbles being pumped up – in China, for example. Perhaps more importantly, the structural flaws to the global financial system (banks that are under-capitalised and remain too big to fail, the excessive indebtedness of the West, and so on) have not yet been fixed.

Watch the video embedded in Robert Preston’s blog posting.

SGX: Don’t count yr chickens before they are hatched

In Uncategorized on 19/01/2011 at 5:47 am

Hutchison Whampoa, one of the flagship companies of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, said that it would spin off some of its busiest container port operations in what could be one of the biggest stock market listings in Asia this year, reports The New York Times.

The expected US$6bn business trust is planned to be listed on SGX. HK doesn’t have laws for business trusts only Reits.

Well that can be changed. Juz cut and paste S’pore’s lawa and listing rules.

Let’s wait until the fat lady sings. I don’t see HK rolling over on this.

Valuations: There is an element of subjectivity my dear

In Uncategorized on 19/01/2011 at 5:23 am

A lady wrote in to ST complaining that valuations shld be based on “fundamentals”, not “sentiment”. Two different valuations that differed by $200,000 on the same property, she seems to be saying. Can’t be sure, scan0010

Well valuation is an art, not a science. Subjective factors like “sentiment” are a factor.

And taz why gd investors like Peter Lim and Warren Buffett are so rare. They see the same numbers as any other investor but they got that extra bit of insight.

British humour at its best

In Uncategorized on 18/01/2011 at 6:05 am

And the oh-so politically correct American critics, the targets hate it.

“It’s going to be a night of partying and heavy drinking – or as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast.”

While introducing Robert Downey Jr – “Many of you in this room probably know him best from such facilities as the Betty Ford Clinic and Los Angeles County Jail.” … Downey Jr quipped in return: “Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?”

BBC report on Ricky Gervais as Golden Globes host

It will have you in stitches.

The iPAD is Chinese

In China on 18/01/2011 at 5:36 am

According to a report by a pair of economists out of the Asian Development Bank Institute, the success of Apple’s iPhone plays a major role in contributing to the USA’s trade deficit with China. The Wall Street Journal (login required) explains that while sales of the iPhone show around a billion trade surplus with China on paper as of 2009, the actual figure is a lot less because the iPhone is only assembled in China, not designed there. While the wholesale price of an iPhone is 8.96, the value of the only truly “Chinese” part is assembly, valued at .50 per unit. But because the iPhone ships from inside China, the entire value gets added into the trade figures, thus showing the billion trade surplus. If the numbers actually accounted for the true value coming out of China, the surplus for 2009 would have been about million instead — meaning in reality there is an almost billion trade deficit just from the iPhone alone.

The iPHONE is Japanese

“He is the equivalent of Nelson Mandela to Singaporeans”

In Uncategorized on 18/01/2011 at 5:35 am

Not only do netizens don’t appreciate this comparison, but I don’t think MM would appreciate the comparison either.

MM is a believer in realpoltik, the art of the possible. He would be comfortable being associated the legalism strand of Chinese philosophy. Mandela is an idealist. He aims for the impossible, and sometimes gets it to the consternation of those who are cynical or skeptical or fans of the All Blacks.

Example: Rugby is a religion to the white Afrikaan tribe. And the greatest rival to the SA Springboks is the NZ All Blacks. In 1994, the rugby world cup was held in South Africa. The black South Africans were planning to cheer on the ABs, because they wanted the Springboks to lose. The Boks were a symbol of everything they hated about the white Afrikaans who had until very recently oppressed them.

But then Mandela wore a Bok jersey and visited the Boks. He said the Boks were South African. The blacks swung behind the Boks and the Boks upset the ABs. The Afrikaans were grateful to Mandela and the black majority for supporting the Boks to victory. And the racial wars that many predicted didn’t happen.

Even his most devoted acolytes would admit that MM could not pull this off.

No, LKY would, I think, like to be compared with the likes of Richard Nixon (the statesman who opened China to the West and initiated détente with the USSR, not the president who resigned in disgrace over Watergate), Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiopeng and Henry Kissinger. Men who were pragmatists, not idealists.

Be afraid, very afraid Cheo. MM does not like dumb flattery. I’ve heard of foreign tycoons being told off when the flattery they lavished on him rubbed him the wrong way.

The iPhone is Japanese

In Internet, Uncategorized on 17/01/2011 at 6:07 am

Flip over your iPhone: “Designed … in California, assembled in China.” What it doesn’t say is that it was largely made by Japan. Components produced by Toshiba and Murata account for about a third of the iPhone’s total bill of materials, a higher proportion than from any other country. Courtesy of the FT’s Lex

MM got it right, Temasek got it wrong

In Banks, Temasek on 17/01/2011 at 5:34 am

As this article shows, Temasek shld not have been so hasty in selling its stake in BoA, which it got after BoA bot Merrill Lynch where Temasek had a big investment. BOA is doing the things that attracted it to spend US$5.9 bn buying shares in Merill Lynch. Temasek lost US$4.6 bn, it was reported.

Shortly before Temasek sold, MM had said that S’pore Inc’s investments in Citi, UBS, and Merill Lynch had a time-frame of 30 yrs. Temasek held its ML investment for over a yr. GIC still owns shares in Citi (profitable), and UBS (big loss).

(Aside so why should the young listen to him, when Temasek doesn’t? Other instances). Neither does it seem does the local media)

Bank of America is headed for its best year [2011]advising on mergers and acquisitions in Asia-Pacific since 2005, and arranging initial public offerings since 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The combined companies have generated 30 percent more revenue from traditional investment-banking businesses in the region than they did as separate entities … Read the rest of this entry »

Dolphins: cash for freedom?

In Casinos on 17/01/2011 at 5:25 am

Resorts World Sentosa and the Gentings gp have not been getting gd publicity on the dolphins’ issue. There was unfavourable media coverage from the local media, of all people and the govmin has weighed in stating that Gentings have to comply with all the int’l rules on captive dolphins. When these two disassociate themselves from a money-making machine like RWS, Gentings gp needs to take note.

The dolphins are now believed to be somewhere in the Philppines, having been quietly airfreighted ASAP from Langkawi. The int’l media and animal rights activists are trying to find out where they are. Now if one or more were to fall seriously ill or, worse, die, Gentings would face more bad publicity. And punters may think it bad luck to gamble at a place that hurt or killed Flipper’s friends.

Genting S’pore shld ask the govmin how much it will cost Genting to get the condition that it has to have dolphins in the IR removed. And if the govmin refuses or demands too much money, Genting can tell the world, “We tried.”

Whatever the outcome, institutional investors in the West will be more receptive to buying Genting S’pore shares. Now they run the risk of  being associated with a “Killing Flipper” investment. The other listcos in the Gentings gp also run the risk of being accessories to the murder of Flipper.

As to paying out money, Genting is rumoured to be used to it. It is widely believed in M’sia that the attacks by the Malaysian Chinese Association on the busing of M’sian gamblers to Sentosa, is motivated by money. With an election coming, the MCA wants money from Gentings. In return, the attacks will cease.

Forecasts are rubbish? What to do?

In Financial competency, Investments on 16/01/2011 at 8:29 am

It’s the time of yr when forecasts are a dime a dozen. What shld be our attitude towards them? Treat them to way many netizens treat MM Lee’s pearls of wisd0m?

Byron R. Wien, the veteran strategist who has been issuing market forecasts for decades … says the quick answer is this: Don’t take these forecasts too seriously, and don’t view them as the literal truth.

“Few people get forecasts right very often,” he says. “I certainly don’t. I don’t even attempt to make a literal forecast. I try to come up with some ideas that are provocative, and worth thinking about.”

Benjamin Graham, the late Columbia professor and path-breaking value investor, gave some thought to market forecasts. He didn’t dismiss them entirely, but he didn’t place much store in them, either. In his classic Read the rest of this entry »

Coming EGM: wealth creation and social justice

In Uncategorized on 16/01/2011 at 8:28 am

We can’t build economic efficiency or social justice simply in the way we have tried before. It won’t be enough to rely on a deregulated market economy providing the tax revenues for redistribution … The critical insight of Labour in my generation is that both wealth creation and social justice need to be built into the way our economy works. The leader of the UK Opposition, Ed Milband recently.

I hope the PM realises that wealth creation and social justice need to be built into the way our economy [and public administration*] works. (*My addition.)

I concede that economically, the PAP got most things right. My main grouse is that the casinos should have come a decade earlier.

It’s on social justice that I fault the PAP.

Take Workfare. I prefer Workfare to Minimum Wage in principle. But the take home pay component is pathetic — $250 a year in one case . True poor people need money in old age (if they don’t starve to death or die prematurely thru malnutrition in the meantime) but they also need money now.

Building wealth creation and social justice into the fabric of the economy and public administration can help govmin achieve its policy objectives. Social justice shld not be looked at as mere expenditure. E.g. if poorer S’poreans felt that there was social justice, they would be less resistant to the liberal immigration policy, or the call to be “cheaper, better faster”. Economy grows, govmin is happy and so are the people.

And help the ambition of the PAP to continue dominating politics here. Do the right thing wealth creation and social justice, not juz say it; and I for one wouldn’t mind another 50 years of the PAP in power.

I’m in my mid 50s and all things considered I would have voted PAP from 1959 to 1991, based on what the PAP did in terms of wealth creation and social justice. From then on, I wouldn’t, because social justice became mere words.

It’s When You Start And When You Finish

In ETFs, Uncategorized on 16/01/2011 at 7:01 am

Tan Kin Lian, Fisca and yrs sincerely are strong advocates of investing via low-cost ETFs. Hey we not that smart: Warren Buffett advises retail investors to buy low-cost index funds. ETFs are a form of index funds.

But it’s not a no-brainer, risk-free investment strategy. You still can lose money. This US-centric illustration shows why: It’s When You Start And When You Finish.

There are no easy answers when building an egg-nest for yr retirement. Buying life insurance packaged with an investing element is not an easy answer. It is expensive and often is not the answer to building an egg nest. The returns that the agent shows you are not guaranteed. They juz example leh.

Taz why Fisca and TKL advocate by term insurance and invest the rest in ETFs.

Have the Reds come to this?

In Uncategorized on 16/01/2011 at 5:57 am

Alan Hansen, a former ‘Pool star and now footie commentator writes, If Liverpool play as they have done recently there will be nothing there for them against an Everton side who can be as good or as bad as anything around, but if they defend well then it is certainly within the capabilities of Dalglish’s team to get a result. I think how Liverpool defend will have a big influence on the outcome of the game. Article

This team must be from a parallel universe, where the Toffees are the top team on Merseyside, with a trophy room full of European, and English trophies.

‘Pool fans I met yesterday expect a loss today.

Another cute Pandas’ pix

In Uncategorized on 15/01/2011 at 2:55 pm


Adopt Arsenal money model – Uefa

In Footie on 15/01/2011 at 6:50 am

Err but where are the trophies? Fans, and owners (most of them unless they are Americans) want glory before money. Footie is more than abt money. It’s abt trophies and loyalties.

Arsenal have been held up as a shining example by Uefa as European football’s governing body prepares to implement tough new financial restrictions.

From the 2011-12 season clubs must break even over a rolling three-year period or risk a possible ban from Uefa European competitions.

Uefa compared Arsenal’s approach to that of clubs with super-rich owners.

“What model waits for a knight rider on a horse and then rides away?” said Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s meticulous and sensible approach to spending has helped the north Londoners strengthen their finances over the last 10 years, as some of their rivals’ own position has weakened.

BBC Online article

Thaipusam: “stop this brutality”?

In Holidays and Festivals on 15/01/2011 at 6:46 am

I did a double take when I saw this pix on ToC’s front page and below it “We must stop this brutality,” says Human Rights Lawyer.

I tot “Oh no. Not another attack on Thaipusam”.

I clicked the story and it turned out that the lawyer meant the recent curbs on the Thaipusam procession, not the body piecing spikes.

I must admit I shudder and feel ill whenever I see pixs of khavadi carrying devotees. They may not feel the pain, but I do.

But no, I do not want the practice to stop. It’s the devotees’ religion, not mine.


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