Posts Tagged ‘Keppel’

Qns for Keppel, SembCorp Marine

In Energy, Temasek on 24/02/2016 at 2:08 pm

FT’s Nick Butler  had 4 questions for the oil majors’ results season:  where they spintheir annual results, declare dividends and reveal strategy updates. These are useful questions for Keppel and SembBorp Marine except the second question should be about their vanalysis of their clients projects. And for Temasek too. And useful guide when asking questions about the small cap offshore marine stocks: stocks like Ezra amd Swiber. Btw, it’s rumoured that Temasel officials used Nick Butler’s questions when they last met Keppel and SembCorp Marine executives.

First, did you foresee the fall in prices across the energy sector in the past two years? I don’t think anyone can answer that with a yes, which leads inexorably to the supplementary question: if not, why not? This is the question the Queen asked a group of economists after the financial crash and the 2008 downturn. It seems she is still waiting for a clear answer.

Second, what proportion of your producing assets and projects under development requires an oil price above $50 a barrel (or a comparable gas price) to produce a positive rate of return? This is a more complex question but if answered truthfully will expose the extent to which some companies over invested at high prices and will continue to struggle.

Third, what is your strategy if oil, gas and coal prices stay low — say, below $50 a barrel for the next five years? This is the most important question, especially for investors who rely on a secure dividend flow. To the best of my knowledge no energy company has yet explained its strategy, which makes it all the more important that the question should be asked and answered. Any chief executive who says that a long period of low prices is impossible should be retired immediately.

Finally, what do you believe are the most significant advances in technology in the energy sector in the past year and how could they affect your business? What are you doing to make sure you capture the benefits of those advances rather than falling victim to them? The aim here is to extract a clear statement of long-term strategy. Focusing on technology should test whether companies are taking the time to look outside and watching the advances being made on solar and storage; and whether they understand the dramatic scale of the changes that are happening. At the individual level, the question will test whether chief executives are looking ahead at the medium and long-term or simply trying to coast to a well-padded retirement.

HoHoHo: Will Temasek slip on oil patch?

In Energy, Temasek on 13/02/2016 at 5:31 am

investors and lenders have laid the groundwork for the rebound – buying assets in fire sales and making new loans. But even opportunists are still uneasy. Many investors fear they could be too early if they jump in now – they had already been burned by forecasts that predicted oil would recover last year.

Remember tthis investment?

NYT Dealbook reports

LOW OIL PRICES AND A RECKONING ON DEBT Energy executives and their bankers are preparing for a prolonged downturn that could change the energy industry in a way not seen since the turmoil of the late 1990s gave rise to mega-mergers like Exxon Mobil, Clifford Krauss and Michael Corkery report in DealBook.

Crude prices have plunged more than 70 percent over the last 20 months, but until recently, companies were able to ride out the slump using hedges to sell their oil for more than the market price.

These hedges have expired in recent months, leaving oil companies low on cash and unable to pay their debts. They are also realizing that a recovery in oil prices is at least a year away – too long for many companies to hold out.

If prices hold at such low levels – oil traded near $28 a barrel on Tuesday –as many as 150 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy, according to IHS, an energy research firm.

That is a relatively small slice of the industry, but hundreds of other companies that piled on debt to grow into significant players in the shale oil boom are now likely to be acquired or sell their assets. As much as a third of the oil industry could be consolidated as a result of the downturn.

As losses have mounted, investors and lenders have laid the groundwork for the rebound – buying assets in fire sales and making new loans. But even opportunists are still uneasy. Many investors fear they could be too early if they jump in now – they had already been burned by forecasts that predicted oil would recover last year.

Temase should remember that it already has exposures to the oil patch via Heppel and SembCorp Marine: the bad and ugly, the good 

And think about buying SembCorp. If oil prices recover, it’ll bewnefit from its stake in Marine. If it doesn’t, there’s the other biz.

Buy Keppel, SembCorp Marine & Sapura?

In Energy, Financial competency, Malaysia, Temasek on 15/01/2016 at 11:48 am

Continuing the theme of buying dogs, commodities and energy …

Forget what the financial equivalent of Goh Meng Seng says (reported here), and buy the two fallen Fab 5 stocks? And M’sian Sapurakencana Petroleum? One of Asia’s leading oilfield services groups, if you don’t know. 


He’s the journalist equivalent of Goh Meng Seng (three GEs, three different parties, and a declining share of the vote). This FT has in the about same period worked for Bloomberg, MediaCorp, Reuters and now Bloomberg again. Oh and the last time this FT was working for Bloomberg, he and Bloomberg had to pay damages to one of the Lees, can’t remember which.

As Goh Meng Seng is an exemplar of the traditional oppo politican, this FT shows that T can stand for “Trash”.


There’s deep despair about the oil price as this report from NYT’s Dealbook recounts. But there’s two swallows in the sky:

–Premier Oil has finally agreed to buy all of German utility E.On’s UK North Sea assets in a deal worth $120m (£83m) despite oil trading below US$30,

— Statoil ASA, Norway’s biggest energy company, snapped up a 12% stake in Lundin Petroleum AB to increase its access to the giant Johan Sverdrup field.

The acquisition corresponds to a price per share of about 124 kronor, in line with Lundin’s average price over the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Lundin shares have dropped about 20 percent since crude started to tumble in mid-2014. Brent oil, the global benchmark, is now trading near $30 a barrel.

“The market situation made it possible for us to secure this position at an attractive price,” Baard Glad Pedersen, a spokesman at Statoil, said by phone. The Stavanger-based company won’t seek representation on Lundin’s board, he said. Bloomberg

At current prices, extracting oil from the North Sea is theoratically the equivalent of burning dollar notes.. Its oil is expensive to extract.

Back to the gloom and doom painted by Dealbook bearing in mind that Monkey is a trickster

NO BOTTOM IN SIGHT FOR OIL PRICES The collapse in commodity prices pushed oil futures even lower on Monday and analysts predicted that the slide was far from over, Jad Mouawad reports in The New York Times.

Oil prices were at a 12-year low on Tuesday, with West Texas Intermediate near $30 a barrel after a decline of more than 5 percent overnight. Brent crude was just under $31 a barrel by the Asian afternoon, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

The drop in commodities prices is being felt throughout the energy sector and beyond. Saudi Arabia said it was considering selling shares in its state-run oil company. Arch Coal, one of the biggest oil producers in the United States, filed for bankruptcy protection to cut its debt. Russia’s main stock indexes plummeted on Monday as oil prices cast a pall over its energy-dependent economy, Andrew E. Kramer reports in The New York Times.

Oil’s decline in the last year was caused in part by Saudi Arabia’s decision not to reduce production. The change, intended to force out high-cost energy producers, backfired on the kingdom and other producers, which now have to consider how to finance their oil-dependent economies.

The slump in oil prices had gained momentum last week on renewed concerns about China’s economy.

Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said that everything indicated a continued oil glut. “Iran is about to re-enter the market, demand numbers and economic indicators look relatively weak, U.S. supply is holding up in a low-price environment much better than people though and global inventories are growing.”

Many analysts expect more declines. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have both said that oil could drop to $20 a barrel.

2 of Temasek’s Fab 5 looking sickly?/ Meng Seng’s financial counterpart

In Energy, Financial competency, Temasek on 13/01/2016 at 5:14 am

In 2013, I recommended investing in Temasek’s Fab 5 for KS types. Last June I pointed out problems at two of them Keppel  and SembCorp Marine because of lower oil prices.

The rot continues as Bloomberg reports

The last time Singapore’s marine services industry was staring at what would eventually turn out to be an 18-year drought in demand for oil rigs, Mr Ronald Reagan was starting his second term as US President.

Jack-up rigs, used to drill for oil in shallow waters, saw orders evaporate between 1985 and 2003. As Macquarie notes, rampant overcapacity means such a prolonged slump could well occur again. That definitely would not be good news for the rig-building industry’s two Singaporean leaders – Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine.

After a decade-long boom, there were zero new orders globally for jack-up rigs last year. With oil prices swooning, and rigs’ daily rental rates having crashed to US$92,000 (S$132,000) from US$130,000 in 2014, there’s a risk that 70 per cent of Keppel and SembMarine’s order book might get cancelled, especially if the Petrobras bribery scandal in Brazil deepens, Macquarie analysts Somesh Kumar Agarwal and Justin Chiam wrote this week.

… rig-builders’ shares may have to give back much of the China-induced exuberance of the past decade. That could be quite painful for investors, including Temasek.
… owns a little less than half of SembMarine’s parent, Sembcorp Industries, and 21 per cent of Keppel, Bloomberg data shows. It can’t be feeling very chuffed about the 47 per cent slump in SembMarine over the past year, or Keppel’s 26 per cent slide.  

And there might be more trouble ahead. Since early 2004, the two stocks have returned about 300 per cent, thanks primarily to hefty dividends. Those might now start thinning out. According to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg, Keppel’s dividends will shrink by as much as 11 per cent over the next three years, compared with annualised growth of 3 per cent over the past three.

No orders coming in doesn’t augur well for shareholders, who will be far behind debtholders in getting paid, and the latter will have substantial claims. Oil- and gas- linked companies with outstanding Singdollar-denominated bonds have to refinance or repay some $625 million of notes this year, a further $390 million in 2017 and $700 million in 2018, Bloomberg-compiled data shows.

The other big risk comes from the duo’s Brazilian yards. Japanese shipbuilders like Mitsubishi Heavy are cutting their losses and exiting as the Petrobras saga drags on. 

Stock in Ensco, the London-based owner of shallow and deepwater rigs, has been hit after Petrobras said it was scrapping a contract in the US Gulf of Mexico because, it claims, Ensco knew about improper payments between a shipbuilder and a consultant when the drillship was constructed, a charge Ensco denies.

Analysts are being predictably slow in sounding the alert. Their median price estimate predicts a 25 per cent jump over the next year in Keppel shares, and a 15 per cent climb in SembMarine.

So far factual or fair comment. But I think the Indian FT* writing for Bloomberg is talking rubbish when he talks of Temasek selling out. Our rig-builders are market leaders, not has-beens like NOL And the oil sector is a cyclical sector, not a declining sector.

Were that triumph of hope over experience to prove elusive, what might Temasek do? It recently decided to sell shipping company Neptune Orient Lines to CMA CGM at $1.30 a share, after having paid as much as $2.80 in 2004 to acquire a part of its 67 per cent stake.

If the Macquarie analysts are right about Keppel and SembMarine eventually trading below book value, like South Korean yards do, then there may not be much point in Temasek’s hanging on to the rig-builders either.

What strholders of SembCorp Marine should be concerned is that SembCorp privates Marine. About 15 yrs ago Keppel did that to FELS.


*He’s the analyst equivalent of Goh Meng Seng (three GEs, three different parties, and a declining share of the vote). This FT has in the same period worked for Bloomberg, MediaCorp, Reuters and now Bloomberg again. Oh and the last time this FT was working for Bloomberg, he and Bloomberg had to pay damages to one of the Lees, can’t remember which.

As Goh Meng Seng is an exemplar of the traditional oppo politican, this FT shows that T can stand for “Trash”.


Relooking at 2 of Temasek’s Fab 5/ Whither oil prices

In Energy, Temasek, Uncategorized on 05/06/2015 at 6:51 am

I’ve advised since 2013 that investing in Temasek’s Fab 5 is a no-brainer for conservative, KS types.

Here’s looking  at major problems at two of them.

Problems in the Brazilian and Mexican oil industries caused by the fall in oil prices are not good for Keppel and SembCorp Marine. They have received massive orders for rigs from Latin America in recent years.

But new orders will be weak and existing contracts will renegotiated.

Both have also been forced to deny allegations of corruption in winning Brazilian biz. There is a big  political and financial corruption scandal in Brazil, centred around Petrobas, its national oil champion. Petrobas has been a big player in the rig market.

But recorded order books are huge (billions of USD) and both have weathered storms. Both have experienced, internally promoted CEOs

Time to cut and run is when scholar, ex-SAF general is parachuted in as  CEO (like in SMRT, NOL).

On oil prices: views are very mixed

Big Oil is too confident about crude prices. After a 40 percent rally from January’s six-year low, the momentum has been on the upside. But the current prices – $65 a barrel for Brent and $60 for WTI – look more like a ceiling than a floor.

That is not what many insiders seem to think. Some oil service companies expect mid-$70s Brent by the end of this year. Anglo-Dutch Shell assumed oil will rebound to $90 by 2018 in its $70 billion takeover of the UK’s BG Group. Some believe that the steep cut in capex costs will affect supply, including shale, and boost prices again.

Just this week, the head of BP said he doesn’t expect the glut to clear until at least 2016. The Shell view would be a good excuse to hold onto these two Fab5 shares.

Keppel still looks gd BUT

In Energy on 07/01/2014 at 4:58 am

Last December, there were three pieces of gd news

— KFELS delivered its 21st new build offshore rig for 2013, setting a world record for the most number of rigs delivered in a year.KFELS held the previous record of delivering 13 rigs in a year back in 2009.

Keppel O&M (KPELS parent)won $150m in contracts (five of them). This year there is expected to be strong growth in capital investments in global exploration and production (E&P) projects which should should keep new orders coming in for Singapore’s offshore and marine sector this year, although rising costs and competition could put pressure margins.

  It will build its first drillship. But it doesn’t have a buyer lined up. Keppel is usually very KS, so this is something to watch. Still going into drillship is a major step showing it has confidence in its technical ability to built such ships. Most likely Keppel couldn’t get a decent price from operators who would want big discounts for being the first customer.

But it has a new CEO, a numbers man, not an engineer.

Keppel Corporation has appointed its CEO-Designate Loh Chin Hua as an executive director to its board with effect from January 1, 2014.

Its CEO Choo Chiau Beng will retire on the same day.

With effect from the same date, Mr Loh will also succeed Mr Choo as chairman on the boards of the group’s key subsidiaries, including Keppel Land, Keppel Offshore & Marine and Keppel Infrastructure.

Mr Loh was appointed as group chief financial officer in January 2012 and then CEO-Designate in July 2013.

He has been with the Keppel group for 11 years and has over 25 years of experience in real estate investing and fund management. (CNA in early December)

Those who know their history of US car maker, GM, will know that GM’s decline began when the top job went to a finance guy, not an engineer. Keppel’s core competency is riig-building, not property or finance, the new CEO’s core skills. And frankly KepLand sucks by comparison with CapitaLand or Keppel’s offshore engineering biz. If it was an ang moh co, investors would have demanded that Keppel divest its property biz And Kep T&T. But to give the new CEO some credit, Kep T&T is finally going ahead with a reits of its data centre assets.

And here’s an interesting article I came across:

Finally, the other Temasek’s Fab 5 stocks still look gd for those who want equity exposure, decent income and relative safety. Doubtless there will be those TRe readers who will post I’m a PAP mole if TRE republishes this article. They should remember, Deng’s,”It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.”: likewise let’s be objective when trying to make money. They should also remember Mao’s “Seek Truth from facts.”, if they hate Deng for being complimentary about S’pore.

Declaration of interest: got Keppel shares. in super long term section of portfolio, alongside HSBC, Haw Par and Hwa Hong.

Related post:

Where S’porean traits produce world-class TLCs

In Energy, Indonesia, Temasek, Vietnam on 28/11/2013 at 6:25 am

More to irritate Temaeek and S’pore (self) haters, especially TRE readers*. There are advantages to S’poreans’ reputation as the Prussians of the East: hardworking, careful, conscientious and mindlessly efficient. These are very qualities that make Keppel and SembCorp world beaters in rig-building.

Singapore’s two main yards, Keppel and SembCorp Marine, have also invested heavily in quality and efficiency. They specialise more in deep-sea rigs than in drill-ships and carriers. Keppel, the bigger of the two, is building a record 20 such monsters this year; next year it will deliver the first of three giant, $600m “jack-up” rigs (ones that are floated into place then jacked up on their legs).

Time is money

The Singaporeans are also good at building things on time, which is vital in an industry where late delivery can cost the operators of rigs and drill-ships over $500,000 a day. Over the past five years, rigs ordered from Keppel and SembCorp were, on average, delivered ahead of schedule, whereas Chinese yards delivered 50-250 days late, says IHS Petrodata, a research firm.

As to China’s cost advantage, having facilities in Indonesia helps provide cheap labour for SembCorp’s rig building biz. Keppel too has an Indonesian operation, though its tiny compared to SembCorp’s.

And with Vietnam having problems with China over maritime boundaries, one wonders if Chinese built-rigs are allowed in its waters. Remember, energy cos are exploring for oil off Vietnam. Still, the waters do not require the sophisticated rigs built by these TLCs.

Related post:

*Though TRE readers will be pleased that these TLCs are not led by ex-generals or ex-Temasek MDs. The CEO of Keppel is a scholar, but I’m not sure of the background of CEO’s SembCorp. But both have worked that these TLs for many yrs. They were not parachuted in like in NOL to teach executives to suck eggs.

Temasek’s Fab 5 S’pore blue chips

In Financial competency, Temasek on 03/10/2013 at 5:11 am

Regolar readers will know this blog’s hostile to ST esp in its personal investment coverage.And usually is critical of Temasek.

Here’s an exception: If you owned one or more of these blue chips, you would be really ungrateful not to vote for PM{435478142-19236-1456515192}

Data from SGX My Gateway and Bloomberg showed aircraft engineering firm SIA Engineering Company topping the list, with a total return of 164 per cent over the five years to Sept 13, the cut-off date for this exercise. This includes price increases and cash dividends paid out, and works out to a compounded 21 per cent a year.

Telecommunications firm StarHub, engineering firm Singapore Technologies Engineering and rig builders Keppel Corporation and Sembcorp Marine round up the rest of the top five.

One key thread of these firms is that they are all part-owned by Temasek, which probably adds to the confidence of investors.

They are all also known for being solid with their dividend payments … Of course the share prices reflect that fact i.e. that there are better yields in the market albeit with greater risk.

Disclosure: got Keppel for yonks, and odd lot of SIAEC.

DBS Sec remains bullish on offshore & marine sector

In Energy on 16/03/2011 at 6:17 am

(Issued juz before earthquake)

We reiterate our preference for offshore shipyards with strong order flows for 2011. Our top picks are Keppel Corp (‘buy’; TP S$14.63) and Sembcorp Marine (‘buy’; TP S$6.63) as the key beneficiaries of resurgence in premium jack-ups; and Cosco Corp (‘buy’; TP S$3.16) being the leader among Chinese yards for offshore projects. We view a prolonged spike in oil prices as a key risk, as it poses a significant threat to global economic growth.

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 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.