Saturday, March 21, 2015

Incentives | Disincentives

CEO is not "aware" of the impact of convertible borrowings.
Title should be CVD then, borrowed from Daniel Loeb. 
That has got to be one of the most glaring warning ever. 

Tread with caution.

On another note, heres an interesting read from Ray Dalios of Bridgewater.
On not knowing and how to know what you dont know.

Its really interesting to me not only from the perspective of an investor and polymath wannabe (more like a trash can for everything), but also my current experiences in banking.

I find incentives to be the single most important driver of how people behave. Short termed, hubris and gaming KPIs that were too strict and inflexible to begin with.

In investment banking or commercial banking, fees are all that matters, the credit/equity/business quality isn't a issue, neither is the rate curve (ESOPs are pretty poor short term rewards) nor the logic of the deal. In-depth work is tough to achieve since everything is multi-tasking craze, concurrent and akin to several ongoing event planning processes. One is not awarded by finding frauds and spotting poor capital efficiency of companies. Whats more important is the rank and title of your directors, who you reply email to/cc/bcc, appearing and looking good, font size and colors and grammer (when it might be better to just be very concise and save the trouble of making so many errors). Similarly, we build and rely on financial models, questioning the assumptions and making sure things balance. What if something happened outside of those assumptions that aren't easily built in the 16k x 250+ cells?

In fact if you did like I did, asking and "doing too much", you would most certainly get frowned upon and get a hearful. I view it as a case of being binary versus being probabilistic. For banking its either a do or not do; do, you get fees, otherwise none. And since KPI is skewed towards being paid when theres fees, getting fired when there's none, there's clearly only a decision that appeals. Bankers will not risk being pessimistic or being cynical, having no deals, which means no fees and getting fired. That also means a perma-optimism that permeates throughout despite the quality of deals.

Clearly, we live in a probabilistic world, and there are indeed times to do nothing, challenge the conventional and there are times to go all-in. There needs to be a honest and wholesome assessment of the situation and an honest answer that one may not know what one doesnt know and how best to go find that out.

There needs to be right incentives and settings that align with the real world, and also the right people. It makes a lot more sense to be a trapper/ farmer than a hunter/ gatherer.

The article link is from II.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Hi all, happy to say learning programming does have its benefits; managed to get Google spreadsheet to work now. Go ahead to view the current holdings; sorry to say Im boring...nothing much has changed with the holdings.

1Q2015 is littered with events. 

The precipitous drop of oil price from $100+/bbl to currently $44/54 for WTI/Brent followed by re-surfacing of Greek and Spanish woes. Russian issues stemming from 2014 also looks to be a repeat of prior conflicts like the Chechnya wars, rather interesting to note the global political game that revolves the axis of powers and correlation with commodities, in particular energy.

US dollar rose in strength whereas everywhere else ex US has been performing monetary easing, including Singapore.

The Swiss Bank (SNB) also removed a currency cap of 1 Euro to 1.2 Francs that was there since 2011. The cap was to protect Swiss exporters in event of rise in Francs versus Euro (which did occur when people flock to Swiss banks as safe havens in times of crisis). However with a large ECB easing impending with all the old country issues resurfacing, the act of even more buying of the Euro and selling Francs to maintain the peg seems a little out of this world and made everyone in Switzerland alot poorer overnight. Interestingly people in Poland, Hungary and Greece have their home mortgages denominated in Swiss Francs, ouch! SNB has doubled their foreign reserves since the peg started in 2011, making it one of the top 5 largest holders of reserves globally. SND also lowered their interest rate to negative 0.75% levels, i.e. you have to pay interest to deposit in a Swiss bank to avoid a massive influx of foreign assets. Denmark's Krone was also mentioned as a "next target".

Im a bit concerned where US equities and credit markets are heading. It was great a while ago when shale was booming and they turned in a massive trade surplus for a few years. Now that oil is at 40+, marginal cost producers will definitely be sidelined, especially the geared ones. Overall competitiveness of US will be impacted. 

Amidst all the craziness, China is still hot on heels of corrupt officials. Gaming stocks were affected, especially those in Hong Kong. Some are looking a little interesting though. Kaisa, 1638 HK: a real estate company also saw a roller coaster ride as their Chairman suddenly left the post, firm went into technical default. Bonds went to 20s at one points and now back to 60s/70s. However a offshore debt swap (with less favorable terms) now pushes it lower. Its white knight Sunac China, another levered real estate company set a 31 July deadline to settle outstanding negotiations with noteholders. There were talks that Chairman Kwok's departure was related to fallen politburo honcho, Zhou Yong Kang. Several Kaisa projects in Shenzhen (largest exposure by land area) were frozen.

Will write more about some ideas Im working on  once I have more time on hand. Again drop me a message if you want more discussion(s) on companies.

2013 and 2014 performance.

Sorry for the delay. Some quick updates.

Work has been crazy and haven't had much time to go through everything on my plate but am still talking and discussing about companies and all so feel free to drop me a note if you have any you wish to discuss about. 

#NameBusinessListingTicker+/- ex divs +/- with divs
1Roxy PacificReal Estate / HotelSGXE8Z-4.42%8.77%
2AEI Corp Aluminium extrusionsSGXA18-13.24%-9.56%
3World PrecsionPrecision MachinerySGXB49-12.00%-8.67%
4Nanyang HldgsConglomerateHKSE21242.86%45.51%
5Haw Par CorpConglomerate SGXH025.16%7.62%
6Real Estate CoReal EstateHKSE
Negative / Shorts
1OlamAgri - commoditiesSGXL28-37.37%-37.37%
2Dapai IntlBag makers SGXFP156.00%56.00%
3Eratat lifestyle ltdSports goods SGX F0854.55%54.55%

I exited World Precision in 2014 and added a real estate company in HK. Reason why I bought it was simple:

  1. Owner owns a significant majority and were aggressively buying back
  2. They own a significant portion of land in Macau and stand to benefit from the linkage of HK/Macau/Zhuhai bridges and the lack of hotels around that area
  3. The owners are astute real estate investors and operators and watches cost like a hawk
  4. The only risks are owners do a "take-under" or severe contraction in real estate market of which the latter is already happening but the firm remains resilient.

Olam is interesting. 2014 saw an acquisition from Singapore's sovereign wealth fund and hence the price increase. Im not vested in Olam since 2012 as its not cost efficient to maintain the short. Same goes for the other shorts, so the prices are for display. Eratat went bust despite having a huge cash hoard. See my previous posts here and here.

A quick post on 2013 results as I realized I have not posted it up.

2013 was interesting as I literally sat on things, there was no action on my part for 2013 at all.
Gains were mainly for Nanyang (management did a partial tender, of which I did not tender since it would result in odd lots and these have a discount in the HK market) as well as Haw Par. Haw Par gains were oddly not in line with its portfolio companies, namely UOB, UIC and UOL. Also exited Koon in 2013.

#NameBusinessListingTicker+/- ex divs +/- with divs
1Roxy PacificReal Estate / HotelSGXE8Z25.00%28.68%
2AEI Corp Aluminium extrusionsSGXA1812.40%20.66%
3Koon Mix EngineeringSGX5DL-28.57%-26.19%
4World PrecsionPrecision MachinerySGXB49-7.41%17.28%
5Nanyang HldgsConglomerateHKSE21242.42%44.85%
6Haw Par Conglomerate SGXH0234.10%37.40%
1OlamAgri - commoditiesSGXL288.93%8.93%

Saturday, September 20, 2014

3Q2014 - I start to see some steam!

Apologies for the late update and for the fact that its getting less of the numbers and statistics and more of thoughts and dilemmas or confusion if you will. I appreciate more now, the importance of moving away from a more quantitative approach.

Company updates:  
Nanyang Holdings started a partial tender offer, started at HKD33/sh up to 8.2m shares (about a fifth of outstanding shares or 40% of free float which has seen share price reached about HKD39+  from the 20s+ when I first wrote about it. Nothing fantastic but still interesting. Price came down to about 35+ but doesnt affect me much. I wouldn't do that if I were the management.

I added a HK listed real estate/ investment holding co to the portfolio. Not cheap but I envision with the opening up of the country to surrounding countries and its massive property portfolio, not to mention a family that has a great track record, its likely some upward movement is overdue. Float is extremely thin, so I'm adding in nibbles from time to time. Not helping that it has since ran up too. I thought I was crazy to buy it at such high levels, but looking not too shabby now. Not that Im smart, Mr. Market has been very active.

SHC Capital (on sgx) is one counter I missed. I have been thumb sucking over the wide spreads and it cost me dearly. Zurich Re took it over at 70%+ premium. I'm no expert in the P&C and reinsurance field but this firm stood out like a nail.  

Don't ask me about Alibaba, I have great respect for Jack Ma but that's about it (See My views are limited on that. 

Other randoms..
I chatted over lunch with friends and spoke about humans, their confirmation bias and risk aversion characteristics. The industry, the world enjoys specializing and putting things in fixed buckets. It has far reaching problems and is closely related to how people interact socially and especially in their jobs. I do realize the opportunity in there and the problem is an incredible moat in itself if one could build something out of it.

For example, its always easier to sell a high dividend income yield fund than to say its going to be a opportunistic fund where I cannot guarantee no losses but its going to put money in whichever opportunity that makes the highest returns. People fear losses but more importantly, they dislike the fear of uncertainty and even if it means a false confidence of knowing something that may not be true or real. 

A high dividend fund gives the idea of no or low losses with stable income but people dont realize, such a fund will suffer a worse impairment to capital in times of trouble. One would rather trust a specialist investment analyst with a focused 5 years experience in real estate than trust someone with broad experience in various fields and have tried starting an investment business. I have experienced this first hand, it is painful and illogical but I can see where people are coming from. I know a family employs a "consistent high income fund", essentially is a leveraged, income strategy that holds high yielding securities. My repeated concerns fell on deaf ears, since I don't have the experience or "track record". To be honest, I am fairly frustrated and at the same time empathetic. I see many very intelligent talents around getting severely penalized for being generalists and having broad interests.

Similarly, its the reason why there's credit ratings, its a form of a fixed buckets system. People are lazy to accept the fact that there's always the situation where its simply not well defined. Instead of a grid system where one just check the boxes or add scores from a pre-defined scoreboard for easy comparison sake. People are not willing to do the extra groundwork and admit outliers and anomalies. Adding to the complexity is the fact that it is always harder to go against the flow. How would one explain to his bosses that it does not fit in the grid system? What if the boss said it should go into a certain bucket, would one be able to challenge and make the boss look bad? If one runs a investment outfit, would one risk picking oddities and underperforming or to emulate an index and make small tweaks for a slight boost? Reason is that they rather ensure they have similar performance to the index with a smaller variance than to risk a year with mega losses. 

The downside is unlimited in such a scenario while the upside is somewhat capped. Its times like this where people start to sweep small systemic problems aside where it snowballs to a massive problem. That's how the global financial crisis happened in the 2007/8s, apart from clear violation of the agency relationships and conflict of interests.

Risk aversion plays a crucial part in how people think. Its also the reason why most people don't start up companies. They appreciate the outsized rewards upon success but are more focused on the extremely low probability. (I mean having a family and a stable career and others etc. are extraneous factors that also affect how one thinks here) When you lose money, it hits you much more than when you make them.  When you enjoy that stable income and/or lifestyle, you start to forget that you are also in a system and when there are more factors introduced in a system, changes come fast, and in violent magnitudes. It is more pertinent that one stays in a upwind position where learning and not pay is the key priority.

Its the way people think and many times, people step too deep to realize they are in a hole. I remember a close friend of mine who said, "How can equities ever be safe, fixed income is the way to go. With added leverage, its a sure bet. why would anyone consider equities?" Classic case study example.

Its probably a time to relook at how these will pan out in the next few months again.

“Managing your career is like investing. The degree of difficulty does not count. So you can save yourself money and pain by getting on the right train.”

“Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.”

“What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 2014 - Diving into technology

Firstly, sorry for the bad English and aesthetically, non-pleasing post. Wrote this in a impromptu manner.

As many of you know, I'm working on a project that's tech oriented. Its partly because what I am trying to solve is a big problem I face everyday and partly because I felt theres no better time to solve this with the lever of technology and information and platform freedom. Its still ongoing and I am fumbling with the mountain of things to clear and sort and worrying about whether theres a true problem, whether the problem is a one single mega pain or a collection of big and mostly small pains which is harder to solve.

The key (which I learnt) was to spot problems that are too painful to be ignored, come up with a rough, simple product that solves most of it and continuously listen to user feedback and iterate if it fails. The belief that solving a very important problem and getting users crazy over your solution before thinking about revenue models is also something very new to me. There were also talks about growth hacking, making things go viral and then Whatsapp just disproved it with no PR, no marketing, by charging people and the user stats still hit through the roof, because of a great product that users loved. The interesting thing was things are viewed differently, very dynamic, very forward looking and a constant stage of experiments. Reminds me of the saying: "Focus on where the puck will go, rather than where it was". Its a very different world from where I came from which admittedly is very backward looking for most of the practitioners, and I can better appreciate how Buffett, Munger start to look at things. Steve Jobs also hinted that innnovation and creativity is all about doing what you love (ensures you go through lots of crap), connecting the dots between far flung concepts (aka latticework mental model as per Charlie Munger) and of course think big (not in the ambition sense but more like macro level) to mix and match stuff to see what works and not.

I actually picked up programming to understand how it all works and understand what and how engineers or programmers as some call, work on problems and I must say its all a very cool process. Ive also burnt many weekday nights and weekends learning it (still learning it),  my last was trying to do "pushes" via a command prompt which is really a basic concept of making changes on your PC and pushing it to the cloud servers in layman terms. Its basic but I took forever to learn it, its a unique field and incredibly powerful. You realize that you can actually create things that makes makes a difference, makes life easier, basic ones like getting bus timings, movie schedules etc. and they have serious big scale applications. I mean I would still take a few weeks or months to build one but I have seen people doing it in a few days.

There is in fact a much deeper impact to me. Suddenly it becomes clearer what tech or some startup companies were doing. Why Facebook bought Whatsapp or Occulus, why Twitter could do a billion range IPO despite its financials (Not that I totally agree with the valuations) but you have a much panned out view of the landscape. Why is Swipe, VMware and Salesforce (I know there was a recent short call on it) so popular etc? Why is Tesla so different? Are they crazy to build a hyper loop or make humans do interstellar travel like weekend trips. We aren't really talking about singularity here but you can start to see how things and technology converge and why people start to move towards the cloud, towards privacy secured products and services like Snapchat and more importantly towards mobile etc. I recommend reading this slide by Mary Meeker of KPCB.

More importantly, the actual process of trying to start up something is immensely gratifying, and I have not even came up with a product yet. The act of doing it, I have already learnt so much from it. Crafting experiments to test for product demand and relevance, understanding the difference between whats a want and a need, whether to listen to your customers or regard them as users who dont know what they want. Also understanding whats the industry landscape, categorizing product types and building features. I enjoy reading posts from a few people in the industry, from the big hitters like Paul Graham to lesser known ones like Slava who runs RethinkDB. For PG, I particularly like "Do things that dont scale", "Ambitious startup ideas", "How to get startup ideas", "Schlep Blindness" and "Startups in 13 Sentences".

The fact that startups are the mix of very intelligent people on the forefront of technology and the desire to break things make for some very interesting combination and results.

On the other hand, my portfolio has little changes except for a HK listed real estate company which I invested into. I went in at a high, there's some massive price movements even though volume and free float is very low. Value remains and likely a minimum 2 bagger. There seems little thats reasonably priced for me though at the moment. Fed's decision to cut back on bond buyback also had some real impact, rates are moving up fast and Chinese companies borrowing in 2014 is staggering. Its US$14 trillion, even more than US companies now. China corporates also will make up over half of total global corporate borrowing needs over 5 year period (i.e half of US$60 trillion up to 2018) Read here for more info. A quarter to a third is financed by shadow banking. And no surprises for guessing its steel and real estate that dominates. And foreign reserves that China has is US$4 trillion. Uh oh...

Also favorite highlight, Bumi Resources tipping on the default edge, like again... HERE

Again, appreciate any exchange if ideas and/or comments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

3Q2013 Updates

Sorry for the slow updates, been really caught up at work. I have not sold as much as I had suggested in my last May post due to onerous restrictions at work.

Just read a local business news publication and saw an article which got me a tad disappointed with the quality of reporting here. Nothing irks me more than generalization and mis-aggregation of information. It talks about China needing to improve quality of disclosures and regulations and goes on to suggest that Indofood taking over China Minzhong (CMZ) is a divine retribution to foreign speculators. In the reporter's exact words, "They should have been aware that Indofood taking up a majority stake would mean they have done their homework". 

To explain shortly the story, basically Glaucus (Canadian based research firm) accused CMZ of fraudulent financial reporting with a report and a short position. Stock fell 48% to S$0.53/sh. Subsequently Indofood, a Singapore listed food products and palm oil company affiliated with Salim Group who already owns a 33.49% of CMZ, announced taking over CMZ at S$1.12/sh, valuing the firm at S$734m. 

A public announcement to rationalise the offer and to correct the article was rather akward. LINK here and LINK here. My thoughts: 
  1. Does Indofood taking over CMZ mean they are necessarily right and Glaucus is wrong? 
  2. Does taking majority take (30+%) mean Indofood has absolutely done their work and are right?
    • If you bought Zhengzhou Siwei Mechanical and Electrical Co like how Caterpillar Co done their work, congratulations, you have just managed to make -84% returns within a few months. Many other examples like China Agritech and China Biotics and the list goes on, and on and on. 
  3. The acquisition rationale felt like the planning was messed up. 
  4. Ultimately shorting - you need 7 stars aligned. You cant brute it, need to pick the right fight. 
  5. I wont comment on CMZ, but feel free to exchange views with me by dropping a note :) 
I cant fathom how anyone can make such a statement. Fallacious much?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sell in May and go away - 2013 version

Seems like a themed party that didnt work out.

The chase for yields continues as free money drops from the sky. Everyone is massively printing money which has literally thrown the global economy is disarray, losing its much needed equilibrium for an actual recovery to set in.

Post Fraser & Neave bidding war saga, it seems the play on inflation was right. It remains that globally, the scenario where an ever increasing pool of capital is chasing a limited set of assets and options.

Some continued signs of the staggering chase includes:

  • US$1.1B acquisition of "Tumblr", a microblogging and social network site which in the past 7 years has recognized close to or 0 revenues. (Nice!)
  • "Twitter" was last valued at US$1B, and investors were quoting on its fast growth in revenues, estimated to hit an "eye popping" US$1B. (What about earnings? to speak the least)
  • "Oxley Holdings", a Singapore based residential real estate development company setting up a S$300M MTN Programme and issuing S$150M 4 year unsecured at barely over 5.10% (Have fun reading their financials)
  • "Croesus Japan REIT IPO popped up 20% on IPO day, with yields of over 8%. (The BOJ Put at work! Mind you, the so called shopping malls are suburban "Wal-Mart" type of malls)
  • India Tata Communications/Steel/Auto each raised debt funding in Asian markets despite their financials. Subsequently they raised the money and Tata Steel wrote down assets by US$1.6B within a coincidentally close date after the fund raising. (Check the financials)
  • The US$23B "Heinz" acquisition carried a valuation tag of over 14x trailing EBITDA while peers are 10-11x. Note Buffett is this case is the financier, not the acquirer.
  • Claims of China's hyper-inflated trade surplus with on the ground testimonials! See the article courtesy of Bloomberg HERE (I wonder what goods people trade this days with that sort of quantum)
  • In the 2011-2012, we also saw US$1B acquisition of photo sharing site, "Instagram", game acquisitions such as the US$200M acquisition of "Draw Something", a mobile game application and Hewlett Packard (HP)'s US$11B acquisition of software provider, "Autonomy Inc".
  • Asian equities are also enjoying high valuations. Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia etc are having across the board price to book of 2.6-3x which may be anecdotal but sure is a record event.

It may be all happy and rosy with rising asset prices. However the world is usually force-neutral. When theres a cause, theres an effect. Costs are creeping up (technically not true, they are silently moving up aggressively) and it seems that costs are likely to rise exponentially more than sales can grow.

This is far more true when Asia is known to not be a product/service leader and naturally with low levels of automation and/or innovative internal processes. Further, if one would assume a higher level of automation or better internal process, dont forget the capex to implement it, which is of course is much higher upfront now. The underlying value of an enterprise (of which price is partly based on), is the end result of these interactions. For sure, when you cannot successfully maintain a low cost level commensurate with a higher sales level to generate profits, a manager would cut the next most obvious and immediate cost, the raw materials or inputs. That translates to a lower commodity price level which we have witnessed and certain to persist.

As I write this on a related note, I regretfully read that theres 3 new suicide cases at Foxconn plants in China.

It is tough to fight the tide, and it sure looks like its getting stronger.
Perhaps I should just get a drink and sit back for a while.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Random Muses

Have been rather busy at work. I have with me a couple of random writing. Will follow up with updates for 1Q 2013.

I wrote sometime back on why I disagree on Gold being a good investment or so called inflation hedge. Had a lot (and I mean "A Lot!") of discussions or you may call it arguments on this topic and many have slammed me and said I will be the biggest fool in the market for not buying Gold. Reasons given ranged from solid inflation adjusted price appreciation, tight supply (cant be mined specifically on its own, its more of a by product) to it was the value anchor for currency during "Bretton Woods" time etc. To me, it is clear why Gold may not necessarily be a good investment. A overemphasis on inflation adjusted data may be misleading given the lack of understanding on data integrity going back to 1800s and blind faith on charts. Besides Indians who use it massively for their dowry, I cant really fathom what other uses there can be apart from being highly expensive catalysts or electrical conductors. With a limited demand, a tight supply doesnt stand strong as an argument. Last but not least, the value of a currency depends on various factors, including economic strength, investments, currency supply/ demand which are interrelated. However Gold is merely a hot potato which passes around, with each guessing the price of it based on what others guessed.

Given the recent hammering on Gold (no Im tempted to pick up any), I found it rather funny as I read back the comments of one of the global investors whom investment letters I read regularly. Hes Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital, please dont mind me using your quote.

“There is nothing intelligent to be said about gold. Nobody can tell you the right price for an ounce of gold. People will tell you it should go up or go down. To make any intelligent statements about investments you have to know what the right price is. You can’t do that with an asset like gold, which doesn’t produce any cash flow. So you can buy it out of superstition or ignore it because you are an atheist but you cannot buy it with an analytical foundation.”

Secondly, theres also the focus on equities this year to date which I have mentioned in a 2012 post. As mentioned, the larger money supply will continue to hit the markets and the end result will be across the board inflation, not only in the fish and apples we buy but also the stocks and company values. Those who claim stocks will crash might be a little early to be honest. I don't deny valuations are not getting cheap but it does not warrant a doomsday expectation, especially on the back of economic recovery (though it is not clear if its sustainable in the long run). With such rising levels, the likelihood of rates or in some countries implied rates will creep up. What this means is whatever loans you have that is floating rate will likely rise. From an investor's perspective, it means bonds with low yields will get steamrolled so beware of picking up 1) quality fixed income with low yields or 2) crappy fixed income with high yields that is effectively no yield coupled with a sub par principal at the end of maturity. If you bought a perpetual, well hope that the company is of quality name then.

Last but not least, if there's any reader/s out there who can help with the following, drop me a note. 

1) Capital seeders/ investors/ multi manager office for an investment partnership (ideally someone/team that supports fundamental investing across the capital structure on a global basis), and

2) High net worth or institutional investors for 2 coal mezzanine deals in Asia Pacific, one of which is a listed company. The advisory team supporting it is trustworthy and audited results/ JORC reports are available on demand. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Performance - Year End 2012

Dear all,

2012 has been a pretty interesting year.
Despite the inactivity here, the same cannot be said of the investments made. I will firstly highlight the long performance and will later touch on the short ones, which has been great but of lesser significance since I have been having a lot of issues with the cost and execution of the ideas. So it shall be more of an educational display.

I'll do this manually as Google Spreadsheets is still pretty much a malfunctioning tool.

Long positions 2012
No.       Name             Returns ex dividends     Dividends       Returns with dividends/ Others

  1. Nanyang Holdings    + 38.2%                      HK0.5/sh             +  40.8%    
  2. Haw Par                  +  27.5%                     SG 0.2/sh             +  31.3%
  3. Roxy Pacific             +113.3%                     SG 0.0067/sh       +119.9%    Bonus of 1 for 2
  4. World Precision       -     7.0%                     SG 0.027/sh         -     0.7%
  5. AEI                          +  10.0%                     SG 0.01/sh           +  19.0%
  6. Koon                       -   32.9%                     SG 0.01/sh           -   29.5%    Rights 3 for 5@$0.19/sh

Shorts 2012 
No.       Name             Returns ex dividends     Dividends       Returns with dividends/ Others
  1. Olam                      + 32.7%                       SG 0.04/sh           +  31.0%     Rights+warrants+bonds
  2. Cacola                    +14.3%                        -                           +  14.3%
  3. Dapai                      +58.8%                        -                          +   58.8%

As a brief overview, heres also the operational summary for the long positions. 
Nanyang has been benefiting from the recent revaluation of properties around. Similarly landlord prices around the Kowloon area have shot up in 2H 2012. Haw Par picked up gains in investment income and largely remains undervalued to investments and book. Roxy on the other hand remains astute, recently bought 3 plots of land near Mount Sophia (pretty central area) in Singapore and cost psf remains reasonable. People starting to see value in this name as its hotel performance has been superb. 

I have been thinking of cutting World precision but decided to hold on as its dividends have been satisfactory and recent China PMI and industrial output levels have started to rebound. Company specific, it also benefits from the additional infrastructure spending that the Chinese government  has announced. The firm has also stepped up promoting itself. My concern is the added leverage with less correlation to its order book growth. AEI is still a small position and they recently updated the recover-ability of their loans which remains a significant portion of total assets. Will review again to decide if its to be disposed. Koon on the other hand announced their  foray into Malaysian property segment. Track record is unknown. Rights issue was done at a slight discount.

The current markets have rallied due to a variety of news, from no US fiscal cliff, China didnt crash and Spain/Italy managed to get back on track. Am looking cautiously at some new ideas and will update accordingly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Olam vs. Muddy Waters

Thought I would use a quick look during the weekends to run through Muddy's 133 pager report on Olam and summarize it here. The post is merely a run through and does not imply the author is agreeing or attempting to distribute/disseminate the content of the Muddy Waters report.

Points are

  1. Capex/acquisition heavy with poor assets 
    • Crown flour mill (0.9% thin margin, cash burn)
  2. Capex attribution  
    • S$571M less investments that were annnounced
    • S$996.2M of capex were not attributable over the last 4 years
  3. Accounting Issues
    • 62.5% of non cash gains from negative good will from revaluations (SK Foods, tt Timber)
    • Rest from biological gains (I.e you dont sell the trees but change your estimate of its values)
    • Non cash accounting gains account for 37.9% of PAT from 2010 to 2012
  4. Financials 
    • Sept 2012, S$3.75B of debt due in 12 months despite S$1.38B in cash
    • Firm consumed S$2.5B in operating cash flowfrom FY2009 to 1Q2013
    • Significant margin account restatements, one over S$1B in 2008 
    • Significant impact of derivatives revaluation on profits (sensitivity up from S$3.8M to S$12M from 2011 to 2012 despite fall in value of derivatives)
    • Undisclosed account changes (page 35-41 of Muddys report)
    • Low rate of project and investment returns
    • Nigeria export incentives and grant income flows to Olam but is not sustainable
  5. Solvency and liquidity 
    • Refinancing quantum of S$4.6B over next 4Qs
    • FY 2012 has only 3 weeks of operating cash, over S$600M of cash out of S$1.1B are from withdrawals of broker margins. S$445.7M cash are from overdrafts at over 20%
    • Recent quarters saw a withdrawal of cash from margin accounts and mentioned no need to maintain the account as they net off positions daily
  6. War of words 
    • Mentioned Olam was defensive, Olam advised Muddy to go long and work with firm. Muddy declined in a abrasive manner
    • Muddy offered to pay for a debt rating on Olam
    • Olam 45 page rebuttal HERE
Some takeaways 
Most points were previously covered by others including CLSA previously and now further written in depth by Muddy which is well appreciated. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updates 4Q 2012

Sincere apologies that I have been largely away and unable to write more.

2012 largely has been fairly interesting, apart from the usual problems "still" plaguing in Europe (Spain and Greece) again. It is also interesting to note several large Japanese corporates are suffering from the stronger Yen, weakening domestic corporates and of course holding of the relevant companies' stock (ex. Sharp, Panasonic) especially the financial institutions. Link of news from Bloomberg HERE

More importantly, I was glad to know someone has similar findings to what I wrote about OLAM  previously HERE. Stock has also fallen some 12 % in 2012 YTD alone.

The single most interesting corporate action in Asia involving F&N also took a new twist with OUE coming into play with well known funds like Farallon coming into the bid which imho is playing a financing role. This highlights the scarcity of assets as well as the silent expansion of global capital largely resulting from quantitative easing which in turn results in the inflation of prices.

Other updates on holdings as follows:

  1. Roxy Pacific 
    • recent dividend policy of paying out min 50% of net operating profit of the hotel business which translates to about $6 to 10m per annum. Link HERE
    • Mgmt also upped their capital in the hotel business 
    • 3Q revenue declined vs 2011 and is above 2009 levels, mainly due to 2011 benefiting from a large revaluation gain of $9.7m from Kovan Centre 
    • Grand Mecure is now worth some $438 M
    • Cash of $240M, debt of $433M, NAV $230M (pre-adjusted). With the hotel its $612M
    • Property development has some $844M of sales to be recognised, with $112M recognised
    • Hotel occupancy came down from 94 to 92%, while Revpar is up about 6% to $200. Its the star performer for 9M2012 thus far
    • Good to note that since the last call, the firm is up some 79% from post split cost of $0.29 to $0.52 currently (i.e market value of $491M)
  2. Haw Par 
    • I still hold my ground that this is a rather solid firm which has been misunderstood to be a pharma/ leisure company but really in essence an investment holding co
    • Results are up significantly but do not take it to heart since 2011 9M results were marred by a exceptional loss of $13.4M
    • Firm has $2.3B in assets and only $0.1B in total liabilities. Out of $2.3B, $1.78B is in AFS financial assets (i.e stocks, bonds) and $0.14B in cash and liquid deposits.
    • Market values this firm as $1.4B currently
    • Lastly, its help to note Mr. Wee (both Jr and Sr) are constantly buying back.
  3. World Precision 
    • Exposed to the slow down faced in China. However things are picking up from data signs of PMI and all. Will continue to update this shortly. 
  4. Koon 
    • Firm recently announced their plans to move into Malaysia property development supported by a rights issue. 
    • That in my opinion is not their niche and Im still trying to get my hands around it. 
    • The application date is 26 Nov 2012 so please take note.
  5. Nanyang Holdings 
    • No significant action on this front except that the recent HK government goals to revamp the industrial area in Kowloon which is helping to add value to many companies holding plots of land in that area, among which Nanyang is one of them. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(APB) Asia Pacific Breweries / (F&N) Fraser & Neave

Currently theres a 2 way bidding war for APB as well as a related part-owner, F&N. Its interesting to think about how this will pan out eventually. Any expressions are solely my views and not to be an advice to buy or sell. 

A chart I have done up on the situation. 

Total APB shares: 258.213774m 
Total F&N shares: 1,160.119932m

Kindest Place
Private entity related to ThaiBev, owned by son in law of owner of ThaiBev.

ThaiBev / TCC (Thailand's leading brewer and beverage company) 
- Total of 7.128% (22% * 50%) + 8.6% = 15.728% of APB
- Holds US$108m of cash

Heineken (Dutch beverage company)
- 3rd largest globally after Anheuser-Busch InBev and Carlsberg/SABMiller
- JV with F&N to create APB (Tiger beer) 80 years ago
- Total of 32.4% (via JV) + 9.49% (direct) = 41.89% of APB 

Kirin (Japanese beverage co)
- Bought 14.97% of F&N stake from Temasek for US$953M/ S$1.3B in 2010
- Total of 10.024% (indirect) of APB

Event timeline:
1) Kirin bought a passive stake in F&N from Temasek in mid 2010

2) ThaiBev offers S$2.78B/ US$2.2B for 22% of F&N (S$8.88 per share, 12% premium to S$7.96 per share) while TCC will fork up S$0.9202B for 8.6% of APB (S$45 per share, 18% premium to S$38.10 per share price on 19 Jul 2012). 

3) Both stakes are acquired from OCBC, Great Eastern and Lee Rubber Group financed with bridge loan from HSBC, SCB and SMBC. Total S$3.7B paid for 15.728% of APB

4) Heineken came in, unhappy with the current state of the JV (especially on Kirin buying F&N from Temasek) and is buying APB whole for S$50 per share (S$ 5 more than ThaiBev's bid). This works out to be S$5.1B/US$ 4.1B for F&N's stake in APB and values S$7.5B/ US$6B for the entire APB stake that Heineken does not already own

5) Citigroup and Credit Suisse are advising Heineken, while HSBC and Morgan Stanley advised ThaiBev. F&N hired Goldman Sachs 

Why the acquisition?
Tiger beer are widely distributed in various SEA markets ex. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and others like Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. After China, beer consumption is the highest in Vietnam, of 37 vs. 75 liters per capita in the UK. APB is the market leader in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Furthermore, alcohol licenses in Muslim countries are restricted and such networks are highly valued. C.25% of 2011 global beer sales of US$618B came from Asia Pacific. 

From Heineken's 2011 annuals, Vietnam was its 2nd-largest market in Asia. Asia beer volume growth was also favorable, evident from Heineken's 6.2% growth in 2011 vs. 0.2% in Western Europe. Western Europe counts for 35% of Heineken's operating profit vs. 8% for AB InBev and 1% for SABMiller (quoted by Sanford Bernstein), and Asia under 7%. Heineken bought Mexico’s Femsa in 2010 for US$8B and has the smallest emerging market presence out of the top 3. ThaiBev on the other hand has a loss making beer division while its spirits business is thriving. 

Kirin acquired Brazil’s Schincariol for US$2.57B in August 2011. It also paid US$386M for Australia's Little World Beverages in June 2012. Kirin bought out the stake it did not already own in Australia’s Lion Nathan. in 2009 for US$2.5B, Australia’s then 2nd-biggest brewer by market share after Foster’s Group.

ThaiBev might risk a credit downgrade as its net D/E will hit 3.5x upon acquisition while Heineken's will be 2.2x. 

APB LTM EBITDA is S$754M and the latest Heineken bid (@S$50 per share) values the firm at S$12.9B. APB PBT have grown 24% CAGR to S$613M in 2011. Margins expanded form 15 -22% in the decade. F&N itself derives 38% of its NPAT from the beer business with the rest in property and printing. 

The average premium in 45 beer takeovers in the last 2 years is 25%. The median takeover multiple is 13x for 9 brewery takeovers (worth over US$1B) in the last 5 years. The deal is valued at 17x EBITDA, 21x to PBT and 28x to NPAT of S$ 456.8m (including non controlling interest). This hints at some pricey valuations. At this juncture, while Heineken's bid seems strategically reasonable, the same cannot be said if ThaiBev continues bidding. At FYE 2011, ThaiBev had BHT3.5B/ US$111.2M in cash, a fraction of Heineken's 827M/ US$1.03B.

Value of the stakes (@S$50 per share)
Kirin's 10.024% stake (indirect) in APB is worth S$1.294B/ U$0.9988B, a gain of 4.8% with US$/S$ of 1.2956 (24 July 2012), excluding other portion of F&N not valued. If using F&N's market value alone, its stake is now worth S$1.396B or gain of 13%. 

ThaiBev's stake will be worth 8.6% (direct APB stake)*S$12.91B = S$1.11B + 22%*S$8.04* 1160.119932M = S$3.162B. Compared with the cost they paid of S$3.7B, seems like the market has not caught up with the partial offer. Heineken urgently want this taken over and it seems to be at almost any costs.

What could happen? (and the probability)
  1. Heneiken successfully bids for APB - (high)
  2. ThaiBev bids higher for APB - (low to mid) since they have poorer financials but seem needy of a profitable brand and network. 
  3. ThaiBev bids higher for F&N - (mid to high) expressed interest in real estate and F&B
  4. Kirin bids higher - (low to mid) low stake and needs additional 15% for a general offer
  5. Kirin with another party (likely ThaiBev) to block bids - (low to mid) as Kirin holds c.10% and ThaiBev holds c.15% of APB
  6. Third party comes in with the higher bid - remote given the high valuations 
  7. Deal falls through, no one buys anything - almost 0 probability 
1 and 3 is high likelihood. 5 is also possible but to justify blocking Heineken for the sake of ThaiBev seems far fetched and only logical if ThaiBev bids up. but that would mean an illogical purchase on ThaiBev's part in terms of valuations. On the other hand, Heineken with over 40% will serve as a more effective block against any tie ups. 

My guess is that its probably 1 only happening. Kirin might actually consider bidding (i.e 4 is likely as well). They have a EBIT cover of 6x and D/E of 1.34x vs. Heineken's 4x and 1.95x. Further, Kirin has also seen a decline in revenues in the past year with operating margins of over 6% while peers are 12-18%. It might make sense for them to gear up and secure Asia Pacific. In order of probabilities from highest to lowest, its 1, 3, 4 and 5. F&N board has till 27 July to consider Heineken's proposal. 


-2 August 2012 (Update)

Coca Cola was quoted to explore bid for F&N beverage business, reportedly worth some S$3 bn.

- 6 August 2012 (Update)

F&N board accepted Heineken's offer and pending to table the offer to the rest of the shareholders. Various sources suggest a possibility of Thaibev and Kirin to go against the offer. Given their initial interest to purchase F&N for the breweries + beverage business, the probability of rejecting Heineken's offer is high, contrary to what the price is showing now.

APB went gradually from S$34.69 (16 Jul) to a high of S$52 (25 Jul). It has hovered around the S$50 price levels to currently S$48.85. F&N gapped up from S$6.82  (27 Jun) to S$8.40 (27 Jul). Currently it is at S$8.20. There is a small likelihood that recent F&N investors may face a loss in event the deal falls through. 

- 7 August 20212 (Update)

ThaiBev offers S$55 per share for APB shares held by F&N (7.3%). This is higher than Heineken's previous bid of S$50 per share. While Reuters quoted a ThaiBev spokesperson to not wish for Heineken to exit the JV, it seems like a plan to buttress their share purchase with backstop from Heineken. A point to note is that a good amount (c.30%) of APB's volumes are for Heineken and pulling out its license will result in a much weaker APB. Kirin was also quoted to mention they are more interested in F&N Berhad, the Malaysian entity to APB.

Vichate Tantiwanich from ThaiBev mentioned the firm is looking to increase stake in F&N as they currently do not have board seat and influence. Real estate seems to be a pull factor. Board control is necessary not only for a profitable business but also to have access to returns from trading the listed assets.  Notably Heineken and Carlsberg offered 23x EBITDA in a 9.5B pound tskeover of Scottish & Newcastle in 2008. 

Current ownership tally. 

-14 Aug 2012 (Update)

Thai Bev raised its F&N stake to 26.2%. Looks like the original idea was right. But it does seem they are overpaying greatly. F&N is likely to be trying to achieve control since entire buyout would force ThaiBev to overgear. Credit ratings will be down at least 2 notches.

- 27 Aug 2012 (Update)
F&N approved Heineken's US$6.35B offer for shares held by F&N and APB's minority shareholders, F&N's board also agreed not to engage in talks or accept other offers for its interests in APB. Heineken also attached a S$55.9M break fee on its offer and set a 15 Dec deadline (120 days). Heineken announced an offer of S$53 per share (S$5.4b/S$4.3B) for APB and additional S$0.163 for non-APB assets held by APIPL. Includes public market purchases.

F&N states that it will return S$4B (US$3.3B) to shareholders through capital reduction. F&N will cancel 1 share for every 3 shares held, with a cash distribution of S$8.50 for each share cancelled. The price is based on VWAP for shares from 16 to 24 Aug. This means for every 1000 shares (1 lot), one will receive S$2,805 in cash and 330 shares cancelled, and still own the same proportion of the company. As of 14 Aug, ThaiBev holds 26.4% of F&N and stand to receive cash distribution of S$1.056B. Kirin with 15% in F&N will get some S$600M. 

F&N is down 3.7% from its 52-week high of S$8.59, reached in the days before Heineken raised its offer for APB to S$5.4B or S$53 per share last week. Heineken's direct and deemed interest in APB has gone up to 84.24%. This includes the 2.68% stake Heineken bought on Tuesday for S$367M or S$53 a share. Temasek Holdings was said to be among the sellers (1.4%) in a married deal on 21 Aug 2012 at S$53 per share of APB.

Heineken said it would fund the deal with available cash of about €2B ($2.46B), its unused revolving credit facility of another €2B and a new bridge loan arranged by its financial advisers, Credit Suisse and Citi. 

- 10 Sept 2012 (Update) 

News state Thai Bev is seeking S$9B ($7.3B) share backed loan for possible F&N takeover. ThaiBev has already bought 29% of F&N for S$3.6B, funded partly by a S$2.8B loan, but does not have a seat on the F&N board. If ThaiBev's holding hits 30%, it would be obliged to bid for all of F&N.

- 13 Sept 2012 (Update) 

ThaiBev and TCC collectively owns 30.36% and offers to buy out entire F&N at S$ 8.88 per share, a US$7.2B cash offer. The consortium are advised by Morgan Stanley, DBS and UOB, offer is 2 weeks before shareholder vote on Heineken's offer for APB. The group mentioned they will not incur additional debt for the purchase. 

- 25 Sept 2012 (Update) 

Heineken completed purchase of 8.6% stake held by Kindest Place. ThaiBev and TCC also mentioned agree to vote for sale of F&N's stake in APB to Heineken.

- 28 Sept 2012 (Update) 

F&N's capital reduction plans fell through with 54.3% voted for, well below the 75% needed due to the Thai consortium voting against it. The other 94% of the F&N holders voted for the capital reduction. APB's S$7.9B/ US$ 6.4B sale to Heineken was formalised. Kirin is also expected to sell its 15% stake in F&N to the ThaiBev/TCC consortium. 

- 10 Oct 2012 (Update) 

F&N board stated ThaiBev's S$8.88 per share offer is not compelling but fair based on sum of parts valuation of S$8.3-11.22 per share. F&N directors intend not to tender unless acceptances reach 50% and offer becomes unconditional. ThaiBev and TCC collectively owns 33.5% of F&N. F&N on the other hand also rejected a US$1.14B offer for its hospitality business by Overseas Union Enterprise. ThaiBev closed up 5.1% and F&N up 0.6% to $8.93. The offer for F&N ends 29 Oct.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Straits Times, Business Times and various public news sources.