Monday, December 31, 2007

Hair Today .. (The Ultimate New Year Present!)

Well, you can finish the saying. As promised to a number of balding readers from Seng's chatbox, here is the so-called "best formula" for stopping hair loss and generating hair regrowth. Its not a guarantee but I have a couple of friends who have seen very significant turnarounds within 3 months. At least the formula will save you RM10,000-15,000 a month, the probable sums from visiting Svensens and the like - they will be prescribing the same stuff but charging you an arm and a few legs for the same shit. Even for those who say they practice herbal remedies, its the same shit. The formula is supposed to work very well for those with normal hair loss - due to male pattern baldness (hormonal). If you have other factors such as severe scalp problems, this may not work well.

The easiest things to sell to men have to be hair growth products. Before venturing further, I have to qualify that I do not own any pharmacy chains, or dating any pharmacists, or own shares in Merck, or have an axe to grind with hair treatment centers. Due to the fact that a couple of my friends have turned back to ape like status from using the treatment below, I have done an intense search and study, and even talked to a couple of pharmacists.

PROSCAR is indicated for the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men with an enlarged prostate to improve symptoms; reduce the risk of acute urinary retention (AUR); and reduce the risk of the need for surgery, including transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) and prostatectomy. Proscar is manufactured by Merck. Similar to the discovery of Viagra (which was an unexplained side-effect as well) ..., they found the side effects of using Proscar was unexplained hair growth. Proscar comes in 5mg tablets, but their own study showed that you only need 1mg to reverse the effects for hair regrowth. Merck cleverly created new 1mg Proscar tablets and called them Propecia. The only difference is buying Proscar, you only need to cut up the tablet into 4, as that would be a lot cheaper than buying Propecia.

Apparently, there is little side effects for taking Proscar for men even if the hair thing doesn't work as it will also act as defence for future prostate problems - killing two birds with one tablet. How it works: countering male pattern baldness ( androgenetic alopecia ). Finasteride acts in the body to significantly lower levels of dihydrotestosterone ( DHT ) by inhibiting the type 2 5 Alpha Reductase enzyme which is responsible for the conversion of testosterone into DHT. High amounts of DHT contribute to prostate enlargement as well as hair loss in individuals with a genetic pre-disposition to it.

Proscar side-effects study:

Propecia has been approved for treating hair loss back in 1997, and has met with varying degrees of success. Proscar and Propecia are not new. However, the key appears to be using it in combination with a few other things.

The latest small scale study using Minoxidil and Finastride:

Don't be a miser, use the 5% Minoxidil (Head Way, I believe) formula and not the 2% formula. Then supplement it with the necessary multivitamin & mineral supplement called Crowning Glory ( I know, its tacky) which contains the essential multi vitamins necessary for hair growth. Finally, supplement that with Saw Palmetto, best for absorption is the brand under Prime ProGuard. For better overall effect, use only Pregaine, clear gel shampoo. As a last ditch measure, rub your nails together for a few minutes every day - that's the yoga way, apparently.

Package Deal (btw RM450-500)

Proscar / Propecia (1mg/day is sufficient)

Minoxidil 5% ( twice daily on scalp)

Daily CG Multivitamin (Vitahealth)

Twice Daily Saw Palmetto capsules

Pregaine shampoo

If these do not show results after 3 months, then I think you should consider shaving bald or hair implants. Please consult your doctor or pharmacist before using the above, even though I have checked that it does not meddle with other medicine you might be taking. Women cannot be taking Proscar/Propecia, especially pregnant women - seriously. Please also note that some of the reputable herbal/special traditional cures are also using a combination of the above without proper labeling.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pessimism Over B Land

I am trying to do a Moola here on B Land (lol). B Land is the kind of stock that can cause people who invested earlier to fall in love with it.

False Positives

1) Reputable foreign shareholders in UBS Ag (12%) and Goldman Sachs (8%). These lends some sort of credibility in the eyes of investors but that's because finding Vietnam plays are difficult. B Land is one convenient vehicle, and these foreign banks have allocated "infra/exotic funds" that they have to have exposure. Hence their presence is not as "qualified" as it seems. These two funds are also in B Land because of the sheer size of B Land. trying to obtain decent exposure is difficult. Now B Land has been ramped up to RM7bn in market cap - hence the reasons behind the investments may be more shallow than you think.


1) It just signed the 8th MOU in Vietnam to develop property projects. Eight MOUs, still MOUs mind you. Talk about execution risks. Each MOU is an additional risk. If you are keen on accretive projects that depend on execution by mgmt, buy KNM, its a safer and proven bet. The numerous projects in Vietnam depends not just on execution by mgmt, but a whole host of economic and social factors, some of which are beyond the control of the company.

2) Vietnam earnings coming in only in 2009. A lot of things can happen till then. The region could have a major slowdown or even a recession.

3) The market price above RM6.00 prices in mainly Vietnam earnings in 2009. Revenue for 2006 and 2007 actual came in at RM561m and RM507m respectively. Net profit for both years came in at RM89m and RM32m respectively. The revenue for 2009 is expected to jump to RM1.49bn and net profit to rise to RM212m. At RM6.40, using 2009 earnings, the stock trades at 27x 2009 earning! If you use current earnings it trades at a higher PER than Google.

4) The most troubling part is in 2008 and 2009, the finance cost are RM280m and RM137m respectively. Comparing to net profits of RM212m for 2009, there is no room for under performance. Revenue may waver in 2009 and beyond, but funding costs are pretty much laid in cement.

5) NTA now is just slightly above RM2.00. Even in 2009, NTA will only reach RM2.90. That's a lot buyers are paying for something a few years down the road.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

An Important "Inch"

"A timetable for obtaining universal suffrage has been set," Tsang said. "HK is entering a most important chapter of its constitutional history."
Beijing will allow HK to directly elect its leader by 2017 and all its lawmakers by 2020, the territory's chief executive said Saturday, immediately sparking criticism from democracy activists who sought a faster timetable.

Many had feared it would stop short of allowing full democracy in the booming financial capital, and the decision caught some political observers by surprise. But the decision did not please opposition democratic leaders, who have called for direct elections in the date of the next leadership race. "We are extremely disappointed, you could say we are furious, about this decision in ruling out 2012," Democrat Party chairman Albert Ho told government-run RTHK radio station. "The wishes of the Hong Kong people have been totally ignored."

The news is likely to be greeted positively by HK stock markets. Some battles cannot be won completely, even I am flabbergasted that Beijing would even give a proper date for full democratic elections. One should be wary of how much one is asking for - giving an inch is already a big thing if one were to consider the full spectrum of things China. It could have been a lot worse, much much worse. The economy of HK over the last 5 years showed how much HK is dependent on China - think before shouting from the rooftop.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Iran Oil Deal & Malaysia

Iranian National Oil and Malaysia's SKS Ventures signed a US$6 billion contract to develop the Golshan and Ferdows offshore gas fields in Iran, which contain an estimated 60 trillion cubic feet of gas. A second part of the deal to build plants to produce liquefied natural gas worth US$10 billion would soon be ready for signing. The initial project was expected to be completed by 2014, with Golshan delivering 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day,and Ferdos producing more than 880 million. SKS Ventures is a privately held company of Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary. The announcement came just two weeks after China's Sinopec announced a US$2 billion contract to develop the Yadaravan oil field in south-west Iran.

The deal is not so straight forward as it seems. The US government have tried very hard to discourage foreign companies from investing in Iran over concerns that the money could be used to support a nuclear weapons program in the country. Following China, now Malaysia is thumbing their noses at the US.

Iran's oilfields are no small potato. After Russia, Iran is estimated to have the world's second-largest natural gas reserves, though due to US and United Nations-imposed sanctions, Iran has been having problems developing their oilfields.

Energy companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total and Austria's OMV, have remained involved in operations in the country despite political condemnation. Over the weekend Iran said that it was close to signing an agreement with Italian power company Edison to pump 4.5 billion cubic feet of gas to Europe. Malaysia, like China, has strong business links with Iran, including through Pertonas, which has a 10% stake in the Pars Liquified Natural gas project, led by Total.

There are two ways of looking at Iran, the more belligerent the attitudes towards a country, the less they have to lose. To engage them is a better way. Most global problems can be traced to a lack economic power. Hence helping Iran develop its economic prowess can be argued as a better long term solution. The existence of "allies" to Iran will also help in future negotiating tables. To isolate and demand changes usually backfires.

Constructing A Portfolio For Lazy Buggers

If you have a few hundred thousands, or a million or two, but don't want the hassle of monitoring the markets day in day out - and you come and ask me to construct a portfolio that would allow you to receive good dividends and one that will allow you to laze on the beach for days on or sail for a few weeks - well, here it is:

Mastercard - You know, you probably have one on you, and the number of users just jumps alongside with the rising middle class especially in Latin America, China and India. The best play for 2-5 years hold. No credit risk almost, the banks hold the bulk of the risk, everytime you go swipe, Mastercard collects, better than tolls. Profit jumped 63% for 3Q2007 to US$314.5m or US$2.31 a share. Share is trading at US$209. Ebitda margin an incredible 29%. Return on capital 25%, return on assets 13.4%. Debt/Equity 0.07x. Free cash flow per share US$5.40. Shares have surged five fold since IPO in May 2006 but will have more upside still. Dividend not exciting at just US$0.54 but you buy for capital growth. However, they have more than US$24 in cash per share. They keep the cash to invest and build to protect from Visa's incursions. However, with the listing of Visa and some of MC's subsidiaries, we may see special dividends in the near future. Valuations not expensive when you look at earnings growth 1-3 years out, should double within 3-5 years. The main reason why you still get decent valuations is because the stock has already jumped 5 fold in less than 2 years.

Visa Inc - Upcoming global IPO, the world's largest card payments processor. Will go for a US$10 billion following Mastercard's May 2006 IPO. Watch the price comparison on listing, and accumulate when valuations are not too severe.

Well, you still need some dividends to survive right. Then go for the following stock with the right currency exposure as well:

UOB-Kay Hian - Trades at just S$2.10 but you will be getting a dividend yield of 9.3%, where to find. Links within the UOB group and the UOB asset management and banking will ensure this broking unit has better quality earnings and will be more defensive than others in the industry. Sell whenever you see dividend yield dropping below 6%. You buy at 9% yield, if it falls to 6%, it means the stock price has jumped by 50%, sell la. If share price keeps dropping, then buy more as you are getting even higher yield - there is ample cash in the company and earnings is not as volatile as it seem or even cyclical as its an integrated financial unit, not just a broking house.

More stocks to retire on later ... cheerio for now.... gotta get back to the beach ... but wait, I can't afford to retire... CB!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Paradox Of Our Time & Then Some...

Thanks to puffeye who pointed out the wrong attribution, I only think its fair to mention that the passage was written by someone else. I know if I was the one who wrote it, I'd be pretty pissed off if it was attributed to someone else. So I did some digging, and initially it was circulated as something penned by a student who witnessed the Columbine shootings back in 1999, which was totally untrue.

Next it was attributed to the great comedian George Carlin, which was understandable because Carlin talks the same way some of the time. To be fair, Carlin has emphatically denied that he has written the passage, and true to form, he said the piece was a "sappy load of shit" (lol).

The true author was Dr Bob Moorehead, a former pastor of Seattle's Overlake Christian Church. The essay appeared as The Paradox Of Our Age in Words Aptly Spoken - which was Moorhead's 1995 collection of prayers, homilies and monologues used in his sermons and radio broadcasts.

However, one may be moved to write by the Spirit at a certain point in time but may not be at other times. Moorhead's was also accused by 17 congregation members for having sexually assaulted them. This led to his resignation as the pastor for the church in 1998. The church elders concluded later on that Moorehead was guilty as accused of the charges.

The fact that he has fallen by the wayside should not detract from the message within the essay. Christians are not people who know how not to sin. They just know they have a relationship with Jesus and have to walk close with him to stay on the path. Time and again, even Christians will stray from the path. I hope he has climbed back onto the path. You all know the "cast the first stone" passage ...

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete... Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Some Insights From Buffett's New Deal

Warren E. Buffett agreed on Tuesday to buy a 60% stake in Marmon Holdings, the industrial holding firm owned by the wealthy Pritzker family, for US$4.5 billion with the goal of eventually owning the entire firm. As part of the deal, Buffett, through his Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle, will gradually increase his stake in Marmon over the next five or six years until he owns the firm. The final price will be determined by Marmon’s revenues.

#1 The deal represents one of the largest acquisitions Buffett has made in recent memory, especially for a non-insurance company. Buffett has been targeting only insurance and rail companies over the last 5 years, hence the purchase across a number of industries under Marmon is interesting.

#2 Maybe we all should learn from Buffett. The deal was done just the way the Pritzkers and Buffett wanted – no consultants or preliminary studies. I am all for due diligence but not market surveys, cost-benefit analysis, etc. ... you either read the industry/markets correctly or you didn't. You either overpaid or you didn't. No amount of paperwork will help to cushion your views.

#3 Berkshire has some US$47 billion, and despite the minor weakness in US equities, he has not been too eager to put the cash to work (except in his rail stocks). Hence we may expect a few more acquisitions by Buffett in the comin months, and they might not be in insurance anymore.

#4 The Pritzkers are very wealthy, however, they have been selling off their assets in recent years to settle some squabbling inheritance issues. In 2005, the family settled a lawsuit by two grandchildren of Jay Pritzker concerning their family trust. In August, the Pritzkers sold a US$1 billion stake in Global Hyatt, the hotel company they control, to a group of investors including Goldman Sachs.

#5 Who wouldn't want to sell to Buffett? If Warren wants your company, almost everyonewill think your company is grossly undervalued. Hence, you want Buffett in, but also leave some cake for yourself. Hence the 40% stake still resides with the Pritzkers.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Singapore Slinged

Blogger Old said...

You slaved for 30 years in a government department with high integrity and avoid corruption at all cost. You hold the department at high moral standard and promote meritocracy as best as you can. You collect standard government salary your entire life.

Then, when you retired, your successor - a bumi - with much lower standard take over. A year later, he lives in a $10m house, which you know for a fact government salary alone cannot pay for it. Projects slipped, fall behind. Your previous colleagues complain.

For 30 years, you upheld integrity and meritocracy with low pay. The next moment, your bumi successor who didn't upheld integrity nor meritocracy, and enjoy the material things that money can buy. 30 Years! Doesn't that make your blood boil?

So, to the people who makes these sort of statement - "After all history has though us that even in the most corrupt environment there will be individuals who hold themselves at a higher standard than the rest despite being lowly paid.", I say BULLSHIT!

Yes, Singapore has it right. No corruption. Promote meritocracy. And link the leaders salaries to the top private sector salaries so that there is all incentive for meritocracy, and absolutely no room for corruption.

The top job in the country deserves the best person, and they deserve the best pay. No question that Singapore 40 years ago was worse than Malaysia when she was expelled from the Federation, but today, she has clearly become a First World country. That's the sort of difference one gets when one isn't corrupt and promotes meritocracy, no this NEP Bullshit.

Old Observer

2:04 PM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...

Old Observer,

Very well said, I do agree with the gist of yr opinions, and I do think meritocracy is the way to go. I think the top dogs did a good job, its only a matter of pay hikes twice over the last 2 years at a time when the bulk of Singapore is trying to catch up with inflation, and wondering how the "new economy" is already leaving many of them behind.

You may try to run the gov like IBM but you can't really as the notion of political office has the interest of its citizens at heart, and you don't want to run tyre tracks all over that. There has to be an element of "serving for the country" which cannot and should not be accounted just in monetary terms. They are not starving, their pay scale is already 5-8x higher than anywhere else in the world.

Just because you peg it does not mean you have to have it, there are times where these things are akin to political suicides anywhere else, where there is a 2 party system.

Just because there is none makes it even more honourable and necessary to do the right thing at the appropriate time.

2:15 PM

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Show Me The Money (Again)

Even though most Asian economies are still robust, it would be political suicide anywhere else in Asia, except Singapore - can't remove them there. The government patted themselves on the ir backs and gave themselves another raise, the SECOND major fillip in 2 years.
Singaporean ministers and civil servants, already by far the highest-paid public servants in the world. The increase will push Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s salary to S$3.7 million, or US$2.53 million, more than six times that of US President George W. Bush.

This was after another huge bump that gave Lee a 25.5 percent increase, to S$3.1 million. At the very top of the salary pyramid is Singapore President S R Nathan, whose salary will rise to S$3.8 million (US$2.6 million). The Public Service Division’s revised salary package gives starting-grade ministers a salary of S$1.94 million (US$1.32 million).

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown receives the equivalent of US$170,556 and his cabinet ministers receive the equivalent of US$146,299. Newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Australia receives US$284,333.

You convert that for cabinet ministers to RM4.42m. Now, even the very top players at top MNCs do not get that in Malaysia, or even most places in Asia. I think if you paid RM4.427m to Malaysian cabinet ministers - ... how to say this without incriminating myself ... Let's say that corruption is more prevalent in most Asian countries. I think RM4.42m would go a long way to "compensate" for unexpected windfalls.

So, is that the way Singapore tries to ensure that their ministers do not HAVE TO practice corruption? Because even at S$1 million, it should be more than enough to compensate for most top MNCs top dogs. Or is it to compensate for forgoing business opportunities or striking out for themselves? How are we to determine that that would automatically be profitable for the cabinet ministers?

Or has Singapore finally discovered the mathematical formula for eradicating corruption? So, are we to say that for countries that do not come close to that formula, that they are inept and probably corrupt ... even in developed nations such as UK, US and Australia?

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Blessed Christ-mass & My Alma Mater

Its that time of the year again, and my thoughts go back to my school days, where for most of us, were the best days of our lives. You made great friendships that lasts the longest, you did not need to think too much about the future. You learn to grow as a person, the place where you hone your character. Great teachers do influence us greatly, I still think fondly of my two favourite teachers, Mrs. Foong and Mr. Timothy Chee - late 70s period. I am still struck by the tenacity, vision, dedication, devotion and leadership of Brother U Paul and Brother Vincent.

Merry Christmas everyone ... drive safely.

Fad Foods

What are fad foods? Those are the things we go absolutely ga-ga over initially and somehow, we kinda get weaned off them. Certain popular food stuff, when they are first introduced to the market, will get near euphoric reaction, and people don't mind waiting for an hour or so just to be part of the mania.

Its very much like the stock market - I must have them at all cost, you actually wanted 2 but end up buying 10 (kiasu and kiasi).
Remember the days of Roti Boy, how we gush over the bun... now when was the last time you bought Roti Boy (the original one la)? It does not mean Roti Boy (original) is no good, its just that we don't need to have it so often now. The over the top euphoric scenes for Roti Boy can be seen in Thailand and is still going strong - I somehow think Roti Boy would do even better in Thailand as the taste/flavour suits our Thai friends more. Hence I think Roti Boy will be more prospserous in Thailand.

Fads can be fanned by limited outlets, just like the J & Co in KL. Another faddish food is Ramly Burger, we know its very good, beats the shit out of McD or Burger King anytime, but we don't go ga-ga over them anymore in Malaysia. Unlike our Singaporean friends, who devour Ramly Burger like its the best thing on earth every time they cross the causeway. Why - because cannot get Ramly Burgers in Singapore (some health / food certification issue). Sigh!

Fads come and go, it does not mean the food is no good after a while, it just means it reverted back to normal food. I think when McDonalds was first introduced in any country, people would queue for hours just to get some.
I think John King tarts would become a fad food somewhat as well, but even John King and Roti Boy is no match for J & Co - the unassuming donut franchise owned and operated by Indonesians.

Its obvious they copied Krispy Kreme but hey, they know Asian taste buds better, and Krispy Kreme had been playing hard to get over their Asian expansion (they wanted the biggest, best capitalised partner), thus allowing first mover advantage to J & Co.
Oh, the donuts, they are very good, despite all the different creams and toppings, its the glazed which tastes the best. But there will come a time (probably 6 months down the road) when the queues will get a lot shorter at J & Co.

Currently it takes 1 hour to get your donuts (non peak) and 1.5 hours during weekends. It could be worse, you could be standing in line at J & Co. in Singapore, you are looking at 2 hours there - but they are more used to standing in line in Singapore anyway.
The funny thing is that there are more than a hundred outlets of J & Co. in Jakarta, but there are no queues. But there are long queues at Bread Talk in Jakarta - FAD FOODS! Sigh... even as I know this and write this, I cannot help but to queue for my donuts at J & Co... its herd mentality ... so long queue, must be good one ...

Fad foods come and go. For a food/brand to truly make its mark, it must still have queues after a few years - then its really good. That's why I love my Ah Sang Bak-Kut-Teh at Sungai Way, PJ (531, Jalan SS9A/12, Seri Setia, near the Indian temple)... almost there every weekend.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Morgan Stanley Needs Better Fung Shui

We have Citigroup being carved up for Asian owners, then it was Bear Stearns, followed by UBS, and now Morgan Stanley. This wave would gain momentum and we should see even more financial giants having a rich Asian sovereign wealth fund or cash rich Asian company as a substantial shareholder - the new affirmative action policy?? Financial giants are sought after because of their global footprint and ease with leverage. Plus it brings the shareholders access to "certain unique technology, up to date financial innovations" thus bringing them access to global best practice in possibly the most influential sector in the business world.

Morgan Stanley shares closed up US$2.01 at US$50.08 on the New York Stock Exchange, even as Morgan Stanley executives offered a sobering outlook and warned that its credit and mortgage business would slow.The bank would suspend buybacks as it reviews its capital levels and investment plans. Mergers and leveraged buyout activity also is expected to slow. The slowdown in some businesses means Morgan Stanley, which announced 900 layoffs in recent weeks, may cut more jobs and shift resources to other, faster-growing areas.

The newly set up China's sovereign wealth fund, CIC, has snapped up a $US5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley, one of America's biggest investment banks. China Investment Corporation (CIC) would gain around a 9.9% shareholding in the storied US bank and securities firm which announced a net loss of US$3.59 billion for its fourth quarter.

CIC grabbed a US$3 billion stake in the Blackstone Group, a large private equity firm, earlier this year and China's CITIC Securities Co Ltd bought a 6% shareholding in Bear Stears for US$1 billion in October.

Morgan Stanley's quarterly loss amounted to US$3.61 per share compared with the same period a year earlier. The bank also reported negative quarterly revenues of US$450 million compared with US$7.85 billion. Last month, Morgan Stanley said traders betting the bank's own capital had incurred US$3.7 billion in losses on U.S. subprime mortgages. On Wednesday, the bank disclosed another US$5.7 billion in write-downs, reflecting further declines in the mortgage trades and losses on other debt. To restore its capital, Morgan agreed to sell equity units that pay a 9 percent coupon. China will be a passive investor.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bonuses On The Street

Despite the subprime mess and exit door shown to many CEOs, Goldman Sachs still did very well. Bear Stearns top management decided not to take any bonus this year, and will try instead to pay some decent bonus to keep performing staff from leaving - at least they are doing something right. Below are the projected year end bonuses payable within the first week of January 2008 as reported in WSJ. How was your bonus? (amounts in USD)

Lehman Brothers

2007: $334,245
2006: $332,246

Goldman Sachs

2007: $662,000
2006: $621,793

Projected 2007 bonuses for top-tier global investment banks, on average:


Managing director, distressed investing -- Base: $200,000; bonus, $1.7 million to $2.2 million (up 10-15%)
Vice president, interest-rates trading -- Base: $100,000; bonus, $500,000 to $600,000 (up to 5-10%)
Managing director, crude-oil trader -- Base: $200,000; bonus, $5 million to $7 million (up 15-20%)
Managing director, equity capital markets, Brazil -- Base: $200,000; bonus, $1.2 million to $1.7 million (up 20-25%)


Managing director, mortgage-backed securities sales -- Base: $200,000; bonus, $1 million (down 33% to 67%)
Vice president, collateralized-debt-obligation sales -- Base: $200,000; bonus, $300,000 (down 50%)
Director, asset-backed securities trading -- Base: $150,000; bonus, $400,000 to $500,000 (down 30%)
Source: Options Group

Best Egg Tart Ever?

Try and start another fire by discussing the best egg tart ever? I'm from Ipoh (if you do not know that by now) and the dim sum places make pretty good tarts, be it Ming Kok or Fohsun. I even think the Tong Kee ones are pretty good, right up there with the best. When I was in Singapore, the ones at Tong Heng was an adequate substitute (better than nothing). Had the ones with the flaky pastry or fluff pastry and the other one with the butter flavoured shortcrust pastry. I prefer the flaky ones as it is "soong chooi" (loose bitey) and when you reach the wobbling creamy egg tart center, it gives a very good contrast.

I have also patronised Patten's favourite Tai Cheong Bakery's egg tarts in Central, HK, before and after they moved locations - they are pretty damn good too. A few steps away in Wellington Street is another place for very delicious egg tart as well, the Lok Heung Yuen - they come in tiny bite size. For this exercise, let's not talk about Portuguese tart - its a separate matter.

Hence, I always thought that such delicate stuff like egg tarts can only come from a dedicated kitchen, and never from a franchise. How wrong was I! For those who have visited The Pavillion KL, you may have walked past the silly sounding pastry place called John King, supposedly from HK and established since 1965. Am quite familiar with HK but I have never come across John King. But with such a weird sounding English name as a brand, it does resembles a HK invention (ala Kim Gary).
They sell possibly the best ever egg tarts I have ever eaten. Some may say that their crust is a bit rich, hey, egg tarts should be an indulgence , not a health/diet food! Enjoy la.

Surprisingly, the butter shortbread pastry is even better than the flaky ones, and I thought I would never like the shortbread pastry types.
Forget about the durian egg tart, its a lie and con job. Go for the original or the even-better seoung-pei lai egg tart (whitish egg tart, double-skin-milk egg tart).

Its a lot saying they possibly make the best egg tarts, especially having tried so many good ones in so many places. Is it better than sex???... well, you will be making the same noises and exclamations though - "OMG"! Go John King or whatever your name is, its the best thing that I can afford after shopping at The Pavillion!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Aftermath

I write on Hinduraf also don't get so many comments. But I flame Fung Shui and its like pulling pubic hairs from certain readers. Below are the passionate responses. Please note that I use profanity NOT in the form of a personal attack but rather for emphasis and clarity, and cause that's the way you speak when speaking passionately, or being pissed off. No apologies cause its my blog and should not adhere to any writing standards imposed by others. Anyway, great to hear from the readers below, no hard feelings - hey, we may disagree on one thing, that's very small in the whole scheme of things. Cheers...
Blogger xatomic said...

Haha I couldnt agree with you more. Education and the wealth of knowledge on the Internet has made me increasingly sceptical and beginning to question customs. We Chinese are one hell of the most superstitious lot

The most BS thing is probably burning things for the dead. There are probably 100 reasons why I think it doesnt make any sense at all..For a start, god don't the rules of economics work down there? (if it even exists) Infinite money supply and still expect hell money to have value? hah

and our famed Feng Shui businesswoman in Msia still manage to expand and maintain the business. IPO soon? :)

11:38 PM

Blogger zentrader said...

Not sure BS or not but they said Uncle Lim got 8 Feng Shui Master to sort thing out for him :)

LKY I think also have one Feng Shui Monk ... :)

They said our PM also got one based in Penang ... :)

9:29 AM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...


like i said, they did it for pragmatic reasons, wealth protection and maybe design issues...

do u think LKY would be NOT SUCCESSFUL without the FS monk? u can put LKY in Langkawi or HK or NZ n he would have made a dramatic change.. FS is for asthetics

same for PM, where were the FS when they were building their career,... to me FS masters are pricey like latour 62 and just as unecessary ... you won't be having one when you are building your career... you got rich... then you indulge in superflous stuff like fine wine and bad FS masters

10:11 AM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...

as for genting, pls la... gamblers will say they LOST becos uncle lim placed the door entrance in a certain degree, and the building looks like a claw trapping them... u know what you fucking gamblers are entering the casinos (with or without yr red underwear) yrself, you ARE BOUND TO LOSE cause mathematically u will... its a casino, early casinos in vegas without FS design ALSO same result... just the fact that they r trendy and I am sure the 2 IRs will use FS consultants does not legitimise them... its a CASINO, its yr own fault u lose money..

10:24 AM

Blogger geoff said...

Well, Dali, for once i'll disagree with you on this one. I think FS was invented not 100 years ago but way way back. It is the chinese way of harmonising human with nature. to me, it is a lot more to do with science than superstitious. There is no way to verify by using the western scientific way. it is a chinese way of life. just like chi in kung fu or qigong. U cannot scientifically prove it but it exists. I think the common misconception with modern fs is that ppl thinks that it is a one stop solution to all their problems. Also there are too many unqualified masters out there (see the similarity with investment advises?).

11:17 AM

Blogger zentrader said...

The 'Chi' was tested scientifically by western researcher I think the conclusion was that the Kung Fu monk really can control the flow of chi.

In the same Discovery Series it said that the way they controlled the chi and then the release of the energy, it was calculated to be the power of a shotgun so don't play play with those shaolin monk :)

11:25 AM

Blogger Long said...

While I agree most of the facts you posted, but for this one, I think to some extend, you might not get it correctly.

You seemed to put too much blame of chinese culture 'believe' into FS. Which means, you didn't really know the true knowledge or arts of FS.

Mind you, animal years and fan-tai-shui believe are nothing to do with FS. You are right in saying there are really a lot of bull-shitter around who make living in FS by misleading its value to accustome market demand.

And because of this many ppl have got wrong impression of FS, where unfortunately, including you.

If you want to know the root of FS, go for 'yi jing'. The fundamentals, not the god, semi-god or whatever incorrect believe that polluted by business world today.

11:29 AM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...


i believe in the chi, i belive in hei kung ... don't get me wrong... i also believe in ghosts, spirits and voodoo ... just becos something has been around for 3,500 years does not mean its valid.... certain witchcraft and God's Sticks have been around also for even longer ... no empirical evidence la...

I put up so many points, you all just never attack them but stick onto yr views like a religious zeaLOT... c'mon , do better.

11:42 AM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...


accussing someone of not knowing the true art form of FS, is in itself BS ... its like accussingsomeone who did not embrace Christianity as not knowing the full true way of Christianity... everyone bloody school of thot will say theirs is the way... by saying its fundamentals of FS does not make them more correct..., like I said, some of the stuff are just common sense

LOOK at the bloody property mkts in HK and Singapore, face here face there, but when property mktsa are bad , you face backside also no use... aha, the FS master will say cannot evade tei wan (land luck) even though you did all the FS precautions ... how to fight against the NEVER CAN BE WRONG FUCKERS

11:46 AM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...

geoff n zen,

like i said, i believe in the chi n hei kung.... harnessing it should not cost 10,000 ringgit per reading session...
do you think i am helping ppl to harness better wealth understanding and wealth accumulation ... well, i didn't charge any fuckers 10,000 ringgit per session... the whole shebang just smacks of overkill and over zealous money making, turning the entire thing into a long drawn out scam... yes there is chi, here go harness it, thanks goodbye... dont make it out to be something that needs 25 years of studying and white bear gurus here and there, making the art so secretive... that only the chosen ones can know the secrets, please...

11:51 AM

Blogger Roden said...

FS at least has more than 500 years, in the ancient time, the selection of building town or capital all base on FS, that fit to harmonize the mankind and environment, they become chief planner for the townhall. That definitely has unqualified FS master in the market, those really good one keep very low profile. We have to learn the fundenmental FS before we heard their interpretation, just ignore those guru comment or prediction on next year, that are general statement, sure correct, just like Dali said your mother probably is woman, hahaha...if someone really not believe FS, let try to whack your ancestor tomb then simply build again, or challenge FS, choose the lousy date and time to bury your ancestor, then see what would happen. good FS master keep need not publishing book, articles or sell those funny "toy", got to understand that is just business and supply to general need. One of the FS master told me, they would not "disclose" their skill or secret on book, those already disclose are really insignificant. FS can help people and lead someone into disaster, this is the knowledge pass down from ancient, some said it doesn't make sense, but I said probably we just not enough knowledge to understand it and no time to understand it. Just beware, a lot of unorthedox FS master taking advantage on people when they believe them.

2:05 PM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...


fair comment...

zentrader n geoff,

i think we all made some points for both sides ... can go on arguing till cown really knock on our doors, so just let it slide... to each his own, since we have all said what we wanted. Tks for a nice

2:30 PM

Blogger sickput said...

Thank you for the write up on feng shui. i will have to look for a new profession now as previously, I used to "chase" bad luck from pretty lady investors who lost money in the market.
best way to get ladies plus cash for doing something you really like.
Due to mu skill, needless to say, there were very few repeat customers.
After your comment, I doubt there will be many who will fall for my scam.

6:15 PM

Blogger oceanblue said...

I think you should read up more on FS before you comment. And I also think that you are against those so-called "modern FS master" than FS itself.
As for burning "paper maney" for the dead, do you really think it is for the dead? It is more for those who alive, who give (burn) the money, to feel better psychologically!

12:23 PM

Blogger Salvatore_Dali said...


am i an expert , no... have i read up on FS, yes... but probably not. ARE YOU TELLING ME I NEED TO GET A DEGREE IN FS before I can comment? Then nobody in the world can say anything to anyone. If your wife scold you for being lazy.. you can always say to your wife you need to read up more on me and why I am lazy before calling me lazy. Your defence comes up again and again by those who defend FS, because every one thinks they aree THE ONLY ONES practising the ONE TRUE WAY... how many ONE TRUE WAYS are there?

Its an inexact science that is near impossible to prove wrong, hence it will flourish and the ones with the best argument or most persuasive arguments will get more followers.

Think first, why study FS? For greedy reasons? Look at the FS masters ... they are also greedy bastards. I am not against people being greedy, but if its a NOBLE ART form and helps people to harness chi, why the excessive monetary compensations? Compare HEI KUNG with FS, there are many true masters of HEI KUNG and it works empirically speaking - but you dont see the master charging 5,000 for a training session... the ends justify the means?

The shameless amount of money bandied around taints the whole bloody thing.

12:47 PM


Monday, December 17, 2007


Warren Buffett was at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in San Francisco last Tuesday. Here are some excerpts. My comments in blue.

Q: Your views on the US Dollar?

A: The most important question to ask in economics is "X happens, and then what?". We are living prosperously, but every day we are sending 2 billion dollars overseas because we consume more than we purchase. It is similar to if we owned, say, a large farm in Texas. We are extremely wealthy, but every year we mortgage a little bit of that farm in order to enjoy more of the present. And it is gradual, but then at some point you have to spend an hour or maybe two hours a week of your work to go towards servicing this debt. The problem is at some point either foreign investors will stop financing our consumption, or our future generations will be burdened with debt and have to work some X hours towards servicing the debt of the earlier generation. But the present over-consumption is unsustainable.

The persistently weak USD over the last 9 months is a reflection of central banks and governments moving away from holding pure US Treasuries (funding US deficit directly). Buffett had been bearish on USD for more than 5 years, only the USD really started to move the way Buffett (and most of the global view) predicted this year. Some governments holding large trade surpluses have set up Sovereign Funds to invest in large caps, a masked way of getting better returns from the surpluses or petrodollars. That trend will accelerate next year, hence we can probably see at least another weak year for USD. The rebalancing act has already started to work its way into lower deficits for the US, but we are not there yet, but its certainly working. The rebalancing has just started, we are probably one-third in the cycle to rebalance the USD.

Q: Your views on new products such as derivatives, SIVs, etc. ?

A: There's utility in securitizations. But the problem is these have become complex and the originators and investors have been stretched so far in part in the whole process.

Q: On Taxes.

A: In the U.S., 2 trillion out of 2.5 trillion in taxes come from income and payroll taxes. Of those, 60% is income taxes, and 40% is payroll taxes. I [Buffett] did a survey at Berkshire HQ and the average worker paid 33.2%. I paid 17.7%.

The worth of the Forbes 400 was 220 Billion in 1987, and for 2007 it is 1.5 trillion. A seven-fold increase. During the same period, wages went up only 80%.

Basically Buffett is saying the rich pay a lot less taxes, and he has been keeping quiet for a long time. Now that he has made his money and kept most of it from the government (or that he has pledged a substantial sum to the Gates Foundation), Buffett appears to be magnanimous in saying the government should close the loopholes which allow the rich to pay less taxes. I wonder why he did not say this 10 years ago?!!

Q: Sense for the future of our country, Warren?

A: In the 20th century, real standard of living increased seven-fold. That was unprecedented, and included the Great Depression and other scares. The American system has unleashed the greatest potential of its citizens. Back in 1790, China had 290 million people, and America had 4 million. But today look where we are at. We will be better off in the future, the real question is how it will be shared.

Basically we are at the starting edge of a new paradigm. Economic leadership will be going through the most turbulent of changes in terms of economic ownership, economic power will shift gradually, but overall economic leadership should still reside in the US, provided they play their cards right. Still, they will lose a huge portion of economic ownership, and some of the economic power.

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