Wednesday, April 30, 2008

M.U. 1

Nail biting stuff... now what did Deco say before the match?!

p/s photo: Barbie Xu

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Things To Come From Food Crisis

More rushed conferences and summits among regional players. DOHA antagonistic buggers to meet again and again only with a more conciliatory attitude this time. Hoarding will not just be by private sector but some governments will be doing that as well. Countries importing food will reduce import tariffs substantially - hmmm, I wonder why! Countries exporting may be raising export tax. Partly oil in 3 figures is to be blamed as they contribute to more expensive transportation and fertilizer costs. Biofuels now viable with fuel at staggering levels caused diversion of edible products into biofuels - not such a good idea now. Higher food prices have caused feedling livestock to be a huge burden, thus forcing many farmers to sell much of the livestock younger and cheaper - but the flip side a few months down the road is the lack of livestock. Governments to increase subsidy to farmers to keep farming, and keep the lid on controlled necessities - just more money to chase after a fixed amount of goods. Aid agencies will be begging for free food supply to poor nations. Riots over lack of food supply or excessive price increases will be daily news. Is this food crisis a fad? Egypt and Cambodia already banned rice exports. Any sign of bad weather will only heighten the crisis. Social unrest is already reported in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Senegal and Pakistan - expect more to join the list.

A looming food crisis = spiraling inflation = restrictive market policies = higher interest rates to curb spending = not so good for equities.

A looming food crisis = Mounting government subsidy = Controlled prices break loose = Social unrest & riots = not good for equities.

p/s photo: Joyce Sialni

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Food Train Wreck

Comments in PURPLE.

Blogger Encik Wan said...

What do you suggest? Cut liquidity to curtail demands? Speed of production of commodities cannot match rate of increase in demands. You cannot ask emerging countries to go back to old days, right?

The biggest problem, which many are still not aware, is that unlike the subprime crisis and the credit implosion, a food crisis cannot be solved or minimised by pumping liquidity or having more bailouts. You cannot just plant more rice or coffee overnight. Hence the headline: its a train wreck waiting to happen. It will happen. There is nothing much we can do to stop it. How's that for being optimistic?

Blogger Wai Kit said...

question is, what's the best way to position our portfolio during inflation environment? invest in gold, palm oil, stocks related to food production, O&G etc?


Blogger Smart Money said...

What's your thoughts on the effects of inflation on property prices? Are they sure to increase in value? What's the effect of restrictive monetary policy on the property values? Do rentals go up during inflation? The effects on equities are quite predictable. But real estate?

Inflation = Higher interest rates = Lower affordability. Hence spiraling food inflation does not necessarily equate to corresponding property price jumps. Even in those supposedly good sectors with positive black swans (food manufacturers, plantations), their earnings jump will be regarded as an anomaly and would not get a long term hike in PER valuation. What can the governments do? Put more funds into subsidy. This is a case of people getting richer but clamouring for reduced supply. Prices get bidded higher. Unlike oil which affects companies a lot more, food prices affects a much larger crowd. We all will have to live with much higher food prices, not to mention fuel prices. Governments will have to pay higher salaries for civil servants. Countries like Malaysia will be net beneficiaries as we have oil royalties and plantations to help cushion the blows. It will hit resource poor nations a lot harder. Developing economies with high poverty levels will be hit especially hard. Even the aid in USD have depleted in value and can only buy a lot less of things costing a lot more.

A looming food crisis = spiraling inflation = restrictive market policies = higher interest rates to curb spending = not so good for equities.

A looming food crisis = Mounting government subsidy = Controlled prices break loose = Social unrest & riots = not good for equities.

p/s photo: Niki Chow

Golf Balls, Pebbles, Sand & 2 Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are th e other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. 'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

p/s photo: Rene Liu Ruo Ying

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Authority Says Buy

China markets is still run like a strict traditional family. After watching the markets fall on inflationary worries for a prolonged period, the authorities know that without "guidance" the markets will remain in a funk for the longest time.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission announced that all major shareholders could only sell large tranches of shares through a block trade or over the counter. And shareholders need to announce placement plans one month in advance if they want to sell more than 1 percent of a company's total stock. People expect there will be more measures to come. It is very obvious that if the first move is insufficient to restore confidence, there could very well be a stamp duties reduction in the coming future.

Market watchers said investors are still watching for blue-chip tradable shares worth 1.7 trillion yuan (HK$1.89 trillion) and 12 trillion yuan to come on to the market, this year and in 2009. During past days, it's only those small caps dumping shares that have caused panic, people will be more skeptical for larger caps' similar moves.

p/s photo: Donita Rose


WSJ: The Monetary Authority of Singapore is investigating why Jade Technologies Ltd., a takeover target, delayed disclosing that Merrill Lynch & Co. had seized a large block of its shares, causing investors to lose millions of dollars.

The circumstances of the takeover offer for Jade were already under investigation by Singapore's white-collar crime unit and the council that oversees mergers and acquisitions.

Jade is listed on Catalist, Singapore's secondary board. The takeover offer, if it had gone through, would have valued the company at S$218 million (US$160.8 million). Now the aborted offer, by Jade President Anthony Soh, is threatening to undermine investor confidence in the Singapore market, among the most developed in Asia. The controversy has become a test case for regulators, with institutional and individual investors complaining that the system has wronged them.

OCBC, Mr. Soh's adviser, had vouched for his ability to fund the deal. OCBC subsequently withdrew from its role and filed a complaint against Mr. Soh with the Commercial Affairs Department, which fights white-collar crimes, for allegedly misleading the bank.

The saga began in February, when Mr. Soh said he wanted to take over the company, which has interests in microchip engineering and mining. The sole requirement of the offer of 22.5 Singapore cents a share was an acceptance level of 50%, meaning Mr. Soh needed to secure just a small addition to his own 46% stake to succeed. On April 5, he withdrew the offer after getting permission from the local regulator. He said he no longer had enough funds to continue with the bid. The stock went into a freefall when the market opened on April 7, sinking to seven Singapore cents from 22 Singapore cents before trading was halted on April 1. The shares have remained near seven Singapore cents over the past two weeks.

What many investors didn't know was that Mr. Soh had pledged a 30.5% stake in Jade, or 295 million shares, as collateral for a loan from Australian broker Opes Prime Group Ltd. to fund the takeover. Opes collapsed and went into receivership in the last week of March.

On April 1, before shareholders got details about the deal's financing, Opes creditor Merrill liquidated 95 million of the shares Mr. Soh had pledged. Merrill had received 256 million Jade shares from Opes on March 27. While Merrill sold out at 22 Singapore cents a share, other investors held or even accumulated new positions under the assumption the takeover would proceed.

Angry investors, who watched helplessly as Jade lost S$145 million in market capitalization in the first minute of trade on April 7, want to know why they weren't told Merrill had seized Mr. Soh's shares. "If public notice had been made, there's absolutely no way we would have bought any stock at all," said an investor who increased his stake in Jade to almost 5% on April 1. "Until recently we had an extremely high degree of confidence in the integrity of the Singapore system in relation to takeovers. Things just didn't go wrong," he said.

An MAS representative declined to elaborate on its investigation.

Merrill spokesman Rob Stewart, based in Hong Kong, said the bank "made the required shareholder notification as required by the regulations." Merrill was required to notify both Jade and the Singapore Exchange of its holding in Jade by March 31, two business days after it took possession of the shares.

The Singapore Exchange doesn't announce changes in shareholdings until it is notified by a company. It declined to comment on the Jade issue. Jade Chief Financial Officer Vera Lim said Jade received some information from Merrill in the days leading up to April 8, before it announced the change in Merrill's holding, but declined to elaborate. "On April 8, we received all the information from Merrill Lynch," Ms. Lim said.

OCBC, which had vouched for Mr. Soh's ability to fund the deal, said it had begun to doubt "the integrity of the representations" given by Mr. Soh. Singapore law prohibits withdrawal of a takeover offer without approval from the Securities Industry Council, which has oversight for mergers and acquisitions. The SIC declined to explain why it allowed Mr. Soh to drop the offer or if OCBC was bound to back it. The SIC "has commenced investigation into the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the offer," an SIC representative said. "However, it is premature and inappropriate to give further details at this point."

A second investor said he bought shares expecting OCBC to stand by the deal. "I placed confidence in the fact that OCBC was involved in the process, and it stated clearly that financing was in place," he said.

OCBC declined to comment when asked if it was under obligation to back the financing.

Comments: The Bursa and SC should take note on the Jade saga because it could very well happen anywhere. There are numerous companies offering "margin facilities" out of Singapore and Malaysia. As these companies are not under the jurisdiction of the companies where it is listed, when things go wrong, the domino effect is at the expense of minority shareholders and investors who relied on available information.

To prevent such incidents, there should be new disclosure rules when the controlling shareholder or even substantial shareholders pledges their shares to a third party.

OCBC should be quizzed further on whether their grounds for withdrawing their funding was legal and in the best interest of the market's integrity. Merrill Lynch, which seized the shares from Opes is in the clear and they absolutely have the right to sell the shares, and they played by the rules in terms of informing the exchange and company. Maybe new rules should be put in place in the "delay allowed" when reporting sales by significant shareholders - one week may be too long. All exchanges and regulators, please take note.

SIC should be in a lot of hot water for allowing Soh to drop his offer - heads will roll. It seems that the only people not being considered or catered for in this saga were the minority shareholders and investors - they were basically hung out to dry, left to make decisions based on available information which were "outdated", materially different from reality, and left holding the bag. Tsk tsk!

p/s: photo: Fiona Xie

Sunday, April 13, 2008

General Electrocution

Why is GE so important? Missing a quarter can bring the entire market down triple digits. Well, not counting the slide in Asian markets come Monday morning as well. GE is important because:

1) It is supposedly the best managed company globally

2) Its ability to beat quarterly estimates are legendary, which translates to having a great hold on business analytics, management execution and forecasting
3) It is a diversified global industrial giant, and as such should be able to weather the supposedly "localised banking correction in the US"
4) If the going gets tough for GE, can you imagine the situation for lesser companies

The company reported a 12 percent decline in first-quarter profit — its first in five years — and dim prospects for the rest of the year. GE is one of only five AAA-rated corporations worldwide, and its troubles accessing the credit markets underscore how seriously broken the credit system has become. If the weakness was solely concentrated in their financial subsidiary, it would not have reverberated as much. However, the weakness was caused not only by credit difficulties but the conglomerate's far-flung businesses on nearly every continent, spanning such industries as entertainment, health care, consumer goods and industrial manufacturing.

This lends weight to my feeling that there is another shoe to drop, one more whack down before genuine recovery can begin. Though prices are attractive, the upside is not sparkling and any attempt to rally from here will not be able to generate sufficient momentum or encourage the sidelined to jump in.
The plunge saw GE losing US$55bn in market cap, what was interesting as well was UPS coming in below estimates for its quarterly results, particularly since UPS is such a good benchmark on "business velocity".

This week will be very volatile: Anwar's April 14 date with destiny; quarterly results from JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. Good day!

p/s photo: Sammi Cheng

Saturday, April 12, 2008

HK Film Awards

Best Film

  1. The Warlords
    Produced by : Andre Morgan, Huang Jian Xin, Peter Chan Ho Sun
  2. Protege
    Produced by : Peter Chan Ho Sun
  3. The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt
    Produced by : Yuan Mei, Yu Dong & Cui Yong
  4. Mad Detective
    Produced by : Johnnie To Kei Fung & Wai Ka Fai
  5. Eye In The Sky
    Produced by : Johnnie To Kei Fung & Tsui Siu Ming
Verdict: Eye In The Sky by a mile.

Best Director
  1. Peter Chan Ho Sun (The Warlords)
  2. Derek Yee Tung Sing (Protege)
  3. Ann Hui On Wah (The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt)
  4. Johnnie To Kei Fung & Wai Ka Fai (Mad Detective)
  5. Yau Nai Hoi (Eye In The Sky)
Verdict: Tough one. Its the Mad Detective team or Yau Nai Hoi. I hope its Mr. Yau.

Best Screenplay
  1. Xu Lan, Chun Tin Nam, Aubrey Lam, Huang Jian Xin, Jojo Hui, Ho Kei Ping, Guo Jun Li, James Yuen Sai Sang (The Warlords)
  2. Derek Yee Tung Sing, Chun Tin Nam, Loong Man Hong, Go Sun (Protege)
  3. Li Qiang (The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt)
  4. Wai Ka Fai & Au Kin Yee (Mad Detective)
  5. Yau Nai Hoi & Au Kin Yee (Eye In The Sky)
Verdict: Postmodern Life Of My Aunt or Mad Detective. The former has the edge.

Best Actor
  1. Aaron Kwok (The Detective)
  2. Jet Li (The Warlords)
  3. Andy Lau Tak Wah (The Warlords)
  4. Lau Ching Wan (Mad Detective)
  5. Simon Yam (Eye In The Sky)
Verdict: Too close to call between Lau Ching Wan and Simon Yam.

Best Actress
  1. Teresa Mo Shun Kwan (Mr. Cinema)
  2. Zhang Jing Chu (Protege)
  3. Si Qin Gao Wa (The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt)
  4. Rene Liu (Kidnap)
  5. Charlene Choi (Simply Actors)
Verdict: Rene Liu should win on merit but Charlene could win sympathy votes.

Best Supporting Actor
  1. Nick Cheung Ka Fai (Exodus)
  2. Ronald Cheng (Mr. Cinema)
  3. Louis Koo (Protege)
  4. Andy Lau Tak Wah (Protege)
  5. Chow Yun Fat (The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt)
Verdict: Nick Cheung on sympathy votes for missing out last year but Mr. Chow should win.

Best Supporting Actress
  1. Karen Mok (Mr. Cinema)
  2. Anita Yuen (Protege)
  3. Zhao Wei (The Postmodern Life Of My Aunt)
  4. Susan Shaw (The Pye-Dog)
  5. Maggie Shiu (Eye In The Sky)
Verdict: Maggie to win as the foul mouthed cop.

Best Newcomer
  1. Linda Chung (Love Is Not All Around)
  2. Tsei Tsz Tung (Protege)
  3. Wen Jun Hui (The Pye-Dog)
  4. Wong Hau Yun (Besieged City)
  5. Kate Tsui (Eye In The Sky)
Verdict: Kate Tsui by a mile.

p/s photo: Kate Tsui

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fed's Portfolio Similar To Ah-Long's

The Fed's portfolio now looks a lot like an Ah-Long's (unlicensed loan sharks). The spate of lendings by the Fed means it has to borrow from someplace to lend to the distressed parties. In exchange for the loans to these "privileged children of the corn", the Fed now has car loans, credit card loan, auto loans and housing loans on their books. This literally means that there could come a time when Bernanke may be knocking on doors and asking why you have not kept up with your credit card minimum payments.

The Fed's portfolio is not a bottomless thing. As you can see, in exchange for lending to the distressed parties, the Fed now have the distressing loans in their books, what a wonderful exchange rate. Its like exchanging one ringgit for one Euro, why not?!

The debt is issued under the Fed's name rather than the Treasury's, hence they have to ask Congress for immediate authority for the Fed to pay interest on commercial-bank reserves instead of waiting until a previously enacted law permits it in 2011.
The Fed holds assets to manage the nation's money supply and influence the federal-funds rate, which banks charge each other on overnight loans. When the Fed buys Treasuries or makes loans directly to banks, it supplies financial institutions with cash; in effect, it prints money. The cash ends up as currency in circulation or in banks' reserve accounts at the Fed.

Fed officials also are investigating the feasibility of the Fed issuing its own debt and using the proceeds to purchase other assets or make loans. The Fed has never done such a thing but may consider to do so. There is a precedent here in that the Bank of Japan also did something similar. More writedowns on commercial real estate, auto loans, credit card debt, Alt-A mortgages, and pay option arms are coming. Does that mean we will see the Fed end up holding these papers??? The Fed now has to buy risky paper from the banks or lend the banks the Fed's own assets against risky assets. What if the banks fold, does that mean the Fed take up the loans and start calling up the car loan, housing loan and credit card defaulters in order to get Fed's money back?

Yuan & Ringgit

The Singapore dollar and the Malaysian ringgit gained, while China's yuan strengthened beyond 7 to the dollar. The decision probably stem from the belief that Asian central banks will seek stronger currencies to reduce the cost of importing rice and fuel. The Singapore dollar climbed to a record S$1.3553 per dollar, from $1.377 yesterday, bringing its gain this year to 6.1 percent. The Malaysian ringgit rose 0.8 percent to 3.1532 per dollar and Taiwan's currency gained 0.5 percent to NT$30.298. China's yuan rose as high as 6.9904 per dollar from 7.0017, the strongest since the end of a fixed-exchange rate in July 2005.

The Hong Kong dollar, allowed to trade 5 cents either side of HK$7.8, was little changed at HK$7.7876. Soros who made $1 billion in 1992 by selling the British pound and knocking it out of the European exchange-rate mechanism, the precursor to the euro, said he expects the Hong Kong government to keep the city's currency peg to the dollar. That is where I differ in opinion to Soros. While the HKMA would definitely try with all their might to defend the peg, they will eventually fail. Even as we speak, many HKers are still rushing over to Shenzhen to open yuan currency accounts. How long can you do zero interest rate? The essence of HK's economy has evolved substantially over the last 5 years to be more correlated and dependent on mainland China - how in hell can you have monetary policy being dictated by what happens a few thousand miles away?

China's yuan has accelerated upward in recent months, gaining 4.5% so far this year against the U.S. dollar after pushing 7% higher in 2007. In July 2005, Beijing bowed to economic pressures at home and global calls to loosen its grip on the currency, ending a decade of locking the exchange rate around 8.28 yuan. It took until May 2006 for the yuan to break the barrier of eight to the dollar. While the U.S. has continued to pressure Beijing to allow the yuan to rise, Washington is also concerned that the falling dollar might discourage China from accumulating Treasury bonds at a critical time for the U.S. economy.

An interesting fact which is rarely known is that the China's central bank's first phone call every time they "allow the yuan to move" is not to the Fed or Paulson or even the BOJ. Its to the Bank Negara! As unbelievable as that may sound, this has been shared to me three times by three different economists who have visited China's central bank's top management. Hence no collusion there. That's why I have mentioned a couple of times before that the ringgit will keep in step with the yuan's gains. Now why would the situation be so. Bank Negara is not a big boy by any means. Mind you, this has basically happened following the removal of the ringgit from its debilitating and inappropriate peg of 3.8 to the USD. Even the economists I spoke to could not fathom a plausible reason. Is Zeti so close to the China central bank? My best educated guess would be that Bank Negara has helped Malaysia to accumulate one of the highest foreign reserves per capita, and China's central bank also knows that the yuan and the ringgit are speculated as having the most upside to most currency players. To have some form of cooperation would be healthy. Bottom line, I do expect Zeti's phone to ring a few more times before the year is over. I am looking at 2.90 for the ringgit by year end.

p/s photo: Fala Chen

Thursday, April 10, 2008

There Has To Be A God

The above headline could be a cry for help. It could also be a yearning. It could also be a cry of exasperation. Or it could be sobering commentary following a philosophical debate that if God did not exists, we would have had to invent Him. And after viewing the clip below, you would say the same statement in the voice of assurance and conviction, because there couldn't be any other possible explanation.

A couple who could not conceive adopts a baby. The baby is blind. The mother always sings in her kitchen. One day when she was 3, she played the song her mum sang on the piano. No one taught her, its impossible to teach a blind child to play at 3. She hears a song and she can immediately play it on the piano. I mean her tiny fingers can barely stretch to play the notes.

In a world where we are surrounded by temporary cares and woes, it is good to take care of your soul. She reminds us all that there are greater things in life, that He is around.

p/s photo: Ruby Lin

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who Is Jim Rogers?

With a name like that, you'd think he was a country and western movie star. Well, in his own way, he is definitely a swashbuckler. Jim is not shy and is very vocal on many investing issues. Unlike the other Jim (Cramer), this Jim has substance and intelligence. Cramer has very little of either.

On the recent bailouts by the Fed and applying "band-aids" to the US economy, the Federal Reserve may well be causing its own downfall - even as it hastens the demise of the greenback as a viable global currency, according to Jim Rogers.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

80s Greatest Hits Compilation From Election 2008 Kayu-stock!

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet - AAB (Carole King)

Don't Get Around Much Anymore - CSL (Duke Ellington / Ink Spots / Nat king Cole / McCartney / BB King)

With or Without You - NR (U2)

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - KJ (U2)

Don' Dream Its Over - KTKoon (Crowded House)

Waiting For A Girl Like You - Nurul-Hannah (Foreigner)

(I've Had) The Time of My Life - SVellu (Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes)

If I Could Turn Back Time - AAB (Cher)

Don't You Want Me - RAziz (Human League)

Luka - SVellu (Suzanne Vega)

I Think We're Alone Now - AAB & KJ (Tiffany)

p/s feel free to add your ideas ...

Countries Stock market's Capitalisation As A % Of GDP

 Why is the figure important ... if you can strip out foreign listings and non related listings (inclusive of SPACs) and maybe some REITs th...