Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Meeting Up With Two New Yorkers
Blogging has its benefits. Yesterday I got to meet up for dinner with two regular readers of this blog. I have exchanged views with one of them regularly on the markets via emails. They happened to be fund managers investing in Asia out of New York. Well I said that we should meet for dinner if they happened to be traveling through Asia. Well they did and so we ended up, of all places, deep inside Jalan Imbi. Their preferred place, Soo Kee, was closed on Mondays, we ended up at a nice Chinese restaurant nearby. Before that, we stumbled at a row of shops selling porridge but something fishy was also on the offing. There were girls from Asian countries crowding around some tables, and Izzy (I have to make up nicks for them to protect their identities) said the food must be good there. I had to explain that they weren't there for the food, they were selling 'stuff'.
Naturally, the entire dinner was full-on discussion on business issues. Izzy and Mikey mentioned that it was funny that they already know so much about me from the blog but I know little about them - guess, thats how weird things can be with blogs and the internet.
I think if we could capture the two hour dinner it would have made for good viewing on CNBC. We trashed everything on bank nationalisation, Citi, local politics, US debts,... but the first question which they wanted to clarify was the girls, yea, the girls on my blog. As was the experience with most male users, they had to justify that it was not a soft-porn blog site... I told them its really a Playboy thing - people do buy the magazine for the articles, really!!!
We discussed some of their holdings in Asia, and they did asked what do I like in Malaysia. I had to think for a long time, and said not much. If I had the an Asian wide portfolio, I would throw in China Mobile and Li & Fung, but if just in Malaysia, not much.
I am not trashing Malaysian stocks per se. Stocks have to be compared on a global platform. How many local shares can boast that the world is their oyster, if not, then your market is local and the growth and prospects are restricted by the GDP growth. There are plenty of industries but also plenty of them that are not scaled, why do we need the cement, steel or car guys? You tell me that its not more efficient to buy from other lower cost suppliers? I said if you look at the industries and where they are in the value chain, its the same buggers 10 years ago, we are not moving up the value chain. Yes, some banks have ventured overseas, but we need more of that.
Protecting some industries is OK if they are nurtured to adapt the technology, grow, scale up and seek out the blue ocean - where are the cement, steel and car makers now compared to 10 or 20 years ago? Same old, same old.
We did touch on BAT, Carlsberg and Guinness, all very solid stocks but not exciting because of "restrictions" placed on these companies. Yes, they are solid, they pay high dividends because the environment dictates that they cannot use the vehicle to grow and invest. Hence these companies which could have been used as regional growth centers are no more than just dividend plays. Unshackle them, give them incentives to use Malaysia as their growth center into Asia, be a distribution center, and then you can see the market caps exploding for them.
After saying all that, I did mentioned that the plantations looked good, yea IOI... but the other candidates Wilmar and Golden Agri are listed in Singapore.
Well, there were other things we talked about but not for open consumption. It was a good night. Have a safe trip guys.
p/s photo: Zhou Wei Tong ( had to be her again as she was Izzy's favourite)
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