Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Most / Least Expensive Cities n Most / Least Livable Cities

FinanceAsia: In a Cost of Living survey involving 214 cities, Tokyo, Osaka and Hong Kong are among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world for corporations to fund their expatriates. Singapore is not far behind in 11th place.
By Mei Tuicolo | 30 June 2010

One only needs to do a Sunday drive around Hong Kong's Peak to see that big firms are paying top dollar to keep their expatriate employees happy and productive. Ranked as the eighth most expensive city out of a pool of 214 cities, Hong Kong maintains its affluent reputation in Mercer's most recent Cost of Living index, alongside Tokyo, Osaka and Singapore.

The index was created by consulting firm Mercer, and is an annual survey designed to be used as a tool to help develop compensation packages for expatriate employees among Mercer's corporate and government clients.

"In the past couple of years, corporate assignments have become truly global, with expatriates and 'global assignees' being transferred all over the world," said a Mercer spokesperson. "Global mobility is still an expensive undertaking for companies and a real understanding of the costs involved in relocating staff to other countries is essential," she added.

To develop the scores, New York has been used as the base city, with each city then given a comparative weighting to New York. The survey weighs over 200 indicators, including the cost of housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. Currency movements that are calculated into the costs are measured against the US dollar. According to Mercer, it is currently the most comprehensive index of its kind in the market.

Globally, Mercer's top 10 and bottom 10 lists looks like this:

Top 10

Luanda, Angola

Tokyo, Japan

Ndjamena, Chad

Moscow, Russia

Geneva, Switzerland

Osaka, Japan

Libreville, Gabon

Zurich, Switzerland

Hong Kong, Hong Kong (tie for 8th with Zurich)

Copenhagen, Denmark

Bottom 10

Windhoek, Namibia
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Kolkata, India
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Bishkek, Kyrgyztan
Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan
La Paz, Bolivia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Managua, Nicaragua
Karachi, Pakistan

Source: Mercer

Overall, the results are surprising, considering that three African cities rank among the top 10. The explanation for this is that in expatriate packages the big drawing card is ensuring that the lifestyle that expatriates experience once abroad does not deviate too much from the home lifestyle. In other words, packages are designed to protect the purchasing power of the employee.

In a circumstance where an employee and his/her family are all relocated to, say, Gabon, the costs to maintain a western lifestyle increases immensely as household goods and a similar home environment are deemed a luxury.

"Many people assume that cities in the developing world are cheap but that isn't necessarily true for the expatriates working there," stated a spokesperson from Mercer in a press release. "In some African cities, the cost [of living] can be extraordinarily high -- particularly the cost of secure accommodation."

The 214 cities assessed in the survey were selected based on Mercer's client feedback. All the data for the survey was attained during March 2010 and exchange rates from that month were used to determine relative value.

Excluding Australia and New Zealand, 33 of these cities are based in Asia. The 10 most expensive Asian cities were Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Singapore (ranked 11th overall), Seoul (14th), Beijing (16th), Nagoya (19th), Shanghai (25th), Guangzhou (38th) and Shenzhen (42nd).

In a comparative index put out by the Economic Intelligence Unit, which measures cost of living based on the liveability of each city, the results are very different, with the top 10 rankings being dominated by Western and developed cities.

Top 10

Vancouver, Canada

Vienna, Austria

Melbourne, Australia

Toronto, Canada

Calgary, Canada

Helsinki, Finland

Sydney, Australia

Perth, Australia

Adelaide, Australia

Auckland, New Zealand

Bottom 10

Dakar, Senegal
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kathmandu, Nepal
Douala, Cameroon
Karachi, Pakistan
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Algiers, Algeria
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Lagos, Nigeria
Harare, Zimbabwe

Source: Economics Intelligence Unit

EIU measured the cost of living across 140 cities with a focus on stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.

The heavy dominance of Australian and Canadian cities in this index is a reflection of the standard of living for the general population and not just for expatriates who would experience a relatively on par standard of living (from the base city, New York) in any one of the above.

For example, Vancouver and Melbourne are ranked 75th and 33rd respectively in Mercer's index. Vienna is 28th.

However, Pakistan's Karachi is the cheapest city on Mercer's index and in the bottom 10 for the EIU.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Original World Cup Funnies and Otherwise

First, lets scan for the current crop of World Cup jokes:

Carlos Tevez walks into a night club in Johannesburg after his team's victory over Mexico and sees a stunning leggy blonde beauty on the dance floor. He approaches her and says, "Get your coat, you are coming back to my hotel with me tonight."

She looks at him and replies, "Goodness, You're a little forward!"

Capello phones Gus Hiddink to find out how to improve his training methods.

"Dustbins" says Gus, "Position dustbins around the training pitch and get your players to pass the ball between them, dribble round them, chip the ball over them, it'll improve all round ball control".

The next day Gus' phone rings, it's the England manager, "Hi, The dustbin's are winning 4-1. What do I do now?"


Messi, Kaka and the pope are at a lake to find out who can walk on water. Messi runs on the water across the lake to the other side and runs right back. Then Kaka's turn, he did the same thing. Now the pope, he gets two steps into the water and falls.

Kaka looks at Messi and say's, "That's harsh, didn't you tell him about the stepping stones" and Messi replys, "What stepping stones?"

Best player in USA team, England's goalie.

Football is not the biggest game in the world, it is second after Farmville.

Somehow, I think my original ones are better ... lol ; )
I have made fun of the vuvuzelas and England team, Samson and Torres, and the Cristiano Ronaldo ball. While watching the Holland vs Slovakia match, I thought of giving the teams some better branding. They should latch onto the advertisers for naming rights:

ITALY should be called "The Toyota Team" - as the entire team should be recalled

FRANCE should be called "The BP Team" - as they just stand around and watch as their problems get worse

ENGLAND should be called "The Penicillin Team" - cause when you need to use them or need to rely on them, that means you are already in a lot of trouble

Goooooooooooooooo SPAIN!!!

Opinion - Sports Betting

I have been quiet on the Ascot betting license fiasco. Trying to get more info and facts first. While Vincent Tan may have erred in announcing the news a tad earlier, he did have a letter. However, he should have been more careful, knowing this is a time bomb and won't be easy to railroad the thing over. Should B Group be penalised by Bursa/SC on this. Well, yes and no, though I would sway towards "yes". Listed companies should be more careful when making announcements, in particular when it comes to market moving announcements. It has to be a yes owing to the amount of shares traded and the share price volatility after the announcement and its subsequent retraction.


No, because the company did have a letter, but it would have been wiser to highlight and underline (again and again) that it was a conditional thing.

Back to the issue on hand, should we have legalise sports betting. Yes on all accounts. Its like prostitution and casino gaming. For prostitution its not legal but it carries on. We are just fooling ourselves if we think not legalising will dampen the activity. Casino gaming is legal, but I am sure some bits of it still carries on illegally in small gaming dens. That is not the point, the point is the bulk of the casino gaming would have surfaced to the legal top and the country gets a tax on it. Want to guess how much in tax receipts the government has obtained from Genting and the 4-D listed operators for the past 20 years!!!

Sports betting is about the last bastion. Not legalising it will force much of the revenue and tax receipts to flow to the international betting sites anyway. Its like locking up your virginal daughter in her room 24 hours a day but she has a secret passageway to be naughty anyway. Why keep up appearances? 'She' is not going to be a virgin anyway, you'd be fooling yourself telling everybody otherwise.

Legalising it (including prostitution) will help not just in tax receipts but allow the government to regulate and monitor the activity. For example in prostitution, the government could force all "service workers" to go for monthly health checkup for proper certification so that fatalistic diseases would be kept at bay. If there is legalised sports betting, you would close off a large portion of the black market and push human resources back to the mainstream economy. Most would not bet with bookies if they have a CHOICE. There is none at the moment.


If you do decide NOT to legalise, then by all means possible show the country that you can eradicate the problem of illegal betting by hook or crook. If you do not legalise prostitution, then make bloody sure they will find it hard to exist - now I think too many of the spas, karaoke joints and even hotels front as prostitution joints. Prove to me otherwise. By not legalising it, you basically give those who are supposed to enforce more room and booty for "bribes" and "grease money".

I find Vincent Tan's claims that the illegal bookies spent millions to fund a campaign to nix the Ascot deal, believable. Organised crime is more organised than you think. Take the pirated DVDs business. For Chinese movies, you can get almost all pirated versions in the marketplace BEFORE it gets to the cinemas .... EXCEPT if the movies were produced by these two companies (check it out, they will only appear as pirated DVDs after they have been on the screen for 2 weeks): Media Asia and Emperor Group ~ go figure the rest ...

Despite the so called clamp down on football betting, I am pretty sure I can easily place my bets with a couple of phone calls, and so can everybody. Not legalising and no/poor enforcement makes for a man with a very weak argument or defence.


This should not be a question of morality or social values. This is a question of pragmatic and proper governance with a firm grasp of reality. I do agree that one cannot and should not impose their moral values on the rest of the nation, but there is also a line somewhere, I mean you cannot be legalising heroin just because some people will do it anyway. Trying to find that line is very difficult I agree. Unlike heroin or LSD usage, sports betting is more pervasive and more "acceptable" globally, thats all I can say.


Malaysian Insider / KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — Tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan today accused illegal bookmakers of spending millions of ringgit to fund a campaign to torpedo his plans for legalised football betting, and would wait for the right conditions to revive plans, gaming analysts said today.

He also told gaming industry analysts that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) was to blame for the Najib administration’s backtracking, and alleged that illegal bookmakers had spent between RM100 million and RM300 million to smear his attempt to introduce above-board football betting.

Illegal bookmaking activities in Malaysia are estimated to be worth up to RM20 billion a year.

Tan said this at a luncheon with about 40 gaming analysts, where he was also said to have shown them a Finance Ministry letter dated Jan 13, 2010 that gave him conditional approval for the licence.

However, sources who saw the letter said the conditions made no mention of the government having to first gauge public support and that they had essentially been fulfilled.

A Berjaya Corp press statement released earlier today said the company was extremely disappointed at the government’s decision not to re-issue the licence “despite having granted its approval for the re-issuance of the same” — a phrase which was underlined for emphasis.

Berjaya Corp reported that the government had last month re-issued the licence to Tan-owned Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd after the original licence was cancelled by the previous Abdullah administration.

The gaming, property and hospitality group had told Bursa Malaysia in a May 12 filing that it intended to acquire Tan’s 70 per cent stake in Ascot for RM525 million. The tycoon’s son — Datuk Robin Tan Yeong Ching — would have retained control of his 30 per cent stake.

Tan had first obtained the licence in 1987 but had “asked the government to take it back” when the venture was unsuccessful while retaining the right to get the licence back.

His most recent attempt to revive long-suffering Ascot — which posted a loss of RM4.6 million at the end of 2008 — ran into a concerted hail of criticism from opposition parties who managed to turn the issue into a national talking point on the back of apparent anti-gambling sentiment.

Tan-controlled Berjaya Corp had planned to offer football betting services through the telephone and at selected Toto outlets nationwide.

It is understood that the tycoon had spent a considerable sum in preparation for the start of play in European football leagues this August.

The licence itself is said to be worth RM10 million, an amount which was refunded to Tan following the government’s capitulation to public opinion on Friday.

Sources said Tan had used the money to obtain a bank guarantee worth the same amount as a first-right-of-refusal claim, and suggest that he is biding his time until conditions are more agreeable before attempting to launch the football betting service again.

It was also revealed during the get-together with analysts today that after Ascot’s licence was withdrawn in 1990, RM8 million in licence fees was refunded to the company by the Finance Ministry and that it was also given compensation of RM10.9 million for sports betting equipment by the Totalisator Board.

Tan’s meeting with gaming analysts from both buy and sell sides this afternoon is seen as a move to repair his company’s image after Berjaya Corp shares were battered today at the start of trading.

Trade was resumed at 10am after a one-hour suspension on trading following Berjaya Corp’s announcement that it was calling off plans to acquire Ascot.

As at 4pm Berjaya Corp’s share price was down 14 sen from its opening price to RM1.22.


by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
Centre for Policy Initiatives
27 June 2010

Life as a gamble

The cabinet decision not to issue a sports betting licence to Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd is the right one but it was made for the wrong reasons. According to prime minister Najib Razak, the reason for not legalizing sports betting was “the impact it will have from the perspective of religion and politics.”

To get a proper perspective of the issue, it is necessary to get off the religious and political high horse and acknowledge that we are a nation that loves the occasional flutter. And also let us admit that there’s nothing wrong with gambling so long as it is not taken to extreme lengths and becomes a pathological, compulsive or destructive habit.

In a sense, all of life and the various decisions that we make are gambles. Although it may be too much to say that we all have gambling in our genes, scientists have been debating on the extent to which gambling is a manifestation of human behavior for a long time – at least during the last 200 years or so.

In an article, ‘Human Behavior and the Efficiency of the Financial System’ (February 1998) Robert Schiller, the noted financial economist, wrote that “a tendency to gamble, to play games that bring on unnecessary risks, has been found to pervade widely divergent human cultures around the world and appears to be indicative of a basic human trait.”

Further he pointed to studies that estimated that 61% of the adult population in the United States participated in some form of gambling or betting in 1974. They estimated that 1.1% of men and 0.5% of women are “probably compulsive gamblers,” while an additional 2.7% of men and 1% of women are “potential compulsive gamblers.” These figures are probably much higher today.

Similar numbers are recorded in all the highly developed countries whose status the country aspires to. All the countries that our elite regard as role models whether in the East or West, North or South take a liberal position on gambling or gaming as it is sometimes referred to.

Monday, June 28, 2010

En Bloc Sale, Almost A Love Story

I was browsing through my older postings and I thought this was pretty good. Good enough to repost here after a year and a half. Something completely different... Readers, do indulge me a bit as I write a short story. I don't even read much fiction, and I don't aspire to be a fiction writer. Its fiction, I tell you, completely fictitious.....

The year was 2006, it was the end of October in Singapore. Sitting idly in her barely rocking, rocking chair - the chair must have seen better times, the ones you know may have existed when Kennedy was president, the rattan barely clinging on to the wooden frame. In many ways, the frail 82 year old lady was barely sitting in her chair. Siu Lan was her name, most of her family has already passed on. She knows she was closer to her time to exit, the way most older folks somehow know.

As the evening soft sun rays bathes her face, her eyes looked as if she was crying but there were no tears. Maybe she has cried all the tears she needed to in her life time. Yet she still cannot believe the events unfolding before her over the last few months.

She lives in Apartment C-412 Lincoln Lodge for over forty years. It was bought for a princely sum of S$85,000 even then. She did not own the apartment but she was told by her lover then that she will be able to live her life out in that grand apartment.

That was forty years ago. Fifty three years ago she was the third mistress of one of Singapore's wealthiest retail tycoon, let's call him Mr. Tang. Those were simpler times, when a man's word meant something. Mr. Tang would also make sure that Siu Lan will be able to get a decent monthly allowance banked into her account for the rest of her life, even after his death. There was no need to draw things up legally then. Those were more decent times. Maybe people were more long-suffering then, maybe they had less distractions, maybe life was simpler then, maybe times were crueler that way too.

Siu Lan, in many ways led a life of quiet desperation.
The apartment was bought under one of Mr. Tang's private company. Siu Lan knew her status and her position. She was happy to just have the occasional visit from Mr. Tang. Sometimes its once a month, sometimes not even that. She bore him a daughter, and called her Su Shan, though she now go with the name Susan.

For an 82 year old woman, the rest of the world seems to be bypassing her for most of her life. Singapore evolved and developed for most of the 40 years Siu Lan stayed in her apartment.

While the rest of the country modernised, the lady stuck to her ways. She was very house proud, keeping every corner spankingly clean, almost unchanged for most of the 40 years. She stayed indoors most days, went for her evening walks and would then sit at the balcony to enjoy the sunset.

The rest of the world left her alone in her ways, except for when both worlds collided 6 months ago. The whole country was stirred into a frenzy by the "en-bloc sale" extravaganza. Murmurs by the corridors turned into vicious rumours in elevators. An initial offer of S$1.8m was offered a couple of weeks later. That was later raised to S$2.1m and was accepted by more than 96% of the owners. All were instant millionaires, when you consider that the market price was just $1.2m last year. Well, almost all...

As Siu Lan sat in her barely rocking chair, her eyes was welling up like a well of her memories. She had to move out of her apartment. But it was more than a place of abode for her. Did she loved her man, she asked herself. She could not say for certain, after all, a woman then usually followed the path that was dictated to her, rather than making out a path for herself. But that was all she had. A large part of her identity was being the mistress of Mr. Tang.

When he passed away twelve years back, she dare not attend his funeral, she wasn't invited, she wasn't welcomed, she wasn't even notified of his passing till three weeks after the funeral.
Now she has to move out of the apartment.

She did not begrudge him for not transferring the apartment to her name. It never came up. To her, the apartment was more than just an apartment. It was a testament of the relationship she had. She had never been with another man all her life. That boxed her in, or rather she willingly was enclosed, or she did not have a choice. How to have a choice when your options are so limited then?

Mr. Tang's two sons from the first wife knew of her existence many years back. They allowed her to stay on but stopped the monthly payments six months after their father passed away. They voted in favour of the en-bloc sale.

She could have ranted and complained but that was not her nature. She ate her bitterness all her life and the moments of joy, far and few in between, were deep in the recesses of her memory.

A week before she was due to move out of her apartment, Siu Lan commited suicide. The coroner wrote that the cause of death was suicide, only that that wasn't the cause of her death.

Ball Talk Cock or Talk Cock Ball or Talk Ball Cock

Who has time to talk about business and stocks currently? Of course its the World Cup talk and how you are running out of excuses to get medical cert or sick leave.

The vuvuzelas will be big in EPL next season, because the England team plays like the vuvuzelas, makes a lot of noise but is pathetically and increasingly boring and annoying the more they play in the tournament.

This Brazil is not like the Brazil of old. This Brazil seems to have drunk a lot of Weizenbock, Klosch and Bock as their defence is BMW-solid.

Argentina is playing like the eventual winners, in spite of having Maradona as the coach - goes to show you how insignificant a role a coach plays to a team, just ask Capello.

South Korea, Japan and even North Korea did Asia proud, and was David Beckham masquerading as a Japanese player when they scored the two brilliant free kicks?

The French should be barred from the next World Cup so that they can have 8 years to think about what it means to be in a World Cup and what it means to play for your country.

I have a new nickname for Fernando Torres, I call him "Samson" now. He's no fucking good when you cut off his hair.

Best goal so far, Luis Suarez's (Uruguay) second goal against the Koreans.

Why is it that the game have 3 referees and we STILL always get goals that should not have been given (for offside / handball) and we get goals not given that should have been (crossed the line). It would be OK if the occurrence was once every 20 games, but its happening once every other game. C'mon, when there is available technology and its not too intrusive, USE IT - here, I agree, is where the US games are a lot smarter and better.

Mind you, Blatter said that the game is about controversies, ... BULLSHIT, if it is, then use only one referee and the person should be a non-neutral referee as well. For example, Brazil plays Spain, and you appoint an Argentine referee. Now you get all the controversies you want. Look at the American games, they use the best technology for aiding the umpires, and still they have sufficient controversies leftover. Go resign la Blatter, the only thing you have in common with football is your first name (ala Sepp Maier).

Now to the Jabulani ball, I call it the Cristiano Ronaldo Ball because it flies through the air even if you just tap it lightly. Why do you tinker with the ball every World Cup? Obviously its a marketing gimmick. It almost never happens in other games. Scoring was down by 16 goals after the first round compared to the 2006 World Cup. How much was due to the increased difficulty to control the ball?

Herein lies the conspiracy theory. Look at who has scored the most (disregard the Portugal / North Korean match). Apparently the Germans had a few months to play with the Jabulani balls (this line would be really funny if there was actually someone named Jabulani). The German team is good but seriously, not great, but look at how effective they were when finishing their shots, they were so precise and effective. Look at the 4 goals each against Australia and England.

Hence Germany could be a good dark horse even though its still just #5 probably in odds to win the World Cup now, ... behind Brazil, Argentina, Spain and the Netherlands. If they really have a strong familiarity with the ball, they may well need only a few live shooting chances to score, while the rest will need more chances. For example, Brazil may convert at 15% which means they will score once for every 6.6 chances. While Germany may have a 35% conversion rate owing to their better ball familiarity, thus may only need less than 3 live chances to get a goal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Which Meat You Can Take Off Your List

I was salivating over the posting by Camemberu over the 7 celebrity chefs operating at Marina Bay Sands. They include: Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy, Santi Santamaria, Tetsuya Wakuda, Justin Quek, Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck.

Five larger-than-life celebrity chefs held court before 300 international media

Since it will be sometime before I get to go down to Singapore to try their dishes, something came up which I would like to share with all my readers. This is actually a great conversation topic. If you have to give up one meat, which is the first and which is the last. Let's just focus on lamb, beef, pork, fish, poultry and duck.

If you are Chinese the majority would put lamb as their first meat to cut, duck would be a close second. If you are Muslim of course take pork out of the equation. I have tried this topic among colleagues from differing countries. If you are Middle Eastern, lamb is number one. They would cut fish out as they do not have much of that and duck as well.

If you are from South America, beef is your favourite meat, same for Brits and Americans. Naturally, Japanese would cut fish out last.

For me, my favourite in order: lamb, pork, duck, beef, fish, poultry. Duck is such a silly thing, there are not that many dishes you can do with duck and yet I rate it higher than beef. I love lamb or mutton, I love the sou-mei, the more the better. In any case pork would win out anytime due to its versatility and that you can eat every part in plenty of imaginative ways.

Poultry is just poultry even if you get the best Shatin pigeon. The biggest drawback of duck is that it has the highest concentration of uric acid ~ nitrates ~ gout. Sigh!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Review: Dream Home

When I was in HK a couple of weeks back, I had a free afternoon and wandered in to watch a just released HK movie Dream Home. Had no bloody idea what the movie was going to be all about. OMG, it was a slasher movie in the vein of Takeshi Ishii (Freeze Me) and Takashi Miike (Audition & Ichi The Killer), he would have been proud of this one.

Directed by Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung (‘Exodus,’ ‘Isabella’, 'You Shoot I Shoot'), this movie probably would have a hard time to find backers if it wasn't executive produced by Josie Ho (the lead) and also the daughter of Stanley Ho. Owing to her clout, the cast include many big names in the industry, people you wouldn't dream of being in this kind of movie.

The movie is UNLIKELY to get passed to be screened in Malaysia or Singapore, so make sure you get your authentic copy online. If the censors get their hands on it, that thing would become a 4 minute movie.

With a style that’s both lucid and extreme, the film tells the story, without holding back on any of its most violent particulars, the mad obstacle course of a young woman capable of doing anything in order to obtain her dream home (with a sea view). The film is also a solemn, and at the same time psychotic, homage to the city of Hong Kong, to its high-rises, its houses, and its miniscule apartments, all destined to remain for many young single people, unobtainable goals, due to the extortionate prices of the entire real estate sector!

Defined and announced as the craziest and the most bloody slasher movie ever made in Hong Kong, Dream Home stars the superb Josie Ho Ho who with her company “852 Film” is also responsible for the film’s production. For Pang Ho-cheung, the film was a truly unique opportunity, not only for the extraordinary budget of US$4 million (entirely unusual for the cinema of Hong Kong today) but also for the possibility to bring to the big screen one of his numerous bizarre and irresistible stories about ghosts and black humour.

A curious fact: the film’s soundtrack is entirely Italian, composed by the musician Gabriele Roberto, who has already worked with Pang in 2007 for the thriller Exodus. Roberto has lived in Tokyo for many years, and is responsible for the music of many cinema projects; the musical scores of Memories of Matsuko and Paco and The Magical Picture Book being amongst his most famous compositions.

Cast :
Josie Ho Chiu Yee
Anthony Wong Chau Sang
Michelle Yip Suen
Eason Chan Yik Shun
Norman Chu Siu Keung
Lawrence Chou Jun Wai
Nina Pau Hei Ching
Derek Tsang Kwok Cheung
Lo Hoi Pang
Juno Mak Jun Lung

Its graphic, senseless at times, but extremely well executed (pardon the pun). Not for those with weak hearts.

Steve Jobs Chatting With Bill Gates

This is so lame and silly that its somehow still fun to read ... btw, Steve Jobs is worth $5.5bn while Bill Gates is worth $53bn.

Steve Jobs & Bill Gates

Steve Jobs & Bill Gates

Steve Jobs & Bill Gates

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Objectifying Men & World Cup Pics

Just in case you were wondering, no... you have not accidentally clicked into Blue Boy Mansion's website. As women have always been objectified by the media, it is only fair game that we do the same on guys. Its topical, and Vanity Fair sure knows how to sell their magazines. They got the renowned Annie Lebowitz to take the sumptuous photos. Under wears may be for sale, 'packaging' may differ when you try them on at home.

World Cup Soccer Portfolio: SULLEY MUNTARI, PATO, SAMUEL ETO
AGE: 25. CLUB: Inter Milan. POSITION: Midfielder.
AGE: 28. CLUB: Los Angeles Galaxy. POSITIONS: Attacking midfielder, striker, winger.
AGE: 28. CLUB: Real Madrid. POSITION: Attacking midfielder.
SAMUEL ETO’O, Cameroon
AGE: 29. CLUB: Inter Milan. POSITION: Striker.
AGE: 20. CLUB: A.C. Milan. POSITIONS: Striker, winger.

Read More

AGE: 31. CLUB: Inter Milan. POSITION: Midfielder.
AGE: 26. CLUB: West Ham United. POSITION: Striker.
AGE: 32. CLUB: Chelsea. POSITION: Striker.
AGE: 33. CLUB: Chelsea. POSITION: Midfielder.

Read More

World Cup Soccer Portfolio

KAKÁ, Brazil

AGE: 28. CLUB: Real Madrid. POSITION: Attacking midfielder. SALARY: $14 million. ENDORSEMENTS: Armani Jeans, Sony, Adidas, Pepsi. DISTINCTIVE STYLE: Elegance, power, control, vision—a range of attributes that are very rarely found within a single player. The only thing Kaká lacks is the street-fighter mentality long regarded as a prerequisite for football superstars throughout South America. AND YOU THOUGHT BECKHAM WAS A U.S. MARKETER’S DREAM: When Kaká celebrates a goal, he reveals a God-centric slogan on his undershirt. One of the world’s highest-earning footballers, he is a member of Brazil’s evangelical Rebirth in Christ church, to which he has tithed his earnings.

Euro To Reach Parity To USD?

When should we plan to go to Europe? Now or later this year? I would say, wait for parity. There are two sides arguing about the direction of the Euro.

On news that China is to increase the flexibility in the yuan's fixed exchange rate, by mid-afternoon trading in New York the EUR had fallen 0.6% against the U.S. dollar to USD/EUR 1.2311 on June 21, 2010. The fall also followed news from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet that governments in breach of European fiscal rules could face tougher punishment, such as the withdrawal of voter rights.

Despite a recent barrage of bad news regarding the European sovereign-debt crisis, the euro only fell 0.3% against the dollar on June 16, 2010, to US$1.2291. This is higher than both the recent low of US$1.1966 on June 4, 2010 and the euro's 10-year US$1.20 average. Analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman predict that if the euro stays above US$1.2220 then the recovery should hold, while Steve Barrow, a currency analyst at Standard Bank, believes there is more trouble is to come: "Even if the eurozone debt crisis is over the euro should still fall...the eurozone needs a weaker currency to allow it to cope with fiscal stringency."

The Peterson Institute for International Economics has calculated the fundamental equilibrium exchange rate (FEER) of the euro. The EUR was estimated to be undervalued by 0.6% against the U.S. dollar in May 2010. The FEER approach involves finding a set of exchange rates that simultaneously achieve internal and external balance in every country. Internal balance is defined as the state in which a country maintains full employment and price level stability (or zero inflation). External balance signifies a condition in which a country maintains a "sustainable" current account—a moderate deficit or surplus for a developing country and a surplus for a rich country (traditionally). The resulting rate provides an indication of how under- or overvalued a currency is, based on fundamental indicators.

dini aminarti10 by ibidadari.

It was reported that BNP expect the EUR to fall below U.S. dollar parity by the end of 2011. The forecast is based on the euro requiring a prolonged period of undervaluation to give the EMU the growth needed to escape the sovereign debt crisis. FX strategy analysts at BNP project the euro will reach parity at the end of Q1 2011 because "the Greek aid package has failed to stabilize markets." Also, there is a risk that the ECB will remove the unconventional monetary stimulus measures too rapidly, leaving the fragile eurozone recovery vulnerable.

On June 15, Danske Bank forecast EUR/USD bottoming out at 1.15 during the latter part of 2010, followed by a slow discovery to 1.27 by mid-2011. Despite current weak market sentiment for the euro, Danske analysts say, "if Europe manages to tackle its debt problems it will underline the fiscal challenges that lie ahead for the U.S. The dollar will also have to bear the burden from an unsustainably large and, not least, widening current account deficit, which is not the case for Euroland. Furthermore, the weaker euro also boosts European competitiveness relative to the U.S." Deutsche Bank forecast the euro strengthening to 1.35 USD/EUR by mid-2011. As of June 4, the euro was US$1.2 against the dollar.

Historical Records
  • 2009 high: December 3, 2009, when EUR/USD rose to US$1.512.
  • 2009 low: March 5, 2009, when EUR/USD fell to US$1.25 on European economic gloom, CEE exposure and the ECB rate cut.
  • 2008 low: October 28, 2008, when EUR/USD hit US$1.2330.
  • Steepest one-day drop ever: September 30, 2008, when EUR/USD fell 2.5% to US$1.4074.
  • Steepest one-day rise ever: September 22, 2008, when EUR/USD rose to US$1.47 on news of the U.S. bailout plan.
  • All-time low: October 25, 2000, when EUR/USD hit US$0.8248.
  • All-time high: July 15, 2008, when EUR/USD hit US$1.6038 on the dovish testimony of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

My view is that the Euro will try to breach parity sometime this year. It may not succeed though, but it should get very close 1.02-1.04 is likely. Hey, why all the fuss, when the Euro was enacted and blueprinted, it was supposed to trade 1-to-1 to the USD, so now we are just trying to get back to fair value.

Collectively, managing the Euroland crisis will be a lot tougher than managing the US subprime fallout. You can get the President, Bernanke, Geithner, and a few bank CEOs into one room and hash out a plan. You try to do that with the EU, you will have dissenting countries, some countries wanting different plans, some countries not putting in the money or do not have the resources to do so, some of the richer countries squabbling about why they have to shoulder the bulk of the burden, etc.

The strain will be so great that I suspect the EU may ask Greece and Hungary to step out of the EMU until they hit the fiscal restraint targets over the next 3 years. This way, the iffy countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal may rein in their budget and fiscal problems more urgently.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Last Polka - Best Malaysian Ice Cream

You can have your Haagen Dazs ... but once you crave for the local flavours such as yam, corn and red bean ... things start to get to less than premium taste. Now fret no more. There is a dedicated home made ice cream that aims to make a great tasting product with a penchant to satisfy the local taste buds.

I like to support passionate people who dedicate themselves to doing something niche and distinctive. They will deliver to you at certain meeting points provided you are OK to pick up in Klang, Damansara or Subang area. Horlicks flavour is unbelievable, and if you are a true blue Malaysia, just hearing about Horlicks flavoured or White Coffee flavoured ice cream should start your engines.

p/s the writer has not been paid a fee nor does he know the proprietors

If you're looking for great tasting homemade ice cream in Kuala Lumpur, you've come to the right place. Made with 100% natural ingredients, we combine our creamy French-style ice cream with the regional Asian flavours we love.

The Flavours

Mango Our best-selling flavour, every scoop will remind you of Asia's favourite fruit. We could have taken the easy way out and made this a fruit sorbet, but instead we purée fresh and juicy mangoes, then add cream and eggs to turn it all into the delightful creamy mango ice cream that's become much-loved by our friends and family.

Horlicks Whether it's the comfort of a warm drink before bedtime as a kid, or the memories of a Horlicks Ais "gao" at your favourite mamak, Horlicks ice cream makes our world go round and we hope it does for yours, too. We love it so much it was the obsession with perfecting Horlicks ice cream that got us started in the first place.

Green Tea Also known as matcha ice cream, our version is intense and creamy at the same time, the better to bring out the best of this Asian classic. Made with top quality green tea leaves, make our green tea ice cream a special treat at any time of the day.

Malt and Peanut Butter We've been alive quite a while and have yet to meet a single person who didn't love peanut butter. We made this ice cream for those of you who, like us, love dipping your fingers into a peanut butter jar. Not only are you spared the sticky fingers, it's like eating peanut butter ice cold.

White Coffee The nation's favourite drink at the moment, white coffee is so named because they roast beans without sugar up in Ipoh, resulting in a lighter coloured coffee than regular kopi. Light it may be in hue, but every spoonful packs a punch. This is the ice cream for lovers of local coffee!

Black Sesame An acquired taste, people who love black sesame ice cream know they're on to something. It's weird at first crunch, but we guarantee you'll love it in no time. We slow roast black sesame seeds, pound them into a fine paste, sprinkle extra sesame for that special crunch, then turn that all into one of our best ice cream flavours ever.

The Yuan & The Ringgit, Missing Cousins

Before the weekend, the ringgit was at 3.25 to the USD, this morning it went to 3.19. The Chinese renminbi has been effectively pegged to the U.S. dollar since late 2008, as one of the supportive policies put in place during the global recession. This peg, and the fact that it impeded other countries adjustments, has contributed to international pressure, especially from the U.S., to allow more flexibility of the exchange rate as Chinese exports rebounded.

Ahead of the G-20 meeting, on June 19, 2010, the People's Bank of China announced the intention to move towards a more flexible exchange rate regime by allowing the currency to move within a band against a basket of currencies of its major trading partners.
The statement, coming less than a week before G-20 leaders meet in Toronto on June 26-27, represents a departure from a two-year period during which the RMB was effectively pegged to the dollar.

An increase in inflationary pressures and stronger export growth led market actors to expect some appreciation against the USD by mid 2010. However, the RMB's significant rise against the EUR, and thus on a trade weighted basis, could deter significant appreciation against the USD and should the EUR fall further against the USD, so too might the RMB.

Despite market expectations of a major move, any shift might be modest. Standard Chartered's Stephen Green said in the FT: "The danger is that on Monday morning everyone gets very excited and then end up being disappointed with what happens. There is very little appetite for appreciation, so in the short-term the central bank is likely to be very conservative."

Charmaine Sheh Sze-man (佘詩曼)

The initial response to the statement has been positive, with the U.S. and European leaders lauding the decision. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF suggested that the move was in line with the "G-20 Mutual Assessment Process, to be presented in Toronto..., and will help increase Chinese household income and provide the incentives necessary to reorient investment toward industries that serve the Chinese consumer." The move also suggests that the G-20 will be more focused on the development in the eurozone.

Morgan Stanley's Qing Wang argues that an exit of renminbi from the US$ peg will come most likely in the Summer of 2010 (early Q3) involving a one-off revaluation of 2-3%, followed by gradual appreciation for a total strengthening of 4-5% in 2010. China is likely to exit the peg given its role in reducing imported inflation, because a free and open trade system is in China's interest, helps rebalance the domestic economy towards the non-tradable sector, and to move to a more flexible exchange rate needed for independent monetary policy. A move in July gives the U.S. administration the ability to claim successful diplomacy and Chinese to show their global responsibility before the November G20 meeting.

On April 8, 2010, the People's Bank of China sold RMB15 billion in three-year sterilization bills, the first batch since June 2008. The three-year bills are considered a more aggressive tool for managing liquidity, and may signal that the central bank is preparing to sterilize "hot money" inflows betting on RMB appreciation.

Greater CNY flexibility may lead to some initial nominal appreciation against G3. Other Asian currencies – especially those that are regarded as proxies for Chinese growth and commodity demand (AUD) - or non-FX assets in China (e.g., Shanghai A-share Index) may end up attracting greater inflows and seeing a bigger price action.

The expectation that a stronger CNY will support China’s demand for imports (including from the rest of Asia) can be beneficial for Malaysian Ringgit, Korean Won and Taiwan Dollar. Central banks across Asia may also feel a bit less pressure to stem FX appreciation in order to maintain competitiveness. The entire playbook would favour going long on the following currencies for the rest of 2010: long CNY, KRW, MYR and INR. Short the EUR and JPY. That being the case, the natural long will see a boost in financial assets in those respective countries.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP Gets A Lifeline

As expected, once the amount is ascertained, the removal of uncertainty will certainly boost the share price. This will pave the way for the company to be sold off. There is not much chance BP can survive or realise its potential under the banner of BP. The reserves will not get their proper valuation and institutional shareholders are likely to put pressure for the company to be sold to someone to extract value.

It is likely to be highly attractive to Petrochina, just the reserves alone. Petrochina is also possibly the only one willing to pay a premium. Any takeover is likely to be circa $45.

Dealbook: Shares in BP made up part of their recent losses Thursday as investors welcomed a deal struck with President Obama to set up a compensation fund for the victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The shares gained as much as 9.7 percent in early London trading. They had fallen 45 percent since an oil rig exploded in April, Julia Werdigier reports in The New York Times.

Some investors said the agreement with the United States eliminates some of the uncertainty about the costs for the oil spill cleanup and compensation, even though BP scrapped dividend payments as part of the deal.

“It’s a positive because there were no surprises in the deal, the dividend had been well communicated beforehand and at least in the near-term the agreement gives investors a little bit more certainty and something to work with,” said Keith Bowman, an analyst at the asset manager Hargreaves Lansdown in England.

The cost of insuring BP against default also fell and its bonds rose, a sign that fewer investors are speculating that BP might go bankrupt. The BP chief executive Tony Hayward is due to testify before Congress Thursday, but the agreement with President Obama, struck at the White House Wednesday, was widely seen as a step to calm tensions between BP executives and Washington about the company’s efforts to clean up the spill.

BP agreed to create a $20 billion fund to pay damage claims to thousands of fishermen and others living and working along the Gulf Coast. The company also said that it would sell oil and gas fields and cut investments in drilling if necessary to ensure BP had enough money to pay for any costs.

Some shareholders in Britain had previously opposed plans to halt dividend payments, which are among the most generous of any British company, as a result of U.S. pressure. BP stock is also widely held in pension funds across the country and it would be the first time since World War II that BP was not paying a dividend. But the political opposition in the United States to paying dividends to shareholders while the total cleanup cost and damage claims remain unknown started to weigh on BP’s share price.

“Hopefully the deal will remove just a little bit of pressure and allow BP to fully concentrate on the oil spill,” Mr. Bowman said.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Will You Be Buying An iPad?

No, I don't have an iPad yet. Like many out there, I was a skeptic even though I own an iPhone. Was that really something you need when you already have a good mobile phone, a twin screen desktop and a notebook? Last week was in HK again and my tech chief had an iPad, after 30 minutes, I think everybody who has a mobile phone, notebook and desktop... will still find the iPad exhilarating and useful. Yes, its a toy but its a lot of fun.

Photos & Video - I have always hated how the distance to the screen when using your notebook or desktop is always a somewhat fixed distance, you have to lean forward or adjust your chair to get a good view sometimes. No issues here, the iPad is in your hands. The video watching is all that more awesome. You can prop it with a cushion, watch it at a park bench, heck, even bring it to the loo when doing a doo-doo. Place it on your bed, etc... As for photos, almost everyone now has a photo image saver and display mechanism. There’s no adequate way to describe how well the iPad display works for photos. The screen isn’t really 3D, but it feels like there’s an extra layer of depth in high-resolution pics and flicks. Because of the touch screen, you also get to interact with photos – zooming in and out, moving pictures around. It’s nothing you can’t do on an iPhone or iPod touch, but the screen size improves the experience exponentially. Throw out your electronic photo frames ...

iPad Review

Kindle Buster - It wipes Kindle off the map, and you add the Apple apps, and you have a winner. Again the iPad's killer app has to be the book and magazine reader technology. The iPhone makes it tough to read e-magazines and papers, all that is solved with iPad. In fact this makes it most enjoyable for me, reading the e-papers. Makes you feel like you are in the command center in the Avatar movies, you can touch through links, expand articles, resize, minimise 10 articles, etc... n the images are brilliant.

The touch screen keyboard woks for some but may turn some off I guess. The big deciding factor for someone choosing an iPhone or Blackberry. If you love your iPhone, you will love your iPad even more.

iPad Review

The iPad apps are mainly from iPhone apps, but many of the apps providers have not yet adapted to take advantage of the higher image resolution or screen sizing. I think this is a work in progress, 6 months down the road, all the apps will take advantage of the advantages of being on iPad and adapt accordingly. Battery life of 10 hours is more than excellent.

My complaint, Apple needs to invent a cloth that will wipe finger prints clear, or come up with a touch screen that won't leave any finger print marks - now that would a killer app.

But with iPad, you can dump your Kindle, your iPod (unless you go jogging), you electronic photo frame library, and if you are not a heavy professional user, you can dump your notebook as well. $500 is cheap when it replaces all of that.

What People Are Saying About The 10MP

Citi analysts Wei Zheng Kit and Monica Ratnaputri wrote in a June 10, 2010 analysis titled, "Highlights of the 10th Malaysia Plan," that the most important factor of the plan is its actual implementation, given missed targets in the past. The plan calls for a reduction in the budget deficit to 2.8% by 2015. However, the government has missed previous five-year targets. Of the MYR230 billion allocated to development spending, 55% will go to the economic sector, which is an increase over previous five-year plans, 30% to the social sector, 10% to security, and 5% to general administration. On the issues of subsidies, the plan calls for a 3% annual reduction in subsidy spending by 2015, with energy prices based on market conditions by 2015.

Citi analyst Yong Yin Ng wrote in a June 10, 2010 analysis titled, "10MP – Economic Reform: Ready, Set …," that the 10th Malaysia Plan will not move markets at least until the implementation stage. However, the plan lays out a commitment to economic and political reform, even if subsidy reform will be cautious as a result of political challenges. Ng writes that Malaysia needs to transition to an economy driven by productivity growth and domestic competitiveness that is led by the private sector. The targeted sectors in the plan are E&E, palm oil, oil & gas, tourism, agriculture and green technology and financial services, with the services sector as a whole pushing growth forward.

Kevin Brown writes in a June 11, 2010, FT blog post that the 10th Malaysia Plan unveiled on June 10 shies away from specific proposals to deal with the issue of subsidies and affirmative action, two benchmark reforms that would indicate Prime Minister Najib's commitment and ability to implement far-reaching reforms. PM Najib will likely face challenges from his own party, the UMNO, if he moves forward on significant reforms to the affirmative action policies.

The Oxford Business Group writes in a June 10, 2010, analysis that the impact of the 10th Malaysia Plan will depend on how well it enhances the role of the private sector while reducing the footprint of the government; protects the more vulnerable segments of society; addresses expensive subsidies; and contributes to the development of human capital.

The 10th Malaysia Plan prioritizes the oil and gas sector as one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) that will drive growth over the next five years, according to a June 11 IHS Global Insight report. The plan calls for focusing on improving oil recovery, transitioning toward more clean energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency and beginning to reduce fuel subsidies.

I don't have anything to say about the 10MP. Its been there on the table, the mantras are nothing new. Let's see some action on the Approved Permits already; why are there still big projects being "given" without proper tendering in recent months; the list goes on...

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...