Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Japan's Debt Is A Non-Issue

On January 27, 2011, S&P lowered Japan's long-term sovereign debt rating for the first time in nine years to AA- from AA. According to S&P, the government "lacks a coherent strategy" to tackle Japan's debt load, which could lead government debt ratios to peak only in the mid-2020s. Japan's gross-public-debt-to-GDP ratio, which was 189.3% in 2009, is the highest among developed economies.

Though a sovereign debt crisis like that of Greece is not imminent, without increasing the national tax burden—which is relatively low compared to other major economies—Japan will not be able to sustain public spending without incurring more debt. Japan's aging population and underfunded pensions exacerbate this burden. Issuing more debt to finance public expenditures is easier for Japan compared to other European countries with high debt because Japan benefits from low debt-servicing costs in part due to chronic deflation. Unlike Greece, Japan maintains a current account surplus and a net foreign asset position. Locals hold around 95% of Japan's debt, whereas foreigners hold more than three-quarters of Greece's debt.

Unless proposed expenditures are minimized, Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s administration will struggle to fund its 2011 budget without reneging on its JPY44-trillion cap on new bond issuance. Tax revenue will fall alongside corporate profits and personal income. Since Kan’s aggressive advocacy of a consumption tax hike cost his party the Upper House, plans for the hike are likely to be shelved. A corporate tax cut remains under consideration, but budget deficits will be hard to shake off without a corresponding increase in revenue elsewhere.

S&P estimated (according to its January 27, 2011, note "Ratings On Japan Lowered To 'AA-'; Outlook Stable") that Japan's government fiscal deficits will decline from an estimated 9.1% of GDP in FY2011 (ending March 31, 2011) to 8.0% in FY2013. Unless the government undertakes a fiscal consolidation program, S&P does not foresee Japan achieving a primary external balance before 2020.

Japan's Cabinet Office estimated that the primary fiscal deficit, which excludes debt-servicing costs, will total JPY21.7 trillion in FY2015, 4.2% of GDP. In FY2020, Japan is estimated to post a primary budget deficit of JPY23.2 trillion, or 4.2% of nominal GDP. If real GDP grows more than 2% each year, Japan's primary balance deficit would be 3.2% of nominal GDP in FY2015 and 2.5% in FY2020.

The OECD forecasts that Japan's gross public debt will exceed 200% of GDP in 2011. In order to halve the primary budget deficit by 2015, the OECD maintains that additional tax revenue need to be generated and that the BoJ should "should implement more ambitious quantitative easing measures to relax monetary conditions in the face of entrenched deflation and maintain such policies until underlying inflation is significantly positive."

Japan’s long-term public debt has risen to JPY862 trillion (US$9.26 trillion), nearly 200% of the nation’s 2009 gross domestic product. Japan’s debt was 189.3% of GDP in 2009 and is projected to grow to 204.3 % in 2011.On January 18, 2011, credit-default swaps (CDS) used to protect payment of Japanese government debt, hit a six-month high and climbed to 86.49 bps. This means that it costs $86,490 to insure $10 million in Japanese debt. CDS for U.S. debt were 49.85 bp.

Why The Debt Is "Manageable"

The financing of Japan’s public sector debt is currently enjoying an extremely virtuous confluence of events—the strong home bias of domestic investors, ample domestic savings, and modest deflation. As long as these persist, financing the public sector debt should not be problematic...In the near term, it seems likely that the three conditions that have eased the financing of Japan’s public debt will persist.

While JGB market participants believe Japan occupies the worst fiscal position in the world, the nation's fiscal problems can still be rectified with tax hikes. The basis for this optimism appears to lie in Japan's low social contribution rate, one of the lowest in the world at 39%. A social contribution rate of 52.3%, a rate on par with European nations, would be sufficient to cover recent fiscal deficits.

In addition, the JGB market seems to have concluded that the Japanese government can fiscally consolidate because the there is room to raise the consumption tax rate, currently the lowest in the world at 5%.

Despite the high level of government indebtedness, the budgetary burden of servicing debt interest is not especially high as a share of GDP and revenue, especially once account is taken of the relatively low tax/GDP ratio. This reflects the fact that interest rates on government borrowing remain low in nominal and real terms.

Currency and deposits make up over 55% of assets for Japanese households. Compared to just 14.3% in America. This represents about US$8.9 trillion in savings that could potentially be mobilized to support the Japanese government debt. Americans by contrast, hold a far greater amount of their wealth in the stock market. U.S. households have over 30% of their assets in shares and equities. As opposed to just 6.6% in Japan. Japanese household savings are over 100% of outstanding government debt. With the American government now sitting $12.7 trillion in the red, household savings are only at 50% of debt.

Japan is better placed than either the U.S. or the UK. This is partly because the debt problem is frequently overstated, as net debt is only about half the gross level, but also because the switch from investment, financed by untaxed depreciation, into incomes and spending which are taxed twice, will mean that tax revenue should rise rapidly with recovery.

The Japanese private sector remains in a position of net creditor, offsetting the government's position as a borrower, not to mention that more than 95% of Japanese debt is still held by Japanese investors.
Unless the private Japanese investors switches out of the deposits, or dumps the yen in favour of other currencies, or start selling bonds in droves - I do not see this being a grave issue. Its not good but its not catastrophic.

Thats the sad part, Japan sorely needs a huge whack on the head for them to reform their economy and finances, but that is not likely to happen. So the Japanese economy will meander like a an old man but not showing any signs of dying anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another TVB Drama In The Making

HONG KONG—A behind-the-scenes power struggle for control of one of the world's greatest casino empires has burst into the open, revealing deep fissures in the family of ailing 89-year-old billionaire Stanley Ho.

Opposing members of Mr. Ho's sprawling family publicly accused each other of trying to seize Mr. Ho's controlling 18% stake in SJM Holdings Ltd., the Hong Kong-listed operator of his flagship Macau casinos. The stake is estimated to be worth $1.7 billion.

Lawyers who said they represent SJM Chairman Stanley Ho challenged the announcement of his succession plans, saying family members "hijacked" his assets. WSJ's Andrew LaVallee and Peter Stein discuss the latest development in the saga.

On Tuesday, rival family representatives released personal communications from Mr. Ho and his four families to prove their cases in the fight to gain a controlling stake in Lanceford Co., a vehicle that holds nearly one-third of the company that controls SJM. The stake stands to benefit from a gambling boom in Macau, where revenue is expected to rise some 30% this year to about $35 billion, compared with $7 billion on the Las Vegas Strip.

The most recent chapter of the Ho saga began Monday, with the release of regulatory filings showing that Mr. Ho split his stake, roughly in two, with slightly less than half going to the children of the woman he considers his second wife and the rest to the woman known as his third wife, leaving Mr. Ho with nearly nothing.

Ho's lawyers said he "discovered much to his horror" that his 100 percent ownership of Lanceford Co. — which holds the 32 percent stake in SJM's parent company — had been diluted after new shares were issued, reducing his share to 1 percent, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.

Half of the shares in Lanceford were then transferred to a company owned by Ho's third wife and the other half to another company owned equally by the five children by his second wife.

But Mr. Ho, through lawyers claiming to represent him, later denied he approved the share distribution and accused his third wife and the children of his second wife of stealing his shares without his knowledge, according to a letter provided by these lawyers.

A regulatory filing by SJM on Tuesday confirmed that Mr. Ho is contesting the restructuring.

"It would appear the assets at Lanceford have been hijacked by members of the second and third family insofar as shares were issued to the effect to dilute Stanley to nothing," said Gordon Oldham, a senior partner at Oldham, Li & Nie, Mr. Ho's lawyers. Mr. Oldham said in an interview Tuesday morning that Mr. Ho had always made it clear he wanted his assets to be held in a trust for the four families in equal share and would file a lawsuit unless the shares were returned.

Associated Press

Hong Kong and Macau tycoon Stanley Ho, in wheelchair, with some family members in November


"This has always been my intention and wish," Mr. Ho wrote in a letter dated Jan. 5 that was provided by his lawyers at the time and addressed to Daisy Ho, a daughter from his second wife.

Early on Wednesday morning in Hong Kong, representatives of Mr. Ho's second and third wives released two Chinese-language statements, one of them handwritten purportedly by Mr. Ho, saying that the tycoon was no longer represented by his lawyer and that the share transfer hadn't been made under any undue influence and that the splitting of his empire was final.

Trading in SJM shares was suspended Tuesday. Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC gambling analyst Philip Tulk said shares in SJM, which have more than tripled in the past year, could fall when trading resumes. "Ever since I've been covering this company, the concern has been about Stanley's succession plan. Those worries seemed to be going away, but now they look like they could come back with a bang," Mr. Tulk said.

The verbal back and forth could develop into a protracted legal battle among members of the tycoon's family, said Billy Ma, a lawyer specializing in probate and succession cases and a member on the Hong Kong Law Society's Probate Committee. "Any move at this stage can potentially unleash a chain of lawsuits. This is about a huge amount of money," he said.

A domestic dispute could distract SJM's management just as it faces tough competition and important decisions about expansion into Cotai, a newly developed part of Macau. "Without consensus among the major shareholders, it will be difficult for management to make decisions. If they can't make quick decisions on investment opportunities on Cotai, the company could lose market share to competitors," said Davis Fong, director of the Institute for the Study of Commercial Gaming at the University of Macau.

The company said in a regulatory filing the quarrel wouldn't affect company management or strategy.

SJM controls about one-third of Macau's gambling market. The company's properties include 17 casinos, four slot-machine lounges and two hotels.

At the center of the fracas are two of the most prominent and powerful businesswomen in Asia, part of one of the most complicated family dynasties in business. Mr. Ho's relatives include three women whom he and others refer to as his wives, plus their children and the children of an earlier companion, who died in 2004.

On one side of the battle is Angela Leong, Mr. Ho's fourth wife, a former dancer and member of the Macau legislature who holds a top management position in casino operator SJM.

On the other side is Pansy Ho, one of Mr. Ho's five children from his second wife. She has launched her own gambling franchise and is managing director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd., the listed property and real-estate company founded by her father. Pansy's siblings Daisy and Maisy hold executive positions at Shun Tak as well. Pansy's brother, Lawrence Ho, has set up a rival Macau casino.

Depending on which side wins, Ms. Leong could emerge with an even bigger stake and the upper hand in the casino. Or, the second wife's children, led by Pansy Ho, could have a larger and possibly controlling block in SJM.

Stanley Ho couldn't be reached for comment. Ms. Leong during an interview with a local radio station declined to comment on the latest power struggle but added that Stanley Ho was in good health and clear-minded. Other family members either couldn't be reached or declined to comment.

Questions over Mr. Ho's legacy began when he fell ill in August 2009 and underwent brain surgery. He retreated from day-to-day management and began slowly doling out portions of his Byzantine holdings to his large family.

Pansy and the fourth wife, Ms. Leong, didn't get along, according to a person close to the Ho family. When Mr. Ho cemented his fourth wife's position at SJM by handing her a 7% stake late in 2010, Pansy aligned with the third wife to counter Angela's rising power, according to the person familiar with the family. Together, the two asked Stanley Ho for a greater share of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau SA, the privately held company that owns more than half of casino operator SJM.

The dynastic troubles seem to have been conducted via formal letters, mobile-phone text messages and sporadic family meetings.

In a Jan. 5 letter provided by Mr. Ho's lawyers at the time and addressed to Daisy Ho, one of his second wife's children, Mr. Ho complains that he tried to talk about distributing his estate many times, but "without my consent and knowledge" his shares were nearly liquidated. "I have tried to call you and contact you through [text messages] and your secretary in order to come personally to explain to me what is going on. However, you have not responded so I have no other way but through this letter to command you come to my house," he wrote.

In a letter dated Jan. 7, Daisy Ho responded, addressing him as "Dear Dad." "Firstly, I want to apologise for not being able to see you on Wednesday afternoon as I was very tied up," she wrote, adding that her sister and wife No. 3 did meet him later that evening, "and I am glad that any misunderstanding there might have been has been cleared up."

Latest Update, The Standard HK:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun last night stepped in to dramatically put an end to rumors of a feud between his families over his massive wealth.

The tycoon issued a statement through his third wife, Ina Chan Un- chan, saying: "This is a family matter. We don't need any lawyer to be involved in it. We can resolve it on our own."

With her daughter Florinda Ho Chiu- wan by her side, Chan read out a brief statement from her husband after inviting the media into her opulent home on The Peak at 8pm before issuing a more detailed version at 11pm.

The move was aimed at ending media speculation about a falling out between the tycoon's second and third wives on one side, and his fourth wife on the other over Monday's announcement of a restructuring in the shareholding of his stakes in SJM Holdings (0880) and its parent Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau.

"I heard on TV that the distribution of shares was done against my will and that fraudulent documents were made by my family members. There was even talk of robbery," Ho said. "I am very unhappy and frustrated about this. I made the decision to distribute my stakes of SJM and STDM with 100 percent sincerity. Nobody forced me to make such a decision.

"I voluntarily distributed my stakes in the companies to my family members, hoping that all of them will work hard and make contributions to charities and society."

He added: "All of you have to treat your brothers and sisters nice and value harmony. You cannot

quarrel over ownership of the companies' shares.

"I reaffirm my decision on the distribution of the shares, and this will not be changed. I have given thorough consideration to making this reasonable and with goodwill."

And he warned: "If anybody uses memos carrying my signatures to change or amend the distribution of shares then these documents are not true and, therefore, cannot be used as legal documents."

The tycoon also sacked his lawyer - Gordon Oldham of Oldham, Li & Nie. "He no longer represents me. I have delegated [third wife] Ina to be in charge of the matter and I hope everyone will value harmony, which brings wealth. I feel great today and am in a stable mood. I hope my family members will accept my arrangement."

Ho spent the night at his third wife's home. Earlier, he went to the home of second wife Lucina Ho King-ying in Jardine's Lookout.

The dispute arose after Oldham reportedly said Ho accused his second and third family members of "robbery" and that they "hijacked" him in a dispute over his distribution of his fortune. The two met at lunchtime yesterday.

Oldman said Ho has always made clear that when he dies, he wants his assets split equally among his four families. "The two families were trying to run away with the crown of jewels," he claimed.

Ho's visits to his wives were sparked by a letter the tycoon signed acknowledging his gift of the shares of STDM to his third and second families in the presence of lawyers and doctors on January 7, which was in reply to a Stanley Ho letter dated January 5.

The letter, written by daughter Daisy Ho Chiu-fung, was made public yesterday. She wrote: "Following your distribution of SJMH shares to Angela Leong [the fourth wife], Ina [the third wife], Mom and all of us children are grateful that you reaffirmed your instructions to gift the STDM shares to Mom and Ina, so as to preserve harmony within the family and aggregate control over STDM. Further, the share allocation at Lanceford was done in accordance with your instructions."

SJM is suspended from trading. The company announced on Monday that Stanley Ho will offload his 31.7 percent stake in STDM to Lanceford, which third wife Chan owns 50.55 percent, and second wife Lucina's children have 49.95 percent.

In December, he transfered 7.7 percent of SJM shares to Leong and appointed her managing director.

Lanceford issued a statement saying: "It is regrettable that Oldham, Li & Nie rushed to publicise these matters without checking the underlying facts in connection with the relevant transactions and we reserve our rights against that firm."

Leong said as a director of SJM, she could not comment. Chan said she was not qualified to comment.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Roubini On Malaysia

RGE's Wednesday Note - Malaysia’s Middle-Income Malaise - January 12, 2011

Malaysia's policy makers have been forced to confront the factors blocking the country’s rise to high-income status. Facing higher labor costs, the economy has been unable to maintain a growth model based on low-value-added manufacturing that was largely successful for the 30 years prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

One of the most noticeable manifestations of this so-called middle-income trap has been the secular decline of Malaysia’s once-dominant electronics and electrical products (E&E) sector, examined in “
Still Not a Tiger: The Decline of Malaysia’s Electronics Sector,” available exclusively to clients. At the sector’s height in 2000, E&E accounted for more than one-third of the country’s total value added in manufacturing, over 70% of revenue from manufacturing exports and almost 4% of world E&E exports.

Since then, Malaysia’s E&E sector has witnessed dramatic deceleration in productivity, stagnation in exports and deterioration in its global market share. The sector remains dominated by downstream industries that increasingly face competition from lower-cost producers in the region, including the Philippines and China. Confronting similar challenges, the Asian Tigers (South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, HK) were largely successful in transitioning to higher-value-added E&E production.

Beginning in the 1960s, Malaysia and Singapore (and, to a lesser extent, Taiwan and South Korea) industrialized by encouraging multinational corporations to take advantage of their relatively cheap labor forces and establish downstream E&E production facilities. In Singapore in particular, the presence of multinationals spurred local entrepreneurs to begin “clustering” around downstream enterprises, acting as suppliers and logistics managers.

Over time, this led to the development of a robust, indigenous E&E sector that increasingly produced further upstream, which typically included the stages in the supply chain in which labor adds more value—i.e., the stages with higher levels of labor productivity. By the time labor cost increases forced downstream production facilities to lower-cost markets, local firms were experienced and competitive enough to continue operating in the E&E supply chain at higher levels of value added. In this way, Singapore has managed to increase its global market share of E&E since 2000.

In contrast, Malaysia’s E&E sector has been unable to adjust to shifts in the country’s comparative advantage. One important barrier has been ethnicity-based affirmative action policies, which have stifled the evolutionary process that other export-driven economies in the region were able to ride to higher-value-added production on their way to high-income status. Established under the New Economic Policy of 1971, affirmative action in Malaysia seeks to rectify socioeconomic disparities within the local population by expanding opportunities for ethnic Malays (bumiputra or bumiputera) in areas like education, housing and investment, often at the expense of other ethnic groups (namely ethnic Chinese).

These policies have not only exacerbated the country’s brain drain of talented non-bumiputra; they also have created a strategic disadvantage for local firms by limiting both human and Financial capital and perpetuating an unlevel playing field for entrepreneurs. All domestic companies incorporated in Malaysia must reserve at least 30% of new shares for bumiputra to purchase at discounted prices. This essentially taxes local start-ups that wish to go public and makes expansion more difficult, which helps explain why initial public offering growth was relatively flat through the 2000s and why equity remains a minor source of manufacturing investment financing. Meanwhile, the continued presence of the government in the economy—via procurement policies and access to joint ventures with the nearly 500 government-linked corporations—has provided ample opportunity for rent-seeking by well-connected bumiputra who can take advantage of favorable policies.

The New Economic Model—presented in 2010 as a 10-year vision for Malaysia’s ascension to high-income status—proposes “revamping” affirmative action “to remove the rent seeking and market distorting features” and shifting the basis for eligibility to socioeconomic status, rather than ethnicity.

Yet given the governing party’s reliance on bumiputra support, major changes are unlikely until new elections are held and the government has the political confidence to confront popular resistance to reform. The underperformance of the E&E sector over the past 10 years should serve as a warning to the country’s policy makers that the continuation of distortionary policies may limit Malaysia's future growth prospects.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early CNY For The Market?

The question on everyone is asking is what the hell happened to the market over the last three days? Suddenly, it went to sleep, its like all the syndicates went to play golf. OK, that is not a fair comment but the market momentum kinda got sucked out for no apparent reason. There is no bad market news, nothing politically negative. Ask a remisier or dealer they will dig deep to give you an answer, and that answer will be "Aiyah, investors pulling out money from the market la for CNY".

What kind of b.s. reasoning is that? Is this the first year we are having CNY?? It seems to me that its a healthy correction but nobody seems to think it is one. We see popular stocks dropping 2-3% a day, nothing major, we see volume on popular stocks dropping by 50% or more, but nothing major. If you check back to volume traded last week, it was quite substantive. The fact that we are seeing only mild pullback now is a great bullish sign.

If one still has fresh funds, getting back in now is a good idea. Recent new listings are very interesting, but was thwarted somewhat by the slowish market. There was Tambun, Benelac and KSS. Herein lies the key, look at Benelac, the stock has very good fundamentals, the first day saw a good day but not spectacular. The sluggish market overall caused many shares to come out. However, it rebounded very well on second day and I think its a RM1.60 stock anyway.

Tambun I am not so keen. I am very keen on KSS. I see it having the same trend as Benelac, first day was mainly collection. Watch KSS for its second and third day, I see the stock at 75 sen minimum as fair value.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Market Outlook 2011 / DB

Let's see which research house is most bullish. Got my hands on Deutsche Bank's prognosis for 2011. My comments in colour.

Off to a strong start (3.9% YTD); transformation underway

In an ASEAN context, Deutsche Bank is positive on the Malaysian market in 2011. Confounding the skeptics, Malaysia is (finally) delivering on its ambitious transformation plans and this is increasingly being recognised by the market. Food and fuel subsidies are gradually being abolished (kerosene +4.2% since November, diesel +8.6%). This is a bold political move given decades of hefty subsidies. (Yes, they are bold moves, and necessary as well. Will that hit their political hopes to get a bigger majority? Probably not as the overall economy is still chugging along, property is still up, stocks are up, when there is +++ in the wallets, not many will complain. Will there be harsher moves on subsidies after the election? Maybe, a GST is likely, which is good really for the longer term. To be fair to the government, they have not shied away from reducing subsidies for fear of losing political support. That in itself is a significant measure to foreign investors as Malaysia certainly can no longer afford that same level of subsidy for the past few years. The sooner we change tack the better. The subsidy mentality also affects the same sense of entitlement, and is actually a poor way of managing resources - naturally the lowest strata will be badly affected, but as long as we make sure they are properly counter balanced, the subsidy removal actually causes all businesses to be more proactive and take steps to have a more competitive business model. Ever wonder why so many local companies cannot go regional, its the subsidy mentality, many can no longer see the required margins once they leave the kampung - hence the removal of subsidy is in effect a much needed change of mindset).

Local contractors are busy again with projects (e.g. RM36bn MRT project just approved by the cabinet) essential for keeping pace with economic growth. Malaysians are confident again, evident in the strong rebound in retail sales (projected at 10-12% YoY in 2011), M&A activity accelerating (Malaysia posted the biggest YoY jump in M&A in Asia in 2010) and property sales lifting.

This is not a defensive market; Malaysia to deliver 26% growth in 2011

Collectively, the structural initiatives over the last five years have started to pay off. These include:

a) the aggressive restructuring of most GLCs,

b) rapid offshore expansion by Malaysia companies,

c) market liberalisation measures,

d) abolishment of the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) guidelines in selected sectors, and

e) the listings of companies such as Petronas Chemicals, MMHE and Maxis.

These initiatives have raised earnings volatility but, in turn, earnings growth has strengthened materially. Earnings from offshore entities (largely ASEAN based) now account for 32% of total earnings (based on our universe of stocks) versus just 10% in 2005. By 2012E, we forecast this number to climb to 36%. This is a significant change that we believe the market has yet to fully appreciate. And it is why Malaysia’s earnings growth of 26% in 2011E is just slightly behind that of Indonesia at 27%. The Malaysian market offers a strong growth proposition combined with a dividend yield of 3.5%, above the regional average. (Important point which I agree totally, though the Indonesian market has been the blue eyed boy for foreign funds over the last 2 years, the gap between Malaysia and Indonesia should start to narrow. In fact, we are seeing some of the same funds, parlaying similar bets into Malaysia just as they did in Indonesia two years back).

14% upside to our FBM KLCI index target of 1,790

We see further upside risk to earnings in 2011 as commodity prices stay lofty, M&A activity accelerates further, and earnings from offshore entities have an impact. Our index target of 1,790 suggests 14% upside to the market over the next 12 months, pegging the market at 15.5x PER 2012, which is one standard deviation above post-2002 earnings. We do not think this is demanding for a market that is delivering on positive structural changes, offering superior growth in 2011 and greater exposure to the ASEAN growth footprint.

Malaysia is enjoying strong inflows into the equity market (ADTV YTD at US$830m vs. US$480m in 2H2010), foreign shareholding is climbing (22% as of December 2010) and by June, FTSE should upgrade Malaysia from “Secondary Emerging” to “Advanced Emerging”, which should drive passive inflows (c. US$392m) and positive sentiment. For exposure to Malaysia’s growth themes, we like CIMB, Petronas Chemicals, KLK, AMMB, IJM Corp, AirAsia and SP Setia.
(My target for this year is not as high as 1,790. I think the exuberance would propel the local index to 1,700-1,730 as the high range. I would start to reduce leverage and maintain at least 50% cash as the markets move beyond 1,700).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tokyo Trip

I have tons of photos on my camera, my iPhone, my friend's iPhone ... its so hard to get organised. I could be posting for a few days straight on this trip alone. Not my first time to Japan, but it was well organised. Now that AirAsiaX flies to Haneda, there is no need to join a tour, just take a similar itinerary as below free and easy:

Day 1: Asakusa, Sensoji temple, the rows of traditional snacks cooked on the spot delicious, just remember that you should not be eating as you walk, stay in one corner and finish your snack. Walk around Asakusa and then drop by Ginza.

Day 2: Roam Roponggi, esp Roponggi Hills, a modern architecture marvel. Move to Shinjuku, take in the x-rated dvd shops. Drop by Harajuku on the weekend as well.

the sumo wall outside the kokugikan

robouchon, good stuff

the takanawa street @ harajuku, madness

Day 3: Full day tour to Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi cruise, and cable car ride up the mountain. Then get to take bullet train back.

Day 4: Spend whole day at Omotesando, forget about Ginza, this is very happening and fun. Must have lunch at Cafe Anniversaire, its brilliant and you will definitely get to see a wedding or two as the whole alley include a church setting for wedding events.

Day 5: Spend an afternoon watching sumo live, you will love it. My idol Asashoryu was recently fired for street fighting but the current yokozuna Hakuho is pretty good too. Great seats all around, can even see the cellulite on their ass.

Day 6: Shop at Shibuya. Catch a show at Blue Note Tokyo, unbelievably Christopher Cross was performing. If I was a week early it would have been Patty Austen, next week it would have been Earl Klugh. Brilliant.

There are other things you could do: Disneyland, take the 2 night stay at Mt Fuji/Hakone where you will get to enjoy traditional onsen with real hot springs, naked. You can take in the early sights at Tsukiji as well.

Try and splurge by going to a few 3 or 2 Michelin star restaurants such as Robouchon, Ryugin, Kanda, Koju ...

had to include this live abalone, the size of my palms, before the teppanyaki chef got to it ... yummm

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On My Way Back

Its been a tiring 8 days in the Land of the Rising Sun ... now stuck at Changi on my way back to KL. Read The Straits Times and thought it was very funny to see UOB Kay Hian circulating a memo to thier staff on "how to do self exclusion" from the 2 integrated resorts. You can actually apply to have yourself barred from entering the two casinos, or your parents or spouse could do that for you as well, provided there are sufficient proof that you are a problem gambler.

Now, why would a top local broking house do that? Its a bit embarressing. A gentle reminder? Or do you already know of problem gamblers within your midst? Must be some over-power-hungry HR staffer trying to win brownie points.

As if you didn't already know that stocks investing is almost like going to the casino - except that we don't yell picture picture loudly ... we do yell profanities though, whether they are going up or down. Or is it that the broking house knows that more money lost at casinos will translate to less funds available for stock punting or "remisiers' collateral".

Anyways, came across The Black Swan book by Taleb again, I have one big black swan but this black swan is a positive one not a dangerous one. I think most people would have the US economy sputtering at 2%-3% growth in 2011 .... the black swan is, how about 5%-6%. Think about it.

My other early prediction in 2010 about CIMB buying Public Bank did not come true, not yet anyway ... temporarily, CIMB may have shifted its target to acquiring Affin Bank @ RM4.50 according to reliable sources. So reliable, that they had to call me up in Tokyo. Traders beware.

I checked prices yesterday with a friend and relayed the story, he said "no-la, CIMB came out with a buy report on Affin". I said, "I knew about the buy report 3 days ago, sometimes things are not so obvious, sometimes they are so obvious you forget to look a bit further.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Tokyo Rising Day 1 & 2

In Tokyo for now ... Pierre Gagnaire is a 2 Michelin star chef. Its pattserie is at the lobby.
Will be trying its degustation menu later on Saturday. Life is too short.
I must say, his tart was pretty mind blowing.

Days 1 and 2 at Tokyo ... had to rush back to Shinjuku Washington to get the Nagasaki beef .. the Manhattan Table serves very good Miyago Prefecture beeft and Nagasakui tenderloin. They are not your Kobe beef or wagyu beef type ... more like great OZ or NZ material, but much softer yet flavourful.

The yolky, chicken don at Roponggi.

The unexpected Shiseido Gallery building selling sweet stuff @ Ginza. Pretty good macarons.

TT Pierre Gagnier, the 2 Michelin star chef's pattiserie @ ANA Intercontinental Hotel.
Green tea and strawberry mousse.

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