Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Best Meal For Under RM10

Can there be anything on earth for less than RM10 that tastes this good ....  Yes, back in Ipoh for the holidays, made my way to possibly the best beef noodle place on earth, Cheong Kee at 5.55pm, yeah damn early but got 4 tables eating already.,

The chilli sauce is to die for, their home made concoction its powderful as they say.

You can recognise them for the whole family operating the place are very thin.

Get a load of the tender tendons, strong but clear soup and melt in your mouth beef. Unlike a lot of people, I shy away from ordering hor fun, but will always go for meean (yellow noodle) with hor fun for the play in texture.

One of my favourite drink in Ipoh. I forgot what it is called in English but in Cantonese its sar-lei. Its highly refreshing, I have mine kosong with ice, i.e. no suenmui or sugar.

The highly sought after ngau yoke yuen, bouncy and flavoursome, awesome. Total for best beef noodle plus the beef balls = RM6.50. The drink, an expensive but worthy RM2.00. OMG ... RM8.50 for easily one of the better meals you will ever have in your life, why are we working so hard???? Yeah, its the fucking property prices and children's education ... get rid of both, and we all live happily ever after.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sleep Paralysis - Help Page

My friend from An Undomesticated Blogspot has posted a very good article on sleep paralysis. Its something which many of us have gone through. Read through, and my dua sen prognosis is at the end:

Sleep paralysis sounds unbelievable but it is a very real but rare, experience. You wake from sleep. As you lie in bed, you feel like someone is standing over you in the darkness. You try to move your head only slightly to look, but you can't. Someone - something - is holding you down. You attempt to struggle, to thrash your arms and legs, but you are frozen in place. Sheer panic washes over you as your paralysis lingers.

The original definition of sleep paralysis was codified by Dr. Samuel Johnson in his A Dictionary of the English Language as “nightmare.” Such sleep paralysis was widely considered to be the work of demons, more specifically incubi, which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. In Old English the name for these beings was mare or mære.

In Swedish folklore, sleep paralysis is caused by a Mare, a supernatural creature related to the werewolf. The Mare is a damned woman, who is cursed and her body is carried mysteriously during sleep and without her noticing. In this state, she visits villagers to sit on their rib cages while they are asleep, causing them to experience nightmares. An upcoming Swedish film, Marianne (2011 film), examines the folklore surrounding sleep paralysis.

Folklore in Newfoundland, South Carolina and Georgia describe the negative figure of the Hag who leaves her physical body at night, and sits on the chest of her victim. The victim usually wakes with a feeling of terror, has difficulty breathing because of a perceived heavy invisible weight on his or her chest, and is unable to move.

In Chinese culture, sleep paralysis is widely known as "鬼壓身/鬼压身" (guǐ yā shēn) or "鬼壓床/鬼压床" (guǐ yā chuáng), which literally translate into "ghost pressing on body" or "ghost pressing on bed." A more modern term is "夢魘/梦魇" (mèng yǎn). In Japanese culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as kanashibari literally "bound or fastened in metal."  In Korean culture, sleep paralysis is called gawi nulim, literally meaning "being pressed down by a ghost". It is often associated with a superstitious belief that a ghost or spirit is lying on top of or pressing down on the sufferer.

In Fiji the experience is interpreted as “kana tevoro” being ‘eaten’ or possessed by a demon. It is believed the spirit can be a recently dead relative who has come back for some unfinished business, or has come to communicate some important news to the living.

In some African communities, sleep paralysis is referred as “the Devil on your back. In Turkey and in many of islamic beliefs, sleep paralysis is called “Karabasan” which is very similar to the classic story of a demon visiting a person in sleep, most commonly called a Djinn.

File:John Henry Fuseli - The Nightmare.JPG
The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (1781) is thought to be one of the classic depictions of sleep paralysis perceived as a demonic visitation.

What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset (called hypnogogic or predormital form) or upon awakening (called hypnopompic or postdormtal form).

Sleep paralysis is most often associated with narcolepsy, a neurological condition in which the person has uncontrollable naps. However, there are many people who experience sleep paralysis without having signs of narcolepsy. Sometimes it runs in families. There is no known explanation why some people experience this paralysis. It is not harmful, although most people report feeling very afraid because they do not know what is happening, and within minutes they gradually or abruptly are able to move again; the episode is often terminated by a sound or a touch on the body.

In some cases, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the “Hag Phenomena” and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm.

What are the symptoms?
A complaint of inability to move the trunk or limbs at sleep onset or upon awakening
Presence of brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis
Episodes can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations. Hypnagogic hallucinations are what happens when a person is asleep but sees, hears or feels things and experiences them as real even though he or she is asleep.

How can sleep paralysis be stopped or prevented?
You may be able to minimize the episodes by following good sleep hygiene:
  • getting enough sleep
  • reduce stress
  • exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime)
  • keep a regular sleep schedule

sleep paralysis is common ... it has NOTHING to do with ghosts ...

why: usually when we are tired, or more tired than usual, or when we have over-exerted our mental faculties

how: its like your whole body went to sleep but your mind is still awake, but your mind is unable to tell your body otherwise ...

the stories: imagine your mind is bright n cheery n the rest of yr body is asleep (hence not following motor instructions to move your body parts) ... you can try your hardest and not one muscle will move, knowing our minds, it will try to come up with one hundred and one possibilities... hence the ghosts tradition ... when u dream anything is possible, and when u cannot move yr body yr mind will come up with the harshest possibilities

cure: just close yr eyes, relax, go back to sleep
August 29, 2011 11:34 AM

Irresistible Devils

Even as Manchester United was winning titles and cups over the last 5 years, something was missing, it was a good team but not great. This year had the same feeling as in the early 90s when the team was made up of mostly young guns. Except that I think the young guns this time is even better than Butt, Scholes, Nevilles and Beckham ... except for Giggs, no one can be better than Giggs.

All the highlights:


As much as I like Evra, Silvestre, Ferdinand and Vidic, they are out and out defenders, give them the ball they would only know to whack it up or pass to a midfielder. Seriously only Vidic should get back his place when he is fit. The marked difference is the number of interceptions by the backline, and the way they move the ball forward almost immediately and not just squaring it. The energy is palpable. Ashley Young was soooo goood. Cleverly is a star in the making. Smalling and the rest of the young guns were more than adequate. 

Even the petulant and greedy Nani can be forgiven as his stroke of brilliance can turn games. Berbatov will have a hard time making it back to the team.

Is United good enough to challenge Barca yet? Who is? Barca is in a world of its own.  

I really pity Arsene Wenger and Arsenal fans as they seriously don't deserve this kind of scoreline. Why 8-2 ... it was because its an open game of football, the way MU always play. You can score against us but we will score more. Love it, not pure checkbook team like the bloody City or Chelski. You can see Wenger ageing 10 years as the match progressed. He doesn't deserve this, he has been an excellent manager, the owner is just too tight with funds. No need to change manager, change the owner.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things Not So Bad?

In the midst of all the gloom and doom, a couple of tables/charts seem to be indicating something else.

The Baltic Dry Index is often cited by economists as a bellwether of global economic activity.  The index, which measures the price of transporting raw materials by sea, has now risen by more than 21% from its recent lows and is also up 16% in the last week alone.  The index, however, is not immune from critics who argue that the index is extremely volatile and has often provided false alarms on both the upside and downside.  That being said, in an environment where investors are beginning to price in a global recession, the increase in the Baltic Dry Index calls that view into question.

The following is even more astounding. In light of recent events, five strategists at top houses have adjusted their year end targets for SP500 higher. Only two have adjusted down, while six have left the unchanged.

There appears to some kind of disconnect between the macro issues and the corporate realities. Are the macro an indication of things to come or can they be separate issues?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Me and Dali

 Too bad that the movie, Me and Marley came out first. Yes, people, my dog's name is Dali, an English bulldog. Unlike Marley in the movie, my dog is very well behaved and listens to instructions well enough. Since my blog is like a diary of sorts, I thought I should have at least one post of her.

The first two photos were taken right after I bought her, barely 5 weeks really, and technically a bit too young to be sold by pet shops. Was already determined to get myself a dog again, its been many years since I had a dog or two. I went to a pet fair thingee at Mid Valley and she was in a cage with two of her brothers. The way I chose my dog, I was always certain that there had to be an eye to eye connection, not a woof-woof enthusiastic jumping dog saying "take me". Its a life long thing so there has to be a deeper connection. When we met, we kinda stared at each other for more than 15 seconds, no barking (not by me anyway). Done deal there and then, all in 30 seconds. 

She was so tiny compared to her brothers. The guy manning the stall said she was very tiny because she was the last of a litter of 6. As you can see, she was no bigger than my thigh. Puppies are just like babies, they are the world's biggest lying advertising syndicate. Both just looked adorable, cute, blah, blah ... but wait till you bring one home and care for. The first 2 months were hell when it came to toilet training. First it was getting her to do it in the toilet. Then it was the usual feed in the morning and take her out for a walk 5 minutes later, same routine for the evening. Chances of success for the first two months was 50-50.

At times I was so exasperated because there would be no shit even after walking around for 30 minutes. Then go back, and get my own shower, only to come out and find nice doo-doo waiting for me. It would have been understandable if it was at places where I could see, but she liked to do it way deep underneath my bed. As my bed is heavy and against one side of the wall, it was a mammoth task to clean it up. If it was once in a blue moon, that would have been tolerable... try getting this 3-4 times a week. I was so exasperated that I seriously considered giving her away or selling her. Now, as I looked back, I can understand why I would have those thoughts but am grateful that I have the fortitude, grace and character to ride them out.

Many people think its fun to have a dog, but they forget that that they also suddenly took on an extra job as a professional shit picker. Twice a day, without fail, after a while you think to yourself if its worth it, ... but when they are  family, do you really care to count.

One of the early joys of owning a dog is when they first recognise the name you gave them. You call and they respond, guess they are a lot like babies. Next will be being properly toilet trained, I think that was after the third month. Dogs are very loyal, they greet you wildly when you come back, they snuggle up, they follow you here and there. They are so dependent on your love, affection and care. Is this the need to be needed which is why so many people rear dogs? To an extent, yes. You also form a bond, and the bond is based on how much time you put in. Some people have dogs just as guard dogs at the front porch, they don't even have time to play with them.

The bonding process comes from time spent together (not delegated to your maids): walks, playtime, bath time (very important), morning clean up, evening clean up, massages, combing and grooming, etc... The thing is if you do less, they will still be loyal, but if you put in your share, it will come back to you in multiples. People who say that they are just dogs, just really don't get it. Its like saying to your kids "they are just kids".

 trying to get into the Christmas mood and failing miserably, 
"dude where are my presents"

When all the training and repetitions are done, you think you have fully trained your dog ... actually you wonder if its you who is training the dog or you being trained. Now I am trained to feed at the right time, pick shit at the same hours, clean her at the same times, walk her at the same times ... we might be the ones actually being trained!

Once the toilet training part is done, the hardest part is over, she would no longer be willing to stay in her cage at night, barking incessantly wanting to be with me. Thats ok I guess, the need to be needed, plus I was staying at a condo 2 years back, so she got to sleep with me. The funny thing was that she had to be touching me when she sleeps, what I mean is that she needed to be in constant contact with me. Mine was a huge queen sized bed with one side against the wall. What happened was that she gets warm with her fur against me, and I would shift in my sleep, so for the first few nights when I woke up, I would be up against the wall and she right next  to me with the other 2/3 of the bed empty. I thought it was funny and ridiculous at the same time, but this went on for weeks. Nowadays, I got used to her, I have a comforter on the bed and she gets to be on  the comforter so I don't have to change the bed sheet every 3 days. Its a matter of getting used to it, now we share the bed comfortably and she still sticks her body next to mine, I just learned how not to move myself anymore.

when Dali met Lily at my mum's place

The other thing about owning bulldogs is their breathing. Owing to their makeup, they snore like a 30 year old man. I mean really snore, not like a girl's snore. You get used to that pretty fast I guess.

While the bulldog has short hair which is easier to upkeep, they also shed like crazy, some things you learn to live with. She sheds enough hair to make Telly Savalas or Yul Brynner look good within a week. Have a good maid service if you want a dog like that.

Having all those  "troubles", I would never change her, or have a different dog, because she is who she is. She is highly loyal, affectionate, friendly and clever.  Bulldogs must be the most misunderstood dog breed ever because people use bulldog images in the beware signs when they want to scare off people. The reality is that they are the worst guard dogs ever, they are so friendly, rarely barks and just need to sniff a new person to confirm that they are their new friends. Although there have been instances when I have seen Dali being ferociously angry, when the insecticide man comes over, must be something about their smell of the chemicals they use. She would be lunging at them like a Rottweiler. Other than that, she is the friendliest dog ever.

meeting a normal sized bulldog, "watcha looking at dude"

I do not like my dog to do tricks as I think it demeans them. However, she needed to learn a few basic instructions. She is good with stay, sit, roll over, go eat on her chair, move closer, finish your food.. what more do you want to ask for. My brother would try to teach her more complex stuff, which she will oblige, such as walk around, stay, lie down, play dead ... but I try to stay away from all that.

with Sidney, playing some gross "stimulation game", oh the expression is too Category 3

As in all genuine dog lovers, we still get the guilty pangs of not spending enough time with our furry friend. The thing about dogs is that they are quick to forgive. How not to love them even more. Just the fact that she now only pees and shits in the garden grass is  worthy of a Nobel Prize in my books.

At 9 months at a park

Of all the dogs in the world, people will think she is one of the luckier ones with a decent owner like me. Real dog lovers will realise that we ourselves are the lucky ones to be blessed with a furry life long trusting loyal affectionate friend like her.

One funny thing about most pet owners is that they talk to their pets. I thought that was a bit crazy at first but after a while, I find myself talking to my dog the same way as I would to my own kid. It hit upon me cause when I heard my next door granny talking to her grandchild, ...  the tone, the message, the words were all alike! "Why aren't you finishing your food", "come here, take your bath now", "I ask you to come, come right now" ..etc... 

This is her favourite pose

I love her because she doesn't bark incessantly (like my neighbour's stupid dog). She does so only when there is something really important - a person at the door, or something "new appearing in our garden" (a bird or a squirrel). Dali has this quiet persona that is hard to ruffle, a sort of nonchalant way of looking at her surroundings. It takes little to make her happy ... why can't we all be that way.

Dali as she is today, just over 2 years old 

You think you have just a dog, but sometimes she will wake up earlier than me, but will not wake me up but sit and wait for me to wake up for at least half an hour. As she probably needs to pee in the morning, she will wait till she cannot hold it anymore and paws me in bed. If I still refuse to wake up, she will use her final trick which is to lick my face, like that anyone will also wake up.

Dali would never get on the bed without me. She would wait quietly by the side of the bed waiting for me to finish my mundane stuff on the computer and internet surfing. If it goes past 1am, she cannot tahan anymore, and would paw me at my chair, asking me to go to bed. Only then would she jump into bed and snuggle next to me to sleep ... would your wife or husband do that??!!

 Here she is pondering on the meaning of a dog's life

She is lucky to have such a "nice owner" but we all know I am luckier to have her.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are We There Yet

Naturally, friends have been asking if I am bearish now as I have not been writing about the markets of late. Well, first of all, there's nothing much to write home about. Nothing much has changed, I have said most of what I wanted to say. While I am slightly bullish on emerging markets, there is very little impetus for buyers to move in until the big boys stop being so volatile.

Then some would say if this was going to be contained or localised, i.e. much of the hurt and pain being in Europe and the USA. To a large extent, that is true. While I think emerging markets may go a bit ballistic when the dust settles, it is also a scenario which we are likely to see an overbought situation, or rather a premium valuation in store. The danger lies in the inherent inflation within emerging markets. Owing to the very low interest rates in the US, Japan and Europe, the rest of the emerging markets cannot really hike their own rates without causing a stampede for their currencies.

China has already hiked theirs a few times and their markets have suffered. Will the same happen for emerging markets? Unlikely, because with the big boys in disarray, emerging markets will have to maintain their local engines of growth even if it means higher than usual inflationary pressures.

Big Picture Issues

a) Transfer of problems - It is pretty obvious that the subprime mess and other real estate related lending excesses hav been transferred largely from the major banks to their respective governments. Much of the problem is still there. Do governments write them off without needing to care? Not really, you have to pay somehow. You can attempt to rescue as many banks and financial institutions but the mess just gets transferred to a different party. Now we are seeing the problems at the sovereign debt level. 

We wouldn't be having this crisis now if it wasn't for the subprime mess and excessive real estate lending. That was a mess because of many factors but largely because ratings firms such as Standard and Poors made unbelievably stupid mistakes, not once but throughout the last 5 years leading up to 2008. Now they have the audacity to say US ratings should be downgraded (albeit the rating should go down) ... but the gall of it all.

b) The global property scam -  A massive transfer of income to the very rich has occurred while middle class real incomes stagnated. The middle classes only tolerated this because Central Bankers created housing booms to keep the impoverished middle classes borrowing and spending to give them the illusion of prosperity and stop them from revolting. 

How do you do that? You do that by keeping interest rates very low, keep printing money, keep the system very liquid - some have gone to equities but by and large the biggest beneficiaries have been property markets throughout most of the world. Yes, you see obvious bubbles in Singapore, HK, parts of China, Canada, Australia and even certain places in Malaysia. We thank our lucky stars that our property markets did not go through the same correction as the major developed nations - but is that because we did not have a massive contraction in liquidity brought on by a financial scare? 

How is this scam hurtful? Well, you propel property prices higher and higher with low interest rates and excess liquidity. It serves to fan the flames of property prices higher, causing a bull run for the prices, causing people to chase and get some action before its too late. 

Its never a zero sum game. Much of the froth in pushing prices higher has to be in much much bigger mortgages that people are taking to participate in the run. As long as the public can pay down their mortgages, you won't see foreclosures or a major correction. You and I know that prices have basically gone out of reach of the young and working. 

However we need a boom and bust to deflate this thing. The boom will come via stock markets, which is why I believe other emerging markets which have not seen similar troubles like the US, Japan and Europe will see liquidity being funnelled there. There is the boom and there will be the bust, which I expect towards 2H 2012.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Funny Thai Commercials Part 2

Nobody's Worth It

This is a true story as published in Sydney Morning Herald, about one lady who stepped off the beautiful cliffs of The Gap @ Watson's Bay Sydney. I chose the title: Nobody's Worth It, the line from the song by Queen .. "Don't Try Suicide, Nobody's Worth It" ... seriously folks, nobody's worth it.

It is one of those things. Sometimes you write something that seems to touch a chord with readers, and in 25 years of writing for the SMH, I don't think I have ever had a greater, nor more poignant response than this piece. All of us have been touched by the subject of suicide in some measure, and my best hope is that this story might give hope to those who contemplate it. And I am quite serious, by the way, about there being a need to have a plaque at the Gap, at the spot Nellie jumped, telling something of her story. 

It can be a place of tragedy but The Gap has witnessed miracles, too.
Nellie Bishop is not the patron saint of those who would hurl themselves into oblivion from The Gap, there on the cruel cliffs overlooking the ocean, but she should be.

For look at her now. It is a bright, beautiful Tuesday afternoon, November 13, 1923. She is a strong, athletic young woman, in a long dress - until recently, a clerk with the railways, living with her parents at Kogarah - and there seems nothing to mark her out from the passers-by, other than the intent way she gazes at the rocks below.

And yet, suddenly, she puts down her handbag and climbs through the small fence. She does not feel afraid. Only determined.

She simply puts her hands to her face and ... leaps.

Why did she jump? It's complicated. To her family and friends, she seemed happy enough. But the misery that propelled her over the cliff was well hidden.
Certainly, a large part of it was a broken romance.

For Nellie, the love of her life had been one James William Gallagher, a fine, strapping young man whom she had grown up with. She had been so proud of him - if fearful, too - when, in 1915, he had marched away to the Great War.
Alas, although James had returned in 1919, walking, talking and with both arms intact and nary a wound visible, he was not the complete man who had left her.

Tragically, James had taken a bullet to his nether regions and so was fearful that having children was out of the question.

The shattered James tried to make the best of it, saying that, while of course he still wanted to marry her, he did not want children, anyway.

But Nellie did want children - it was the dearest desire of her life. The pain of their subsequent falling out broke her heart and also, at least momentarily, her mind.

At the instant she jumps, however, with the wind rushing around her ears and blowing up her dress, she bitterly regrets her action and decides she does want to live after all.

But it is too late! Or is it?

Through an extraordinary, once-in-a-century quirk of fate, a freak wave engulfs the rocks below with such a flood that she hits deep water instead. She's alive!
Two old Italian fishermen - the brothers Rosario and Vincent Diamente - are nearby and look over to see her hit the water. They row like mad things towards her. The brave fishermen get to her, just six yards from the cliff face, where she is furiously treading water.

In the roar of the waves, nearly dashing themselves and her on the rocks in the process, they manage to get her on their boat.

Nellie is taken to hospital, where she spends the night, and is released the next day to her astounded and relieved family.

The upshot? Despite the blackness that propelled her to jump, despite being firmly convinced that there was no way out for her, that death was better than life, she was totally, comprehensively and stunningly wrong.

For Nellie Bishop really did live happily ever after.

She fell in love again with a good man and had eight wonderful children. Five of them joined the police force and one, Bob Bradbury, became NSW's highest-ranking detective.

One of her dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bill Bradbury, became a police negotiator and ended up spending a proportion of his life successfully talking people out of committing suicide at The Gap. He had a story to tell them ...

Nudging 90, Nellie passed away from natural causes in 1988 as the matriarch of a large and loving family. There should, at the least, be a plaque to her at The Gap, at the highest point where she jumped, telling something of her story.

With thanks to the Bradbury family and acknowledgment to The Sun (November 14, 1923) and The Daily Guardian (November 16, 1923).

Do you have a historical anecdote about a place in Sydney? Write to Peter FitzSimons at pfitzsimons@smh.com.au.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/miracle-at-the-gap-the-day-nellie-tried-to-end-it-and-came-out-alive-20110819-1j1m0.html#ixzz1VidFjxEL

Monday, August 22, 2011

Funny Thai Commercials

Do the Thais have a funnier sense of humour than us? I think not, sigh, its our self censoring ozone layer. Still, gotta applaud the Thais' great sense of humour.

Manchester United To List In Singapore

Do I mind that MU is going to list on SGX? Not particularly because seriously, Malaysia was NEVER under the radar for consideration. That is just the plain truth. It was always going to be between HK and Singapore. Imagine the consternation among fans from the UK to hear of this listing.

Will you make money from this IPO, probably if you got in at IPO level as the frenzied trading on listing would provide enough room to get out. Will the company make real money in the long term term? Not likely. In the end, the shares are likely to stay in the hands of staunch supporters, and scheming rich billionaires slicing some stake in the hope that MU's controlling shareholders will someday sell or just pass on.

Errrol Oh from StarBiz, did his funniest write up on Saturday in a wacky letter to Alex Ferguson. Here are some of the must read paras:

"If you (Ferguson) had not joined the Red Devils, the United fans would have nothing but past glory to sustain their love for the club. In other words, they would be more like Liverpool fans."

" Our tycoons understand the football business. In May last year, a Malaysian consortium, including Tan Sri Vincent Tan of the Berjaya group, acquired 36.4% of Cardiff City. Datuk Chan Tien Ghee is now the club's chairman. AirAsia Bhd's Tan Sri Tony Fernandes had failed in a bid to take over West Ham United, but he persisted. He just became a majority shareholder of Queens Park Rangers, another London club. These developments say plenty about how serious we in Malaysia are about the EPL". (yeah man... how many Singaporean tycoons own EPL teams??? Just like the usual Singaporeans, talk cock, talk big, jilo action).

"Investors in Malaysia are willing to pay a lot for a piece of a company controlled by a big name from the West. Among the most expensive stocks on Bursa Malaysia, in absolute terms, are British American Tobacco (M) BhdNestle (M) BhdDiGi.Com Bhd (a subsidiary of Norway's Telenor), Dutch Lady Milk Industries BhdGuinness Anchor Bhd, and Shell Refining Co (Federation of Malaya) Bhd. They're all above RM10 per share. Given United's fantastic brand visibility, its shares can surely reach such a lofty price level".

England's Premiership champions mandate Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley as bookrunners and choose to pursue a listing in Singapore where rules regarding share structures are more flexible.

By Anette Jönsson | 22 August 2011

Manchester United celebrate their 19th league title earlier this summer
Asia’s army of Manchester United fans might soon be able to show their support for the English football club in the stockmarket, if a bid to list the club in Singapore in the next few months goes ahead as planned.

According to sources, the US-based Glazer family who owns 100% of the club following a leveraged buy-out in 2005 has filed a listing application with the Singapore Exchange and on Friday mandated J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley as joint bookrunners for a planned initial public offering. The two US banks will work alongside Credit Suisse, which had earlier been given the role of global coordinator and will also act as a bookrunner.

In a move that suggests that the owners are keen to get a well-diversified regional spread of investors, the Glazers have also hired Hong Kong-based BOC International, Malaysia’s CIMB, Singapore’s DBS and pan-Asian investment bank CLSA as joint lead managers.

Manchester United is the most successful British football team of all times with 19 premier league titles and 11 FA Cup wins. And it has more than 330 million fans around the world, according to its own estimates. But importantly it has also turned its brand into big business.

In the fiscal year to June 2010, the club generated £286.4 million ($470 million) of revenues that came primarily from ticket sales, sponsorship and media/advertising sales. It is the growth of this brand that the owners will try to sell to investors. In that context, the company can be viewed as any other branded consumer retail company.

However, the attraction of the brand is clearly linked to the performance on the pitch and it is probably not a coincidence that Manchester United is looking to do an IPO while it is still basking in the glory of last season’s Premiership win. While the 2011/2012 season started just over a week ago, it will take more than a few months to determine who will be the top contenders this season. ManU, under long-time coach Alex Ferguson, also opened the current season with a 2-1 win in its first match against West Bromwich Albion. It will play its first home game for the season against Tottenham tonight.

A key reason why the Glazers are looking to sell part of the company that owns the team — the Red Football Joint Venture — is to be able to reduce its large debt. That would free up money for player acquisitions so that the team can continue to compete with big-spending UK rivals like Chelsea, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, and Manchester City, which is backed by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan.

According to its latest available accounts, Red Football JV had £590.4 million of net debt as of June 30, 2010 and it is paying about £45 million per year in interest costs on a £503 million bond that was issued in January 2010 to refinance outstanding bank loans. Most of the debt dates back to the LBO in 2005.

While the size of the IPO has yet to be determined, various media reports have talked about a deal size of about $1 billion and suggested that 25% to 30% of the company will be put up for sale. Sources say such numbers are “in the ballpark”, but stress that much will depend on how global equity markets perform in the weeks ahead.

Asian stockmarkets took another severe beating last Friday after a 3.7% drop in the Dow Jones index in the US overnight. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 3.1%, erasing almost all the gains made since it hit a 12-month low on August 9, and is now down 15.8% year-to-date. Singapore’s benchmark index fell 3.2% to a new 2011 low. The index has lost 14.3% since the beginning of the year. Earlier in the week bankers had argued that investors are still interested in primary market deals as a way to rebuild their exposure and ensure they don’t miss out when the market recovers. But if the increasingly panic-like selling continues and the secondary markets remain under pressure, that could quickly change.

According to sources, Manchester United has an aggressive timetable in mind for its IPO and investor education might start as early as the second half of September. That would suggest the company is aiming to launch a formal roadshow in October, assuming a stock exchange approval is in place by then. In Singapore, it typically takes between four and 10 weeks to secure a listing approval after the application is filed.

The decision to list in Singapore instead of Hong Kong has surprised many commentators. The Hong Kong stockmarket is more liquid than its regional neighbour and, as the largest IPO market in the world, Hong Kong has also attracted quite a few large non-Asia companies to its ranks since early 2010, including global brand names like PradaSamsonite and L’Occitane.

But as it turns out, Singapore was able to offer something that Hong Kong wouldn’t. According to sources, the Glazers want to be able to list shares with different voting power, which is something Hong Kong’s listing rules no longer allow. It is still unclear exactly what kind of share structure the company is planning, but supposedly the current owners want to ensure that they will be able to retain control of the team even if some family members choose to sell. According to one local media report, up to 70% of the company will be owned by Malcolm Glazer and his six children after listing, and their shareholdings could potentially be structured to include a right of first refusal with regard to each others’ stakes. This would be in line with statements earlier this year that the club is not for sale.

It seems Manchester United had sought a waiver from the Hong Kong listing rules to allow some form of differentiated share structure, but the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) is believed to have said no. The rule prohibiting a company from issuing different classes of shares in the same market has been in force for a long time and is intended to protect minority shareholders. Only one major company — Swire Pacific — still has two share classes as a legacy from before this rule was introduced.

Singapore doesn’t have an explicit rule against the issuance of differentiated voting shares, even though it isn’t common practice to do so in that market either. However, some companies do for example have preferential shares listed in Singapore.

The refusal by the HKEx to grant a waiver on this particular issue is interesting and shows that the exchange is not willing to compromise on certain issues to attract international listings. This should give those claiming that international companies are coming to Hong Kong partly because the listing requirements are less stringent some pause for thought. In the long run, this should be positive for the reputation of the Hong Kong market, even though the decision by a major sporting brand like Manchester United to list in Singapore does seem like a big loss right now.

To be sure, there might be other reasons for choosing Singapore, including the fact that the team has a particularly large and active fan-base in Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia. Sources say it also wants the listing to have an Asia focus, as opposed to a China focus, which has been the case for most of the international companies listing in Hong Kong so far.

That it is choosing to list in Asia as opposed to London, where it was previously listed from 1991 to 2005, is not a big surprise, however. Close to 60% of its fans live in Asia and the region is expected to drive the brand’s growth through things like merchandise sales, Manchester United cafes and sponsorship. Asian companies currently sponsoring the team include Singha beer and telecom operators PCCW, Tri Indonesia, Telecom Malaysia and AirTel.

The team also makes regular summer tours to the region and has one Asian player in its main squad in the form of South Korean Ji-sung Park, who has helped to boost the popularity of the team in the region since he signed on in 2005.

Whether it will be able to turn fans into shareholders and, perhaps more importantly, attract investors who support entirely different teams on the pitch or, heaven forbid, might not be interested in football at all, will depend largely on the valuation. The $1 billion deal size speculated in the market last week would value the franchise at $3.3 billion, assuming a public float of 30%. That is significantly above the £790 million ($1.3 billion) that the Glazer buyout valued the team at in 2005 and also well above the $1.6 billion that a group of wealthy supporters, including Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, were offering to pay a year ago. Turnover has doubled since the Glazers took full control of the team, but the losses have also expanded due to the large interest payments. In the fiscal year to June 2010, Red Football JV reported a pre-tax loss of £108.9 million.

That said, fans have been upset by what they perceive as an unwillingness by the Glazers, who also own American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to invest enough money to get the best players. Not surprisingly the possibility of an IPO that could free up cash has therefore attracted a lot of attention since the plan leaked last week.