Thursday 29 December 2011


1 more day to go!

Today I will return my office pass and other identifying documents back to the HR dept. There goes my beloved DELL notebook, and other tools of the trade. Books to return... Sigh...

There is a sense of loss and nakeness.

Man identify himself in society by stating what we do:

1) I am a lawyer
2) I worked for so and so
3) I am the husband of xxx (I am not a MCP even though I am Teochew)
4) I am the son of xxx

How shall I identify myself to strangers in the future? When I'm asked what do I do, how should I reply?

Interesting... Need to reflect and ponder about it at a later date.

Not today. Today lots of things to do. Files to delete, stuffs to throw and return, things to pack!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Olivia Newton John - Take me home Country Roads

2 more days...

I am humming and singing all day in the office!

Tuesday 27 December 2011


Holiday plus ROD mood! 3 more days to go for my flight back to Singapore this Friday!

In this festive period, I guess it's not wise for me to post satires. Let sleeping dogs lie :)

Instead, let me play one song each day to express the mixed feelings I am experiencing.

Let music do the talking!

Monday 26 December 2011

My first article published! Another virgin experience!

I would like to share a most wonderful experience with you all!

Last week, NextInsight -  a hub for serious investors, invited me to write an article about my experience in Athens. Having a first person perspective here as the Greek tragedy unfolded...

Guess what? I wrote from the heart and it was published yesterday on Christmas day!

You should see me jumping around with glee! Laugh all you want. It's my very first time! And every "first time" is special. Don't tell me you forgot your first kiss?

Will print it out and show mommy.

I need your encouragement and support. And as always, constructive feedback is welcomed. Eh... it's the holidays, do honey-glaze the poke? A Merry Christmas to you too!

Do leave your comments at the bottom of the article what you think:

"My Experience Living In Athens As The Greek Tragedy Unfolded..."

I've learnt a lot from this writing experience. And will share my learnings after I've collected all the feedback :)

Stay tuned....

P.S.  Don't just look at the babe with the yellow Ferrari leh! (Click on the NextInsight homepage for the ice-cream)

Friday 23 December 2011

365 days ago today, I embarked on a journey…

From that first shamelessly self-indulgent post, my journey as a blogger has begun.

Along the way, I’ve picked the flowers of humility; swam against the tide; glided with the wind; crashed into trees; and most of all, showered myself silly with the joy and pleasure of abandonment fun!

A gentle poke here, a satire there – always sugar coated with humour to dull the sting. Oh what joy to be able to let my heart roar! Hush to my brain, quiet now.

Manly words are lonely without the mistresses of melody, rhythm, and beat of music… What is life without song and poetry? All the glitter of gold will not light up the soul that’s empty, always seeking numbers to fill the void...  

A quick glance at my portfolio gains and misses for the past year:

1)     After 6 months of walking 2 hours to and from work, I’ve lost 3 kg. Still got a tummy, but at least now I don’t look like I am having my 2nd trimester!

2)     I still look great! You sexy thing!

3)     No major injuries or illness, touch wood! I guess rubbing my head often helps! I blockhead?

4)     I’ve got to know a dozen and more “closer” cyber-friends. Some are very shy and I respect that. Let’s see how many will meet me for coffee next year? Lucky they include 1 lady! People may talk if I only meet men…

5)     My family wants me back. Phew!

6)     Oh, I’ve lost a job too.

If success is measured by what we have to give up achieving it, I think I’ve got a bargain!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Andrea Bocelli - The Lord's Prayer

A song dedication to all my Christian friends out there - Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Non-denomination.

Thanks for accepting a hedonistic and agnostic pagan into your lives.

Wishing all Merry Christmas and Happiness!

Jared Seah - also known as the "flower buddhist monk" amongst Buddhist friends

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Countdown and Trading Opportunities?

Last Friday, the movers came and packed all my "stuffs" - mainly clothes (did I really buy all these?), shoes (I have 8 pairs!? Man, must stop my shoes fetish...) and books (they are more for decoration and impressing people). Altogether 5 big cartons full.

I am now living on 1 suitcase of clothes. 1 week's inventory in winter's clothes, 1 week's inventory in summer clothes.

Guess what!? It's cheaper to send by air than by sea this time round for my "stuffs"!? We've used sea for my previous relocation from Singapore to Shanghai and Shanghai to Athens.

Trading Opportunity?
It could be just this Athens to Singapore sector, but I would spend sometime investigating it next year. With the over capacity in shipping... It can't be that the sea freights are more expensive than air freights...

Can it be the air carriers are also experiencing... Hmm...

Either way, it can't be good for the shipping carriers!? Cut-throat competition amongst shippers was not enough. Now got extra competition from the air carriers too!

I don't look at trading screens; but I do look at "goldfishes". LOL!

Travel light
I've left behind 1 box of cutlery and pots and pans. They have served me well for 7 years now. My "gift" to the next tenant in Athens!? On further reflection, I could have left 1 or 2 more boxes of clothes behind too... That’s if I want to. I guess "letting go" can be hard....

Baby steps... I need to slowly exchange "stuffs" and "life's baggage" with more "experiential memories". On my last journey in life, I guess there will be no space for extra luggage except the space between my ears ;)

Turkey looks interesting!
I so glad I will be taking a SQ flight home next Friday 30th Dec 2011!!!

All thing being equal, I would prefer to support a Singapore company. I am a self-declared patriot! (OK, calm down and stop using the cultural revolution red-guard "look ahead" posture... Wait people think I communist!)

We used to have Athens to Singapore direct SQ flights. Now I have to transit Athens - Istanbul - Singapore.

Interesting... Mental note to myself: I must investigate opportunities to invest in Turkey. It's showing economic tell-tale -signs of the 4 Asian tiger economies that I grew up with ;)


11 more days to go.... Feels like my Army National Service ROD days!

Sunday 18 December 2011

黃乙玲 台北Sayonara (We may be a red dot; but we don't have to be parochial)

Besides 江蕙, 黃乙玲 is my 2nd twin tower in Hokkien pop. Lots of 黃乙玲's songs resonate with me.

Listening to this 台北Sayonara, it reminded me of the busloads of Malaysian factory workers that vacillate between our customs check-points every day...

How lucky we are as Singaporeans!? We have one major life's decision less to make compared to other citizens from bigger countries. 

That is: Which city should we choose to begin our career? 

The moment a Malaysian with big dreams has left school, I guess he/she has to decide whether to relocate to KL or Singapore...

Same for a Mainland Chinese - he/she has to agonise over whether it's Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen...

An American who is interested in a career Fashion or Finance will choose New York. Aspire a career in Technology? It will be Silicon Valley! How about making it big in TV and the Movies? Hollywood beckons...

Each year, there will be 2 traffic flows into these cities of dreams: Dreamers flocking in like moths to the flame with fearless passion, and realists flowing out of these cities like leaves returning to their roots...

We Singaporeans are indeed "luckier".  But there's a trade-off...

Overtime, we tend to think "defence" and may become parochial in our outlook.

Instead of seeing ourselves as dragon-riders who can overcome the straits of water enclosing our little red-dot - to seek the rainbows of our dreams - we are contented to becoming the biggest python-rider locally. Using the straits of water instead as a "moat"... 

Can you imagine New York or Shanghai limiting the flow of talent onto their shores?

Friday 16 December 2011

The pleasure of naked skin over leather...

During sofa selling days, when I have newly wed couples visiting the IMM Jurong showroom I was working in during weeknights, I love to use the above close.

This works best when we have the showroom all to ourselves, without other prying customers J

While we are all sitting down on a sofa, whenever the young newly weds were having their moment of “indecision” whether to go for fabric or leather, I would look at the young wife and gently stoke the back of my hand over the leather sofa and whisper softly:

“Can you feel the pleasure of naked skin over leather?”

And for the kill, I would give a naughty wink of the eye – ever so slightly that it’s hardly noticeable.

Most of the time, the young wife’s eyes will light up and she will give the excited “look” to her hubby. If the guy gets it, he will smile and they will decide to go for the leather.

Kaching $$$! Leather sofas cost more mah! Trade them up means more commission for me ;)

But sometimes, we get hubbies who are very “tood, tood”. I can see the frustration of the young wife who tries very hard to “explain” without being too explicit. Especially with me around…

So I would pretend that I need to make a phone call and leave the young couple alone. While walking away, if I hear the hubby laugh, I would smile. Kaching $$$!

Of course it does not work all the time, but it sure is fun when it works! That’s how I kill time and have fun during those long and boring weekday nights at IMM.

If you are clueless and very married, may I suggest you get out of the bedroom and experiment a bit? LOL! (Don’t get me started on the dining table…)

There is a reason why I shared this story of my salesman days. It’s about “trigger” words. They are powerful!!!

Be aware of them when you are making a financial decision – whether reading an IPO prospectus or evaluating a financial product with a “salesman”– these “trigger” words affect us all.

But first, you have to figure out what words – when used on you – is like stroking the back of a woman’s neck that makes her knees go like jelly.

Proof you say? If we are all so logical, why do we see people buying insurance products first, then ask Tan Kin Lian whether they good or not? Shouldn’t it be the other way round?

We liked to think we’ve bought; but it could be we were sold…

How about stocks? Did we buy or were we sold?

Sold by the ideas of the opinion leaders you respect? Sold by the “talking heads” at CNBC, Channel News Asia – are they really there to give “free” advice or to plug their firms’ services or gain exposure for their funds?

When I in sales, I am in it for the commissions. Now that I am into blogging, what’s in it for me? Friend, I thirsty…

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Listen to the walk; not the talk

Do read the below conversations between a newbie and 2 “seasoned” investors with a light-hearted touch:

Newbie to Investor A

“Is this stock a good buy?”

“Sure! This stock’s P/E ratio is at all time low of 9 times; the forecasted growth next year is 20%; it’s selling at 30% discount to its book value; the chart is showing it is building a strong base – which means it will break out in price soon! Plus it got lots of dragons and phoenixes…”

“That’s great! I assume you already own this wonderful stock?”

“I not vested in this counter.”


Newbie to Investor B

“Is this stock a good buy?”

“This stock is the pits! I spit on it! The management don’t care a damn about shareholders’ interests; take on massive amount of crazy debt to diversify to new businesses that are not complementary to it’s core competences; and the stock is now selling 50% below it’s IPO price; and the management still got the cheek to issue a Rights Offer to beef up it’s shaky balance sheet!?”

“Oh dear… I assume you are shorting it?”

“Short you head! I will be subscribing to the Rights Offer so that I won’t get diluted.”


I leave it to you to take out what you may from the above 2 conversations.

We see what we want to see; hear what we want to hear J

Monday 12 December 2011

Tokyo Bird Watching - July 2008

After stroll at Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. Must hand it to the Japanese. Even the trees are "manicured". How's that for natural umbrella or pavilion? I can't help be impressed with Japan's sense of beauty.

I was at the National park on a weekday afternoon around 4:00 pm. Nice to see that there is one non-conformist! Too bad Singapore too hot... If not you would see me lying there in the grass. Wait! I can still do so. But it will be probably at the Queenstown swimming pool instead ;)

This is at the Akihabara electronics and comics shopping paradise for "geeks". It's our Sim Lim square equivalent; only it's a whole Orchard Road - not just a shopping centre!

It's opening hours and for those of you who have worked in a Japanese company will know this morning ritual. Song singing, slogan chanting, and excercise!

When I was in Shanghai, I see many comical instances where the Chinese restaurant and shop owners tried to copy paste this ritual without understanding the cultural context... Half-dead or disinterested staff going through the motion is more of a drag than inspiration!?

Singapore business owners who practice this uniquely Japanese ritual, are you listening? (Well, if you set an example I have nothing to say... Embarassing right?)

One example of the shopping paradise! This one of the many cool toys and comics book stores. And they even have those naughty naughty stuffs not for those who are below 21 years old in Singapore.

I am always puzzled at our Singapore's censorship standards. At 18, I am trusted with a rifle and given training how to fire it (euphemism for killing a fellow man), but I cannot be trusted with some exposure of flesh?

Thank goodness young Singaporeans now can afford to travel overseas at much younger age. Get it out of your systems early. Don't repressed it; wait you suffer from the "Convent Girl" syndrome!? Even worse!

Ah! It's summer, and the Cherry Blossoms will come out in their summer kiminos. Very pretty baju (dress) no?

I am at Asaksa Guan Yin Ma's temple. I'll visit our Waterloo Street Quan Yin Ma temple whenever I return back to Singapore for my home leave - to offer my thanks.  It's very comforting to be able to make a prayer there in Tokyo. It's something familiar, yet different... Interesting!

In case you are wondering, the queue is for making a quick prayer and making a donation afterwards. Japanese queue for everything! That's very civilised!

They must be newly weds! So sweet and pretty pretty. Hmm, must resolve to get a Japanese girlfriend! My heart flutters.

An American tourist asked them to pose for his travel pic. So I just piggy-backed on the photo opportunity. Mine is a candid shot, the American's one is posed. Same same but different! LOL!

I am shocked! What is he doing? Should I say:

"Not in front of the children?"

"Get a room?"

I was at this "modern" and "popular" noodle house I think in the Shibuya area. My mistake was ordering my noodles with a clear broth. Tasted very "clear". LOL!

Well, that's part of the eating experience. It's a bit like investing - sometimes you get winners (I will buy again!), sometimes you get "oops" (I will not touch this stock again!)  

At least I have the opportunity to admire the decor and look at the interesting patrons. Hmm, defintely not company men out for lunch...

These 2 young teenagers were sitting opposite me. Havoc or what? Ah! How nice to be young again. The joys of youth... I think the girl's look is called the 101 hot babe look? The young girls will tan or paint themselves dark dark and put on white or pale eye shadows and lipsticks. That was 2008; not sure whether this style has survived...

Pachinko! I've no clue how to play; but the blinking lights and sounds sure are mesmerising. I think that's why some traders are addicted to the blinking trading screens too?

I guess the objective is to collect the ball bearings (see the trays on the floor), and exchange them for gifts/money at the end of the day.

Next time I visit Japan must pluck up the courage to try it!

I think the best way to "see" the inhabitants of a city is by taking the metro. Here is one quick candid shot.

That's the advantage of the idiot proof automatic cameras. Just point and shoot. No fiddling with focus, exposure, or framing. Just shoot a lot, some will come out nice!

Must be fast. Shoot and pretend nothing has happended. I don't want to get into situations where people challenge me: "Why you taking my picture?"

Don't believe? Try taking a picture in our Singapore MRT and see what response you get... LOL!

I stumbled onto this store at the Harajuku area frequented by teenagers. A bit like our Bugis area.

I swear I not looking for Lolitas! Honest!!!

I am more into mature ladies and cougars. Any sugar mummies out there?

Ta da! Live mannequins I spotted at the Shibuya junction. Lolita sweet sweet! Gothic I did not find on the streets. Only in the comic book stores at the maid cafes on the top floor... I heard our maid cafe at Funan has closed down? Once again, culture not so easy to copy paste one...

Teenagers at Shibuya. I remember thinking to myself why so many teenagers going to the airport? Only discussing with my Japanese colleagues that I realise that there is this Hello Kitty craze where these teenagers carry these carry-on luggage bags like handbag alternatives!? Huh!? Like that also can?  

Hello Kitty did so what!? So can!

I was walking the evening streets of Shinjuku when I chanced upon this group of mature Japanese ladies. That's my target group! There were bowing and saying goodbye for a whole 10 minutes!? Everyone so polite. Smiles all over. Good mix of modern and traditional dressing.

I walked away with a smile in my heart. Slept very well that night.

Shinjuku in the night. Studio ALTA is a popular meeting place - like our Raffles City.

You may be wondering why this shot is here? Shouldn't it be under the Tokyo buildings post previously? You guess!

Too late! I don't know about you, but I was bird watching the digital people :)

Saturday 10 December 2011

What ABSD property curb? It’s to curb hot money inflows and limit the rise of SGD!?

The recent “surprise” Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty announcement to me is more a measure to limit the hot money inflows when Europe and US start their own “money printing” – a rose by any other name is still a rose!

There is still a lot of liquidity out there. And when investors are spooked, they run to the “safe havens”.

Over here in Europe, I can see the Swiss government being very frustrated with the rise of the Swiss Franc… It’s very good for the Swiss citizens who can travel elsewhere in Europe to buy the “bargains” with their stronger currency.

But this is a double-edged sword… If you ask the Swiss retailers, hoteliers, and exporters – it’s a different story! They are the ones giving the Swiss government an earful…

When tourists and business travellers avoid holidays and business conferences in Switzerland, who suffer? The restaurants, hotels and the whole tourism sector…

Swiss retailers suffer when tourists don’t come (too ex!) and your own Swiss citizens go overseas to make purchases - like Singaporeans going to JB or Bangkok for eating and shopping? Talk about double whammy!

For Swiss MNCs who make the bulk of their revenues overseas, their repatriated overseas profits become “smaller” with every rise in the Swiss Franc… It’s similar to the Yen’s effect on Japanese exporters. Yen rise, Japanese exporters’ stock price drop; and vice versa.

I have access to CNN here in Athens. Nowadays, I see lots of TV advertisements in CNN to encourage holiday makers and businesses to visit Switzerland for pleasure and conferences – stressing the safety, efficiency, and “fine dining” experience.

The subliminal message is: “We know we are expensive; but you get the corresponding service in return!”

For Singaporeans, I guess beside the usual Japanese example, you can use the Australian example. The rise of the AUD against SGD is interesting (although it has come down a bit due to the China hard landing scare).

If you are going for an overseas education or holiday, would US or UK be “cheaper” than Australia now?

During Oct 2011 when I had my vacation at Santorini Island and touring the classical attractions of mainland Greece, 70% of the tourists I met were Australians!? Everywhere I go I hear Australian accents.

On the other hand, if you have invested in Australian hospitality related stocks… My sympathies… Is that why Qantas is also…

If my memory serves me right, during the 97 Asian financial crisis and 2008 Lehman credit crisis, SGD depreciated against USD and Euro. Our Singapore economy is still very much export and tourism driven…

Imagine if our SGD were to strengthen in the next downturn due to foreign hot money inflows?

As you can see, my viewpoint is from what I see and remember. I am definitely not an analyst or economist!

So when I heard this new property curb, I am not looking at the property counters or property prices per se. I am thinking that our ever so proactive Singapore Government must see what I don’t see. And more importantly, has ACTED in advance (unlike the politicians in US and Europe today).

It’s definitely bigger than the property sector.     

Or maybe I am seeing something out of nothing again. LOL!

P.S. That's why I don't think this winter will be colder than 2008. Property can have curbs, our SGX does not have curbs to foreign money (which is not a bad idea since I am 50% vested). However, all bets are off if SGD strenghtens instead of weakening!!!

The latest property curb is the smoke. I am looking at the fire. Thank you very much!

Friday 9 December 2011

甄妮 - 明日話今天 (The song for my speculation philosophy)

无论有几多变迁 何必诸多挂牵
过了今天 再有一天 仲有几个十年
愿望系做个预算 梦幻系自我去编

命里系注定从前 梦境系一片胡言
唯有我永远面对目前 明日话今天
昨天亦提到 想到旧年 更多挑战

迎面有几多变迁 谁知道边一个
这里高山 那里沧海 在那天边良田
实在系话变就变 预伏在乐趣前面
前面有千变万化 不会睇见

Seems like 2008 déjà vu all over again… Now that “winter” approaches us again.

Having survived Lehman 2008, SARS 2003, 9/11, Nasdaq dot-com crash, I don’t fear the “cold” of this winter. I fear more the “duration” of this winter…

Somehow, my feeling is that this winter won’t be as cold as 2008/9; but I have a strange feeling it may last longer than past winters. I could be wrong, but no harm in stocking more food and buying some new thermal underwear!?

More “senior” investors who have braved through more severe winters - like the Clob saga and Pan Electric collapse (that’s our Singapore’s equivalent of Lehman and weapons of mass destruction event. Imagine most Singapore brokers going bust!? Talk about counter-party risks!!!) – may have another perspective than me. I suspect they would be more sanguine ;)

And I am sure “new” investors who only started investing from end 2009 or early 2010 may have a totally different perspective from us “old” and “mid” timers… And it should be.

We are the result of our past experiences. Some see stars; some see mud.

This song by Jenny never fails to inspire me. The lyrics have beautifully described what I’ve gone through in my speculation’s journey and my philosophy on life. I’ve copied paste the text in simple Chinese script just in case younger Singaporeans can’t read the complex Chinese script in the video.

P.S.  The intention is not for you to follow my song choice. You have to find your own song ;)

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Why is the sky blue? (Mommy, why you so smart?)

Polly and Esther were 2 precocious 7 years old that were studying at the same primary school. They were the best of friends!

Every day after school, their stay at home moms will pick them up and walk them home from school. Since they all are staying in the same neighbourhood, the 4 of them frequently walked home together.

Polly’s mom is a graduate but has decided to be a full-time mom to focus on Polly’s education. Esther’s mom is not a graduate, and she works weekends at the local supermarket as a cashier.

One day like any other day, while they were walking home together in a foursome, Esther asked her mom…

“Mommy, why is the sky blue?”

“I’ve no idea…” replied Esther’s mom with a quizzical look on her face.

Polly’s mom interjected.

“Polly, do you know why? It’s because when the sun rays hit the earth’s atmosphere, all the other colours of the rainbow can penetrate it due to their longer wavelengths – except blue. Blue light will scatter in the atmosphere due to their shorter wavelengths and hence the sky we see is blue!”

Esther’s mom was impressed! Although she is not sure whether Polly and Esther understood…

“Mommy, why are some clouds bright and white, while some are dark and grey?” asked Esther again.

This time, Esther’s mom turned to Polly’s mom and looked with an expectant smile.

“Ah! When the clouds are not thick and heavy, more sunlight will pass through them – that’s why they are bright and white. Similarly, if the clouds are heavy and thick, less sunlight will pass through – hence it will become dark and grey.” Polly’s mom answered in a matter of fact way.

“Oh I see!” Now both Polly and Esther exclaimed in delight that they understood this explanation!

Now Esther did not asked about the dark clouds for no reason. The sky suddenly opened up and boy old boy, did it poured!

Polly and her mom hurriedly dashed to a nearby bus-stop for shelter. But still they got drenched…

Esther’s mom pulled out 2 umbrellas from her bag and gave one to Esther. The 2 of them waved goodbye to Polly and her mom and continued their walk home.

Esther’s mom was glad she brought alone the umbrellas when she saw some dark clouds in the horizon while leaving the house.

On the way, Esther asked her mom in a most endearing way…

“Mommy, why you so smart?”

Esther’s mom smiled and looked at Esther lovingly.

“Mommy is not smart. Mommy just knows what’s important. And that’s you!”

Both mother and daughter walked home in the rain holding hands tightly. Both learnt something about each other on that rainy afternoon.

Monday 5 December 2011

To Serve Man - It's A Cook Book!

The world waited with abated breath as the alien spacecraft touched down outside the lawn of the American Whitehouse.

Out came a tall and slim humanoid figure similar to what the sci-fi movies have portrayed as “aliens”. It’s about 7 feet tall, with elongated fingers and slender arms and legs. Its movement was almost “elf” liked - gentle and graceful, with small measured steps; as if it’s afraid to disturb the fallen leaves on the lawn.

The alien carried a small tablet made of crystal like material. On it, there were strange alien markings; but on the top, the bold letters in English can be observed clearly: “To Serve Man”

The world breathed a sign of relief as we discovered the alien visitors were benign and benevolent. They have come in peace. Earth’s united military stood down. Nothing unites all the warring factions of Earth’s humanity than a common “threat”…

The aliens brought with them new technology to aid the humans. Within a few months, many of the diseases that have plagued Man were eradicated. Bountiful crops and harvests ensured with the aliens’ aid. New clean energy resources were introduced, and Man learnt how to clean up the polluted rivers and how to turn the barren deserts into farmlands and green oases.

War and strife were soon forgotten and obsolete. Man has enough.

Man can finally relax and enjoy life. They “worked” four hours a day and 3 days a week. Man relied on the advanced robotics and computer technology   the aliens so kindly shared with them. Man was so grateful to the aliens!

As the months and years passed, Man’s population mushroomed… The alien visitors were ever so kind to invite Man to visit their home planet. Regular shuttles of these inter-galactic flights were introduced at all major cities on Earth.

No one ever questioned why those humans that visited the alien’s home planet never returned. The conventional thinking was that if Earth today is so pleasant, the alien’s home planet must be paradise! So no one wanted to return back to Earth. Yes, that must be it!

Deraj, an amateur code-breaker has lots of time on his hands and was bored to death with the life of “no challenges”. To satisfy his intellectual curiosity, he took a copy of the “To Serve Man” tablet and tried to decipher the alien markings.

It took Deraj many months, but he finally cracked it!

As Deraj read and re-read his own translation, his face turned paled… Without a moment’s hesitation, Deraj rushed to the nearest inter-galactic shuttle flight station in his city of New Delhi and shouted wildly at the boarding humans – who were all full of smiles and laughter:

“It’s a cook book! It’s a cook book!”

Sunday 4 December 2011

Tokyo Buildings - July 2008

When I travel, I've always been fascinated with 2 things:

a) Architecture (I see them as sculptures for the masses)

b) People (I call it bird watching)

Was reorganising my photo archives and found these interesting photos from my Tokyo trip during July 2008:

This is at the Funabashi city where my Tokyo office is located. Part of the Greater Tokyo area in the Chiba prefecture. The flats looked like those 3 room HDB flats at Beo Crescent?

A contrast of the old and the new. The walk-up apartments reminded me of ours in Singapore.

The green green grass of home. To the left is the metro station. It's interesting to see how suburbia looks.

OK, now we are in the Tokyo central downtown. Space is indeed a premium in Japan! On top are the shoe-box apartments. It's real cool to have a quaint coffee shop at the bottom. OK, our Singapore HDB kopi-tiam (coffee shop) not as stylo, but it's same same - convenient!

Talk about living in small spaces! Is this building cute or what!? Cute is cute; but I hope Singapore don't become like this one day...

Tokyo's Shinjuku business district. I thought this sky scrapper is nice! Then discovered London has a building with similar style. I guess when someone have a good idea, its "borrow with pride".

At the top of the Roppongi buidling overlooking Tokyo. Nemo was there too!

The first Apple store in Ginza, Tokyo. Something for Apple fans!

I like this photo the best! Especially the geomatric lines and its stylistic effect. It's Ginza with all the big retail names.

On the side streets of Ginza, I found this super sweet florist and coffee shop. Too bad I alone. Would be nice to sip coffee and watch the rain with a female companion. Aw....

Stones outside the Imperial Palace. Reminded me of the Japanese. Everyone is the same; conformity.

Thursday 1 December 2011

I was so wrong on Hyflux preference shares!

Can anyone still remember the hoo-ha surrounding Hyflux’s perpetual preference shares issue back in April? I wrote a tongue-in-cheek satire on it:

Can you lend me some money?

With the benefit of 7 months’ hindsight, boy! Was I dead wrong or what?

I was skeptical on this Hyflux preference shares as I was wrongly comparing European sovereign bonds with it… Spain 10 years bond is now yielding 6.7%, Italy at 7%, and don’t even mention Greece 

I was “right” (face saving mode on now) to question something is not right when you have to “borrow” at 6% - when the interest rates environment today is so “benign”…

And plus my confidence in finding another vehicle to invest in with greater yield. Several months later, I invested in another vehicle that yields 10%, with a “bonus” downside price protection since the management is aggressively buying back its shares to prop up the share price. (OK, turning off face saving mode)

I am now kicking myself for not acting on my opinion. I was so engrossed on having fun in the discussions that I forgot to put money where my mouth is!

If a company needs “new” money not for expansion in future growth, then it must be to “repair” or prop-up its balance sheet… I missed a bloody great shorting opportunity!!! I should be focusing on the Hyflux common shares instead!!! I stupid as stupid do…

Instead of me giving a summary of what has transpired in theory, please see the review of this senior “man of leisure” who voted with his feet and money – not talk:

Quote with permission from RBM, Retired Botanic MatSalleh at

I realise I am in a tiny minority of forummers, possibly a minority of one, on the subject of Preference Shares/Bonds attractiveness. But I do believe that Preference Shares and Corporate Bonds have their time and they have their place - i.e. sometimes they are a smarter investment. As an illustrative example, please consider the performance of Hyflux's two listed entities; they listed their 6% p.a. Preference Shares second-half-April this year........

Hyflux Equity Shares........ Share Price on 26 April '11: 2.19. Share price on 30 November '11: 1.155, i.e. down 47.3%

Hyflux Preference Shares. Share Price on 26 April '11: 1.00. Share price on 30 November '11: 1.045, i.e. up 4.5%.

Hyflux equity shares are currently trading 63.1% (repeat 63.1%) below their 52-week high.

Hyflux Preference Shares are now trading 2.4% (repeat only 2.4%) below their 52-week high.

Additionally the Preference Shares paid out their six monthly 3% coupon interest several weeks ago.

I rest my case m'lud. Seriously, no gloating here - I am well down on most of my investments this year.

Vested ............ in Hyflux preference shares, not Hyflux equity shares. Now considering selling some preference shares and buying equity shares.

OK, if shorting is not my cup of tea, I could do what RBM did in this volatile time of wild price swings – with a bias towards the downside. I can buy the preferences shares, it will act like a “put option”; and if the common shares crash like in reality today, I can rotate out some of my preference shares position back into the common shares! Hey! I so smart!

My logic is simple. If preference shares do not drop during a market downturn, conversely, it will not go up much relative to the common shares in a market rally. No?

I have always been impressed with Hyflux’s management when it comes to financial management. Guess what they did recently?

Quote from Business Times article:

Water treatment specialist Hyflux bought back shares for the first time since August 2009, with 1.33 million shares purchased from Nov 22 to 25 at $1.20 each. The trades, which accounted for 34 per cent of the stock's trading volume, were made on the back of the 42 per cent decline in the share price since July, from $2.08. The counter has also fallen sharply since December 2010, from $2.35.
The company previously acquired 500,000 shares in August 2009 at $2.58 each. Investors should note that the company's buyback prices were sharply higher than the IPO price in 2001 of 32 cents. The company resumed buying back this month after it announced on Nov 3 a 28 per cent drop in Q3 profit to $14.07 million for the three months to Sept 30, 2011. Earnings in the first nine months fell by 32 per cent to $36.39 million. The counter closed at $1.185 on Friday.

Now, you tell me. If got money to buy back its own shares why the need to issue preference shares in the first place? Oh? The money comes from… Clever!

Hey! Hyflux is also doing what my other vehicle is doing that’s yielding 10%. Buy back its own shares. Interesting…

It’s OK to miss the ride down, but I’ll be damn if I miss the ride up again!

I better buck up and get up to speed with this preference shares asset class. Global Logistic Properties also issued one recently (but only to investors with deeper pockets – are they trying to tell small investors something? That’s not cool!)

I don’t want to be mocked by a journalist 10 years later that retail investors (with 10 years of vested position?) have no clue what preference shares are all about… Ouch!

P.S.  If you have patiently read this far and have not taken offence, you have passed the test of being open to feedback. The reward will be the words of wisdom from RBM:

a) Some people often mix things up, fail to break the issue down when it comes to Preference Shares and Corporate Bonds. What do I mean by this? They fall into the trap of continually challenging the wisdom/decision by the "mother equity company" to raise money by means of Preference Shares/Bonds - this leads them to challenge the merits of the Preference Shares/Bonds. That is flawed logic. Once the Preference Share/Bond is "out there" you need to look at it on its own merits, rather than challenge whether the "mother company" was correct in using this route to raise capital in the first place. Hope this is clear.

b) I have chaired two listed companies in my lifetime. A conventional bank loan usually comes with all kinds of encumberances, covenants, liens etc. With a Preference Share you don't have all that hassle. Most people miss that.

So now you know! Don’t listen to Bards like me. I've made all mistakes he mentioned. Listen to those who have walked the walk; chaired the chair! (Is that proper English?)

“Insiders” are giving us free advice and what do we do? I really got eyes never see “or-yi-or” (Tarzan)!  LOL!

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