SG Wealth Builder

To make money. To build wealth. To preserve wealth.

My gold journey with BullionStar

BullionStar announces their 3rd Year Anniversary celebration! Time really flies and it seems like yesterday when I forged a working relationship with BullionStar to promote understanding of gold bullion among Singapore readers. Since then, the company has grew from strength to strength and has became a leading bullion dealer in Singapore. It never fails to amaze that the company has managed to achieve this incredible feat within such a short period of time. In this regard, I am proud and honored to be part of their journey, even though I am not their staff.

Even though the gold and silver price premiums of BullionStar are not the lowest you can find in Singapore, what differentiates it from the rest of its competitors is its reputation and content authority on precious metal. The founder of the company, Torgny Persson has a strong conviction in gold as a form of wealth building and firmly believes that Singapore is the most ideal country to invest in gold bullion.

I have gained much insights on gold and silver from my conversations with Torgny and through the years, my perspective on wealth management has been broaden. Like many Singapore investors, I used to think that investing is all about buying and holding stocks. Now, I realized the importance of allocating some of my wealth in gold bullion. I look forward to many years of relationship with BullionStar.

BullionStar 3rd Year

Join us in celebrating BullionStar’s 3rd Year Anniversary

Tuesday the 25th of August 2015

Join us in celebrating BullionStar’s 3rd Year Anniversary!

Click here to register!

When:
7 pm – 9 pm, Wednesday 16 September, 2015

Program:
– Speech by Torgny Persson, CEO BullionStar:
Gold Trends & The New Gold Rush
– Speech by Luke Chua, COO BullionStar:
The Key to Understanding Gold & Silver Prices
– Q & A with Torgny and Luke
– Mingle with Torgny, Luke and other BullionStar staff members
– Prize presentation for Video Award Winners

Where:
BullionStar’s bullion retail shop at 45 New Bridge Road

Enjoy light cocktails and canapés

Registration Fee: SGD 49

Please note that tickets are limited. First ordered, first served.

Please note that this is a standing event.

3 Year Anniversary Promotion:
American Silver Eagles (Various Years) for spot + USD 2.99 (~ SGD 4.19)!

Promotion only available for registered attendees at the 3 year anniversary. Price valid regardless of quantity bought (up to a maximum of 1,000 pieces per customer). No minimum or maximum quantity per order. Offer valid while stocks last.

Click here to register!

Why automated trading stop losses are not always ideal (especially now)

Below is a guest post from Cynthia Siantar who is the co-founder of Call Levels, a Singapore fintech that provides free real time financial monitoring and notification service.

I’m sure we all agree that last night and this morning was a total bloodbath in the markets. But one group of people got it worse than others and who are they?
Those that had their automated trading stop losses triggered prematurely (see below), crystalised their losses, only to see the markets rebounded sharply soon after (ouch!). Not to mention there will always be that group that slept through the turmoil and wake up massively poorer. Don’t laugh, they might be someone you know.
And this is the reason why institutional investors and traders still choose to leave Call Levels: Call me when the price reaches this level with salespeople despite having the ability to set their own stop losses. They want peace of mind. When the markets go into panic mode, and none of your technical indicators make sense anymore, they want to be aware when certain price points are HIT but they don’t necessary want to execute that trade.

Inline image 2

As my co-founder, Daniel not-so-fondly recalls that one night many years back, he had at least 20 salespeople calling to update him because almost all his Call Levels were triggered. He didn’t sleep much that night, but was at least made aware of the situation and was able to react appropriately, mitigating the losses.
Now friend A, a retail trader who didn’t have the luxury of salespeople covering him, but set trading stop losses got the biggest shock of his life when he woke up the next morning. Financial institutions are not going to extend premium services such as Call Levels to all their clients, because it is tedious and expensive for them to do so.
We make Call Levels available on mobile for everyone, so you don’t need to be that friend A anymore. We sent out at least 1,300 push messages (stopped counting at 1 AM) to our users informing them their price alerts have been triggered.
Before I forget, an established e-trade platform suffered system failures last night. So now whenever someone ask why do I need Call Levels, when I have XXX or YYY? I’ll send this screenshot and answer: Its always good to have reliable backup my friend.
Inline image 3
Stay calm. Be aware.

 

My favorite personal finance blogger

It was a pleasant surprise to see my favorite personal finance blogger, HYOM back in action after more than a year. For the uninitiated, HYOM stands for Help Your Own Money. HYOM started his investment blog at the same time as me (in 2010) and I have always respected his work. In fact, I am one of his biggest fans and enjoy reading his articles. However, after he suffered from retrenchment in 2011, he begun to blog less often. Since then, the local investment blogging fraternity had taken a different dimension altogether. Sadly, the scene is now crowded with many bloggers who cannot match HYOM’s writing standard. Nonetheless, in his maiden article for 2015, HYOM touched on a very interesting subject that resonates deeply in my heart and that is, entrepreneurship in Singapore.

HYOM’s post was triggered by an article from a former high flying civil servant, Mr Devadas Krishnada who commented that Singaporeans are too risk averse and lamented that this is bad for Singapore’s future growth. Devadas’ frustration stemmed from a recent recruiting experience in which an applicant demanded more money in exchange for the risk in joining a SME like his. While I can relate to Devadas’ pain point of recruiting a local talent to support his company’s business expansion, I agree with HYOM’s that Devadas’ arguments are not well balanced.

Whether you like it or not, entrepreneurship is always risky and if you are not the type of person who can accept failures, then it is certainly not for you. This is especially so in our society which places so much focus in our academic and job achievements. You are deemed to be in the “successful” bracket if you graduated from a top university with prestigious scholarship or if you hold the position of Vice President/Deputy Director in a MNC or the civil service. You are perceived as a loser chasing a lost dream if you are a struggling entrepreneur. If you disputed this, just ask among yourselves whether you have ever encouraged your kid to be an entrepreneur. Most of us would expect our children to have a good education and become doctors, lawyers or accountants. Not many of us would hope our kids become a self-employed entrepreneur, much less spending efforts to groom them.

HYOM’s article is well-balanced because he wrote from a perspective of a person who desire very much to be an entrepreneur.  Basically he touched on three very important advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. Don’t start a business with the objective of being rich
  2. Most Singaporeans don’t have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur
  3. Don’t underestimate the financial risks of being an entrepreneur

On the first point, I don’t have to elaborate because I had touched on the importance of having passion to be a successful business owner in my previous articles. Money can never be a sustaining motivator for a start-up to succeed and chances are, you will be burning through huge amount of your savings before you even start to earn your first dollar from your business.

And this brings me to the next point on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Most people tend to downplay the amount of negative support from their friends and loved ones. Of course moral and emotional support are important. After all, if you cannot even get the buy-in from your family and friends to support your business ideas, what makes you think that you are able to even convince your potential customers to purchase your products? So negative remarks and comments from the naysayers may not be invalid. Think through and address their concerns before taking the leap. Certainly, the idea of being your own boss is sexy but you don’t want to drag your loved ones financially downhill with you if your business flops.

The worst thing in life is to see your family members suffer as a result of your poor life decision-making. If you don’t take care of the downside-risk and focus only on the upside, it may not be prudent because the market is always very competitive. The possibility of your product being the first-of-type is very low and thus it is unlikely that your idea will create a first-mover advantage. So for goodness sake, always create a safety net first before you embark on the entrepreneurship journey. You are not only answerable to yourself, in terms of personal goals, but also your immediate family as well. Henceforth, I agreed with HYOM’s point that entrepreneurs from wealthy families have an advantage over commoners because they can afford to fail in their business ventures, sometimes even in spectacular fashion.

However, if you are just a typical wealth builder in Singapore, don’t contemplate the entrepreneurship journey because sometimes the price may be too high for you to afford. Your life may be much better off as a salaried worker.

Really look forward to the next article from HYOM!

Magically yours,

SG Wealth Builder

Last Chance for Gold Investors

Dow Jones plunged 2 percent on 20 August and seemingly continued its slide on 21 August as uncertainty over the Fed’s timing on interest rate hike and global growth weighed on investors’ confidence in the financial markets. Weak data on China’s growth also dealt another mighty blow to investors and heightened fear on the world number two economy. Given the volatility in the stock market, it is no surprise that investors turn to gold.

Widely seen as a safe haven, investors drove gold price up 7% from a 5-year low in 5 August. This development is a reverse on the recent bearish sentiment on precious metal. According to World Gold Council, demand on gold dropped 12% on a 6 year low in 2Q 2015. The gold market also faced weakness from jewellery buyers in China and India. However, it should be noted that the 2nd half of the year would be more encouraging given the anticipated responses from investors in view of the recent price correction.

Investors seeking wealth protection should diversify their assets and allocate a certain portion of their wealth in gold and silver. The current window is a good opportunity for wealth builders to adopt buy gold on the cheap and preserve wealth. In Singapore, if you want to buy gold bar or coins, you can easily place your order online in BullionStar and withdraw the physical metal from their store. BullionStar offers two different options for buying and storing precious metals.

1) Bullion Products

Segregated allocated bullion products held under legal ownership. If you buy a 100 gram PAMP Suisse gold bar, you get one identifiable serial-numbered PAMP 100 gram gold bar stored separately from BullionStar’s own inventory.

Your bullion products are inspected, photographed and stored securely under your legal ownership. When we have received your payment, you can sell, audit or physically withdraw your bullion any time. If you would like to physically audit or withdraw your bullion, you can visit us at 45 New Bridge Road or have your bullion shipped to you.

The Live Audit Report lets you audit your metal online in real time. The Live Audit Report is a list of all holdings for all vault account numbers storing precious metals with BullionStar as storage provider. You can thus verify the existence of your bullion with its serial number in the Live Audit Report. All other customers can likewise verify their bullion holdings through the report.

Storage is FREE until 2016 with the most competitive rates in the industry thereafter.

2) Vault Gram®  

Vault Gram® is BullionStar’s trading solution for physically backed up gold, silver and platinum. The price premium and spread for Vault Gram® is lower than for most bullion products.

When you buy a Vault Gram® of gold, silver or platinum, you get one Vault Gram® as represented in your account under My Vault Storage®.

BullionStar backs up the Vault Grams with an equivalent or larger amount of physical metal. Even though Vault Grams are not stored under your name directly, the bullion is backed up by physical precious metals.

Since BullionStar often holds large bullion bars such as 1 kg gold bars backing up Vault Grams, and since larger bars have lower price premiums than smaller bars, you are able to purchase Vault Grams of gold, silver or platinum at a low a price premium and trade at a low spread.

Delivery can’t be requested for Vault Grams as a 1 kg gold bar can back up 1000 Vault Grams owned by different customers.

There are no fees for buying or selling Vault Grams.

Property Market Data and Resources Talk (September 19, 2015)

By Property Soul

SRX-logo_s

Property Market Data and Resources for End Users
A knowledge sharing talk by Property Club Singapore

Synopsis

What are the resources that professional agents and savvy investors have access to and you don’t? Where to find the latest and complete sales and rental transactions better than published data? How to find projects with highest yield or best return in any area and along any new MRT line? Want to know the latest valuation of your property without engaging a banker or paying a valuer? Curious to see which of your neighbours have just sold or are in the process of selling their homes? Do you know you too can analyse the local resale and rental market like a pro with the right tools? Property experts from SRX will give you the answers of the above, share with you their latest findings and answer all the queries from you.

Event Details

Date : September 19, 2015 (Sat)
Time : 2.30 – 5 p.m.
Venue: YMCA@One Orchard

Agenda

Introduction
Ms Vina Ip, Author of No B.S. Guide to Property Investment

Property market update: 28 shades of red and rental yield trends
Mr Jeremy Lee, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, SRX Property

Successful negotiations through property valuations
Mr Andrew Chee, Head of Valuations, SRX Property

Targeting the right properties using SRX Property Search
Mr Jeremy Lee, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, SRX Property

Finding investment opportunities and hotspots using the right tools
Mr Jeremy Lee, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, SRX Property

Speakers

Fee

Member: $15 (before September 1), $25
Non-member: $55
Seats are limited. Registration will be closed once function room reaches full capacity.

Registration

For members, please log in and register here.

For non-members, please register here.

You can sign up for Property Club Singapore membership now to enjoy all the member benefits.

Read more here:: Property Market Data and Resources Talk (September 19, 2015)

CPF Retirement Planning Roadshows

According to a HSBC survey conducted in 2013, more than 50% Singaporeans felt that they are not planning adequately for their retirement. The study also revealed that poor health and not having enough money to spend in their later stage of lives are among Singaporeans’ greatest fears. The results of the survey are not surprising, given our aging population and high cost of living. If you are not careful with your personal finances in your twenties or thirties, chances are, you might not have a positive retirement lifestyle.

To prepare for retirement, the first thing we must ask ourselves is how much is needed in order for you to feel comfortable in retirement. The amount of money is subjective and varies across individuals but the rule of thumb is that the retirement fund should include your dependents’ needs, traveling, medical and other unforeseen expenses.

Once you establish your desired retirement nest egg, develop the financial roadmap to achieve this goal. For example if you need $2 million to retire, work out the monthly or annual savings you need to set aside. Besides the cash components, acquire income generating assets and passive income investments to support your retirement fund.

A common mistake made by Singaporeans is that we often fail to future-proof our financial planning. In their pursuit of wealth, many Singaporeans overlook the importance of protecting their abilities to generate income when they are young and healthy. Thus, it is not surprising that many wealth builders ignore the significant impact that life insurance coverage has in their wealth building journeys. It should also be emphasized that having adequate insurance coverage is one thing, it is also important to purchase the right insurance. Selecting the wrong insurance policy can potentially affect your financial planning and derail your retirement goals.

Retirement
The second mistake is that we tend to procrastinate retirement planning and focus on overcoming short-term obstacles. Thus, sometimes it is important to “time-out” from our daily challenges and pause to reflect our long term financial needs.

For example, while your income may be adequate to finance that new property for the next 10 years, this may not be true when you reach 50 or 60 years old. Therefore, it might not be prudent to stretch your mortgage loan to 30 years. Also, besides property, cash and CPF savings, always make it a point to acquire quality assets and hold them for the long term. Such assets include blue chip stocks, bonds and gold bullion.

Against this backdrop, CPF Board is organising a series of retirement planning roadshows from August to November, in a bid to help Singaporeans aged 40 – 54 prepare financially for their gold years ahead. Below is a listing of the first two events:

[ROADSHOW No. 1] Planning for your Retirement
[DATE] 28 – 30 August 2015
[TIME] 11.00am – 6.00pm
[VENUE] Bedok Mall
[PRICE] Admission is free
[WEBSITE] Visit www.cpf-bigrchat.sg to find out more
[DESCRIPTION/ LISTING] Unsure of how to plan for your retirement? Join us at this roadshow to pick up insightful tips. On 29 Aug, hear from celebrity and entrepreneur Irene Ang and financial expert Christopher Tan, CEO of a financial advisory firm as they discuss retirement planning. Win prizes at various game booths when you test your financial knowledge too!

[ROADSHOW No. 2] Planning for your Retirement
[DATE] 13 September 2015
[TIME] 11.00am – 6.00pm
[VENUE] Toa Payoh HDB Hub
[PRICE] Admission is free
[WEBSITE] Visit www.cpf-bigrchat.sg to find out more

The desire to win versus the fear to lose

By Property Soul

win_loss

As the whole nation was in celebratory mood for our Jubilee National Day, I couldn’t help wondering what makes us uniquely Singaporeans.

Winning the Singapore way

TODAY conducted a street poll with 525 respondents and asked for three words that best describe the Singapore identity. As everyone would have expected, the word that mentioned most was “kiasu”, or the Hokkien word behind “fear of losing”.

Drive along any expressway in Singapore. If you find a car hogging on your left lane some distance behind, simply signal left and it will automatically speed up in a split second. It works over 90 percent of the time.

The relaxed driver originally has no intention to keep pace with the car in front. But when a perceived competitor is in sight, the fear of losing immediately prompts the driver to take action. The drive comes not from the desire to win, but the uncomfortable feeling of being overtaken or losing out to a stranger.

The fear of losing from young

In fact, Singaporeans start instilling the kiasu value to the next generation from their preschool years. The Straits Times had recently conducted a private tuition survey on 500 Singapore households. It found that 7 in 10 parents are sending their children to tuition, with 4 in 10 parents doing so to their pre-school kids as young as five.

Despite all their efforts, only 3 in 10 agree that going for tuition helped to improve grades to a noticeable extent. Then why are they still doing it? The survey found that, for many parents, it is simply because others are doing it and they want their children to keep up.

Imagine spending a few hundred bucks per month, imposing a tight schedule of tuition and private classes, and spending weekends chauffeuring the kids to learning centres – all these just for the purpose of keeping up with others or avoid losing on the starting line.

I would rather spend my quality time having fun with my two little ones. Children have the right to play, explore and learn whatever subject that interests them. Help them find their niche, they will develop confidence in life. Help them find their passion, they will prosper in the future. Ask them to do what everyone else is doing, they will only end up being average.

It is the desire to win, not the fear of lagging behind, that drives young minds. The former builds optimism while the latter results in pessimism. Sadly, not many parents see this.

Invest in properties for fear of losing out

The same mentality applies for property investment. Many people invest in properties not because they want to make passive income, achieve financial freedom, or be a property millionaire one day.

They buy properties because they are told that money put in the bank will be eroded by inflation, that the property is hot and must buy now before all units are sold out, that if they don’t buy today prices will become unaffordable tomorrow …

It is a purely defensive move rather than a proactive strategy. People put their life savings into a property not because of the desire to win, but the fear of missing out. And that fear of missing the boat sounds more horrible and painful than making a wrong investment decision.

In fact, people feel more terrible missing the opportunity to make money, compared with the consequence of being stuck with a bad investment. When the market crashes, it is common to find others who end up with the same fate. And it is a relief to know that ‘we are all in the same boat’.

Are people afraid of missing the boat and can’t wait to jump into the water? Or do they think that the sinking boat is safe provided that the majority of the people are there?

– Property Soul, No B.S. Guide to Property Investment

What history has taught us

Remember how desperate buyers queued overnight for a new launch? Remember how eager buyers gave blank cheques to their property agents for balloting just to secure a unit? Remember how new projects are all sold out on the first day of launch? Remember how speculators flipped their units like nobody’s business?

We saw these happening in 1996, 2000 and 2012-13. What happened to these projects now? Where did the prices go a year later? How did the buyers find their purchase?

Buyers flocked to the market when the government announced a new MRT line; when the industry stakeholders mentioned some property hotspot; when the media reported prices of a new project has set new high; when property agents told everyone that industries properties are hot; when the paper said that more are buying overseas properties now …

How many percent of these buyers truly understand what they are buying into? What is the proportion of buyers make their decision based on their own research?


Think before you queue

We Singaporeans are very good at queuing. If queuing is a sports, we would have scored all straight golds.

We see this “national sports” practised every day at hawker centres. We can easily spend over 10 times of the time queuing in front of our favorite food stores, even though the food is barely two times tastier than another store selling the same food.

From today onwards, don’t waste your time standing at the end of a long queue. You are a unique individual and what you need is different from the others. It is meaningless to make decisions based on what others are doing. Do your own research and use your own judgment.

If you are familiar with a certain neighborhood, why waste time looking for properties in Geylang just because people say there are gems there? If your strength is in residential properties, why buy unfamiliar commercial properties just because agents said profits are higher? If you are making good returns with Singapore properties, why the need to diversify into high risk overseas properties just because everyone say they are hot?

The pros play the property game to win. The amateurs play the property game to not lose out.

– Property Soul, No B.S. Guide to Property Investment

Kiasu buyers go for average properties. So stop copying what others are doing. When you buy what others are all buying, you will only end up to be a mediocre investor. If you want to win the property game, you must have the courage to deviate from what others are buying. Find your niche and be a contrarian.

Read more here:: The desire to win versus the fear to lose

Money no enough for digital marketing talents

Agencies and organisations in Singapore are not fulfilling the needs of marketing, digital and creative talent in terms of remuneration and professional development, a new study by specialist recruiter font talent has found.

font’s Market Pulse 2014/15, which surveyed 500 respondents across Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, found numerous disconnects between what employers claim to be providing for employees, and what talent are actually receiving.

Money is the number one consideration for marketing talent in Singapore looking for new roles (81%), yet just 54% of professionals feel they have been fairly remunerated in the past year. Worryingly, just 35% of employers said they offer competitive base salaries above the market average, and only half offer incentives and bonus programmes. However, bonuses appear to be paid adequately, with 22% of talent receiving a bonus between both $3,000-$4,999 and $5,000-$6,999.

In Singapore, the top median annual salaries were found in Digital, Design and Production roles, followed by Creative and Creative Services, while the lowest was in Media (Media Planning, Digital Ad Sales, etc.)

When comparing in-house and agency wages, agencies came out on top with a median annual salary of $58,800, compared with $43,200 in-house. From a benefits perspective, in-house respondents reported more healthcare, company paid training and car park allowances, while agencies offered more flexible working hours, travel allowances, and phone allowances.

A large disconnect was also reported with flexible working hours. While 65% of employers surveyed said they offer flexible working hours as part of their overall benefits package, just 33% of candidates said they received them.

Similarly, just 34% of talent said their company had crafted a career development plan for them, despite 70% saying this is the second-most important factor they consider when looking for a new role.

“While cash is still a main motivator for marketing talent, both agencies and organisations won’t do themselves any favours by ignoring talent needs for professional development and training,” said Sandra Christie David, Singapore Country Manager at font. “While many companies will push training aside due to perceived cost, they would be better off looking at it as an investment in current talent who already understand their culture and goals, and who are more likely to be retained if they feel they are being invested in long-term.

“Companies must start to place professional development at the forefront for marketing talent, rather using it a promise during hiring and negotiations. The same goes for flexible working – companies need to decide exactly what this means to them, and ensure this is adequately communicated to current and potential employees to avoid any misunderstandings.”

Other notable Singapore data gathered from font’s Market Pulse includes:

• Only 46% of employees would recommend their employer as a great place to work
• 77% of employers are hiring contract, freelance and temporary staff
• 42% of employers state that women are placed in over 30% of senior roles
• Women (89%) value money higher than men (76%) when switching jobs. Men are slightly more likely to seek opportunities to develop (78%) than women (69%)
• More women than men (73% compared with 60%) have received a pay rise in the last 12 months
About font
font specialises in recruitment solutions for the Creative, Digital and Marketing sectors across Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. We exist to place talented specialists in temporary, contract or permanent jobs they love, and to help companies find, attract and retain the most outstanding talent in the marketplace. We place talented professionals in the areas of Executive Management; Digital, Design and Production; Creative and Creative Services; Account Management and Planning; Marketing and Communications, and Media. To find out more, visit www.fonttalent.com

 

Reasons Asia Should be the Focus of Investors

By Reid K.

Asia is a continent with huge potential and a multitude of growth opportunities in various industries. The tech industry in the region is growing at a fast pace, though it is not the only opportunity that can be found. There are many other rising industries, and they remain untapped at this day.

One of the many reasons why investors should look more into Asia is because of the continent’s fast-developing high-tech environment.

While everyone knows about the innovation coming out of Silicon Valley, companies from tech hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo are under the radar of many investors and there are many stocks in Asia that are on the cutting edge, yet have a very attractive valuation.

Mobile is becoming very big, with some markets’ growth predicted to be hugely reliant on it in the near future. A report from Forrester expects online spending in China to reach US$1 trillion in 4 years through the growing use of mobile apps.

An environment where people will use more mobile devices with improved networks, increased application usage, and more e-commerce entails emerging opportunities for every type of business.

Another reason Asia should be on any investor’s radar is because of its huge market size. The continent’s population is very large, with an estimated 4.3 billion people living in the Asia-Pacific region in 2014, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia.

This represents 60% of the world’s population, not only entailing a huge pool of potential customers, but also for untapped talent that has yet to be discovered.

A growing population along with an easier access and an evolving tech industry will enable more talent to grow in the field of engineering and design,, adding to the Asian market’s performance. Opportunities in Asia are limitless with this large base of potential customers and promising future talents.

There is still a lot of room for creativity, innovation and unique opportunities as most of Asia is not already in the mature stage that the United States and Western Europe is. The start-up environment is growing at an incredible speed, making it a very inspiring place to conduct business in.

According to CB Insights, Beijing, Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangalore figured in the top 6 cities in the world to grow the fastest in venture-capital deals and dollars last year. Indeed, deals increased by 165% between 2013 and 2014 in Beijing.

India is the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world according to a study conducted by the National Association of Software and Service Companies. India is launching nearly 800 startups per year.

Furthermore, the major Asian cities are equipped with advanced and developed infrastructure. This facilitates the process of business creation, and enables rapid growth. Asia has received a lot of investment both in economic and social infrastructure, and improvements are already clearly visible.

These investments also help to reduce barriers for trade. Entry of foreign businesses in Asia is easier and more opportunities are rising. For example, Japan now has less demanding requirements for foreigners to start their businesses in the country as they no longer need a permanent residence.

A growing trend of economic liberalization, an untapped pool of consumers and talent, great infrastructure and a rapidly growing start-up scene all bode well for Asia in the 21st century.

The post Reasons Asia Should be the Focus of Investors appeared first on InvestAsian.

Read more here:: Reasons Asia Should be the Focus of Investors

Gold demand falls in Q2 2015 as reduced consumer appetite in Asia outweighs increased buying in some western markets

Below is an update on gold trend from World Gold Council. Notwithstanding the recent gold’s price drop and declining demand, gold investors should take a contrarian approach and seize this opportunity to buy gold. In Singapore, you can purchase gold and silver bullion from BullionStar, one of the leading bullion dealers.

The World Gold Council’s Gold Demand Trends report for Q2 2015 shows total demand was 915 tonnes (t), a fall of 12% compared to the same period last year, due mainly to a decline in demand from consumers in India and China. However, demand in Europe and the US grew, driven by a mixture of increasingly confident jewellery buyers and strong demand for bars and coins. Looking ahead, there are encouraging signs moving into what are traditionally the busiest quarters for gold buying in India and China.

Gold and Silver Bullion

Gold and Silver Bullion

Alistair Hewitt, Head of Market Intelligence at the World Gold Council, said:

“It’s been a challenging market for gold this quarter, particularly in Asia, on the back of falls in India and China. The reverse is true for western jewellery markets, as increased economic confidence led to continued growth in consumer demand. It is  fair to say that investment demand for the quarter remained muted given the continuing recovery in the US economy and booming stock markets in India and China during the quarter.

Jewellery market prospects look healthier for the remainder of the year with the upcoming wedding and festival season in India. In addition, falls in the gold price have historically triggered buying in price sensitive markets and we are already seeing early indications of this across Asia and the Middle East. Conversely, sharp falls in Chinese stock markets have shaken the largely consumer investment base and we are seeing early indications of interest in buying gold again – all illustrating the unique self balancing nature of gold demand and the diverse drivers which underpin it.”

The Ins and Outs of Mortgages in Singapore

There is much to consider when the time comes to take out a housing loan in Singapore. Though it may seem intimidating and confusing at first, understanding the terms that you are dealing with will help, you get a head start on making your decision. Tools like the mortgage calculators offered by Property Guru can help you plan out payments and what fits best into your budget, but it’s best to start by learning about some aspects of mortgages in Singapore that may be unfamiliar. You’ll want to learn a little bit about how the SIBOR affects interest, the different types of rates that are offered on home loans, and how this factors into why refinancing is common in Singapore. Here’s a bit of an introduction to these concepts to start you on the way to your home loan.

Getting a Grip on the SIBOR
To put it simply, the SIBOR, which stands for Singapore Interbank Offered Rate, is the reference by which banks in Singapore determine interest rates on loans. Experts indicate that the SIBOR is predicted to rise to 2 percent by the end of 2016. You’re probably wondering what this means to you. Basically, the SIBOR will help you determine the initial interest you will be paying on your bank’s home loan, and can in turn help you decide on whether or not a fixed rate home loan or a floating rate home loan is the best choice for you. Though the SIBOR is predicted to rise, it can also fluctuate up and down, and will be added periodically (usually monthly or every three months) to the interest rate your bank already has set in place. Therefore, the SIBOR can cause your total interest rate to either rise or fall over the length of your loan.

Fixed-Rate versus Floating Rates
Now you’re probably wondering what the difference between a fixed rate and floating rate is when it comes to home loans. As you’ve already learned, the SIBOR does play a part in the difference between these two types of loans.

In simple terms, a fixed rate home loan will maintain the same interest rate for a locked in, set period of time, keeping your interest rate and mortgage payments the same for that time period—usually up to about five years. A floating rate home loan, on the other hand, is based on how the SIBOR fluctuates on a month to month, or sometimes three month long period. This means your interest rate and mortgage payment can change along with these fluctuations.

So how are you going to choose between the two? The benefit to a fixed rate home loan is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a fixed rate that will not change. Your payments will be the same, and thus your budget will be predictable and easy to plan. However, you’ll be stuck with the bank you chose for the duration of the time period that goes along with the fixed rate, and won’t be able to refinance if the SIBOR happens to fluctuate downward.

Therefore, a floating rate home loan offers its own advantages. Floating rate home loans often don’t have a lock-in period, which means you may be able to refinance sooner. If you’re financially equipped to handle a potential rise in interest, then a floating rate home loan might be the choice for you, as you may eventually benefit and save money when interest rates fluctuate back downward. You wouldn’t be able to take advantage of these lower rates if you were using a fixed rate home loan.

Consider Refinancing
If interest rates are on the rise, remember that refinancing can be an option. You should periodically compare home loan interest rates between banks, and see if switching to another bank would be beneficial to your finances and lower your monthly payments.

DBS recommends negotiating with your current bank first to see if they can give you a better refinancing offer, but more often than not, you should be prepared to make the switch to another bank. Often, interest on a fixed rate home loan will be locked in with a particular bank, and then be raised by a certain amount after a set period of time, in addition to whatever the SIBOR currently happens to be. This is where researching other banks comes in. As many experts tend to agree, being able to refinance home loans is especially useful in Singapore, because many bank loans do not have permanent interest rates. Thus, you can “shop around” and refinance your loan depending on how the interest rates of different banks may be changing. Be careful, though—refinancing before the term of your current rate expires will usually incur a penalty fee. Make sure you research any applicable fees that might be added to your loan before you attempt to refinance.

Overall, tackling all the aspects of a mortgage for your home in Singapore may seem daunting, but with a bit of research, you’ll figure out the option that works best for you. Of course, the most important tool of all in this process is careful financial planning. Once you’ve figured out what works for your lifestyle and finances, you’ll be well on your way to making the right type of home loan work for you

Weak Exports Pressure China’s Economy

By Reid K.

China’s exports saw a disappointing drop of 8.3% in July. This was much more than expected, marking the biggest drop in exports in 4 months. Beijing is now under pressure to take action and stimulate the world’s 2nd largest economy.

The forecasts predicted only a drop of 1%, following an uptick of 2.8% last month. However, the data that came out on Saturday suggests a decreased demand from Europe, with a drop of 12.3%.

The US, China’s biggest market, also dropped by 1.3%. The fall in exports to the United States was the first one since March. The Japanese market, another big trading partner for China, also showed a big slag of 13%.

“A recovery in external demand remains far off and economic growth will continue to rely on domestic demand, which implies policies should continue to be relaxed in the second half,” wrote Qu Hongbin, a Chinese economist at HSBC.

As for imports, they also fell heavily year-on-year with a drop of 8.1% according to the data from the General Administration of Customs, though this performance did not surprise analysis’s who has come up with similar predictions. They had expected an 8% drop, following a 6.1% decline in June.

The weak imports can be partially explained by falling commodity prices paid to partners. Australia being one of them, they are one of the largest countries from which China imports, and ships coal and iron. The Chinese industry took advantage of these weaker prices to increase imports of raw materials, which resulted in much higher than expected figure of imports of most major commodities. Coal has particularly risen in volume of import in July, with an increase of 28.1%. However, analysts remain negative about the market’s future prospects.

“Probably the volumes are okay, but the prices that are being paid are hugely lower. We have got a real concern there for the future levels of the Aussie dollar,” Stephen Koukoulas, the managing director of Australian consultancy Markets Economics said. He explained that the weaker prices in commodities is a major concern of Australia and New Zealand, as they both are markets that rely heavily of Chinese demand.

China’s trade surplus recorded was $43.03 billion for the month, when forecasts were higher at $53.25 billion.

These results do not favor positive forecasts about an economic turnaround that China was hoping for. The central bank’s report published last Friday warned that China will go through a longer period of economic weakness. They also stressed the importance of implementing new growth strategies by getting away from short-term stimulus tools.

The strong yuan is argued to be the reason why the exports have been so weak. ANZ Research’s estimation shows that the nominal effective exchange rate of the yuan has increased by 13.5% since June 2014.

However, some analysts defend the positioning of the yuan as a policy that enables the straightening of the domestic buying power in order for Chinese businesses to borrow and invest abroad, and also as a stimulus for foreign firms and governments to increase their use of the yuan.

Analysts also support the strong currency as it enables the Chinese economy to mean off low-end export manufacturing.

“These factors suggest that China’s exports will continue to face strong headwinds,” Liu Ligang and Louis Lam said in an ANZ Research note on Saturday. They both shared their doubts about China reaching the trade growth target of 6% for 2015.

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NEC strengthened Internet of Things (IOT) business

Below is a press release from NEC. Singapore entrepreneurs should note the current hottest trend in technology and develop solutions that can solve business problems.

Tokyo, August 5, 2015 – NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) announced today that it has developed five new solutions for strengthening its business relating to the Internet of Things (IoT) and that it will be successively releasing them. In addition, NEC will increase the number of core personnel engaging in IoT-related systems construction from the current level of around 100 to nearly 500 by 2020.

NEC will be moving forward with the development of world-leading technologies in areas such as image processing, sensors and big data analysis, together with new solutions development and partnerships. It aims to make positive use of IoT in extensive areas including social infrastructure, such as water demand forecast and traffic monitoring, security management for communities and for key facilities and energy management, in addition to the corporate use of IoT by manufacturers, distributors, transport operators and others.

image005

Information and communications technologies-related data is rapidly growing on a global scale, and as a result, huge amounts of data (big data) are expected to be generated in the near future. IoT technologies open the way for collecting big data from many different goods that were traditionally not subject to control. As sophisticated analyses of these digital data are conducted, extra value will be discovered.

“In the coming IoT era, the extra value of data found in the digital world will be incorporated swiftly into real society, industry and life. This will create opportunities for new social value, encourage reforms of the industrial structure and promote changes in the knowledge creation process,” commented Takaaki Shimizu, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of NEC. “NEC will capitalize on its extensive track record and its leading technologies in the software-defined networking (SDN), big data, cloud and security areas in order to construct flexible and robust IoT systems.”

In addition to NEC’s Industrial IoT for the manufacturing sector, NEC will be working to broaden its lineup of solutions tailored to a broad array of industries and business types.

The new solutions recently developed are outlined as follows.

1) Landslide Prediction Solution (for government offices and local governments)

(Scheduled to be released in the second half of FY 2015)

Adopts a new technology pioneered by NEC for high-precision, real-time calculation of the risk of a mudslide on a slope by analyzing the soil moisture content. This opens the way for installing sensors in a larger area at the same cost as before. Thus, slopes at risk of landslide disaster can be quickly identified with high precision.

2) Water Demand  Prediction Solution (for local governments and water utility operators)

(Scheduled to be released in FY 2016)

On the basis of past water consumption records, this solution provides an accurate and detailed forecast of how much water will be needed in the area served. This helps reduce unnecessary water preparation and pump operation, thereby reducing the power cost for operations.

3) Electric Power Demand Forecasting Solution (for power producers and suppliers (PPS))

(Scheduled to be released at the end of July 2015)

Employs heterogeneous mixed learning technology, one of NEC’s original big data technologies, to forecast future power demand for every half-hour time slot based on past power consumption, weather, calendar and other data. This helps operators to efficiently operate power generation and power procurement plans.

4) Image- and Weight-Based Goods Inspection Solution (for distributors)

(Released July 2015)

Employs NEC’s unique high-speed, high-precision image recognition technology and a weight scale to instantly identify the item inspected and its quantity. Eliminates the need for barcodes and other goods identification data or visual inspection by humans. Automating these checks enables enhanced efficiency in shipping and inspection work at distribution centers as well as quality at the same time.

5) VIP Detection Solution (for retailers and the service industry)

(Scheduled to be released in the second half of FY 2015)

Analyzes image data captured from IP cameras at retail stores and hotels with the use of face recognition technology that is among the world’s most accurate in order to help find and serve VIP customers visiting stores and hotels (*). Also detects suspicious persons from image data to support security in store operations.

 

Indonesia Urges U.S. Fed to Raise Interest Rates

By Reid K.

Over the last few months, the uncertainty over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will tighten rates has created downward pressure on the rupiah.

As part of its effort to spur a recovery from the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis, the U.S. Fed has kept rates at a near-zero level since December 2008.

But due to its sizable current account deficit, Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has been one of the worst hit by outflows since the Fed first announced that it’s tempted to raise rates soon.

So far this year, the rupiah has been emerging Asia’s second-worst performing currency — it has lost more than 8% against the dollar. The currency is trading at its lowest levels since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

According to Sofyan Djalil, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for economics, once the U.S. Fed starts to tighten, the rupiah will not drop further as such developments have already been accounted for by the market.

Djalil believes the fundamentals of the Indonesian’s economy are sound and the current weakness of the rupiah is only a result of the markets having already priced in a 25-50 basis point increase in the Federal Reserve rate. “Our rupiah is undervalued,” Djalil said.

“I wish the Fed will decide and the sooner is the better for Indonesia because the uncertainty gives … the financial market a good legitimacy to play around,” Djalil said.

Senior Deputy Governor Mirza Adityaswara joined Djalil in his assessment. On Friday, he stated that Bank Indonesia expects capital inflows once the Fed decided to move finally.

Thus far, the central bank has been not resorted to policy easing to support growth but it is believed it will be able to cut its key rate after a Fed rate hike.

Fed officials are still undecided on when to raise rates, however, most investors are expecting the first rate hike to come as soon as September. Data released on Friday pointed to an improving economy — U.S. non-farm payrolls increased by 215,000 in July.

Meanwhile, Djalil points to evidence that economic activity is already picking up —and an increase in container shipments out of Jakarta and steadier sales of motorbikes have been recorded. The government is still optimistic that economic growth will reach 5.0% to 5.2% for the full-year of 2015.

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What Does Myanmar Need to Liberalize its Economy?

By Reid K.

Its military regime coupled with sanctions forced economic and political isolation from the international community upon Myanmar for 49 years.

This has caused the Southeast Asian nation to fall behind many of its ASEAN counterparts in terms of economic growth and living standards. In 2009, together with North Korea, the economy was named the least free in Asia.

Since 2011, the year the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein came to power, Myanmar has seen some positive trends. Social and political reforms were started and are still in progress.

Foreign capital has reacted favorably to those reforms, with foreign direct investment in Myanmar gradually increasing. Between January and November of 2014, foreign direct investment totaled up to US$4.4 billion.

Yet the economic liberalization process is far from straight forward. While Myanmar’s economy is poised to grow at around 8.5% this year, the nation is exposed to many domestic and international risks.

Arguably, the strong US Dollar poses the biggest risk. As the Federal Reserve looks set to increase interest rates by the end of this year, the Burmese kyat is expected to depreciate even further than it already has. “Myanmar simply does not have enough foreign reserves to resist a kyat depreciation,” warned the IMF as it described that Myanmar could be set for a “perfect storm”.

Myanmar is flooded with natural resources which makes the nation a favorite partner for its neighboring countries. Yet the widening current account deficit is hampering such potential by reflecting a fundamental weakness in the Burmese economy.

Experts have thus advised that Myanmar should opt to finally adopt a flexible exchange rate that mirrors market conditions. This would close the gap between official and parallel market rates — demand for US Dollars would be suppressed which in return would lead to a strong kyat. Such measures would cut Myanmar’s current account deficit and curtail imported inflation.

Myanmar also still faces an uphill battle with regard to its current fiscal accounts. In order to improve fiscal conditions, Myanmar has to gain control of its expenditures and increase tax revenue — reportedly, tax revenue in 2014 was only 7% of GDP, the lowest among ASEAN nations by far. Military expenditures have to be cut sharply.

There is no room for argument that Myanmar has come a long way since 2011. The economy is slowly integrating into the global arena. Nevertheless, to ensure more economic prosperity, reforms to liberalize the economy need to continue.

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Thai PM May Reshuffle Cabinet to Help Economy

By Mireille Bisnaire

In the wake of Thailand’s coup in 2014, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha quickly disbursed over the over US$3 billion owed to farmers from the ousted government’s politically hamstrung rice price subsidy scheme. It appeared that the country’s new military rulers had the will and means to break the bureaucratic inertia that had stalled fiscal spending under successive elected administrations.

One year later, however, it is business as usual. While the government has pledged the highest proportion of investment in seven years in its newest budget plan, Prayuth’s economic lieutenants chose to rake a rigid policy approach, narrowly focusing on big ticket infrastructure projects, such as ambitious high-speed rail lines, while dogmatically avoiding any grassroots outlays that could help in the short-term.

The military government’s hard focus on overhauling politics and squashing dissent , it seems, has come at the expense of economic reform.

For a country that was once a powerhouse among developing nations, the recent decline of Thailand’s economy is telling. Exports have collapsed, consumer confidence has been eroded and manufacturing output has fallen every month but one since March 2013.

Thailand’s financial markets don’t portray much hope either. The markets had to cope with large capital outflows, corporate debt is at unsustainable heights and the Thai Baht is the one of the worst performers among major currencies in Asia.

“Growth prospects look very subdued compared to other countries in the region, and in the event of a serious political shock, the country could quickly spiral into recession,” said Sarah Fowler, a London-based analyst at Oxford Economics.

“The political situation will inhibit efforts to improve the working of the economy.” She added, “The government is unlikely to resolve structural economic issues that include an overreliance on agricultural exports and a failure to pursue policies that encourage manufacturing companies to move up the value-added chain.”

As a consequence of the mounting upheaval, Thailand’s government is under increasing pressure to bolster the economy, especially after the finance ministry this week cut its 2015 forecasts for exports and gross domestic product growth for the third time this year.

Even the business class, important to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s administration, has become increasingly concerned. Business leaders and associations have urged Prayuth to shuffle his economic team and shift policy course — half of the current cabinet is composed of military personnel with little experience.

Until now, Prayuth has resisted those calls on the grounds that cabinet ministers should have the opportunity of a full year in office to prove their mettle. Only recently, has Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha come out and stated that a reshuffle of the cabinet might have to be considered. Yet, on Monday, Prayuth also stated that he won’t be pressured to make changes “just because somebody is at fault or because of social pressure.”

Ambika Ahuja, a London-based analyst with political-risk adviser Eurasia Group, believes, a reshuffle would likely shore up his support among the middle class, though it “will be less about actual economic performance and more to do with public perception and policy coordination at the civil service level.”

The junta seized power with a promise to bridge a decade of political schism, end corruption, and bring happiness. Yet, while Prayuth promised that he would return the nation to civil rule and economic strength, both seem like distant dreams at this point. No dissent and the constitution is in place and there is no firm date yet for an election. The economy remains in awful shape.

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My Career Low

This year marks the 10th year anniversary of my working life. It seems not so long ago that I stepped out of the university, fresh and ready to take on the world. I was driven, curious and hungry for success back then. Yet now, I feel like a spent force, jaded and weary of my journey. So many things have happened to me for the past 10 years, both good and bad, and they have inevitably shaped my character and thoughts.

I like my current job because of the opportunity to make significant impact in the industry I am working in. Yet, I came to realize that there is another side of the job equation that cannot be decoupled, and that is human relationships. Having the soft skills to deal with day-to-day issues are important in career success and unfortunately, this is not taught in school. Through the years, I came to realize that successful people are those with strong Emotional Quotient (EQ) and they tend to get ahead than those who are smarter or technically stronger. And this is the area which I fare the worst – the ability to manage my emotions.

For the past few years, I have lost my temper in office on a number of occasions and my bosses had noticed my outbursts. On hindsight, I should have kept my cool and swallow my pride. But in moments of madness, I let my emotions got the better of me, much to my regrets later.  Perhaps its due to the work stresses. Perhaps its due to the pressing project deadlines. But no matter what, I recognize that this is a worrisome problem that needs to be addressed. Otherwise, it can cost my career.

One of the things that annoys me the most is when unhelpful co-workers intentionally direct work to me or create obstacles for me to overcome. The golden rule I am beginning to learn is not to response immediately and instead, walk away and take a 5 minute break. Such an action will help to “time-out” from direct confrontations and allow me to calibrate a more level-headed response.

Gold and Silver Bullion

Gold and Silver Bullion

The second lesson is to either call the person or best still, talk to to him or her face to face to thrash out the issues. Emails or text messages is generally a poor form of communication tools and very often lead to misunderstandings.

It is a competitive world out there and sadly, in my work-place, my colleagues don’t believe in the importance of returning favors. On many occasions, I have helped them out on small issues yet they don’t reciprocate in kind. A classic example happened a couple of weeks ago when one of my colleagues was involved in a traffic collision accident. He immediately texted the rest of the team for help relating to office work as he would be on urgent leave the following day to settle his car issue. All of us, including me, promptly assisted him. However, the following week, he conveniently forgot to repay my goodwill and even directed me a job task which was assigned to him by my boss. The task was quite simple and straightforward but I thought the least he could have done was to settle for me as I had helped him out. Anyway, drawing from my previous experiences, I kept my cool and took up the job. I can forgive, but I don’t forget.

The above incident is definitely not an isolated case and I have rendered help to colleagues who went for no-pay leaves and part-time arrangements. There was even one who claimed he could not take up overseas traveling assignments because of medical condition and I had to take over his project. None of them had expressed gratitude to me after favors had been granted to them. I supposed people tend to take things for granted but even the best metal will wear out one day, not to mention human’s tolerance.

Due to my unhelpful colleagues, my boss often transfers unwanted tasks to me because I am viewed as a “yes-man”. At times, I felt overwhelmed by work and felt victimized. How do you reconcile the fact that what you do are unrecognized and unappreciated? I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate this kind of working environment but I am definitely reviewing my options.

Magically yours,

SG Wealth Builder

CapitaLand to boost digital efforts with technology stalwarts as members of its newly formed Technology Council

Below is a press release from Capitaland, one of the companies that I respect the most because of its foray in China over the years. The Singapore listed giant recent move into the use of technology to boost its real estate business would definitely help to give the company competitive edge in China. It is interesting to note whether such trend would take place in Singapore.

CapitaLand Limited has formed a new Technology Council consisting of high-calibre digital visionaries to boost its digital efforts to drive its real estate business. The council members are notable venture capitalists Foo Jixun, Managing Partner of GGV Capital and David Su, Managing Partner of Matrix Partners China, both of whom have strong tech focus and a keen eye for the next tech game-changers; as well as Gabriel Lim, CEO of the Media Development Authority of Singapore, the agency key to Singapore’s Smart Nation vision in mapping innovative infocomm media solutions. Together, the council provides strategic critique of CapitaLand’s operations and insights to the digital universe.

Mr Lim Ming Yan, President & Group CEO of CapitaLand Limited, said: “CapitaLand’s technology drive is part of the Group’s efforts to sharpen our customer-centric focus to develop real estate of the future – integrated and interconnected smart communities through smart buildings as well as seamless online and offline customer experiences. We are privileged to have stellar tech visionaries join us in the CapitaLand Technology Council. With the wealth of experience and fresh perspectives of the council members, CapitaLand will gain much insight on using digital technology to decode the art of human needs and wants, so that we can create smart buildings for smart customers.”

Lim Ming Yan, President & Group CEO, CapitaLand Limited

“The council will also identify tech trends, challenges and opportunities to sharpen CapitaLand’s smart focus. This includes offering advice and guidance on how we can drive our growth through strategic collaboration with strong technology partners, such as Tujia.com International (Tujia) – China’s largest and fastest growing online apartment sharing platform, which has been dubbed as the Chinese equivalent of U.S. home-rental website Airbnb. CapitaLand’s investment in Tujia through Ascott, gives us the opportunity to expand into a new vertical which will augment Ascott’s core strength,” added Mr Lim.

To boost CapitaLand’s digital offerings, its wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), is leading a consortium to invest S$67.69 million (US$50 million) in Tujia. Ascott will also form a joint venture with Tujia with an initial capital of S$54.15 million (US$40 million). This joint venture led by Ascott will operate and franchise serviced apartments in China. It will also provide Ascott with a pipeline of apartments units to expand its portfolio in China where it targets to achieve 20,000 units by 2020.

Ascott Heng Shan Shanghai_3BRM Executive_Diningrm

Beijing-based Tujia’s apartment sharing site, valued at more than US$1 billion, caters to travellers looking for alternatives to hotels, for vacation as well as business travel within and outside of China. Its website features more than 310,000 apartments covering 388 travel destinations across China as well as overseas destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo for Chinese outbound travellers. Besides its online capabilities, Tujia operates some apartments for owners for a fee and franchises its business to third-party operators.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s CEO, who has also been appointed to the board of directors of Tujia, said: “China’s lengthening list of billion-dollar technology startups is an indication of investors’ confidence in the country’s booming internet sector, including O2O (both Offline-to-Online and Online-to-Offline) commerce. The growth of mobile internet connectivity via devices like smart phones and tablets has enabled O2O commerce to thrive and establish itself as a mainstream market at an exponential rate, especially in China where the size of the market is considerably greater than just physical transactions. By investing in Tujia, a frontrunner in the online apartment sharing platform, Ascott is now well positioned to benefit from this growth.”

Ascott Heng Shan Shanghai_Facade Entrance

Mr Lee added: “Ascott has the world’s largest serviced residence network in 92 cities across 26 countries, with a target of 80,000 units by 2020. This investment will also allow Ascott to better integrate our offline resources with Tujia’s online capabilities to participate more strategically in the O2O space. We plan to make our three internationally recognised brands of serviced residences – Ascott, Citadines and Somerset – available on Tujia’s website for booking, expanding our reach to more customers online. Through Ascott’s joint venture with Tujia, we will be able to quickly scale up our presence in China to 20,000 units by 2020. With the rapid increase in Chinese travellers overseas and Ascott’s presence in many of the tourist and business cities worldwide, our penetration of the Chinese market through our partnership with Tujia is also expected to contribute to Ascott’s business globally.”

As part of its joint venture with Tujia, Ascott will operate serviced apartments located within the key growth cities of China using a new brand. This will include newly sourced properties and Tujia’s serviced apartments in China that are deemed suitable for conversion. Ascott is the largest international serviced residence owner-operator in China with over 14,000 apartment units in 77 properties across 24 cities.

Mr Justin Luo Jun, Co-founder and CEO of Tujia, said: “We welcome Ascott onboard as a strategic investor and a key joint-venture partner. Ascott has an established track record for over 30 years and is renowned for its strong capabilities in managing over 200 properties globally under three award-winning serviced residence brands that enjoy recognition worldwide. We expect to have more than 400,000 apartments to be listed on Tujia’s website by the end of this year so as to cater to the market demand. Our collaboration with Ascott will allow us to tap on Ascott’s expertise to offer more world-class serviced apartments and strengthen Tujia’s position as the leading online apartment sharing platform in China.”

Mr Lim said: “As a leader in real estate, we continuously seek to innovate and test new ideas to ensure that CapitaLand remains at the forefront of the industry in the digital age. CapitaLand is embarking on a technology drive to develop real estate of the future, characterised by integrated and interconnected buildings and experience; including the connecting of our physical real estate with online space. This digital drive will fuel pilot initiatives, internal seeding programmes and innovation incubation to accelerate the Group’s adoption of technology to future-proof its business.”

To optimise CapitaLand’s unique position as a real estate owner and operator, the Group will continue to offer its valuable physical platforms for technology partners to explore solutions that will benefit customers. In China, in May this year, CapitaLand partnered with Jia.com, China’s leading renovation, furnishing and home services e-platform. Homebuyers of CapitaLand’s New Horizon residential project in Shanghai are able to create their dream home and access the best deals with a click of a button on their digital devices. The partnership provides a one-stop solution for homebuyers, bringing greater cost savings and convenience with bulk discounts and standard renovation packages for New Horizon residents which will be showcased at the show suite.

In April this year, Ascott partnered with Samsung Asia Pte Ltd to jointly develop Internet of Things-ready smart solutions customised for its serviced residences, making Ascott the first global serviced residence company to embrace smart home technologies. Further to initial studies and a joint innovation workshop conducted with Samsung in July 2015, Ascott is working towards test-bedding at selected serviced apartments by 1H 2016.

Woeful Growth in Singapore is Reassured

By Henry Skinner

Singapore’s GDP grew far less than what economists had hoped in Q2 with a 1.7% growth being reported – a somewhat dismal performance following a 2.8% growth for Q1.

Critics have suggested that Singapore’s contracting manufacturing sector is to blame, which reported a 4.0% decline in Q2 following a 2.7% decline from Q1, though it can be said that their goods producing industry, in general, is suffering, with bio-medical manufacturing and transport engineering clusters being the main cause.

However, firms are trying to counteract this decline, with 70% of manufacturing firms planning to invest in new machinery and other innovative technologies between April 2015 – March 2016. Ultimately, this will enable such firms to stabilize the manufacturing sector, by expanding production capacity and reaching export goals.

Given the continual decline in such clusters, this initiative should facilitate the revitalization of manufacturing in the Singaporean economy, though more ‘dated’ initiatives should arguably be reviewed too, and applicably instated to encourage positive economic activity in specific failing sectors, such as the Singapore Transitional Research (STaR) Investigator Award, in Biomedicine.

The economic contraction is also said to be the result of poor Q1’s experienced in the USA and Europe, for a number of reasons, fundamentally meaning that demand for certain export goods declined.

Third Quarter to Prove More Fruitful

Yet, it is not all bad news, as some significant deals have been struck in more recent weeks, which will appear in Q3, perhaps rebutting the decline in certain sectors; a $335m deal with Japanese pharmaceutical firm, Chugai, was announced in mid-June. A $920m deal for ST Aerospace Ltd. (an arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering ltd.), another example of where the economy may be able to rekindle its decline.

Nonetheless, although the economy has seen this significant downturn, other sectors have been performing well, with most service-producing industries growing at a healthy rate, well within the proposed 2-4% growth ideal. The Finance and Insurance sector for example grew 7.9% in Q1 alone, promising further growth into Q2, with other sectors such as Construction also offering commendable development.

However, the overall balance of industries has meant that the GDP growth for Q2 2015 has slowed to 1.7%, which in-turn gives the Singaporean government a challenge to rectify this in Q3 and beyond. As commented, significant movements have already been made, and it can be said that the Singaporean economy will return to its former self, perhaps with a bolstering effort from the finance industry.

A Shift in Industries?

New York blogger Dominic Basulto acknowledges Singapore’s innovative abilities, and commends the country on how well they have and can adapt to changing global economic conditions, specifically within innovative industries, (see the Jurong Island project).

Singapore’s track record of innovation is somewhat staggering, given their economic history in the past 50 years, transitioning through many stages of economic development in very little time. But does this mean they will respond effectively to the slowdown from the results of Q2? The answer is most likely yes, though Basulto also notes that the slowing of the Chinese economy may also have an effect on Singapore’s outlook.

Thus, Singapore has proven, on many occasions, its ability to respond to dynamic economic conditions, especially in recent years. With the US supposedly regaining strength from Q1, and China too, stabilising after a turbulent few months, the MIT (Ministry of Trade and Industry) has reassured the Singaporean economy is ‘unlikely to weaken further’. Subsequently this means although the decline of certain sectors may be occurring now, which may be the result of the macro-economic environment, it’s not to say that other, and new, sectors will blossom in months to come.

In the meantime, it may be a better choice to stay away from stocks in Singapore and invest in emerging markets nearby instead. No matter where you are based, diversification is important. Remember that just as investing in a single stock is risky, investing in a single country is also risky.

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Alibaba Opening Rural Centers for China’s Countryside

By Reid K.

Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) has big bets on the Chinese rural market and has invested billions of dollars in its outpost service hubs.

The growth potential in Chin’as countryside now outpaces that in the largest cities, although there are less than one tenth of online purchases made on Alibaba that are made from customers living in rural areas. The e-commerce giant estimates the potential market to grow to US$74 billion by 2016.

JD.com, Alibaba’s main local competitor, also has said that they are focusing on developing e-commerce in rural areas. Although this new market seems exciting to tap into, the return on investment has yet to be seen.

“We don’t know when our rural e-commerce operations will become profitable, but there’s value in what we’re doing, there’s consumer demand,” said Gao Hongbing, director of Alibaba’s research arm.

In order to train the rural population how to browse and buy on Alibaba’s platform, the company has come up with a team of local “partners” who are trained to set up service centers in their home villages. These locals are often older, poorer, and unfamiliar with technology.

These local partners have to go through a recruiting process, with a written exam, computer test and interview. They are mainly younger and educated people who are already used to using platforms such as Taobao, Alibaba’s online emporium.

Out of the 1000 applicants, 50 jobs were offered and the training takes place over 2 to 3 days in local government business offices. They are not only taught how to educate the rural population to use the platform, but also about the company’s values and history.

One of the local partners, Cheng, opened a village store this week to help locals shop online. “My dreams aren’t that big,” said Cheng, 29. “I just want to live in the countryside and give back to the people there so they can have the same quality of life as people in cities.”

“Some are university students, others have spent a couple of years working in cities and want to come home, some have been working in the village all along,” said Xing Guanjie, another local partner. “You’ve got all kinds, but almost everyone is between 20 and 35 years old.”

Beijing believes having these university graduates going back to rural areas is also beneficial for the local economic development.

Alibaba is planning on opening more than 100,000 rural service centers over the next several years.

The post Alibaba Opening Rural Centers for China’s Countryside appeared first on InvestAsian.

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The sky is falling for Singapore shares investors

Many Singapore investors would be happy to see the back of July as it capped an awful month for the stock market. A total of $37.4 billion was wiped out and the combined value declined sharply by 3.9 per cent. I also saw an article in a local finance blog where one reader wrote how depressed he was to see his hard earned money evaporated away because of the market correction.

To put things into perspective, I have always advocated readers to only invest in monies that you can really afford to lose. If you have only $30,000 hard cash, you don’t invest all of it in shares. That’s pretty stupid and risky. The worse case is concentrating all your investments on a couple of shares when you are just learning how to invest. Obviously, such an approach is akin to asking for trouble. A market rout would have wiped out all your monies.

The mayhem in the China stock market is not surprising, given that it had surged to record highs for so many years. A correction is inevitable and would of course inflict mighty pains on many investors. Such is the growing pains of an emerging market. On this note, investors worldwide should be cautious of this development because the fallout from the China market, coupled with the Greece debt crisis and the potential adjustment in interest rates, can affect investors’ confidence drastically and induce unstoppable financial crisis. Given the current situation, it would take a very brave investor to enter the market and buy shares which had dropped in value.

One depressed stock is Noble’s shares, which closed at 47.5 cents today. Like a fallen angel, Noble’s share price collapsed and its market capitalization has shrunk  to about $3 billion from $7.6 billion. Veteran investor, Michael Dee (who is former Temasek senior managing director) had recently questioned Noble management over the book value of one of its asset, Yancoal and it was reported in The Strait Times last Saturday that the shares held by short-sellers amounted to a scary 600 million. It seems like Noble’s shares will continue to slide further in the coming days.

It is all gloom and doom? I guess not. Cash is king now but if you are already vested in the stock market now, it is time to review your investments. Ask yourself whether the companies you invested in are “emotional buys” or companies with strong fundamentals. If it is the former, it may be a good time to cut losses or cash in the capital gains. If it is the latter, stay invested for the long term and ignore the market noises.

Gold and Silver Bullion

Gold and Silver Bullion

With the money you made from the stock market, it may be better to diversify your asset and park some of your cash in bullion. In Singapore, you can buy a variety of gold and silver bars and coins from BullionStar, one of the leading bullion dealers in Singapore!

Magically yours,

SG Wealth Builder

Change Needed to Propel Myanmar Forward

By Reid K.

Its military regime coupled with sanctions from the US, which for 49 years forced economic and political isolation from the international community upon Myanmar. This has caused Myanmar to fall behind many of its ASEAN counterparts in terms of economic growth and living standards. In 2009, together with North Korea, the economy was named the least free in Asia.

Since 2011, the year the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein came to power, Myanmar has seen some positive light. Social and political reforms were started then and are still in progress. Foreign capital has reacted favorably to those reforms, with foreign direct investment in Myanmar gradually increased — between January and November last year, FDP totaled up to US$ 4.4 billion.

Yet the economic liberalization process is far from straightforward. Myanmar’s economy is poised to grow at around 8.5% this fiscal year, but the country is exposed to numerous domestic and international risks.

Arguably, the strong dollar poses the biggest risk — towards the end of July, the kyat had depreciated by well over 20% against the dollar.

As the US Federal Reserve looks set to increase interest rates by the end of this year, the kyat is expected to depreciate further. “Myanmar simply does not have enough foreign reserves to resist a kyat depreciation,” warned the IMF as it described that Myanmar could be set for a “perfect storm”.

Myanmar is flooded with natural resources which makes the nation a favorite partner for larger neighboring countries such as India and China. Yet the widening current account deficit is hampering such potential by reflecting fundamental weakness in its economy.

Experts have thus advised that Myanmar should opt to finally adopt a flexible exchange rate that mirrors market conditions. This would close the gap between official and parallel market rates — demand for US dollars would be suppressed which in return would lead to a strong kyat. Such measures would reduce Myanmar’s current account deficit and curtail imported inflation.

Myanmar also still faces an uphill battle with regard to its current fiscal accounts. In order to improve fiscal conditions, Myanmar has to get control of its expenditures and increase tax revenue — reportedly, tax revenue in 2014 was only 7 percent of GDP, the lowest among ASEAN nations. Military expenditures have to be cut sharply.

There is no room for argument that Myanmar has come a long way since 2011. The economy is slowly integrating into the global arena. Nevertheless, to ensure economic prosperity, reforms to liberalize the economy need to continue.

The post Change Needed to Propel Myanmar Forward appeared first on InvestAsian.

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BullionStar explained the merits of fractional gold coins

Below is an article from BullionStar, a bullion dealer based in Singapore which exempted investment grade precious metals from the goods and services tax (GST). Just like BullionStar, one of the the goals of SG Wealth Builder is to educate Singaporeans on the merits of owning gold and silver bullion as a means of wealth preservation. 

Often, customers come into our shops and ask for the gold coin with the lowest premium. In this case, our answer is always the Royal Canadian Mint 1 oz Gold Maple Leaf. The Gold Maple Leaf offers not just the best value for money, but you also buy into a brand that is globally recognized for high manufacturing quality.

Why then, do we offer fractional coins in the form of fractional gold maples, kangaroos, pandas and lunar series and why do people purchase them even though the premiums are higher? Today’s editorial will discuss the different reasons people who buy gold buy fractionals.

Liquidity

Fractional coins offers the advantage of liquidity. Should one need a sum of money, one can sell a ¼ oz coin for example instead of selling an entire ounce. Now this is especially useful when the price where one bought the coin at is higher than current prices when you are deciding whether or not to sell.

singapore_gold_bullionstar_front_100g_2Allow savers to start

Though fractionals have higher premiums they also cost lesser in absolute terms than their 1 oz counterparts. They allow people who do not have the discipline to save money in precious metals to put aside whatever small amounts they have into gold so that they can build up their stacks. It might seem like a 1/10 oz is nothing but over time, all these add up and one would be glad that they put aside the money!

Variety for collectors

Collectors seek variety and fractionals are the perfect way to get variety! Instead of buying a 1 oz gold Maple Leaf, a collector can buy 4 x ¼ oz coins to give him 4 different coin designs! One can get a ¼ Gold Maple Leaf, ¼ Gold Kangaroo Nugget, ¼ Chinese Gold Panda and ¼ Lunar Gold Goat!

One can consider fractionals for the above reasons in the future when one is looking to buy gold!

India Cracks Down on Bad Debt and Poor Bank Practices

By Reid K.

Bad debt in India has reached a decade high, hitting US$49 billion. India’s state-owned banks are now under pressure and have started to take new measures to tackle this mountain of debt.

Banks are starting to name and shame smaller borrowers in public, some of them using TV screens in malls to advertise seized assets for sale. Some bank employees even went into the streets to protest with placards against these firms.

The Indian economic slowdown only worsened the country’s debt problem, which is mostly composed of corporate loans. Loose lending and banks’ failures to take necessary measures to go after rogue debtors are also big reasons for this.

Because of the government’s efforts to accelerate the economy, bank executives say they feel much more pressure on them. The central bank, pushing company owners to take a more active role in being responsible, has also made it tougher for Indian banks.

P.K Malhotra from the State Bank of India said that his team had received special training to face this situation. The training even includes classes like psychology. “The focus (is) on getting court cases expedited. Less on the paperwork and more on the fieldwork,” said Malhotra.

Executives say it’s too early to measure the overall success, but there have already been some wins for India’s bruised banks.

Suzlon Energy sold its German unit this year at 1 billion euros (US$1.1 billion), making a huge loss as this amount is less than what it had paid to purchase the asset in 2011. This was followed by banks stressing the company to cut its debt, which put the wind-energy company in a very tough position.

The State Bank of India (SBI) is leading more than 20 lenders who are looking for investors in Electrosteel Steels, which carries near US$1.4 billion in bank loans. Lender are getting more involved in the buyer talk rather than going through the regular process of reviewing and renewing loans.

At the end of the month of March, gross bad loans at Indian banks amounted for 3.1 trillion rupees (US$48.83 billion), representing 4.6% of total loans, according to the central bank. Total troubled loans made up for 11%, including loans that are stressed but not yet classified as bad.

Banks say they are now moving faster than before and that they intervene at the first sign of trouble by multiplying the number of officers and specialized branches to go after bad borrowers

“These days people are getting on to the job the moment you have an early warning signal that something may happen in a company and you have thousands of crores at stake,” told a senior banker from a state-run bank. One unit of crore represents 10 million rupees.

Branches have been put in place by the SBI to concentrate all attention on recovering loans, as well as to enable a faster and more efficient handling for cumbersome paperwork. The SBI also encourages managers to take pictures of themselves on seized assets as a proof of the change of ownership. They are working on developing a website as well which will be a portal used to showcase all the seized assets that are available for auction.

“Companies can sometimes fall in love with their assets, but bankers can’t afford to do that,” told SBI’s Malhotra.

The chairman of Union Bank of India, Arun Tiwari, explained his state-run lender has reviewed its system and has created three separate general managers, responsible for large, middle and small sized loans. “You have to go out in the field,” he added.

The post India Cracks Down on Bad Debt and Poor Bank Practices appeared first on InvestAsian.

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When Should You Resign?

Last year, during my reservist in-camp training, I had a chat with one of my platoon mates on when is the right time to resign from a job. He was much older than me and was in his early forties. So obviously, given his wealth of experience, I thought what he said would probably be true.

In our conversation, he shared with me that when your boss starts to load you with many assignments or meaningless tasks, its a sure sign that he is trying to force you out of the company. Clearly, my friend wasn’t happy with his job but I didn’t urge him to be positive because at that point of time, I couldn’t really fathom what he was driving at.

Fast forward to a year later, his point really hit me. On thinking back, I am able to empathize him now as I am now going through the same situation as him then. For the past 6 months, I was loaded with many key projects with pressing deadlines, and also many small trivial tasks that don’t add value to the organization or myself. On a daily basis, I was chased by colleagues from other divisions for trivial issues that could really be solved if they had bothered to put in some efforts. My boss, seemingly unaware of all these, continued to load me with more work even after I sounded out to him that I am maxed out already. His reply to me was that he was grooming me to take on more responsibilities and position me for promotion.

SG50

However, recent developments in my organization validated my thinking that I would not be promoted, at least not for the next 3 to 4 years. I felt somehow frustrated, cheated and angry with my boss for “dangling carrots” and giving me false hope. For the past year, all my efforts had gone to waste. If I had known that promotion is not on the card, then I would not do so many management presentations, conduct course, write papers and engage in cross-divisional projects. I would have jumped ship to another division or find another company that recognize my talent and abilities. My boss really wasted two years of my time.

Should I have a chat with my boss on my career progression? Well, frankly I don’t know because even though he is technically competent and has high emotional quotient, his intellect isn’t really that exceptionally high (he was promoted to his current position because my previous boss left and there was no other suitable candidate). He couldn’t sense-make ground issues accurately and thus, unable to make firm decisions. This had resulted in much agony among fellow colleagues because of the perceived lack of direction and guidance from him. Given his nature, I would not bank on him to fight for my promotion in front of my big boss.

I guess the only option is to seek a transfer or in the worst case, find another job. I still prefer the former because I like the company culture very much and the job carries much prestige in the industry. I guess if I am to resign, then the old adage rings true – “Employees don’t leave their companies, they leave their bosses”.

What about you? Are you happy with your job? How do you deal with bosses with no leadership skill?

Magically yours,

SG Wealth Builder

Vietnam to Benefit from FTA with Europe

By Reid K.

The Vietnam-EU free trade agreement, which is likely to be closed in 2015, and the scrapping of a 49% foreign ownership cap across many listed firms, has foreign investors flocking to Vietnam.

Kenneth Atkinson, executive chairman of UK-owned audit and consultancy firm Grant Thornton Vietnam, believes both moves may trigger a new inflow of both capital and skilled foreign labor to Vietnam.

Le Ky Anh, a trade and economic officer at the EU delegation to Vietnam, is equally optimistic. At the “Doing Business with the EU and Finland” conference in Ho Chi Minh City on July 3, he stated that once the deal is signed, the expected inflow of capital and skillful foreign workers and capital will take the economic development of Vietnam to new heights.

Anh added, “We are expecting to see a new wave of European investment after the trade pact is signed, with only top partners, like CEOs, going to Vietnam to run businesses alongside Vietnamese people in lower positions. There will be no unskilled Europeans traveling to Vietnam for work, as their salaries will be unable to cover their living expenses.”

It was also emphasized that it is not believed that EU goods will directly compete with Vietnamese counterparts, as the latter have much lower value added. The EU should rather be viewed as an economy complementary to Vietnam, not as a threat to Vietnamese enterprises.

Vietnam is also to join the Washington-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, a proposed regional free trade agreement aimed at eliminating tariffs and lowering non-tariff barriers. It is hoped the deal will be finalized by the end of this year. The negotiation countries include the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru.

Charles H. Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs stated, “The TPP is a high-standard and ambitious treaty that opens new markets for our entrepreneurs, new choices for consumers, sets new standards for workers, including the air we breathe, and [creates] economic means that will build a positive architecture of security throughout the region.”

Joining the TPP will allow Vietnam to tap into global supply chains and will also help the nation to establish itself as one of the leading economies in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

The U.S.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics believes the TPP could increase Vietnam’s GDP by more than 30% within 10 years.

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Sound advice for housing loan borrowers: An expert interview

By Property Soul

Home-Loan-Whiz

Recently I had an interview with Wayne Quek, Director of mortgage consultancy firm Home Loan Whiz, to understand more about how property financing and SIBOR rates work. Below is a summary of our conversation.

PS = Property Soul
Wayne = Wayne Quek, Director, Home Loan Whiz

PS: Could you share with us the main factors affecting housing loan interest rates?

Wayne: There are many factors that will affect interest rates of mortgages. I think the most significant factor at this time is US Federal Reserve’s announcements and actions with regards to their interest rate policies.

SIBOR (Singapore Interbank Offer Rates) is heavily influenced by the Singapore- US dollar exchange rate and also the US Federal Funds rate. Historically, there is a very strong correlation between the interest rates in Singapore and the US. We have already seen an example earlier this year where the Federal Reserve announced the end of their QE program, which led to a spike in our SIBOR from 0.4 percent all the way to 1 percent.

PS: Where do you see the SIBOR rates going in the near future? How would that impact banks and mortgage borrowers?

Wayne: If we examine the current 3-month SIBOR of 0.82 percent, it is still hovering below long-term average. It is unlikely that the rates will increase dramatically overnight, but it is most likely to increase in the next year or two. This will depend very much on the actions of the Federal Reserve and MAS.

Higher SIBOR will be good news for the local banks, as they will be able to earn a much larger margin with their low cost of funds. Just think about it from the bank’s perspective: paying customers 0.05 percent interest for savings account and charging 3 percent for mortgage lending.

With a healthy economy and high employment rate, there should not be a huge impact on mortgage borrowers. The government has also implemented measures to curb investors’ speculation and over-leveraging, with the introduction of Total Debt Servicing Ratio and Buyer/Seller Stamp Duties.

We might however, start seeing more defaults from over-leveraged investors, and a rise in bank mortgagee sales (or bank loan defaulted properties). This is due to a “double whammy” effect of a huge supply of residential units coming into the market and tight foreign immigration policy, which will result in a lacklustre rental market.

PS: What are the options of a borrower in the environment of rising interest rates?

Wayne: Mortgage borrowers are recommended to avoid timing the market. Be financially prepared in terms of cash flow to handle a 1 to 2 percent increase in interest rates.

If you find that you will not be able to handle a spike in interest, you can consider switching to fixed rates to eliminate that short-term concern. Also, if you are on a floating interest rate, always make sure that you are getting the best spreads at any point of time. We have no control over the SIBOR, but we can better manage the spreads we pay to the banks.

PS: Under what circumstances should a borrower consider refinancing his existing housing loan?

Wayne: There are many reasons one should consider refinancing his existing housing loan, which I will be covering in the seminar on 1st August. The primary reason would be to lower your interest rate spreads to save money. Most interest rate packages in Singapore tend to have teaser rates for the first few years, and spike up thereafter. I cannot emphasize the importance of doing a periodic loan review every 3 years.

PS: What are the key factors to consider when comparing housing loan offers from different banks?

Wayne: Key factors will differ between individuals. A person who intends to prepay needs to go for a package without lock-in. Someone who wants to do a maximum cashout might go for the bank that can support the highest valuation. A person who has not-so-good credit might want to approach a bank that is more lenient. Of course, after fulfilling all these requirements, it always comes down to interest rates which is still the main factor when comparing packages.

PS: What do you recommend borrowers do if they have difficulties passing the TDSR test in the process of refinancing?

Wayne: For borrowers who have difficulties passing the TDSR, they have to figure out the root cause of the problem and figure out how to reduce liability. Is it because of their car loan? Is it because of too much personal loan and credit card expenditure? Alternatively, they can approach mortgage consultants like us to review their situation and find possible solution and action plan.

PS: Do you see rising interest rates having a strong impact on the performance of REITs?

Wayne: Rising interest rates mean higher interest expense as most REITS have a high gearing ratio. This will affect the profitability of the REITs. However, on the other hand, when interest rates rise, it is most likely the result of improving economy. An improving economy will lead to more jobs, higher consumer spending, which in turn leads to higher rentals. I think that rising interest rates will probably cause a short-term correction in the REITs market, especially those that are more heavily geared. This may present some buying opportunities.

Find out more about smart tips in housing loan application and refinancnig from Wayne Quek and the Home Loan Whiz booth at the Making A Smart Move For Your Mortgage Information and Networking Luncheon at NTUC Centre this Saturday.

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Making a Smart Move for Your Mortgage

An Information and Networking Luncheon by Property Club Singapore

In the coming months, my mortgage loan will be due for refinancing. Under the loan agreement, I am supposed to be paying interest fees at board rates set by the bank and the interest fees payable are scheduled annually accordingly. The fees payable is of course much lower than the HDB concessionary rate.

However, last month, I received a surprise upward revision in the interest fees, probably due to the soaring SIBOR rates in the market. This triggered me to check the term and conditions in the loan agreement, which stated that the bank actual reserves the rights to revise the fees according to market conditions. In my opinion, this is a fair clause and I am not complaining about the bank practice. But I thought that as an engineer by profession, I should have factored in safety margins in my mortgage loan to cater for such unexpected circumstances.

While the additional amount to be forked out is small because my mortgage loan is not much, many others in Singapore may be starting to feel the heat from the rising SIBOR rates. Aspiring homeowners, upgraders and investors are starting to feel the pain as banks start to adjust the refinancing and repricing packages. Incidentally, Property Soul, Singapore’s leading property blogger, invited me to her mortgage luncheon Making a Smart Move for Your Mortgage Information and Networking Luncheon this Saturday at NTUC Centre.

Synopsis
With the rising SIBOR rates hitting the home loan market, how would it affect homeowners? What precautions should property owners and investors take to cushion the impact of interest rate hike? How to make a strategic choice out of refinancing, repricing and restructuring? What are the legal implications that all borrowers should know when financing their properties?

Get first-hand updates and invaluable insights from experts in the industry. Join us at the luncheon with over 140 minutes for group discussion, peer-to-peer networking and visit at information booths.

Event Details

Date : August 1, 2015 (Sat)
Time : 10.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m.
Venue: NTUC Centre

Agenda

Introduction and ice-breaking
All attendees

Rising SIBOR: Are we entering a new era of interest rate hike?
Ms Audrey Goh, Senior Investment Strategist, Standard Chartered Bank

Property financing strategies: Prepayment, repricing or refinancing?
Mr Wayne Quek, Director, Home Loan Whiz

Group discussion: Housing loan scenario analyses
All attendees

Legal issues concerning property financing
Mr Rayney Wong, Lawyer, Vision Law LLC

Speakers

Network

Fee
Member: $45 (1 pax), $70 (2 pax)
1. Registration fee includes buffet lunch and a goodie bag from Standard Chartered Bank.
2. Seats are limited. Registration will be closed once function room reaches full capacity.

Registration
For members, please log in and register here

WILL THE ASIAN STARTUP BUBBLE BURST?

By Lee Decker

Opinion Piece

California, United States // Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — California technology companies continue to soar in valuation as the rat race to the magical billion dollar market cap becomes more achievable. As more and more apps hit the market, more and more angel investors and VCs are placing huge bets on extremely early stage companies in order to cash out on a 5 year exit plan. With the rising popularity of convertible notes and other means of discounted options to buy, investors are finding it easier and easier to step up to the startup roulette table.

Serving as the benchmark for startups around the world, California tech companies need to start acting more responsibly in their activities as to not provoke a world-wide tech bubble collapse.

Although not illegal, real estate schemists have been using the tactic of straw-buying for years. Simply, it involves using another’s credit and standing to take out a mortgage for a completely separate buyer. Where it starts to get tricky is when property-flippers (those seeking short-term profit) promise high returns while backend transactions and approvals happen without proper due-diligence.

The same thing is happening in the startup world. With the ever increasing pool of newly minted millionaires, startups are heavily attracting heavy-hitting advisory boards with little other intention of leveraging their name and reputation to get investment in the company. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

In 1997 there was a huge Asian Financial Crisis. Gripping much of East Asia, the Asian Financial Crisis left the world at the edge of their seats hoping that it would not cause a catastrophic meltdown of the world economy. As rapidly emerging markets appear all over Asia, and boasting a majority of the world’s manufacturing and working population, Asia simply cannot afford to have any of its industries burst. The world relies on Asia for nearly everything.

From a recent CNBC article, Is Asia start-ups’ new-found funding popularity a bubble? reporter Michelle Loh writes:

“The flood of liquidity puts the region on pace for 45 percent year-on-year growth, according to a report by KPMG and global venture capital (VC) tracker CB Insights. While the region still lags behind the United States’ $19 billion worth of funding, Asia now attracts slightly over a third of the venture funding available globally, the report said.”

You read that correctly, the Asian region attracts nearly a third of venture funding available globally! The fitness startup KFit recently raised $3.25 million USD in order to tackle the problem of finding the right gym to go to in the Asia Pacific. According to a recent article on Techcrunch about the Asian startup:

“KFit is currently operational in six cities across Asia Pacific: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney. The company is aggressive with its growth plans and is aiming to be in 20 to 30 cities within the next 18 months.” The main KFIT development team is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The recent round funded by California based Sequoia capital, famous for it’s early investment in the Facebook social networking platform.

What’s really happening in Asian startups is that the problems being solved are solved in ways that only make sense in Asia. US companies simply cannot address the concerns of the consumers in the Asian markets.

All said and done, who will really be at fault if the Asian tech bubble fizzles out and valuations are forced to go lower and lower with companies inevitably taking “down rounds” (funding rounds that cut valuation instead of assume more).

From the CNBC article, cited above:

“Edith Yeung, a Partner at 500 Mobile Collective, a $10 million spin-off from McClure’s 500 Start-ups that focuses on early stage mobile investments, is keen to sound a note of caution.

Yeung says that while tech start-ups might be the “hip thing” at the moment, investors in Asia need to be schooled in the art of patient capital. While “there’s definitely tonnes of talent” in Asia, most start-ups will fail, so investors should not put their money down unless they’re prepared to wait it out, she said.

“It’s highly risky,” she said. “If you want to get to a point where there’s a good exit, take an IPO, or there’s some sort of acquisition, it takes at least 5-10 years.””

The post WILL THE ASIAN STARTUP BUBBLE BURST? appeared first on InvestAsian.

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Can a Weak Baht Help the Thai Economy?

By Reid K.

As the Thai government cut its forecast for economic growth and the Federal Reserve said it’s on track to raising interest rates this year, Thailand’s baht recorded its biggest weekly decline since May reaching a six-year low of 34.24. The currency rebounded on Friday, rising by 0.2%.

Some of Thailand’s deputy ministers view the weaker baht positively. A lower-priced baht will help the country’s exports and offer more of a boost to a struggling economy than a rate cut, it is hoped.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy feels the burden of record household debt which has blunted the impact of low interest rates. Thus, with exports worth more than half the country’s GDP, the government sees the stimulus from a weaker baht as a better bet for recovery.

Pridiyathorn Devakula, the man in charge of the economy, told Reuters, ”When I want to correct the economy, I’d rather play with the exchange rate.” Pridiyathorn, a former finance minister and central bank governor, is actually hoping for an even weaker Thai Baht, below the six-year low against the dollar.

Pridiyathorn stated, “I’d like to see the baht depreciating a little more.” He added, “It’s almost at the right level now” but declined to give a target level for the baht.

Mr. Pridiyathorn advises that one would have to be patient to analyze the impact of a weaker baht. It would take three or four months for exports to feel the impact of the weaker baht — the impact should be felt in time for orders during the fourth quarter, he said. Exports would still likely contract in a range between 2% and 3% meaning that 2015 would be the third consecutive year that exports have fallen, he stated.

However, a rebound in tourism and heavier investment should compensate for falling export levels, which will help the economy to still reach growth levels of 3% this year, he said. Mr. Pridiyathorn remains positive for the future and believes, for 2016, growth should settle around 4% and then reach for the 4% to 5% levels in 2017.

Yet, one has to stay cautions, as the decline in shipments is a longer-term trend that Thailand should have trouble to reverse. Many of Thailand’s exports have become obsolete — in the lower-value manufacturing industries, Thailand cannot compete with the cheaper labour costs of its neighbors. Simply betting on a weak Thai Baht is unlikely to reverse that trend.

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