White Knight for Noble Group

As 2016 comes to an end, it is timely to review the significant developments of some of the popular stocks listed in Singapore stock exchange (SGX). Beleaguered Noble Group certainly is in the hit list as it made the headline news for all the wrong reasons. Is the company really doomed or would there be a White Knight for Noble Group?

The free fall of Noble Group’ share price represents one of the most dramatic declines in modern-day equity market. Listed in Singapore stock exchange back in 1997 and backed by China’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp (CIC), the commodity trading company used to be one of the revered stocks in SGX. Make no mistake, at one point, it was even trading at a record high of $2.40 per share back in 2004. Now languishing at $0.16, those giddy days must seem so surreal to long-term investors of Noble Group.

In fact, Noble Group was still in the elite Straits Times Index (STI) earlier this year but got booted out of the list in March 2016. Then again, being included in the prestigious STI should be the least priority for the management at this moment because there are more pressing problems to deal with.

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Crazy year for gold price

It has been a crazy year for gold price! Towards the tail end of 2015, gold price dramatically fell to USD1054 per ounce upon the announcement of the interest rate increase by US Federal Reserves. Since the start of 2016, global investors were stunned when gold price surged to USD1350 per ounce within seven months.

The surge in gold price was due to the sudden crash in the China stock market which caught many by surprise. The massive sell-off in the stock market of the world no.2 economy triggered tremendous panic and caused many investors to flee for safety. As gold is traditionally seen as a safe haven for investments, gold price stormed to USD1237 per ounce. A majestic fine run indeed!


Gold price was given further boost in mid-year as a result of the fall out from Brexit. As the epicenter of the event in London unfolded, gold climbed to USD1360 per ounce at one point. Government officials, analysts and economists were all dumbfounded by the results as most of them expected UK to remain part of European Union. In the midst of the chaotic situation, Brexit sparked an explosive gold price surge once again.

Somehow after the event, gold price peaked and had a free fall, reaching USD1255 per ounce.

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SIAEC share price crashed to 5 year low

SIAEC share price crashed to 5 year low! Amid the global economic uncertainties and challenging aviation outlook, SIAEC’s performance continued to slide as revealed in the financial results for 1HFY2016/17. This article contains my latest SIAEC stock analysis. I am not vested in this counter but have been monitoring this maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) stalwart for many years.

Operating profit for 2nd quarter declined to $24.5 million as compared to $27.0 million last year. Cash flow from operations was a negative $7.4 million as compared to positive $2.4 million in the previous year. The dismal quarter results reflected the massive challenge faced by the management in navigating SIAEC through this storm.

It is certainly not business as usual for this MRO powerhouse as airlines are buying new aircraft like A350, B787, A320NEO and B737-MAX to replace their older fleets. These new aircraft require less maintenance checks and longer maintenance task intervals, especially in the first few years of entry into service. Arising from this new trend, the MRO sector in Singapore has seen a decline in business for the last 2 years. This is because about 90 per cent of the local aerospace work is tied to aircraft maintenance and repairs.

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Salary increase

On 12 December 2016, National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) announced that cleaners will receive yearly salary increases from 2017 to 2019 for a total of S$200. Various government agencies like Ministry of Manpower, National Environment Agency and Workforce Singapore said the salary increase will benefit more than 40,000 resident cleaners employed by 1,200 cleaning businesses.

For an industry that faces high turnover rate due to the perceived unsustainable low wages, this is a good move by the government. According to NTUC, the median salary for full-time cleaners was S$1,100 and gross wages were S$1,200 in 2015. With such low salaries, it is hard to imagine how a cleaner can live a quality lifestyle in an expensive city like Singapore.

SG Wealth Builder

For the longest time, our society has always downplayed the contribution of cleaners. The general perception is that due to the low skills required for their jobs, they don’t deserve a respectable level of salary or salary increases (if any) for that matter. But we seem to neglect the fact that cleaners play an important role in maintaining Singapore’s reputation as a clean and green city. We need them to do the dirty jobs of clearing rubbish chutes and cleaning toilets. If the salary is too low, how can the industry attract workers, especially Singaporeans, to do these dirty jobs?

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CPF’s Home Protection Scheme (HPS)

The most significant big-ticket item for my family in 2016 was the purchase of our Executive Condominium (EC), The Terrace, at Punggol Waterway. Like many Singaporeans, being able to upgrade to an EC is our Singapore Dream. Arising from this purchase, we had taken a quite a big mortgage loan from one of the local banks and in the course of doing so, I did some research on mortgage loans. In this article, I will share some of my knowledge on CPF’s Home Protection Scheme (HPS).

HPS eligibility

More than 80% of Singapore residents live in HDB flats. If you are using your CPF savings to pay your monthly housing loan instalments on your HDB flats, you are required to be insured under HPS. Note that HPS does not cover private residential properties, such as executive condominiums (ECs) or privatised Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flats. Because of this exclusion clause, my family is not eligible for HPS cover.

For the current HDB flat that my family is living in, it is covered under the HPS although the loan is from a commercial bank. As our loan amount is only $150,000, the annual premiums is very affordable and can be deducted from my CPF Ordinary Account.

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Inspirations from a Singapore finance blogger

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of finance bloggers joining the scene. Many of them are good bloggers who write better than me. But in my humble opinion, what differentiates a great blogger from a good blogger is his ability to create inspirations among readers. In one of his latest articles, Singapore finance blogger, “Got Money, Got Honey” (GMGH), inspired me.

In his article, GMGH articulated very well his philosophy of giving. I was very impressed by his structured thought-process because although most people donate to charity, not many can think so deeply as him. It also set me thinking about the future direction of my own blog.

As a Singapore finance blogger, it was never my intention to become an influencer in the first place. My original idea was to create a crowd-source platform that attracts readers to contribute ideas on various wealth building ways. Over time, SG Wealth Builder has evolved into a wealth blog that focuses mainly on stock analysis, gold bullion and career management.

           Gold and Silver Bullion

There are many Singapore finance bloggers who write about their dividend income reports and portfolio performance. They contribute interesting articles but I seldom read such articles because I prefer to look at those with deep analysis on stocks.

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Singtel increased investment moats aggressively

In August 2016, Singtel increased its investment moats aggressively through the acquisition of stakes in Thailand’s Intouch Holdings Public Company Limited (Intouch) and India’s Bharti Telecom Limited (Bharti Telecom) for a total consideration of S$2.47 billion from parent company, Temasek Holding.

This transaction will be funded through internal cash, short-term debt and proceeds from a share placement of 386 million new Singtel shares to Temasek totalling S$1.605 billion at a price of S$4.16 per new share.

Rationale for acquisition

Investors may think that this is just one of those asset transfers between the two Singapore entities but I view this development differently. To put things into perspective, it is difficult for Singtel to directly acquire foreign telecommunication companies because these are high growth entities and most governments are generally reluctant to let foreign entities own 100% such strategic assets. By purchasing these stakes in Intouch and Bharti through Temasek, SingTel can increase its regional market share without facing foreign regulatory resistance.

SGX stocks

Being a regional player, Singtel derived only 29% of its net profit from Singapore in FY2016. The majority of its revenue and profit are driven by its regional joint associates because the management is smart to acquire strategic stakes in telecommunication companies with either number 1 or 2 market share in regional countries.

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Analysis on Jumbo Group’s shares

Listed in SGX’s Catalist board on 9 November 2015, Jumbo Group has Temasek Holding subsidiary and Osim boss among its investors. With such strong support from institutional investors, it is no wonder that its share price surged from $0.25 to the current $0.65. Jumbo Group’s shares is definitely on form but what will be its outlook for 2017?

The one thing I like about Jumbo Group is that its business is simple and easy to understand. Basically as a multi-concept dining food and beverage company, Jumbo has a total of 15 F&B outlets in Singapore and 3 F&B outlets in the PRC, under 5 restaurant brands – Jumbo Seafood, JPOT, NG AH SIO Bak Kut Teh, Chui Huay Lim Teochew Cuisine and J Café. It also manages 1 Singapore Seafood Republic outlet.

SGX stocks

As a consumer, I have also patronized many of Jumbo restaurants before and [This is a premium article. The rest of the content is blocked and can be accessible by SG Wealth Builder Members only. To read the full content, please sign up as member.]

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Buy gold bullion in Singapore

Since Donald Trump became US President-elect, gold price has been falling for the past few weeks. Amid the price weakness, wealth builders must be wondering whether to buy gold bullion in Singapore now.

To put things into perspective, there is a dichotomy between the price of gold and the actual demand for the precious metal. Most economist would tell you that the prices of all goods and services are governed by supply and demand. The higher the demand, the higher the price. However, gold is unique in the sense that such logic does not always hold true.

One reason for such strange phenomenon is because gold price discovery is primarily in the paper market, and not the demand for physical gold. London Gold Market dominates global gold price discovery and is regarded as the leading global centre for over-the-counter (OTC) transactions. According to BullionStar, 95% of the gold traded in London is unallocated, has no legal title, and is merely part of a fractionally reserved paper gold system. In this regard, the dynamics of the markets for paper gold and physical gold differ greatly, even though both are linked by the gold spot price.

gold bullion Singapore

In view of the current weakness in price, wealth builders should seize this opportunity to buy gold bullion as part of portfolio strategy.

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Why the Singapore Economy Really Isn’t That Bad

Whenever we appraise economic growth, there is always a tendency to take a short rather than a longer-term perspective. Such a focus not only encourages us to see things in a less favourable light, but it also undervalues the importance of historical trends and any incremental growth that the global economy has experienced over the course of the last 30 years or more.

A quick glance at the global economy reveals that the levels of growth sustained since the Great Recession began in 2008 has been immensely disappointing by most metrics. Any prosperity that has been evident in either developed or emerging economies during this time has been sporadic, while uncertainty and geopolitical volatility has also caused significant fluctuating in the financial markets.

SG Wealth Builder

Despite this, PWT data on average, real-time inflation per capita GDP tells a slightly different narrative. This reveals that the global population was 80% richer financially in 2010 than it was in 1980, while also underlining the fact that gradual, long-term growth trends are all too easy to overlook. Interestingly, the average material well-being of society is three-times what it was in 1950, and this is an economic trend that should offer hope for future generations.

The Singapore Economy: Should We View it From an Alternative Perspective?

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CSE Global’ share price crashed to six years low

In a sign of how far the oil and gas sector has declined, systems integrator CSE Global’ share price crashed to six years low after the company announced a set of poor financial results for the quarter ended 30 September 2016. Profit after tax decreased by a whopping 52.7% year-on-year while revenue dropped 21.6% year-on-year.

I have previously covered on CSE global before in my blog. CSE Global operates in two business segments: process controls (74.0%) and communications and security (26.0%). The company used to be the electronics arm of Singapore Technologies (ST) but after a successful management buy-out in 1997, the company was listed in the Singapore Exchange in 1999. Following a string of acquisitions made over the last two decades, CSE Global has evolved into a technology giant with 30 offices across the world and generated more than 95% of its revenues outside Singapore market.

stock market

Currently, CSE derived more than half of its revenue from Americas and about one-third of its revenue from Asia-Pacific. In terms of business sector, CSE derived 76% of its revenue from the oil and gas sector. Therefore, even though CSE has diversified business segments spanning across oil and gas, infrastructure and mining, the ailing oil and gas sector continues to have a devastating effect on the company’s operating results.

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Boustead Singapore horrifying 2Q17 results

One of Singapore venerable companies, Boustead Singapore, announced a set of horrifying 2Q17 results. Net profit for 2Q17 was 32% lower year-on-year, while 1H17 net profit was 30% lower year-on-year. The infrastructure-related engineering and geo-spatial services company was still making respectable level of profits but its recent performance decline reflects the depressing state of the oil and gas sector.

Strong balance sheet

Notwithstanding the challenging environment, Boustead Singapore managed to clock in an impressive operating net cash flow amounting $48.6 million, due to cash inflows from working capital. As a result, cash and cash equivalents increased $25.1 million to $296.7 million.

Current assets stood at $500 million while current liabilities was $231 million. The total borrowings are only $90.9 million. With such strong balance sheet, Boustead Singapore is poised to ride out the storm in the oil and gas sector. The Net Current Asset Value Per Share (NCAVPS) is about $0.32, while Net Asset Value (NAV) is $0.583.

Not surprisingly, the root cause of Boustead Singapore’s poor performance was the ailing oil and gas sector. Year-on-year, its energy-related engineering recorded a 73% decline in profit before tax, while its geo-spatial technology arm recorded a 17% decrease in profit before tax. Therefore, the increase of 27% by its real estate solutions had been offset by the other two division performances.

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The signal to buy gold bullion

This will be a quick post to provide an update on the latest global demand for gold bullion. According to World Gold Council, the demand for gold bar and coin was weak in Q3 due to the high gold price. Market research revealed that investors generally look for low gold price as the signal to buy gold bullion. This explains why the demand for gold bullion has been declining since end 2015.

Another cause for the weak demand in the third quarter was a lack of momentum in the price. Following the implosion of Brexit, gold price had surged to a high of USD1365 per ounce in July and maintained around that level for about three months. Long term investors were put off by such high price and this led to declining buying interest of gold bullion.


Year-to-date demand for gold bars and coins amounted to 664.2tonnes, the lowest since 2009. However, demand may improve in Q4 as the price drop results in renewed retailer’s interest in the USA, India and China. The demand for physical looks set to increase in the aftermath of US President-elect, Donald Trump, who advocated trade protectionism. In fact, since his appointment, the US dollar has strengthened significantly, leading to a decline in gold price in the second week of November.

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Singapore rejected calls for unemployment insurance

During this year’s May Day rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon rejected growing calls for unemployment insurance. Instead, he reiterated that the government of Singapore has something even better for Singaporeans – schemes to enable Singapore workers to find jobs. Amid the massive number of retrenchments announced by foreign banks and oil and gas companies, such a move is inexplicable to me.

Firstly, I must clarify that I do not disagree with the government’s push for SkillsFuture. In promoting lifelong learning among workers, the movement enables Singaporeans to develop skill competencies relevant to succeed in the new economy. However, by telling Singaporeans that unemployment insurance is not needed is akin to a doctor advising his patient not to buy medical insurance and to stay healthy through regular exercises. Is this strategy even feasible in today’s challenging context?

financial destiny

We all know that life is fragile and can be unpredictable. Very often, even if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, it does not guarantee you against critical or even terminal illnesses like cancers. And what about unforeseen circumstances like workplace incidents or road accidents? There are simply too many circumstances that are beyond our control and it is naive not to insure our wealth.

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Is Sheng Siong’s dividend policy sustainable?

The recent Sheng Siong kidnap trial did not create a negative publicity for the supermarket operator. Instead, shares of the groceries retailer surprisingly stormed to a record high of $1.10 in October 2016. Listed in SGX mainboard only in 2011, Sheng Siong has risen from a penny stock to an established player with strong dividend track record. But in today’s challenging operating environment, is Sheng Siong’s dividend policy sustainable?

Sheng Siong had committed to pay out dividend of up to 90% of their net profits after tax. Note that this is a commitment made by management and the company is not legally obliged to fulfill this promise. Nonetheless, since 2011, company has consistently met this target and investors were rewarded for their continued support in this home-grown enterprise.

But should management review this dividend policy and reinvest some of the excess cash to grow the company? The total amount of dividends paid out had been between 2 to 4 cents and to be frank, the amount is nothing to shout about. Nonetheless, when Sheng Siong shares were trading at $0.30 to $0.40 in the early days of listing, the dividends looked attractive relative to the share price. But now that the share price has run up substantially, the amount may be less appealing for dividend investors.

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Will Straco Corp be de-listed from SGX?

With a slew of SGX listed companies being privatized recently, one wonders whether Straco Corp will be the next to be de-listed. The latest company to be delisted from the Singapore Exchange is Super Group, which is acquired by Dutch coffee firm JDE for a whopping $1.45 billion.

Will Straco Corp be de-listed?

Recently, Straco Corp purchased a total of 269,800 shares by way of on-market purchase for a total consideration of $206,000 in 3Q2016. These shares purchased were made out of the company’s capital and held as treasury shares. As of now, the company is holding 10 million treasury shares.


The key internal stakeholders, namely Straco Holding Pte Ltd, China Poly Group Corp and Straco (HK) Limited, hold about 75% of the company shares. Under such situation, the management may make an offer to minority shareholders in a bid to de-list the company. Thus, I am cautious about investing in Straco Corp. What if the offer is way below the price level at which I buy the shares? If this is to happen, I would have sustained losses in my investment.

Of course, all these are just speculative thoughts. But assuming Straco Corp made an offer of $0.80 per share to shareholders, the management only needs to splash out an estimated $103 million to exceed the 90 percent threshold to de-list the company, Based on the latest quarter report, Straco Corp currently holds about $160 million amount of hard cash.

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Protecting my best asset

This is my 600th article! As I celebrate another milestone for this blog, I can’t help but feel that time really flies. I started this blog in October 2010 to share my thoughts and insights on personal finances and investing. In a flash, it’s been six years already and there had been many changes in my journey.  Well, thankfully mostly positive ones. My main financial goal for this year is to go back to the basics and focus on protecting my best asset – my health.

Health is Wealth

It may sound very cliché but health is definitely wealth. As we grow older, protecting our best asset tends to take a back seat due to various commitments in life. Of course, making money and putting food on the table is important. And very often, I am guilty of being lazy when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But I guess the wake-up call was my medical report in last year. My cholesterol level was too high – at 250 mg/dl.

In the last few years, I struggled to control my cholesterol level due to my work and family commitments. As a result, I neglected my exercise regime. At this stage of my life, finding time to exercise can be excruciating challenging because there are other priorities as well.

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Is it a good time to invest in OCBC shares?

Hi SG Wealth Builder,

My comments on your post: OCBC Bank’s 3Q16 results beat market estimates. I’m not sure why it shows “failed to leave comment” on your article post. Hence, I drop you the comment via this mail.

My comments: I’m curious on your statement stating that your target entry for OCBC stocks will be at $6.00. Current trade price for OCBC share is $8.43. Based on the liquidity of SGX market, the price could hardly fluctuate in between price gap of around $2.00++. Not to say it’s impossible, as anything is still possible to happen in the stock market.

My concern here is if we were to wait for that target price of $6.00, and assuming the market goes smooth for the year. Then we will be missing out the 1 year opportunity for the stocks if the price never achieve the target price of $6.00 within the year, isn’t it? Since based on analysis the stocks growth is strong and having potential of profit as well. This is just my personal opinion and it’s always my pleasure to share and learn more from your analysis. Hope you have a great day!

Best Regards,


I received the above email from one of my readers.

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Will SingPost turn the tide?

When Simon Israel took over as SingPost’s Chairman in May this year, investors must be wondering whether SingPost will turn the tide. The group recently announced a set of disappointing 2Q16 results that saw net profit plunging 27.9% due to “transformational investments”.

Mr Israel, who is also the Chairman of SingTel, has been tasked to review the corporate governance and appoint a new CEO for SingPost. SingTel is the major shareholder of SingPost and currently holds 22.85% stake in the national postal service provider.

There was a leadership crisis in SingPost earlier this year and SingTel intervened after the exit of almost all of the top management. Even Chairman-designate Professor Low Teck Seng declined the offer to chair SingPost’s board, claiming that the “role is too demanding”.

Judging by the recent financial results, Mr Israel certainly needs to accelerate the search for the new CEO so as to set strategic directions and lead the management team. Currently, Mr Mervyn Lim is the Covering Group Chief Executive Officer. Since the exodus of the previous management team, SingPost share price has declined steadily from $1.69 to a low of $1.37. The share price only starts to show sign of stability recently and currently hovers at $1.50.

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OCBC Bank’s 3Q16 results beat market estimates

Underpinned by strong performance from its wealth management and profit from life insurance, OCBC Bank delivered an excellent 3Q16 results that beat market estimates. The oldest bank in Singapore reported a net profit after tax of S$943 million for the third quarter of 2016. This was 5% above S$902 million a year ago and 6% above S$885 million the previous quarter.

A deeper review of OCBC’s financial results revealed more interesting insights. Net interest income of S$1.23 billion was 6% lower as compared to S$1.32 billion the year before, driven by lower loan volumes and net interest margin. As at 30 September 2016, customer loans were S$209 billion or 2% lower than the year before, led by a decline in trade-related lending to Greater China, which offset an increase in housing loans and other consumer loans.

Net interest income is the difference between the revenues derived from interest-bearing assets (customer loans) and the cost of servicing (interest-burdened) liabilities. Thus if the US Fed interest rates increased and induced the local banks to heighten the bank saving rates, OCBC may be negatively impacted because of the lower margin from net interest income. Also, the current slowing market results in lower loan volumes, leading to lower net interest income for OCBC.

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Unable to find jobs in Singapore

With big companies like SPH, Keppel Corp and various investment banks announcing retrenchments, this is definitely a dreadful period of time to look for jobs in Singapore. In today’s context, experience and qualifications can only get you so far. So why is it that many Singaporeans are unable to find jobs in Singapore?

Is it a case of skills mismatch in today’s new age economy? Are Singaporeans too complacent and choosy? Is it down to the lack of selling skill during job interviews? Or have we priced ourselves out of this competitive market? Too many foreign talents fighting for positions that Singaporeans can perform?

I would say none of the above is exactly true. Most Singaporeans are unable to secure a job is because many downplayed or ignored the power of networking. In fact, networking is not only a powerful skill for securing a dream job, it is an important skill that entrepreneurs must possess in order to build their businesses. When you have a quality network, jobs will come to you, and not the opposite.


Contrary to what most people thought, networking isn’t about promoting yourself or cold calling your business contacts when you are being retrenched or fired from your job.

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The departure of K1 Ventures’ Steven Green

All good things must come to an end. After 15 years of heading K1 Ventures, one of the largest listed venture capitalists, Steven Green unexpectedly announced his departure a couple of weeks ago. I am writing this article to pay tribute to one of the most talented investment wizards in Singapore.

K1 Ventures used to be a shipping company in the 1970s and adopted its current name in 2000 after a series of business consolidations. The company was looking at transforming its scope of activities to include a portfolio of technology and non-technology companies. At that point, Steven Green was the US Ambassador to Singapore and had an outstanding reputation for being a business leader. Subsequently, Steven Green was appointed to be CEO on 7 September 2001, just four days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

stock market

K1 Ventures Business Strategy

The fact that K1 Ventures’ board of directors looked to US Ambassador indicated that the company intended to seek opportunities in the United States. The terrorist attacks in 2001 certainly threw up a lot of bargain buy opportunities for K1 Ventures. Throughout the years, Steven led his team to make a series of notable acquisitions in USA – Helm Holding Corporation, McMoran Exploration, Knowledge Universe Holdings and Guggenheim Capital.

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SGX’s 1QFY2017 results

On 19 October 2016, SGX reported 1QFY2017 results. Notwithstanding the net profit amounted to $83 million, the overall performance was poor. This is not surprising given that the bourse operator is a proxy to Singapore economy, which has been sluggish for the whole of this year.

Key financial indicators

Revenue: $191 million, down 13% from a year earlier

Operating profit: $97 million, down 17%

Net profit: $83 million, down 16%

Earnings per share: 7.8 cents, down 16%

Interim dividend per share: 5 cents, unchanged

Revenue had been dragged by declines seen in the Equities and Fixed Income and Derivatives segments, both recording a drop of 9% and 22% respectively compared to 2016. The slowing global economic growth and the political uncertainties arising from Brexit resulted in lower trading volumes.

Strength of SGX

However, investors should not judge SGX’s strength on the basis of one quarter’s financial performance alone. The group’s balance sheet is actually very strong – no borrowings and cash-rich. In fact, its current asset amounted to $1.53 billion and total liabilities stood at only $951 million.


Expenses decreased 8% to $93.7 million ($102.3 million), as all expense items declined year-on-year. Total staff costs decreased $2.4 million or 6% to $39.6 million ($42.0 million). 

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Will gold price surge with the new US President?

8 November 2016 will be a destiny day for Americans when they cast their votes for their new President. Whether its Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, it will be a tight race for sure. With so much uncertainties, will gold price surge with the new US President?

Most people assume that the popular Hillary Clinton will prevail and win the election hands down. But the American election voting system is not so straightforward. The candidate can win more votes but still lose the race. Why is this so? This is because of the complex US voting system – the Electoral College.

Under this profound system, Americans are actually not voting for the nominees directly. They are in fact voting for a group of electors representing their states. Each state has equal numbers of Congressman and Senators. The bigger the state, the more electors. At the state level, it is a winner takes all game. So the key is actually winning more electors, and not more voters.

This system is obviously very different in Singapore, whereby the number of votes determine the winner.


Thus, it is important to note that because of this US complex voting system, the result on 8 November 2016 will be a surprise for sure. 

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Keppel Corporation will retrench even more staff

As Singapore business sentiments soured, retrenchments seem to be the buzzword nowadays.  This is certainly the case for Keppel Corporation, the world’s largest oil rig builder. The difference is that after letting go 8000 of its workforce for the first nine months of this year, Keppel Corporation will retrench even more staff.

The sheer magnitude of this “right-sizing” exercise illustrates the current state of the offshore and marine industry. The reduction in the workload resulted in the shrinking workforce needs and required Keppel Corp to be lean. In the 3QFY16 financial report, the CEO highlighted that the culling of workforce will continue due to the weak demand for oil rigs.

Wind of changes

The root cause of Keppel Corp’s decline is the collapse of the oil price since 2014. The CEO suggested that it could be a “long winter” for the oil rig giant but I see it differently. I don’t work in the oil and gas industry but the emergence of USA’s shale oil may be the ultimate game-changer for the industry.

stock market

The discovery of new drilling method in USA to produce oil from shale rocks created a huge capacity boom and this led to the current oversupply issue. Brent crude oil has even dropped below the support level of USD30 per barrel in 2016, making extraction of oil economically unviable.

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Will SPH acquire The Finance SG?

When SPH announced its plan to cull staff for the next couple of years, it was a sign of times for the media giant. Faced with falling revenues and declining daily newspaper circulation, SPH is grappling with the disruptions of the media industry. Nonetheless, it is important to note that over the past decade, SPH had made numerous acquisitions of online media platforms. Thus, will SPH acquire The Finance SG?

Ten years ago, SPH set the dot-com community on fire by acquiring IT media company, Hardwarezone, for a cool $7.1 million. The online magazine has a monthly pageviews of over 35 million and is widely considered one of the top websites in Singapore (in terms of traffic). The mega deal came at a time when the online entrepreneur scene was still reeling from the aftermath of the dot-com implosion. The deal set the stage for today’s fintech evolution and let many online entrepreneurs dream again.


In 2013, SPH splashed out a whopping $60 million for SgCarMart, Singapore’s leading online classifieds website for the automotive industry. The portal has an estimated number of 30 million pageviews per month. Whether this was a panic buy is subject to debate but through this acquisition, SPH has effectively laid down the marker that future growth will be driven by online businesses.

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Dealing with cancer

Yesterday, my colleague shared with me that his mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I was shocked to hear this news but really didn’t know how best to advise him. So I thought the only thing I could do was to listen to his story.

Apparently, my colleague’s mum went for a diagnosis after feeling a lump in her breast two months ago. The preliminary tests revealed that she had breast cancer in the early stage. However, recent tests showed that the cancerous cells had spread aggressively and doctor advised that surgery was needed. Thereafter, she would also need to go for chemotherapy.

Understandably, my colleague’s mum is now feeling very depressed. After all, being diagnosed with a late stage cancer illness can be daunting. When a person is at this phase of her life, there are a lot of uncertainties and fear. It doesn’t help that my colleague’s father is a small-time business owner and needs to travel frequently. Thus, during this difficult time, his mother lacks the emotional support from her husband.

financial destiny

Being the eldest son, my colleague is the pillar of support for his family. The mother is a full-time house-wife. He has two younger brothers who are still schooling and one of them is studying in Australia.

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SPH media business review

On 17 October 2016, media conglomerate SPH finally dropped the bombshell. In a media release which highlighted the result of its business review, SPH announced that it will be “right-sizing” to reduce operating costs.

To put things into perspective, this is not the first time that the media company is downsizing. It had previously retrenched more than 100 staff in 2003. It is also no secret that SPH’s revenue has been decreasing at an alarming rate for the past 5 years.

Revenue for FY2012: $1.27 billion

Revenue for FY2013: $1.24 billion

Revenue for FY2014: $1.21 billion

Revenue for FY2015: $1.18 billion

Revenue for FY2016: $1.12 billion

Return on Equity (ROE) declined at an even worse rate, from a respectable 19.3% in FY2012 to a ridiculous 7.129% for FY2016. What exactly went wrong for SPH?

Make no mistake, the company is still making money. In fact, profit after tax for FY2016 was $306 million, a decrease of 17.4% compared to FY2015. The company is also giving out dividends as usual for FY2016.

But SPH investors must realize that it is not exactly business as usual for this media giant. The continuing decline in its business is not a cyclical problem, but really a structural issue that requires massive transformation in its business model.

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SPH to retrench staff

Today, Yahoo Singapore publishes an article that SPH is expected to retrench about 10 percent of its staff. If the move is official, the retrenchment figure will be higher than the 111 staff it retrenched in 2003.

The sheer number of SPH staff expected to be laid off is frightening. This is because back in 2003, the business condition was difficult due to Iraq war and SARS outbreak. In today’s context, the market condition is not well either but we don’t have any global wars or major pandemic flu taking place.

Thus, even though the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced two days ago that Singapore is not experiencing recession at the moment, my concern is that the state of our economy is even more dreadful than what many people might have thought.


Bad economy and headwinds aside, SPH’s poor performance can be attributed to its management’s failure to transform the media giant into a digital power-house. The bulk of its average daily circulation is still in printed copies and its online subscriptions form a small percentage of its daily circulation. This is a worrying trend as Singaporeans lifestyle has changed and apparently, SPH is unable to keep up with the change.

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Lack of understanding on Medishield Life among Singaporeans

I came across the article by fellow blogger, Andrew Loh, on his recent medical bill. Andrew is a blogger whom I respected a lot because of his various quality articles in Yahoo Singapore website. Arising from his recent medical ordeal, I realized that there is a lack of understanding on Medishield Life among Singaporeans.

In his article, Andrew was very clear on the mechanism of Medishield Life. But several readers were puzzled as to why the Medishield Life payout was only $720 when the bill is $3959.19 after government subsidies of $6767.90.

Without verifying, many Singaporean readers took this opportunity to slam government policies and made baseless toxic remarks.

Firstly, Medishield Life has deductible and co-insurance portions that can be paid using Medisave or cash. Many Singaporeans thought that Medishield Life cover 100% of medical bill, which is untrue. The policy intent of the deductible is to keep MediShield Life targeted at large bills, and is only payable once in a policy year. Co-insurance ensures that policyholders are responsible for their medical bill.


Secondly, if you do not wish to pay the deductible and co-insurance fees, you can always opt for Integrated Shield Plans (ISP). Many of the ISP in the market have options for riders to waive off deductible and co-insurance fees.

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