Should stock investors run for their lives?

Every four years, money and power will have a showdown. October will be a nerve-wrecking month for Americans as the Presidential Election enters into the final leg. There are a lot of uncertainties as to who will be the most powerful person on earth. But regardless the outcome, investors dislike uncertainties. In view of this, should stock investors sell everything and run for their lives?

The US Presidential Election aside, there were already many warning signs of cracks forming in the stock market. In early January 2016, China stock market had two massive melt-downs, leading to forced trading halts by the regulators. Then entered Brexit. Pound experienced free-fall in value and dropped to decades low.

Next on the list may be Deutsche Bank, which has being ordered by US Department of Justice to pay $14 billion for its past practice in mortgage-backed securities that led to the Great Financial Crisis. Many analysts expressed concerns that Deutsche Bank episode could ignite another round of financial crisis but in my opinion, this is unlikely. This is because the German bank is too big to fail and very likely, the EU will bail out the banking giant.


As a wealth builder, it is unproductive to predict when the next economic crisis will arrive because the matter of fact is that no one can predict the future.

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Is it worth investing in SIAEC shares now?

Currently trading at $3.73, SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) shares have not reached the 5-year low of $3.35. But it does not mean that the company is doing fantastic either. SIAEC shares had been sliding from a record level of $5.29 since 2013 and many investors wonder whether it would be worth investing in SIAEC shares now.

For 1Q16, SIAEC announced profits amounting to $199.8 million as compared to $41.7 million in 2015. The explosive increase was due to $141.6 million gain from the divestment of its 10% stake in Hong Kong Aero Engine Services Ltd (“HAESL”) to Rolls-Royce Overseas Holdings Limited (“RROH”) and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (“HAECO”).

In addition, the Group received a special dividend of $36.4 million from HAESL following the divestment of HAESL’s 20% stake in Singapore Aero Engine Services Limited (“SAESL”) to Rolls-Royce Singapore Pte Ltd (“RRS”), bringing the overall gain from the divestment to $178.0 million.


SIAEC financial performance

Apart from the one-off divestment, there are few bright spots for SIAEC. Revenue has declined for the past two years and for 1Q16, SIAEC registered a decline of revenue to $271.6 million from $277.3 million in 2015. Some analysts predicted in the news lately that lower passenger traffic for SIA would have serious impact on SIAEC’s business.

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Hellfire from Swiber Bond and Lehman Brothers Minibond

Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction. The recent implosion of Swiber junk bond brings back memories of Lehman Brothers Minibond saga in 2008. About 10,000 retail investors in Singapore lost their investments totaling more than $500 million in products linked to Lehman Brothers. The similarity between the hellfire from Swiber Bond and Lehman Brothers Minibond is that DBS was one of the financial institutions distributing these high risk investment products.

In the world of investing, there are many factors why things can go wrong. Even government can sometimes make dubious investment decisions. The most infamous example is the fiasco concerning eight town councils run by People’s Action Party (PAP) which had $16 million invested in the various Lehman Brothers-linked products. Many analysts were shocked and disturbed that town councils had invested in such structured product using tax payer’s fund. After all, the mandate of town council is different from sovereign wealth funds like Temasek Holding.


Lehman Brothers Minibond Saga

Notwithstanding the loss suffered by PAP town councils, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered one of the most intriguing financial hellfire in Singapore. Investors who had bought High Notes 5 from DBS Bank were shell-shocked to learn that they could get nothing from the forced sale of the underlying collateral.

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OCBC Wing Hang Bank

On 18 July 2016, OCBC announced the merger of its two banking subsidiaries in China – OCBC Bank (China) Limited and Wing Hang Bank (China) Limited) – to become OCBC Wing Hang Bank (China) Limited (“OCBC Wing Hang China”). After acquiring Wing Hang Bank in 2014, OCBC wasted no time in building its investment moat in China.

OCBC in China

China is a strategic core market for OCBC, given its sheer market size. OCBC Bank first established its presence in China in 1925 with the opening of its Xiamen branch and incorporated OCBC Bank (China) Limited, headquartered in Shanghai, on 1 August 2007. Thus, the merger of its Hong Kong Wing Hang Bank with the China’s unit makes sense because of the synergy in value.

Headquartered in Shanghai, the unified platform allows OCBC to be well-positioned to serve its clients better in the Greater China. OCBC Wing Hang China has 32 branches and subbranches span 14 major cities across both Northern and Southern China – Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Xiamen, Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Qingdao, Shaoxing and Suzhou.

In the Pearl River Delta region in China, one of the country’s main hubs of economic growth, OCBC Wing Hang China has 13 branches and sub-branches, largest among the Singapore banks.

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Explosive form of Sheng Siong shares

Since my previous review in May 2016, Sheng Siong shares had an explosive form. The supermarket operator’s share price surged from $0.89 to the $1.00 support level. This is an impressive run and effectively, Sheng Siong had shed the “penny stock” tag.

Once again, Sheng Siong delivered a quarterly performance that are within expectations. Revenue continued to grow, recording an increase of 5.5% at $188.8 million compared to 2015. The addition of three new stores had contributed to the net growth in revenue.

Sheng Siong Competitive Edge

Besides store expansion, Sheng Siong’s growth was supported by higher margins. Gross margin increased to 26.1% in 2Q2016 compared with 25.2% in 2Q2015 mainly because of suppliers’ rebates and reduction in input cost derived mainly from bulk handling, which was facilitated by continuous improvements from the central warehouse at Mandai.

Profits for the period was $15.2 million, an increase of 11.3% compared to 2015. Cash flow from operating activities remained healthy at $26.5 million for current quarter but cash and cash equivalents decreased by $75.0 million to $50.8 million. The big drop was due to payment of final dividend for FY2015.

On the basis of the latest financial report, the management of Sheng Siong continues to demonstrate prudent management and operating efficiency.

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Is gold a long-term insurance?

Many wealth builders view gold as a long-term insurance. This is because gold offers safe-haven qualities that serve to hedge against inflation and economic uncertainties.  In Singapore, the government encourages the locals to buy and sell gold, with a view of making Singapore a precious metal trading hub.

One of the policies that incentivize Singaporeans to buy gold is the exemption of GST for Investment Precious Metals (“IPM”).  Since October 2012, precious metals in the form of a bar, ingot, wafer and coin which meet certain criteria can qualify as IPM and are exempted from GST.

buy gold Singapore

To qualify as IPM, the precious metal must meet 4 criteria:

  • It is gold of at least 99.5% purity, silver of at least 99.9% purity or platinum of at least 99% purity.
  • A precious metal bar, ingot or wafer refined by a refiner with the following accreditation/ endorsement is regarded as meeting this criterion:

For gold and silver, a refiner in the current or former ‘Good Delivery’ list of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA);

  • It bears a mark or characteristic that is internationally accepted as guaranteeing its quality.
  • It is not a decorative bar, ingot or wafer or a collector’s bar, ingot or wafer.
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Safeguard your financial destiny

The latest labor market report released by Ministry of Manpower is discouraging for many job-seekers. Employment growth has slowed down and unemployment and redundancies have risen in the second quarter of 2016. In this uncertain market condition, it may not be wise to switch career or even quit without a job. However, regardless the case, you do not leave your financial destiny in the hands of your employer.

In today’s context, it is not realistic for Singapore employees to trust that they will never be made redundant. The rapid changes in technology inevitably led to unexpected transformation in various industries, resulting in massive restructuring in our economy. This means that many jobs have become obsoleted and when affected employees are laid off, their positions disappeared as well.

financial destiny

Thus, if you are not careful, you may find yourself in the frightening prospect of being retrenched. Even in the civil service sector, which is well-known in Singapore for being an iron-rice bowl employer, contract jobs have become prevalent. Being a contract worker, you may be let go after your employment contract expired. Even if you are a permanent staff working in the civil service, it does not mean that your career longevity is guaranteed.

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MediShield Life versus Private Integrated Shield Plan

MediShield Life was rolled out in November 2015 to replace the MediShield. Unlike its predecessor, MediShield Life is a mandatory basic health care insurance designed to provide better coverage for Class B2 and C wards in public hospitals. There is also no need for Singaporeans to apply for MediShield Life. Given that MediShield Life provides enhanced coverage, it is important to review the merits of MediShield Life versus Private Integrated Shield Plan (IP).

Features of Medishield Life

Before we look at IP, there is a need to consider the key features of MediShield Life. Firstly, MediShield Life provides lifetime coverage and even those pre-existing conditions can be covered. The lifetime claim limit has been removed and the maximum claim limit has been increased to $100,000 per policy year. Thus, with the improved benefits, most Singaporeans will fork out less cash amount for hospital bills.

Medishield Life

As a result of these enhancements, the premiums for MediShield Life have also increased. However, the premiums for MediShield Life can be fully paid using CPF’s Medisave account. To offset the premium increases, the government is also providing subsidies. Clearly, the policy intention is to provide an affordable health care insurance that is able to meet the majority population’s needs.

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End of fairytale for OSIM

On 29 August 2016, OSIM ended one of the most incredible fairytales in the corporate world and was de-listed from the SGX market. OSIM’s turn-around story reflected the resilient and determination of founder, Ron Sim in coming back from adverse conditions. After all, successful turn-around cases are so rare in Singapore.

One of the most admirable traits of Ron Sim is his business acumen and never-say-die mentality. In 2009, he made the difficult decision of writing off OSIM investment in US retailer, Brookstone, after it registered a loss of almost $100 million the previous year. Many investors lost faith in the management abilities and at the lowest point, many dumped the stock, sending it crashing to $0.05 per share.

Instead of viewing the whole episode negatively, Ron deemed it an “enriching” experience because of the lesson learned on the US market. Not many business leaders can overcome the sort of setback that Ron Sim encountered. At that point of time, with the onset of the Great Financial Crisis, it certainly seemed like the massage armchair company was doomed.

stock market

But what he managed to achieve the following years was simply unbelievable. Following the Great Financial Crisis, he correctly predicted that the money to follow would be the Chinese market.

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SingTel’s investment moats

The recent announcement of the prospect of a 4th telecommunication player entering the market has caused SingTel, Starhub and M1 shares to fall.  Whilst it is too premature to make a judgement on the impact to the three telecommunication players, SingTel should be the least affected. Most investors are probably unaware of SingTel’s investment moats

Unlike the rest of the existing players, SingTel differentiates itself from the rest of the league by positioning itself as a regional player with more than 610 million in Asia Pacific and Africa. In Singapore, it holds the number 1 market share with 4.1 million mobile customers. Granted that the new entrant will eat into SingTel’s market share in Singapore, it should be noted that the major bulk of SingTel’s earnings are derived from overseas. In addition, SingTel has a very diversified revenue base. Hence, the risk is very much mitigated for this giant.


In its 100% owned Australia unit, Optus, SingTel has the number 2 market share with 9.3 million mobile customers. SingTel also holds the number 1 market share in India, Thailand and Indonesia. Both Optus and Indonesia’s Telkomsel are SingTel’s champion income drivers. For first quarter 2016, Optus’ EBITDA grew 0.7% to A$645 million while Telkomsel’s EBITDA was $325.6 million.

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Creative Technology won the battle but lost the war

Singapore’s Sim Wong Hoo, was famous for building Creative Technology (CT) from scratch. In the 80s and 90s, the SoundBlaster audio cards produced by CT was selling like hotcakes and propelled Sim from a struggling entrepreneur to Singapore’s youngest billionaire.

In March 2000, CT’s shares was even trading at record high of $58. Now, the share price is languishing at $1.00. Has Creative Technologies won the battle but lost the war?

As a Singaporean engineer, obviously I hope Sim can do well and make Singapore world-famous again. His SoundBlaster audio cards had put Singapore on the global map and proved to the rest of the world that Singapore is capable of creating world-class innovative engineering products as well.

But it is pity that IT is a very fast-paced and ruthless industry. The rapid evolution in the technology development led to cheaper, more powerful and better integrated computer audio systems than CT’s SoundBlaster. This gradually marked the start of the decline for Creative Technology.

Stock Market
SG Wealth Builder

In 2006, Sim Wong Hoo made Singapore world-famous again by winning a legal dispute against Apple, which agreed to compensate Creative Technology $100 million over patent infringement. Back then, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs claimed in a press release that “Creative is [This is a premium article.

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Is it worthwhile to invest in The Hour Glass?

On 12 August 2016, luxury watch retailer, The Hour Glass, delivered a set of poor financial results for 1Q2017. Year-on-year, revenue dropped a whopping 7% to $149 million and profits after tax declined 23% to $8.3 million for the first quarter of FY2017. At the back of many investors’ mind should be the question of whether is it worthwhile to invest in The Hour Glass now?

To be fair to the management, The Hour Glass has one of the strongest balance sheets for a listed SGX stock. The current assets amounted to $426 million, while cash and cash equivalents stood at $80.6 million. The current assets could more than offset the current and long term liabilities easily.

The Net Current Asset Value Per Share (NCAVPS) was $0.568 per share. This means that if The Hour Glass is to be liquidated, this will be the amount of tangible value per share after paying off the short term and long term debts. Net Asset Value (NAV) per ordinary share was $0.63.

SGX stocks

For The Hour Glass, my estimation for the intrinsic value of each share is $0.66. This is because the Group holds a substantial amount of investment properties valued at $64 million according to the latest financial statement.

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Raffles Medical shares power ahead

Fresh from the stock split exercise in May 2016, Raffles Medical shares power ahead amid the sluggish stock market condition. On 26 July 2016, the healthcare provider announced another set of solid performance.

Financial Performance

Revenue for second quarter surged 19.8% to $119 million as compared to last year. However, increased in staff costs led to profits of $16.1 million after tax, a marginal increase of only 0.7% as compared to 2015.  The rate of increase for staff costs was higher than the growth in revenue because of more specialist consultants and staff as well as increased staff arising from acquisitions in 2015.

Raffles Medical continued to have strong cash position, with net cash increased from $53.8 million as at 31 December 2015 to S$92.8 million as at 30 June 2016. This was attributed mainly to strong operating cash flows generated by the Group from its increased business operations. Net cash from operating activities was $23.8 million in 2Q16. Cash and cash equivalents increased by $13.0 million from $110.6 million as at 31 March 2016 to S$123.6 million as at 30 June 2016.

Raffles Medical shares

Notwithstanding the good performance, Raffles Medical has announced interim dividend of $0.005 per share, to be paid out today.

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SGX to revise minimum trading price rule

In one of my previous articles on Singapore Exchange’s minimum trading price (MTP) rule, I questioned whether the MTP framework will actually serve its intent of preventing market manipulations. Following that article, SGX recently proposed changes that will allow stocks with larger market capitalization to avoid the fate of being included in the watch list.

The MTP rule was implemented under SGX’s ex-CEO, Magnus Bocker’s era. Bocker’s tenure in SGX is generally viewed by many as negative because of the many unpopular changes he tried to implement. MTP was one of them, the other being the scrapping of the 90-minute lunch break to allow continuous trading.

Background of MTP

To his credit, Bocker did help to diversify SGX’s revenue stream through the expansion of derivative product offerings. However, he overlooked the importance of continuing to build the capital market portfolio for SGX. In addition, under his leadership, retail investors’ activities waned substantially. Of course it is not fair to put the entire blame on him for the lackluster market participation as economic climate plays a large part as well. But then again, as CEO, he did not implement any note-worthy initiatives to attract retail investors either.


It also did not help that many retail investors lost a lot of money after dabbling in Blumont, LionGold and Asiasons Capital.

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Frightening HDB rules

If you managed to purchase a new HDB flat, especially a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat, you would have made your first pot of gold. This is because new HDB flats are heavily subsidized and after meeting the Minimum Occupation Period, they can be sold to the open market for substantial profits. So congratulations and lucky you! But there are a few frightening HDB rules that Singaporeans must know. Failing to do so may hamper your financial plan or even worse, damage your wealth.

In this article, I will touch on some of the important HDB rules. Note that the information is based on my best understanding of the rules. If there is any factual error, kindly highlight to me.

Eligibility to buy

Most Singaporeans thought that they are entitled to buy new subsidized flats like BTO, Executive Condominium (EC) and Design, Build, Sell Scheme (DBSS) twice. Actually, they are only half-correct. Yes, Singapore citizens are entitled to buy new subsidized property twice in total but not twice per type of property. This means that if you have bought a new BTO flat, subsequently you are not allowed to apply for BTO flat again. You can only apply to purchase new EC or DBSS.

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Three tenets of successful investing

As a wealth builder, I constantly ask myself how I can improve my investing skills in order to make more money.  I view wealth as a journey, rather than a destination point. That is why I chose the name, “SG Wealth Builder” for this blog. Investing is important component of wealth building. So in this article, I will pen down my thoughts on the three tenets of successful investing.


In investing, different people have different approaches and styles. Some people like to buy and hold blue chips while there are others who invest solely in Reits for dividend incomes. Then there are value investors who buy stocks at bargain price and sell them for capital appreciation. Growth investors look at companies with potential to grow and thus are willing to pay a premium for stocks that are trading at high price-to-earning ratio. At the end of the day, it does not matter which strategies you adopt as long as it yield positive results over time.

The worst thing in investing is not having a strategy and invest for the sake of investing. Without the clarity of thoughts and a proper framework in mind, the chance of winning the stock market is very slim.

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K1 Ventures announced another capital reduction

On 3 August 2016, K1 Ventures announced another capital reduction of $0.075 in cash for each ordinary share in the capital of the company. This represents another round of mini-windfall for K1 Ventures investors. The capital reduction was announced at a time when its parent company, Keppel Corp is struggling under the current oil price crisis climate.

K1 Ventures is the investment arm of Keppel Corp specializing in business acquisitions. It invests primarily in the US market and has held stakes in transportation leasing company (Helm Holding), energy (Freeport McMoran Exploration), education (Knowledge Universal Holding, KUH) and financial (Guggenheim). As a venture capitalist, its business model is to acquire companies and turn them around to sell for profits.

K1 Venture

Helm by Chairman and CEO Steven Jay Green, K1 Ventures’ management has an incredible investment track record. Over the years, the company has divested many assets and consistently delivered huge dividends for shareholders. In fact, since 2005, K1 Ventures announced dividends and capital reductions to reward shareholders.

For the uninitiated, capital reduction basically means reducing the capital of the company and return to shareholders. However, unlike dividends, capital reduction will result in the reduction of the company’s Net Asset Value (NAV) from $207,732,000 to $175,248,000.

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Buy gold bullion in Singapore

The current dismal economy outlook and stock market conditions may entice many wealth builders to buy gold and silver bullion. After all, the price of gold has surged by 25% in the first half of this year, making it one of the best performing assets. You can buy gold bullion in Singapore from local bank UOB or various bullion dealers.

According to the latest World Gold Council report, gold continued its red-hot form, with global gold demand reaching 2,335 tons in the first half of 2016, 16% higher than the previous record in H1 2009. During the second quarter, overall gold demand grew to 1,050t, up 15% from the Q2 2015 figure of 910t. The growth was due to considerable investment demand as a result of global economic and political uncertainties.

The Chinese always has a penchant for gold and like to buy gold bullion. So not surprisingly, for the past 10 years, China has become the world’s largest gold producer and importer. The Chinese banks play a key role in making a gold hub in China through a range of gold-related business activities. In fact, more than 50% of investment demand involving sales of gold bars and coins is fulfilled through commercial banks’ network of branches.

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Straco Corp’s latest financial performance

In my previous article, I wrote about Straco Corp‘s company profile and its acquisition of Singapore Flyer back in 2014. This blog post will analyse Straco Corp’s latest financial performance.

On 10 August 2016, Straco Corp reported a 5.2% decline in Group revenue to $27.86 million for the second quarter ended 30 June 2016 compared to 2Q2015. The decline in revenue was due to lower number of visitors for its two aquariums in China. Interestingly, Singapore Flyer reported higher revenue for 2Q2016 on improved ticket yield. Cumulatively, the Group revenue for 1H2016 decreased marginally by 0.5%. Even though there was increased revenue at Singapore Flyer, this was offset by declines at the China aquariums.

Based on the latest earning report, the slow down in China definitely has an impact on Straco Corp’s earning. Below is the 5 year trend of the company’s revenue.

Straco Corp Revenue
Straco Corp Revenue (in millions)

Dividends per share have been increasing for the last four years. However, there are signs that the growth in dividends has reached a plateau. During the quarter, the company paid out dividends of $21.48 million for the financial year ended 31 December 2015. As at 30 June 2016, the Group’s cash and cash equivalent balance amounted to $124.69 million.

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ISOTeam shines in stock market

On 5 August 2016, ISOTeam announced that it has clinched 13 new private and public sector contracts worth $20.11 million. The listed company is a specialist in the eco-conscious Repairs and Redecoration (“R&R”), Addition and Alteration (“A&A”) and complementary niche services.

ISOTeam contracts

This is a winning streak for ISOTeam as the company has a reputation for securing contracts because of its excellent track record in project delivery and early adopter of green technologies for its projects. As Singapore drives environmental sustainability in the building and construction industry, companies like ISOTeam will continue to thrive and grow.

ISOTeam has also started to build new capabilities in the renewable energy sector. In early 2016, it has installed Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic Systems on roofs of 33 blocks at Tampines estate worth approximately $1.8 million. Recently, it has won a $0.20 million contract to install Emergency Fuel Cell Operating Power Systems as back-up power generators for lifts of a number of HDB blocks at Punggol. Wealth builders should note this green initiative because it is likely that this may be implemented in more public housing in Singapore, indicating a potential huge untapped market to penetrate.

ISOTeam shares

Of course, Singapore market is too small and is saturated with many players.

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Explosive Surge of Silver Price

Based on data from LBMA, silver price has increased 44.7 percent in the first half of 2016. The explosive surge of silver reflected many investors’ interest in silver in light of the current global market uncertainties. Interestingly, silver has also outperformed all other precious metals as wealth builders accumulated more silver in the first half of 2016.

Following the record demand seen in 2015, investors’ demand for silver bars has weakened some during this period. This is because in 2015, silver was in a bear market and investors seized the opportunity to accumulate silver bars on the cheap, with the view of potential price appreciation. Since then, the price of silver has galloped and this has somewhat dampened the demand for silver bars.


On the other hand, silver coin sales increased by 29% globally, according to GFMS Thomson Reuters Quarterly Coin Sales Survey. Coin sales enjoy double digits increase across all major regions, such as North America, Asia and Europe. Unlike gold bullion coin sales, which fluctuate according to its prices, silver coin sales have remained resilient since 2010.

2015 has been a disastrous year for the commodity as prices fell across almost all the commodity assets. Silver was no exception as it fell below the support level of US$15 per ounce.

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The story of Straco Corp and Singapore Flyer

In one of my previous articles, I wrote about the fate of Underwater World Singapore. In response to my article, a reader mentioned about Straco Corp and this prompted me to research on the company.

Listed on SGX mainboard since 2004, Straco Corp was found by local entrepreneur, Wu Hsioh Kwang who is the Vice-President (Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce), Vice-Chairman of Tourism & Leisure, Chinese Business Group (Singapore Business Federation) and Vice Chairman of the 4th Standing Committee of Chinese Association of Enterprises with Foreign Investment (China).

Not much else is known about Mr Wu except that he spent 30 years doing tourism-related business in China. In fact, he has two very successful aquariums in China, one is the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, while the other is Underwater World Xiamen. What prompted Mr Wu to see the potential and subsequently invested in Singapore Flyer is a mystery.


When Straco Corp splashed out $140 million for the Singapore Flyer back in 2014, the iconic attraction was in a bad shape. The company that ran the flyer was facing financial problems and Straco stepped in to buy over the asset. By then, the number of visitors had declined due to stiff competition from other attractions and tenants were having poor businesses.

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OCBC share price sank on release of 2Q16 results

OCBC share price dropped from a high of $9.00 to $8.35 upon the release of poor 2Q16 results. Second quarter earnings fell a whopping 15% year-on-year due to lower insurance income from subsidiary Great Eastern Holding (GEH).

For OCBC, the insurance segment, driven by GEH, represents one of the most profitable income sources. Operating profits from insurance segment was $120 million, the third highest among OCBC’s business segments. The earning contributions from GEH fell 66% due to the absence of a $105 million gain from the sale of an asset in 2Q15. However, GEH’s underlying insurance business actually performed well in this quarter, with new sales increased by 23%, led by growth across distribution channels in Singapore and Malaysia. Due to the unrealized mark-to-market losses in GEH’s equity and bond investments, profit from GEH’s life insurance recorded a dismal 19% drop.

SG Wealth Builder

Apart from insurance segment, OCBC also witnessed poor performance in its “bread and butter” segment – corporate loans. Like all commercial banks, OCBC derived its major income from loans made to corporates and public sector. For second quarter, net interest income declined 2% to $1.26 billion from $1.28 billion a year ago. Customer loan balances decreased 2% due to lower trade loans and reduced offshore borrowings from Chinese customers.

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Sell everything and exit the stock market?

Brexit happened just a month ago but already it seems like an eternity for many investors. Since then, a series of unfortunate events had happened in Singapore stock market.

SGX market disruption

First, on 14th July 2016, the local stock market experienced a major disruption that resulted in ceased trading at 1138 hours and remained closed for the rest of the day. Some investors and traders received duplicated confirmation messages while some did not receive any confirmation messages after their trade were done. Investigation found that the disruption was due to a disk failure and SGX had moved to rectify the problem.

The market disruption had made a serious dent on Singapore’s reputation as a major Asia financial trading hub. Such an incident impacts the livelihood of traders, especially short-sellers who have to cover their positions by certain timing. For Singapore to sell itself as a so-called trading hub of Asia, it is a given that SGX trading engine have a high level of reliability. Otherwise, there will be no confidence level from investors and traders on the local stock market.


DBS investigated by MAS

Nevertheless, even if one down-plays the SGX market disruption, an even more sinister development awaited Singapore investors.

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Haw Par sealed the fate of Underwater World Singapore

Many Singaporeans may recognize “Tiger Balm” as the world leading brand for topical analgesics. Some may even know that the Haw Par Corp, a company listed in SGX, is the owner of this renowned healthcare brand.

However, not many people know that Underwater World Singapore (UWS) was owned by Haw Par Corp.

1) Haw Par and Underwater World Singapore

When Haw Par sealed the fate of Underwater World Singapore (UWS) on 26 June 2016, many Singaporeans were taken by surprise. Being a forgotten icon of Singapore tourist attraction, many of us have overlooked the fact that UWS has being around for 25 years already. Within this period of time, the landscape has changed and not surprising, there are stiff competition from new and existing attractions.

Haw Par share price

UWS holds special memories for me because this is one of the local attractions that my wife and I visited when we were dating. That was more than 7 years ago. The week before UWS closed shop, my family visited UWS for the very last time.

We were surprised that the place remained largely the same and there were not many notable upgrades for the facilities. In fact, the new S.E.A Aquarium of Resort World Sentosa would appear to be more refreshing to tourists than the UWS.

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OCBC’s multi-billion dollars stake in Great Eastern Holding

In a month when DBS and SMRT hog the limelight, OCBC Bank quietly increased its multi-billion dollars stake in Great Eastern Holding. On 1st July 2016, OCBC made a filing in SGX to declare that it bought 611,800 shares of Great Eastern at $20.59 per share, effectively increasing its share in the insurer to 87.73% from 87.60%. OCBC’s multi-billion dollar stake in Great Eastern is actually one of its “hidden treasures”.

Great Eastern is the oldest life insurance group in Singapore and Malaysia, with over $60 billion in assets and 4.7 million policyholders. Being a subsidiary of OCBC, the life insurance group’s partnership is formidable. This is because Great Eastern’s life insurance products can be distributed through OCBC’s banking network. This type of partnership creates synergy and allows both companies to gain better customer’s insights and investment needs.


Being the pioneer in bancassurance in 1992, OCBC is the only Singapore bank to have substantial stake in a life insurance company. UOB’s bancassurance partner is Prudential, while DBS’ bancassurance partner is Manulife. The fact that Great Eastern is a subsidiary of OCBC gives the bank the competitive edge because the business interests will have to be aligned. In fact, several OCBC’s management actually sit in Great Eastern ‘s board of directors.

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Future-proof your career against retrenchments

For the 1st quarter of 2016, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed a record number of retrenchments since 2009. A total 4090 workers were retrenched as Singapore economy slows down and undergo major restructuring. Is your company downsizing and are you on the retrenchment hit list? If not, have you started to future-proof your career?

For many years, Singapore refused to develop policies to ensure safety nets for the unemployed. The fear is that in creating such a social safety net, there will be moral hazards as those who lose their jobs may not be motivated to re-enter the labour market again. This is happening in today’s Europe whereby the unemployment benefits are so generous that the workers would rather remain unemployed in order to enjoy the benefits.

However, the labour landscape in Singapore has changed drastically over the last few years. There are acute shortage of talents in certain job segments like cyber security and digital marketing. While on the other hand, white-collar professionals working in sectors like banking and finance are unable to find work for months and years after being let go by their employers. This phenomenon is known as structural unemployment.


The rising costs of doing business have also put off many companies.

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Raffles Medical Group stable growth

For first quarterly results of 2016, Raffles Medical Group (RMG) had a stable growth. Profits for the period increased 1% to $15.2 million year-on-year. Revenue actually grew by 23.0% from $95.0 million in Q1 2015 to $116.9 million in Q1 2016. The increase in revenue was driven by higher business volume arising increased patient load.

During this period, the management of RMG did not manage to rein in lease expenses and staff costs. This has resulted in higher revenue being offset by higher expenses. However, the Group’s net cash position increased from $53.8 million as at 31 December 2015 to $78.4 million as at 31 March 2016. This was due to strong operating cash flows generated from increased business operations.

Apart from having a strong cash-flow, RMG has a strong balance sheet as well. Current assets grew from $170 million as at 31 December 2015 to $216 million as at 31 March 2016. Correspondingly, the total liabilities also increased from $192 million to $226 million. The increased liabilities was due to increased payable arising from acquisition of subsidiaries during the financial year 2015.

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The long-term debt is manageable, currently at only $20.8 million. Given RMG’s cash pile of $110 million, the non-current loans and borrowings are not a concern for the company.

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OCBC’s billion dollars worth of hidden value

One of the reasons why Singaporean investors love to invest in OCBC shares is because the bank has billion dollars worth of hidden value. Last month, local bank OCBC placed a pair of freehold shophouses on sale for around $20 million. These two conservation shophouses are located at Bukit Pasoh, which is near the Outram MRT Station.

Apparently, OCBC has held the properties for more than 81 years and had refurbished them in 2012. Combined together, the shophouses have a total land area of 2926 sq ft for commercial use. If successful, the sale could help to unlock value for OCBC.

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It should be noted that the two units are not part of the 38 properties that OCBC had put up for sale in April last year. The asset sales were estimated to be worth $150 to 200 million and some of the properties has since been sold. Both the two units at Bukit Pasoh and the 38 units are not mortgagee sales.

Value investors like to invest in companies with hidden value and OCBC is probably one of such companies. In the latest financial results, OCBC revealed $6.64 billion worth of unrealized valuation surplus for its investment properties and equity stakes in subsidiaries.

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Phone scams in Singapore

Times are bad and conmen are out in full force. Be aware of phone scams in Singapore. In a recent media report, a couple in Singapore lost $70,000 to a phone scam.

Apparently, the conmen posed as policemen and called the wife to inform that her credit card had been used for criminal activities in China. She was led into giving her online banking PIN number to facilitate investigation works. Subsequently, both husband and wife realized they had been conned and their savings had been wiped out within hours.

The speed at which the criminals stole their life savings left the couple in a state of shock. Within a day, they had lost everything and even had to borrow from friend for family expenses. Complete disaster.

One thing to note is that such a tragedy can happen to everyone. The common misconception is that only the elderly or less educated people are susceptible to falling prey to scams. This incident vindicated that when it comes to scams, everyone can be fooled. We must all stay vigilant and must never reveal our personal bank details and PIN number to anyone, not even to the authorities or enforcement officers.

For the young couple, this will be a painful lesson for them as they are likely to need the money to move into their new home.

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