Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Great Businesses According to Buffett

Great Businesses According to Buffett
Thursday, March 6th, 2008

I finished digesting the latest Berkshire Hathaway 2007 letter to shareholders today. I found the most interesting part of this year’s letter was Warren Buffett’s discussion of what kinds of businesses turn him on.

The companies that he and Charlie Munger look for are:

  1. Understandable
  2. Businesses with favorable long-term economics
  3. Run by trustworthy management
  4. Selling at sensible prices

Mr. Buffett once again reiterates that “a truly great business must have an enduring ‘moat’ that protects excellent returns on invested capital.” Fat Pitch Financials has been all about finding companies with wide moats ever since I first set up this blog in 2004. Given my economics background, I find Buffett’s arguement for the need for wide moats compelling. He argues that companies that lack a barrier to competition will succumb to the competitive forces of a capitalist market that tend to drive profits to zero. In this year’s letter, Buffett provides the example of GEICO’s and Costco’s low-cost production and Coca-Cola’s (KO) and Gillette’s world-wide brand as formidable barriers that are essential for maintaining enduring competitive advantages. Other durable competitive advantages include legal protections, high switching costs, the network effect and toll bridges. I discussed these barriers to entry in my review of Ten Ways to Build Moats to Hold Back Competition. The key is that these moats need to be “enduring” in order to avoid the creative destruction of capitalism. Companies in industries prone to rapid and continuous change are to be avoided, since it is unlikely their moats will be enduring.

In the past, Mr. Buffett often talked about return on equity, but many had assumed he actually meant returns on invested capital. This assumption was right since in this letter Mr. Buffett explicitly mentions returns on invested capital (ROIC). I think this is the first letter Warren Buffett has been so explicit about the importance on returns on invested capital. He actually also notes the importance of looking at a business’s returns on incremental capital invested when he discusses See’s Candy. Shai Dardasti examined Warren Buffett’s discussion regarding See’s Candy in a recent blog post that I highly recommend.

While Buffett says it is important to have trustworthy management, he also notes that if you restrict your investments to companies with durable competitive advantages that this “eliminates the business[es] whose success depends on having a great manager.” Invest in companies that can be run by an idiot because often one eventually will. Buffett reminds us in his letter that a great business should not require a superstar to produce great results. Buffett uses the example of a successfully growing medical practice led by a premier surgeon, but unlikely to be as successful if this leading surgeon leaves. However, the well know Mayo Clinic is likely to endure regardless of who is running it. This reminder makes me a bit nervous about my investment in Western Sizzlin (WEST), because I think Sardar Biglari is likely critical for that company to produce great returns. Of course, for many years it could be said that Warren Buffett was required to produce great results at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A).

Finally, Buffett also notes how advantagous it can be to have a business with low capital investment requirements. I can personally attest to that advantage. My online business has virtually no capital requirements, but has the ability continually increase its earnings.

Great businesses have sustainable competitive advantages, low capital investment requirements, don’t require superstar managers, and are in stable industries. Do you have any companies that fit these criteria? Share them below to see if they can hold up to Buffett’s criteria for great businesses.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Numerous housing projects abandoned in Jenjarom

By Story and photos by ELAN PERUMAL| Apr 22, 2011

Numerous housing projects abandoned in Jenjarom

Wasted: The property is nearing completion only to be abandoned by its developer.
Kampung  Batu 9 Kebun Baru near Jenjarom in the Kuala Langat district is surrounded with abandoned housing projects and its villagers are fed up.
Over 10 years, the area between Jalan Kebun in Klang and Jenjarom, has attracted numerous development projects; sadly, most of these projects have been left unfinished.
Villagers said they kept stumbling upon new housing projects which were eventually abandoned after a period of time.
As for the village itself, they said, it had not seen much development.
A check by StarMetro showed the village has several abandoned housing projects especially along the branch roads leading to Jenjarom.
The projects ranged from as small as 30 units to over 100 houses and the prices were between RM100,000 and RM300,000.
Most of the projects comprised single-storey terrace houses while some were single-storey semi-detached houses.
A number of the projects were 50% and 70% completed while others were abandoned after some structural works.
Some projects had notice boards with information of the proposed development.
Villager Azman Yusof, 39, said the village had more abandoned houses compared with the number of occupied houses.
He said there were too many abandoned projects in the village and the residents had become fed up of seeing such projects in the area.
“The abandoned projects have become part of our village’s identity and this is not good for our image,” he said.
Another resident Sani Ahmad, 40, said most of the house buyers were from outside the village.
In the past, he said the village used to attract a lot of people during the weekends.
“The house buyers used to visit the projects to see the progress of the development, but they gradually stopped coming after realising work on their houses had been abandoned.
“Most of the projects took off in the mid 90’s and some in the beginning of 2000. Except for a few, the rest have not been completed,” he said.
Sani added most of the projects were carried out by individual landowners through joint ventures with developers.
He said it was sad that hundreds of house buyers had been left feeling cheated as they had not only paid huge sums on deposits but also forced to service monthly bank instalments.
“I hope the government can do something to revive the projects in order to help the victims,” he added.
State housing, building development and squatters committee chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad confirmed there were eight abandoned projects in the area.
He said the state had placed several of the projects under its Abandoned Project Task Force.
“Work on some of the projects have started and we are still involved in negotiations with a few of the developers.
“We are also faced with the challenge of not being able to locate the developers in most of the cases,” he added.

Sunday April 24, 2011

Gold fever rages on


The practice of investing in gold is slowly gaining momentum in Malaysia.
THERE'S a lot of talk about gold these days. More Malaysians are investing in the precious metal and even criminals seem to have caught on to the gold bug.
Last month, police nabbed five kidnappers in Klang who demanded 10 one-kilogram gold bars (worth RM1.44mil at that time) from the victim's family. It is believed to be the country's first-ever kidnapping case involving the use of gold bars as ransom.
More recently, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) reportedly discovered gold bars in the homes of several Customs officers during raids.
Glittering investment: The box Jamaluddin is holding is worth approximately RM43,000. In early 2009, the same box was worth approximately RM27,000.
There is good reason why gold is sought after it recorded an all-time price hike this week, reaching US$1,500 (RM4,500) an ounce for the first time in history.
Over the last year, the price of gold has risen approximately 23%; and in the last three years it has risen 98%. While unrest in the Middle East and the situation in Japan are cited for record gold prices in recent months, shaky financial systems are the main reasons why the price of gold has been shooting up over the years.
Companies are now aggressively marketing gold in the form of bars and coins while banks are offering gold-related savings accounts.
In cyberworld, there are countless numbers of websites offering gold products and online forums are hotting up with discussions on investment in the glittering metal.
According to RH Investment Services Labuan director Richard Hull, the rise in the gold price is predominately linked to the amount of US currency in circulation.
He explains that it took 200 years for the US to print US$825bil (RM2.5 tril). But in Sept 2008, the US government printed US$900bil (RM2.7tril) and in March 2009, another US$1.2tril (RM3.6tril). This means that in less than a year, they added over US$2tril (RM6tril) to the money supply or a 370% increase in currency.
“People are investing in precious metals because of distrust in the financial system. They want to put money into something that is real,” says Hull, adding that all the currencies in the world are backed against the US dollar.
He believes there is sound economic reason to estimate that the gold price may reach US$15,000 (RM45,000) an ounce, a rise of 1,000% from its present level.
Ng Yih Pyng, the president of the Federation of Goldsmiths and Jewellers Associations Of Malaysia says jewellery shops in the country started to stock on gold wafer and bars a few years ago when there was demand for it.
“Before, people bought gold in the form of jewellery. Now investors buy gold bars and wafers. Most, if not all jewellery shops, now sell gold bars from 1g to 100g. The trend is becoming stronger every day,” he shares.
People buy based on what they can afford as gold bars are very expensive.
To put it into perspective a 100g gold bar (999.9 purity) that barely sits on the palm can fetch anything between RM15,000 and RM17,000 (depending on the brand) these days. Prices are based on daily updates.
“People are not so confident with currency and other investments, so they diversify a bit,” says Ng, adding that white gold and diamonds have also become popular in the last year.
Acupuncturist Oran Kavity, 52, purchased gold through an online website a few years ago. Kavity had then purchased some property in London, and was unsure of what to do with his remaining funds.
Wanting to diversify his assets, the Londoner put the rest of his money into buying gold. And his gold investments have tripled in value over the last three years.
He sold some of his gold and managed to raise almost RM250,000 for his business venture in Malaysia.
Marcus Chong of mysmartgold.com has observed an increasing interest in gold investment as people are becoming more knowledgeable about gold and are making enquiries.
»I keep on rolling the money in my business until I can get back the gold« ALDILA TAHRIZ
He says people know they can make profit out of gold and are aware of the different brand names available.
He has also noticed a stark difference in the way people pose questions now compared to just a year ago.
“They used to ask questions like where to place the gold bars and what gold investment is about. Now they are asking direct questions like what's the rate,” he says.
Businesswoman Aldila Tahziz, 35, invested about RM50,000 in gold last September when she wanted to start up her bakery supplies business.
Whenever she needs to raise money for her business, she pawns her gold and gets 70% of the current gold price. She only has to pay the pawnshop RM0.75 per day for storing her gold. When her business is profitable, she reclaims the gold from the pawnshop.
“I keep on rolling the money in my business until I can get back the gold,” says Aldila who also invests in property and shares.
Aldila constantly checks on the price of gold three times a day at least.
She keeps the gold in a safe deposit box and has also purchased some gold coins (dinars), which she keeps at home for emergencies.
Aldila has started investing in silver as well, which has gone up 124% in the last year and 188% in the last three years.
In Malaysia, silver is not as popular as gold, although some gold-traders stock up on it.
Chan Sew Mei (not her real name), 35, has started investing in gold for her five-year-old daughter, purchasing 100g every year for the purpose. In addition, she invests in a gold savings account which will go towards her daughter's education fund.
“I think gold has a certain sentimental meaning and value,” says Chan who also invests in stocks and property.
“When inflation occurs, gold prevails,” quips Chan who was introduced to gold investment by a friend in 2007. She has also diversified to investing in silver.
Jamaluddin Khalid, managing director of Saudagar Emas says many are turning to gold because of the higher returns.
The former bank officer of 20 years got into gold trading in 2009 after some research on the Internet. He recalls his friend making fun of him for selling “one-cent” coins (one dinar) for RM440 back then. But last year, his friend bought a dinar from him for RM580. Today, that one dinar is worth RM690.
“During the time of the prophets, one dinar could buy you a goat. Now, it can still buy one goat. After 1,500 years, it has still retained its value. Even gold dust is sought after these days,” he quips.
Jamaluddin got into the business after researching articles on the Internet. He borrowed money from close friends to start the business and has no regrets.
As a gold trader who doesn't have his own shop, Jamaluddin is wary of meeting anyone and only does it at places with CCTV cameras such as banks. He recalls an occasion when someone wanted to buy 1kg gold bars.
Jamaluddin suggested conducting business at a police station, but the person declined.
Rajen Devadason, a Securities Commission-licensed financial planner withMAAKL Mutual Bhd , notes that the practice of investing in gold is slowly gathering momentum.
Not long ago, he points out, it was theoretically appropriate to have precious metals comprise 5% of a diversified portfolio. Today, he feels 10% is more appropriate because of the “irresponsible action of developed nations, most notably the US, in circulating more currency around”.
He suggests that individuals gradually build up their gold position in stages over the next few years, with the aim of having gold by itself or with the other three precious metals, silver, platinum and palladium, reach between 8% and 10% of their total investment portfolio.
Devadason adds that it makes sense to have between one-tenth and one-fifth of investment in gold coins, wafers or bars. This relatively small portion of the total gold should be kept somewhere safe yet accessible in the event of a financial system meltdown.
“The likelihood of that happening is small, which is why the amount of physical gold that should be kept handy need not be very large,” he rationalises.
He points out that while gold is a safe investment during times of turmoil, human society doesn't just rely on gold for existence.
“Our economic health depends even more on the health of our businesses, on our supply of food and fuel, and in the real estate that houses us and our companies from which our crops spring forth,” he elaborates.
He adds that a well-diversified portfolio should include significant equity exposure in key geographic regions, including the economic powerhouse United States and well-run emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia.
He also suggests investing in equities that are tied with food production, hard commodity exposure such as oil, equities that are tied to mineral mining and exploration, and either direct real estate or indirect property exposure via real estate investment trusts.
“It is unwise to just invest in gold and any investment should be done as part of a concerted plan to construct a sensibly diversified portfolio,” he advises.
Devadason believes those who are savvy investors will gradually increase their personal purchases of gold over the next one or two years before everyone else wakes up to the fact that gold prices are rising.
He urges caution, though.
“It's likely a bubble will then form. When it bursts, unsophisticated speculators will lose a great deal of money,” he warns.

Malaysian banks: By market capitalisation

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Pos Malaysia divestment

Wednesday April 20, 2011

Pos Malaysia divestment

INVEST Malaysia has come and gone, and still there is no winner in the sale by Khazanah Nasional Bhd of its 32.2% stake in Pos Malaysia Bhd.

Perhaps that is apt, since the interests of minorities are very much in focus here, and the sellers need to carefully assess and address what might ultimately be not in line with the spirit of best practises.

Fact: Pos Malaysia's shareholding is highly fragmented about 23,800 shareholders, and ironically, majority owned by minorities.

We can see this from Pos' shareholding at the end of December, where there were 5,478 shareholders who owned a maximum of 100 shares in the postal company. This body of shareholders amounts to 23% of the total number.

A level higher, there are 8,443 shareholders who own between 100 and 1,000 shares, amounting to 35% of the total number of shareholders. And then there are another 8,531 shareholders who own a maximum of 10,000 shares in the company, also comprising about 35% of the total number of shareholders.

This would mean that 93% or a total of 22,452 retail minority shareholders of Pos Malaysia's may not enjoy the potential premium to the current price of RM3.51 as I write this article.

The rest of the shareholders are institutional funds such as the EPF, Socso and other unit trusts which will not enjoy this premium either.

(In a recent media release, Khazanah said it had shortlisted three and recently two bidders from five with offers ranging from RM3.38 to RM4.62 per share.)

Is this right? Should minorities be excluded from the potential upside on offer if the mandatory general offer (MGO) threshold of 33% is not breached?

This debate would be moot if the new owner is merely strategic. But as StarBiz rightly points out, Khazanah is asking bidders for their business plans for Pos Malaysia and rigorously vetting them. This suggests that the new owner could control the company with the 32.2% stake.

On the other hand, we also understand that Khazanah desires a “responsible exit” from Pos Malaysia as its services will impact all Malaysians thus the morally right thing for the seller to do whether control takes place or otherwise.

But the flipside is the possible exclusion of minorities from the premium potentially on offer that goes to only Khazanah because the sales falls short of the threshold level for an MGO by 0.8% .

Pos' book value per share stands at RM1.54 a share and it was reported initially that three shortlisted candidates were bidding between 2.2 times and 3 times, implying an offer range of RM3.38 to RM4.62 per share.

There are convincing arguments for minorities to be unhappy in such a situation where a new owner “slips in” without their consent or participation.

Firstly, there have been occasions in the past where minorities have not benefited from the exercise (such as Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli's 1994 acquisition of a 32% stake in Malaysia Airlines and Primus Pacific Partners' 2008 acquisition of a 20.2% block in EON Capital Bhd at a 55% premium).

Of course, the sellers might cite the possible upside from the stringent due diligence as a mitigating factor. After all, the reported final two shortlisted each bring their own niche expertise to the table, with one possibly looking to inject a bank via DRB, where, Khazanah the seller owns a substantial portion of it.

And Pos itself has been hard at work transforming itself. In June it announced a strategic alliance with UPS and jointly launched PosLaju International Premium, an international express delivery service serving over 215 countries.

And before that in January, Pos Malaysia and Maybank jointly launched a partnership to provide shared banking services at over 400 Pos Malaysia outlets around the country.

Is there a possible resolution to this? It depends.

Existing rules in the Takeover Code deem control as passing only when the 33% threshold has been breached and only then will there be a MGO for the remaining shares at the prevailing price by the offeror. It is essentially a numerical test, the same as in Britain, Hong Kong and Singapore, but the threshold levels are lower at 30%. The reasons cited is that determination of control is subjective.

The reality is that control in many cases can take place way below this threshold levels depending on the shareholding structure.

The more dispersed the shareholding, the easier to wrest control over the company as in this typical case of Pos.

Given the circumstances, it is important for the regulators to go beyond what is contained in the Takeover Code in certain cases, in assessing whether control has passed, and in assessing whether the rights and privileges of minorities might be compromised.

Pos Malaysia could be one such example?

Rita Benoy Bushon is chief executive officer of Minority Shareholder Watchdog Group.

Billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire case highlights need for checks

Wednesday April 6, 2011

Billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire case highlights need for checks

Plain Speaking - By Yap Leng Kuen

THE case involving the purchase of shares by David Sokol a former manager ofBerkshire Hathaway Inc in Lubrizol Corp, whose takeover he helped to negotiate, highlights the need for higher governance in large funds.
In his statement following Sokol's resignation, Berkshire chief executive Warren Buffett admitted that Sokol had informed him in a “passing remark'' about his shareholding in Lubrizol but he (Buffett) did not pursue the matter.
“Shortly before I left for Asia on March 19, I learned that Dave first purchased 2,300 shares of Lubrizol on Dec 14, which he then sold on Dec 21.
“Subsequently, on Jan 5, 6 and 7, he bought 96,060 shares pursuant to a 100,000-share order he had placed with a US$104 per share limit price,'' said Buffett in the statement that appeared in the Telegraph last Thursday.
In this photo from May 1, 2010, David Sokol, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway's MidAmerican Energy, NetJets and Johns Manville units, speaks to shareholders at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, in Omaha, Neb. Sokol, who suddenly resigned this week, said he wanted to start his own investment firm patterned after Warren Buffett's company. - AP
According to the statement, the two men first discussed the idea of buying Lubrizol in mid-January; however, Buffett became interested only after Sokol informed him of a talk with Lubrizol CEO James Hambrik on Jan 25.
Buffett then decided to buy Lubrizol, an engine lubricant maker, for US$9bil, in which Sokol may have made a profit of about US$3mil, according to Buffett's disclosure and data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Though the offer to purchase was entirely my decision, supported by Berkshire's board on March 13, it would not have occurred without Dave's early efforts,'' Buffett wrote in his statement.
Bloomberg reported, quoting an anonymous person, that the US Securities and Exchange Commission was examining if Sokol bought Lubrizol shares on inside information although there were opinions that this was more of a case of misconduct.
Buffett said in his statement that both men did not feel that Sokol's Lubrizol share purchases were in any way unlawful.
Sokol said in a CNBC interview that he didn't think he had done anything wrong.
This photo taken April 30, 2010, shows Todd Raba, left, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary Johns Manville, as he walks with his boss, investor Warren Buffett, in Omaha, Neb. Raba will become chairman of Johns Manville following the surprise resignation of David Sokol. - AP
“I can understand the appearance issue and that's why we made it public in the press release,” Bloomberg reported, quoting Sokol.
“The reality is that I have no control over a deal ever happening,'' he added.
Top managers and supervisors are responsible for the actions of their key staff especially when it comes to sensitive implications like insider trading and conflict of interest.
Reliance on self-discipline may not be sufficient; instead, a system of checks and risk controls need to be put in place for better investor protection.
Similar cases can occur elsewhere and unless exposed, or in this instance, mentioned by Sokol himself, money made on the sidelines is usually quietly pocketed.
The lure of big money can lead to dangerous actions which, if left unchecked, can have overall disastrous consequences such as in the recent US subprime housing crisis.
There are moves to regulate hedge funds in the US and Europe but the industry should not just sit back and wait for the guidelines and rules before taking preventive measures on its own.
Top managers should be carefully screened for the job and their progress subsequently monitored. While too much micro managing is bad, it is inevitable that some form of surveillance has to be in place, especially after what happened in the subprime rout.
  • Associate editor Yap Leng Kuen views that it is often from small incidents that big mistakes develop.

  • Tuesday, 19 April 2011

    QL associate Boilermech to raise RM11.5m from ACE listing

    QL associate Boilermech to raise RM11.5m from ACE listing
    Tags: Boilermerch Holdings Bhd | QL Resources Bhd

    Written by Daniel Khoo
    Friday, 15 April 2011 11:31

    KUALA LUMPUR: Boilermech Holdings Bhd will raise RM11.52 million from its listing on Bursa Malaysia’s ACE Market, which is scheduled for May 5.

    The company, an associate of food and agriculture group QL Resources Bhd, is a manufacturer of biomass boilers mainly for the palm oil milling industry.

    It also serves other industries such as sugar milling, rubber-based manufacturers, food processing and palm oil refineries. QL will see its stake dilute to 35.03% after the listing.

    The IPO will see Boilermech conducting both a public issuance and an offer for sale.

    Under the public issuance, Boilermech will issue 34.9 million new shares of 33 sen each worth RM11.52 million, of which 19.25 million shares will be allocated for application by private placement to identified bumiputera investors, eight million shares for the public and 7.65 million shares for application by eligible directors and employees.

    The IPO will also see an offer for sale of 13.5 million shares each totalling RM4.46 million by its major shareholders of which nine million shares will be privately placed out to bumiputera investors approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and another 4.5 million shares by private placement to identified investors.

    Of the proceeds raised for Boilermech, the company will use RM4 million for business expansion plans, RM2.5 million for repayment of its term loan, RM3.32 million for working capital and RM1.7 million to defray listing expenses.

    (From left) OSK Investment Bank director/head of equity capital market Gan Kim Khoon, Boilermech Holdings Bhd chairman Dr Chia Song Kun, OSK Investment Bank director of corporate finance Tan Meng Kim and Leong at the launch of Boilermech’s prospectus yesterday.

    “The group also intends to utilise RM500,000 of the proceeds towards intensifying its sales and marketing efforts in palm producing and agricultural-based processing countries in Southeast Asia, the African continent and the Central and South American region,” Boilermech said in a statement yesterday.

    Directors who are offering for sale of a part of their stakes include Leong Yew Cheong who will see his stake diluted to 15.69% from 20.83% prior to the listing, as well as Wong Wee Voo, whose stake will be diluted to 10.67% from 14.13%. Chia Lik Khai, who is both a director at QL Green Resources Bhd and an executive director at Boilermech, said the investment which was done by QL just before Boilermech decided to list is synergistic and will see long-term benefits for both companies.

    In its prospectus, the company highlights its main risk as the dependence on the palm oil industry, which in a downturn could mean lower palm oil production activities, fewer palm oil mills being built, lack of growth in plantation acreage and shrinking demand for its repairs and maintenance services.

    Analysts note that with crude palm oil prices at above RM3,000 per tonne and production costs of RM1,200-RM1,400 per tonne, the outlook for the plantation sector remains buoyant. However, they note that labour and land cost issues could limit the sector’s expansion in Malaysia.

    This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, April 15, 2011.

    IOI Corp falls to lowest since Sept last year

    IOI Corp falls to lowest since Sept last year
    Written by Joseph Chin of theedgemalaysia.com
    Monday, 18 April 2011 16:13

    KUALA LUMPUR: Shares of IOI Corp fell to a low of RM5.28 in late afternoon trade on Monday, April 18, which was the lowest since Sept 1, 2010.

    At 3.50pm, it was down 13 sen to RM5.28 with 8.40 million shares done.

    The FBM KLCI rose 5.62 points to 1,527.56. Turnover was 809.16 million shares valued at RM1.07 billion. There were 414 gainers, 266 losers and 272 stocks unchanged.

    The most recent development involving IOI was its acquisition of a 49.9% interest in the South Beach project in Singapore through a restructuring exercise.

    To recap, recently IOI bought a 33.3% stake in the project from Elad Group Singapore Pte Ltd for S$174 million (RM417 million).

    Subsequently, IOI had injected the 33.3% stake into Scottsdale PROPERTIES [] Pte Ltd. Scottsdale Properties now owns 100% of South Beach. IOI then paid S$115 million (RM276 million) for a 49.9% stake in Scottsdale and will advance S$28 million as a shareholder’s loan. The other 50.1% shareholder of South Beach is City Developments Ltd (CDL).

    AmResearch said: “In total, we estimate that IOI paid S$317 million (RM761 million) for a 49.9% stake in the South Beach project. Previous reports had speculated that IOI would pay between S$170 million and S$175 million for a 33.3% stake in South Beach."

    The research report said IOI and CDL may be required to further contribute equity of S$500million each to redeem existing mezzanine notes of the project, working capital and part-finance the CONSTRUCTION [] of South Beach. IOI’s investment in the South Beach project has so far cost S$817 million (RM2 billion).

    “We believe that IOI would be raising funds to finance its investment in South Beach. The group’s net gearing stood at 8% as at end-June 2010. Net debt amounted RM876million while gross cash and short-term investments totalled RM3.9 billion,” AmResearch said.

    BAT Malaysia to double cigarette exports

    BAT Malaysia to double cigarette exports
    Published: 2011/04/19

    British American Tobacco (Malaysia) Bhd, the country’s biggest cigarette-maker, will double exports this year, Managing Director William Toh told reporters in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur today.

    The Selangor-based company will start sales to Japan and Australasia, Toh said.

    Illicit cigarettes remain a threat to operations in the first quarter, he said. - Bloomberg

    Read more: BAT Malaysia to double cigarette exports http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419143942/Article/index_html#ixzz1JyqKTC1i

    OSK maintains 'hold' call on Tenaga

    OSK maintains 'hold' call on Tenaga
    Published: 2011/04/19

    Higher coal costs and weak electricity sales in the first half of Tenaga Nasional Bhd''s (TNB) 2011 financial year are likely to weaken the company''s second quarter results to be announced on Thursday.

    "Supported by high crude oil prices, coal costs remain persistently high with Newcastle coal at over US$120 per tonne despite a temporary weaker demand due to Japan''s natural calamities," OSK Research said in a research note today.

    It expected TNB''s first half electricity sales growth to be weak given that sales for the five-month period from Sept 1, 2010 to Jan 31, 2010 in Peninsular Malaysia grew by only 3.8 per cent year-on-year.

    Hence, OSK maintained a hold call on TNB.

    "We have downgraded financial year 2011 earnings by 17 per cent to RM2.4 billion due to the raising of our coal assumption by US$10 per tonne to US$110 per tonne in the absence of any off-setting tariff rate increase," OSK Research said.

    Currently, the research house said, the greater risk to TNB''s earnings stemmed from the rise in fuel costs and the timing of an electricity tariff hike to offset the higher costs.

    Echoing the view that second quarter results would experience a decline, Kenanga Research said further erosions to earnings would eat into TNB''s RM9.2 billion cash pile which is dedicated for several reasons, including repayment of debts and future power plant projects. - BERNAMA

    Read more: OSK maintains 'hold' call on Tenaga http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419133621/Article/index_html#ixzz1JyomhAv9

    Malaysian Bulk Carriers sees revenue drop

    Malaysian Bulk Carriers sees revenue drop
    Published: 2011/04/19

    Malaysian Bulk Carriers Bhd (MBC) expects to record a lower revenue this year amid the currently challenging market.

    Its chief executive officer, Kuok Khoon Kuan said the shipping industry was very competitive and the company would need to spend more for growth and expansion in order to survive.

    "We expect growth in terms of asset size, which we have already started last year," he told reporters after the company's annual general meeting here today, adding that the company planned to acquire more ships this year as well as rebuild its fleet.

    While he did not disclose the budget for their expansion, he said the company would not miss out on a good buy.

    "It is a matter of opportunity. You see a good ship, with a good price, you go in," he added.

    For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2010, MBC's revenue grew 33 per cent to RM404.3 million from RM303.7 million in 2009.

    The better performance was attributed to a firmer dry bulk market and increased hire days. - BERNAMA

    Read more: Malaysian Bulk Carriers sees revenue drop http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419151950/Article/index_html#ixzz1JynYR3XO

    Public Bank Q1 net profit rises 21pc

    Public Bank Q1 net profit rises 21pc
    By Zurinna Raja Adam
    Published: 2011/04/19

    Public Bank recorded RM828 million in net profit for the first quarter against RM685 million during the same period last year.

    Kuala Lumpur: Public Bank Bhd (1295), the country's third largest lender, saw its first-quarter net profit rise by 21 per cent and hopes to continue its "satisfactory" performance for the rest of 2011.

    Despite a slowdown in global economy, Public Bank said, the domestic operating environment remained buoyant, due to sustainable domestic demand, with the expectation of between 5 and 6 per cent growth in the economy this year.

    Public Bank recorded RM828 million in net profit for the first quarter against RM685 million during the same period last year.

    Chairman Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow said the banking group's lending activities remained focused on the retail sector, which accounted for 85 per cent of the group's total loan portfolio.

    "This comprises loans to mid-market commercial enterprises as well as loans for the financing of residential properties and the purchase of passenger vehicles," Teh said in a statement yesterday.

    On its overseas expansion, he said the group will remain focused on its Hong Kong and Cambodian operations, with plans to open three new branches in Hong Kong and six new branches in Cambodia by the end of this year.

    Public Bank's domestic loan base grew by 3.6 per cent during the quarter compared to the domestic banking industry's loan growth of 1.7 per cent in the first two months of 2011.

    Its domestic market share of loans and advances stood at 16.2 per cent as at end of February this year.

    Public Bank attributed its strong growth in net interest and finance income, which grew 10 per cent during the quarter, on the back of strong organic growth and core customers deposits.

    For the first quarter of 2011, Public Bank's domestic retail loan approvals increased by 10 per cent, with housing loan approvals growing at a higher 17 per cent.

    The bank approved a total of RM3 billion of loans to domestic small and medium enterprises, 11 per cent higher than the corresponding quarter in 2010.

    Public Mutual Bhd, the group's wholly-owned unit trust fund management subsidiary, continued to be the clear market leader in the private unit trust industry, with an overall market share of 45 per cent.

    As at end-March 2011, Public Mutual's net assets under management stood at RM42.4 billion, or 16 per cent higher, compared with RM36.6 billion a year ago.

    Yesterday, Public Bank's share price closed 2 sen higher to RM13.06.

    Read more: Public Bank Q1 net profit rises 21pc http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/publcof/Article/index_html#ixzz1JylptVzl

    Padini share placement to raise RM183m

    Padini share placement to raise RM183m
    Published: 2011/04/19

    Malaysia’s Puncak Bestari Sdn Bhd will raise as much as RM183 million from the placement of shares in fashion retailer Padini Holdings Bhd , according to a term sheet obtained by Reuters on today.

    Puncak is offering 179.3 million Padini shares at RM1.02 per share, a discount of 3.9 per cent to its closing price yesterday, the term sheet showed.

    The placement exercise, representing about 27 per cent of Padini’s existing share capital, is jointly managed by CIMB and Maybank.

    The placement price values the company at about 8.4 times price-to-2011 earnings against the 11.4 times average for its peers AEON and FJ Benjamin. - Reuters

    Read more: Padini share placement to raise RM183m http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419094957/Article/index_html#ixzz1Jykt9bd0

    Aeon Credit profit up 17pc to RM63m

    Aeon Credit profit up 17pc to RM63m
    Published: 2011/04/19

    AEON Credit Service (M) Bhd's net profit for the financial year ended Feb 20, 2011 increased by 16.8 percent to RM63.43 million from the RM54.27 million recorded the previous year.

    In a statement today, AEON Credit said revenue for the year stood at RM269.61 million, representing a growth of 8.5 percent over the previous year.

    It attributed the uptrend to growth in transaction volume for credit card operations as well as easy payment financing schemes.

    Total transaction and financing volume of RM1.176 billion for the year, represented a 24 per cent growth from the previous year, while total credit cards in circulation increased by 27 per cent to 143,000 as at February 2011.

    Meanwhile, the non-performing loans ratio stood at 1.83 per cent as at February compared to 1.80 per cent recorded in the same period last year. - BERNAMA

    Read more: Aeon Credit profit up 17pc to RM63m http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419194455/Article/index_html#ixzz1JykFeWIT

    Analysts bullish on Public Bank

    Analysts bullish on Public Bank
    Published: 2011/04/19

    Public Bank Bhd remains well-positioned to meet the challenges of rising interest rates, backed by a low duration bond portfolio and lower asset risks, says Kenanga Research.

    In fact, a rate hike will increase the bank's net interest income given the higher growth rates of loans and low-cost deposits, it said in a research note today.

    "Moreover, management has started managing its interest rate risk with the aim of growing the fee-based income by 30 per cent year-on-year for financial year 2011, via stronger contributions from bancassurance and fund management," it added.

    Kenanga Research has rated Public Bank an "outperform" with a target price of RM14.80.

    Another research firm, HwangDBS Vickers Research expects Public Bank to continue to steer towards growing non-interest income, particularly bancassurance, supported by forex income.

    The research firm believed the bank's unit trusts sales would remain the main driver of non-interest income for now.

    HwangDBS Vickers has maintained its "hold" recommendation on the bank with target price of RM13.10.

    AmResearch also maintained its "hold" recommendation on Public Bank with an unchanged fair value of RM14.30 per share.

    For the first quarter ended March 31, 2011, Public Bank Bhd's pre-tax profit rose 19 per cent to RM1.097 billion from RM922.57 million in the same quarter 2010.

    Its revenue jumped to RM2.99 billion from RM2.507 billion previously. -- Bernama

    Read more: Analysts bullish on Public Bank http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/20110419125044/Article/index_html#ixzz1JyjQQruv

    Thursday, 14 April 2011

    Mamee-Double Decker’s privatisation on track

    Thursday April 14, 2011

    Mamee-Double Decker’s privatisation on track

    MAMEE-DOUBLE Decker (M) Bhd has been in the limelight recently due to a privatisation proposal by major shareholders in a selective capital reduction (SCR) and repayment exercise under Section 64 of the Companies Act, 1965. This is a privatisation route that has been used successfully by several other companies.

    Some examples are Halim Mazmin Bhd and Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) unit VADS Bhd, both of which were de-listed in 2009.

    Jupiter Securities head of research Pong Teng Siew says for some companies, the SCR is a preferred method for privatisation as the company foots the bill to pay off minority shareholders.

    “Perhaps one out of 100 companies will use this method rather than making a general offer. Normally companies that use this method are quite strong financially. Also, the company would have strong cash flows, a good track record over the long term, the share is undervalued (cheap in context of price to earnings ratio - PE). A good yard stick would be share price to cash flow ratio.”

    However, Pong pointed out that the company's gearing level can balloon substantially if the SCR was successfully concluded.

    Affin Investment Bank Bhd research head Andy Ong shared a similar opinion.

    As far as the offer is concerned, most analysts agree that minority shareholders of Mamee-Double Decker are getting a “fair deal” based on the capital repayment offer of RM4.39 per share, which as pointed out by Jupiter Securities, represented a 21.9% premium over the last traded price of RM3.60 prior to its trading suspension and 2.6 times book value as at end-Dec 2010.

    The research house points out that the offer is 9.2% lower than the firm's fair value of RM4.75, which is based on 13 times price to earnings ratio (on FY11 projected earnings per share of 36.5 sen.

    Mamee-Double Decker's shares surged 17% or 60 sen on Monday to close at RM4.20 following the announcement.

    However, there was no change in the closing price of Mamee-Double Decker's shares yesterday which had a day high of RM4.21. The volume traded yesterday was also low at 199,500 shares.

    Jupiter Securities said “at the closing price of RM4.20, the stock is still about 4.3% away from the offer price of RM4.39. With the time needed to complete the deal estimated at six months, annualised return at current price is slightly in excess of 8%.” The report added that the risk of a non-successful conclusion of the privatisation was low, as the offer price is at 22% above the pre-suspension price.

    Mamee-Double Decker in its announcement last Friday, had said “the board is concerned about the trend of increasing raw material prices as well as foreign exchange volatility amidst the uncertain economic environment.

    Mamee-Double Decker plans to fork out RM100mil capital expenditure this year to upgrade its facilities and machinery in Malacca.

    The company also noted that its shares had been thinly traded.

    Jupiter Securities said “the low trading volume arose from a “chicken and egg” situation where fund managers that are interested in the stock are unable to get meaningful amount of shares without driving the price up. On the other hand, the controlling shareholders with a 71.9% stake are unwilling to part with their holding at a give-away price.”

    Hence, the privatisation would help resolve the valuation issue for the major shareholders and permit minority shareholders to exit at a premium to the market price.

    However, the privatisation exercise, if successful, would result in a substantially higher level of gearing.

    Under the plan, major shareholders of Mamee-Double Decker who control the company would repay RM179.8mil or RM4.39 a share to minority shareholders.

    The report said there was a possibility that post-privatisation, a new equity partner would take up a substantial stake in the company and would provide the funds for its expansion and reduce the gearing. It further speculated a possible re-listing of Mamee-Double Decker a “few years down the road.”


    Tuesday, 12 April 2011

    Muslim BRIC has arrived

    Published: 2011/04/12
    THE investing and financing world is about country linkages that are economic and financial opportunities clustered as growth stories. The most recognised country linkage is BRIC (Brazil, Russia India and China): it conjures mental images of geographies, growth, size, demand, etc.

    Another term that is increasingly invoked by businesses looking for opportunities is 'RDE,' or Rapidly Developing Economies, and includes examples of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and so on. To put theory into practice, globally committed firms, like Thomson Reuters, have established positions like Global Head of RDE.

    But, as this column is about Islamic finance, Halal industry, and Muslim countries, we now need to think a 'Muslim BRIC.' But, why? The simple answer is 'why not,' but the relevant answer is the present Muslim country clusters news and information is more about coverage than investing and trading opportunities.

    The acid test is this; are Muslim country investors, from middle class to high net-worth to institutional, investing in a meaningful way in fellow Muslim majority OIC countries like Albania, Benin, Comoros, Gabon, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Somalia and/or Yemen? 

    Today, we have 57 Muslim countries and 1.6 billion Muslims, we need a Muslim BRIC that conjures similar focused images of potential, opportunity, and accessibility. We can look at the Silk Road countries, OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) countries, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, and so on, yet, outside of conferences in or about Muslim countries, such clusters are not capturing the investors' imagination or attention.


    On April 4, Thomson Reuters, along with their partners, IdealRatings, and World Halal Forum launched the SAMI Halal Food index. The SAMI Halal food index stands for Socially Acceptable Market Investments. 

    The index is about the beginning of convergence between Islamic finance and Halal industry. But, more importantly, its about Muslim country inward investing as Muslims, presently as 'consumer investors' in these halal food firms become shareholder investors.

    Now, within the 'BRIC context,' SAMI stands for Saudi, Ankara, Malaysia and Indonesia. Without getting into the multitude of economic and financial numbers for these four countries on GDP growth, inflation, foreign direct investment, exports, debt capital market development, population growth patterns, and so on, we have a compelling established emerging market that happens to be Muslim countries on the old Silk Road.


    The question is why the SAMI acronym? As with any branding exercise, it comes down to recall, recognition and reach whilst conveying a visual message of sustainable and scalable opportunities. The opportunities have become increasingly de-linked from the political minefield commonly found in emerging markets, which happen to be all Muslim countries.

    Some general observations about SAMI countries include:

    1. Three countries are G-20 countries: Saudi Arabia, Turkey (Ankara), and Indonesia. But, these countries are also the anchors for their respective geographies; Saudi Arabia for GCC (6) countries, Indonesia for Asean (10) countries, and Turkey for (5) CIS countries and beyond. These regions, especially GCC and CIS, may be viewed as pre-RDE countries.

    2. Malaysia is the recognised global leader in both Islamic finance and Halal Food. Much has been written about Malaysia's achievements, but the real take away message for any country, Muslim or non-Muslim, wanting to be a hub, is the holistic and consistent approach of the country on the two inter-related sectors.

    3. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer and largest halal food importer. The political crisis in the Arab world has shown the importance of Saudi Arabia, as the country stepped up oil production to offset the loss of Libyan oil from the markets. 

    4. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population and growing

    Meanwhile, Turkey is the 'sizeable' bridge to the east and west, as led by the present Islamist party.

    Indexes & MNEs

    One of the many spin-off possibilities here is a four country SAMI equity indexes for syariah-compliance, halal and conventional food.

    Much like BRIC indexes convey a pulse of health, opportunities, fund flows, etc, the SAMI indexes will present not only 'conventional,' but Islamic and halal food (consumer non-cyclical sector) opportunities, information and insights.

    From Indexes come firmsthat become the alter-ego of the country. The Financial Times had an interesting observation on Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) from RDEs, like Petro-China, Embraer (Brazil), Wipro (India), as these firms have become global brands and country ambassadors in a short time. 

    The 'good will' created and disseminated globally by such firms about their countries has detached them from the political landmines associated with emerging markets.

    In the Muslim world, according to Dinar standards (DS), Muslim MNEs, as part of the DS-100 index, may be the next hidden gems for all investors. Thus, firms like Petronas, Emirates Airlines (Dubai), Kuwait Finance House (Kuwait), Ulker (Turkey), Indomie (Indonesia), and others represent tomorrow's Muslim country global ambassadors of investable opportunities.

    Thus, the Muslim BRIC, SAMI, has arrived in Malaysia.

    The writer is global head of Islamic Finance for Thomson Reuters, based in New York.

    Read more: Muslim BRIC has arrived http://www.btimes.com.my/Current_News/BTIMES/articles/SAMI/Article/index_html#ixzz1JGV7W0Tr

    Mamee-Double Decker offer seen as fair

    Tuesday April 12, 2011

    Mamee-Double Decker offer seen as fair

    Analysts say privatisation price of RM4.39 per share acceptable

    PETALING JAYA: While minority shareholders have the right to reject the offer to privatise Mamee-Double Decker (M) Bhd, analysts contacted by StarBiz say the capital repayment offer of RM4.39 per share is a fair deal.

    Last Friday, the major shareholders of Mamee-Double Decker, who own 72% of the company, proposed a privatisation of the company via Section 64 of the Companies Act, 1965, which entails a capital reduction and repayment.

    Such a proposal will require the approval of 75% of the minority shareholders of Mamee-Double Decker. In other words, the Pang family, which controls 72% of Mamee-Double Decker, will not be able to vote on this proposal.

    An analyst from Kenanga Research recommends that shareholders accept the proposal as the offer price is at a historical price to earnings ratio (PE) of 15 times.

    “The offer is attractive as our fair value is RM3.65 a share,” he said.

    Another analyst from a local research firm pointed out that Mamee-Double Decker had plans for a RM100mil capital expenditure (capex) this year to upgrade its facilities and machinery in Malacca.

    “A substantial capex may result in higher borrowing costs, which would affect dividend payments,” he said.

    Mamee-Double Decker has a gross dividend yield of 2.62%, according to Bloomberg data.

    The company itself had articulated this in its announcement of the exercise, when it said that “to fund the capital expenditure, the group may need to incur higher bank borrowings and this may result in higher borrowing costs which will then affect the dividend payment capability of Mamee-Double Decker in the immediate term.”

    The company also noted that its shares had been thinly traded. In its announcement on Friday, Mamee-Double Decker pointed out that the daily average trading volume of its shares over the past one year was approximately a mere 0.22% of its total free float.

    It said that given the “challenging environment and low trading liquidity” of its shares, the selective capital repayment represents “an opportunity for entitled shareholders to realise their investments in Mamee-Double Decker at an attractive premium above the historical trading prices.”

    Another analyst said his research firm has maintained a fair value of RM4.44 a share for Mamee-Double Decker.

    “Despite this, we still recommend acceptance of the offer of RM4.39 a share at this juncture,” he said.

    OSK Research analyst Eing Kar Mei shares the same view.

    “Our target price, based on FY10 results, was RM3.44 a share.

    “Also, there are concerns over rising commodity prices, and margins may be under pressure as the company plans to spend a substantial amount on upgrading and expansion exercises,” said Eing.

    However, Eing pointed out that the privatisation plan was far from being a done deal as Mamee-Double Decker needed to obtain approval from 75% of the remaining minority stakeholders.

    To be noted is that the controlling shareholders, namely the Pang family and associated parties, would waive their entitlement from receiving cash under the capital repayment exercise.

    OSK Investment Bank Bhd and OCBC Advisers (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd are the principal adviser and the financial adviser respectively for the exercise.

    Mamee-Double Decker's shares surged 17% or 60 sen yesterday to close at RM4.20.


    Almost as many companies taken private as IPOs the past 6 months

    “There are multiple reasons why companies are taken private. For instance, the owners of a company sees value in a company and will rather privatise it so that the profits can be kept for themselves. Also, some owners may want to list the company in other markets such as Hong Kong as they seek out better value,”said TA Securities Holdings Bhd head of research Kaladher Govindan.

    Almost as many companies taken private as IPOs the past 6 months

    Tuesday April 12, 2011

    Almost as many companies taken private as IPOs the past 6 months

    PETALING JAYA: Although the number of initial public offerings on the local stock exchange doubled to 29 last year from 2009 and the first quarter of this year has seen nine companies list, there was also a sizeable number of companies being taken private.

    In comparison, 13 companies have been listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia since last October to April this year while over 10 Main Market companies received privatisation proposals in that same duration.

    Aberdeen Asset Management Sdn Bhd managing director Gerald Ambrose said a reason for the slew of privatisation was because those stocks were trading at valuation discounts in comparison to regional peers.

    He added that aside from companies being undervalued by the local market, another rational was that “we are on the cusp of a corporate spending cycle”, since the corporate sector has been largely cashed up.

    “There are multiple reasons why companies are taken private. For instance, the owners of a company sees value in a company and will rather privatise it so that the profits can be kept for themselves. Also, some owners may want to list the company in other markets such as Hong Kong as they seek out better value,” said TA Securities Holdings Bhd head of research Kaladher Govindan.

    He added that as with government initiatives undertaken to attract foreign direct investments into the country, there should be policies or incentives to make it more attractive to keep companies listed here, especially since their operations are based domestically.

    A popular route used for such privatisation proposals by its major shareholders, notably in the last six months, was the takeover of assets and liabilities of the listed entities, including Sunway Holdings Bhd and Sunway City Bhd, PLUS Expressways Bhd, Emivest Bhd, Leong Hup Holdings Bhd and Asia Pacific Land Bhd.

    For instance, Sunway Group chairman Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah and his daughter proposed to take over the assets and liabilities of Sunway Holdings Bhd and Sunway City Bhd (listed on the Main Market) late last year through their own vehicle Sunway Sdn Bhd. After the privatisation of both these companies, the plan is to list Sunway Sdn Bhd sometime this year.

    Other companies to have more recently received privatisation proposals include Berjaya Retail Bhd and Mamee-Double Decker (M) Bhd.

    While the number of listings may be comparable to the quantum of companies being taken private, it must be noted that there were two significant listings Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Holdings Bhd (MMHE) and Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd by market capitalisation in the final quarter of last year. Both companies are Petronas-owned.

    As at yesterday, MMHE and Petronas Chemicals had a market capitalisation of RM10.99bil and RM53.32bil respectively, while the latter is a member of the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index.

    However, industry players note that companies being taken private equal less stock options for investors in the market and will not bode well for overall market sentiment.

    Over the last nine years, the total market capitalisation of Bursa Malaysia had grown at a rate of 10% per annum, while stock markets in Indonesia and Singapore had grown at 24% and 17% respectively.

    Malaysia's MSCI Asia excluding Japan weighting has shrunk to only 3.2% from 6% in 2000, causing international fund managers to disregard Bursa.

    To add to this, Bursa's liquidity has lost its vibrancy, with its liquidity ranking in Asia dropping from third in 1996 to 14th this year. There is also limited diversity in the market, be it in terms of products or currency.

    Invest Malaysia 2011, which starts today over a two day period, is expected to see the unveiling of several highly anticipated IPOs which include the listing of several units under Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd.