Bye Bye BBR Holdings!

It took me almost 2 years to fully divest all my shares in BBR Holdings, but as of today (09/11/2018), FINALLY! Someone took the remaining shares from me so… for the 1st time in… 5 YEARS (yes, I’ve been an unfortunate shareholder for 5 years), TTI is no longer holding a single share in BBR Holdings.

Good riddance!

Well, I’ve written extensively about BBR Holdings, so I shan’t go back to talk about it much. At 1 point, I was holding over 2.3mil shares in BBR Holdings, and managed to divest just over half in 2017 at near it’s multi year peak. Unfortunately, with such a large stake in an illiquid company, it’s hard to divest quickly, and it took me almost the entire of 2018 to sell off the remaining.

Overall, it has been a slightly profitable investment quantum wise, if dividends are included, but ultimately, an absolutely terrible investment %-wise, considering how the markets have performed in the past 5 years. Lotsa underperformance here, when compared to a passive index.

Anyway, some dude or entity or institution has been quietly supporting the share price. I know cos some dude will buy just 1,000 shares from me within the last trading hour, covering the humongous spread. It’s an obvious attempt to support the share price. Why so, I have no idea, so you guys can postulate. I’m guessing maybe it’s gotta do with the $0.2 MTP requirement.

BBR Holdings has dipped under this $0.2 share price for quite some time (thanks to a determined seller, yours truly).

Or it could be some poor soul trying to prevent margin calls. Good for you cos I’m outta way! The selling pressure will ease for sure, cos for the past several months, I’ve been setting the tone for the selling pressure (approximately), but of course, without going that low.

Anyhow, here are some key lessons I’ve learnt:

  1. Top of the list: Watch what the management does and see if it matches what they say. BBR Holdings has constantly failed to match up to what management guided for. They took write downs in key projects at a time when the environment was benign, and there were several tenders up for grabs. Of course, there’s the usual reason given: margins impacted, got to rush to meet deadlines, tough operating environment blah blah blah. When a company has sucky management, they always give the usual reasons. When times are tougher (like now), they also give the usual reasons for performing poorly. It never ends. There’s always a reason. I haven’t read of a company whereby the management put their hands up and says “ok, we screwed up folks.” (Musk did admit though, that he made some mistakes which led to more complexities for Tesla, but that’s… Musk.)
  2. Beware of companies who do innovation for the sake of innovation. What do shareholders want from a company? Innovation or profits? Well, sometimes, we want innovation…….. if it leads to profits further down the road. But no, we don’t want innovation to save the world. Let Bill Gates do that. Too bad BBR Holdings doesn’t think like their shareholders. After harping on their “1st mover advantage” in PPVC technology, and spending precious money buying Moderna Homes, they secured Singapore’s 1st ever tender from the government requiring PPVC to be used. Of course, the management went on to talk about the “steep learning curve” but that reinforces “their core competency” and “bodes well for future projects”. Well, 4 years later, many competitors do PPVC as well. Some have secured PPVC projects abroad. How about BBR? I dunno wth are they doing actually. Seriously. Still struggling to secure projects, still blaming it on the “tough conditions” and still “learning”. Perhaps the most illustrative example of this is their participation in a “test bed” of floating solar panels. Company money was spent, and after that, there was an announcement that the “project has successfully concluded”, with nary a development after that. WHERE’S THE ACCOUNTABILITY? If I wanted to fund a high school project, there’re lotsa other avenues to do that! I wonder if management would do that if they had to put their own money instead of the company’s. Oh and btw, after 3 solar panel projects, the trail has gone cold. This is such a brutal joke. I won’t be surprised if BBR starts selling ice cream next.
  3. Monitor industry-wide developments like a hawk. I’d give it to BBR here: the industry is indeed undergoing tough times. The thing is, I knew this was coming 2 years ago. You see, I know several private developers on a personal basis. These are small to mid sized developers, family owned, and I know them close enough to ask for in depth insight. These private developers have long stopped bidding for tenders. 1 has previously explained to me why they have been seeking projects abroad, mainly in Australia (this was last year, now, even Australia is tough). I should’ve seen the red flags. You see, these developers are separate, they don’t know each other. Yet, both told me similar stuff: with regard to construction projects, they both told me that they stopped participating because the margins are just not worth it. They also said that public listed companies still have to participate because they’re publicly listed. They have to show activity to justify the remuneration for the management. But privately owned ones are more interested in preservation of capital. Afterall, their entire family’s fortunes are tagged to their companies. With regard to PPVC, the second BBR announced they had this so called “1st mover advantage”, I checked this up with my contacts. None of them were enthusiastic. 1 went into detail telling me how much of a nightmare it’d be if there’s a leakage somewhere. It’d probably drain along the fissure lines since they’re piled up like a lego block. Another explained to me that they’d rather wait and see and let the others do it first. There’d certainly be mistakes and they’d rather watch and learn. Besides, the government policies may change after they too, learn more themselves. Finally, 1 even told me that errr, this is not even any new tech. In some countries, it’s almost routine, so they don’t see why the hype. So there. I’m not sure why I didn’t pay more attention. I guess… I was kinda willing BBR to succeed.
  4. Stay away from management with strong links to academia. You’d think that those in academia are talented people. In reality, they may be… but they’d probably be lousy businessmen. They have no business running a public listed company. I won’t offer more substantiation for this, it’s my opinion, but I think history is littered with such examples. Wanna read 1 famous example? Check out Long Term Capital Management. (https://www.bauer.uh.edu/rsusmel/7386/ltcm-2.htm) In future, if I see a management with academia links, I’m staying far far away. I don’t think Janet Yellen, despite her numerous credentials, would do very well leading a company. ANY company. (That’s why these folks are in academia, not in the rough and tumble of the real world.)
  5. Well, this is not specific to BBR Holdings, but… curiously, after multiple years of poor performance, dating from BEFORE I was a shareholder……. the same management remains….. and increases further in fact, with a “co-CEO”. (yup, BBR really did just that). That’s like an EPL team that got relegated, and in response, the coach decides to hire a “co-coach” instead of getting sacked. That screams of “ok-I’m-really-lousy-but-I-want-to-continue-to-be-paid-millions-yet-you-guys-are-braying-for-blood-so-I’d-just-hire-someone-to-share-the-blame”. In contrast, storied US companies like General Electric, kicked out their CEO abruptly when he failed to meet certain goals, and the turnaround of GE took longer than expected. It’s great to be a CEO of a public listed company in SGX. Your rice bowl is stronger than a civil servant’s. Do badly and it’s cos of “industry weakness”. Do well and it’s cos you’re a genius. And if someone points this out to you strongly enough, why, just sue the minority shareholder of course! Heads I win, Tails you lose, and if it lands miraculously on the side, obviously I win and you lose doubly.

OK, lastly, this has nothing to do with BBR per say, but it just so happens that I’m renovating one of my properties that has built-in PBUs. (prefabricated bathroom units). And it’s a NIGHTMARE to do so! Buyers be warned! I’m so avoiding PPVC and PBU in future. The contractors say it’s very difficult to do so and gave a ton of reason. Only very superficial cosmetic work can be done.

But if you want to say, hack the tiles, or change the entire window with the frame, it can still be done, but is very costly. I dunno if I’m being hoodwinked, but that’s what I’m told. Like changing the window frame of the PBU would crack all the surrounding tiles, and matching tiles are not available so you’d have to change ALL the wall tiles and stuff like that. And I’m told these issues are specifically relating to the fact that it’s a PBU.

So there.

Last word: You know how shitty the company is, when a long time large shareholder feels THIS elated after selling out of the position altogether. Feels absolutely great. I’ve a lot of ideas for deploying the capital now. It almost feels like I’ve just gotten out of an abusive relationship!

GOOD RIDDANCE.

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