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1st Post Of 2019.

Just realized that it’s been >1 month since my last post. Have been swarmed with work and life in general.

And what’d you know… Just as I was typing this post, I got this email:

813) dead blog.jpg

LOL. Yea. Exactly 37mins ago.

Anyway, the 1st post in 2019 will be just a random mish mash of whatever comes to mind. Oh oh, I guess some results reporting is in order too.

But 1st up, part of the motivation for this post is to help the guys at SGX announce this .(belatedly, but better late than never).

I’d just literally cut and paste instead of trying to talk about it (cos I’m really tired right now):

814) New SGX website.jpg

I am pleased to inform you that the long-awaited new SGX.com will be officially replacing our existing website on 12 Jan 2019.

The new website features three key improvements:

  1. It is mobile responsive and device agnostic, being compatible with any smartphone, tablet or desktop device.
  2. It supports multi-lingual content, and is now available in both English and Chinese. More relevant languages will be added in future.
  3. The site interface, navigation and content structure have also been streamlined and improved. Some major improvements include the reduction of the number of page levels from 6 down to 3, and the total number of pages from 450 to 80.  These changes will ensure that information is concise and easy to find.

One other key highlight is the implementation of smart data visualisation, which enriches our content and help users derive insights and trends more conveniently. Market data is also close to real-time update and the data refreshes automatically without requiring the users to click to refresh.

As a multi-asset exchange, we have a wide range of website users with different needs. This new sgx.com is our first step in upgrading our customer’s digital experience. Future developments in the pipeline include segment-specific portals – such as the emerging investor portal, issuer portal, and more. These will help us in catering tailored information and services to users with different specific needs.

Yup.

New year, New site.

SGX has been working on their new site for some time actually, I rem they sent me some beta test site sometime last year. I guess being compatible with mobile devices is really important, these days, multi million dollar decisions are made on mobile huh.

So go check it out.


I’m pessimistic.

I’m not talking about investing and the stock markets, but the general business environment and the climate in SG. And specifically, for my personal businesses.

But then, here’s the kicker.

I’m always pessimistic this time of the year, when planning and doing the projections for the business for the whole year. Been like this since 2010.  And each year, I keep thinking, how are we going to match the results of the prior year.

Yet… I’ve been wrong for the past 9 years! Every year showed both revenue and profit growth yoy. And in fact, 2018 was a record year. By far.

This is a plot dot chart of the business’ monthly revenue since 2010:

815) Revenue.jpg

Maybe TA experts can tell me what they see. LOL. My interpretation… is that actually a sort of plateau is starting to form.

I guess, the past decade or so, since the GFC, has been just boom times for everyone.

Instead of celebrating though, it makes me more worried than ever. It just seems so hard. Cos if you think about it, the operating costs for businesses keeps rising every year. Without fail.

Just staff costs alone has to keep rising. Ask any salaried employee in SG. Are they happy with an increment that matches that of the previous year’s? Many are actually not. I’m not talking about no increment, I’m talking about a CONSTANT increment. Yet most of the staff I talk to, wants an increasing increment. The quantum may seem small, but think about it from the perspective of the organization.

It’s like swimming against a tide… except that the tide isn’t just a constant tide. It’s a tide that’s increasing in strength.

You see, the logical balance is that businesses must raise it’s selling costs every year. At least to match inflation right? Cos staff costs increase, rental costs increase, COGS increases. Yet, (At least in my experience) there are very few businesses that actually increase their prices every year. Maybe… only hawkers get to do that.

So most businesses increase their selling prices every couple of years, and try to increase it at a rate that it covers the inflationary costs over the previous couple of years.

At the ground level, I’m really not seeing how 2019 can match the results of 2018’s. I’m not expecting a catastrophe kinda crash or doomsday scenario… but growth is hard. It’s very hard. To achieve growth each year, you’ve to maintain what you’ve been doing… and build on it. Add something to it. Do something different. Or do it more efficiently.

Either way, it’s no status quo. It’s a constant struggle to find that something different from previous years, to provide that spark for that growth.

That’s just so tiring sometimes.


Investing wise… 2018 has been a forgettable year for TTI.

After leading the S&P and STI ETF for a large part of the year, my ROI ended up in the red for 2018, coming in at a sad -8.8%. 

That compares unfavorably with STI ETF’s -7.03% for 2018 (inclusive of dividends)

816) STI ETF 2018.jpg

Quite ironic right? I thought “8” is supposed to be huat. How come I got 2 of that and it feels so sucky?

I could’ve sworn it felt like I was ahead of the STI ETF. I guess the Nov/Dec market weakness hit the US markets much harder than SG’s, and with my now increasing exposure to US markets, my portfolio lost the lead in that last quarter.

That’s the bad news.

The good news though, and this is 1 helluva good news, is that…

I’m starting 2019 with a massive BANG.

How massive you say?

Freaking bombastically massive.

818) Account NAV.jpg

YTD, and I know it’s only been about 2 weeks into the new year, but my US stocks and options portfolio is up a massive 23.42% MWR!

817) IB returns.jpg

That blue line on the chart above is TTI’s portfolio (non SG component), and in the past 2 weeks, it’s just been absolutely killing the competition.

The other lines are benchmarks that Interactive Brokers set… I’m not sure if they can be changed but I’d just follow. 1 of them is SPX, which is the S&P index and that’s the main benchmark I use. (That’s the lime green line)

The other 2 are:

iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA) (purple line)

and

Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (VT) (orange line)

Consequently, NAV has increased from USD 441,055.43 at the start of 2019, to the current USD 538,555.82, with zero capital injections in this period.

That’s an increase of USD 97,500.39 to my net worth since the start of the year!

The best 1 day return was on the 4th Jan, with a massive 7.32% return in a single day.

Now, this is just the US, and mainly options, portfolio, but SG is generally up too anyway, so I’m recording this as a big win thus far.

2 weeks gone, come on, let’s keep it like this for another 50.

As mentioned in earlier posts, my global options portfolio is likely to form a larger part of my overall portfolio going forward. As of today, it forms just under 40% of the overall portfolio, and will likely keep increasing over 2019.


So that’s all I have for the 1st post in 2019.

Blog posts will prob come once in a blue moon. Don’t really feel like documenting my DD these days. It’s so long and tedious. Energy and time is scarce.

P.S. To the reader above who emailed me: See? Blog’s not dead!

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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.