Category Archives: Z-Personal Finance

2x bagger versus averaging up

We all know that the stock market has been making substantial gains lately, and it is not difficult to find some stocks, particularly the blue chips, that we have bought some time ago doubled itself in the share price. In other words, it is a 2x bagger. Well, impressive, isn’t it? We made 100% in capital gains. And it has not included dividends that have been distributed along the way.

Let us take a hypothetical case. Say we bought 1000 shares of a stock costing $10 per share. For the purpose of simplicity, we assume that the stock price increase 10% a year arithmetically. In other words, we bought the stock at $10 per share at the 1th year, but we stopped there and let the price run. By 2nd year, the stock price reached $11, then $12 at the 3rd year and so on. This carries on till the 11th year when the stock reached $20, which would have been a 2x bagger. In all the passing years, we received dividends equivalent to say about 3% of the stock value per year. Given that the share price increases arithmetically, the quantum of the dividend should also increase correspondingly. (In real situations, we do not expect that to happen in lock-step increment, but generally when the stock price increases due to the better fundamental of the company, the management generally moves up the dividend as well to align the dividend yield with the increasing stock price.)

So, based on the calculation, by the 11th year, we would have made a capital gain of 100%. If we add in the dividend, the gain would have been a whopping 149.5%, of course without taking into the time value of money.  Very good situation, indeed.

Now we take the situation a little further. Instead of purchasing 1000 shares of the stock and stop there, the investor continued to buy the stock consistently. There are, of course, infinite possibilities of buying and selling the stock and we cannot possibly include all the possible scenarios in this discussion. But given that the stock price continues to move up due to its underlying fundamentals, a likely situation would be that he has to buy the stock at higher and higher prices in the whole time-frame of 11 years.  Let us just take a situation that he bought the stock according to the increasing stock price of 10% increment every year in line with the average price of 10% increment in the stock price per year. At the end of 11 years, his capital gain would be $55,000 out of a total outlay of $165,000 or 33.3%. Sure, it does not sound as impressive in percentage term as the 1st case when he made 100% gain in capital gain. But in absolute sense, his capital gain of $55,000 would have out-beaten the earlier situation with capital gain of $10,000. By including his dividend of $33,000, his total gain would have been $88,000 compared to only a mere $10,000 in the 1st case.

Why am I making a case study of comparing the two scenarios? Very often, we think of making 2x bagger and 3x baggers that we forgot that making consistent investments may help us more in absolute sense in the long run than just in percentage terms. Especially when we have consistent income coming in, it makes good investment sense to invest consistently, and even to the extent of disregarding the stock price, to create the investing discipline. Timing the market to try our luck and make sudden gains make us very happy, but building our wealth through consistent investing is the key to financial success. What is the purpose of buying a stock and make a 3x bagger but the ‘new’ monies that comes in go to the bank to yield paltry interest.

But that said, it is important to note that overall outlay in the 2nd case ($165,000) is much higher than the 1st ($10,000), but it is still better than leaving the balance of $155,000 doing nothing. Worst of all, to put it in ‘investments’ that do not yield returns or even negative returns. It is also important that it requires a lot of discipline to consistently buy stocks at higher and higher prices. Psychologically, it is not easy to do so. Our mind is conditioned to buy things at discounts than to buy them at a premium, let alone buying them at increasing price each time. A lot of people lost money in investments is more because they bought wrong stocks at ‘discounted prices’ than people who bought the right stocks at ‘premium prices’. Investing requires several traits that work hand-in-hand – (1) do our homework to buy the right stocks, (2) discipline to hold the stock and even increasing the quantity, and (3) the mental fortitude to ride through the adversities.

Happy investing!

Note:

The writer is not a fund manager to invite investors to buy into his fund. He is taking a neutral stand to look at how we should manage our investments.

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Starting 2018 positively

Despite closing the year 2017 with an 18% upside in the Straits Times Index (STI), we saw another 90 points increase in the STI to end at 3489.45 in the first week of 2018. For myself, I am happy to have seen many days of advances last year. In the week that just passed us, like many investors out there, I have enjoyed a 5-digit figures climb a day in the three out of the four trading days. In a market like this, it is probably difficult to lose money. Maybe everybody has become an expert in their own rights. But going forward, it is unlikely that things would be repeating at this rate. Complacency may have already started to build in the minds of investors. The advances in the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJII) has become such a norm that any retreat is seen as an abnormality. Given that DJII has some bearing on the STI, the advance in STI is also becoming more and more of an expectation.

While I am personally enjoying the ride on this wave, I beg to be now more on guard than I had been last year. From the past experience, market crashes came when we were least expected of them. The global financial crisis struck when many Americans were chasing the American Dream. The Nikkei-225 fell when property prices in Tokyo had to be paid by three generations. The Asian financial crisis hit when property prices were around their highest level in the 90s. The DOT-COM bubble burst when there was extensive euphoric belief that any company registered as a DOT-COM was a pot of gold in the making. The list goes on.

In line with the rapid advancement of the STI, many would have agreed that it is getting more and more difficult to find gems that would potentially bring 30%-40% upside to their stock portfolio. On the whole, Mr Market has been quite generous in rewarding the true blue investors due to the extremely low interest rates after the global financial crisis. Going forward, the low-lying apples are no longer there for cherry-picking. In fact, the climb in the recent months has been quite confined to the banks, perhaps manufacturing and possibly some REIT counters that generally offer higher yield. Many of the STI constituents in transports, properties and conglomerates did not really move the STI very much, further weighed down by their lower weightage compare to the banks.

 

As a matter of opinion, the STI should still remain buoyant due to the spill-over effect of last year and playing catch-up with other financial markets, and very importantly, the economic performance of the local economy. But, whether this year is going to be as good as that of last year remains to be seen, particularly in the second half.

Happy investing!

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

 

Final post for the year 2017

Yesterday marked the end of the last trading day for the year. On the whole, it has been a great year even though the advancement of STI could not match that of the other markets like Dow Jones, Nikkei 225 or Hang Sheng Index. Still, it has been a decent climb of about 18%.

Looking back, it has been a good year in the backdrop of the stock market performance. It is also a year that 2x baggers or even 3x baggers touch-lines were crossed after having invested and accumulated those stocks for some time. Apart from the need for good stock selection, other essence such as patience and mental fortitude to act against times of adversity are also the necessary ingredients to make them happen. But again, life has not been without woes. Comfort Delgro did not perform as expected as it tussled between the bulls and bears the whole year long. The only saving grace has been that a huge percentage of this stock holding was purchased at an average cost of about $1.50 level many years ago and partially sold around its all-time high 2 years ago, thus providing a good cushion as the stock price fell from about $2.48 to $1.98 this year. Another was Midas Holding, which perhaps, was one of those things that we act out of character from time to time.

Taking a longer term snapshot of my stock investment journey, I would have considered that it has been a great blessing. Despite the close to nothing active income for the past 9 years, the stocks advancement had well-compensated for it. The focus on long-term goal has worked well for me to continue to accumulate stocks slowly. It has also taken a lot of pressure off unlike the younger days. This has enabled me to do and develop things that we do not have opportunities to lay our hands on while working full-time.

Perhaps, the generally low interest environment, coupled with the generally mild inflation, in the new millennium has benefitted stocks. By this time, many of us would have forgotten the hardy times when the fixed deposit (FD) rates of around 5% in the late 90s and around 10% in the early 80s. Going forward, I believe going back to the days of FD at 5% could still be some way off, but still, 2% or even 2.5% could be within striking distance in the next 2-3 years barring unforeseen circumstance.  So, to expect the stock performance for the next 2-3 years to be as good as this year would probably be too far-fetch. It could even be down significantly if the unexpected happens.

Until today, I still lament over the first 10 years of my investing journey. It all started even without knowing that a cheque-like paper attachment on a perforated A4 paper was indeed dividend from this company call Singapore Bus (a predecessor of Comfort Delgro). Unfortunately, it had been trial-and-error methodologies that lasted a good 10 years until the Asian financial crisis struck in the late 90s. The greed in me then was trying to chase every single so-called money-making opportunity that came along, attending countless hours in seminars on Saturday afternoons and weekday evenings. Still, I did not make good money in the early nineties when the stock market was red-hot and end up incurring losses when the Asian financial crisis swept across Asia in the end of 90s. In hindsight, I could have probably done much better if I had sought proper guidance and adopting strategies that suited my personality. By today, I do not attend any of these seminars or even some annual general meetings (AGMs) anymore. I think I could have spent those times to learn and improve other skills and to develop things that I can leave a legacy. That said, that was also the time of awakening that had helped laid the foundation stone that enabled me to rely on this investment mode to this day. After all, we cannot learn how to swim without drinking some pool water or learn how to cycle without falling off from a bike. There are always learning lessons no matter where we are in this journey.

Going forward, maybe it is also time to tone down on stocks and focus on other developments as stock investing may become a weary chore.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Learn from the rich

It was a pleasant surprise that I receive this message from someone whom I did not keep in touch for the past three months.  With consent from the sender, I put this short message in quote as follows:

Dear Mr Brennen Pak,

It's been 3 months since my last message to you here. I'm happy to report that I was able to boost from 2% to 8% after the course. I kept my discipline and stuck with value investing instead of trying to catch and predict the charts daily. It has done well for me so far and better stress management even when I see what I'm holding is in the red. Overall, my account is now 8% capital gain.

Very happy indeed to have found your course and happy investing!

Best Regards,

Time flies. That was already three months ago when I received a message asking about whether day-trading suited him given that the interest offered by banks was extremely low. He further mentioned that trading psychology was low. (I believe he meant that he could be very sentimental and had low tolerance for market volatility). Noting that he was probably young and had a good future ahead of him, my first reaction was why waste his time in front of the stock monitor, especially given his low tolerance for market volatility. Going for day-trading should not be a solution against the low bank interest rate. It could be made worse if the trades were going against him. However, what I liked about him was that he was frank and upfront about his own weaknesses, and that made things easy for him. What he really needed was just a helping hand and he should be able to manage himself well. Certainly, an 8% return is nothing to brag about in this investment climate, but given that he has only about 1 year experience in this business, it is probably fine. What really concerned me going forward was that his investing character could swing to the other extreme to become over-confident. It could be a lot more damaging by then. I sincerely wish him well and hope that he could continue to apply restraints and not to be over-confident. Many of us almost always started off carefully but became over-confident, thinking that we could out beat the market. That would be the beginning of disasters ahead.

 

Actually, if we look at activities related to stock investments, the buy and sell actions that we make only take up several minutes of our time. Most of the other activities are time-wasters such as monitoring, communications, emotional build-ups and worrying etc. Those probably take up 80%-90% of our time. Actually, once we have made up our mind to buy or sell a stock, it is that few minutes of keying in to buy or sell that determines whether we win or lose in the trade. The other times could have spent on many other activities like our day-jobs, improving ourselves, playing with children or household chores. As small investors, our stake in the stock is at most a few thousand dollars. For this we should learn from a lot of rich founders who own huge stakes of their company stocks. At appropriate times, they invest millions of dollars of their personal money to buy their own company stocks. In my opinion, I do not think they monitor as frequently as several times in a day. Even if they do, I do not think they spend a lot of time worrying or getting too emotional even though their stake is in millions of dollars. For them, perhaps, it is business as usual in their day-to-day activities. I believe they are more focus on the business to ensure that it is on track than on the share price. On the contrary, it is the small investors like us who appear to be more worried about whether the stocks that we hold go up or down. Perhaps, if we are the type that gets very emotional, we should take a step back and think of the beautiful world around us. Distancing ourselves from the stock market can sometimes restrain us from buying and selling at the wrong times.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hard copy.

Any time is a good time to invest

We often heard colleagues or friends mentioning that they were right now on the sideline waiting to pounce aggressively into the stock market when the stock market crashed. It was as though they were seeking a revenge that the stock market owed to them for the past 18 years. There were also individuals trying to study the leading signs of past crashes as they were trying to draw parallels from the past crashes in hope to find a coming one for them to punt on. Then there was also another group trying to discourage the others from investing, quoting the reason that most of the major markets are trading at around their all-time high. Over the past few years, it was also quite common to come across people who mentioned in social media that they would get into the stock market only when the STI hit a low of 1,800 points. If all these people have been staying out of the market due to their respective reasons, they probably have missed out big time.

An article featured on the Sunday Time last week entitled “The time to invest is now.” As I read through article, I must say I agree with the writer 110%. The article revealed that a famous investor said the market was going to crash within a year in the midst of European crisis in 2011. Should we have followed that call and stay in cash, we would have lost plenty of opportunities hiccupped by stock markets from time to time in this relatively long rally from then till now.

One noteworthy point in the article is the following

a.       If $100k were to stay in cash since 2011 till now, the return would have earned $300.38.

b.      If the $100k were to invest in ST index, the return would have been $46,243.36.

c.       If the same $100k were to invest in MSCI All-Country World Index, it would have made a return of $111,869.96 or a return of more than 110%.

 

Speaking from my own experience, we often thought that the timing was not right to invest, but after a few months, we regretted for not investing because stocks that we were interested in simply got higher. I cannot agree more with the writer that stock investing is not a binary decision, that is, to be totally in the market or to be totally out of the market, and not somewhere in between.  But essentially, in stock investing, it should be somewhere in between. Periodically, we should put some percentage into stocks while another portion to remain as cash depending on our comfort level. It is this periodic allocation that probably wins the race even if one is just a medium performer in stock picks. The cash portion, by itself, is a good cushion against any crashes or significant meltdown that can occur from time to time.

 

People who are serious about in stock investing would agree with me that it is like managing a business. And like in a business, we simply do not get into it because the time is good and out of it when time is bad. Most of the time, we have to steer the business as it moves through the good and bad times. In the past twenty years, we witnessed at least two major stock crises that saw the STI tanked 60%. Apart from these major crises were numerous smaller ones that had depressed the STI of somewhat between 15% and 30%. If we look back in history, the time period between all these crises was not that long, at most 3-4 years in between. Each time when it occurred, we do not know the real bottom until it had passed us convincingly. Only then, we start to regret in hindsight. 

A very good example was the marine and offshore industry. Just 18 months ago, we saw everywhere is bad news and the two major oil rig producer SembCorp Marine and Keppel Corp were hitting their lows. But by today, the share price of the two stocks has already past their lows. For those companies whose stocks have been either suspended or still struggling to get out of the problem that plaque the industry, it is because they had over-stretched themselves during the good times.

 

To date, the Dow hit its all-time high in 30 of the 54 months since the global financial crisis. Within a year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the president of US on 8 November 2016, the Dow advanced more than 5,000 points to 23,400.86 as of market close on 26 October 2017. Whether we are trading via HKSE, Nikkei 225, any European markets or the STI, we are either at the respective all-time high or near to it. Perhaps, I may have selected a wrong time to write about this because all these markets are at their all time high, and may be in for a huge fall in the near term. However my personal experience in my investing journey showed that cashing out can sometimes be worse than simply stay on course. My ill-timed sell-out and inability to carry out a re-purchase program during the Asian financial crisis was a costly mistake that I wish to forget. In the other 4-5 crises into the new millennium, it seemed that I had done better. True, when a crisis was in the midst of gyration there was a lot of fear, but it seemed that things got better than it originally started when things were over. So, actually anytime is a good time to start our stock investing journey.

   

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Two important life lessons when investing in stocks

It must have been 20 years since I attended a remisier course leading to an examination that would enable me to become a full-fledge remisier. After all, I had just completed an MBA course and, this would enable me to skip one of the two remisier modules, thus short-cutting my way to become a remisier should I chose to be one. Just like any other school-leavers after a few years of work on the same job, I was contemplating and exploring a career change. I was no rookie in stock trading (I say trading because I was really trading) at that time. By that time, I probably had already had 6-7 years of stock investing experience as a client. My personal objective to attend the course was very simple. Even if I decided not to take the examination (in the end, I did not), I might still be able to learn a one or two things about the stock-broking industry. I believe the course fees must have been about $200-$300 and the whole course was taught over a period of about 2 or 3 days (can’t exactly remember). As I have already been working for several years, it was a small sum to pay to learn something, perhaps to help me develop another career path, just in case.  After all, I had already paid or have been paying for several high-ticket items, such as my MBA course, marriage plans, housing renovations, car loans, insurances,  etc.,  and many of those things that crossed into our path after we left school. So, in comparison, it is not going to break an arm or leg to pay for the fee to attend the course.

 

That was a long time ago, and frankly, I had forgotten most of the things that the practice remesier taught. If you ask me today, I think the lessons were pretty boring. They were just brute facts that were to be dumped into our minds and for us to re-produce them during examinations. The hand-out notes were no better. They came in the form of a ring-bind and were about one-inch thick in black/white photocopies in fading print on half-yellowish papers and were not exactly organized. These two factors would have been an ideal condition to put one into a good sleep within the first 10 minutes after sitting down especially given the nice air-conditioning environment and after a long day’s work. But still, there were at least 30-40 eager attendees listening attentively to the lessons.  Perhaps, there were one or two key reasons for this. Firstly, at that time, all the trades have to go through a broker. Whenever we buy or sell stocks, whether they are many board lots or just one board lot, they still have to be handed by a broker or remisier, who have to physically key in our trades. So, a remisier or a broker had a very important role to play in the whole transaction process if we bought or sold securities at that time. Thus, becoming a remisier was an ideal dream that many people were trying to get their hands on. The other reason, a very important one, was that stock market at that time had been enjoying about 7-8 years of boom, except for a temporary disruption due to the 1st Gulf war in 1990. (I actually have an important lesson to share for this episode as well, but I will leave it to another session in order not to digress too much from the subject matter.) It was a lucrative career if one was able to get into it. Can you imagine each transaction of about 1% commission in just 2 minutes of telephone conversation for just one counter! After all, the memories of the great boom of the 90s around 1992 to 1994 had not faded in people’s mind yet.

 

The point that I wanted to make was not because of the teacher or the notes. It could even be that I had been day-dreaming in most parts of the course. But there were two points that the teacher pointed out that still had a bearing on me in all the investing years that followed. They were actually off-the-calf sharing and were not part of the lesson proper. He shared with us some stories of people (without quoting names or mention anybody specifically, of course) who became bankrupts after losing big in the stock markets.  It was demoralizing. Here, we are trying to learn something to become a remisier, and there the teacher was telling us about bankrupt stories. Perhaps, he just wanted us to be mentally prepared when we entered this industry. But still, he ended up with a positive note. Based on his personal experience, he shared with the class that there were generally two types of people that do not do too badly in stock investing. They are:

(a)    People who do not trade on contra.

(b)   Those that are “one-lotters”.  (Yes, he really said “one-lotters”.)     

At that time, I did not think much about what he said as they were just passing mentions to inject some life into the lesson.  No offence to those who play contra or on margin, I never play contra. I pay for my trades faithfully and on time. So I cannot share very much on the experience of contra. Perhaps, he was coming from a point of view as a remisier, and that he had to take on the financial risk when clients did not pay on time. However, later checks with another one or two broker seemed to confirm this point. Frankly, the purpose of checking was not to talk down or expose those who like to play on contra. I have no authority to do that. I just wanted to know how I could develop my investing character not to be along those lines that exhibited high chance of losing money. The 2nd point was more impactful for me. Apparently, he had coined the term “one-lotter”. I could not find it in an English dictionary.  He meant to class those people who only buy or sell one lot of a counter whenever they make a transaction. Previously, one board lot refers to 1,000 shares and not 100 shares as it is now.  Basically, he was referring to the fact that some people buy or sell only 1,000 shares no matter how good or how bad the market was. It suited me right from the start. Think about it, when we first graduated from school, our salary was close to $2,000 per month for a fresh graduate. Even after some years of working, it was probably $3k to $4k per month. After deducting for our CPF, provide some pocket money to parents, monthly payments for some high-ticket items, I am not sure if I could even save $500 per month in the first year or $1,000 after some years after I graduated from school. How many board lots of a counter can we really pay per trade? At most one. Even for some high-priced stocks, we still needed to save for several months before we could even buy the first board lot. At that time, for example, Cycle and Carriage (C&C) (not yet known as Jardine C&C) was trading at slightly above $10, and OUB (a bank subsumed by UOB) was trading around $8.50. But as I look back in history, taking on one board lot at a time may not be a bad idea. Many of the stocks that I have accumulated today in many thousands of shares were the results of buying one board lot at a time. It may not be the fastest way to riches, but it certainly is a safe and conservative way. Do not underestimate its cumulative power. It enables us buy on dips and picking up opportunities that might have slipped through the fingers of many.

 

Stock investing is a journey. It is not an end by itself. The stock market will outlive any of us. The investing journey may be long and arduous, but each small step that we take, we are one step nearer to where we want to be.  I am thankful to the teacher for the off-the-calf sharing.  They turned out to be more useful than the lesson proper as I looked back in history. They helped shaped my investing style in the later years. To be continued…. 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Walking away from a corporate bond deal

I came across an article on the newspaper yesterday morning that Ezion Holdings will be having a meeting with bondholders this coming Monday to present a debt restructuring plan. It reminded me that corporate and perpetual bonds were selling like hot cakes 4-5 years ago offering coupons between 5-7%. I had a chance to meet a relationship manager of a bank who was offering Swiber bonds at 7% at that time. A quick and dirty at-the-back of envelope calculation showed that the annual coupons would be a whopping amount of $17,500. Compare it with a dividend-paying stock like DBS, the capital of $250,000 to pay for a bond would have bought about 16,000 DBS shares around that time when it was trading at $16 per share. This would translate to an annual dividend of only $9,600. It’s a stark difference of $7,900 and this would recur yearly till the bond matures. This big difference in the yield could have tilted the balance to attract many investors into buying bonds than to invest in equities. Even I was salivated after making the comparison, but my sanity got better of me. There were a few things that made me feel uncomfortable about corporate bonds.

1.       Corporate bonds were extremely illiquid. Certainly, when the bond coupon is high with a relatively short maturity period, potential bond-holders would want to keep them till maturity. My guess was that most of the potential bond-holders were former property owners who had sold off their properties and had parked the money in the bank. Perhaps illiquidity was not really an issue to them. After all, properties are also illiquid, and they may take months to sell off. Perhaps, many people have overlooked the fact that a property could hold value better than many other types of assets. Even when the price is no good at that time, there would always be a next opportunity to sell some time in future. However, when a company is in distress, the bond value can fall very fast once the bad news goes public. The maturity date may be a further inhibition because potential buyers could calculate the number of expected coupons to maturity. On the buyer side, my inference was that there were not likely many too. Corporate bonds are mainly opened to the high net worth individuals (HNWI) and are not marketed to the mass market. That gave me some inkling that during the times of need, the sellers may have to depress the price significantly in order to attract a buyer. It is unlike a unit trust, whereby there is always a ready counter-party such as an asset management company or the bank, to buy over the financial product at the net asset value. 

2.       The second thought I had was – if the coupon offered was so good, then why the banks were not taking the first bite on the cherries. In all likelihood, the banks have made loans to these companies to the hilt and that all the company’s assets have already been pledged. This meant that bondholders had no recourse when things go wrong. How much could a company cough out to pay bondholders when there were no unencumbered assets to sell? Even secured lenders like the banks could be affected when the pledged assets could only fetch a fraction of their book value during fire-sales.

3.       Then there was another mind-boggling question. Why was the company prepared to pay bondholders at 7% when the banks were paying depositors less than one percent for their deposits? Bond issuers are not charity organizations to dangle a 6% difference in interest just to attract investors to buy their bonds. They probably could have made do with 3-4%.     

4.       Next is a personal finance question. Most of the target customers were probably HNWI who had sold their properties and parked their deposits in the banks awaiting the next investing opportunity. Or perhaps, they are business owners who had earned enough and parked their money in the bank. For a person, who was not born with a silver spoon or made from property sales and have to work hard to earn every single dollar, it would be difficult to part with a quarter of a million just for a single investment. Frankly, we do not have many quarters-of-a-million to spare to make sufficient diversifications for our portfolio. This would end up with a lob-sided risk concentration. It is really not a way to create a defensive portfolio.

5.       When I inquired about the effect on the company if the oil price tumbled, I did not seem to get the comfort that the RM was able to answer me adequately. Of course, at that time, I did not expect the oil price to tank so fast and so drastically from more than $100 per barrel to less than $30 in about a year. It was a naïve question as a time-filler during the conversation, but in hindsight, should have been a pertinent question to ask.

All these thoughts made me think twice about investing in bonds. Given that I still need bonds to beef up my portfolio, I decided that perpetual bond was probably the way to go. While there is no maturity date for perpetual bonds, without the $250k requirement would help me able to apportion out the amount to buy several perpetual bonds or a mixture of perpetual bonds and stocks. After all, there were several perpetual bonds on offer around that time. Genting perpetual bond was one of them. The bonds were offered in two different tranches first to institutional investors and then to retail investors one month later.  The coupon rate of 5.125% may not be as attractive, but casino operation is a cash business and it should be less risky compared to an engineering project or service company which is purely dependent on the oil price and the up-stream oil payers.

 

It has been well and good now that things have fall in place. DBS shares price have appreciated by 25% since then. Also now that Genting has decided to redeem both the institutional perpetual bonds and retail perpetual bonds by September and October 2017 respectively.

On the other hand, many issues related to corporate bonds, especially those related to the offshore and marine sectors, have still not been resolved. To date, most of the bondholders were forced to take deep haircuts. When there is no money on the table, it is likely that all the bondholders and even shareholders may be forced to swallow some bitter pills. As I know, so far two companies namely, Nam Cheong and Ausgroup have proposed to convert the bonds to equities. Perhaps, Ezion would also do likewise in the coming meeting.       

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

SPH & Comfort Delgro

Since the heavy selling in the beginning of the last week following by a strong rebound towards the end of the week, SPH seemed to have stabilized and moved up a little in the last 5 trading days. It appeared to have attained a respite after dropping relentlessly in the past few months. In fact, it had gained about 5% from its low at the close yesterday. Perhaps, the worst had passed. Hopefully, this can last until at least the release of the quarter results in October. As the price of the stock fell, its value began to emerge. So it had enabled me to take a very small position after having sold down all my holdings more than1½ years ago. I did not purchase at the lowest point, but at this price, it should have discounted a lot of bad news. Fundamentally, nothing has changed. It is still a sunset industry and therefore my position should not be big. Have to trust the new management to stabilize the share price. I may consider buying more in future, but I am in no hurry to do so for now.

 

In fact, it appeared that the market attention has been shifted from SPH to Comfort-Delgro (CDG). In the last few days, CDG share price fell below $2 for the first time in 3 years. The fall was relentless especially in the first few days of the week, following the news that there could be an exodus of as many as 2,000 drivers from Comfort-Delgro to its aggressive competitor, Grab. Even the recent release of the tender results for operating the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) went to SMRT. It was one bad news after another. How long will the onslaught last? Nobody knows for sure. Hopefully it is near as well. 

Meanwhile CDG’s partner, Uber, is still grappling with several concurrent problems that happened in different parts of the world. It is unlikely that CDG and Uber are able to find solutions to arrest this price fall as yet. To date, the funding for Grab seemed endless, and this could remain a long-term threat for CDG. So, for round 1, it appeared that Grab is a clear winner for now.

SPH and CDG are both recession-proof stocks. Unfortunately, they are not technology-proof.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

SPH – At its lowest for now?

When a spring is hammered very hard, the spring back tends to be very sharp. This is probably the best description for SPH this week.

In the last few days, most of the news or discussions related to this stock appeared to be bad, or at best, neutral. Being a by-stander watching from the sideline, it appeared to me that nobody seemed to have anything good to say about this stock. Indeed, it was hammered very hard for the first 3 days of the week hitting a low of $2.54 per share on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the last two days, however, it seemed to have rebounded quite strongly to close at $2.68 by Friday, though it is still lower than the last week’s close at $2.74. Perhaps, these were some opportunistic purchases made by contrarians. After all, it SPH has never experienced this low except during the global financial crisis in 2008/2009.

 

For the last 5 quarters or so, most of the news related to the stock were generally not positive. Pessimism over this stock grew in every release of quarterly results. Perhaps, the sell down this week was in anticipation of the poor results for the coming quarter as well. So if the quarterly result is not as bad as expected, then maybe we can expect a small price re-bound. (I say small because SPH’s economic moat is not strong at this moment for a significant turnaround) Of course, the other way also holds true. If the result is worse than expected, then perhaps we should expect a further sell down.

    

(This was the abstract taken from a Facebook post in April 2016 for past students. At the time of writing the Facebook post, things were still not as bad. So the expectation was that it probably should stabilize at around $3.70. News turned out to be very bad for the next 5 quarters. Yesterday, the share price closed at $2.68.)

Here is the dilemma. It has been a happy situation to have unloaded all my SPH stocks in anticipation that SPH would face hard times ahead. It has been too heavily dependent on the print business. Since then, I was on a stand-by mode, waiting to buy them back at a lower price. It should not just centres itself around the print business. It has to lay out a sustaining business proposal on the table before the share price can turn up convincingly. Now, with the bad news already significantly discounted in the share price, it may be the time to re-consider buying some back as ‘insurance’ in case it really made a turnaround or at least stabilized after more than a year of battering. Hopefully, it is at least a breather for now. It had lost one-third its value from an average price of about $4. For all we know, the share price always lead the actual company performance. So buying back may be a good idea if we believe that something magical can happen in the future. Let us see what happens in the next few weeks.

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

 

 

Value investing – is it wise to stay in cash or remain invested?

I read in a recent article that a value investor has now holding mostly cash. Over the past few years, he probably had made some money. He mentioned that he has already divested out of stocks and stay mainly in cash for the past two years.  In all likelihood, he is timing that there will be a market crash or at least a major correction not too far ahead perhaps in a matter of 1-2 years.  In fact, he did mention that he will pick up some good stocks when the market crashes. Now the question is – should one cash-in or should one to continue to remain invested sitting on unrealized profit even after a good run. The chart below showed that many stock markets had a good run in the last 5 years.

 

A few possible scenarios could happen in the next 1-2 years.

(a)     If the market did really crash or undergoes a huge correction

In this case, he will be very glad that he had timed the market correctly and was able to pick up some good stocks and earned a difference between his higher sale position and his lower purchase position.

(b)   If the market continue to advance

In this case, he is likely to regret his action for selling ‘too early’. He is unlikely to buy at higher price any time soon and will be stuck with cash for a total period of 3-4 years since he had already cashed out. Given that he is a ‘value investor’ probably meant that he no longer saw value in stocks and decided to get out of them. Certainly, he would not buy the stocks when the prices of those stocks went up even higher unless he has ascertained that the fundamentals of the stocks that he had sold have changed for the better.   

 

(c)    If the market moved sideways or even in a gradual decline

Initially, he is likely to continue to wait in hope to get a ‘better price’ for his stocks. There probably would come to a time when he lose his patience and start to dabble in stocks again. As one of the readers rightly pointed out, it is actually quite ‘expensive’ to stay in cash in hope time the market. The opportunity cost lost in collecting dividends for the last few years could have more than off-set the gain even though he may manage to sell at a higher price and buy them back at a lower price. In timing a market, we need to be two time right – both in the buy and sell, in order to gain from it. 

 

Of course, if one is possible to see what is ahead of us, in every boom and bust of the stock market, then market timing is the best strategy. But when things are generally uncertain, the time in the market appeared to be a better strategy than timing the market. The simple logical reason to that is that stock markets generally go up higher in the long run. Just simply by being a passive arm-chair investor could have helped us make a huge profit as the market tends to go up in the long run. That was actually endorsed by Warren Buffet who mentioned that one should buy an S&P low cost index fund consistently to gain from it in the long run.

 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.