Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why I love my dividends more than share buyback?

Readers of my blog would know that I love dividends from my investments as they provide a good cashflow turnaround for my daily life's activities.

I love companies that return good shareholders' value in the form of dividends. To me, distributing out dividends to investors is something that is  tangible and should be the number one priority for every companies especially if they are having a stellar year in profits. However, some companies may choose to use their earnings to repurchase their outstanding shares from the open market instead.

Let's use a company that I own - Sembcorp Industries - to make the case.

For years, the company does not have a fixed dividend distribution policy to investors. But it has a payout ranging from 30% to 45% in recent years. The reason for the lower dividend payout to investors is because the company is often engaged in their daily share buyback of their shares in the open market. Through a share buyback, the number of outstanding shares is reduced (Sembcorp has outstanding shares of 1,783,837,879 as of 23 Jan 2014 versus 1,785,604,129 as of 30 Sep 2013). This reduction of the float means that even if profits were to remain the same, earnings per share would increase. 

I do not quite understand the reason they would so often does this share buyback because what they are doing is generally dollar-cost averaging. If the price is undervalued and is trading below the intrinsic value, then it makes sense to do the buyback. But if they are simply doing this every other day, it seems the earnings could be better returned to shareholders in the terms of dividends. Perhaps, this is why we often see the stock price has lesser volatility than the other stocks in general. Maybe the buyback is supporting the price.

Sembcorp is scheduled to announce their FY results on 26 Feb 2014 shortly. Based on the EPS for the 9M, it seems like investors are poised to receive a higher dividends this coming year. Assuming a similar payout %, I foresee a 16.5 cents/share distributed out in the forms of dividends. That represents about 10% increase from last year. Not so bad you would thought. But I still prefer cash dividends ;)

Wishing All Readers a Happy Lunar New Year in 2014

To all readers of 3Fs, I am wishing everyone a Happy Lunar New Year 2014 and in the year of horse may we remember to prioritize family and health first, then money ;)

Monday, January 20, 2014

AGM - FraserCenterPoint Trust (FCT)

Welcome to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) series of review for FCT.

Today, I am going to summarize the AGM for FraserCenterPoint Trust (FCT) held at Alexandra Point. I was expecting a lot of questions from the retail investors relating to Bedok Point and Changi City Point bombarding the management so let's see if I'm correct.

This is my first time going to the FCT AGM despite having the shares for more than 3 years. So you can expect me getting a little excited about it. Talking about the souvenier, I was a little disappointed, just like most investors out there. Perhaps a voucher at any FCT malls would have been great :). But it turns out that they have given out "Angbao" considering that Chinese New Year is just round the corner. Anyway, it's not a big deal. So let's move on.

CEO Welcome Address

The CEO Dr. Chew, began by highlighting some of the achievement FCT has achieved in the past 1 year. Unless you are new to the Trust, I believe you would have known that FCT has made some of the biggest achievement this year, achieving record high in multiple areas. To recap and for the benefits that are new to this Reit, here are the figures highlighted:

  • DPU record high 10.93 cents - C.A.G.R of 8.9% over the past 7 years
  • NAV = $1.77 as of 30 Sep 2013
  • Average rental reversion = 7.7%, higher than industry average
  • Portfolio Occupancy - 98.4%
  • NPI increases lower than Gross Revenue, indicating that margins are slightly dropping due to more competitive pressures.

Then before we proceed with the voting of the resolutions, there is the common Questions & Answers session.


As expected, a couple of questions were relating to the lacking performance of Bedok Point as well as the acquisition of Changi City Point, so I will be consolidating the questions for the respective area for the ease of the readers.

Bedok Point

Bedok Point has come under huge pressure lately due to its underperformance relative to other FCT malls. And as we all know this is due to pressures coming from main competitor Bedok Mall from the CapitaMallTrust (CMT). One investor raised question regarding the sustainability of the mix of tenants currently at Bedok Point, with more than 42% mix of tenants coming in from Food & Beverage. How will management get the right mix of tenants for Bedok Point?

Dr. Chew reply was that given some of these 42% leases which are expiring, they have secured tenants mainly from the IT sector with names ranging from Harvey Normans and Challenger. The management are also putting focus on educational tenants as they feel that it will be a good diversification away from what Bedok Mall can offer. He further mentioned that by being the "No. 2" malls within the vicinity, it can offer tenants cheaper rental and thus will benefit the tenants and traffics in the long run. Having said all that, Bedok Point constitutes only about 6% of the overall FCT portfolio, so he assured investors not to be overly worried about it.

My verdict: Fair enough. There is some tough competition out there against CMT's Bedok Mall. And given that occupancy rate for the mall is still above 96% and with the mall constitutes 6% of the overall portfolio, we should not expect management to put in majority of resources to challenge competitor.

Changi City Point

For all shareholders of FCT, the question that are on everyone's mind is when will management be going to inject Changi City point into FCT portfolio and this question has not escaped once again. Another investor also raised the question that given the unsuccessful venture into the east, will Changi City Point be underperforming similar to Bedok Point? Will FCT be paying a premium for the mall?

Dr. Chew reply was simple. Changi City point is a crown jewel project that will be injected into FCT portfolio in time but he is not willing to provide any time frame. He further mentioned that the main primary catch about this mall is the vicinity of the office (Changi Business Park) and Expo crowd that brings the traffic in almost everyday and not just on weekends. He also assured investors that they will consider the price to acquire Changi City Point very carefully and not overpaid for it. According to some investors, they have paid somewhat a premium for Bedok Point.

My verdict:  I think the time has come to inject Changi City Point into FCT portfolio. With no AEI project going on at any of the other malls and with DPU pressures from the dropping rental at Bedok Point, it seems that in order to increase DPU there is only one way out, i.e to inject Changi City Point sooner the better.

Causeway Point & Northpoint

One investor raised a question which I thought was interesting. He mentioned that traffic at Northpoint (41.7 Million) almost doubled that of Causeway Point (23.4 Million) despite the mall smaller than the latter. Are there further growth for traffic at Causeway Point?

Dr. Chew replied that Yishun community area is bigger than Woodlands, so it is inevitable that the traffic at Northpoint is much more than Causeway Points. In fact, as a matter of choice, FCL is going to build another mall in the Yishun area to accommodate the rising population in that area. But this time it will be different. Unlike Bedok Point who is competing directly with competitor Bedok Mall, Northpoint will be competing against one of its own FCL mall, which one day will be injected into FCT.

My verdict: I think it is a good strategy for FCT to focus on the North population. As we all know, the West is mostly dominated by CMT malls so it will be hard to venture at the West. The East is probably more like 50-50 right now, so its a more fair competition.

Costs of Borrowing

One investor also raised a question about the impending interest rate increase and how it will impact FCT borrowing costs and DPU eventually.

For FCT investors, you would have known that the trusts have a 93% fixed borrowing rate at 2.73% with maturity over the next 2-3 years. So short term interest rate increases are unlikely to impact much the earnings and hence DPUs for investors.

There are other couple more questions relating to the fees and other AEI plans but thought they weren't that useful so I will not be mentioning them. As always, I will be grateful if any of the investors out there who attended the AGM can give some insight to the overall session you've attended so as to increase further awareness of the points I've brought up. 

And oh, as I was walking out of the building, glad to meet Simon_84 from the hardwarezone forum. Hopefully, you can add or correct anything that I've missed ;) Hope the summary has been helpful for those who wants to go but miss the AGM.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wall Street - Rationalization of an Addict for the love of Money

My wife, who usually does not read financial stuff, thinks that this article is superb. Thus I decided to share the same with my readers.

For all financial addicts out there, this article could just change your life. Take a moment and give a complete read to it. I think it's a superb life experience out there.

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.

Eight years earlier, I’d walked onto the trading floor at Credit Suisse First Boston to begin my summer internship. I already knew I wanted to be rich, but when I started out I had a different idea about what wealth meant. I’d come to Wall Street after reading in the book “Liar’s Poker” how Michael Lewis earned a $225,000 bonus after just two years of work on a trading floor. That seemed like a fortune. Every January and February, I think about that time, because these are the months when bonuses are decided and distributed, when fortunes are made.

Dad believed money would solve all his problems. At 22, so did I. When I walked onto that trading floor for the first time and saw the glowing flat-screen TVs, high-tech computer monitors and phone turrets with enough dials, knobs and buttons to make it seem like the cockpit of a fighter plane, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It looked as if the traders were playing a video game inside a spaceship; if you won this video game, you became what I most wanted to be — rich.

IT was a miracle I’d made it to Wall Street at all. While I was competitive and ambitious — a wrestler at Columbia University — I was also a daily drinker and pot smoker and a regular user of cocaine, Ritalin and ecstasy. I had a propensity for self-destruction that had resulted in my getting suspended from Columbia for burglary, arrested twice and fired from an Internet company for fistfighting. I learned about rage from my dad, too. I can still see his red, contorted face as he charged toward me. I’d lied my way into the C.S.F.B. internship by omitting my transgressions from my résumé and was determined not to blow what seemed a final chance. The only thing as important to me as that internship was my girlfriend, a starter on the Columbia volleyball team. But even though I was in love with her, when I got drunk I’d sometimes end up with other women.

Three weeks into my internship she wisely dumped me. I don’t like who you’ve become, she said. I couldn’t blame her, but I was so devastated that I couldn’t get out of bed. In desperation, I called a counselor whom I had reluctantly seen a few times before and asked for help.

She helped me see that I was using alcohol and drugs to blunt the powerlessness I felt as a kid and suggested I give them up. That began some of the hardest months of my life. Without the alcohol and drugs in my system, I felt like my chest had been cracked open, exposing my heart to air. The counselor said that my abuse of drugs and alcohol was a symptom of an underlying problem — a “spiritual malady,” she called it. C.S.F.B. didn’t offer me a full-time job, and I returned, distraught, to Columbia for senior year.

After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America, by the grace of a managing director willing to take a chance on a kid who had called him every day for three weeks. With a year of sobriety under my belt, I was sharp, cleareyed and hard-working. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to check my balance before I withdrew money. But a week later, a trader who was only four years my senior got hired away by C.S.F.B. for $900,000. After my initial envious shock — his haul was 22 times the size of my bonus — I grew excited at how much money was available.

Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years, and I used it to get a promotion. I started dating a pretty blonde and rented a loft apartment on Bond Street for $6,000 a month.

I felt so important. At 25, I could go to any restaurant in Manhattan — Per Se, Le Bernardin — just by picking up the phone and calling one of my brokers, who ingratiate themselves to traders by entertaining with unlimited expense accounts. I could be second row at the Knicks-Lakers game just by hinting to a broker I might be interested in going. The satisfaction wasn’t just about the money. It was about the power. Because of how smart and successful I was, it was someone else’s job to make me happy.

Still, I was nagged by envy. On a trading desk everyone sits together, from interns to managing directors. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with my progress.

My counselor didn’t share my elation. She said I might be using money the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol — to make myself feel powerful — and that maybe it would benefit me to stop focusing on accumulating more and instead focus on healing my inner wound. “Inner wound”? I thought that was going a little far and went to work for a hedge fund.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power — power beyond getting a table at Le Bernardin. Senators came to their offices. They were royalty.

I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million.

But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.”

I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. He was afraid of losing money, despite all that he had. From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Ever see what a drug addict is like when he’s used up his junk? He’ll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that. In the months before bonuses were handed out, the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in “The Wire” when the heroin runs out.

I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.

I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus.

But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited. I’d seen the crash coming, but instead of trying to help the people it would hurt the most — people who didn’t have a million dollars in the bank — I’d made money off it. I don’t like who you’ve become, my girlfriend had said years earlier. She was right then, and she was still right. Only now, I didn’t like who I’d become either.

Wealth addiction was described by the late sociologist and playwright Philip Slater in a 1980 book, but addiction researchers have paid the concept little attention. Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country. Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class. Only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation — including an $8.5 million bonus — as the McDonald’s C.E.O., Don Thompson, did in 2012, while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on their low wages. Only a wealth addict would earn hundreds of millions as a hedge-fund manager, and then lobby to maintain a tax loophole that gave him a lower tax rate than his secretary.

DESPITE my realizations, it was incredibly difficult to leave. I was terrified of running out of money and of forgoing future bonuses. More than anything, I was afraid that five or 10 years down the road, I’d feel like an idiot for walking away from my one chance to be really important. What made it harder was that people thought I was crazy for thinking about leaving. In 2010, in a final paroxysm of my withering addiction, I demanded $8 million instead of $3.6 million. My bosses said they’d raise my bonus if I agreed to stay several more years. Instead, I walked away.

The first year was really hard. I went through what I can only describe as withdrawal — waking up at nights panicked about running out of money, scouring the headlines to see which of my old co-workers had gotten promoted. Over time it got easier — I started to realize that I had enough money, and if I needed to make more, I could. But my wealth addiction still hasn’t gone completely away. Sometimes I still buy lottery tickets.

In the three years since I left, I’ve married, spoken in jails and juvenile detention centers about getting sober, taught a writing class to girls in the foster system, and started a nonprofit called Groceryships to help poor families struggling with obesity and food addiction. I am much happier. I feel as if I’m making a real contribution. And as time passes, the distortion lessens. I see Wall Street’s mantra — “We’re smarter and work harder than everyone else, so we deserve all this money” — for what it is: the rationalization of addicts. From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then — that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.

I was lucky. My experience with drugs and alcohol allowed me to recognize my pursuit of wealth as an addiction. The years of work I did with my counselor helped me heal the parts of myself that felt damaged and inadequate, so that I had enough of a core sense of self to walk away.

Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. Why not? Because our culture supports and even lauds the addiction. Look at the magazine covers in any newsstand, plastered with the faces of celebrities and C.E.O.'s; the superrich are our cultural gods. I hope we all confront our part in enabling wealth addicts to exert so much influence over our country.

I generally think that if one is rich and believes they have “enough,” they are not a wealth addict. On Wall Street, in my experience, that sense of “enough” is rare. The money guy doing a job he complains about for yet another year so he can add $2 million to his $20 million bank account seems like an addict.

I recently got an email from a hedge-fund trader who said that though he was making millions every year, he felt trapped and empty, but couldn’t summon the courage to leave. I believe there are others out there. Maybe we can form a group and confront our addiction together. And if you identify with what I’ve written, but are reticent to leave, then take a small step in the right direction. Let’s create a fund, where everyone agrees to put, say, 25 percent of their annual bonuses into it, and we’ll use that to help some of the people who actually need the money that we’ve been so rabidly chasing. Together, maybe we can make a real contribution to the world.


Friday, January 17, 2014

"Jan 14" - SG Transactions & Portfolio Update"

No. of Lots
Market Price (SGD)
Total Value (SGD) based on market price
Allocation %
FraserCenter Point Trust
Ascott Reit
FraserCommercial Trust
First Reit
SembCorp Ind
ST Engineering
Mapletree Greater China Commercial Trust
China Merchant Pacific
Plife Reit
Second Chance
Ascendas Hosp. Trust
Mapletree Logistic Trust

Total SGD


The only addition I made for this month is Mapletree Greater CommercialChina Trust which I have reviewed in my previous post (Click Here) if you are interested. With the purchase, I've added another solid $620 per year into the annual passive income, which is great for a start to the first month in a new year.

The month of January is what I usually considered a fertile month. My purchasing power is usually greater due to the flexible benefits of $750 paid out by the company as an employee benefit. Unfortunately, the only dividends I have received this month is from 2nd Chance, which contributes about $220 based on the number of lots I owned.

The portfolio has also increased in value this month due to the slight strengthening of a few stocks owned in the portfolio. The market is rather volatile now and we can expect to see further opportunity to enter or accumulate.

Feb will be fun with the some of the dividends coming in from Plife, First Reit, Ascott, FCT, FCOT and MLT. Stay well and look out for opportunistic market weaknesses.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Recent Actions - Mapletree Greater ChinaCommercial Trust (MGCCT)

Today I've initiated a long position in Mapletree Greater ChinaCommercial Trust (MGCCT) at a price of $0.81.

This is my second additions to the Mapletree Reits family which I have in my portfolio after the purchase of Mapletree Log last month.

I've long been impressed with the quality of the assets that MGCCT has when it launched its IPO last year.

Festive Walk - one of the highly sought retail components in the strategic location of Kowloon. Even during the epidemic of SARS and the GFC in 2008/2009, rental revenue has managed to creep up higher, giving a CAGR of 5.8% over the past 10 years.

Gateway Plaza - One of the grade A office located in strategic Beijing area. As seen from past history, occupancy rate has stayed well above 95% for the past 2-3 years, with office rent climbing back up after improvement in the global economy.

So why do I buy?

Back during the IPO, the stock was priced at the higher range end at $0.93 which yield investors at about 5.3%. It is easy to look back now given that at that point in time, news of Fed tapering are not even at the slightest concern on the back of investors' mind and we have the US 10 YR bond treasury yielding around 2%.

Given today's impending interest rate increase situation (US 10 YR bond treasury yielding 2.87%), it is natural that investors are generally seeking a higher required rate of returns on riskier assets. I decided to purchase it at $0.81, yielding me about 6.9% for FY2014 and 7.3% for FY2015 and beyond.

Another interesting news for MGCCT investors is that they have performed well that exceeded their forecasted numbers in terms of their Distribution per Unit (DPU) by as much as 10.4% when they announced their 2nd Quarter results back in Nov 13. Their next scheduled result announcement is due on the 22nd January and I do expect a similar strong performance.

The management has also announced that 95% of the expiring leases for Festive Walk for FY2013/2014 have been successfully renewed with rental uplift of approximately 22%. For Gateway Plaza, 78% of the expiring leases have been renewed with a rental uplift also. Through these actions, investors can expect a stronger performance for years to come and this will give a strong foundation for the stock price to hold.

Some investors have raised concerns regarding the high gearing the stock has. For me, this is not so much of a concern.

First of all, management has taken initiative to reduce debt such that gearing has been reduced to 40.1% at the moment. Since I do not expect them to acquire any major asset acquisitions in the next 2-3 years, there will not be any equity raised by the company for the short term. Perhaps the more concerning situation is the probability of a property bubble in HK which will devalue its asset prices and hence affects the gearing upwards.

Second, MGCCT has a debt expiry profile that averages about 3.5 years to maturity, with no refinancing risk for the next two years. The management has also prudently hedged their earnings against interest rate increase volatility (71% is fixed rate) as well as forex risk, thereby reducing any earnings downward surprise to investors.


We know that Reits are no longer as popular to investors as previously were. But given the pessimistic comes great opportunity for me to accumulate stocks that can still yield good returns. The numbers look decent to me in terms of price and earnings. Depending on your risk flavor, this could be one to look out for.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Working is the ultimate slavery duty for a financial freedom wannabe

Many people wants job security.

Many more people wants financial freedom.

Usually, the more security a job has, the more mundane and repetitive the role is. The more hate you have for your job, the more you seek to get out of the rat race and seek your own path for financial freedom. Ever thought so that way?

Working my 9-6 job everyday to me is a slavery duty which I dislike, yet compared to those without jobs I am glad to have them. How ironic. Our work is compensated with employees like us being paid wages at the end of every month. Employees of today's century have an iconic culture where working staffs like you and me build our lifestyle in the evenings and on weekends. And after spending the weekends on branded things like Laduree and Tiffany, we are back to where we are the following Monday - which why explains the existence of Monday Blues. Sometimes we don't even know ourselves why we bought the things we bought on weekends on money we don't have and on things we don't actually really like. Hmmph.

Oh, I do mention above that I was glad to have my jobs. I really do. But I am not planning to do this for the rest of my life, or at least I will try not to. I have the right to eat and live my dreams with my own sustainable income. I have the right to fight against my will to freedom.

For now, if you pay me, I will do it. It's a job after all.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Struggles that makes you stronger in the financial world

What doesn't kills you makes you stronger.

Life isn't one straight line like the one you see in the picture.

Life is full of ups and downs and most often it is the struggles in life that makes us stronger of who we are. Without discomfort we will never progress individually.


In the stock market, you may have a lot of options and choices of what to buy or what to sell. Sometimes, the more you research, the more options you have and the more decisions you have to make. And it can be a struggle to make decisions myself if I am to be honest. Buy all? The worst part about it is you can have multiple choices but the money is limited.


Have you ever sold a stock and the next day it went up a chuck higher? You may feel a sense of regretful selling it at an instant even though you may still make a profit. It happens to me and I am pretty sure it happens to everyone else. We can't buy at the bottom nor sell at the peak. Move on with it and don't look back.


Everyone loves the adrenaline rush of being a trader. Fast in Fast out Quick money. Studies shown that only the minority have the patience to wait for stock to come to good valuations before entering in. And want to be financially independent? This is one trait you will very importantly need in your life.


Envy creates jealousy. Many times we have people around us who would earn greater than us, live a better life than us and eat a more luxurious food than us. So what do people usually do? Envy.

Envy can become a good motivator if you treat it the correct way. Treat it as a kind of motivation and target to aim for and it can be good for you at the end of the day. Well, this does not apply for everyone but at least it does for me.

So with all the above, if you fall down, do not despair. Stand up and be a stronger individual. Sometimes, it is the struggle that is the truly blessings in your life.