Category: Boring Investor

A Look-Back at My Blog for 2016

2016 is drawing to a close and it is an opportune time for me to reflect on my blog for this year. Regular readers of my blog would know that my blog posts this year have tilted towards understanding the business of the industry/ company. This is most …

Why Is Protectionism A Concern For Singapore?

After the election of Donald Trump as US President, it has been said that his protectionist stance is bad for open, trade-reliant economies like Singapore. But what is trade? My idea of trade has stagnated since the secondary school days, when we learn…

Making America Great Again and Its Impact to Asia

I delayed writing about the impact of Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, primarily because I wanted more time to observe his policies. However, since US Fed is meeting this week to discuss interest rate rise, I will pen down my current th…

Being A Co-Owner of GLP

It is often said that buying shares in a company means becoming a co-owner of the company. However, what does it really mean to be a co-owner? After my large investment in Global Logistic Properties (GLP), I finally understood what it means. Usually, f…

My Roller Coaster Ride with GLP

There is a Chinese saying for relationships: “You come together because of misunderstanding, and you separate because of understanding”. When it comes to stock investments, I find that this saying applies as well, at least for me. When I am thinking of buying a stock, the stock would tend to look attractive, even though I would study its financial statements carefully before buying. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. However, after I have bought the stock, I would follow its announcements closely and realise that I have not understood the stock well enough. This is when I would regret buying the stock, regardless of whether the stock has risen or fallen in price. For Global Logistic Properties (GLP), which is the largest holding in my portfolio, the same pattern holds true.
GLP is a very attractive stock, which I blogged about it last week in The GLP Story. I find it so attractive that I built up a 22% concentration in the stock within weeks! In contrast, my next largest stock concentration is only 2.5%. Stock concentration is something that I have not attempted previously in my 18 years of investing with my own money. However, because I swallowed too much too quickly, indigestion soon followed.
Although I am very used to fluctuations in stock prices, almost all of my stocks are diversified, with concentrations of up to 2.5% only. GLP, with its 22% concentration, is a different matter altogether. Every 3-cent drop (equivalent to 1.5% drop) in the share price was enough to give me jitters. By Dec last year, I had realised that I could not hold on to such a large concentration and planned to reduce it come Jan, when stocks usually rise with the January effect. Unfortunately, stocks dropped in Jan instead, triggered by the meltdown in the circuit-breakers in the Chinese stock market. Furthermore, there were news of heavy capital outflows from China, triggering memories of the Asian Financial Crisis. I decided to reduce my risks and cut my concentration to 16% at a loss. But when the stock dropped further, it was too tempting and I bought back some shares, raising my concentration back to 19%. By this time, after experiencing the stock price dropping by more than $0.50 from my original cost price, I had more or less become accustomed to its stock price fluctuations. My target concentration for GLP (and any single stock) also stablised at between 15% to 20%, rather than going upwards of 20%.
Beside stock price fluctuations, there were other issues that caused concerns. Around the same time as the stock market decline in Jan, it was announced that the CEO had entered into some collar trades on GLP shares in 2012 & 2014 and the trades would be settled in Jan/Feb. A collar trade is a bearish trade, which left me pondering why was the CEO selling his shares. I also checked that when GLP sold a 34% stake in its China subsidiary in 2014, 3.7% was sold to members of the GLP employee team, which included the CEO. Thus, the CEO was selling shares in GLP and buying shares in the China subsidiary, which represents the majority of the company’s net asset value but GLP only has a 66% stake. The interests of the CEO and shareholders are not 100% aligned. 
However, a bigger concern was the fact that GLP seemed to be overpaying for its acquisitions. The table below shows the acquisitions by GLP for the 1-year period from Aug 2015 to Jul 2016, just before its Annual General Meeting (AGM).
GLP Acquisitions from Aug 2015 till Jul 2016
As you can see, some acquisitions were made at Price/Book (P/B) ratios above 2 times. In particular, China X-G Technology was bought at a price of USD21.9 million when its book value was only RMB5,700, representing a P/B ratio of over 25,000 times! 
GLP’s AGM on 29 Jul came at the right time. I took the opportunity to raise the question whether GLP was overpaying for acquisitions and what were the governance and controls in place to prevent overpaying. The CEO explained that the book values were historical values. The accounting rules in China required companies to depreciate the cost of land over time and the book value did not reflect the market value. In its due diligence, GLP had carried out third-party valuation surveys to determine the market value. The CEO further explained that there were independent teams within GLP to review and approve any acquisitions. Depending on the value of the acquisitions, approval might be required from the board. I accepted the explanation. In a subsequent acquisition announcement on 17 Aug in which the P/B ratio exceeded 2 times, the company added a statement to explain that the book value was based on historical cost. The statement read “The book value is based on People’s Republic of China’s Accounting Standards for Business Enterprises, which requires properties to be stated at historical depreciated cost. The consideration paid was based on recent third party appraisal of the value of the property, among other factors.”
The AGM was a good outcome. Besides getting answers for the key concern above, I also got to see the CEO for the first time. Throughout the AGM, he answered most of the questions, demonstrating a good knowledge of the operations of the company. For readers who were not present at the AGM, you can refer to the earnings call transcript for the recent 2Q2017 financial results, which he again answered most of the questions raised by analysts. 
Coming back to the issue of less than 100% alignment in interests between the CEO and shareholders, the issue boils down to this: how much are you prepared to pay for an intelligent CEO? After seeing his handling of the questions raised at the AGM and in earnings calls, the business strategy and directions of GLP, I am prepared to accept that he has direct interests in the China subsidiary outside of his GLP shareholdings. 
Post-AGM, I sold some GLP shares again in Oct and reduced my concentration to 16%, but it was not because of price fluctuations or any of the above-mentioned concerns. The purpose of the sale was to create some headroom for averaging down in the event of any general market crash. But after the recent rumours of a group of Chinese investors planning to take over the company, I bought back what I had sold, using CPF funds.
Like human relationships, there will always be an initial rocky phase where each party understands more of the other. My relationship with GLP has gone past this rocky phase and I look forward to participating in the long-term growth of this company. 
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The GLP Story

It has been about a year since I started to build a large position in Global Logistic Properties (GLP). The company initially caught my attention when it bought back a large chunk of its shares. For the Financial Year ended Mar 2016, it spent about SGD…

The Minions (Millions) Mentality

Last week, I blogged about the minions in my portfolio, i.e. small, speculative positions in loss-making companies with reasonable chance of turning around. Although small, they have the potential to become multi-baggers. I also mentioned the advantages of minions, which are: (1) they serve as incubators for further investment should further evidence of the company turning around emerges and (2) “risk-free” positions to counter the high risks involved in investing in some companies and industries, such as the Oil & Gas industry. You can refer to Meet The Minions for more info.

However, the minion strategy goes beyond these 2 advantages. I discovered the mentality of investing like the rich. Because the amount invested in minions are relatively small, typically 1/3 the size of a typical investment in a profitable company, any price changes are fairly insignificant. In fact, as mentioned in my last post, the investment is mentally written off the moment they are purchased. Because of the relatively small size and also because they are mentally written off, there is no emotional attachment to the share price. Whether the price is down 10% or 100%, I could not care less. Contrast this with the largest holding in my portfolio which takes up 15% to 20% of my capital. When I first held such a large position, every 3-cent movement (equivalent to 1.5% price change) was enough to make me feel jittery. There is only 1 word to describe the lack of emotional attachment to share price: liberating.

Because I could not care whether the stock is down 100%, I also could not care whether the stock is up 100%, 200% or 400%! That was the case with MIT, which I originally bought at $0.066 and it went up to $0.285 for a 332% return on the purchase price. I decided that a 332% return was inadequate and held on for a 1000% return. Unfortunately, the price came back down to $0.165, with further drops likely after a series of disappointing results recently. Nevertheless, I had no regrets not cashing in on that multi-bagger and locking in a gain of 332% plus bragging rights for a 4-bagger.

One of my problems in investing is the inability to hold on to winners. This problem becomes more obvious as the stock approaches a 100% gain, which is the threshold for a multi-bagger and comes with bragging rights. Watching the stock price fluctuating just above and below the line is nerve-wrenching. On one occasion, I decided that I had enough of the jittery and sold for a 163% gain, only to watch the stock climb another 118%! In other words, I sold for double my purchase price, and the price doubled again after I sold! It was not a minion position and the amount of “lost profits” was staggering. The stock was Riverstone.

This is why I said that when there is no emotional attachment to the share price, the feeling is truly liberating. When there is nothing to anchor the share price, such as the 2-bagger threshold, the sky is the limit. The minions mindset also gives me a peek into how the rich treat their investments. Whenever there is a stock market crash, newspapers would tabulate how much money the billionaires in the world have lost. Yet, they never seem to want to sell their massive shareholdings in the companies they founded or owned. When the stock market recovers, these billionaires made much more money that they had lost in the crash. They are in the top 10/100 billionaire list for a reason: they never sell. Had they sold at the top of the stock market, they probably would not be in the list for much longer. The dividends from the stocks they own are way more than sufficient to fund their lifestyles. There is no need to sell the stocks to protect the value from dropping in a stock market crash. In constrast, retail investors like myself are always looking to protect the value of our investments. If someone were to tell me with 100% accuracy that tomorrow’s stock market would crash, I would sell a majority of my stocks. (Actually, if you read my blog, I do think that a crash is coming, and I’m 50% in cash. Thus, you can see that I am still a very long way from adopting the mentality of the rich).
The minions might be small and insignificant. But they have important lessons on how to make millions. I have certainly learnt a lot from them.

P.S. As I’ll be overseas next week, I would not be able to respond to your comments until I return. Appreciate your understanding.

Meet The Minions

I have a bunch of speculative shares which I affectionately call “the minions”. The characteristics of the minions are: small speculative positions in loss-making companies with reasonable chance of turning around. The idea behind the minions came abou…

SSB Interest Rate Estimates – A Year On

Some readers might know that I run a parallel blog at (The) Boring Investor’s Statistics that shows some of the investment statistics that I monitor on a regular basis. One of these statistics is a forecast of the interest rates of the Singapore Savings Bonds (SSBs) to be announced in the upcoming month. The interest rates for the SSB to be announced in the following month is based on the average yield (i.e. interest rates) of the Singapore Government Securities (SGS) benchmark bonds in the current month. As an example, the SSB to be announced in Nov (and issued on 1 Dec) is based on the average SGS yields in Oct. The SSB that is available for subscription in Oct, however, is based on the average SGS yields in Sep. Thus, by comparing the average SGS yields for Sep and Oct, you can assess whether you should apply for Oct’s SSB (to be issued on 1 Nov) or wait for Nov’s SSB.
There is, however, a small issue. Applications for SSBs close on the 4th last business day of the month. In the case of Oct’s SSB, it closed on 26 Oct. Thus, if you are thinking of whether to apply for Oct’s SSB or wait for Nov’s SSB on 26 Oct, you only have the SGS yields from 1 Oct to 26 Oct to compare against the yields for the entire month of Sep. If the yields from 27 Oct to 31 Oct were to change drastically from the yields from 1 Oct to 26 Oct, your forecasts for Nov’s SSB interest rates would be incorrect. 
 
For my (The) Boring Investor’s Statistics blog, I usually blog on weekends only, hence, the forecast is carried out and posted even earlier, on the weekend prior to the close of application. This means that the post can sometimes be as many as 8 business days from the end of the month. The forecast error can be larger. As an example, for Oct, the application closed on 26 Oct, but my forecast was posted last Sun on 23 Oct. This means that I have 3 fewer days of data to carry out my forecast.
 
I usually provide 2 forecasts, one based on the SGS yields up to the date of forecast (known as the equal-weighted forecast), and another assuming the yields for the remaining days of the month to be the same as that on the last available date (known as the end-weighted forecast, because the yield on the last available date has a weight of 3-8 times more than all other days). After providing the forecasts for over a year, how accurate have my forecasts been? Fig. 1 below shows the forecast errors for both methods.
Fig. 1: SSB Interest Rate Forecast Errors
The figure above shows that the average errors for the end-weighted forecasts are smaller than that of the equal-weighted forecasts for all time periods except for the 10-year interest rates. However, on closer inspection, the equal-weighted forecast errors are of higher magnitude and are sometimes postive and sometimes negative, resulting in a smaller error when averaged. When compared using standard deviation, which considers only the absolute value of the errors, the end-weighted forecasts have smaller variance than the equal-weighted forecasts for all time periods. Thus, end-weighted forecasts provide better estimates of the SSB interest rates.
Fig. 2 below shows the forecast SSB interest rates superimposed on the SGS yields for the previous month. When SGS yields are relatively constant for the month, both forecasts yield very good results. However, when SGS yields are either rising or falling, the errors become larger. The equal-weighted forecasts have larger errors than the end-weighted forecasts because they do not take into consideration the direction of the SGS yields. End-weighted forecasts are more accurate as they give more weight to the SGS yields near the end of the month as described above.
Fig. 2: Accuracy of SSB Interest Rate Forecasts
Finally, the most valuable lessons that I learnt from forecasting SSB interest rates over the past 1 year is this: the future cannot be predicted. Although I could enhance my forecast methodology and perhaps provide good estimates of SSB interest rates, the best I could forecast is only 1 month in advance. I cannot forecast the SSB interest rates beyond 1 month. When the first tranche of SSB was announced in Sep 2015 with a 10-year interest rate of 2.63%, I forecasted that the next tranche of SSB would have a higher interest rate and decided not to apply for it. When the second tranche was announced with a 10-year interest rate of 2.78%, I was proven right! At that time, there was even an outcry among the SSB investors who had applied for the first tranche as their SSBs were now less valuable. Little did I expect that the SSB interest rates for all subsequent tranches would drop below that of the first tranche! The 10-year interest rate for the current tranche is only 1.79%, which is much lower than the 2.63% for the first tranche. Investors who bought into the first tranche of SSBs got a good deal after all. Smart alecs like me can only watch the SSB interest rates going lower.
If you are interested in forecasts of the SSB interest rates, you can refer to SSB Interest Rate Estimates at my (The) Boring Investor’s Statistics blog. Just bear in mind the lesson I learnt above, which is that the future cannot be predicted.
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Singapore Savings Bonds – A Year On

It has been a year since the launch of the first Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB) in Oct 2015. How have the interest rates of SSBs changed in this 1 year and how have they performed relative to the more conventional government bonds, namely, the Singapore Government Securities (SGS)?
Fig. 1 below shows the 10-year interest rates of SSBs (red line). The interest rates are computed as the average of the benchmark 10-Year SGS interest rates (blue line) over the previous month. (Note: There is always a confusion over the “month” of the SSB. The SSB announced in Oct is issued in Nov and based on the average rates of the 10-Year SGS benchmark bond in Sep.). As you can see from Fig. 1, interest rates have been on a downward trend, reflecting the eagerness of central banks around the world to lower interest rates, to even negative levels in some countries.
Fig. 1: SSB 10-Year Interest Rates
The highest 10-year interest rate achieved for SSBs was for the second tranche of SSBs issued in Nov 2015. The interest rate was 2.78%. The 10-year interest rate touched a low of 1.75% for the tranche issued in Sep 2016. The interest rate for the current tranche is not much higher, at 1.79%.
If you had bought the first 2 tranches of SSBs issued in Oct and Nov 2015, you would be happy with your purchase, since interest rates for all subsequent tranches have been below these rates. 
However, the performance of the more conventional 10-Year SGS bond was even better. Fig. 2 below shows the price performance of the 10-Year SGS bond since the issue of the first SSB.
Fig. 2: Price Performance of 10-Year SGS and SSB
On 1 Oct 2015, when the first tranche of SSB was issued, the 10-Year SGS benchmark bond traded at $98.61 for every $100 of bond principal. Due to the fall in interest rates, prices of bonds have been on the rise. A year later, on 30 Sep 2016, the same bond traded at $105.09. Investors who bought the SGS bond would have gained a capital appreciation of 6.6%. On top of that, investors would have received another 2.375% in coupons (i.e. interest) for holding the bond. Since investors bought the bond at less than the principal of $100, the coupons translate to an interest yield of 2.41% ($2.375 / $98.61). In contrast, SSBs are capital-guaranteed, which means that their value stays at $100 regardless of whether interest rates are going up or down. Over the same period, investors in the Oct 2015 SSB would have received 0.96% in interest, being the 1-year interest rate of the SSB. In total, investors in SSB and SGS would have received the following returns over the 1-year period.
SSB SGS
Capital appreciation 6.57%
Interest 0.96% 2.41%
Total 0.96% 8.98%
Thus, the 10-Year SGS bond has outperformed the Oct 2015 SSB by as much as 8.02% over the 1-year period. The main reason is that interest rates have dropped from 2.54% in Oct 2015 to 1.74% in Sep 2016. 
Hence, if interest rates are rising, it is better to stay with SSBs as they are capital-guaranteed. However, if interest rates are falling, SGS are a better choice as they will gain in price. By juggling between SSB and SGS, you can gain from changes in interest rates. This is exactly the conclusion discussed a year ago in Getting the Best of Both SSB & SGS.
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