Change is the only constant

I haven’t been reading much into individual companies. I just felt that with markets hitting new hits, the is now very little room for errors. Why go against the tide?

I think in investing, one must really ‘know’ oneself. No pointing kidding yourself and acting all gungho and take on more risk than you can stomach. Sure when markets are rising, the profits are magnified when you invest more.

However, can you accurately time the crash and be out before the profits vaporize? In a rising market, psychologically there is this reluctance to sell, as you do not want to lose out on the gains (as compared to others).

In a crashing market, how much loss can you stomach, people may be able to endure a 10% or even a 20% decline, but a 50% decline? Very few can. And when your chips are all in (after all, the more you put in, the bigger the ‘gains’) – it is really very hard to stomach the loss (well at least I know that is for me – hence, for now, that is all I can ‘afford’ to be in the market).

It is ‘fun’ tabulating up the unrealised profits week after week. However, as any investor would know, unrealised gains are as they are – unrealised. Capital gains are fickle, passive income gains not as much – but if you stick to a fundamentally weak company with deteriorating business, it too would be gone.

There is, after all a difference between getting rich and staying rich. I think the below post put across this point very clearly.

Getting Rich vs. Staying Rich (read here)

The fortunes of people, companies, and even countries change.

This Taiwanese video (click here) shared by another blogger about the future of Singapore and China Rail Silk Road masterplan (which connects Southeast Asia via China to Europe) and China Maritime Silk road masterplan (which includes the Kra Canal through Thailand bypassing Singapore), is a sobering wake-up call that even future of nations are not guaranteed.

The London – Yiwu freight train has successfully been launched (click here). While news of the commencement of the Kra Canal has recently surfaced again (read here). I do not know what the future holds for Singapore Inc, but as China grows, it would continue to seek a more economical, faster and cheaper link between it and the west. Singapore might be an unfortunate casualty. Frankly, in simple economics, the real beneficiaries of this connection are the landlocked cities along the route (rather than the coastal cities of China or London).

I do not know what the future holds for Singapore Inc, but as China grows, it would continue to seek a more economical, faster and cheaper link between it and the West. Singapore might be an unlikely casualty. I think the political rational highlighted in some of the news and Taiwanese video is a bit overblown. Ultimately it all boils down to economic…perhaps I can see the day when the transportation of goods flow the other way round (from the west to the east) :p.

Let me digress a bit – it kinds of remind me of the 2006 American computer-animated comedy-adventure film ‘ Cars’. In the film, we learn about a place called Radiator Springs which used to be a popular stopover along the old U.S. Route 66, but with the construction of Interstate 40 bypassing it, the town literally vanished from the map.

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Having said that, as the time goes by, the ‘world’ in many ways get smaller – national boundaries may slowly blur (ok, maybe not that small with the new Trump protectionism and Brexit). People with marketable skills (and the right attitude) may find it easier to find jobs in many other countries.

And as investors, the world is literally your oyster (ok, there are some restrictions, eg. dividends from other countries may be taxed. If I am not wrong US stock dividends are taxed 30%). If someone living in far out Omaha can be one of the richest men in the world…..

In addition, I always feel that for some businesses unlike hard assets (eg. properties), these tend to be mobile (if location A doesn’t work out, they move on to location B).

 

 

 

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Yangzijiang Shipbuilding (Holdings) Ltd US treasury yield curves

I have been reading the blog posts from fellow bloggers and my own older posts. Yeah, the fingers are itching for some actions (buying some stocks)… be it for capital gains or dividend income.

Now may not exactly be the right time.

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Actually, I am not really good at being a ‘hybrid’ investors. I do know some investors who do value investing and stock trading (momentum investing) at the same time. Well, some do more of the first than the second (and vice versa).

I tend to feel that I lose my directions when I engage in the different modes of investing… after a while, I don’t really know my principles anymore and don’t really know what to believe (or what am I really doing — investing or gambling).

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding (Holdings) Ltd

Yangzhijiang came into my radar. It has a dividend yield of 4.79% in 2016.

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Given the collapse of the shipbuilding industry in China and the consolidations of various shipyards to  (with many smaller less competitive shipyard companies disappearing) – it is likely that Yangzhijiang will still remain standing in the long run. It is after all,  the largest and most cost-efficient private shipbuilder in China.

With more than 3,000 shipbuilding enterprises, mostly speculative yards, counted at the start of 2010, that number has drastically dwindled to only around 300 today, and only a little more than 100 yards have active day-to-day operations. (read here)

Although there are many things I do like about YZJ:

  • Strong balance sheet;
  • Management willing to cut loss quickly on losing enterprises and lay-off workers;
  • Managed to get major government contracts (in contrast to other smaller shipyards);
  • Consistent & high dividend payouts, etc

Yangzijiang shipbuilding lays off 6000 men plans 2000 more (read here)

I have my reservations over a few points:

  • Cyclical stock or business. They don’t tend to make good buy and hold stocks in the long run. Hard to predict their earnings.
  • The payout ratio has increased rapidly in recent months / year (see below);
  • And that is on top of the fact that revenue, operating income, earning per share all show a downtrend in recent years (not surprising given the slow collapse of the shipbuilding industry in China). Well if you search deeper, ROE, ROIC, ROA all downtrend in recent years.
  • Free Cash Flow is erratic in recent years.

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I came across an interview from Glenn Greenberg of Brave Warrior (formerly Chieftain Capital).

I’ve always like his general approach, specifically the following two points:

  • Focus on the quality businesses (he lived through the stock market crash of 1987, where the market tumbled over 20% in one day, and he wanted to ensure that if that ever happened again, he would feel comfortable with the businesses he owned)
  • Position Sizing: If it’s not worth putting 5% of your portfolio in the stock, then it’s probably either too risky, outside your circle of competence, or doesn’t have enough upside.

I feel that YZJ is a quality business, however, at the moment, I need to read more about it.

Being a big company does not make it recession-proof.

And not sure if I am willing to put 5% of my portfolio in it… given the market situation now. Frankly, I am not really sure how YZJ stock will perform in the event of a

Frankly, I am not really sure how YZJ (as a stock) will perform in the event of a market crash. I reckon that would be like a perfect storm (together with the collapse of the shipbuilding industry, O&G industry slump and Trump protectionism.

The sudden increase in payout ratio is worth noting (I hope management is not trying too hard to keep up ‘appearances’)….and any sudden drop in dividend payout will have an over-reaction to the stock price (esp. from investors who view this as a dividend yield stock).

 

US treasury yield curves

Well, I was reading my old posts, I recalled a post done in May 2016 (read here). There was the mention of US Treasury yield curves by Mr Tng:” A sign that a correction is coming is that the US treasury yield curve is close to as flat as what you see before previous crises.”

I recall that there was a market correction in Jan 2016 (in S&P 5oo & STI).

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So I will use that period as a benchmark and compare today’s US treasury yield curve to the curve then. See below.

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However, can’t really see any difference in steepness of the two curves. Well, am not really a big picture or top down kind of investor. Guess I just wasted 10 minutes. :p

“The way you lose money in the stock market is to start off with an economic picture. I also spend fifteen minutes a year on where the stock market is going.” and “If you spend more than 13 minutes analyzing economic and market forecasts, you’ve wasted 10 minutes.” Peter Lynch

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Risks (Love It Or Hate It, We Can’t Live Without It)

You know, recently I came across the important concept of “Taking Risk”.

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In the video below, Tom Sosnoff talks about his interaction with this golf Caddy Master – Jimmy Rocko (who is around 40 or 50 yrs older than him) when he was 15 or 16 years old.

Passive Investing is Broken. Here’s how to fix it | Tom Sosnoff | TEDxUChicago (click here).

While he was working as a Caddy, during break time, they would take turns taking shots at a bucket which is filled with money. The caddies have to put money (a quarter) in every time they take a shot at it. It is like in a sense a form of gambling ‘venture’. Over time Jimmy made thousands of dollars from this gambling venture because he would only take a shot at the bucket when it made ‘sense’ to gamble. Jimmy understand the concept of “Pot Odds”.

Well, for one, Jimmy is a better golfer, but most importantly, he would only take a shot when the bucket is full of money and the odds are in his favor. Eg. the payout is much more than what he put in.

From Jimmy, Tom was able to learn about taking risks, quantifying risk (Pot Odds) and golf.

 

Then there is the below blog post by cheerfulegg. Like him, I used to gamble during Chinese New Year. Now as I get older – I tend to do this less often during CNY. Having known the risk-odd equation (not in my favor). There are better odds in stock investing if one is patient enough… and I have been quantifying risks the whole year (looking at stocks), CNY is for me a break from this :p

Teach Your Kids To Gamble by cheerfulegg (read here)

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However, I do agree that it is important to teach your kids to gamble. Well not to be addicted to it, but to understand that luck does play a part in life and that there are more important things in life than winning.

However, I would add one more point – which I feel many of the youths in Singapore are lacking, and that is to take risks and from it, learn how to quantify risks.

 

My thoughts

Frankly, if I can get rich and comfortable by going through life without having to as much lift a finger, I would have never touched stocks or taken any risk with my money. There would be no need to.

“When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night’s sleep for the chance of extra profits.” Warren Buffett

I am a very risk-averse person by nature. So it is extremely weird to find me, investing the majority of my net worth in stocks most of the time. Or to try some other wacky ventures like Amazon FBA or P2P loans / Invoice Financing (in the earlier years, it would be insurance linked products, growth funds or unit trusts).

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When I first started investing in stocks, I thought it was the ‘hardest’ way to make money. It still is. After all, when you have a job – your earned income is more or less guaranteed (well, you can be sacked or demoted etc, but you get my drift). My job is like an extension of my school life eg. if I stay within ‘the line’, do as I am told, put in as much effort as I can, do all the right things, I will get rewarded (pay + bonus). Simple. To many, that is all they do to get money (who has time and energy to do anything else…read annual reports? No way).

On the other hand, there is no “Right” or “Wrong” in investing. The concept of risk and quantifying risk was new to me when I first started investing.

In fact, I hardly made any profit for many years. Actually, come to think of it, the time spent on investing (studying companies and financials or even trading) just does not add up to the returns (profits). I think I lost more than I make for many years. And what about the time spent worrying and feeling sorry for your losses? Isn’t working life + family life stressful enough?

However, over time, I learn to quantify the risk (weight the odds vs the possible returns). I had to. In retrospect, I had no choice. It is either a loss or a gain. I am not rich, I earned my money the hard way. I am not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I started my working life in a 5 figure debt (student loan). In one of my earliest trade when I started working – I lost close to my month’s pay in 2 weeks.

Every time I look at the stock price, the company details, and financials… I had to think about the possibility of a higher stock price, better future business prospect, regular or increasing dividend in the future. The losses I had in the past are still fresh in my mind.

As you get older, your saving should naturally increase – and the odds may get higher (the amount you invest in or may lose). However, hopefully, we should get better at quantifying the risks.

Or put it in another way – Is flying a plane risky? To many it probably is. But to a seasoned pilot doing this every day for the past 10, 20 or 30 years, it is no risk at all. However, if you are to ask the same pilot to ride a motorbike and if he doesn’t have a license to do so – he would be taking a big risk with his life.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffett

I don’t consider trading as investing. I may not be buying or selling stocks at the moment (or actively doing that since early 2016), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my eyes on the stocks which I want to invest in. I reckon I am like Jimmy Rocko who always have his eyes on the bucket.

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I don’t think we can avoid risk altogether. Taking a risk, by itself is not right or wrong. Perhaps, Tom Sosnoff managed to put it in a funny and witty way: ” God loves all of you, but God loves the ones who take risks a little bit more”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tracking my portfolio

It has been some time since I tracked my portfolio. My previous posts pertaining to my portfolio was in Aug 2016 and Sept 2016 (read here and here).

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In my Aug 2016 post, I mentioned that at one time in April 2015, my overall portfolio shows an unrealised profit of almost 9%. This swiftly transformed into -11% in Feb 2016. So overall it was an almost 20% decline.

In retrospect, the Singapore index fell from almost 3500 (April 2015) to almost 2600 (Jan 2016) – an almost 25% drop from the top.

Currently, my portfolio has again risen to an overall unrealized gain of approx 10% (that is after excluding all dividend gains and realized gains I received from my stocks which were delisted last year).

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In comparison to my stock portfolio in Aug 2016, there are now only 12 stocks in my portfolio (previously, there were 14 stocks). Overall the stocks performed better this time. In gist, the no. of red counters have reduced

Colex has increased its lead, while Riverstone and ISOTeam’s percentage profit remained the same. SIA and Sarine Tech’s percentage loss has increased, while Super Group, CapitaLand, and Fasternal Co show marked improvement in percentage profit.

Net Worth

My total net worth would include the following:

  • Savings,
  • SRS account value,
  • CPF,
  • Cash portion of Insurance policies,
  • Stock portfolio value,
  • P2P loan / Invoice Financing portfolio value,
  • Unit trust.

This is excluding the value of the property I am staying in.

Overall, my net worth value has been on an uptrend since early last year. Nevertheless, the Net Worth value is heavily dependent on the stock portfolio value. Hence, at any time, there could be a drop or volatility, given the nature of stocks as we all know.

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Stock Portfolio

I haven’t been really active with my stock portfolio for the past year. Frankly, I am surprised that it is on an uptrend since 3 of my stocks have been delisted last year. I did buy stocks prior / during the Jan 2016 crash, but between then and now – I have only nibbled at some stocks.

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P2P Loans & Invoice Financing

I have been quite disappointed with the performance of the P2P loans, with 3 of the loans defaulted. Of these 3 loans, for one loan, the company went bankrupt, while for the other two loans relating to the same company – the director ran off with the money (read here).

Even though the portfolio did manage to generate an overall gain despite the defaults, I have started to slowly reduce my holdings in this portfolio (transferring money from the platform accounts to my saving accounts).

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If I divide the total net worth into its various components, I will get a pie chart as per below. Compared to Sept 2016, the main difference is the jump in the percentage for Savings (increased from 8% to 13%). Still predominantly in stocks. However, I foresee this year’s passive income will decrease unless I purchase more high yield stocks.Waiting for the opportunity.

The bonus from my full-time job this time round isn’t a lot.

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In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

The Singapore market has been underperforming in relative to other major indices for some time now, and technically stocks in the market here are generally not over-priced (read here). Perhaps this why recently, there is news of listed companies receiving buyout offers from their management teams and their related parties.

With the flurry of privatisation of Singapore market listed companies in recent weeks – read here (it appears to be a continuation of last year’s string of privatisation exercises)… suddenly the Singapore market appears ‘sexy’ again.

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What’s interesting is that for some of these companies, their share prices have been on the uptrend for many months or years.

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The buyout offer was initiated by their management teams and their related parties. Who obviously think that their companies’ stock prices are cheap.

In fact, if you search under Value Buddies, many have argued that in the case of Spindex, the Cash Consideration of S$0.850 per Share is too low (some suggested a more reasonable price of S$1.45 per share). Similarly, some consider Silver Creek Capital’s offer of S$1.65 in cash for each of Auric Pacific’s shares that are not controlled by Dr Riady and Dr Adhiwana to be too low.

Basically, as insiders, I am sure they (management) know more about the companies’ business and financials better than most people / retail investors. Also, as minor shareholders, most retail investors would have little say in the privatisation exercise.

Typically, I like to see myself as a ‘bottom up’ investor – eg. I think more about the fundamentals of the companies when evaluating a stock. However, against a backdrop of the multi-year high US market, I can’t help but wonder why the rush? 

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In 2nd-longest bull run, Dow surpasses 20,000 (read here)

Have the earnings of Spindex or Auric Pacific been exceptionally good in recent years? I doubt so. Base on recent earnings, if the valuation is cheap now, wouldn’t it be much cheaper some time back? Perhaps like I said earlier, the management knew something that we don’t and future earnings might be much better. They may be able to see the future clearer than most of us.

When I studied the historical earning / financial data of Auric Pacific, it is hard to see an obvious upward trend. Be it EPS / ROE / ROIC / Dividends / Free Cash Flow. Not surprisingly, it has not been on my radar – perhaps I have missed something here.

Having said that, on the other hand, Spindex is a fundamentally strong company and is a favourite to many value investors. I can see why management views it as undervalued.

Nevertheless, please see below for an extract of an article about Seth Klarman’s recent letter to his investors (read here):

“In his letter, Mr Klarman sets forth a countervailing view to the euphoria that has buoyed the stock market since Mr Trump took office, describing “perilously high valuations”.

“Exuberant investors have focused on the potential benefits of stimulative tax cuts, while mostly ignoring the risks from America-first protectionism and the erection of new trade barriers,” he wrote.

“President Trump may be able to temporarily hold off the sweep of automation and globalisation by cajoling companies to keep jobs at home, but bolstering inefficient and uncompetitive enterprises is likely to only temporarily stave off market forces.”

The stock market is always trading on ‘float’. The price is reflective of what the investors already knew and foresee in the future (not the current quantitative value of the company).

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Yes, Singapore stocks are generally not expensive – but when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold. Singapore being a small country which is heavily dependent on trade would not be spared either. So what are the odds of a lower valuation within a few years down the road?

Singapore market has been on an uptrend since the start of 2017. People are starting to talk about the ‘market’ in the office again.

There is always this little voice in me – urging me not to lose out, to join in the euphoria. “See, even the management is buying out their own companies…..”

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Frankly, I don’t know about the future market directions. Perhaps my inaction would result in a huge loss of potential future profits.However, currently, I have yet to bump into any companies which I feel is undervalued.

Investing is really an individual mind game. You are your own worse enemy – never abandon your principles. Stand up for them.

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The Search is on…

Time and time again, I am reminded of how furiously the price of a stock can drop.

In yesterday alone, the price of Starhub shares dropped by 6.67% ($0.20), which is more than the total dividend issued in 2016. The share price continued dropping today (although at a slower pace).

I reckon, for some dividend investors, Starhub is a key dividend stock and occupies a big portion of their portfolio.

Speaking of dividend stocks, another stock comes to mind: Sabana REIT (Sabana Shari’ah Compliant Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust). Its stock price has dropped since April 2013. Although in recent days there has been a slight uptick.

Yes, on one hand, I wanted to buy dividend stocks, but on the other hand, I have to think hard as to how resilient the business is, and how strong the company is fundamentally (to ensure consistent dividends or even increasing dividends).

In fact, I have been reading back my old posts and trying to check if the current share prices of some of the companies which I have covered are within the ‘buying’ range. These are not all high dividend stocks, but hopefully are companies with strong fundamentals.

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Unfortunately, seems like most of their stock price have been getting higher and higher (Health Management International Ltd, Spindex, Dutech, QAF… to name a few). While others have buy-out offers (eg. Innovalues – read here).

Incidentally, Auric Pacific might be privatized soon (read here)- by the way, I did not do any posts on Auric.

Been too lazy to do some detailed analysis today, but reading up my old posts help me recall many of my thoughts in the past (and compare them with the business performance of the companies so far). I tend to treat my blog as a digital notepad or diary to record down my thoughts on stocks.

Health Management International seems to be doing well in recent times and appears to be expanding.

  • HMI to consolidate ownership of two hospitals in Malaysia for RM557m (read here)

Another point to note – there are some stocks which are fundamentally strong (eg. Straco and Spindex), however, I have my reservations. Straco’s share price has been trending downwards. However, I view Straco and Spindex’s business as being more cyclical and less resilient during an economic downturn, hence the ‘reservations’ in purchasing their stocks.

Well, although I can’t 100% forecast the future prospects of the company (and how it would affect the stock prices) —- but I guess I really have to convince myself and do my due diligence before committing to the stock purchase.

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Bloomage Biotechnology Corp (963 HK) – Quick Study

Bloomage BioTechnology Corporation Limited (the “Company”, together with its subsidiaries, the “Group”) was listed on the main board of the Stock Exchange in 2008. The Company is principally engaged in the development, manufacture and sales of raw materials and end products for a diversified range of hyaluronic acid (also known as hyaluronan, hyaluronic acid sodium, abbreviated as “HA”), and is a leading provider of medical beauty products and services in the PRC and one of the world’s largest producers of HA raw materials. The Group devotes to develop itself to be a provider of comprehensive series of products and solutions based on HA as the core.

Leveraging on the outstanding research and development capability of the Group, the Group successfully launched its injection cosmetic filler product – Hyaluronan Soft Tissue Filling Gel in 2012 and extended its business scope to HA end products. Currently, the self-developed end products of the Group comprise Hyaluronan Soft Tissue Filling Gel (including BioHyalux and Dermallure), HA+ medical skin care products (including professional pre-operation and post-operation repair products and daily maintenance and moisturizing products), Medical HA Gel for ophthalmologic use (trade name “Hymois”) and bone products for intra-articular injection (trade name “Hyprojoint”).

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1) Trailing PEG

  • P/E: 19.66 (from POEMS)
  • Dividend Yield (%):0.22 (from POEMS)
  • 5 years EPS compound growth rate: 23.33 (from ft.com)

The trailing PEG will be 19.66/(0.22+23.33) = 0.83. Which is good (below 1).

2) Intrinsic Value

If we calculate the intrinsic value using a growth rate of 20.997%. (90% from 5 years EPS compound growth rate)

F = P(1+R)N

  • F = the future EPS
  • P = the starting (present) EPS (HKD 0.63)
  • R = compound growth rate, 20.997 (90% of 5 yrs historical growth rate,23.33%)
  • N = number of years in the future (5)

Estimated future EPS: HKD 1.63

I will be estimating the future PE of Bloomage Biotechnology Corp to be 21.8. (See below, data from Morningstar) Average of PEs from 2009 to 2016.

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Future Stock Price

P=EPSxPE

  • P = future stock price
  • EPS = future EPS
  • PE = future PE

Hence future stock price of Bloomage Biotechnology Corp is 1.63 x 21.8=HKD 35.534

Intrinsic Value

P=F/(1+R)N

  • P = present (intrinsic) value
  • F = future stock price (35.534)
  • R = MARR (15% or 0.15)
  • N = Number of years (5)

Hence intrinsic value of Bloomage Biotechnology Corp is HKD 17.7.

Given the current stock price of Bloomage BioTechnology Corp Ltd at HKD 12.26, there a margin of safety base on the estimated intrinsic value (approx. 44% lower).

Moreover, current Price to Book value is relatively low as compared to recent years.

Good to have this in my ‘shopping’ list.

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Thumb Sucking

Well, haven’t been buying stocks for months. With the markets at multi-months / years high, I feel much inertia in analyzing and picking stocks.

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My cash war chest has grown, despite the amount used for my Amazon FBA experiment (doesn’t come cheap). So for some time now, I have been looking at the war chest and thinking of how to best use it.

In summary, these are the significant factors which I can think of which contributed to the increase and decrease in my net worth so far:

Increase due to:

  1. Delisting of a no. of stocks in my portfolio;
  2. My existing stock portfolio has performed ok (given that markets are generally ok for the time being). Normally I see a lot more of my stock holdings in the red;
  3. Just received my bonus from the company I am working in. It wasn’t much, probably due to the bad economy now;
  4. Slight contributions from the interest received from invoice financing and P2P loans.

Decrease due to:

  1. Cash outlay for experiment with Amazon FBA;
  2. Son’s tuition & enrichment classes fee;
  3. Red packets (to relatives and parents)

Pertaining to the war-chest: Yes, it would come in handy if I am to purchase another property for my family. I don’t think to purchase a property now makes good investment sense – well, that is at least for the near term with the ABSD still in place and property prices have not fallen much. In addition, interest rates look set to increase.

I would definitely like to make the cash work to generate some passive income, and REITs obviously comes to mind. Mind you, I don’t have a single REIT stock in my portfolio. I guess the thinking would be similar if I am thinking of buying a property for investment (but in comparison buying REITs would be at a much smaller scale).

  • Banks, REITs under watch as Fed hike looms (read here)
  • US rate hike points to more belt-tightening ahead for Asia (read here)
  • The right way to assess REIT value (read here)

I have been thinking about AIMS AMP CAP Industrial REIT, First REIT and Parkway Life REIT. The reasons for wanting to purchase AIMS vs First & Parkway Life REITs are dissimilar. AIMS probably due to its attractive 8.5% yield, good management, and good properties despite the seeming oversupply of logistics properties in Singapore here. While in the case of First & Parkway Life REIT, I like the defensive nature of the healthcare sector (they are in), despite the lower yield (First REIT: 6.54%, Parkway Life REIT: 4.91%).

Or, I can think like AK and look for REITs which has more overseas properties (given the lacklustre performance of the property sector in Singapore). However, I am not familiar with the situation overseas ( a booming population with good potential for future economic growth?) and the US interest rate hike would probably affect REITs in most countries (although there are countries with negative interest rates).

However, I am not familiar with the situation overseas (a booming population with good potential for future economic growth?) and the US interest rate hike would probably affect REITs in most countries (although there are countries with negative interest rates.

However, I reckon, stock investment is one of the few things that you can excel in by ‘doing nothing’ when there is no need to do anything… Impatience can lead to deadly consequences.

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There is also another ‘strong’ thought in mind.. and that is to sell. I have always been bad at timing the selling of my stocks. Must learn not to fall in ‘love’ with my stock holdings. When I don’t see much opportunities, this thought (of selling) always pop into my head.

It might be a good time to weed out the weaker stocks in my portfolio (eg. SIA being one of them)  – with deteriorating fundamentals (which are unfortunately still in the red.. darn!). Having said that – those weaker stocks are typically cyclical stocks (eg. Golden Agri , SIA, CapitaLand)… and after many years of lackluster performance and low Price to Book values, one never know when the cycle will turn.

Perhaps I am one of the few investment bloggers that talks about selling stocks at this time.

 

 

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Conversations with Taxi drivers

Well, my family has been doing some visiting during this Chinese New Year. While at my relatives’ houses, we would often gather and have a little chat to catch up. The conversations would inevitably involve the topic of our children. Well, this isn’t about my son. However, these conversations led me to think about the conversations I often had with the taxi drivers.

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However, these conversations led me to think about the conversations I often had with the taxi drivers. In my job, I often need to take taxis, sometimes for long distances (luckily these taxi fares are claimable)… and some of the taxi drivers often like to strike up a conversation with me. I reckon maybe because they are bored, curious or just want to talk to someone to stay awake (after a long day or night of driving).

Taxi Driver A

Let’s call him TDA. TDA seems to me to be in his 50s. He looked rather well mannered and young for his age. He started off by asking me what I am working as… and somehow we did find something in common in our job.

Well, I did have a short stint working overseas and am in the corporate world. However, what he talked most about are his daughters. In fact, they are quite grown up now. For his age, I think he had children quite early in his life, and actually, I was thinking that he should be semi-retired by now (and being taken care of by his daughters).

He has 2 daughters. If I remember correctly, they are in their 20s…and have started working. However, they are not married and surprisingly, they still ask favours from him.

In his own words, TDA felt that he has spoilt them. Sometimes, he would still ferry them around.

TA was once a high-flying corporate guy (the chief designer in Nokia — back when Blackberry phones or Apple iPhones were not popular yet). He was the guy who signed the designs for the phones and was always travelling to different parts of the world. His pay then was $15,000. I reckon, back then $15,000 was a lot (actually now, it is still a lot in my opinion). He knew top guys in China (and regretted not buying properties in China then).

So that made me wonder…. if he earned so much then, why is he driving a taxi now? Well, perhaps to past time? Well, according to him, he didn’t save much during that period. And among the many things he spent on… are things for his daughters, as he felt bad that he wasn’t around them most of the time.

I think to the point that his daughters abuse it. Like they would ask TDA to ferry their friends as well from place to place (in his car back then).

I guess what I can take from this is: (A) How much you earn is secondary, what is more important is how much you save and invest. (B) Don’t spoil your children.. monetary ‘compensation’ may not be the right way.

Taxi Driver B

Let’s call him TDB. TDB is much older than TDA. I reckon he is in his mid-60s. He doesn’t look happy.. and was complaining about his body. I think he has some medical conditions.

Well, he started talking about his children: a son and a daughter. They are in their 30s and have their own family. His son has two kids.

I would have thought that he can now retire since his children are big (and have their own families). However, he mentioned that his son did not have higher education and is struggling to make ends meet, while for himself he did not have much savings – which is why he is driving a taxi to earn an income.

Along the way, he started complaining about his medical bills, long working works (decreasing customers), etc. Some of these taxi drivers do take these conversations as complaint sessions to a ‘captive audience’ (which is me).

 

 

Actually… I reckon, whether one has children or not, the important thing is to save for one’s own retirement and not really expect the children to take care.

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Different models for e-commerce

Ok, I get a few queries pertaining to the idea of having passive income via e-commerce.

Personally, I do doubt one can be really ‘passive’ when it comes to e-commerce. But first, let’s look at the various ‘models’ of e-commerce. It is not just getting a product and selling online. After all, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

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While listening to podcasts, one seasoned seller highlighted that initially, when he started out,  he was into Apps or Software marketing. Then one of his friends suggested that he try selling physical items online. His friend argued that selling physical items online is easier than selling digital items – after all, physical items do have inherent values (they are not completely worthless so to speak). How true that is – I do not know, but for that seasoned seller, he did find success.

I am not an expert when it comes to e-commerce.. but while researching into it, I do come across various models:

1) Setting up online shop: This is probably the most straightforward way of selling. You set up an online store probably via Shopify.com or tictail.com, and customers visit that online store and order direct from there.

The downside to this model is that you do not have a ready stream of customers from a well-established marketplace (unless your product is really well-known). You would need to constantly direct ‘eyeballs’ to your website via online advertisements or promotions.

2) Selling via online marketplace like Ebay or Carousell: Here you have a ready customer base. You just need to list your product online and compete with the other sellers in the same niche. When the customers order, you pack and ship the items to them (or if they are in Singapore, you can physically hand it to them).

The issue with this model is that if you are doing large volumes, you need to spend a lot of time packing and shipping the products yourself. You also need space to store your inventory.

3) Selling via more niche online marketplace: This is somewhat similar to item 2. However, there are sites such as Etsy that cater to more specialized or niche items. In the case of Etsy, people typically look for handmade, DIY or crafted items (eg. jewelry or handicrafts). Well, if you are knowledgeable and talented in a certain niche, it may be more worthwhile.

However, like item 2, you need time to pack and ship the product yourself. Also if you are crafting the product yourself, you would need a lot of time to make the products.

4) Retail arbitrage (aka RA): As the name suggest (arbitrage), the seller is typically doing a trade. He is buying low and selling at a higher price (well, but then again which seller isn’t). Basically, the seller will go to a hypermart (like Walmart), warehouse sales, garage sales, etc to look for cheap bargains. He may be armed with a smartphone which can scan barcodes (there is an App from Amazon), and see what price the item is selling online. If the selling price is higher than the retail price, he would then buy in bulk and sell online.

Well, I find this model the most time-consuming. Not only do you constantly need to shop around for bargains, you would then need to pack and ship the products. And the downside is — what if your customers find out about the bargains. There are many instances whereby the buyers complain directly to Amazon or eBay about the products saying that these are selling at a lower price at Walmart… the seller could then risk being delisted.

5) Online arbitrage (aka OA): This is somewhat similar to item 4. However, in this case, the seller is looking for bargains online. He could be searching for bargains in Walmart online store and sell them on eBay or Amazon at a higher price. He may not even physically need to touch the goods. He can just order from Walmart online and ship to the buyer direct (once the buyer buys from him on eBay or Amazon).

There is a Singaporean lady I know who look for bargains in Amazon and list the same items on Amazon at a higher price. Once a customer orders from her listing, she then orders from Amazon and asks them to ship to this customer (well the customer won’t know right since the item is in the Amazon package box). I don’t think it is less time consuming than item 4, although there are paid websites or programmes online that help your search online through the various online stores looking for bargains (prices selling lower than what is listed on Amazon or eBay) and you don’t need to physically search the hypermart.

6) Dropshipping: In this model, the seller lists the item on an online marketplace. Once a customer order online, he would then contact his suppliers or manufacturers (probably from another country like China or Africa) and then ask them to ship to the customer. This may be a less time-consuming model than the above-mentioned models (but still rather time-consuming in my opinion).

However, the flaw of this model is that there is typically a time lag in the shipment of the items (the buyer may complain on the long waiting time), and the profit margin is typically lower. Most manufacturers are not willing to ship small quantities at intervals and the shipment charges are higher when you don’t ship in bulk.

7) Fulfillment by Amazon (aka FBA): In this model, Amazon takes care of all the back-end process. In very simple terms, you are responsible for shipping the products to Amazon Fulfillment Centers. Actually, you may or may not even physically see your products. You can ask your manufacturer or supplier to ship directly to the Amazon Fulfillment Centers. Once there, your product listing will become active. When a customer buys your item online, Amazon will pack and ship the items to the customers, and be at the front end should the customers have any queries.

Yes, in a way, it may be the most passive of the various models. However, there are certain flipsides. For one, you would need to pay for the services that Amazon renders, and the storage fees.

8) Private Label via Amazon FBA: There is a spin-off from item 7. Typically sellers are wary of competitors selling the same items on the same listing page. There are many ways for sellers to prevent this and have the listing page to themselves. For example, they can come up with customized packaging, bundling the items (with items not easily found), adding a customized ebook with their products, they can sign up for Amazon brand registry, or they can trademark their brands. Basically, if their product is selling well, it is hard for others to hijack their listings (and potential customers) and sell similar products. Another way is that they seek out other well-established brands and offer to be their distributors to sell on Amazon or eBay etc.

The downside to this model is that for some manufacturers, you have to meet their minimum order quantity before they agree to your request for customization (be it packaging or just imprinting your logo onto the product). So yes, you may have to buy in bulks. The upfront cost may be higher.

9) Online marketplace X, Fulfillment via company Y: Let’s say you are selling via Amazon FBA, and you want to expand to another online marketplace like eBay or Etsy. You could list your item on eBay or Etsy and once a customer orders from there, ask Amazon fulfillment centers to pack and ship your product to the customer.

The downside is that I have yet to know a program that automates this process and link eBay or Etsy to Amazon FBA- eg. Currently, for each order on eBay or Etsy, you have to go to your Amazon seller central account and manually key in the customer address and configure Amazon to ship the item there. So this is rather time-consuming.

The other downside is, the item will come in Amazon packaging box (with Amazon company logo imprinted on it) and your customer might get confused (after all, he or she ordered from eBay or Etsy not Amazon). There are also companies that do just fulfillment services (eg. Red Stag). They typically do not have online marketplaces. They just store, pack and ship your products. So in a way, Amazon is unique in this sense. It has a huge and successful online marketplace and has many gigantic fulfillment centers spread out across the United States and in many other countries.

 

In summary

I do come across articles or podcasts about sellers who have set up a semi-passive system. Perhaps they have a found a niche neglected by most. Or their item is extremely specialized, so it is hard for new competitors to come in.

Each model has its pros and cons and is suitable for different kinds of sellers. A retiree with lots of time, but limited capital may opt for RA or OA. While a busy corporate executive with limited time but some spare capital may opt for Private Label via Amazon FBA.

Having said that, e-commerce is constantly evolving and there would always be new competitors and new products.

As to how ‘passive’ e-commerce is… you be the judge.

Actually, if you ask me which is the most passive way to earn money from e-commerce… I think it would probably be to just buy and hold Amazon shares. :p

 

 

Posted in Online selling, Uncategorized | 2 Comments