Quote of the Week

You have the Barons, who perceive change as a risk to their fiefdoms and personal importance. You have the Creationists, who feel comfortable with things as they are and distrust evolution. And you have the Romantics, who hark back to some imagined Camelot, when every subject in the kingdom was happy and prosperous.

~ Friedman, on the three camps that resisted change in Goldman Sachs

Crystal Jade chief on ‘marrying off’ company

Crystal Jade chief on ‘marrying off’ company

He cried when telling staff about the sale to LVMH’s private equity arm
Published on May 3, 2014 1:16 AM


Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts chief executive Ip Yiu Tung with L Capital Asia managing director Christina Teo. The 65-year-old Mr Ip, who has one daughter, says it is very difficult to find a successor. L Capital Asia will be acquiring over 90 per cent of the restaurant group.

By Rebecca Lynne Tan
Food Correspondent

CRYSTAL Jade Culinary Concepts’ head honcho Ip Yiu Tung treats the well-known Chinese restaurant group he built like one of his children.

And just talking about its impending sale next week to L Capital Asia, French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s private equity arm, makes him emotional.

“I am handing over the company to another father,” he said with a quiver in his voice when asked about the sale, in an exclusive interview with The Straits Times at Crystal Jade Golden Palace at Paragon Shopping Centre yesterday.

L Capital Asia will be acquiring over 90 per cent of the restaurant group, which has an annual revenue of close of $250 million. The deal took about three years to materialise.

“I feel sad,” he added. “I actually cried when I announced it to my people on Tuesday.”

The chief executive, 65, who is also the group chairman and managing director, had to stop to compose himself after the first sentence in an announcement of the sale to 100 key staff members. The usually collected, reserved and matter-of-fact chief then cried, but left the private room at Crystal Jade Golden Palace before he could see their reactions.

On the decision to “marry off” the company, he said: “It is very difficult to find a successor. At the age of 65, even if I keep the business, I can keep it only for another three to five years, that’s all. After the age of 70, will I still have the strength? Already, it is quite tough.”

The Hong Konger, who is now a Singapore permanent resident, usually spends his weekends in Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife and only daughter, then begins travelling on Mondays to the group’s restaurants and offices in other parts of Asia.

The group comprises 120 restaurants, from high-end, fine-dining concepts to ones offering casual Chinese cuisine, in 10 countries from China to India, and 21 cities. It has 47 restaurants here.

Globally, it employs about 4,500 full-time staff.

Crystal Jade has seven shareholders. Some will retain a stake in the business while others will cash out.

Mr Ip has sold all his shares, he said.

The company started out as a single restaurant in the now-demolished Cairnhill Hotel in 1991. Mr Ip invested HK$10 million (about S$2 million at the time) the following year to keep the ailing restaurant afloat, then took on the role of overseeing the strategic direction for the company.

On why he thinks L Capital Asia is a good fit, he said: “Our strength is in providing good quality food and service, but we lack brand building, and good relationships with landlords around the world.”

The fund’s parent company, he said, is more in tune with the landscape of international business than Crystal Jade, and can “add value” to the group in terms of branding.

L Capital Asia’s managing director Christina Teo, 40, said: “Crystal Jade is a household brand with a very strong DNA.”

The fund has already identified a chief operating officer or chief executive for Crystal Jade, Mr Ip said. He will stay on as its interim chief executive for a year, then remain as an adviser and brand ambassador to the company.

The sale did not come about because the group is in debt, he said, adding that it is not leveraged or over-committed. It generates enough money to expand organically and has “a lot of cash, just sitting there”.

He plans to divide his new found time into three parts: one part for Crystal Jade, another for his family and the last part for helping the under-privileged in China.

He said: “I am not greedy. I don’t need more money to make me happy. I was already happy. I need a meaningful life, not just money.”

My Singapore Credit Card Spending Strategy

This article has been superseded by: http://nicolastang.com/2014/04/23/my-singapore-credit-card-spending-strategy-update-23-april-2014/


Valid as at 11 June 2013

Rule 1

Groceries – All Cold Storage, NTUC Fairprice, Guardian Pharmacy, Unity Pharmacy, Pizza Hut and McDonalds delivery spending to charge to Maybank Platinum Family and Friends Mastercard.
5% cash rebate
Source: http://info.maybank2u.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/family-friends-platinum-mastercard.aspx

Fuel – All petrol to be filled at Caltex stations and to charge to SCB XtraSaver together with SAFRA Card.
21% discount/rebate (7% cashback for SCB XtraSaver, 14% discount for SAFRA)
Source: http://www.caltex.com/sg/promotions/special-petrol-discount/

If you don’t have the SAFRA Card, then use Citibank Dividend Platinum linked to Esso Smiles Card.
18.3% discount/cashback
Source: http://www.citibank.com.sg/gcb/credit_cards/citi_esso_promotions.htm

Dining – All dining charge to UOB Preferred Platinum American Express.
Get 10xUNI$, i.e. $1 = 2UNI$
= 4 Krisflyer miles

Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/uob_preferred_platinum.html

Online Transactions – All online transactions charge to UOB Preferred Platinum Visa.
Get 10xUNI$, i.e. $1 = 2UNI$ = 4 Krisflyer miles

Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/preferred_platinum_visa_card.html

Paywave Transactions – All Visa Paywave transactions charge to UOB Preferred Platinum Visa.
Get 10xUNI$, i.e. $1 = 2UNI$ = 4 Krisflyer miles

Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/preferred_platinum_visa_card.html

10xUNI$ worked examples:
– Spend $7,500 = 30,000 Krisflyer miles = Economy SIA ticket SIN-HK-SIN worth $645
  Effective cash rebate = $645/$7500 =8.6% cash rebate
– Spend $13,750 = 55,000 Krisflyer miles = Business SIA ticket SIN-HK-SIN worth $2,295
  Effective cash rebate = $2,295/$13,750 = 16.7% cash rebate
Source: http://www.singaporeair.com/jsp/cms/en_UK/ppsclub_krisflyer/UOB.jsp ; http://airfares.com.sg

Overseas Transactions – All overseas spending charge to UOB One Visa.
5.33% cash rebate
Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/uob_one_card.html

Rule 2
Subject to Rule 1, all monthly recurring expenses (GIRO payments, Straits Times, phone bill, internet bill, gym membership, utilities bills etc) and any additional expenditure up to $1,500 to charge to UOB One Visa.
3.33% cash rebate (provided that at least $1,500 is spent for 3 consecutive months)
Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/uob_one_card.html

Rule 3
All expenses that are not caught by Rules 1 and 2 above will be charged to DBS Altitude Visa.
1.2 miles per $1 spend below $2,000, 1.6 miles thereafter
Source: http://www.dbs.com.sg/personal/cards/credit-card/visa-altitude/default.page

Rule 4
If I will spend $5,500 in a particular month, then the first $1,500 will go to UOB One Visa and the subsequent $4,000 will go to Standard Chartered Manhattan Mastercard.
3% cash rebate from SCB Manhattan, subject to a cap of $200 cash rebate per quarter (i.e. so charge a max of $4,000 in a month, then go into hibernation until the next quarter – “quarter” is defined as any rolling 3 month period in the cardholder’s account)
Source: http://www.wowmanhattan.com.sg/index-world.html

The Shanghai rubber bubble of 1910 holds a lesson for today

The Shanghai rubber bubble of 1910 holds a lesson for today
Friday, 12 April, 2013, 12:00am
Tom Holland

Speculative excess has a long pedigree, given how easily human desire for quick gains can overcome concerns about long-term profitability

When you are reputed to be London’s most highly paid hedge fund manager, you can afford to indulge in a few whims.

David Harding’s whims are a tad unusual, however. Among other things, the founder of US$26 billion hedge fund company Winton Capital has endowed a Cambridge University professorship in the public understanding of risk, and is patron of the Harding Centre for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

A former theoretical physicist, Harding sponsors the Royal Society’s Winton Prize for science books, and in 2009 he donated £20 million (HK$238 million) to Cambridge’s Cavendish physics laboratory.

His latest project is equally eclectic. It’s a massive and lavishly illustrated 300-page coffee table history of foolish financial speculations, co-authored with the head of Winton Capital’s historical research department, James Holmes.

Harding and Holmes cover all the obvious episodes, from the Dutch tulipomania of the 17th century, through England’s South Sea Bubble of 1720, right up to the 2007 subprime boom.

But it is in writing about less well known incidents of speculative excess that Harding and Holmes really excel.

They describe the Florentine credit bubble of 1339, punctured when Edward III of England defaulted on his sovereign debt.

They write about the land reclamation and property development frenzy that gripped Bombay in 1863, and the Constantinople crisis of 1895, when the monopoly Ottoman Bank collapsed after investing unwisely in South African mining shares.

Closer to home, they also describe the Shanghai rubber bubble of 1910.

Demand for rubber was already running high in the early years of the 20th century. But when Henry Ford began mass-producing his Model T cars in 1908, it ballooned.

Then, in 1909, when the world’s biggest producer, the Brazilian state of Pará, restricted supplies in an attempt to bump up its income, rubber prices surged.

Rubber plantations in Malaya made huge profits, and paid shareholders handsome dividends.

In an attempt to cash in, Shanghai-based financiers immediately began setting up Malayan rubber companies and selling their shares to eager investors.

Many of these issued prospectuses were “highly mendacious”, write Harding and Holmes, grossly overstating their acreage under rubber.

Even the genuine companies were high-risk investments, however, considering it takes four to five years of growth before rubber trees can be tapped – and before plantation companies can begin paying dividends.

The prospect of quick gains easily trumped such long-term concerns, however, and a lively derivatives market soon developed on rubber shares.

According to one witness, “brokers had the clothes almost torn off their backs by excited plungers who desired to buy shares ‘forward’ at three or four hundred per cent premium”.

And in an account that will resonate loudly today, the British consul at the time described how money flowed into the market from all over China.

“Chinese officials in charge of government and railway funds recklessly cast them into the melting pot in the sure and certain hope of making their fortune.”

The mania couldn’t last, and when American demand for rubber slackened, the market “let out a whoosh of hot air and sank to the ground”.

“Shanghai’s stock exchange, shortly beforehand a hive of activity, sank into a deep torpor that lasted for several years,” write Harding and Holmes.

In the aftermath, several of Shanghai’s leading brokers were convicted of gambling and sentenced to 80 strokes of a bamboo cane before being exiled to at least 3,000 li from the city.

It’s a deterrent that may well appeal to the authorities today.

But if there’s one piece of wisdom to learn from Harding’s latest vanity project, it’s that human folly is timeless.

The threat of punishment won’t make financial markets efficient, and episodes of speculative excess will recur again and again, regardless of any lessons the past may try to teach us.

Investment guru settles out of court with dentist

Terms of settlement, reached after mediation session, not revealed

By Bryna Sim

INVESTMENT guru Jim Rogers has reached an out-of-court settlement with dental surgeon Ernest Rex Tan over ceramic bondings on his teeth that fell off.

But both sides declined to give details of the terms of the settlement, which was reached after a mediation session at the Singapore Mediation Centre last month. Mr Rogers’ lawyer, Mr Jonathan Yuen, told The Straits Times yesterday that the settlement “was satisfactory to Mr Rogers”. Dr Tan said both parties had dropped their claims against each other.

In his suit, Mr Rogers, 69, a permanent resident in Singapore, had wanted to be reimbursed the $48,150 he spent on the ceramic enhancements to his teeth.

He had sued Dr Tan of Smile Inc Dental for negligence, alleging the dental surgeon had recommended treatments that were unsuitable for his teeth, The Straits Times reported in June.

Dr Tan, 43, counter-claimed for alleged defamation.

Mr Rogers claimed that in August 2009, he had consulted Dr Tan about his temporomandibular joint disorder, which was causing neck and shoulder pains.

He alleged that Dr Tan suggested partial coverage bonded ceramic restoration.

Court papers said that within a year, six of the enhancements done on 20 of his teeth had fallen off.

Mr Rogers then asked for a reimbursement of the $48,150 he had spent on the enhancements, as well as an unspecified amount of compensation.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Tan said it was the first time in his 21 years of dental practice that he had been sued for such a matter.

“It wasn’t a negligence issue. The matter could have been easily solved. I could have just bonded it back for him. Bringing the matter to court was totally unnecessary,” he told The Straits Times.

Reiterating a point he made in his affidavit, he said Mr Rogers suffered “no permanent injury”.

Dr Tan, in the June newspaper report, said Mr Rogers had wanted cosmetic enhancements to his teeth, and not treatment for the joint disorder.

He added yesterday: “All necessary steps were taken to ensure success, and besides, patient compliance is important.”

Mr Rogers had reportedly ignored his advice to wear a dental splint after the treatment.

Dr Tan said he was glad the matter could be “amicably resolved”.

When contacted, Mr Rogers declined to comment on the matter.

S'pore growth will shudder if eurozone breaks: report

S’pore growth will shudder if eurozone breaks: report
It is likely to be most affected among Asian countries, ex-Japan
By Teh Shi Ning, Business Times

[SINGAPORE] Singapore’s growth will be hardest hit in non-Japan Asia if the eurozone should break up, Credit Suisse’s projections show.

While the estimates come with a “sizeable health warning” given huge uncertainty, they do shed light on how Asia’s economies might fare relative to one another if Greece should exit the eurozone, Credit Suisse economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde wrote in a report released yesterday.

In a more severe scenario of a break-up triggered by a Greek exit or escalated Spanish problems, Singapore’s GDP could suffer a blow of 9.4 percentage points, a tad higher than Hong Kong’s 9.3 percentage points and the largest hit of the 10 Asian economies surveyed.

This scenario, which assumes a 7 to 10 per cent contraction in eurozone GDP, a 25 per cent drop in eurozone imports and 8 per cent US import demand, would probably send Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia into a deep recession, Mr Prior-Wandesforde said.

A eurozone break-up could send Korea’s year-on-year GDP growth into negative territory by year-end too, while China and India’s growth could slip to what may “feel like a hard landing”.

Even in a milder scenario, which assumes that Greece exits the eurozone in the next few weeks but with little contagion to the rest of the currency area, Mr Prior-Wandesforde estimates that Singapore’s growth will again be worst-hit, along with Hong Kong.

The estimated negative impact on Taiwan was slightly less at 2.2 percentage points.

Estimates of the trade effects of a limited Greek exit were calculated based on a 2 per cent peak-to-trough fall in eurozone GDP, a 6 per cent drop in eurozone imports and 2 per cent drop in US import demand.

They can be considered optimistic forecasts, since they only account for the impact of weaker external demand on trade, and not other modes of transmission such as a drying up of trade finance or a withdrawal of funds from Asia to pad up European balance sheets.

After the initial blow, which could be at least as large as that dealt by the global financial crisis, the subsequent recovery in Asia is likely to be less impressive this time round.

“The Western world has largely run out of policy ammunition, Asian interest rates are lower than they were in mid-2008 and budget deficits are generally higher in the region,” he wrote.

Mr Prior-Wandesforde said he attempted to quantify the impact of weaker trade on GDP growth, despite the huge range of potential outcomes, as the potential impact from a eurozone break-up is an issue that “cannot be ignored or wished away”.

One consolation is that these scenarios, while possible, are not Credit Suisse’s central view for the year. Its research team believes the eurozone will “muddle through” the rest of the year intact.

If that comes to pass, Credit Suisse projects that the local economy will grow 3 per cent this year, at the top end of the government’s 1 to 3 per cent forecast range.