Lunched with Tan Kim Siong, better known as Fei Siong (Fatty Siong). Many may look at him and wonder about his nickname. This svelte granddad was actually quite a bit bigger in his younger days. He started out selling fishball noodles in a hawker centre outside the old National Library at Stamford Road. He has since grown his local food empire to over 100 eateries across many well-known brands like Let’s Eat, 85 Redhill, Malaysia Chiak, Encik Tan, Nam Kee Pau, HK Egglet, and London Duck.
This place that we had lunch in is his latest concept Huats Kee, which sells old school fish head steamboat (the ones with charcoal). This meal with him threw me back to the 1990s, from the food, to the location (Turf City), and his phone! He still carries his trusty Vertu, the bespoked high-end phone with no smartphone features. We communicate through SMS, just like in the good old days.
Had breakfast with Yongnam’s CEO Seow Soon Yong at our neighbourhood kopitiam.
Yongnam completed a fundraising exercise the day before, raising S$15m through convertible bonds. My fund took up some.
The past few years have been very challenging for Yongnam as projects got delayed. It is now at a cusp of a recovery, with order books growing to almost S$450m. Based on the host of public sector jobs up for tender, including Changi Airport, North-South Corridor and Jurong Region Line (MRT), Yongnam should see orders surpass the half-billion mark.
To be clear, the company will still be making losses this year. Backed by the flow of projects, it should turnaround in 2020. It is trading at 0.3x price-to-book, which suggest that downside is limited.
And there is a potential kicker. Yongnam’s record profits came after winning contracts from Marina Bay Sands back in 2008. The casino operator valued Yongnam’s quality, experience and speed. With the commitment by MBS to pour money into Phase 2 of development, Yongnam looks set to benefit once again. That’s a bet I am willing to take.
When I invest in a company, I don’t just look at the figures in a company’s financial statements. I also want to figure out the faces behind the company, as they are the ones I am ultimately entrusting my investments with.
Tea with Towkay
Who: Raymond Ng – Chairman of Mainboard-listed Enviro-Hub
Where: Aperia Mall
What (we ate): Egg tarts, Kopi, Fruit Juice
When: 16 Sep 2019
Caught up with an old friend who runs a listco involved in recycling, renewable energy and piling. Given its varied and unrelated businesses, Enviro-Hub may be confusing to most investors.
But it is not surprising considering Raymond’s hobby is venturing into new businesses. His most successful to date is likely to be property. Back in 2004, he made an audacious move by snapping up HSBC’s sprawling Good Class Bungalow (GCB) land in Bishopsgate area. The 276,000 sq ft plot, which could be subdivided into 16 GCBs, set him back by $70m ($250 psf), which seems like a bargain now. He set up BS Capital to hold the land, and subsequently to develop other properties. BS, by the way, stands for Bishopsgate, and not what immediately comes to mind.
SIAS founder David Gerald goes against the odds to deliver on his promises. The exception was a promise he made to his wife Rajmala some 20 years back to take her around the world after he retired as a lawyer.
But it was not to be.
Shortly after he stepped down from the corporate world, the CLOB issue unfolded and he voluntarily stepped up to band the 172,000 retail investors together to take the Malaysian government on. After the successful resolution, he transformed SIAS into a retail investor platform which included Investor Education and Advocacy, as well as Corporate Governance and Transparency.
He and his team had tirelessly soldiered on to educate over 140,000 investors and engaged dozens of beleaguered companies on behalf of minority shareholders.
Despite all the accolades, I know the promise to Rajmala was something that has been nagging at him for many years. He first told me about this some 15 years ago when I joined him to start SIAS Research. And again a few days back when I paid him a visit in his Maxwell Road office.
There are some big shoes to fill, but hopefully someone will be able to step up to helm SIAS. Instead of advising firms when they trip up, Mr Gerald can finally head to TripAdvisor to fulfill that 20-year old promise.