Banks may be cheap now, but…
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

Cash is king. Yes, during financial turmoil like this when stock markets all over the world are sinking, having cash is the key. According to $STI(^STI) The Straits Times on 20 January 2016, just last year alone, about US$735 billion left emerging market. China accounted for $676 billion which formed the bulk of the outflow. Similarly, the fund inflow last year was about US$231 billion against US$1.2 billion per year from 2010 to 2014.
On the corporate front, banks are natural victims during times of liquidity crunch too. Most bank share prices have sunk more than 30% from their recent high when the ST index hit 3500. Right now, banks are trading near or below their book value (BV). Exactly, five months ago, I had written in my blog that there was always a possibility that banks might start to raise funds through rights issue if the turmoil persists. So far, none of the banks have raised alarm, but still it is possible if banks deem it fit to do so. After all, there were past precedence of fund raising activities during financial crises. For example, $DBS(D05) raised S$4.2b in end 2008 through 1-2 rights issue. Similarly, $OCBC Bank(O39) and $UOB(U11) raised $1 billion each through preference shares issue. In a similar way, during Asian financial crisis in 1998, DBS acquired the POSB. Looking ahead, it is still a possibility especially during such times when other banks or companies may fall into bad times. Such huge fund raising activities can come in handy for future acquisitions.
Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Read more
5 likes

Recommended & Related Posts

OCBC is still growing
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

Once again, Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) is dishing out to scrip dividends to existing shareholders. With the discount of 10%, this translates to a mouth-watering conversion rate of $9.57 per share. Given the steep discount, it is likely that many existing shareholders would choose scrip dividends over cash unless the bank share price tanks unexpectedly from now to 18th September. After all, we all learn about power of compounding and it makes sense to continue to invest in this bank whose history existed even before the 2nd world war.


In an effort to keep up with the growing dividends offered by other banks, the declared dividend for the 1st half of 2019 financial year is $0.25 share and is 2 cents higher than that declared for the second half of financial year 2018. Over a period of 10 years, the annualized increment in dividend rate in spite of its increasing share base translates to about 5.8%. With the latest declared dividend of 25 cents per share, it translates to a hefty distribution of more than S$1billion in dividends just for the 1st half of 2019 alone. With the huge dividend payout, and relatively low conversion rate, it is likely to push more shares in the float. It is certainly no child’s play.



But then, why does the bank want to offer scrip dividends to expand its share base? Certainly, it is going to affect the return on equity (ROE) going into the future, unless the bank can better deploy the conserved cash. Without dwelling too much into detailed calculations, the bank appeared to be purchasing its own shares from the market at between mid-$10 and mid-$11 on average, and this scrip dividend distribution at a discount of 10% would have benefited existing shareholders at the bank’s expense. After all, it had already met its CET-1 requirements and there is no necessity for the bank to conserve more cash. So, the only conclusion is expansion plans are on the card, and OCBC beefing its war-chest for such future acquisitions.


A few possibilities are:



  • Buy up the last 13% of Great Eastern shares (GE) and take it private. This is highly unlikely. OCBC had already tried 2 times (maybe more). The last was offered at $16 per share. Unfortunately, the die-hard shareholders held steadfastly to their shares that the take-over bid failed miserably at that time. Now with the share price oscillating between $25 and $30 per share, the possibility to buy up the last few percent is even more remote. It needs a huge premium to dislodge the shares from these shareholders’ hands. Given the expensive exercise, it is very likely that OCBC will leave it status quo and focus on other regional opportunities.

  • Buy up OCBC NISP. Possible, but comparatively unlikely. Again, the last 15% shareholders are likely to hold steadfastly to their shares. Furthermore, there is an authority to deal with, which can come in a surprise. Just a few years ago. DBS’s plan to buy Indonesia’s Danamon Bank (Indonesian’s 6th largest bank) was foiled by the authority placing a 40% limit by foreign institutions. Of course, there is a possibility that OCBC looks to acquire other Indonesian banks, but then it may not serve significant purposes given that it has already had a presence offering banking services there.

  • Increasing its presence in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in China. This appears to be more likely situation. The CEO has indicated 1-2 year ago that his target is to increase the return from the GBA over the next 5 years. In all likelihood, more resources are likely to go into this region. To date, OCBC has a shareholding of about 12% in the Bank of Ningbo (BON). More recently, it had successfully, acquired Wing Hang Bank in Hong Kong. So, we should expect OCBC to push its growth trajectory for this region.


But then again, to shareholders, growing and acquisitions would mean taking on more risks. If we choose to take the scrip dividend in lieu of cash, we are in a way proportionally taking part in the risk-sharing process made by the bank, for good or for bad. The risk part of the equation, quite often, is conveniently forgotten or, perhaps, obscured by the attractive scrip dividend conversion rate.


Disclaimer – The above points are based on the writer’s
opinion. They do not serve as an advice or recommendation for readers to buy
into or sell out of the mentioned securities. Everyone should do his homework
before he buys or sells any securities. All investments carry risks.


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 30
years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning
Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value
Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is
also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which
is available in both soft and hardcopy.


I want to have a free
ebook on “Ten golden rules of stock investment” NOW!


More news on
www.bpwlc.com.sg.


The post OCBC is still growing appeared first on BPWLC BLOG.


$OCBC Bank(O39.SI)

Read more
OCBC
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

Along with the other banks, OCBC has recently announced the FY 2018 results. The net profit improved 11% from S$4.05b to $4.49b. Apart from its subsidiary, Great Eastern’s disappointing results, I would say that OCBC did well for FY 2018. Along with the reasonably good results, OCBC is offering a dividend of 23 cents per share for H2 FY2018, representing a dividend payout of about 41% for the whole year. This is, however, lower than its peers like DBS and UOB. The dividend payout for DBS and UOB is 56% and 50% respectively. (Click here for the performance numbers.)


Over the years, OCBC appeared to have a greater propensity to pay out scrip dividend compare to the other two banks. This is the 12th time that the bank proposed scrip dividend since the global financial crisis in 2009 . To incentivise the acceptance of scrip dividend, OCBC is offering a 10% discount on the final weighted average price from 3 May to 6 May 2019 (inclusive).


The question to many investors is – what is the purpose of the bank distributing scrip dividend? And is scrip dividend good or bad for shareholders? To me, there is no absolute advantage or disadvantage in having scrip dividends. It depends on what the bank’s objective and what we wanted as a shareholder. The financial advantage of scrip dividend is not exactly apparent. After all, one can create a quasi-scrip dividend exercise by using the cash dividend to buy the bank’s shares in the open market. The brokerage and administrative fees are comparative small in terms of costs as they can be easily offset if we purchase the bank stock at prices lower than the stock’s conversion price. That said, it is still good to discuss about the characteristics of scrip dividend from the bank’s perspective as well as from shareholder’s perspective.


For the bank



  1. Generally, banks (or for that matter any public-listed companies) do not like to have too much volatility in their stock prices. Essentially, they want people with long-term views. By distributing dividends in the form of scrip, it helps, to a certain extent, make shareholders hold onto their stocks longer. For one, by providing scrip dividends that end up in odd-lots in the hands of shareholders. Thus, this makes it more difficult for holders to offload their stocks easily.

  2. By providing a discount to the on-going share price, the bank is, in effect, encouraging shareholders to take the scrip dividend instead of cash. This helps the bank to preserve cash which can be very useful during times of need. Just base on the back-of-envelope calculation, with the dividend of 23 cents per share, it would cost the bank $979.1 million in cash for just this dividend distribution. Even though OCBC is able to meet the current Common Equity Tier 1 (CET-1) requirement, it still went ahead to offer scrip dividends. This may mean that the bank is forecasting uncertain times or it may be preserving a bigger war-chest of cash for some capital investment ahead. While attempting to preserve cash capital, it is, in effect, creating a larger share base. This will have a dilutive effect. It may work against shareholders especially when times turn for the worse. Fortunately, OCBC has been buying up their own shares in the open-market. The bank had been given the mandate in the last shareholders’ annual general meeting to buy up to 212 million (or 5% of the issued shares) in the open market. Certainly, as shareholders, we would be more comfortable with companies that are able to buy back their own shares compare those that are unable to.

  3. While the bank is dabbling in the stock market buying 200,000 shares each time, it is not possible to know whether the bank is gaining or losing out in this whole exercise. After all, their job is not to make a profit by buying shares in the open market. Based on the 5% buy-back mandate from the shareholders, the bank can buy up to 212 million shares. Given that OCBC makes a purchase of 200,000 shares each time, it would take more than 100 trading days to fulfill the whole order, and not including those purchasing shares under the employees’ option scheme. This translates to about 40% of the total number of trading days in a year. In some days, it may buy high and in some days it may buy low. Generally, the stock price during the conversion days tend to be very high as they are very near to the ex-dividend date. So, it means that the conversion stock price tends to be on the high side. So, even if the bank gives a 10% discount over the conversion price, there still may a chance that the bank did not lose out buying from the open market as its average buying price can be much lower than the conversion price. As of today, the conversion price is yet to be determined. It will be the weighted average of the trading share price from 3 May 2019 to 6 May 2019 (Inclusive). Note that a cash dividend is a certainty for the bank. For scrip dividend, this is not certain as to how many shares will be ultimately distributed. With the sweeteners (discounts) for shareholders thrown in, it is yet to be known whether the bank gains or loses out compare to cash dividend. However, one thing if for sure. Less cash will be dispensed, but, at the expense of a larger share base.


Shareholders



  • As shareholders, scrip dividend can be an alternative to cash dividends if the shareholder does not need to the money at that time. The problem of going for scrip dividends it that we end up with odd lots. This can be a bit troublesome if we want to sell them in the future. Although lot size has been reduced from 1000 shares to 100 shares, stockholders are often forced to sell the mother lots in order to amalgamate the sales due to the minimum brokerage charge.

  • As one may point out, there is no need to pay for brokerages and the other administrative fees when we accept scrip dividends in lieu of cash dividends. However, this often not a major issue. As it is, one can create a quasi-scrip dividend by buying the stock from the open market upon the receipt of dividends. The brokerage and all the related fees are relatively small, and can be easily offset if one is able to purchase at a lower trading price than the conversion price calculated by the bank.

  • One point about scrip dividend is that we are able to practice what is known as power of compounding. Say we have 10,000 shares and the dividend rate is $0.23. Assuming a conversion rate of $11.50, we would be entitled 200 shares. The next time when OCBC declares scrip dividends, our share base would be based on 10,200 shares instead of 10,000 shares. As our stock accumulates, we are in effect, practicing the power of compounding. From that point of view, it is true. In essence, I am assuming that the future dividend distribution continues to be the same or higher. In investments, many unexpected things can happen. It is possible that the bank falls onto bad times and have to reduce the dividend rate. A decrease in the dividend rate can have a significant effect on the power of compounding.

  • Certainly, a discount in the conversion price of the scrip dividend is a plus factor to encourage shareholders to take up the scrip dividend. It provides an additional margin of safety. This stands as a cushion in a falling share price situation when the global economy or the business situation for the company turns for the worse. It serves as a good alternative to getting cash dividends.


At the end of the day, there is no absolute advantage or disadvantage to either the bank or to the shareholders. It is more like a question of choice. As mentioned earlier, OCBC has the lowest payout ratio (41% compared to DBS’s 55% and UOB’s 50%.). Perhaps, it has been under pressure to bring up its dividend payout as well. Instead of increasing the dividend rate, it is probably doing so by increasing the share base so that the total payment ratio reaches the mid-40%.


Disclaimer
– The above points are based on the writer’s opinion. They do not serve as an
advice or recommendation for readers to buy into or sell out of the mentioned
securities. Everyone should do his homework before he buys or sells any
securities. All investments carry risks.


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 30 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.


The post OCBC appeared first on BPWLC BLOG.


$OCBC Bank(O39.SI)

Read more
Don’t make the same mistake that I made 2 decades ago
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

For the calendar year 2018, the Straits Times Index (STI) retreated from 3400.91 at the close of Year 2017 to 3068.76 at the close of Year 2018. The absolute fall for the calendar year 2018 was more than 10%. It had defied the predictions of many analysts. Many of them were generally bullish at the beginning of Year 2018. By today, on the 1st day of trading for Year 2019, it retreated another nearly 30 points, -29.87 (to be exact). Surely, many players have been slowly but surely cashed out of the market as the market retreated. Even those with cash to spare were not willing to get into the market. Just as we know in economics, there were more sellers than buyers for year 2018. That, precisely, was the reason for the market to fall.


With each market fall, it flushes out some players. The unfortunate thing is market retreats and advances are never linear with time. They are never exactly predictable, especially over a longer of period of 6 months and longer. Market volatilities are due to the changing political, economic and social conditions that are thrown out into the market from time to time. Frankly who is able to predict what an influential political figure will say or act next week or next month or next year. Most of the rise and falls were due to some smart Alex out there trying to anticipate the moves of these people before things really happen. Unfortunately, time and again, it almost always sucks in new players and throw out some others as the market rise and falls in a falling trend. Many players, who were unable to take the market gyrations would have cashed out of the market, and stayed in cash in hope to fight for another day.


Let me say this. Market gyrations are not an easy thing to stomach, especially for those who are very watchful of the market movements. In fact, many are willing to take losses and leave the market instead of riding through the market ups and downs as sentiments get hazy. Along with the falling market, I am quite sure a number of us have this floating thought “I would rather take a small return of even 1-2% to protect my capital than to see my capital dwindling with time.” That precisely became the guiding principle that drives their action. So, instead of staying liquid after cashing out, they choose to put the money into more certain investments. They gladly put their money in longer term plans, such as fixed deposits and Singapore government bonds and even insurance plans that can only yield rewards (if there really are any), at least, 1, 2 years or even a few years down the road. I mention this because I happened to see some posts in social media lately. Some people seemed to have decided to take this course of action. Frankly, this was exactly the mistake that I made 20 years ago.


STI from January 1997 to December 1999

For at least 2-3 years leading to the peak of the Asian Financial Crisis, the market had already been retreating. As a rookie who had never seen a long-drawn market retreat, I was holding out very hard in hope that the market would turn around. It never did. It was down and down. Then, suddenly, the stock market fall started to gain momentum, as the Asian Financial Crises started to bite. That was the time I caved in and sold out. Instead of holding the much smaller sum in cash, I put them in fixed deposits. That appeared to be the wisest thing to do at that time. Between a steep falling stock market and a high fixed deposit (FD) rate of 5%, it was almost a no-brainer to put the money in FDs. The reason for the relatively high rate was that liquidity was drying up as the neighboring countries were battling to stamp the falling value of their currencies due to massive currency outflow. Along with the falling currencies, stock markets were retreating at an accelerated pace. My naive thinking was this – one year is not a long time, and hopefully by then, the market would be calm again for us to re-invest. Meanwhile, we should let the money work hard for us by channeling it to an avenue that yield the highest possible return.


It was a wrong move. While the cash was still in the FDs, the market was making a huge turn around. For the next three months (or around end 1998) after the bottom, it gained 50% (In fact, 50% was an understatement) – see diagram. What the hack! I had effectively traded off a 50% gain within 3 months for a mere 5% gain in a year down the road. From the low of 805 in September 1998, it zoomed all the way to around 1500 by the end of 1998. Then, it gained another 50% from 1500 in the year that followed. So, by end of 1999, it was at 2,500, recovering all the losses that it incurred in the previous few years.


What was the lessons here? Cash is king during a crisis. So long as it is not invested, cash remains as cash. Cash is no longer the king when the crisis is over. Count ourselves lucky if we had sold out before a huge market fall. But we need to re-invest at the right time to make significant gains. In other words, we need to be right twice, to time the selling correctly and to time the buyback correctly. When it is too late, just ride through. It’s the matter of the survival of the fittest. In fact, consider to invest more if you have the means. You may have the last laugh.

Disclaimer – The above pointers are based on the writer’s personal experience. They do not serve as an advice or recommendation for readers to buy into or sell out of the market. Everyone should do their homework before they buy or sell any securities. All investments carry risks.


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 30
years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning
Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value
Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is
also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which
is available in both soft and hardcopy.


$STI(^STI.IN)

Read more
DBS – shocks and stress in holding stocks
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

Today marks the 10th anniversary when Lehman Brothers fell into bankruptcy on 15 September 2008. Despite the on-going tariff war between the US and China, there is a general sea of calmness in the major stock exchanges all over the world. Back then, scene was very different. For several weeks before 15 September and several months after that, the front few pages of our daily newspapers were full of bad news.



Lehman Brother’s downfall also pulled along with it several big banks and financial institutions. AIG, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were all at risks, and were awaiting government bailout. With the crisis hitting the big financial institutions in the world’s largest economy at that time, it is almost certain that small and open economies, like Singapore, was going to feel the onslaught as well. The STI fell from the high at close of 3,875.77 made on 11 October 2007 to 2,486.55 on 15 September 2008, retreating 35.8%. It did not stop there. As bad news, continued to flush all over the news media, the STI fell further. DBS, a good proxy of the Singapore economy, and a heavy weight on the STI certainly cannot escape from this avalanche. Its share price fell from more than $20 to less than $10 by the end December 2008, retreating more than 50%. Everywhere is fear, and we did not know which blue-chip stock, in particular which financial stock, was going to go under. Fund managers were all selling as redemptions picked up speed.


Perhaps, the stubborn side of me helped. I decided to swim against this tide, buy a few shares, close my eyes, close my ears, go for a long haul, do not sell irrespective of whatever happened, and see how it would turn out after 10 years. In the worst-case situation, I would lose some savings. If I have been wanting to own DBS, this would have been a good opportunity. In a financial crisis of such a scale, huge wealth is transferred one person’s pocket to another’s pocket. Debtors will be punished, creditors will be rewarded. Spenders will become poor, and savers will feel rich. Cash is king. However, cash is still only cash if it remains in the bank. So, this should be the time to put our cash into good use. Splurge and buy up assets that had never been put on such discounts, was the key.


A few weeks after purchasing the stock, came the next bombshell. DBS decided to raise rights, 1 for 2 shares, with a whopping 45% discount at $5.42 based on the last day trading price at $9.85. It literally forced existing shareholders to take up the rights. So, no choice, I dipped further into my pocket to pick up the rights. (I remember, I tried to buy extra rights, but I believe I only managed to get a few shares to round off the lots due to over subscription of the rights.)


In the midst of such a crisis and with a much bigger market float after the rights issue, the share price continued to fall. In fact, the share price went even below $7. It certainly, took some grits and guts to continue to hold the shares. Even at $7, it was still a long way to fall if it was really going to be very bad. My intuition impressed upon me that if DBS were to fail at that time, we would all be in real serious trouble. Our property price would plunge, our car value would be decimated and our Singapore dollars would be very unstable in the forex market. So, whether we are on shares, on property or on cash, it was not going to matter. And, with the US dollars also plunging at that time, the only shelter is probably gold. After all, it was only 10 years ago then that DBS gobbled up POSB. In the minds of those people on the street, POSB was still the people’s bank. It is unlikely that it would be allowed to fail. The epicenter of this financial crisis was in the US. We are only feeling the effects of this financial tsunami. The question was how low could DBS touch, and not whether it would fail. It turned up well, and the fear was quite short-lived. The stock came up back again after March 2009, when STI temporarily went below 1,500.


Was it plain sailing after that? Not quite. I should ask, were there anything along the way to de-rail holding the stock? Certainly yes. When I purchased the stocks, my objective was to go long, and very long and to disregard the share price. So, the only ‘physical benefit’ was the dividend from the stock. At that time, this ‘giam-siap’ (stingy) bank, gave only $0.60 per share as dividend. When a reliable source, told me that the bond coupon rate of Swiber was at 7%, I felt stupid again. If we invested in the bond at the cost of $250k, the yearly coupon would have been $17,500. A back-of-envelope calculations of the equivalent amount, would have been about 15,000 DBS shares at the prevailing price of between $16.50 and $17.00. For 15,000 DBS shares, the dividend would only be $9,000. And this stark difference would carry on yearly, for probably 4-5 years, until the bond matured. If one were to chase for the last dollar, it would make sense to sell DBS shares and buy Swiber. So, would it make sense to sell off the shares and buy bond instead? Nobody knows what was going to happen. But, I do believe when the bond yields were high at that time, many people actually switched out of equities and buy bonds as well as other high yield instruments. It was lucky. I chose to remain in equities. The reason was that there was literally no secondary market. If we really wanted to sell, nobody was going to buy from our hands, unless we depress our price significantly. Precisely, at that time, due to liquidity, the corporate bond of Genting was trading at a discount, while the perpetual bonds were trading at a premium. So, if we want to get into it, the only choice was to hold corporate bonds to maturity. It turned out that the decision was right. Swiber defaulted and remain suspended today. And, DBS was no longer a ‘giap-siap’ bank as it used to be. It doubled its dividend. And, right now the yield based on the average purchased price would have enjoyed an even higher yield compared to Swiber or the any REITs. In fact, this stock would have become an equity-bond situation mentioned in the book “Warren Buffet and the Interpretation of Financial Statements”, by Mary Buffet and David Clark, 2008. It left me scratching my head what was the term ‘equity-bond’ really mean at that time when I was reading that book. Now, I understand. In a few words, it means to buy an equity, let the share price move up to its intrinsic value. As the dividend starts to move up back-on-the-heels of the equity price, we would have, in effect, enjoyed the yields of bonds.


Then again, were there any more scares along the way? Certainly yes. When China suddenly devalued the RMB in 2016, it was envisaged that China was not doing well on the economic front. That again pushed down the STI. In particular, the bank stocks were hit. All the three banks stocks were trading about 10% below book value. DBS, once again, fell below $14 for the first time in the few years. It had been languishing around $16-$17 per share almost throughout the year 2016. Only in 2017 did DBS share price climb up slowly and steadily, following of several quarters of good financial results. With the announcement of its new dividend benchmark, it had arbitrarily created a floor for the share price. If the bank continues maintain its dividend payout of $1.20 per share, it should help maintain the share price north of $24 per share, giving a yield of about close to 5% per share.


It has come a long way, and will there be more volatility going forward. Certainly yes, the tariff issues between the US and China is still yet to be resolved. Also, for so many years, the interest rates all over the world have been held extremely low. Debts were now at their historical highs once again. If FED were to increase interest rates aggressively, I would not be surprise that another crisis could erupt, maybe, this time, the epicenter is nearer to us. Then again, DBS share price can get hit again.


Disclaimer – The above arguments are the personal opinions of the writer. They do not serve as recommendations to buy or sell the mentioned securities or the indices or ETFs or unit trusts related to it.


Join us in the facebook – BP Wealth Learning Centre LLP.


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.


$DBS(D05.SI)

Read more
DBS – shocks and stress in holding stocks
- Original Post from BPWLC BLOG

Today marks the 10th anniversary when Lehman Brothers fell into bankruptcy on 15 September 2008. Despite the on-going tariff war between the US and China, there is a general sea of calmness in the major stock exchanges all over the world. Back then, scene was very different. For several weeks before 15 September and several months after that, the front few pages of our daily newspapers were full of bad news.



Lehman Brother’s downfall also pulled along with it several big banks and financial institutions. AIG, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were all at risks, and were awaiting government bailout. With the crisis hitting the big financial institutions in the world’s largest economy at that time, it is almost certain that small and open economies, like Singapore, was going to feel the onslaught as well. The STI fell from the high at close of 3,875.77 made on 11 October 2007 to 2,486.55 on 15 September 2008, retreating 35.8%. It did not stop there. As bad news, continued to flush all over the news media, the STI fell further. DBS, a good proxy of the Singapore economy, and a heavy weight on the STI certainly cannot escape from this avalanche. Its share price fell from more than $20 to less than $10 by the end December 2008, retreating more than 50%. Everywhere is fear, and we did not know which blue-chip stock, in particular which financial stock, was going to go under. Fund managers were all selling as redemptions picked up speed.


Perhaps, the stubborn side of me helped. I decided to swim against this tide, buy a few shares, close my eyes, close my ears, go for a long haul, do not sell irrespective of whatever happened, and see how it would turn out after 10 years. In the worst-case situation, I would lose some savings. If I have been wanting to own DBS, this would have been a good opportunity. In a financial crisis of such a scale, huge wealth is transferred one person’s pocket to another’s pocket. Debtors will be punished, creditors will be rewarded. Spenders will become poor, and savers will feel rich. Cash is king. However, cash is still only cash if it remains in the bank. So, this should be the time to put our cash into good use. Splurge and buy up assets that had never been put on such discounts, was the key.


A few weeks after purchasing the stock, came the next bombshell. DBS decided to raise rights, 1 for 2 shares, with a whopping 45% discount at $5.42 based on the last day trading price at $9.85. It literally forced existing shareholders to take up the rights. So, no choice, I dipped further into my pocket to pick up the rights. (I remember, I tried to buy extra rights, but I believe I only managed to get a few shares to round off the lots due to over subscription of the rights.)


In the midst of such a crisis and with a much bigger market float after the rights issue, the share price continued to fall. In fact, the share price went even below $7. It certainly, took some grits and guts to continue to hold the shares. Even at $7, it was still a long way to fall if it was really going to be very bad. My intuition impressed upon me that if DBS were to fail at that time, we would all be in real serious trouble. Our property price would plunge, our car value would be decimated and our Singapore dollars would be very unstable in the forex market. So, whether we are on shares, on property or on cash, it was not going to matter. And, with the US dollars also plunging at that time, the only shelter is probably gold. After all, it was only 10 years ago then that DBS gobbled up POSB. In the minds of those people on the street, POSB was still the people’s bank. It is unlikely that it would be allowed to fail. The epicenter of this financial crisis was in the US. We are only feeling the effects of this financial tsunami. The question was how low could DBS touch, and not whether it would fail. It turned up well, and the fear was quite short-lived. The stock came up back again after March 2009, when STI temporarily went below 1,500.


Was it plain sailing after that? Not quite. I should ask, were there anything along the way to de-rail holding the stock? Certainly yes. When I purchased the stocks, my objective was to go long, and very long and to disregard the share price. So, the only ‘financial benefit’ was the dividend from the stock. At that time, this ‘giam-siap’ (stingy) bank, gave only $0.60 per share as dividend. When a reliable source, told me that the bond coupon rate of Swiber was at 7%, I felt stupid again. If we invest in the bond at the cost of $250k, the yearly coupon would have been $17,500. A back-of-envelope calculations of the equivalent amount, would have been about 15,000 DBS shares at the prevailing price of between $16.50 and $17.00. For 15,000 DBS shares, the dividend would only be $9,000. And this stark difference would carry on yearly, for probably 4-5 years, until the bond matured. If one were to chase for the last dollar, it would make sense to sell DBS shares and buy Swiber. So, would it make sense to sell off the shares and buy bond instead? Nobody knows what was going to happen. But, I do believe when the bond yields were high at that time, many people actually switched out of equities and buy bonds as well as other high yield instruments. It was lucky. I chose to remain in equities. The reason was that there was literally no secondary market. If we really wanted to sell, nobody was going to buy from our hands, unless we depress our price significantly. Precisely, at that time, due to liquidity, the corporate bond of Genting was trading at a discount, while the perpetual bonds were trading at a premium. So, if we want to get into it, the only choice was to hold corporate bonds to maturity. It turned out that the decision was right. Swiber defaulted and remain suspended today. And, DBS was no longer a ‘giap-siap’ bank as it used to be. It doubled its dividend. And, right now the yield based on the average purchased price would have enjoyed an even higher yield compared to Swiber or the any REITs. In fact, this stock would have become an equity-bond situation mentioned in the book “Warren Buffet and the Interpretation of Financial Statements”, by Mary Buffet and David Clark, 2008. It left me scratching my head what was the term ‘equity-bond’ really mean at that time when I was reading that book. Now, I understand. In a few words, it means to buy an equity, let the share price move up to its intrinsic value. As the dividend starts to move up back-on-the-heels of the equity price, we would have, in effect, enjoyed the yields of bonds.


Then again, were there any more scares along the way? Certainly yes. When China suddenly devalued the RMB in 2016, it was envisaged that China was not doing well on the economic front. That again pushed down the STI. In particular, the bank stocks were hit. All the three banks stocks were trading about 10% below book value. DBS, once again, fell below $14 for the first time in the few years. It had been languishing around $16-$17 per share almost throughout the year 2016. Only in 2017 did DBS share price climb up slowly and steadily, following of several quarters of good financial results. With the announcement of its new dividend benchmark, it has arbitrarily created a floor for the share price. If the bank continues maintain its dividend payout of $1.20 per share, it should help maintain the share price north of $24 per share, giving a yield of about close to 5% per share.


It has come a long way, and will there be more volatility going forward. Certainly yes, the tariff issues between the US and China is still yet to be resolved. Also, for so many years, the interest rates all over the world have been held extremely low. Debts were now at their historical highs once again. If FED were to increase interest rates aggressively, I would not be surprise that another crisis could erupt, maybe, this time, the epicenter is nearer to us. Then again, DBS share price can get hit again.


Disclaimer – The above arguments are the personal opinions of the writer. They do not serve as recommendations to buy or sell the mentioned securities or the indices or ETFs or unit trusts related to it.


Join us in the facebook – BP Wealth Learning Centre LLP.


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.


$DBS(D05.SI)

Read more
About Contact Privacy Terms Widgets Store

There are more for you ...

View more and participate in our discussion now. It's FREE.

Creating an account means you’re okay with InvestingNote's Terms and Conditions