Saturday, April 18, 2015

of Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations (And who is this Arnaud Vagner?)

Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations. Okay, that is just proper.

"As the main shareholder of the company, I am not going to shoot myself in the foot," said Mr Elman. Uhm. I don't know. I am just kind of frowning when I read that part of the article. The truth about one's company should not depend whether or not one is the main shareholder of the company.

An overwhelming majority of shareholders of Noble Group, which has denied allegations of improper accounting, approved the company's financial statements for last year.

The resolution was backed by 99.92 per cent of votes at Noble's annual shareholders' meeting in Singapore on Friday (Apr 17), which Reuters attended.

Before the vote, Noble's chairman Mr Richard Elman said he rejected all allegations made by Iceberg Research as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading, in his first public comments on the issue.

"We consider the Iceberg matter finished," said Mr Elman, adding that nothing Noble has done has violated accounting rules. The company is drawing a line on the matter and remains focused on running the business, he said.

Last week, Noble had also rejected allegations by Muddy Waters on its cash flow, debt levels and manipulation of financial records.

US-based short seller Muddy Waters said it was "short" Noble and questioned several past transactions and the way they were accounted.

Among the allegations on what it called a "complex and opaque" company: "Noble seems to exist solely to borrow and burn cash ... Noble management manipulates financials and investors when the pressure is on."

"I feel grieved about what happened in the last two months," said Mr Elman, who is Noble's biggest shareholder, owning about a fifth of its shares. He added that the company is in robust financial health.

Mr Elman interrupted several shareholders when they asked questions at the meeting, including one about its Australian unit Yancoal, in which the company took a major writedown in its last quarter.

He told one shareholder that this meeting was not about what others said about Noble and reiterated there was nothing wrong with the accounts.

"As the main shareholder of the company, I am not going to shoot myself in the foot," said Mr Elman.

At the end of trade on Friday, Noble's share price rose by 1.14 per cent to close at 88.5 cents.
From Channel NewsAsia, "Noble Group shareholders back financial statements".

Noble Group Ltd chairman Richard Elman rejected all allegations made by previously unknown firm Iceberg Research as inaccurate, unreliable and misleading, in his first public comments on the issue.

Nothing that Noble has done has violated rules, Mr Elman said at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Singapore on Friday, which Reuters attended. “We consider the Iceberg matter finished.”

Mr Elman said the company, one of Asia’s biggest commodities traders, is drawing a line on the matter and remains focused on running the business. “I feel grieved about what happened in the last two months,” he said, adding that Noble is in a robust financial condition.

Mr Elman is Noble’s founder and owns about a fifth of the company’s shares.

Noble shares were up 1.7 per cent at 0239 GMT on Friday, erasing the previous day’s fall.

The shares have slumped by as much as 32 per cent, or S$2.56 billion, since mid-February after Iceberg Research alleged Noble had inflated asset values by billions of dollars through aggressive accounting. Noble has rejected the allegations.

The Singapore-listed shares have also been hit by a quarterly loss.

Noble has linked Iceberg to an employee it fired in 2013 and started legal action against him in Hong Kong.
From Business Times, "Noble Group chairman Elman rejects improper accounting allegations".


On a separate news, this article from Wall Street Journal also featured a mysterious Arnaud Vagner, allegedly a former employee of Noble Group who was also named as one of the defendants.

The string of allegations lobbed this year at commodities trader Noble Group Ltd.N21.SG +1.14% by little-known Iceberg Research has raised many questions, including – what is Iceberg Research?

Unlike Glaucus Research Group or Muddy Waters—which for years have published negative research on companies in Asia—few people had heard of Iceberg Research until it published a report on Feb. 15 questioning Noble’s accounting practices. The company’s Singapore-listed shares the next day fell as much as 10% and are down 23% since the report.

Noble has said it “completely rejects” the allegations and this month filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong alleging a “conspiracy to injure” the company. It named as one of the defendants a former employee, Arnaud Vagner, whom it says joined the company in March 2011 and whose employment was terminated in June 2013. At the time, Iceberg responded by saying it was confident that Noble’s charge had no “legal merits”.

That raised another question. Who’s Arnaud Vagner?

A Noble branding video viewed by The Wall Street Journal that appears to have been published on YouTube in February 2013 gives some insight into Mr. Vagner’s time at the company.

The 5-minute video features Noble founder Richard Elman, chief executive Yusuf Alireza and some employees extolling Noble’s culture, values and future.

“We have clearly intelligent people, dedicated people, passionate people. I think it’s the passion to succeed, the passion to create new and interesting businesses, people that share the dream and people that are willing to go that extra mile to succeed,” Mr. Elman says.

Mr. Vagner also has a speaking role. Around the 1-minute mark, a person identified as Arnaud Vagner turns towards the camera, remarking Noble offers “a new challenge every day.” Dressed in a suit and tie, he briefly throws a smile at the camera as he turns his back and walks away.

Mr. Elman speaks next.

Noble in a conference call with analysts in February had characterized the person behind the Iceberg reports as a “disgruntled junior ex-employee.”

In an 11-page rebuttal to Iceberg’s claims published on its website this month, it said the “blogger” it believed to be behind the accusations was judged poorly at work and “told he was in the bottom 10% of his group,” in a 2012 performance assessment.

It is unclear whether Mr. Vagner was deemed a poor performer before or after he was included in the promotional video. A Noble spokesman declined to comment.

When asked by The Wall Street Journal to confirm if he is the Arnaud Vagner that appears in the video, Iceberg in an emailed response reiterated its previous stance that it would not confirm the identities of any of its individual members, a response it has given previously to Noble’s characterization of his work performance at Noble.
From Wall Street Journal, "Who is Arnaud Vagner? Noble Video Gives a Clue".

of Games for the jubilee

Interesting. Will be looking forward to trying the games when July comes. Heh.

To celebrate the 50th birthday of Singapore, the Media Development Authority commissioned the creation of several video games – made from the ground up – by Singapore’s talented local developers.

While the games are expected to be completed and launched to the public for free only in July, Oo Gin Lee got a sneak peek of all four games as he was one of the four judges on the selection panel. Here are his first impression.


Kan-Cheong! Kopitiam Saga
Developer: Mojo Cat Games


This game lets you pit your skills against one, two or three online players at the same time. It consists of nine mini-games centred on the unique local culture of the Singapore kopitiams, or coffee shops. I tried two of these games.

Auntie Lai Liao (meaning "the parking attendant is here") is about how motorists like to park their cars near a favourite kopitiam without posting a parking coupon. Slyly, the motorists rush through a meal, keeping an eye out for patrolling parking attendants who will quickly issue parking tickets to such "coupon misers".

In the game, you must tap on your bowl of noodles to eat as quickly as possible, while trying to spot the "auntie" approaching your car, through the pedestrians who are blocking your view.

Upon spotting the "auntie", you must stop tapping and swipe upwards before she gets to your car. The game gets more challenging as more and more pedestrians appear on screen to block your view, even as the "auntie" speeds up.

It is a great game, and best played at a real kopitiam to soak in the atmosphere.

The second game has you at the kopitiam with your "bros" watching a live football match. Intermittently, a special screen will appear with one of three possible scenarios: Goal, Miss or Foul. You must hit the correct symbol to score points. It gets more challenging when the waitress walks past your table to block your view.

Both games are fun and, yes, my palms were sweating from the tension, as I grew more and more "kan cheong" (Cantonese for frenzied nervousness) playing both mini-games.


Rickshaw Rus
Developer: Mojo Forest


Combining old and new things about Singapore, this fast-action arcade game puts you in the shoes of a rickshaw puller who needs to ferry passengers around the streets of Singapore.

Created in lovable pixel-art style, the aim of the game is to pick up the passengers as they appear on the streets and drop them off at their desired destinations.

Take too long and your customers will refuse to pay you.

Your prospective passengers are no ordinary folk. Many are historical figures who have played vital roles in the country's development. They include Sir Stamford Raffles; Zubir Said, composer of the national anthem; and philanthropist Tan Tock Seng, after whom the hospital is named.

As you move around the streets, you will unlock historic landmarks and interesting attractions, including the "dragon" playground in Toa Payoh.

You navigate the streets of Singapore by swiping up, down, left and right.

During the preview, I found that the game did not respond well to the swiping actions. One hopes this will be fixed before the launch.

As you progress in the game and earn coins, you can upgrade your rickshaw so that it can travel faster, carry more passengers at the same time, and provide greater comfort, so that your passengers will be happier.

Electronic Road Pricing toll gantries are strewn all over the map and the smart rickshaw puller will need to balance the desire to avoid paying tolls, and getting to his destination more speedily - just like in real life.


Building The Lion
Developer: Swag Soft


Four players can go head to head in this board game that promises plenty of family fun.

Think of this game as a sort of updated 3-D Monopoly-like game. Players take turns to roll the dice and progress across a board.

Depending on where you land, you can earn money, buy key landmarks and attractions, and unlock famous people, such as singer JJ Lin and the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, as well as Singapore icons such as Singa the Courtesy Lion.

The 3-D graphics are beautifully rendered and you will be thrilled to be able to own The Cathay building and even Marina Bay Sands. When another player lands on a building that you own, he needs to pay you money. But becoming the richest player is only one of five ways to win the game.

You can win by being the first to fill up any one of the five meters - Peace, Happiness, Progress, Prosperity and Knowledge.

You fill up the Prosperity meter by earning money but the other meters require you to unlock cards corresponding to the various goals.

Knowledge, for instance, requires you to unlock the historical and current personalities while the Progress meter fills up when you unlock History cards of key moments in independent Singapore's 50 years of existence.

There are also opportunities to land on special event squares where you get to play mini-games such as capteh, spin the top, or go "longkang" fishing.


My Singapore City
Developer: Ixora Studios


This game combines social city building with a good, old tile-matching memory game. The main game requires you to open up closed tiles to match pairs of identical images of historical landmarks and places in Singapore.

Match all the tiles successfully within the time limit to complete each challenge. If you match correct pairs in succession, you will gain "combo" bonus points. As you complete the challenges, you will also unlock icons of more than 80 buildings and landmarks, which you can then place on your main map of Singapore.

Each of these building icons provides special bonuses when you play the main memory games.

While this is a single-player game, there is a social element to it. You can visit your friends' "cities" to see how they are faring and study their city-building strategies.
From Asiaone, "Games for the jubilee".

Friday, April 17, 2015

of Email in Real Life

Check it out--this hilarious YouTube clip, "Email in Real Life". It's said to be the sequel to Conference Call in Real Life. Heh. Gotta check it out too soon!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

of Keppel Corp owns 95.1% of Keppel Land at close of offer.

Is this, what, an annoying joke as part of the April Fools' Day? I read the Business Times headlines, "Keppel Corp fails to hit compulsory acquisition threshold for Keppel Land buyout". Meaning to say, with Keppel Corp now owns 95.1% of Keppel Land, they'd just have to stick to the offer price at a base price of S$4.38 per Keppel Land share, rather than the higher price of S$4.60 a piece if the threshold (of 95.5%) had been reached.

Seriously, who are on their right mind still determine to keep the shares & not accepting the offer to help gain that threshold?! Especially since the update of the level of acceptance is published openly & those who have not opted to accept the offer should know that they could have enjoyed better price if they're joining the rest who have accepted.

Refer to the last 10 days of such publicly announced level of acceptance:
- 30 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 93.9% of Keppel Land
- 27 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 93.4% of Keppel Land
- 26 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 93.2% of Keppel Land
- 25 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 90.9% of Keppel Land
- 24 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 89.4% of Keppel Land
- 20 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 87.5% of Keppel Land
- 19 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 87.2% of Keppel Land
- 18 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 86.7% of Keppel Land
- 17 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 86.2% of Keppel Land
- 16 Mar 2015, Keppel Corporation owns 85.9% of Keppel Land

I am not really sure whether the recent press release dated 31 Mar 2015, SGXNET: Disclosure Of Interest/ Changes In Interest Of Director/Chief Executive Officer – Ms Ng Hsueh Ling which states that the Keppel REIT Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Ms Ng Hsueh Ling after her acceptance of employee share options/share awards of 537,000 Units, she is now holding the total no. of rights/options/warrants held: 1,420,299. Hers is rights/options/warrants. Not shares. So I just wonder how if any this impact to the acceptance level of Keppel Corp's offer (after all it refers to 'shares', not 'rights/options/warrants'.


Oh well. Lessons learnt:
1. Should have disposed the shares in the open market as the price is more attractive than the base offer of $4.38.
2. Should have studied more what happens if one opts to decline the offer & thus when the counter is delisted, how one is holding the shares (especially if one is still not willing to exercise one's right to get Keppel Corp to acquire the shares at $4.38)?

Keppel Corp failed to hit the compulsory acquisition threshold needed to complete the buyout of Keppel Land by the end of the offer close.

Late on Tuesday evening, it released a report saying that it now owns 95.1 per cent of Keppel Land as at March 31, 5.30pm, just 0.4 percentage points short of the 95.5 per cent threshold.

This means that the offer price will remain at a base price of S$4.38 per Keppel Land share, rather than the higher price of S$4.60 a piece if the threshold had been reached.

Remaining shareholders who have not tendered have a right to require Keppel Corp to acquire their shares at S$4.38 in cash, joint financial advisers DBS and Credit Suisse said in the report.

This essentially allows the shareholders to exit rather than stay stuck with illiquid private shares.

Keppel Land lost one cent to end at S$4.45 on the stockmarket on Tuesday. Some 2.1 million shares changed hands.

The Singapore Exchange will suspend trading of the shares henceforth.

"Keppel Corporation Limited intends to take steps to delist Keppel Land Limited from the SGX-ST following the close of the offer," said the financial advisers.
From Business Times, "Keppel Corp fails to hit compulsory acquisition threshold for Keppel Land buyout".


Also from Business Times, "Surprise outcome of KepLand offer splits views":

The surprise outcome of Keppel Corp's takeover bid for its mainboard-listed property arm has brought forth divided views and some unhappy investors.

Some analysts say the end result was the best possible for the conglomerate, noting that it saves a hefty S$155 million on privatising Keppel Land. Others, however, point out that it will now have to deal with KepLand's hold-out minority shareholders. Questions have also arisen over whether KepCorp might have reached its goal if it had extended its offer acceptance deadline just a little longer.

KepCorp owned 95.1 per cent of Keppel Land by the time its offer closed on Tuesday, just 0.4 percentage point shy of the 95.5 per cent threshold it needed to compulsorily acquire the rest of the company. That means that KepLand shareholders who accepted the two-tier offer will only get the base price of S$4.38 per share rather than the higher payout of S$4.60, which they would have been paid if the threshold were reached.

RHB Securities analyst Lee Yue Jer said on Wednesday that this result was "the best possible outcome" for the conglomerate since it can take its property arm private at a lower cost.

That said, KepCorp could not have deliberately caused this outcome since it cannot control shareholders, he said. "Keppel did not choose this. They put it out there that they were willing to pay the higher price, and made it clear that they would not extend the offer further."

The step-up price offer to entice more shareholders to accept is believed to be the first in recent history.

Its original closing date was March 12, by which point KepCorp owned 85.1 per cent of KepLand. It then extended the deadline to March 26. Even though it had already obtained the 90 per cent minimum stake it needed to delist KepLand on March 25, KepCorp extended the deadline by three more trading days to March 31.

Remisier Desmond Leong said that most investors had been convinced that KepCorp would manage to compulsorily acquire KepLand. It would be "natural for people to feel disappointed" that it did not, he said, but added: "I think everybody understood that Keppel made a good try to get the compulsory takeover... Extending the offer twice does show effort already."

Market watchers noted that some shareholders may be wondering why KepCorp chose not to extend its offer for more than three days. One disadvantage from not reaching the compulsory acquisition threshold is that KepCorp has to manage minority shareholders of KepLand who failed to accept the offer in time, they said.

"From a public standpoint, there may be questions as to why there wasn't a further extension once the finish line seemed to be within reach," said corporate lawyer Adrian Chan, adding that most companies seeking a delisting would want to do a compulsory acquisition to avoid ongoing administrative costs related to managing minority shareholders.

Rodyk merger and acquisition partner Ng Eng Leng said that KepCorp's decision to close the offer after 47 days was "probably strategic - my suspicion is that they were trying to force the issue". Not letting the offer drag on could have been intended to encourage hold-outs to accept the offer earlier, he said.

Some shareholders in KepLand who accepted KepCorp's offer have complained that KepCorp closed the offer too early, preventing them from getting a higher payout.

However, UOB Kay Hian analyst Vikrant Pandey said that these were most likely to be speculators who bought KepLand shares after KepCorp announced its takeover offer, rather than investors who bought KepLand shares over the past two years who likely still made money even if they got S$4.38 per share.

KepLand was last traded at S$3.65 before the offer was announced.

Mr Pandey said: "In the last two weeks of the offer it seemed that Keppel would reach the threshold, so there were some speculators who jumped in to make a quick profit." Mr Ng added that any shareholder who bought after the offer was announced would have gone in knowing that it was a gamble. "You take a risk."

A KepCorp spokesman told The Business Times that the conglomerate had clearly explained the offer conditions, and the two extensions to the offer closing date had provided "ample time for shareholders to assess the offer and make a decision". KepCorp's move to extend the offer even after it had secured enough shares to take KepLand private "demonstrates KepCorp's intent to give minority shareholders more opportunity to tender acceptances in order to reach the compulsory acquisition threshold", she said.

Under the takeover code, KepCorp cannot pay KepLand shareholders S$4.60 per share after the close of the offer, she pointed out, adding: "We have to consider the interest of Keppel Corp shareholders."

"Remaining shareholders have a right, under and subject to Section 215(3) of the Companies Act to require Keppel Corporation Limited to acquire their shares at S$4.38 in cash," said KepCorp.

KepLand shares were suspended from trading on Wednesday, after having fallen a cent to S$4.45 on Tuesday. KepCorp closed six cents down at S$8.94.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew - Nee Soon GRC Community Tribute Random Photos

Finally made my way yesterday afternoon to Nee Soon GRC Community Tribute site at the hard court at Blk 749 Yishun Street 72. The mood was somber. The loss of Mr Lew Kuan Yew is for sure felt not just by the family but also by the Nation.

Here are some random photos taken:


All 18 community tribute sites for Mr Lee Kuan Yew will now be open for 24 hours a day until the end of Lee Kuan Yew's State Funeral on Sunday (Mar 29).

In a media release issued on Saturday, the People's Association (PA) said that the opening of all sites is to allow residents who have not had the chance, but still wish to pay their last respects to Singapore's founding Prime Minister.

The 18 sites are located at:

-Aljunied GRC: Kovan Hub
-Ang Mo Kio GRC: Ang Mo Kio Central Stage @ Ang Mo Kio Town Centre
-Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC: Toa Payoh Central Community Club
-Choa Chu Kang GRC: Hardcourt opposite Choa Chu Kang MRT Station
-East Coast GRC: Open space @ Bedok Town Centre
-Holland-Bukit Timah GRC: Senja-Cashew Community Club
-Jurong GRC: Canopy beside Jurong Regional Library
-Marine Parade GRC: Kampong Kembangan Community Club (Foyer)
-Moulmein-Kallang GRC: Hong Lim Park next to Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre
-Nee Soon GRC: Hardcourt at Blk 749 Yishun Street 72
-Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC: Sengkang Community Hub (Hardcourt)
-Sembawang GRC: Woodlands Civic Centre (Open Space)
-Tampines GRC: Tampines Community Plaza
-Tanjong Pagar GRC: Tanjong Pagar Community Club
-West Coast GRC: Blk 442 and Blk 449 Clementi Ave 3
-People’s Association Headquarters
-Marina Barrage
-Singapore Botanic Gardens

The PA said that more than 12,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers have been on hand to take cars of those who needed assistance. Various local merchants and corporates have also provided food and drinks for the public; for example, local coffeeshops provided drinks, while Dairy Farm Group contributed 800 cartons of food and drinks for members of public.

The association also thanked members of the public who have volunteered their time and services. Those who wish to volunteer can go to their nearest community tribute site, the PA said.
From Channel NewsAsia, "All 18 PA community tribute sites will stay open overnight until end of State Funeral".

Monday, March 23, 2015

Of the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew (O quam cito transit gloria mundi!)

O quam cito transit gloria mundi, or in simple English, "How quickly the glory of the world passes away"--well, that may just be the right phrase to describe the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew early this morning (3:18am local time at Singapore General Hospital, where he had been admitted on Feb. 5 suffering from pneumonia).

Since then, a torrent of tributes have come (and rightly so) to the late Mr Lee.

Check out this CNA article, "World leaders pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew" which has United States President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who has the world leader shared their thought & respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Likewise, a similar flood of tributes from Asian Leaders (refer to CNA article, "Asian leaders pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew") such as Hong Kong Chief Executive C Y Leung, Taiwan President Ma Ying Jeou and Premier Mao Chih Kuo, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the separate article (also from CNA, "Indonesia pays tribute to Lee Kuan Yew, 'a great leader and statesman'") has Indonesia's Foreign Ministry on Monday (Mar 23) conveyed the government and people's "deepest condolences" on the passing of Singapore's first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Straits Times also has the news that Indonesia President Joko Widodo to attend state funeral for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Also published one article (again from CNA) that Prime Minister of Thailand General Prayuth Chan-ocha expresses condolences on passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

CNA, "Lee Kuan Yew one of the greatest leaders Asia has ever produced: Japan PM Abe" has Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered the Japanese government and people's "deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences" to the Republic's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the demise of "great leader" Lee Kuan Yew.

Also by CNA, "Sultan of Brunei pays tribute to 'charismatic, exemplary leader' Lee Kuan Yew". Stated in the opening line is the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah "would dearly miss Mr Lee Kuan Yew as a personal and close family friend".

Other tribute (not from any political leaders, though) is from Google by use of a simple black ribbon on its home page.

As part of Singapore Memory Project, any of us can also share our messages and condolences in memory of the late Mr Lee on the official Facebook Page and can also view the messages from others on the Read the Tributes page. (Refer to this page, rememberingleekuanyew.sg.)

PS. The Telegraph has also just published, "Lee Kuan Yew: his most memorable quotes". For me, I'd say the following is the most memorable quote by him among the rest:

"Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life... I should find solace in her 89 years of a life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and grief."

That is referring to the passing of his wife, Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.

Rest in peace, Mr Lee.