25 July 2016

Menya Musashi vs Ajisen

I can't quite figure it out. Why is Menya Musashi so much better than Ajisen? I'm referring to their ramen. Menya Musashi's offer a range of "white", "black" and "red" ramen. The "red" ramen is probably for the masochists. I go with the "black" - it has a strong onion flavour. Burp.

The more cozy look and feel of Menya Musashi outlets are a lot more interesting, giving a more Japan-like "feel". Even the service staff seems a lot more motivated. Perhaps the smaller stalls allow them to provide a more steady rate of service? Or maybe they are better paid?

Or perhaps it's just the locales. Different place, different service?

Both are part of Japan Food Holdings. I think they should just consider replacing the Ajisen's with Menya Musashi's.

Japan Food hasn't been doing well of late on the stock market. It has been going downhill all the way for months. Yet, the company is holding steady with its revenue, although profitability has fallen. Dividend remains good, although nearly equivalent to its earnings. It has remained profitable.

Food is such a competitive market and is totally sensitive to labour costs. Given Singapore's labour shortage, it is quite a challenge for such businesses. It needs to find more productive ways of delivering the service.

I wonder if those 3-4 men shops that serve out ramen with long queues flowing out of the stores which I experienced in Tokyo may be a better deal? Rental is the other killer given our property prices.

Productivity, finding the next boundary to leap over. May be easier to catch a Pokemon?

17 July 2016

4 Credit Cards with Great Cashbacks and Discounts [updated]

Here are 4 credit cards that I use regularly. The first two cards from UOB and Citibank both offer rebates that are sometimes so similar I may not be getting the best deal if I use the wrong card. The other cards offer various discounts.

So this post is a reminder to myself to use the right cards when I frequent such places! Haha.

Citibank Dividend Visa Card

Esso - up to 20.88% (min $50 fuel)
Shell - up to 20.88% (min $50 fuel)
Burger King - 5%?
Prima Deli - 5%?
Starbucks - 10%?

8% discount only for >$350 in each category of Petrol, Groceries, Dining.

[Source: https://www.citibank.com.sg/gcb/credit_cards/citi_dividend.htm]

UOB One Visa Card

Singapore Zoo, River Safari - 5%+10%
Xpressflower.com - 5%
World of Sports - 2%
Metro - 2%
Caltex - 2% + 14%
Homefix - 2%
Cathay Cinema - 2%
Bengawan Solo - 3%
Breadtalk - 3%
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf - 10%
Hard Rock Cafe - 3%
Overseas spending - 2% (max $100 rebate)

* Above are on top of SMART$ and a separate quarterly rebate of up to 3.33% based on consistent spending each month of the quarter:

Spend $500 per month for 3 months, $50 rebate.
Spend $1,000 per month for 3 months, $100 rebate.
Spend $2,000 per month for 3 monts, $300 rebate.

[Source: http://www.uob.com.sg/personal/cards/credit/uob_one_card.html]

OCBC Robinsons Visa Card

Robinsons, Marks & Spencer - 5%
Royal Sporting House - 5%
KFC Delivery - 10% (min $35)
Tajimaya Yakiniku - 10% (min $80)
Singapore Zoo - 20%
Night Safari - 5%
Golden Village Cinema - 4 for price of 3 (Fri-Sun only)
Agoda.com - up to 8%
Swissotel Equinoz - 20% off Sunday Brunch (till 2 Oct 16)

[Source: https://www.ocbc.com/personal-banking/Cards/robinsons-visa-platinum-card.html]

POSB Everyday Mastercard

Popular - 1%
SP Services - 1%
Starhub - 1%
Sheng Siong - 5%
Watsons - 3%
Hotels.com - 8%?
Hertz - 10%?
Overseas spending - 2%
All others - 0.3%

[Source: https://www.posb.com.sg/personal/cards/credit-cards/posb-everyday-card]

The above is not comprehensive. I am only listing those that I am more likely to patronise.

For a wider comparison of credit cards, you may want to try: get.com

Ladies may find this interesting: Infographic: 2015's Best Cashback Credit Cards For Women In Singapore


11 July 2016

When the Market Over-reacts - London Bridge is Falling Down

Judging from the office bet that was going on then, I guess Brexit has been yet another Black Swan event in recent history. The bet was 8 for Brexit and 22 against. So most people from this side of the Commonwealth were very much expecting the UK to stay in the EU, notwithstanding the fact that the UK had never made the switch from their Pound to the Euro.

The day the results came out, the market took an immediate nosedive. My Singapore stocks went downhill, and was followed that same night thereafter with my US stocks as well. It was a universal wipe-out.

It was too late to do anything by the time I came home from work. It was Friday. What did I want to do? Actually, nothing. I didn't know how things would go the following week. Would it be an immediate recovery? Or would there be more panic and capitulation? No clue. Black Swans are ugly birds. So I remained indecisive and just stayed in the market and watched.

On Monday, things reversed very quickly. Whatever losses that happened on Friday were recovered by the end of Monday. I guess the irrationals had a weekend to ponder their regrets, much like a lot of Brits who finally realised what they had done.  In fact, since then, the market has been steadily climbing up further.

With the English team knocked out of the European Cup, the joke on the market was that the Brits had exited from the Euro twice in succession.

"London Bridge is falling down ..." 
"Oi, but this is Tower Bridge lah noob!"

Quite a non-event. Well, not quite. The Pound has been pounded. Time to plan on a holiday to London!?  Hurrah, ol' chap! Time for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Yawning with the Bears of 2015
In Times of Fear, How Did You React?

07 July 2016

The Great Pacific Andes (De)Fault

When you have a stock whose name sounds like the San Andreas Fault, I guess it's only a matter of time before it follows its name sake disaster movie. So yes, Pacific Andes has gone Chapter 11 since.

Years ago, before I became discerning about value investing, I was pretty bought in to any "reasonable" story as a reason to buy a stock.

So what the devil was the story then?

Well, it was about the growing population of China and Asia in general. And with a growing population, demand for food will increase. Fishery provide the nutrients for the diet of a growing world. Blah, blah, blah.

So if you're holding on to any of its shares now, good luck. A million shares at $0 per unit is still $0.  Fortunately for me, all I have is 125 shares. I can live with it. How did I end up with 125 shares? It's another sob story.

I was lucky to have bought a few thousand shares in 2009 at $0.20 and sold them off at $0.34 less than a year later. It was speculative luck. I got out while the going was good. But I forgot about a scrip dividend taking place then! Oh well. Overall, it was still a profitable trade.

[When an associated company (Oceanus) had its whole abalone stock die on them, it was kind of a warning indicator to me. Super RED FLAG!!]

Lesson learnt:
Forget all the fanciful stories. Ultimately, it's about a well run business, in a market where its products sells and can clearly generate recurring income with very little capital investment. One with positive free cash flow, good ROE, ROA, and gives out a sustainable dividend, year after year, in good times and in bad times.

Considerations in Stock Picking

04 July 2016

The Taste of Hong Kong - Tai Cheong Bakery

I remember when wifey and me were last in Hong Kong on a free-and-easy, we went trudging up an upwards sloping street, searching for this supposedly famous bakery. Good food, have to work for it.

We couldn't find it at first as the unit didn't seem to exist. Walking up slope after a heavy dinner is tiring business. I was starting to feel disappointed, and wifey was getting upset that I made her walk up a quiet street to the middle of nowhere. That's until we realised it on the other side of the road! It was night time and my eyesights are bad at night. That's my excuse anyway.

It looks like we don't have to do that anymore. Tai Cheong Bakery has opened in Singapore. Here's the small little store front on the basement of Takashimaya at Ngee Ann City.

It's alongside several bakeries near to the fountain area. Business is presently thriving, with an extended queue that continues out to the walkway. I'm guess it's a passing fad? Service can be kind of slow as they slowly bake fresh trays of egg tarts. Doesn't help that customers are ordering dozens at a go!

Can't quite figure out if it is indeed as good as its Hong Kong originals. But it definitely is tasty enough.