Economic Downturn and the Opportunity it Presents


Written on 10/30/2008 07:19:00 pm by sikapitan

Despite what our Government is trying to portray, Malaysia is not immune from the global financial crisis. This is evident by the battering our KLSE has taken since the turn of this month. However, I believe there is some truth in the statement that Malaysia will be relatively stable economically.

Again, just take a look at the stock market. Despite reaching lows not seen in years, you don’t see en masse retrenchment or excessive decline in consumer spending. Heck, every day at KLCC I see people trying out goods like there’s no tomorrow.

Unlike the last big drop in the mid-90s, where scores of individuals turn bankrupt, this time most Malaysians are not actively and directly involved in the stock market. Retail investors (meaning you and me) make up only a small percentage of holdings in our equity market.

Strict lending rules imposed by the banks have also restricted individuals from excessively borrowing money to finance stock purchases. Therefore, the losses in the stock market, in general, will not impact individuals like you and me directly.

Another plus factor is our own conservatism in relation to our savings. Malaysians in general tend to be conservatives and keep the majority of their money in fixed-deposit or open-ended government trust fund (eg. ASB). The more adventurous would venture into mutual funds, and even then I see reluctance to throw away their savings.

At this moment, most of us are suffering from paper losses with regards to Mutual Funds. But as the investment horizon clearly states between 3-5 years, perhaps we shouldn’t be unduly worried.

The last form of savings/investment for most Malaysians is Real Estate Investment. This is becoming increasingly popular as historically here in Malaysia, Real Estate is almost equivalent to capital guaranteed fixed deposit. At the very least, you’ll lose a few thousand from your purchase price. Not too bad considering the potential yearly yield of 7 – 10% or capital appreciation of 20% - 40% from purchase price.

This is especially true if the property is purchased from reputable developers.

However, as I’ve been surveying some properties, I noticed that sometimes there are a lot of investors as opposed to actual purchasers. This means that properties are being picked up at inflated prices based on inaccurate demand. The demand from investors does not necessarily correspond to demand from people who actually want to live there.

It’s a chicken and egg situation. The investor would go to the sales gallery, and then realized that units are being snapped up quickly. The investor equates this to demand from purchasers. They will then put in money without realizing that no one wants to stay there upon completion. In fact, even if there were, upon completion, there will be a glut of investors ready to rent out their units, which makes it harder for you to set the price you wanted.

In any case, I predict that in 3 months time the property market will follow the path of the stock market. Once the stock market bottoms out, and start its recovery upwards, start tracking the property market as it will lag a few months from the stock market. But if there’s no real recession (increase in unemployment, negative growth y-o-y etc.), then perhaps there will only be a slowdown in demand, but it will not adversely impact prices.

Especially as developers are also slowing down with new launches. The shortage in supply will balance out the decrease in demand.

Next year will be a great year for those willing to take risks. Go figure!

This Voice inside My Head


Written on 10/21/2008 09:00:00 am by sikapitan

There’s a voice inside my head. And it keeps on telling me that I must start something on my own. Unlike some of my colleagues, I have this constant itch to go out and start a business. I just don’t know what the business would be.

That’s the question I asked my good friend – what if someone likes everything. What if that person is as comfortable dealing with Powerpoint presentations in the board room as he is with selling stuffs by the roadside? What if he likes the discipline of MNCs while enjoying the freedom of self-entrepreneurship?

See, it’s easy if you have a preference. I know of friends who just enjoy working from 9-5, and cannot stand working odd hours. I know of people who can’t stand the thought of sitting in an office for hours.

It’s even easier if you have limited/specialized competency. Some people can’t sell anything even if their mom’s life depended on it. Some people just can’t bear the thought of preparing a complex business case where EBITDA margin is the king.

These people, to me, are lucky in a sense because their preference and competence will dictate what they can and would like to do.

Sometimes I see entrepreneurs mocking the corporate-types for being too straight and not thinking “big”. And I see corporate-types saying that entrepreneurs must be idiots because they can’t get that high-flying job in that big MNCs.

Me? I totally dig both groups, and I can understand if my colleagues prefer working their way up the corporate ladder and I can relate if my friend says that we are all wasting a golden opportunity to make lots of money.

I guess I must be crazy for thinking that I am unlucky. I feel blessed, every single day. It’s better to be able to do lots of things than to be lousy at most. But sometimes I just think it’ll be much easier if that voice inside my head would tell me – hey, bro…you’re doing just fine.


Rooney’s on Fire

Luckily for United, we have Wayne Rooney to carry off the slack that is known as Berbatov. Yeap, Berba did play some nice passes through AND he did score. But don’t you guys think he’s just a bit freaking lazy?

Yet, and this is why the world is a bit unfair, he was on the winning side, and would get a big fat paycheck at the end of the week while real football heroes like Wigan’s Amr Zaki can only look on as the lucky Liverfool rats notch up another win against 10-men opposition.

Zaki played an absolute blinder, harassing the Liverpool’s backline all the way. Yeah, people may say that he might just be another one-season wonder. Who cares as long as you play with your heart on your sleeves? Just like Wayne Rooney. I don’t give a crap if he doesn’t score, because I know that he puts in 110% every single game.

Liverpool v Wigan Athletic

Anyway, Zaki’s second goal certainly put to be any doubts about his ability. What a cracker!

With friends like these...


Written on 10/16/2008 10:22:00 pm by sikapitan

I remember when I was having a cuppa with some “good friends” of mine. Note the “...”.

I’ve had a few of those. People that come and go, passing through your life, without ever actually being anything more significant that cool people that you’d hang out with, but not forever.

No offense to these friends, but if there ever were a need for prime example of Malay urban youths (and I’m using this term liberally...) gone south, then they would definitely fit the bill.

What is it about teh tarik that brings out the best and the worst in people? At one moment, we could be discussing serious political issues with such deep insight that it would blow George Bush’s head off without a trace.

Then suddenly, without the barest hint of female form, these very same “political analysts” would talk about girls, and the endless drama associated with them, and of course, the “ehem ehem”. Sometimes it’s funny, but most of the time it just pisses me off.

You can talk about girls. It’s only natural. But why must it be so graphic?

Another thing that pisses me off about some of the friends I hang out with is their perpetual need to blame others or find excuses for their own failings. I mean, once, I was having teh tarik (again) at Mydin, and we were commending the success of Mydin before one of the friends mentioned that if he were given a prime land like Mydin (or whoever the boss is) and had connections, he would have made it big as well.

Of course, we all do these sometimes, but for some, it becomes a hindrance to their life. I know someone who smokes weed, take pills, would fuck a tree if it had a hole, molest girls, have no manners, talks cock 24/7, was lucky he finished high-school, and don’t even look good BUT his lack of success in life is always due to: UMNO Puteras “stealing” all his contracts, his friend have no “business vision”, his boss is a jackass, the Government is too slow...a million and one other excuses.

It just pisses me off.

Locking Us Out?


Written on 10/07/2008 08:49:00 pm by sikapitan

Recently, USJ 11/3 (for those in the dark, it’s where the once-famous Chatters Restaurant and now-famous Anjung Merah restaurants originated) introduced a gated community concept.

Previously, it was just another normal neighborhood bordering my parents’ house at USJ 11/2. But USJ’s increasing crime rate has led the neighborhood community to introduce this gated community concept.

I, for one, sympathize with their plight. My parents’ house was broken into twice, while my car which was parked right in front of the house got its window smashed once before. So, I really do empathize with their problem.

However, I have to question the imposition of restricted access to the streets of USJ 11/3 primarily because the residents are converting public roads maintained by MPSJ into private ones as opposed to pre-defined private property development. I suspect that it will not pass the legal hurdle if ever challenged in court.

There’s also a public field in that area. Yes, you can still access it by parking in front of Sri Ayuthaya, but again, the question remains: Can you then restrict access to the public from using the road if they want to park near where they want to? Or are you now saying that the field there is strictly for USJ 11/3 residents?

Another issue is that part of USJ 11/3 is normally used by people who visit Taipan during the day (opposite Public Bank). Well, those who frequent Taipan would know how terrible the traffic situation is there. Parking is a nightmare, especially if all you wanted to do is a simple transaction and have a short time-frame to do so.

What most would do is park across the main road at USJ 11/3. Yeap, it’s not meant to be that way, but unless and until MPSJ provide adequate parking spaces in Taipan, it seems the only reasonable thing to do for everyone.

The situation is not dissimilar to residents who live in front of public playgrounds and have to endure cars parked by the roadside. But we would never think of calling in MPSJ to tow these cars away because we understand their needs and as long as it doesn’t impact us adversely, we can accommodate these minor transgressions.

Unfortunately, the committee members of USJ 11/3 have threatened to call in MPSJ to summon these cars. Can you imagine being summoned for a situation that you cannot REASONABLY prevent? Can you suddenly create a designated parking space? I don’t think so.

The primary purpose of this is to prevent crime. Unfortunately, along the way, the non-criminals and average Joes who have the RIGHT to use the streets and roads are also discriminated against as though the streets belong to only USJ 11/3 residents. Does this sound right to you? If that’s the case, imagine what would happen if we were to close access to USJ 11/2 then?
At the end of the day, I sincerely believe that the committee is rightfully concerned about their safety. It is a sad reflection of our society that the police can no longer be counted upon to provide a safe and sound sanctuary for the Rakyat. There’s a genuine effort to solve the problem by USJ 11/3, and I applaud them for the effort. It’s just that I have this feeling it would later create a situation that would spiral out of control and lead to various other issues that I don’t have the time to raise here. Good luck!

Where Are You Berbatov?

So far we have seen some nice touches, a few delightful passes, and two goals against European minnows in the 5-6 games that Berbatov has played in since he joined Manchester United. It has been a slow start to Man United’s 30 MILLION pound man.

I have nothing against Berba except for the fact that I have unequivocally stated to anyone who cares to listen that we don’t really need him at THAT price. Why? Last season we did wonders from our three-pronged attack of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez.

Fergie and everyone was gushing how wonderful these three were in when in full flight and in-form.

We were a bit light in attack in case any one of them got injured or out-of-form though, but when the three are playing, we were virtually unstoppable in attack. That was the argument then for another striker. And also the fact that we needed an alternative to Man United’s attacking play – “a target man is needed” was the cry.

So the primary issue was back-up, quality back-up. Or did Manchester United decide to pay 30 million quid for Tevez to be a back-up? I don’t think so, and the “Apache” has shown himself to be a class first-team act.

Which begs the question why did we have to go through the long and protracted battle to gain ANOTHER 30 million “cover” who is already 27 years old? Of course you can’t fit all four of them in a team without sacrificing balance and effectiveness. Therefore, one of these expensive signings has to sit out. Not very clever, Fergie.

If you already have a 30 million striker, what you need is a reasonable 15 million quid maximum quality backup. There’s a host of strikers that fits the bill, and wouldn’t cost us a bomb to leave in the bench.

On the second point that Berba would bring a different dimension to United’s game, I have my reservation. Berbatov is NOT a better header of the ball than either Rooney or Ronaldo. Heck, I think he’s even weaker in winning the ball in the air than Tevez, who is a monster of a shorty. He can’t hold the ball, he doesn’t wait for tap-ins, he is slow to get to the 6-yard box…hmmmm…is he the out and out striker that United supposedly need as an alternative to the free-flowing, skillful trio of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez?

Berba is best when the ball is on the ground, with little flicks and through balls his forte. His laidback style doesn’t suit Manchester United fast running, ball behind the defense game plan, so I guess if by bringing an alternative style means playing slow and deliberate, then I agree Berba is the man for Manchester United.

He will do well, no doubt about it. A classy player playing for Man United will surely do well (we are not Liverpool) at the end of the day. The problem is he will do well at the expense of a system that has already brought us success without any signs of failure.

Imagine if Fergie had a little faith in Rossi, who is now flourishing for Villareal, and now, Frazier Campbell…how much, would we have saved?