Thursday, September 30, 2010

SIA 2.15% 5-Year Corporate Bond

SIA for the very first time in Singapore's history to issue corporate bonds to retail investors, at a much lower capital requirement.  The minimum investment sum has been reduced from the normal S$250,000.00 to a mere S$10,000, with applications in increments of S$1000.

In terms of return, the bond yield is really low, it is only 2.15%.  Mind you, the official inflation rate for the past quarter in Singapore is ~3.5%.  This means the bond yield is not even enough to cover the depreciation by inflation, but then if you compare with the interests the banks give out to your savings accounts or fixed deposit accounts of less than 1% pa, it is still much better.  It is no surprise then the bond issue is still very very hot.  I applied for 10,000 units, but I got none!  This means there are many people out there with some cash savings looking for more decent yield.

What this reflects will be something interesting to ponder.  Happy investing :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Budget Airline More Expensive than Normal Airlines

If you always think that budget airlines are cheaper than normal airlines, think again.  I just got myself an air ticket from Thai Airways for SGD$574, but with one stop in Bangkok.  For the same route, Tiger Airways is asking for SGD$570 for a direct flight, excluding extra charges.

Keep in mind that you still need to pay SGD$10 for paying with credit card, SGD$12.50 for 1 piece of check-in luggage, SGD$12 for administration fee.  In addition, you still have to pay for your food and drinks on board the flight.  So the total cost is 570 + 10 + 12.50 + 12 = SGD$604.50!!

On top of that, the timing of Tiger flights is odd, taking off at the wee hours of the day, or midnight.  You still need to fork out extra bucks for your taxi, with 50% surcharge!!

For Thai Airways, at least their timings are more reasonable, they provide you with meals and drinks in flight, they let you check in one piece of luggage, free of charge, and they don't ask you for extra charge for seat selection.

SGD$604 against SGD$574, there is a SGD$30 difference in price, but a lot more in terms of comfort and fringe services.

Ever since Tiger Airways went public, their prices are up and up and up, but service is inferior to other normal  airlines.

If you think budget airlines are cheap, think again, seriously!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Classic Cantonese Songs

Donnie Yen's latest movie Legend of the Fist - Return of Chen Zhen, reminds me some of the classic Cantonese songs from Hong Kong that had inspired at least a generation of Chinese.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Potential Risk of Identify Theft with e-Passport

With the change of entry requirement after 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States, countries around the world are now required to issue e-Passports, ie. a passport with a microchip embedded in the passport, which holds your biometric information.  The intention of this move is to provide added security to all countries, and make it more difficult to use a fake passport to travel.

However, this strategy has an unintended side-effect.  Identity theft actually has gone up after the e-Passports are issued.  Why?  e-Passports has this microchip embedded.  To read the biometric information from your passport, RFID technology has been employed.  RFID, means the information is transmitted through RF frequency, and the information can be captured by the reader.  Here is the problem.  If only the government agencies have the technology to make the reader, and can use the reader, probably it is still ok, but actually everyone who knows the technology can produce a reader.  Someone with the reader can just go near you, can he/she can then collect personal identify information from your passport!

Is it something difficult to achieve that?  The answer is YES.  Not anyone on the street can do that.  The RFID has other forms of security measures, such as data encryption.  But can it be done?  YES.  Nothing in this world is really safe.

How to prevent others from getting information from your e-Passport without your knowledge?  The solution is actually very easy.  RFID works with RF transmission.  To block it, just put your passport in a metal container, like the old-style cigarette box, then it will do.  Or you can get yourself a metal passport holder like the one being offered from PacSafe.

New technology solves some problems but brings new problems too.  Problem-solving is a never-ending process :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Legend of the Fist - Return of Chenzhen: Movie Review

I first blogged about the movie in this blog entry.  Thanks to the generosity of, I got myself a pair of free tickets to the moive's gala premiere at Lido.  So today, after work I headed right down to Shaw House with a friend.

There was a reception there for the celebrities and VIPs.  Please forgive me, I really couldn't recognize anyone that I know.  My friend managed to spot our local TV star Li Nanxing.  Anyway, it is not important.

Let's talk about the movie.  With Donnie Yen being the action director, the actions will never disappoint.  The actions have Donnie's signature movements.  Fast, accurate, and lethal!  His fightings are real Chinese Kungfu, not something good for show only.

Then it came Chinese beauty Shu Qi.  Her interpretation of a Japanese secret agent disguising as a night club hostess is right to the point.  A bit more will be too much, a bit less will be insufficient.  And her beauty is hard to deny.

If we only have fighting and a beauty, the movie is hollow without a soul, but thanks to the playwright, the movie has a good story too.  The story was set in the 1920s'-30's Shanghai, during which time China was at the high of a civil war, and western countries as well as Japan were all eyeing a fat slice of China for their own interests.  Our hero in the movie - Chen Zhen (by Donnie Yen), together with many many other ordinary but patriotic Chinese work together to defend the country.  Many sacrificed their lives in the process.  A patriotic, and touching story.

The movie comes at a very sensitive time.  Sept 18, the date Japanese invaded the northern provinces of China in 1931, was just a few days ago.  It is considered to be one of the most unforgettable days in Chinese history.  And, Japan just detained the skipper of Chinese vessel around the disputed DiaoYuTai area.  The incident, coupled with the memorial activities of Sept 18, have led to street protests in many Chinese cities.

Let's hope people in both countries will realize borders are man-made, what is most important is to share the resources given generously by our mother nature.  Peace, all will win; war, everybody will lose.  Amman.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tampopo @ Liang Court

Tampopo at Liang Court seems to be a very popular Japanese restaurant.  At as early as 6pm, you already see queues start to form at the restaurant, with hungry patrons waiting to get their table.

We went in at around 5.30pm, just to beat the crowd, and it proved to be a wise decision.  I ordered their original Kyushu Ramen and grilled Aji.

I must admit I was actually a bit worried about how the ramen would turn out.  Based on my own experience with ramen, those 'authentic' Japanese ramen tend to be very salty, too salty for your health and my own taste buds.  However, Tampopo's ramen gave me a surprise.

The soup base is thick as expected and full of flavours, but it is not too salty, just nice.  Maybe it will be a bit plain to those with strong taste buds, but for me, just nice.  The soup is creamy and you can tell from your first  sip that the soup must have been boiled for many hours.  The ramen itself is cute, a little bit chewy but nice.  It somehow reminds me of the Vietnamese noodle that I had in Saigon some years ago.

Grilled Aji is not bad too.  I am not sure, but I suspect aji in Japanese is something like our saba fish, which is used in Korean cuisine as grilled fish.  Anyway, the fish was nicely done, and you can peel off the fish skin completely.

In conclusion, it is a pretty nice restaurant that provides reasonable Japanese food at reasonable price.

My rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chef Daniel's Kitchen

Chef Daniel is one of Singapore's celebrity chefs who appears on TV food programs frequently in recent years.  His restaurant, which is called Chef Daniel's Kitchen, is located on the roof top of the newly opened Iluma shopping center in Bugis.

The location is really good.  As it is on the roof top, you can have a bird's eye view of downtown Singapore, even a glimpse of the iconic Marina Bay Sands.  The design of the restaurant is simple but clean, it gives you a very neat feeling.

They are having a lunch set menu for only $10.50.  It sounds like a good deal, as it includes a soup of the day, a main, plus dessert.  So we happily sat down and ordered our food.

First came the soup, which is creamy cabbage soup.  The taste is very plain, better than plain water, that's for sure.  Other than that, it is not much higher standard than our company's canteen western food.

Then it came our mains.  Mine is sirloin steak, medium rare, my friend's is Teriyaki chicken.

The portion is really small.  Maybe because it is considered to be 'fine' dining.  It is just a small bowl with a few pieces of chicken on it.

My sirloin steak at least still comes with a reasonable size, plus fries and half a tomato.  The fries are too dry.  Not even up to MacDonald's standard.  The steak is acceptable, but it is really just a thin slice, and it is a bit on the dry side.

Highlight of the meal is the dessert.  At least the dessert is quite decent and gives us a bit sweet taste.

We went there with an empty stomach, and we came out with a hungry feeling.  For $10.50, I must say this meal is value for money.  However, I still prefer Raindrop Cafe's $25++ steak, which tasted good, and gives me more satisfaction.

For $10.50, it didn't give me a good fine dining experience (which I should not expect in the first place with this kind of price), neither did it fill my empty stomach (which is the fundamental purpose of eating).

When we were dining there, we saw Chef Daniel walking around, inspecting the work in the kitchen and the restaurant in general.

Well, what I experienced at his restaurant somehow is different from the impression he gives on TV.  I think one key point for Chef Daniel to ponder is the place he wants to be in in Singapore's restaurant scene.  He has to decide what kind of customers he would like to cater to.  If he is aiming for rich customers, then what he is doing is too low class.  If he is aiming for the mass market, I think what his restaurant is offering now is not really good for the mass market.  Anyway, my feel is he is making nobody too happy, nor too upset.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Little Book That Builds Wealth

Title: The Little Book That Builds Wealth
Author: Pat Dorsey
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc 2008

This book is one of the The Little Book series from MorningStar.  A large portion of the book is dedicated to finding the economic moats of companies.  It opens new perspective of looking at companies.

Then the book dedicates some small portion on how to identify companies with moats, how to do valuation, and the most important aspect of good investment - sell at the right price!

It is a good book for any potential investor.  If you don't want to read the book, you can take a peek at the book's website:  You can make sure of their free service on finding companies with moats.

Happy investing!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Failed Hedging Strategy Using VXX

I mentioned about using VXX as a hedging instrument in this blog entry, as well as detailing the pros & cons of VXX.  I personally have tried out the strategy and find that VXX is very leaky ETN.  As it was pointed out by the market expert, the ETN holds short-term options expiring in 1 month and 2 months.  When VIX drops, these options become worthless and the ETN loses money.  At the same time, in order to track the VIX, the ETN has to pay a higher price to buy new options expiring in the following 1 month and 2 months.

In the scenario where S&P 500 goes bullish and continues to rise, the VXX ETN will continue to lose investor money, at a faster pace than the fall of VIX.  Even if VIX does not drop, for example, VIX hovers at around 22 points for a few months, the VXX will not be able to hold at around the same price for a few months.  Instead, it will continue to drop, even though VIX holds.

Applying the buy and hold strategy to VXX is akin to committing a financial suicide.  Your money will leak continuously.  You will be better off not buying any VXX at all.

However, does it mean VXX is no-touch ETN?  Not really.  If the market expects volatility go up, it is ok to buy some VXX to ride on the rise of volatility, but once volatility starts to fall, you must be ready to sell off all your VXX holdings, otherwise, it will hurt you, and hurt you very badly.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Apply for a Second Singapore Passport to Go to Israel

Israel, the epic centre of war, hatred, religious conflict, regional conflict, and the garrison of the world, is one of the most unloved, unwelcomed countries in the world.  Many Arab countries, or Muslim countries, prohibit their citizens from visiting Israel, nor do they welcome anyone who has stepped their feet on the Israel soil.

It is known that if you have visited Israel, you might have problems later in entering Malaysia or Indonesia, our two dear neighbours.  As such, many 'techniques' have been devised to avoid leaving any trace of visiting Israel.

In Singapore, you can apply for a second passport specifically for visiting Israel.  The procedure is very simple.

1. Fill up your normal passport application form.  In the reason for passport application, tick 'others', then state that you plan to visit Israel.

2. Attach a recent passport-size photo to the application form

3. Provide proof of your visit to Israel.  The proof can come in the form of a company letter (if it is a business trip), or your itinerary from your tour operator, or your air ticket.

4. Pay the normal S$70/80 passport application fee

And then you just need to wait for ICA to inform you the application status.  It is just that simple.

However, I still find it a bit difficult.  Singapore Airlines has no direct flight to Israel!  And many other airlines don't either, from Singapore.  To fly directly into Israel, you most probably will have to go to somewhere in Europe, then continue from there.  Gulf countries?  Fat hope!

Let's all pray that peace in the middle east will come eventually, one day!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Using VXX as A Hedge

There are many different ways to hedge your portfolio, in this blog entry, I will discuss the pros and cons of using  the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-term Futures ETN as a hedge.

First, the meaning of ETN.  ETN, just like ETF, means exchange-traded NOTES.  Basically is a financial derivative instrument using options.  You can take a look at their profile at Yahoo! Finance.

Then we look at the pros.  As it is an ETN, it closely tracks the movements of the CBOE's VIX.  In general there is about a 2 points difference between the price of VXX and the VIX index.  VXX is also traded like any other stock in the stock exchange.  You can easily buy and sell the ETN without any complicated actions to take other than your normal buy & sell.  VXX provides you a means to hedge with great convenience.

However, everything comes at a price.  VXX has its flaws too.  There is a more detailed write-up on why you should not use VXX as a long term hedge here.

Know you are doing and happy investing!

Elva Hsiao Wow 2010 World Tour - Singapore

Went for Elva Hsiao's world tour concert last night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.  The concert is a feast to the eyes.  The costumes, the stage design, and the beautiful and sexy Elva, there is really nothing to complain about for all the visual effects.

However, for the sound effects, I can't say the same.  There is detectable sound distortions over the entire concert.  Elva's voice appears to be a bit hoarse.  To make matter worse, the sound is unreasonably loud.  We are in the balcony seats, but then our ear drums are constantly being damaged by the loud music.  At the end of the concert, my ears drums have this low frequency humming noise lingering.

Overall, a great night of entertainment!