Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AIA Singapore

AIA Singapore Policy Owners Panic

The troubles of US parent AIG has spooked AIA Singapore policy holders into prematurely terminating their insurance policies. Some had to wait close to four hours before being attended by AIA counter staff yesterday. Wise move or panic driven?

AIA Policyholders PanicWhy do it now when returns for the policies are likely to be poor considering the dismal performances of the stock markets? Will the bankruptcy of AIG lead to the AIA Singapore policy holders holding worthless pieces of paper?

Not quite, says the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). According to MAS, AIA Singapore has sufficient funds kept in a separate account to meet all policy holders' liabilities as required by law. MAS further added that it will continue to closely monitor developments in AIA. If necessary, MAS will activate the Policyholder's Guarantee Fund (a fund contributed by all insurance companies in Singapore) which can cover close to 90% of this insurance company's liability to policy holders.

Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of NTUC Income (including it's insurance arm)- the largest insurer in Singapore) appeared on Channel News Asia on 16 September 2008 and had this advice for AIA Policy Holders:

Is your money safe with AIA ?
"Several AIA policyholders have asked my advice. They are worried that AIA may be affected by the collapse of AIG. They asked if they should surrender their AIA policy now and receive the surrender value now.

My advice is:

  • AIA has a separate policyholder's fund covering its liability to its policyholders in Singapore.
  • To my knowledge, this fund is solvent and is not affected by the problem faced by AIG
  • There is no need to panic and surrender the AIA policies at this time
  • Even if this fund is in trouble, there is a Policyholder's Guarantee Fund managed by MAS that can take care of most of the liability (maybe 90% or more).
  • It is better to wait for any official announcement from MAS

I hope that my comments are correct and can help to allay the fears of AIA policyholders."

Tan Kin Lian repeats this in his blog: http://tankinlian.blogspot.com/

This panic in a financial institution in Singapore has not been seen since Singapore-based Nick Leeson's unauthorized bets on the Nikkei futures caused the Collapse of the oldest merchant bank in London, the Barings Bank. As former US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan said, "This is a once-in-a-century financial crisis".

This is certainly a development worth keeping track of though I am not surprised with the failure of so many financial institutions in the USA. As they say stateside: "It's been a long time coming".

While those with Whole Life and Endowment Policies are protected by the MAS Policyholder's Guarantee Fund, the same cannot be said for those with Unit Link Investment Funds. These Unit Linked funds operate much like unit trusts. If the company fail, all the money could be lost.

Luckily, Singapore financial institutions have been made wiser and stronger because of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and this will help us ride through the financial tsunami coming from the West. Stay calm and get ready to benefit from the opportunity of a lifetime! But don't expect a quick fix.

© http://comsg.blogspot.com -AIA Singapore

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Edgeworth & Landbanking

Edgeworth & Landbanking

Sunday Times, 7 September 2008 reported: "Landbanking can be profitable, but it is not a short-term investment and buyers need to do their homework first"

Sounds familiar, but how many Singaporeans really do that? Most of the time, they succumb to greed and the eagerness to show how savvy they are in investing and try to impress sales people how rich they are. When things go wrong or are not up to their expectations, they cry foul and complain that the government is not protecting them from such investments.

So now, landbanking in the investment flavor of the year with 10 firms selling foreign raw land here. After getting burnt by timeshare and other exotic unregulated investments, they are ready to tackle more non-traditional investments like land banking. The big crowd turnouts at landbanking seminars, many of whom are prepared to plonk down S$10,000 and above for land they have never seen or even heard of before the sales presentations is truly amazing. The success of Walton has attracted other landbanking companies to Singapore like Edgeworth. The herd instincts of crowds never ceases to amaze me.

In the article, Straits Times covered Edgeworth's current project in Alberta, Canada which required a minimum investment of C$12,900 (S$17,500). This quote is attributed to a reportedly successful landbank investor who claimed: "Edgeworth also offers insurance and fixed returns and is involved in the development process unlike others like Walton where investors have to wait for third-party offers and depend on market sentiments". Edgeworth says that with its insurance plan, the initial investment sum will be returned within 5 years if the investor wishes to exit. This insurance plan takes effect only when the title deed is issued (some 9 months after the sales and purchased agreement has been signed). Edgeworth has a development arm, Sonex Construction

For those of you who don't know what land banking is ..... land banking is nothing to do with lending money to the banks for big profits. It is not even about property investment. It is investing in raw land which hopefully, one day, some time in the future, most probably 10 years or more will be valuable if it is located in a place which may be in demand in the future due to economic or population needs. The land bank you buy is not in a small country like Singapore which may run out of land for development purposes. It assumes that there is no local URA counterpart which can recycle existing land / cities for urban renewal. It assumes that people are willing to commute long distances from their work places. It assumes that people don't like to live in big, cosmopolitan cities. It assumes that property prices always goes up (just look at the Sub-Prime mess and its effect on property prices and other economic activity). It assumes a lot of other things.

Some of the things landbank investors have to consider before committing themselves financially are:

  1. Illiquid - Investors cannot turn a landbank into cash like stocks and shares and even a property in Singapore. If you put your landbank up for sale, you will have to fork out an administration fee and broking charge of at least 15% of the resale price.
  2. No "Sure-Win" - There is no guarantee you will make money or even get your money back. Everything is dependent on government approval and developers' interest in developing the land.
  3. Uncertainty and Potentially Long Holding Periods - Projects can take 10 years or more to exit, assuming it is an attractive property to would-be investors.
  4. High Tax Rate - Such landbank projects are subject to a high tax rate in the respective countries. In Canada, the capital gains tax is as high as 40%.
  5. Forex Risk - If the SG dollar goes up relative to the North American currencies, your profits will be less than expected.

If you plan to invest in a landbank, be extra careful and check these out throughly:

  1. Firm's Reputation - Don't buy if you have doubts about the company delivering on its promises. As my rich uncle used to say: "Check to see if anything can go wrong with the deal. If something can go wrong, it will"
  2. Land's Location - Apply the same principles as buying a property. It is not what you like that counts, but what value other people (buyers) see in the property.
  3. Economic Conditions - Timing (and luck) determines how fast you can get back your money.
  4. Track Record - How long did it take for previous investors to exit from the investment. Such statistics may be hyped up.
  5. Exit Strategies - Landbanks work exactly like enbloc sales. If someone does not agree to sell, everybody will have to wait for a better offer - which may never come.

The most important thing is there has never been any audited reports on how much money people have made in landbanking.

For those wise cats still sitting on the sidelines, read the following post on landbanking in UK on http://tankinlian.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Comment posted in www.theonlinecitizen.com
Is all Landbanking a scam? Every case in the UK so far has proved to be.

In the UK you can say Land Banking is a scam and the papers often do because there are many thousands of cases of good people losing all their money. There are no audited cases of end plot investors being successful . One of the biggest property booms ever just ended at the end of 2007 in the UK so you would expect that there should have been some plot based land banking success in 2006 and 2007 but there was none.

Many of the Land Banking companies with similar names to those now operating in Singapore offering UK plots have been shut down in the UK by the FSA and are NOT allowed to offer those plots to people living in the UK.

As a Brit let me say this. Imagine I was offered plots on the Padang in Singapore by a UK company that was not allowed by MAS to operate in Singapore. Would you Singaporeans suggest it as a good investment ? It is open land in the middle of the city. Ideal for building on and Singapore is short of building space. Would you expect the Singapore government to protect a stupid foreigner who made that investment ?

Dont invest in what you dont understand.
Posted by Tan Kin Lian at 6:48 AM

It remains to be seen if North American landbanks can deliver what they promise. If Lehman Brothers can go bankrupt, why not landbank companies if property prices continue to slide?

Related Article:


© http://comsg.blogspot.com - Edgeworth & Landbanking