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from Breakingviews:

Asia’s top-down corporate reforms vary in promise

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Asia is in the throes of a top-down corporate reform drive. Newish leaders in China, India, South Korea and Japan are pushing to overhaul the way companies work. Their efforts to increase corporate efficiency are welcome. But investors eyeing better returns will find not all reforms are equal.

The need for intervention is clear. The spread between the return on invested capital and the weighted average cost of capital for non-financial corporations in Asia, excluding Japan, has sunk from 3 percentage points in 2010 to just 0.6 percentage points last year, according to CLSA.

Graphic: Company returns are languishing

In China, historical emphasis on growth and employment over profitability at state-owned entities – combined with a lack of effective checks and balances - has led to inefficient capital allocation. In an effort to solve the problem, President Xi Jinping has promised to bring in more private investors. Officials have already engineered a backdoor Hong Kong listing of state-controlled CITIC Group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates. Energy giant Sinopec is evaluating offers for a 30 percent stake in its retail business.

from Breakingviews:

Asia’s solid exterior hides internal weakness

By Andy Mukherjee 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Asian economies are becoming more resilient externally, but sputtering economic growth is weakening them from within.

from Breakingviews:

Noble China joint venture still faces market test

By Una Galani

The author is a Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Noble Group’s joint venture with China still faces a test from market forces. The Singapore trader is selling 51 percent of its agricultural business to a consortium led by state-backed COFCO for around $1.5 billion. China’s desire to control its food supply should guarantee volumes for the joint venture. But it’s less clear that will translate into healthy margins.

The precise size of the COFCO’s investment depends on how the unit, which processes everything from grains to coffee, performs over the next nine months. The final price will be equivalent of 1.15 times its book value in 2014. The headline price implies a valuation of $2.94 billion for the business, which accounted for 16 percent of Noble’s revenue last year.

from Breakingviews:

OCBC’s Chinese ambition comes with hefty price tag

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp is paying a hefty price to expand in the People’s Republic. The Singaporean group is realising a long-held ambition by splashing out almost $5 billion for Hong Kong’s Wing Hang bank. But the deal looks expensive at a time when growth on the mainland is slowing and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering is threatening to push up deposit costs.

from Breakingviews:

Li Ka-shing de-risks with $6 bln Temasek sale

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Li Ka-shing is de-risking. The Hong Kong tycoon has ditched plans to list his retail division AS Watson in favour of selling a 24.95 percent stake to Temasek for $5.7 billion. The deal crystallises a decent valuation for Li without the uncertainties of an initial public offering (IPO). For the Singaporean state fund, it’s a bold bet on consumer growth and private investments.

from Breakingviews:

Temasek buyout throws sovereign weight behind Olam

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Temasek is extending a protective arm around Olam. The Singapore state investor is leading a group which has offered to buy the 48 percent of the commodity trader it doesn’t already own at a valuation of $4.3 billion. The buyout should help to shield Olam from sceptical short-sellers – and remove any doubts over its creditworthiness.

from Breakingviews:

Singapore is not the world’s most expensive city

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

Singapore is not the most expensive place on the globe. A much-cited survey has declared the city-state to be the world’s costliest. But it suffers from a flawed methodology.

from Photographers' Blog:

Singapore – Gateway to Asia

Singapore

By Edgar Su

Singapore’s port is one of the busiest in the world and has long been a key part of the island’s economy. I took some time last year to document the shipping hub, and was surprised to see how closely life in Singapore is linked to it.

Walking along the coast on a fine day, you’ll see countless ships anchored in the sea around the city-state. At East Coast Park, where many leisure activities take place, I saw a group of school girls conducting soccer training as tankers lined up to make a call at the port. It was quite a peculiar scene - in the foreground daily life was going on, but in the backdrop a massive industry was working around the clock to get cargo shipped or vessels refueled.

from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong’s new marketing ruse: business trusts

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Business trusts are a new marketing ruse for Hong Kong bankers. Injecting whole companies into special-purpose vehicles sounds innovative: even tycoon Li Ka-shing has embraced the idea for the listing of his electricity assets in the territory which could raise $5 billion. But for all the hype, business trusts offer no benefits over a regular initial public offering. They’re mostly a tool for luring in yield-hungry investors.

from Photographers' Blog:

Singapore’s hazy skyline

Singapore

By Edgar Su

As someone who has lived in Singapore all my life, haze is not unusual, it is somewhat a seasonal event that I have become used to. But last Monday was different, I woke up to a slightly smokey smell in the air and the view outside my apartment was more hazy than usual. Immediately, I checked Facebook to see what my friends working in the city were experiencing. Many posted pictures of a very hazy skyline from the view in their office and remarked that even the air in the subway and malls smelled of smoke.

I immediately made my way to the business district to have a look. My first instinct was to get up to the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands hotel to get the best vantage point available in the city. On the way up, a hotel staff member apologized to me in the elevator, "I am sorry for the view today". He was right, from the observation deck, the haze was so thick that I could only see the outlines of landmark buildings.

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