Commentary

Grab's bonfire of the vanities is just blowing smoke, says Bloomberg Opinion's Tim Culpan
(April 9): One sentence from Grab Holdings Inc. co-founder Anthony Tan sums up the outlook for the dumpster fire that is Southeast Asia’s increasingly toxic taxi wars. “I met Masayoshi-san last week where he gave his unlimited support to power our growth.” In a giddy press release Grab announced that it’s super-sizing its current funding round to US$6.5 billion ($8.8 ...
Sea investors, stick to your (accounting) principles
SINGAPORE (Feb 27): Net-off revenues, employee share compensation, fair value of convertible notes, deferred revenues. Sea offers many reasons why you should maybe ignore the standard way businesses report their financial results and focus instead on the Southeast Asian internet company’s preferred method. To be fair, the Singapore-based and US-listed company isn’t hiding its numbers ...
Brexit sucks the air out of Dyson's Singapore move
(Jan 23): Vacuum billionaire James Dyson’s decision to move the headquarters of his eponymous firm from an English market town to the bustle of Singapore will inevitably be seen as a verdict on Brexit – whatever the company says to the contrary. Dyson supported Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union, citing labour laws which he said force him to hire engineers from the ...
MAS plans to boost stock market by subsidising listing expenses, analyst salaries — will it work?
SINGAPORE (Jan 21): It seems perfectly logical that a country that uses monetary subsidies to encourage its citizens to procreate would adopt a similar policy in order to boost the production of stock research. So, I don’t know why I was surprised to learn this past week that the Monetary Authority of Singapore plans to subsidise the salaries of analysts, in order to ensure better coverage of ...
Singapore's Grab can't afford to fail finance
(Jan 16): After sending rival Uber Technologies Inc packing from Singapore and other Southeast Asian markets, homegrown ride-hailing firm Grab has set itself a stiffer target. It wants to be a regional super-app. Think of it as a digital conglomerate that hooks customers for one thing, only to promise them value for several others, sort of like a Netflix Inc. subscription that also tracks your ...
Why is Temasek selling Watsons? It's elementary
(Jan 9): Private equity firms in Asia, which are sitting on plenty of dry powder, can look to a fresh target in the world’s largest health and beauty retailer. They may get a bargain. Temasek Holdings is considering selling part of the 25% stake it holds in A.S. Watson & Co, Vinicy Chan and Elffie Chew of Bloomberg News reported Monday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. It paid ...
Unicorns backing their own VCs? Welcome to peak tech
(Nov 16): When unicorns start setting up their own venture-capital funds, you know the tech world is getting frothy. In June, Singapore-based ride-hailing app GrabTaxi Holdings launched Grab Ventures, shortly after its Indonesian rival Go-Jek Indonesia PT set up its own Go-Ventures. Onetime unicorn Meituan Dianping — the Chinese food-delivery firm that just completed its US$4.2 billion ...
DBS hitches a ride with Go-Jek for a super-app
SINGAPORE (Nov 12): Southeast Asia’s largest bank is teaming up with a unicorn. The prize they may have in mind: a super-app like China’s Alipay and WeChat Pay. Go-Jek Indonesia PT, which started out as a ride-hailing app, has since gone on to capture a much bigger slice of commerce, including food delivery, courier and hairdresser services, and bill payment. As my ...
Singapore banks' good times have come and gone
SINGAPORE (Nov 5): Very little went wrong for DBS Group Holdings last quarter. Singapore’s biggest bank, the last to report earnings, posted a 76% jump in net income. Net interest margins widened 13 basis points and credit costs were 71% lower than a year earlier. Investment banking wobbled, but trading income surged to compensate. The joys of being a bank in a rising interest-rate ...
Probe of Interpol president won't just hurt China
(Oct 10): The last message that now former Interpol President Meng Hongwei sent to his wife was an emoji depicting a knife. Soon after, he disappeared into China’s feared and opaque Ministry of Public Security, the subject of a corruption investigation about which no details have been revealed. The disappearance is a blow to Meng’s family, Interpol and China’s aspirations to lead similar ...