Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Temasek Warns Of Lean Years As Returns Dwindle

Source : The Business Times, August 27, 2008

It flags stagflation risk; its 7% total shareholder return on portfolio lowest in recent years

Temasek Holdings has warned of a growing danger that global economic growth could stall as the fallout from the credit crisis spreads around the world, with possible stagflation posing a severe risk for years to come.

Temasek's own vast portfolio of investments was buffeted by the turmoil that swept financial markets since the start of the crisis last year.

By market value, the total return to Temasek's sole shareholder - the Finance Ministry - for the year to end-March fell to just 7 per cent, from 27 per cent a year earlier.

Economic profit or wealth added - which Temasek uses internally to gauge its returns above a risk-adjusted benchmark - was a negative $6.3 billion, the first time in five years it fell below the cost-of-capital hurdle. A year earlier, wealth added was $23.4 billion.

By one measure, the market risk of Temasek's portfolio rose 67 per cent over the year to end-March, reflecting the 'severe stress' in global financial markets, according to its latest annual report.

Group net profit for Temasek for the year to end-March doubled to a record $18.24 billion from a year earlier, boosted by strong operating performance at its portfolio companies and divestment gains from its asset sales.

Under standard accounting rules, the consolidated net profit includes Temasek's share of profits from companies in which it has a stake of 20 per cent or more, but does not directly reflect its share of the profits or losses of firms in which Temasek has a stake below 20 per cent. Profits from Singapore's DBS Group, of which Temasek owns 28 per cent, would be included, while profits from the UK's Standard Chartered Bank, in which Temasek has a 19 per cent stake, would not.

'The credit crisis is not over - we expect to see further contagion in the real economy in the US, Europe and also Asia over the next 24 months,' said Temasek chairman S Dhanabalan in the 2008 Temasek Review published yesterday.

The fallout from the credit crisis 'will continue to dampen the global economy' for the next two years, he added.

The 7 per cent one-year return to the government - which includes dividends paid by Temasek to the government net of new capital injections - is the lowest since Temasek started publishing its annual report in 2004, when the return was 46 per cent.

Temasek's portfolio performance over longer periods, however, remains strong, with compounded annual returns of 23 per cent over five years, 9 per cent over 10 years, and 18 per cent since Temasek's inception in 1974.

But Mr Dhanabalan was cautious on the outlook. 'We are concerned with the emerging risks of stagflation. This presents huge socio-political as well as economic risks in the next three to five years,' he said.

Bold policies by regulators in the US had averted a major systemic failure, but 'the risks of stagflation have become more apparent with the twin bogeys of high oil and food prices', he added.

Still, 'there may be opportunities as imbalances are corrected', although such opportunities may be limited if stagflation - a period of stagnant economic growth coupled with high inflation - does set in, he added.

During the year to end-March, Temasek sold $17 billion worth of assets, including some $12 billion in Asia, 'as we anticipated a massive structural adjustment', said Mr Dhanabalan.

In April last year, Temasek also received an injection of new capital from the government, which boosted its portfolio value by $10 billion, net of dividends paid to the government. An undisclosed dividend amount is set yearly by the Temasek board, said Michael Dee, Temasek senior managing director, international, at a media briefing yesterday. Mr Dee, a former investment banker, recently joined Temasek from Morgan Stanley.

No comments: