Crazy "independent" idea

You know how listed companies are required to have their accounts audited independently by external auditors? This is to prevent their accounts from being audited by parties with vested interest in the financial statements of the companies (i.e. conflict of interest). For example, it is in the interest of the CEO of a company to present good results from its financial statement and therefore an audit by him or anyone close to him is likely to be biased or at least perceived to be so.

Now, given that for an insurance company, the largest liability is the policy liability i.e. reserve set aside to meet expected future insurance claims, why the position of Actuary is not independent? Currently, either the Actuary is a permanent staff of the insurance company or a consultant hired to act as the company's Actuary. Either way, he is the company's Actuary and is not required by regulation to be independent.

Of course there are constraints on the Actuary to ensure he act "independently". He is bound professionally by the code of conduct of the institute he belongs to. For example, the Institute of Actuaries of Australia stipulates that their actuaries always act in the interest of the public, among other things. Another check is the independent auditor's review of the company's Actuary's input in the financial statement. The auditor typically will engage their own actuary to conduct a peer review.

This all sounds good and well but there will always be constant pressure from the company's senior management and/or board of directors to present a good set of financial statements. Often, there will be pressure on the Actuary to either push up or down his calculated liability figures within "reasonable range". His initial figure is likely to be the middle of this range but the final figure is often changed from that. Still reasonable, just not middle.

A lesser argument can be made for the independent auditor, whose fee is paid by the company. Often, auditor has to provide "unofficial" help to the company lest they be replaced by another.

Here's a kooky idea: both company's actuary and auditor are randomly assigned to the company by a government body and compensation for their work is either fixed by the government (payable by company) or borne by the government (in which case, some sort of levy should be imposed on the industry to recoup the cost). In such scenario, both actuary and auditor can perform their work without fear or favour (or being "kicked out").

The immediate problem I can think of is that this increases the potential corruption level of the government. Just imagine the mischief some government official can get into. Also, for this to work, every country in the world has to adopt this to avoid companies fleeing to countries that do not.

I'm sure there are more issues with this idea but I cannot think up more (still recovering from illness!). What do you think?

Robocraft: Double Mega! showcase

Yay! Another bot was reviewed (second bot after White Reinhardt). This time it was Double Mega!, reviewed by TheFrowningLizard.

Actually, this bot is named Double M in my garage but I changed its name to Double Mega! when uploading it to the CRF because it sounded more more attractive hehehe.

He gave 4/5 stars for Combat and 5/5 stars for Style although he did say he normally give full stars because he's nice :) He commended the triforcing and suggested one improvement: move the Mega Plasma by 2 or 3 blocks to minimise further gun clipping. That's a good suggestion. I'll try to do this.

Thanks TheFrowningLizard for your valuable feedback!

Bread baking: cost

Recently, my sister asked me the cost of making my usual bread, following the "sponge & dough method" taken from her recipe book. So I did a very rough costing:

High protein flour
- 1kg RM3.30
- need total 180gm and so cost = RM0.59

Wholemeal flour
- 1kg RM3.60
- need 60gm and so cost = RM0.22

Plain wheat flour
- 1kg RM1.70
- need 60gm and so cost = RM0.10

Organic soymilk powder
- 700gm RM41.00
- need 12.5gm and so cost = RM0.73

- 10 eggs RM5.30
- need half egg and so cost = RM0.27

- 1kg RM2.95
- need 60gm and so cost = RM0.18

- 1kg RM0.90
- need 5.7gm and so cost = RM0.01

- 11gm RM0.70
- need 4.7gm and so cost = RM0.30

Olive oil
- 1L RM23.00
- need 37ml and so cost = RM0.85

Total thus far is RM3.24. I have no idea how to estimate cost of water (total 145ml), electricity for the breadmaker (total 1hour), and gas for the oven (25mins at just below power "5"). If I conservatively estimate cost of these to be RM0.20, then a rough estimated cost of this loaf of bread is about RM3.45.

It can be much cheaper if normal milk powder and oil are used, instead of organic soymilk powder and olive oil respectively. Ban cannot take milk (lactose intolerant) and the only oil his digestive system can tolerate is olive oil. Also, for some strange reasons, I have lactose intolerant at night but never in the day @@. His mum gave us a tin of organic soymilk when I first started baking bread. Since Ban is fine with the result, I just continue with this.

Share investment Apr 16 Part 2

(continue from Part 1)

Here are the dividend yields on cost for shares that have paid out dividends equivalent to at least a year:

Share investment Apr 16_1

There are now 6 share counters with dividend yield below my desired 5%. Gosh, I'm so tempted to sell the remaining small number of SBS Transit shares since I had held them for many years already. As for the other 4, I'll continue to monitor, especially ST Engineering.

The overall dividend yield on cost weighted by invested amount remains 6.0%. Hope it'll at least stay that way or, better yet, improve.

Here's the breakdown of my portfolio according to percentage of amount of investment in each share counter:

Share investment Apr 16_2

Clearly, Sembcorp Industries stands out the most. Hopefully it'll be in the black soon for me to sell off some shares. Not comfortable with any counter with more than 10% of the invested amount.

Here is the average cost of each share counter compared to its then prevailing price as at 16 April 2016:

Share investment Apr 16_3

Share market is quite bad now, with most share counters' prices lower than a year ago. Note that Saizen REIT's share price has fallen dramatically due to significant return in capital (refer to Part 1).

Share investment Apr 16 Part 1

A number of changes since the last update a year ago.

This time, let's start with divestment:

(1) Ausnet Services: due to a restructuring exercise, a new single company was established to replace the then current triple-stapled structure. Since I'm an overseas shareholder, they sold my shares and gave me the proceed.

(2) SBS Transit: despite invested in this share counter for more than 6 years and had plowed in more when its price fell, its dividend yield (on average cost) remains just above 3% i.e. well below my preferred minimum yield of 5%. I placed sell order for all my holding but there are still some remaining due to lack of buyers. I'll just hold this small amount while seeing through the Singapore government's restructuring exercise of the public bus transport.

(3) Saizen REIT: they sold all their properties in Japan en bloc and so now they are a cash-only entity. They have returned most of the capital to shareholders (on top of providing dividend). There's expectation of delisting in August this year.


(1) Ausnet Services: Since my shares were "forced" sold, as explained above, I bought shares in the new company.

(2) Boustead Singapore Ltd: Took opportunity to add more when its price fell, caught up in the fall in share market due to a number of global economic issues. The steep fall in oil price affected many oil & gas companies and related companies. I suspect Boustead is affected too since it does have O&G customers.

(3) Keppel Corp: This conglomerate's main business are Offshore & Marine, Property and Infrastructure. I vaguely recall that this share counter was shortlisted before but was dropped because it would be too prohibitive for me to buy due to then lot size of 1000 shares. However, since the size was lowered to 100 last year, I took the opportunity to buy some, with the then current dividend yield of over 6%. Since then, its price has fallen due to firstly corruption scandal involving one of its major customers and then followed by the steep fall in oil price.

(4) Second Chance Properties: Took opportunity to add more when its price fell, in line with share market. This company has very substantial number of properties. Falling property price clearly didn't help.

(5) Sembcorp Industries: Its share price fell due to similar reasons as Keppel Corp's.

(6) Silverlake Axis: I've been eyeing this counter for some time now. This company provides core banking solution to many banks in this region, as stated in their website: "Over 40% of the top 20 largest banks in South-East Asia run the Silverlake Axis core banking solution, and today, we are the core system platform partner of choice for 3 of the 5 largest ASEAN super regional financial institutions." Such institutional customers are reluctant to change their IT systems as long as they are working and service provided are not bad. It is a case of "If ain't broken, why change?". It is primarily up to the provider to mess it up. Unfortunately, after I purchased its shares, they were in embroiled in some alleged financial voodoo. I did trickle in more money and now will wait and see.

(7) Singapore Press Holdings: I believed at one point I wanted to put some of my war chest at work and so was researching which of my share counters I should top up. I generally avoid REITs because I'm still disgusted by the way managers are remunerated (performance bonus on top of fee as % of AUM). In the end, I added more SPH shares.

(8) VICOM: Yet another counter that was on my watch list for a long time. So when there was persistent general weakness in the market that affected this counter as well, I bought some. "VICOM Ltd is Singapore's leading provider in technical testing and inspection services." For as long as there are land vehicles in Singapore, there will be needs for testing and inspection. Fairly illiquid counter.

As at 16 Apr 16, I have investment in 27 companies (I've also indicated whether their source of business is solely in Singapore only or not):

AIMS-AMP Industrial REIT (Singapore only)
Ascott REIT
Ausnet Services
Boustead Singapore Ltd
Cache Logistics Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaCommercial Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaMall Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaRetailChina REIT
First REIT
Fraser Centrepoint Trust
Keppel Corp
Kingsmen Creatives
M1 (Singapore only)
SBS Transit Ltd (Singapore only)
SIA Engineering
Silverlake Axis
Singapore Press Holdings
Singapore Technologies Engineering
Saizen REIT
Second Chance Properties (Singapore only)
Sembcorp Industries
Singapore Shipping Corp
Venture Corp
VICOM (Singapore only)

Triggered by fried chicken?

One night, Ban, his brother and I decided to try CBTL's meals for dinner. I had eggs benedict with ham, bread and salad. As expected, it wasn't enough for me and so after deliberating for some time, I had Shilin's fried chicken. I was reluctant because I already had fried chicken 2 days before and I need to watch my cholesterol level.

That night, I felt my throat parched. The next day: bam! in came the set of symptoms "sorethroat, phlegm, cough" (nicknamed "SPC"). Yes, exactly the same as that I experienced towards end of last year but with fever appearing at the start and sneezing is rare.

As expected, the first night was horrible: couldn't sleep at all due to phlegm accumulation and cough. Managed to get sporadic amount of sleep after taking medicine (saw doctor the morning after).

So I'm guessing: fried chicken -> acid reflux -> scalded throat -> infection -> SPC.

I just want to sleep...

Financial meteor

As a follow-up to the financial salvos I've been hit by, the Singapore Inland Revenue recently reviewed the taxes I paid for the years 2011-2014. After receiving my response to their queries, they designated me as "non-resident" for tax purpose because I hadn't resided or worked in Singapore for more than 183 days in each of those years.

What's the impact? Monstrously huge!

Consider the following income tax rates for the year 2016 i.e. Year of Assessment 2017 (sourced from IRAS's website)

A resident pays no tax on the first $20k net income (after relevant deductions) and then 2% on the next $10k. So based on, say, a net income of $25k, the amount of tax is 2%*5k = $100.

A non-resident pays a flat tax rate of 22%. So, the amount of tax on the same net income as above is 22%*25k = $5,500.

Now, multiply that by 4 years due to the retrospective assessments.

I had always thought PR pays the resident tax rate and IRAS's previous 4 years assessment had always been consistent with this notion. It wouldn't be a problem if I had known this at the start and paid non-resident taxes as and when it was due each year. The major problem now is paying this huge amount of additional tax, accumulated over 4 years!

I tried appealing for a discount, citing the above fact and assertion as well as that I, together with my siblings, are responsible fully for my aging parents cost of living. Nope, they didn't budge, despite the great burden and inconvenience they had caused due to their oversight all these years.

Instead, they suggested a monthly installment over 3 months. Goodness. I appealed for installment of equal amount over 12 months, which they agreed and added that they are allowing this 9-month extension without the 5% late payment penalty.

Although I'm grateful they acceded to my second proposal, I still feel a little aggrieved over this whole episode, which, as I said before, is entirely avoidable. Haiz

Down, cholesterol, down

I somehow must have miscalculated the 3-month period of taking medicine because I finished my last dose recently @@ Gosh, maybe I still have a box of atorvastatin somewhere in the house...

Anyway, I decided to take a lipid profile test again (this time from BP Lab) and the results are:

                                 Apr 2016             Ref. range          
Total cholesterol           3.5                      < 5.2                
HDL ("good")               1.4                     > 1.0              
LDL ("bad")                  1.5                     < 2.6                  
Triglycerides                 1.1                     < 1.7                  
Total/HDL ratio            2.4                      < 4.5

Great results :)

Now that this is under control, the key test will be to maintain it without medication and to continue with the new exercise regime. Of course my usual healthy food diet (less fried and oily food) has to continue too not only because of this but also I'm prone to gastric and acid reflux.            

Robocraft: White Reinhardt showcase

I have uploaded a non-premium version of Dark Reinhardt in the CRF and renamed it as White Reinhardt.

From time to time, I have put my bots' names for youtubers to review them (when they requested viewers to do so). Recently, HollywoodScotty reviewed White Reinhardt :)

He gave 4/5 combat rating and 4/5 for style. The main thing I was interested in was that he said that the replacement of a single laser with a nano gun would have pushed the combat rating past 5. I will give this a try.

Thanks for your review and feedback, HollywoodScotty!

Bunny loves you

I saw this bot in a TDM match:

Rabbit 1

Rabbit 2

Rabbit 3

I was playing my self-built Double M, in its latest incarnation (the black & red bot above).

The bot that caught my eye was this cute rabbit! Jumped like one too. Pure healer, I believed.

Fascinated, I search the roboshop for it. At first, I used the keyword "bunny" but no hit. I then succeeded with the keyword "rabbit":

Rabbit of Caerbannog

It's called "Rabbit of Caerbannog" by Ketmol. I was told that it was a direct reference to a certain rabbit in Monty Python.

In case it's not clear, the description by the designer is as follows:

"Place missile launcher as a rabbit's tail (req lv 100) and poop on your enemies. Surprise awaits when you take damage." (fixed grammatical error).

What is this surprise? My initial guess was that the cubes inside are coloured red, signifying blood. I am correct on that account but I didn't expect a ribcage! Yes, there is a ribcage inside, made of aerorods. Lol. Genius!

Since it has premium colours (red and pink), I would need to subscribe for premium account to be able to purchase this bot using RP (normal currency_. Alternatively, I can spend GC, premium currency, but I am loath to buy bot that way. Too expensive.

By sheer coincidence, just before I encountered this bot in TDM, I had a 1-day premium account subscription by using a key code from Alienware (and also getting an Alienware bot too). Hence, I could purchase this bot using RP. So lucky :)

I renamed the bot "Bunny loves you" :)

Bunny loves you 1

Bunny loves you 2

Bunny loves you 3

Although it's not a fully optimised bot, it is not a poorly built one either. In fact, you can do quite well with it if you use it correctly. I play it like a sniper: find a sniping position, perch on it and fire away. Retreat when needed but remember to retreat backward to protect your sole weapon. It can take lots of hits. Hop away if needed.

Because of how the LML is positioned, it can sometimes reach enemy that other LML cannot. You still need to be mindful of how you position it relative to the enemy's position because this advantage can sometimes become a disadvantage i.e. it can hit obstacles that your normally wouldn't hit if the LML is positioned on top, front or sideway.

Here's the latest result using this bot in BA:

Bunny loves you 4

7th place if not counting victory bonus. Second highest damage. Not bad for a single-weapon type bot, eh? Definitely ranked 1st in cuteness :)