Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Warren Buffet: invest in what u know & other priceless gems

A must watch docu-info for experienced and aspiring investors alike. And remember, buy low, sell high

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Living abroad and investing

Just some observations:

Middlemen- cut them out or to absolute minimum. That includes relatives, "friends", brokers et al.
The more liquid an asset, the better.
Remember exchange rates matter.
Legal recourse in Kenya can be long and expensive.
Returns in motherland can be awesome.
Timing is important, therefore avoid herd mentality.
Invest in things you can monitor easily. This might mean investing locally.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Does universal banking have a future in Kenya?

Universal banking is the term used to define banks that are one a stop shop for any combination of depositors, lenders and or investors and insurance seekers. Globally, Citi, UBS Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and the newly formatted BofA are typical egs of universal banks. In Kenya, we have 2009 Equity and CFC Stanbic.
The key driver for this type of banking has always been the economies of scale in costs and knowledge and products. That is the upside...
The downside which has rarely been priced in the past is that the management matrix and knowhow required to centrally manage such businesses has been huge and as yet, there are few successes. The outcome of this is that management is delegated by default to those knowledgeable in the various facets e.g. an investment banker is given the remit of running the show on the ib part of the business and ditto for the insurance part of the business. This has then lend to a situation where its difficult for the ultimate bank ceo to get a handle on a daily basis what his/her value at risk from the universal bank. Cue the sort of big issues we've seen with these types of banks in the current crisis.
Given the embryonic state of banking regulation in Kenya (is no where near adapting Basel 2 type of capital/ liquidity requirements), it currently is prudent to encourage universal banking without either very targeted regulation of the various parts of such a bank.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Insurance as an investment/saving product

To invest, you mostly have to have saved unless you are the type who does investing for a living in which case you can use leverage. Savings will come from your disposable income. To create the room for enough disposable income, you either increase your income; reduce your spending or do both. One-off big ticket expense items can derail your saving/investment strategy. Even if you earns zillions, having to buy a central heating system or replace a broken electrical home appliance will skew your savings targets.
Which is where insurance comes in. By insuring some of these big-ticket items, you'll typically be able to claim either on the repair work or the replacement. And although, you may not need to claim every other month, saving yourself that once a year cost is sufficient reason for taking out the insurance product.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Giving NSE some bouyancy

The reasons for the current fall and stale state of the NSE are various and now well known:
  • Brokers' embezzlements
  • Economy messed up by (a) PEV (b) drought (c) bloated GoK (d) public crowding out private sector
  • 2012 and bleak outlook
  • Bonds taking up the liquidity
  • et al
Some of the above won't change unless we see radical moves like UK or Ruto in handcuffs on their way to Hague. I think bonds have some way to go given its the latest kid on the block and corporates are now queuing up to go through this avenue.
However, the NSE can attract attention back to itself in the following ways:.
  1. Share consolidation: while (i) sharebuy back legal stuff is being sorted out and in any case will probably be too expensive in the medium for any firm to contemplate doing (ii)the cheaper share consolidation is easy to do and will give shareholders, brokers and the firms themselves a consolidated cheaper way of managing the quantity of shares. Safaricom being the share that indirectly started the current bear should kick-off the stage by doing a 10 for 1 share consolidation. This would mean 40 shares if you currently hold 400 and so forth. Equity could then do a 2 for 1.
  2. Shorting: a hobby horse of mine where the NSE is concerned. It will probably be the single most educative instrument that can be introduced to the NSE. Because it allows an investor to make returns and take a view whether a share is rising or falling, NSE investors will no longer think of shares as endlessly rising investing instruments. Clearly, brokers will also have two more avenues for revenue generation. How about concerns re margins?Initially, the movement when shorting could be limited to a 20% loss at which point the investor would have to come up with the cash to cover his losses.
  3. Bring up NSSF: UK obviously banned NSSF from new share purchase to facilitate liquidity in the bond market. In the medium and longer term however, its a silly policy to ban one of the deepest pockets in the land from a capital market. An oxymoron if you like.
Saying all that, an NSE at 2,500 is a very welcome re-entry for me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What type of CBK governor does Kenya need?

With a few exceptions, the two main functions of a Central Baank in an economy are
  1. Control money supply
  2. Prudential supervision of the banking/financial system
In performing these functions however, you tend to get three types of people (men in the main) who head up the Central Banks:
  1. Patron governors: These are in effect there to support the economic policies of the government of the day. So they'll adopt monetary policy and in some cases, supervisory policy to the govt's economic policies. As an example, in the US we had Greenspan who in support of credit-based economic growth adopted loose banking regulation (even going along witht the idea of awarding self-regulation to some of the larger ibs). In Kenya, we had men like Kortut who was very supportive of the export intiatives that Pattni had come up with or even Mullei who was able to relax the reserve ratio in 2003 so that banks could lend more. In Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo presided over the introduction of margin lending which indirectly has brought the Nigerian banking system to needing bail-out.
  2. Clean-up governors: Patron governors with a few exceptions, always create a mess. Guaranteed. Because their policies are not rooted in the basic functions of a central bank, these types of governors wonder into unfamiliar territory which (a) they don't understand (b) can't not then control. Greenspan was talking about cleaning up the mess created by "irrational exburance", but he really didn't know or understand what he was talking about since the scale of the bailout has been huge. Clean up governors therefore have a thankless task of undoing the work of patron governors. Cheserem did this in Kenya in the mid 90s.
  3. Independent governors: In effect perform the function of a central bank and are thus usually quite unpopular only surviving due to a change of government. Mervyn King has done this to a certain extent. In Kenya, we are yet to see one but urgently need one.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Agriculture food exchange

As this FT article shows, agriculture exchange would resolve two problems that have hampered farmers from growing their farming as a business:

1. Pricing: many farmers especially those dealing in perishable horticulture produce typically rely on rumours on what prices are. An exchange close to home will be able to relay the information much more cheaply

2. Transport: never mind the roads, due to (a) lack of enough cars (b) fuel costs; farmers typically have to shoulder the costs wrought by these two factors thus minimising their returns.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Stockmarkets retrace on the way

After 6 months of almost uninterrupted rise driven by a huge sigh of relief at surviving the largest financial crisis since the South Sea bubble, we may have a retrace shortly. A rise of 60% seems overdone given rising unemployment; budget deficits which suggest that while the economies are recovering, the recovery is not going to be anywhere as fast or as strong as the markets have factored. I therefore expect markets to fall by around 10% in the coming fortnight but thereafter start a slower upward movement as financials start reporting in early November.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thinking of having kids?

One of aspect of financial life that no one can really plan sufficiently for, is how your finances change once you get married and then have children. Having kids and seeing them grow is both a blessing and very satisfying. Infact, a perfect tonic to a busy life. However, its good to be realistic and know its a lifetime commitment which should be borne in mind when planning your economic/financial life.

Handily enough, the UK FSA has come up with a calculator that gives you a rough idea of how much it'll cost you to bring up your kids.