In May 2009, Straits Times reported:
"......net portfolio value dropped $58 billion - from $185 billion to $127 billion - between end March and November last year” (”Temasek made big gains”, ST, May 28).
Er...only in a country like Singapore the newspaper has this type of headlines Temasek made big gains when it lost $58B in 8 months. Those figures were based on what Minister Tharman said in parliament.
Anyway, yesterday Ho Ching said:
“In our Temasek Review last year, we reported an annual value-at-risk of almost $40 billion last March. This meant a 16 per cent probability for our portfolio value to drop more than $40 billion by March this year. Indeed, it has turned out to be so, and more.” - Ho Ching's Speech at Institute of Policy Studies.
This statement seems to imply that $40B (or more) was lost from March 08 to March 09. Ho Ching said they knew they were going to lose more $40B with a probability of 16% .Wow that is really amazing...now can she tell us how much more she will lose in the next 12 months and please give us the exact probability. I have never heard of a fund manager who lost money then turn around to tell his investors that he already knew he would have losses. She is telling us that Temasek had the future all figured out and none of this is unexpected. .....meaning she has not made any mistakes and is completely blameless!
Minster Tharman : $58B losses March 08 to Nov 08.
Ho Ching : $40B(or more?) losses March 08 to March 09.
Nov 08 to March 09 : $18B gain?
By disclosing the numbers so ambiguously, it caused the WJS to report that Temasek might have recouped some losses i.e. loss fell from $58B to $40B[Link] from Nov 08 to March 09. Is this possible?
Dow Jones on 28 Nov 08 was 8830, Dow Jones on 28 March 08 was 7609....fell 14%
STI on 28 Nov 08 was 1732, STI on 31 March 2009 was1700...down 2%.
Most market indices around the world were down from Nov 08 to March 09 i.e. stocks generally fell during this period. Commodities also fell sharply during this period. So how can it be possible that Temasek recoup $18B during this period given they are so broadly diversified?
Note that Ho Ching said that Temasek lost "more than $40B". Most people take it to mean $40B-$45B. In this case, I'm not sure...and it is unlikely given what Minister Tharman told us earlier this year.
Why can't they publish quarterly reports like everyone else and save us from all this confusion? Even Leong Sze Hian is confused he thinks the $40B is year-to-date i.e. Temasek lost another $40B from the Jan 09 to March 09 (see Online Citizen "Temasek - Murky figures and unanswered questions"). While that is another plausible interpretation of Ho Ching's statement, I think it is too bleak and too horrible...they couldn't have done that badly (or could they?). If companies as big and diverse as General Electric can provide a quarterly report, why can't Temasek?
Losses is one thing. The lack of transparency is another. The sad truth is Temasek lost money and ordinary Singaporeans don't know how much....