The average Joe on the street has been affected by escalating inflation since early 2022. Even those people who have supposedly achieved FIRE are starting to struggle with expenses because their passive income could not keep up with inflation. We are facing a cost of living crisis across the world. It is during periods like this that I am glad I have built a substantial dividend portfolio. The growing cash flow from my portfolio enables me to improve my quality of life, gradually. 13 years ago when I started my investing journey, my strategy was scoffed at. I was saving up like mad, working an extra job on weekends. Cheap food, cheap clothes, cheap shoes, cheap phone, cheap laptop, no overseas trips. In other words, trade-offs were made. I knew I had to do hardcore saving and make some sacrifices to build a strong foundation. Told myself the fruits will come later and it would all be worth it. Told myself to keep grinding in silence.
In 2020 when the pandemic caused widespread panic and uncertainty around the world, I wasn't too affected. In fact, I was thriving. Even started my YouTube channel in the middle of a pandemic! I knew I could fall back on my portfolio. All those years of grinding finally paid off. I believe lifestyle inflation is actually fine as long as you do it sustainably and not on credit. Build up a huge passive cashflow before you even embark on quality of life upgrades. There is a saying in Chinese '先苦后甜' which means endure the bitterness first before tasting the sweetness later. Words of wisdom indeed. Unfortunately, most people prefer instant gratification.
These are the top videos from my channel. Enjoy and thanks for the support all these years!
On the 17th of January 2023, I attended the AGM
of Frasers Logistics & Commercial Trust (FLCT) at Intercontinental Hotel
Singapore. These are some interesting/important points brought up during the
AGM. An early disclaimer. My note-taking skill has become rusty compared to my college
days, so please pardon some missing details. This is more like a paraphrased
The CEO’s Presentation:
Rental growth rate in the UK, Germany & Dutch markets
are CPI-linked. So given the higher inflation currently seen in Europe, FLCT
should be poised to enjoy positive rental reversions in 2023.
Management is in advanced negotiations to lease the
remaining vacant space in 2023. Only very little space left. Lease expiry profile
remains strong. No more than 19.2% of GRI expires in any given year until 2032.
Most of FLCT’s energy costs is passed on through to
FLCT has one of the lowest gearing ratio in the S-REITs
sector at 27.4%. A healthy aggregate leverage should help to tide it over the current
higher rate environment.
Q & A Session with Unitholders:
Question: What is the strategic direction of FLCT? Will
commercial assets be sold to buy more logistics/industrial (L&I) assets?
CEO answers: The sale value of Cross Street Exchange building
was just too attractive. The property was not sold because it was underperforming.
Moving forward, FLCT aims to have a slightly higher allocation to L&I sector.
Not looking to buy more commercial properties. Still satisfied with the current
rental yield, rental growth and occupancy of commercial assets in FLCT’s
Question: Looking at the debt maturity profile, there is sizable
refinancing needs in 2024 in the Euro currency. Is it a concern having a huge
amount of Euro-denominated debt?
CFO answers: FLCT already has facilities in place to
refinance the debts in 2023. Management is currently focusing on refinancing
for 2024. Would have some impact on distributable income. The latest interest
rate sensitivity check is for every 50bps rise in interest rate, the DPU will
be down 0.05 cents approximately. The management already hedged 82% of debts to
fixed rates, so only the debt on floating rates will be affected. Natural hedging
is also done by borrowing in the currencies of those countries where
acquisitions are made. Euro-denominated debts is not in excess of FLCT’s
portfolio asset value in Europe. There is no over-weightage of debt in any
Question: Is there danger of further rise in the cap rate?
CEO answers: Cost of debt and rental income growth
expectations affect the cap rate. For commercial assets, there is no income expectation
function in the market. His gut feel is that there will be no more significant
rise in cap rate. FLCT has ‘taken the medicine’ so as to speak.
Question: What is FLCT’s geographical focus for future
growth? What are the characteristics the management look for when they do acquisitions?
CEO answers: Comfortable in the current geographical
allocation. Difficult to expand into new markets because of higher interest
rates. Like to partner with the sponsor on development projects as they have
people on the ground, staff that can speak German or Dutch and have local
knowledge/connections. Continue to mainly grow L&I assets a little more,
supported by commercial assets. But never say never, if a compelling deal comes
up on their radar, FLCT is ready to take action since it has a healthy gearing
ratio. Acquisitions must be DPU-accretive. But such deals are tough to find in
current market conditions.
Question: Concerns about the lower occupancy rate at some
UK properties namely Farnborough Business Park and Blythe Valley Business Park.
CEO answers: Seeing the tenants either looking to take up
less space or going for better quality space. There is a flight to quality. The
pandemic era work-from-home trend is starting to reverse as companies tell their
employees to return to the office for more days. This is his personal opinion. Due
to economic uncertainties, the labour market is becoming an employer market
where companies have more say and make more demands from employees. Hopefully,
this trend continues.
Question: FLCT has over S$217m in divestment capital gains.
How is management planning to use this?
CEO answers: It could be used to mitigate the loss of income
from the sale of Cross Street Exchange. But FLCT has to borrow/take on debt in
order to distribute these capital gains to unitholders.
CFO answers: The impact of forex on DPU would be AUD down
3%, Euro down 7% and British Pound down 5% on average.
Question: Is there a final target for the gearing ratio?
CEO answers: The current gearing ratio of 27.4% is a nice
place to be in for now, due to higher interest rates. But eventually, the
target is mid-30s once interest rates and cap rates normalise in the future.
Question: Can the management give their take on the impact
of Ukraine-Russia conflict on FLCT’s operations?
CEO answers: FLCT’s European portfolio remains resilient
despite the war. Occupancy rates remain high. Tenants are sourcing supplies
from outside of Ukraine. Do not foresee any huge impact on L&I leasing
Question: What is the capital allocation for future
CEO answers: We are still in a rising rate environment and
a price-resetting phase in the property market. FLCT wants to buy DPU-accretive
assets but we must be patient and selective. When a great opportunity comes
along, FLCT is ready to execute.
Question: Many S-REITs, not only FLCT is facing the twin
headwinds of rising interest rates and forex risks. Some investors are even switching
their funds to fixed income instruments. Can the management provide some
reassurances to allay unitholders fears?
CEO answers: On the challenge of higher rates, FLCT can try
to control its gearing ratio and hedging the debts to fixed rate. But honestly,
we are at the mercy of the US Federal Reserve because the entire world follows
them. No amount of mitigation measures can fully shield FLCT from the impact of
rate hikes. Forex risks would be harder to mitigate due to its volatility and
unpredictability. Can only do hedging to lower the risk.
Chairman answers: We can sit here all day discussing about
interest rates and macro-economic issues, but even the Central Bankers who are
supposed to know what they are doing, are confused too. The best thing we can
do is to stay in countries that have proven to manage economies well throughout
many economic cycles.
Question: Does FLCT own any treasury units?
CFO: No, FLCT does not own any treasury units.
A sumptuous buffet was provided after the AGM ended. The
space is a little cramped though.
Portfolio XIRR (FY2022): -13.06%(inclusive of dividends)
Dividends Collected (FY2022): S$34, 712 + US$61
Total Cumulative Dividends (2010-2022): S$241, 507
Current Cash Warchest: S$17, 000
(*All figures are accurate as of 30 Dec 2022)
Portfolio Actions in Q4 2022:
- Accumulated more Baba (9988) at HK$83
- Accumulated more Apple at US$130
- Accumulated more Microsoft at US$238
- Accumulated more Tesla at US$160
- Accumulated more Frasers Commercial & Logistics Trust at S$1.10
- Accumulated more Mapletree Industrial Trust at S$2.15
- Accumulated more Mapletree Pan Asia Commercial Trust at S$1.65
Looking Back at 2022...
The US Fed rate hikes have exerted downward pressure on REITs throughout 2022. Fortunately, higher rates is positive for the banks' NIM. As I also have significant positions in the three local banks, the rise in the banks' share prices helped to mitigate the decline in REITs. Even though my portfolio's market value declined 11% year-on-year, my annual dividends finally broke the S$30k milestone in 2022! Every cloud has a silver lining, right? The year started off in the most horrific way possible with Putin launching an invasion on Ukraine. The war dominated international headlines in the first half of 2022. This was followed by the covid lockdown in Shanghai. The focus of the second half of 2022 was dominated by rising inflation, aggressive Fed rate hikes and a crypto bubble burst.
Not expecting 2023 to be any better.... or worse. In my opinion, the war would probably drag on with neither side willing to compromise, inflation remains sticky, the Fed keeping rates high for an extended period of time and crypto remains out of favour. The only potential bright spot is the re-opening of China. But one could argue that a booming Chinese economy could worsen the global inflation.
Lessons Learnt in 2022
The legendary investor Charlie Munger once said that he wants to know where he is going to die so he will never go there. Prevention is better than the cure. One of the best ways to learn is to observe mistakes made
by others. This will help us avoid some of the major pitfalls. If we can learn lessons the easy way, why do it the hard way? These investing
blunders sure looks obvious now, but only in hindsight. The year 2022 was full
of lessons. Even a sovereign wealth fund like Temasek could fall prey to Sam
Bankman Fried’s FTX fraud! Well, let’s take a look at the simple but important
lessons I learnt in 2022.
Never go all-in even
if you have high conviction. Always leave some dry powder. Maintain a warchest
for opportunities if the market keeps dropping. Space out the buying in
tranches or some would say dollar-cost-averaging.
Never use margin/leverage if
you are just a normal retail investor (majority of the population). Don’t
overestimate your investing abilities. The market can stay irrational longer
than you can stay solvent. And in the case of Chinese tech stocks, the CCP can
stay irrational and strong-handed longer than you can stay solvent.
Never put all your chips on one stock/asset no
matter how strong your conviction is. A healthy level of diversification is
essential for an average Joe who is investing for the long-term. Of course, don’t
over-diversify by buying 50 stocks.
Triple jeopardy! Never
ever go all-in, using margin, on a single stock/asset. This is just asking for
trouble. Risk management 101. There are people who did this for Tesla, Alibaba
and even crypto. One of my friends, who is an experienced investor made this
mistake on Alibaba. In the end, he was forced to sell a huge chunk of his Baba
(9988) position due to margin call below HK$70.
Plans & Targets For 2023
- Reinvest dividends by accumulating Banks, REITs and Big Tech. The compounding of dividends never stops. Bearish market sentiments have always helped me grow my dividend portfolio as it is easier to buy stocks on the cheap.
- Achieve S$36, 000 in annual dividends
- Continue to top-up my CPF MA and SA
- Key collection for my new BTO flat and home
renovations (Yes! Finally!)
- Maintain my current fitness programme. Alternating between cardio,
jogging & weightlifting.