Keppel Corp held a retail shareholders briefing in collaboration with SIAS at the SGX Centre yesterday. It’s the 2nd year this briefing was held and it presents a rare chance to interact with the C suite, with CEO Loh Chin Hua and CFO Chan Hon Chew in attendance. I joined a predominantly Merdeka/Pioneer Generation audience to find out more.
Presentation slides used at the meeting can be found here.
As previously described in my piece on Tianjin Eco City, Keppel has embarked on a strategy to be the one stop shop for sustainable urbanisation solutions. What this means is trying integrate the 4 disparate divisions into providing a single proposal for mega projects like smart cities in other countries. This has been part of Keppel’s business for the longest time with the Sino-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco City, just that they are now actively pursuing this as a future business focus.
The presentations by the CEO and CFO didn’t yield anything very different from my previous understanding of the business as mentioned in my Tianjin Eco City article.
Questions were mostly answered by CEO Loh. Here’s a summary of topics asked that I felt was more informative:
1) Rationale for recently taking a 50% stake in Watermark Retirement Communities
The stake cost about $80 million and it was identified as a urbanisation trend that Keppel wanted to pursue as part of its sustainable urbanisation strategy. Watermark adopts a asset light strategy, where they are operators but not owners of Retirement Communities. This allows for rapid expansion through the use of others’ capital and ties in with the Keppel Capital platform. This is very much like the hospitality industry that I’m part of.
The ultimate aim is to bring this concept of retirement living to Asia, with potential countries like Singapore, China and Australia mentioned.
2) Upcoming Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant – Given Hyflux’s Tuas Spring woes, how is this project better?
Keppel was conservative when bidding for the project, the project is that currently on schedule and on budget. They are confident that the water prices negotiated with the Government as part of the tender process is set such that the plant is able to turn a profit.
3) Given the recent property cooling measures enacted by the SG Government and the ongoing rumblings of trade war between the US and China, how do you feel the company will be affected?
Sentiment will obviously be affected. That said, the company is not big in the SG residential market. Also the company’s land bank in Singapore and in China is relatively old (70% of China land bank is >7 years old), with a low resulting cost basis. This enables a higher likelihood of profitability when developed. Lastly, their land bank does not have deadlines for development, so they have the option to develop at a more favourable time if need be.
4) Keppel-KBS REIT – Co-sponsor KBS Realty is reported considering listing another US REIT in Singapore. As reliance is on KBS to bring deals to the REIT, do you have any concerns or comments on this news?
We exercise tight control by we providing the CFO for the REIT, but we will continue to work with our partners for the best of the REIT. (So a non answer haha)
5) Rationale for recent Keppel DC REIT divestment
The portion divested related to the portion owned by Keppel’s subsidiaries. It was decided that it was better to recycle the capital into their core business projects.
Staying on top your investments is a must. Attending such investor relations events can fast track your knowledge of the company you own through learning from management and from your fellow investors. I certainly learnt a lot.
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