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Why I am against the Mapletree Commercial Trust Merger

Why I am against the Mapletree Commercial Trust merger

Make your vote count

First off, it appears that many unitholders somehow hold the defeatist mentality that voting is futile (sounds familiar?), because this is likely a done deal. But this cannot be further from reality. The Sponsor (which holds 32.61% of units) will have to abstain from voting on the merger, thus the outcome of this will be decided by both institutional and retail investor alike – yes, people like you and me. For Resolutions 1, 2 and 3, only a simple majority (>50%) is required to pass the resolutions, so it is really up in the air and could go either way. Therefore, remember to fill up your voting forms (that you should have received by mail) and vote for what you want! I love direct democracy!

Increased leverage, increased risk

MCT’s current leverage stands at ~33%, which is very safe and reasonable in my view. If the merger goes through, leverage rises up to 39.2%. This potentially increases risk especially going into a rising interest rate environment. MCT unitholders would have to weigh this sizeable increase in leverage against the pro forma benefits of the increased DPU and NAV. Personally, I don’t think this is worth it. I rather MCT stays with lower leverage at the moment.

Growth abroad – is this really necessary?

One of the reasons cited for the merger is that there are more opportunities for growth abroad. While this statement itself is valid, MCT shareholders would have to question whether there are indeed greener pastures overseas. Sticking to a Singapore mandate has its benefits, with best in class assets such as MBC I & II and VivoCity. Singapore has largely been a safe haven for capital amid the pandemic and Singapore real estate is a preferred choice for many of the wealthy. In my view, SG real estate will continue to do well.

Most importantly, MCT has been growing its DPU and NAV steadily over the years, even without overseas exposure. One would have to be aware of potential issues with overseas properties – MNACT’s Festival Walk was damaged by protestors a few years back, and China’s zero covid policy is also a headwind for MNACT’s China based assets.

Huge potential of the Greater Southern Waterfront

MCT is well poised to benefit from the development of the GSW over the next decade – tens of thousands of private condos and HDBs will be developed, and MCT currently has the best in class assets in the area. MBC, mTower and Vivo are all well positioned right beside MRT stations with great connectivity. I cannot imagine Vivo becoming any more crowded than it already is, but that looks like the reality in the future. 

Additionally, the Sponsor still owns more properties along the GSW that MCT can acquire in the future. If MCT does not merge with MNACT, MCT can focus on growth in Singapore with its ample debt headroom, if necessary.

In conclusion, I am against the merger. Don’t get me wrong, MNACT is still a good stock as Quarz Capital had rightly pointed out. But I rather MCT and MNACT be kept separate, as they cater to different profiles of investors – MCT for those seeking stability in Singapore, while MNACT caters to those seeking growth in foreign markets and are willing to potentially take on greater risk. I would rather investors have the choice to invest in either, and not merge them into one.

Remember to make your vote count, and let’s make history!

March 2022 Portfolio Update

Portfolio allocation as of Mar '21.

SG Shares: DBS, SGX, Valuetronics

SG Reits: MCT, Lion-Phillip S-Reit ETF



New positions were initiated through February and March. Most of the new US Growth positions were purchased in February. In March, mainly added to HSI and HST ETF positions and a bit of IQLT (2.4% of portfolio, not labelled in chart). There's considerable fear among market participants when it comes China exposure, as evident from Stashaway's reduction in KWEB holdings right before the rebound in Chinses Tech. Personally, I am still comfortable with keeping my exposure to about 20% of portfolio, and have continued to DCA into HSI/HST. 

There's a quote from Ben Graham, that "An Intelligent Investor is one who realises that the stock becomes riskier, not less as their price rises; and less risky, not more, as their prices fall." A caveat I would add is that I believe this should apply more to broad market indices, rather than individual stocks. For example, investors who held Enron or Lehman stock would have found little comfort in this quote; as the stock prices fell drastically at first, then eventually their entire holdings were wiped out. However, I think the quote makes complete sense when applied to ETFs - buying SPY at $420 in March '22 is indeed less risky than buying SPY at $479 in Dec '21 - even if it may not have felt that way. Simply because $420 is lower than $479. Thus, even with the regulatory overhang, I continue to DCA into HSI/HST. For HST, I have bought the Lion-OCBC HST ETF at $1.25, $0.99, $0.92 and most recently at $0.65 a few days before the reversal, with an average price of $0.90. Currently still underwater but I'm indifferent to the short term price fluctuations.

Looking ahead, the macro outlook is rather uncertain with war, inflation and rate hikes contributing to the pessimism. An interesting read I came across was a note by Credit Suisse's Zoltan Pozsar, on the potential longer term implications for the US Dollar as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. If you're keen to read it, you can search it up on LinkedIn as there are people sharing the actual report. 

Lastly, I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that I'll have a small bonus paid out in April. It's not much but it does give me more dry powder, as I often feel that there are opportunities abound, but capital is the constraint.

Note: Please follow my Instagram page @alpacainvestments for monthly portfolio updates.