Tuesday 13 December 2016

Blast from the Past: UEM/Renong

From an "old hand" in the industry, someone who was first a bank analyst, then Head of Research and finally Sales. Lightly edited by me:

..... But then the super bull-run for Malaysia came in 1993 when the index moved from a low of 645 points to a high of 1332. Everyone was a winner then and I remember the words of my remisier friend, “money is like free!”. From thereon I was hooked. The adrenalin rush, the excitement of coming to the office every morning and feeling smug given that all your BUY recommendations are winners.

Its was am amazing ride right  to the BIG crash in 1997. Along the way I became the infrastructure analyst and was right at the epicenter of the major infrastructure projects from the North South Expressway, the Second Link, LRT and all the highways and byways and the KLCC twin towers, Gelang Patah – now known as Iskandar Malaysia and Putrajaya.

Naturally I was the analyst for the infamous UMNO related UEM/Renong group.  I still remember accompanying clients on helicopters to have an overview of  the construction works and the countless roadshows globally. I even travelled on the Concorde from London to New York for an IPO. Those were the go-go days. …. Of course I was not with [company] then!

UEM/Renong was also the tipping point for both the Malaysia market and me as an analyst for the wrong reasons.  It was the TWO stocks to own in Malaysia as there were the prime beneficiaries of the government’s infrastructure spending and took the market to dizzy heights. The music stopped 17th November 1997 when UEM bought a 33% stake in its parent Renong @ RM3.24 a piece when the market price was RM1.90 for USD685.8m. This was  just when the Asian Financial crisis was unravelling!  The market lost 20% in value in three days. Talk about governance. 

...... The Malaysian market has never seen those days since. 

Interesting that the "old hand" mentioned the UEM/Renong scandal as the tipping point, and not for instance the capital controls, or any of the other scandals of those days.

As Warren Buffett mentioned: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.".

Unfortunately for Malaysia, in the UEM/Renong case things were not done differently, and the country suffered a huge reputational damage.

Have we learned anything from that episode, was there ever a proper analysis done what exactly happened, why, by whom, who profited and when, by an independent committee? No.

For those people that are counting for an inkling of justice in the 1MDB case, these are not hopeful words.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect failure to return to the dizzying heights of the 1990s and subsequent lack of imrpovement on the governance front amongst the GLCs is finally triggering "old hand" brokers to throw in the towel?