Apollo Asia Fund
What's new?

28 Jan 23:
I linked recently to comments on the Hemingway Decline, embedded in the 2Q19 report. The topic now has a freestanding page, updated and more suitable for current discussion; I have changed the recent links to point to the new version. Please circulate it freely if it seems useful; feedback would be very welcome.

21 Jan 23:
A shocking animation of the spread of polluting plastic waste from Asia to the once-pristine beaches of the Seychelles, Mauritius and East Africa has been highlighted by Oxford University in this twitter thread and short article; these link to the thread and original paper by lead author Noam Vogt-Vincent. Don't miss the animation: four years in one minute... and now we're four more years on. Steady growth in polluted areas will be resulting in accelerating rates of decline in the not-yet-visibly affected: it's the arithmetic of the Hemingway Decline. If you book a beach holiday while attractions remain, please choose carefully!

16 Jan 23:
The 4Q report is 'Taking stock at the end of a Tiger Year'.

5 Jan 23:
29 days after the AGM, Scientex Packaging (SCIPACK) sent a written response to some of our questions which it declined to tackle on the day. We were disappointed that the new and non-independent chairman was unwilling to address shareholders on the future strategy or any substantive matter (he spoke only formulaic sentences relating to conduct of the meeting), and that following this huge change in board composition the managing director and all new directors were unwilling to speak at all. Apparently no-one was willing to sign today's response, sent from a no-reply email, so it seems that "IR" is now anonymous as well as one-way. Responsibility for this attitude to minority investors therefore rests with the chairman and each member of the SCIPACK board, as well as with the board and management of the controlling shareholder Scientex Berhad: corporate governance standards for large listed companies also apply to their listed subsidiaries. AGM conduct guidance requires all questions to be made known to all participants, but that was not done on the day, and neither a comprehensive list of questions nor this delayed response have yet been provided on the website. We therefore share here today's response to AAF, and invite fellow shareholders to contact us with any other questions asked, responses received, and their thoughts on this unusual situation and the apparent attempt to rebuff constructive investor engagement and suppress normal interest in what should be a strong recovery situation and growth opportunity.

3 Jan 23:
The NAV of the Series A shares rose 3.9% in December to US$ 2,591.18; charts.

7 Dec 22:
Remarkably, Scientex Berhad voted AGAINST our proposals to resume best practice in corporate governance and investor relations for the subsidiary which we own, Scientex Packaging (SCIPACK). Initial comments here; please scroll down if necessary. The AGM of Scientex Berhad is tomorrow; investors in that company may wish to ask questions too!

4 Dec 22:
We submitted a number of advance questions for the Scientex Packaging AGM, and hope that our fellow shareholders will ask more. We were interested to read in the MSWG Weekly Newsletter of 2 Dec that a number of investors have grumbled to the Minority Shareholders Watch Group about the company's reluctance to engage. We hope that the new board will heed the requests to improve communication starting with this AGM, and that Scientex Berhad will support the resolutions for good CG and IR.

1 Dec 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares rose 3.8% in November to US$ 2,493.39; charts.

28 Nov 22:
After the impressive turnout for Malaysia's general election, we request minority investors to log in for the AGM of Scientex Packaging, join us in asking questions, and support the resolutions we have tabled for the company to adopt best practice in corporate governance and investor relations. Business should now be picking up strongly, with a 60% capacity expansion completed, the Malaysian no.3 absorbed, the no.2 out of action after a fire, input and logistic costs moderating, and demand accelerating - but the company should keep doing everything to optimise the business and seize these opportunities, and the sweeping changes in board composition may not be optimal. See our views on details of the Scientex Packaging 2022 AGM. General readers, this will be an interesting test for Scientex Berhad - surely they won't vote against good governance, and against the recommendations of the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance and Bursa Malaysia's Corporate Governance Guide? Fellow shareholders, please register and vote!

25 Nov 22:
Malaysia has a legitimate prime minister again, for the first time in almost 2¾ years, and a viable coalition led by Pakatan Harapan, the Alliance of Hope. This is a relief. Congratulations to the many Malaysians who went extra miles to vote (turnout was high, almost 74%), and to maintain calm and civility in the subsequent nervewracking days. Here's to your hopes of good governance, racial and religious harmony, and the unleashing of potential.

20 Nov 22:
By the second day after the announcement that 5,774 political prisoners would be released in Myanmar, only 72 could be confirmed. International pressure has been distracted, but tens of thousands of political prisoners remain.

17 Nov 22:
Htein Lin and Vicky Bowman are among 6,000 prisoners released today in Myanmar. They should never have been imprisoned, but for now - relief! and thanks to all who have been working for their release.

11 Nov 22:
I do not expect to win this year, but was belatedly advised by a helpful competitor that Apollo Asia Fund has again been nominated for an HFM Asian Performance Award. (We have been allocated, as in previous years, to the Asia-ex-Japan category, on the basis of the chosen index benchmark perhaps). This is disconcerting, since the NAV was down by double digits year-on-year when we first heard about the nomination, and declined further last month. If Apollo Asia Fund is among the best performers, many others must be faring quite poorly - and stockpickers are back in business.

1 Nov 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell a further 2.1% in October to US$ 2,403.17; charts.

10 Oct 22:
The 3Q report discusses 'Turbulent times'.

3 Oct 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 7.3% in September to US$ 2,455.97; charts.

3 Sep 22:
"All eyes are now on the UK government to do all they can to get [Vicky Bowman] and Htein Lin freed as soon as possible" said a European diplomat, following one-year jail sentences for failing to inform the Myanmar government of a temporary move to the countryside: report by Thompson Chau and Dominic Oo for Al Jazeera. MCRB statement. Lawyers with insights into the experience of political prisoners are now targets too.

1 Sep 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares rose 4.6% in August to US$ 2,649.19; charts.

26 Aug 22:
I read with deep concern of the arrest on Wednesday of my friends Htein Lin, a well-known artist from Myanmar, & his wife Vicky Bowman; and that after a short stay in Insein prison they are now said to have COVID-19 and remain in detention (per the Irrawaddy). Vicky is a former British ambassador; she set up and heads the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business. As Al Jazeera points out, Vicky and Htein Lin are both hugely respected, and have contributed greatly to Myanmar over the decades.

1 Aug 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 3.0% in July to US$ 2,532.53; charts.

3 Jul 22:
The 2Q report: 'New era, same approach' - with brief comments on Giordano, Scientex Packaging, the Vietnamese market and Malaysian CG/disclosure requirements.

2 Jul 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 4.1% in June to US$ 2,610.01; charts.

1 Jun 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares rose 6.6% in May to US$ 2,722.84; charts.

4 May 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell another 1.5% in April to US$ 2,554.20. It has now fallen for five months out of the last six, and is 10.5% below the high-water mark established in October; charts.

7 Apr 22:
"We need to develop a much-increased emphasis on the quality of life, including enhanced protection for what is left of our natural systems, and an emphasis on the quality of our products as opposed to the quantity. Quality goods will emphasize long life, repairability, and recyclability by design." Jeremy Grantham, 6 April, urging a major change in our collective goals.

Many citizens would agree: protect nature and future generations, support community initiatives and the Right to Repair! Sometimes we can contribute to resilience while improving the quality of life; such opportunities should clearly be seized, and may help us to see the potential in subsequent changes forced upon us. Consumers and voters are accustomed to the idea that many individual choices can collectively make a difference; portfolio investors in practical terms perhaps less so. Investors are now accustomed to thinking about companies that may cause specific harm, but blame is often unfairly hurled at a few when the whole economic system involves some illth, and the commonplace damage could be the more important. If readers see investible models among listed businesses contributing to the transformation outlined here by Jeremy Grantham, I'd be glad to hear of ideas.

6 Apr 22:
The 1Q report: 'Carrying on in dangerous times'.

1 Apr 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 1.2% in March to US$ 2,592.69; charts.

2 Mar 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 2.5% in February to US$ 2,624.94; charts and brief comments.

4 Feb 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares fell 3.7% in January to US$ 2,691.20; charts.

28 Jan 22:
We now have the long-awaited info and can report on Daibochi: the month-long AGM Q&A. (Again, this is an addition to the last post, so as to keep all of the coverage of this AGM in one place; the link should take you to the right section, but please scroll down if necessary.)

21 Jan 22:
The extraterritorial application of US FATCA & corresponding European obligations on financial institutions worldwide has multiplied the costs and slashed the efficiency of once-excellent banking services in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore. This has placed an ongoing burden on all Asian businesses, but it pales in comparison to the distress caused by the withdrawal of international banking services in Afghanistan - so I found it fascinating to read in the Intercept of Afghans turning to cryptocurrency.

10 Jan 22:
The 4Q report touches only briefly on what I expect to be the most important issue of the decade: Eco-blowback.

7 Jan 22:
We had been waiting for full Q&A promised ASAP after Daibochi's AGM, but it has been nine days now and since the SC has requested feedback on virtual meetings we have decided to comment first on the conduct of the meeting (we were able to access it this year, but improvements could be made), and later on the content & outlook. The company is now listed under its new name & ticker (SCIPACK MK on Bloomberg), but that changed after the AGM, so the update is Daibochi: conduct of the Christmastide AGM. (This is an addition to the last post; the link should take you to the right section, but please scroll down if necessary.)

3 Jan 22:
The NAV of the Series A shares rose 0.4% in December to US$ 2,794.11; charts.

Claire Barnes

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