Saturday, February 28, 2009

Citigroup and AIG Look Doomed

Citigroup Inc

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government ratcheted up its effort to save Citigroup Inc., agreeing to a third rescue attempt that will cut existing shareholders’ stake in the company by 74 percent. The stock fell 39 percent.

The Treasury Department said it would convert as much as $25 billion of preferred shares into common stock provided private holders agree to the same terms, the government said in a statement today. The conversion would give the U.S. a 36 percent stake in the New York-based company.

“We’re in these dire conditions, and this is a restructuring of a troubled company,” CreditSights Inc. analyst David Hendler said. “Common shareholders are severely diluted.

Increased government involvement complicates Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit’s attempt to restore confidence in the company after the stock sank to the lowest in 18 years. The government is supporting Citigroup because of concern its failure might roil weak global markets. The U.S. doesn’t immediately intend to inject additional money after channeling $45 billion to Citigroup last year.

The bank, which last year slashed its quarterly dividend to 1 cent a share, said today the payout will be eliminated. It also took an accounting charge related to the plummeting value of some businesses, swelling its record 2008 loss to $27.7 billion, or 48 percent larger than reported a month ago.

Moody’s Cuts

Moody’s today reduced its rating on Citigroup’s senior debt to A3 from A2. Moody’s said that even after government support, the bank will emerge from the economic crisis on a smaller scale, “which could diminish its relative importance to the U.S. banking system.” Standard & Poor’s affirmed its A/A1 rating and changed its outlook to “negative” from “stable,” citing the possibility the government may have to provide more support.

Assuming the maximum amount of preferred shares eligible for conversion, existing stockholders would be left with a 26 percent stake. The stock fell 96 cents to $1.50 in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange at 4 p.m. as a record 2 billion shares changed hands. It plummeted 90 percent during the past 12 months and is down 78 percent so far this year. Only Cincinnati- based Fifth Third Bancorp fell more out of 24 companies on the KBW Bank Index.

‘Creeping Nationalization’

“This is another step toward creeping nationalization,” Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. “This country is going through no less than an economic revolution,” said Levitt, a board member of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Feb. 25 he wants to avoid nationalizing Citigroup and other large banks in a way that would wipe out shareholders and leave the U.S. in full control. Bernanke said the government might end up owning a “substantial minority” of the bank.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corp. said its stake in Citigroup will increase to 11.1 percent after it converts its preferred shares into common stock. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Capital Research Global Investors and Capital World Investors are among other preferred stockholders that have agreed to participate in the exchange, Citigroup said.

Under the terms of the deal, Citi will exchange common stock for as much as $27.5 billion of its preferred securities at a conversion price of $3.25 a share.

New Bailout Funds

The Treasury Department is injecting a fresh round of bailout funds into the nation’s banks to help them weather the recession. Regulators on Feb. 25 announced details of “stress tests” to determine how much capital banks will need should unemployment climb to 10.3 percent in 2010.

“It’s just unbelievable,” said David Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Canaccord Adams Inc. in New York, in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The government is making up the rules as they go. A continued breakup is probably in the cards.”

Pandit, 52, has been selling units to free up capital. He said last month he planned to sell the bank’s CitiFinancial consumer-finance and Primerica life-insurance subsidiaries as soon as the market permits. He also struck a deal to sell majority control of the bank’s Smith Barney brokerage to Morgan Stanley.

Board Shakeup

As part of today’s deal with the government, Citigroup also agreed to reconstitute its board so that a majority of the directors are new and independent.

The change was intended to be a statement to Wall Street and the public that there are some consequences when the government needs to take extraordinary steps to stabilize a company, an administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Even with that agreement, the government isn’t dictating who will be named to the board, nor will it set the bank’s business strategy, Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Pandit has said he wants to refashion the financial-services behemoth, built in the 1980s and 1990s through a chain of acquisitions, into a global bank focused on retail branches, securities trading, investment banking and payment processing. Citigroup refers to the businesses it wants to keep as Citicorp, harking back to the pre-1998 entity that preceded its landmark merger with Travelers Group Inc.

Banamex Future

On a conference call today, Pandit said the U.S. government’s bigger stake won’t preclude ownership of banking units in other countries, such as Banamex in Mexico.

“We have structured these investments and are in the process of structuring them so that all our franchise in the form of Citicorp remains intact,” Pandit said.

Pandit said the transaction should put to rest any concerns that the bank will be nationalized.

“Our business is about confidence,” Pandit said. “This capital should take the confidence issues off the table, even in a stressed environment.”

The government’s increasing control over the bank’s affairs grew apparent after the bank got $25 billion of bailout funds in October and another $20 billion in November. The bank also paid $7 billion of preferred stock for $301 billion of guarantees on mortgages, junk-grade loans and subprime-tainted securities.

Citigroup has already accepted restrictions on executive pay and limited luxury perks such as office renovations and unnecessary private-jet travel. Citigroup said in a separate statement today it will suspend dividends on preferred stock.

Political Scrutiny

The bank also was pressed to participate in a foreclosure- prevention program favored by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair. The company consented to lawmakers’ demands that it support a bill, opposed by the banking industry, that gave bankruptcy judges the authority to write down mortgage principal.

Citigroup still faces scrutiny of whether it’s appropriately using the bailout funds. Some lawmakers have criticized its $20- million-a-year sponsorship of the New York Mets’ new baseball stadium in the New York City borough of Queens. Corporate- governance advocates say the bank is paying for millions of dollars of perks, including offices, secretaries and cars and drivers, for retired executives.

The bank said last week director Roberto Hernandez Ramirez will keep getting reimbursed for his use of private aircraft and other perks after he steps down from the board in April because of his continuing role as non-executive chairman of Banamex. The benefits, which also include an office, secretary and personal security, cost $2.61 million in 2007, according to a March regulatory filing.

Citi Gets Third Rescue as U.S. Plans to Raise Stake [via]

American International Group Inc (AIG)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Nearly six months after American International Group Inc. got its first massive bailout from the government, it's still stumbling.

The big insurer keeps losing money and is unable to sell some of its biggest assets. Some Wall Street analysts have stopped tracking it. And it appears on the verge of getting another helping hand from Washington.

Like Citigroup Inc., which on Friday received another round of federal support, AIG is considered too big and too important to fail.

"If the government lets AIG fail, I think you are going to see an enormous sort of shock wave across all industries because AIG had their finger in a lot of different areas," said Russell Walker, a risk management professor at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Expectations are that AIG and the government will announce soon, perhaps as early as Monday, their latest plan to prop up the New York-based company. Late Friday, AIG confirmed it will report its fourth-quarter earnings on Monday before the market opens.

The Financial Times, citing people who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported this week that the government will swap the 80 percent stake it currently holds in AIG for even bigger pieces of three units that would be split off from the company: AIG's Asian operations, its international life insurance business and its U.S. personal lines business. A fourth unit made up of AIG's other businesses and troubled assets could be created as well or sold off in pieces, according to the FT report.

In return for the breakup, the government would relax the terms, or cancel, a portion of the $60 billion loan that was at the center of a restructured $150 billion rescue package, the newspaper said.

The company may also need another loan, its fourth, from the government as it is expected to report a $60 billion fourth-quarter loss Monday.

AIG has been forced to seek more help because of a combination of factors including the recession and its falling stock price, now well under $1. Perhaps its biggest problem is the asset sales that were supposed to help the company pay back government loans aren't happening, in part because the credit crisis that initially landed AIG in trouble last summer is also preventing would-be buyers from getting financing.

"If companies actually have cash, or the ability to make a purchase, they are not jumping on AIG right now," said Donn Vickrey, an analyst with Gradient Analytics Inc. "The prudent thing for (companies) to do is just say 'no' at this point unless it's just an insanely cheap price."

That advice doesn't bode well for AIG, which said in October it would sell off business units to repay an original $85 billion loan from the Federal Reserve that it received a month earlier. The loan was reduced to $60 billion in November as part of the larger restructured rescue package totaling $150 billion; it had roughly $38 billion outstanding as of this week.

As of Feb. 13, AIG had already sold interests in nine businesses. But it needs to sell more.

"In ordinary times, the sale of these assets would have been relatively easy," said Bob Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based industry group. "The inability to sell the assets today appears to be more of a function of the inability to finance the deals as opposed to interest in purchasing many of these assets."

According to analysts, AIG has been unable to solicit bids for some of its top units, including American Life Insurance, AIG's U.S. life insurance operation; American International Assurance, Asia's largest life insurer; International Lease Finance Corp., AIG's aircraft leasing subsidiary; and a broker-dealer operation called AIG Advisor Group.

The lack of interest can be seen in the company's stock price. Shares of AIG fell 10 cents, or 19 percent, to 42 cents Friday. Shares are down 96 percent since its first bailout was announced.

Some analysts have given up hope.

"Given the current problems and increased government involvement, it is an unanalyzable company," Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Michael Paisan wrote in a note to investors Tuesday, adding he is ending his coverage of the company. "We have very little confidence in the ability to analyze future earnings."

Last week, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. analyst Bijan Moazami also dropped coverage of AIG, saying the company's predicament is so uncertain that "analysis of AIG is no longer relevant."

The government steps expected to be announced could put more of a burden on U.S. taxpayers, but the Obama administration may have no other option than to take a bigger interest in the beleaguered insurer.

On Friday, Citigroup agreed to give the government up to a 36 percent stake in the struggling bank, a move intended to strengthen its capital base. Citi has already received $45 billion in cash from the government.

Problems at AIG did not come from its traditional insurance operations, but instead from its financial services units, and primarily its business insuring mortgage-backed securities and other risky debt against default. The government maintains it needed to bail AIG out last September, saying the company's failure would have further disrupt markets and threaten the already fragile economy.

AIG's traditional insurance subsidiaries are widely viewed as safe. If AIG needed to file for bankruptcy protection, "AIG's insurance subsidiaries are separately capitalized and would continue to operate," Hartwig said.

In recent days, AIG has said that it's evaluating "potential new alternatives" to fix its problems. Exactly what those are, the company won't say.

"We continue to work with the U.S. government to evaluate potential new alternatives for addressing AIG's financial challenges," AIG spokeswoman Christina Pretto said Friday. "We will provide a complete update when we report financial results in the near future."

Hartwig said, "we don't know what the form of the deal might be," and added, "obviously there are hot and heavy negotiations going on."

Insurance giant AIG facing possible breakup [via]

Friday, February 27, 2009

梁靜茹 Fish Leong - 沒有如果

Do you need to turn off your PC at night?

Do you need to turn off your PC at night? [via]

Information Architects - Web Trends on Tokyo Metro Map

Information Architects has published the 200 most successful websites pinned down on the Tokyo Metro Map, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective. I thought this is a very creative way to show web trends.

Web Trend Map 3 [via]

Web Trend Map 2007 Version 2.0 [via]

Microsoft Excel Zero-Day Vulnerability

Microsoft Office Excel was reported to have a vulnerability that could allow malicious hackers to attempt remote code execution, if user opens the specially crafted MS Excel file. The malicious Excel file could be hosted on website, arrives as an attachment in email or be passed around through thumb drive/media disk.

Microsoft is currently investigating this vulnerability. As the patches are not available yet, we urged you to take the following precautions:
  1. 1. Avoid opening or saving MS Office files, in particularly MS Excel file that you receive from un-trusted sources.

  2. Be cautious when browsing the Internet (especially those un-trusted websites), or click on links in emails from unknown sources.
For more information, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/968272.mspx

Vulnerability in Microsoft Office Excel Could Allow Remote Code Execution [via]

U.S. Department of State - 2008 Human Rights Report: Singapore

2008 Human Rights Report: Singapore

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
February 25, 2009

Singapore is a parliamentary republic in which the People's Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominates politics. The population was approximately 4.6 million, with foreign workers accounting for nearly one fifth of the total. Opposition parties exist, and the May 2006 parliamentary elections were generally fair and free of tampering; however, the PAP placed formidable obstacles in the path of political opponents. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

The government has broad powers to limit citizens' rights and to handicap political opposition, which it used. Caning is an allowable punishment for numerous offenses. The following human rights problems also were reported: preventive detention, executive influence over the judiciary, infringement of citizens' privacy rights, restriction of speech and press freedom and the practice of self-censorship by journalists, restriction of freedoms of assembly and association, limited restriction of freedom of religion, and some trafficking in persons.

U.S. Department of State - 2008 Human Rights Report: Singapore [via]

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Email Was Thought to Be Scam By Some

I recently lost my contacts from my PDA after a mistake while doing sync. This mistake resulted in almost 75% of all my contacts wiped out. In an attempt to recover them, I did a mass email to everyone on my GMail contacts but little did I expect many asked if I had lodged a police report for my "lost" phone. Some even asked and verified if the email was a scam before they replied with their contacts.

Thank god, I did not lost my phone.

My email:

Hi,

I am sending this email to you to request for your most updated contact.
Just half an hour ago, something unfortunate happened and I just lost all my phone contacts.
  1. May I have your latest mobile number?

  2. Is this email address I am sending to your primary email account? If not, may I have your primary email address?
I am taking this "opportunity" to rebuild my contacts.

Regards
Hon Chun


I should be less formal the next time I send any emails.

Singapore - Crossroads of the East 1938

Credit Card Debts Ballooning - The Next Bubble?

According to the an article published on the Straits Times, credit card debt hit an estimated $3.4 billion last December, the highest for that month in 20 years. If I assume Singapore population stands at 4.5 million, it would mean every single soul in Singapore to have spent S$755 each. This number does not good especially with climbing unemployment and retrenchment rates.

Credit card debts ballooning [via]

Gmail Allows Multi-Select Files and Attach Them With Progress Bars

It is now possible to multi-select files from the same folder and attach them when composing an email with Google Gmail. On top of that, you will be able to see progress bar status as each file is being uploaded.

These new features are released to all users. However, you may need to first logout and then re-login to Gmail again to be able to see it.

Updates to attachments: multi-select and progress bars [via]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama Addresses Economic Crisis

Obama Talked on Recovery Plan Receive Countless Standing Ovation








Experts Exchange Goes Mobile

Experts Exchange (EE) has gone mobile. EE is a IT knowledge sharing community for IT solutions. EE Mobile allows you to search, ask, and monitor your questions from your mobile device.

Experts Exchange Mobile [via]

Explanation for Gmail Outage from the Gmail Team

"Lots of folks are asking what happened, so we thought you'd like an explanation. This morning, there was a routine maintenance event in one of our European data centers. This typically causes no disruption because accounts are simply served out of another data center.

Unexpected side effects of some new code that tries to keep data geographically close to its owner caused another data center in Europe to become overloaded, and that caused cascading problems from one data center to another. It took us about an hour to get it all back under control.

The bugs have been found and fixed, and we're in the process of pushing out changes. We know how painful an outage like this is -- we run Google on Gmail, so outages like this affect us the same way they affect you. We always investigate the root causes of rare outages like this one, so we can prevent similar problems in the future." -- Gmail Site Reliability Manager

Update on today's Gmail outage [via]

Workaround to Get Gmail Work

Google Gmail experienced hours of outages and it seem to have recovered (at least for me). For the past few hours, I used the below to access my mailbox.
  • Basic HTML version: https://mail.google.com/mail/h/

  • Basic HTML version #2: http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=html

  • Older version: http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=1

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

System Wide GMail Outage

Google Gmail is currently experiencing system wide outage. It is affecting me!

Gmail Support Announcement

We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a number of users. This problem occurred at approximately 1.30AM Pacific Time. We're working hard to resolve this problem and will post updates as we have them. We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar 2009 Winners

  • Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Actor: Sean Penn, MilK
  • Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
  • Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Song: A.R. Rahman for Jai Ho penned by Gulzar Slumdog Millionaire
  • Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Sound Mixing: Resul Pookutty (India), Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Short Documentary: Smile Pinky
  • Best Foreign Film: Departures (Japan)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
  • Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis
  • Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
  • Animated Feature Film: WALL-E
  • Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes
  • Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Costume: Michael O'Connor, The Duchess
  • Art: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes
  • Live Action Short Film: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
  • Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Sound Effects: Dark Knight
  • Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Unaware Lehman Minibonds Existed

    Chan unaware Lehman minibonds existed
    China Daily
    By Teddy Ng (HK Edition)
    Updated: 2009-02-21 07:51

    HONG KONG: Financial services chief Chan Ka-keung told the first Legislative Council hearing on the minibonds saga Friday that he was unaware of Lehman Brothers ill-starred minibonds before the collapse of the investment bank in September.

    Chan's testimony, offering the first official account of the investment debacle, drew criticism that the government is concerned only with helping financial institutions weather the financial storm, while ignoring the interests of small investors.

    The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury said he is concerned about the turbulence in the financial market and that he's been concerned about structural investment instruments such as Accumulator, since early 2008.

    Legislators at the hearing referred to a speech made by Chan last May in New York. He told his New York listeners that the roots of the sub-prime crisis arose from credit rating agencies and the system of risk control. The Lehman minibonds somehow escaped his radar. Minibonds and other Lehman-related instruments chewed up HK$20 billion involving more than 48,000 accounts.

    "The earliest I knew about minibonds was after the collapse of Lehman Brothers," he testified, in response to questions from legislator James To.

    Chan did not elaborate.

    The regulatory bodies, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission, raised no alarm to government as financial derivatives and structural investment instruments entered a period of severe turbulence in early 2008, he said.

    Chan paused before responding to a question from wholesale and retail sector legislator Vincent Fang. Chan was asked the reasons for his lack of awareness of minibonds before Lehman Brothers collapsed.

    "It is impossible to have a regulatory system that ensures no single incident of irregularity can happen," he said. "The close of Lehman Brothers was all of a sudden. It was a major incident. We are determined to improve our system."

    Chan, admitting that some investors were misled, said the government has "no role" in deciding whether investment products should be banned from the market.

    Regulatory bodies are responsible for determining whether financial institutions have made accurate disclosures concerning financial instruments. Agents for these products have responsibility to assure the products are suitable for the market, especially for investors in positions of vulnerability.

    "The role of the government is to give statutory power and resources to regulatory bodies to perform their jobs," he said.

    The government is not involved in day-to-day operations of the regulatory bodies, he added.

    Labour sector legislator Ip Wai-ming criticized the government for not even being aware of the minibonds until they surfaced as a huge problem.

    Legislator Regina Ip said the government should ban the sale of high risk products to individuals. She pointed out banks were still selling the disaster-bound instruments as late as August.

    Real estate and construction sector legislator Abraham Shek criticized Chan for giving unsatisfactory answers before the hearing.

    Hearing chairman Ho Chung-tai said he is satisfied with progress of the enquiry, though he noted that Chan "was not used to giving evidence under oath".

    Chan will return to give further testimony before the hearing on Tuesday.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Interesting Article on Intellectual Property (IP)

    Business Times - 20 Feb 2009

    Take care of IP rights during downturn

    A four-pronged strategy may be considered to maximise ownership and exploitation

    By STANLEY LAI

    THE financial fallout continues unabated. We struggle to contemplate where and when the global economy will see the worst, but this demands an exactitude of prescience that lies well beyond conventional judgment. Most of us would be content with bracing ourselves for a year (possibly more) of gloom.

    Over the next 12 months, prices will come down, assets will devalue, trade financing will come to an end, and with that a steadily declining gross domestic product, particularly for trade-dependent economies. The halcyon days are over for now, and most commentators agree that it will get worst before it gets better.

    It would be too simplistic to merely categorise intellectual property (IP) assets as being recession-proof. But if one were to attempt to make this argument, the starting point would be that IP assets are long-term acquisitions. Long-term IP rights should not be relinquished, because you need them when the good times return. Or do you need them at all?

    The current economic climate allows us to consider adopting a four-pronged strategy to maximise ownership and exploitation.

    Stock-taking audit

    First, audit and take stock of the current IP portfolio so as to secure long-term objectives. Secondly, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, companies should consider outsourcing IP management and prosecution functions.

    Thirdly, while the values of other assets can be seen to slide during these troubled times, IP assets are no exception, and the timing may be such that unique acquisition opportunities present themselves. Fourthly, do not let up on enforcement efforts, as counterfeiting and other infringing activities may actually increase during a downturn, and rights owners should brace themselves for this.

    It is taken as a given that every IP asset-owning company should have a policy or plan in place for the acquisition of IP rights, trade marking, branding for the purposes of marketing and positioning and an exploitative strategy (whether through licences, franchises, collaboration, distribution or production agreements).

    With the administration of proper valuation to IP assets, a company is able to add to its book value as well as maintain, if not add to, share value. It was not that long ago that IP assets could also form a useful basis for fund-raising through securitisation. Just look at the so-called 'Bowie Bonds', named after the rock star David Bowie, who raised millions based on the securitisation of music royalties as future receivables. Today we look at new instruments of securitisation through Islamic finance.

    A stock take or audit affects different IP rights in different ways. For example, in the case of patents, an IP audit mandates that a company does not own patents for the sake of ownership, but is a more considered exercise to test the existing patent portfolio for strength and quality. An effective audit should weed out a company's weak patents, for surrender or lapse.

    In the case of trade marks, an audit would mean deciding whether secondary brands and trade marks (no doubt promoted during a surge of brand protection) have fallen into irrelevance and non-acceptance by the market. This exercise is a culmination of measuring the importance of product placement with the risk of adverse rights asserted by third parties against registration and use of the intended trade mark.

    Outsourcing of IP rights management and prosecution is another form of cost-cutting, and which allows existing employees to focus on commercialisation and sourcing of business opportunities. With a correctional alignment that is applied to costs in general, and IP management budgets in particular, during a recessionary spiral, it would be advisable to work with external firms to wholly or partially outsource IP prosecution-related functions such as:

    # Drafting, and design drafting;

    # Computerised docketing and record keeping;

    # Account management; and,

    # The tracking of renewal, annuity and other deadlines.

    This would make for greater efficiency and release existing manpower for planning, strategy and other non-delegable IP activities, such as transactional drafting/ negotiation, litigation, anti-counterfeiting and dispute management.

    Acquisition opportunities

    In a downturn, opportunities also abound. It is a good time to look at competitors, and the inquiry may disclose an opportune moment to obtain the transfer of that one trade mark or family of marks that has always been cited against your application(s), or used in opposition proceedings in various countries.

    Companies may also wish to acquire patents with a view to gaining additional market control or generate additional revenue by licensing or litigation. This so-called 'patent trolling' is not actually as sinister or pejorative as it sounds - it is a creature of the free market and competitive exploitation. It is a revenue-generating model in its own right.

    Currently, a company's acquisition of legal and economic rights in respect of all genres of IP rights is automatically subject to a writedown over a period of five years, under a writedown allowance (WDA) scheme. The recent Budget has affirmed and recognised the importance of keeping up the momentum of development for new creative industries such as media and digital entertainment (MDE).

    The WDA has been revised to write down capital expenditure incurred by an MDE company or partnership for the acquisition of IP rights (in respect of MDE content), over a two-year (as opposed to a five-year) period, subject to conditions. Companies should take full advantage of such incentives which are a function of necessity and resilience during difficult times.

    At the end of the current recession, we may look back at the acquisitions of new technologies and IP and rationalise, with the benefit of hindsight, that they were part of a market correction and a 'hard reset' that any economic ecosystem would inevitably have had to endure (for the better) during a recession.

    IP owners beware. Even for countries which have established a no-tolerance regime against counterfeiting, a recession may force IP owners to take their eyes off policing, and the insidious distribution of knockoffs and online infringing copies will surge.

    Thus, even if we find ourselves immersed in a climate of gloom and vicious cost-cutting, companies should be urged to identify opportunity amidst difficulty. When a financial crisis occurs, disruption and mayhem may open the door for a nimble, adaptable company to acquire new IP (possibly in diversified industries and so spread IP risk), and gain market share. As Warren Buffet famously said, 'Buy when there is fear in the market'.

    Stanley Lai is head, Intellectual Property and Technology Department, Allen and Gledhill LLP

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Singapore IT Landscape

    Only if I have the time, I will comment on Singapore's IT landscape to share this knowledge with my readers.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Ex-President Ong Teng Cheong - The People's President

    ‘I Had a Job to Do’ Whether the government liked it or not, says ex-president Ong

    Read on below on ex-President Ong Teng Cheong dedication to Singapore. That earned my respect.

    Ong Teng Cheong: Extended interview [via]

    President Nathan Breaks Silence On the Use of Reserves

    I extract what President Nathan commented on the use of Singapore's reserve recently for Budget 2009. He took only a mere 11 days to approve it.

    “We don’t micro-manage the Government. It’s for the Government in power to determine what needs to be done. I’m not an Executive President ... it’s for them to find solutions to our nation’s problems and come up with proposals,”

    “it would have been presumptuous on my part to go forward and start to give explanations when explanations were not called for”

    I wonder what is the role of a President then. I thought the President should be protecting the sacred reserves and any use of it should be studied seriously and deeply. Final decision should be leave to the President since he is paid million dollars annually! Even the U.S. President is paid just about half of the amount.

    ‘Why I said okay in 11 days’ [via]

    Mobile Phones Chargers to Standardize

    Chargers used by mobile phones are set to be standardized. This is great news to consumers. Cost of buying phones may be lower since we can use the same charger we always used when doing phone switching.

    GSM Arena Confirms Mobile Universal Charger Format [via]

    Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang at Launch of IDA International

    Ms Yong Ying-I, Chairman of IDA International
    Mr Seah Chin Siong, Chief Executive Officer of IDA International
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Good Afternoon.

    1. I am very pleased to be here today to witness the launch of IDA International. Recently in Parliament, I said that the Government is committed to helping our infocomm enterprises ride the economic downturn and build up their capabilities. It is important for the infocomm sector to emerge from the recession fitter and stronger with more capabilities to tap new opportunities. The launch of IDA International is an additional way for Government to help infocomm enterprises. IDA International is a wholly owned subsidiary of IDA Singapore. Its mission is to help our infocomm companies gain access to new markets overseas and work with them to tap opportunities for new business despite the troubled times.

    Infocomm and the Economic Downturn

    2. The infocomm industry has not escaped the effects of the recession. Gartner has halved its global IT spending growth projection to 2.3% for 2009. Reports from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that growth in the coming year is likely to remain flat or even decline. The going will be quite tough under such circumstances.

    3. Nevertheless, infocomm continues to be a significant industry sector globally. It contributes significantly to the key operations of governments, citizens and businesses in most developed countries. At the same time, emerging economies are also realising the power of infocomm to raise living standards and generate economic growth. So if we are innovative and work hard, we should be able to tap into such opportunities.

    Singapore’s Journey towards Public Infocomm Excellence

    4. Our Government had embarked on tapping the power of infocomm almost thirty years ago. Today, Singapore is recognized worldwide as a leader in the use of infocomm to deliver better services to the public and businesses.

    5. Being an early adopter of infocomm technology has benefited Singapore enormously. For instance, TradeNet and its successor (TradeXchange), e-filing for income tax returns and BizFile for online registering of a new business have all had major impact and brought huge benefits to the Singaporeans and the business community.

    6. We have built up a strong track record of successfully implementing our National Infocomm and eGovernment programmes. As a result, we have been consistently ranked among the top nations in the world for eGovernment. In 2007, for instance, we ranked first and second respectively in Accenture and Brown University’s eGovernment studies.

    7. Our achievements in eGovernment services are highly regarded by many countries. They see Singapore, with our wealth of experience, tested capabilities and proven solutions for a wide range of applications, as a good partner for their own infocomm plans.

    International Opportunities

    8. Hence, we have attracted increasing attention from public agencies of many countries. They share the same interest to develop their own eGovernment programmes. They are keen to work with us. Several have indicated that they want to leverage on our experience and expertise in masterplanning and implementing eGovernment solutions. By working with us, they hope to shorten the learning curve to achieve their own infocomm goals. We have and will continue to collaborate with all interested parties and help them achieve their goals.

    9. Such interest also represents business opportunities for our infocomm enterprises, especially those that have been at the forefront of developing solutions for our e-Government services. Hence we would like to translate these collaborations into business opportunities for our infocomm companies. Our hope is for Singapore infocomm companies to also play significant roles in rolling out infocomm programmes in countries which see benefits in adopting the Singapore model.

    10. One key strategic thrust of the iN2015 masterplan is to develop a globally competitive infocomm industry and extend the reach of our infocomm enterprises beyond the local market. IDA International is an important initiative towards the realisation of this goal.

    11. IDA has established IDA International as the primary vehicle for collaborations with foreign governments in public service infocomm. IDA International will work with Singapore infocomm enterprises and interested foreign government agencies to provide them with the necessary expertise, know-how and services to enable them to achieve their national infocomm objectives.

    Progress of IDA International and Project Pipelines

    12. So far, Singapore has established several government-to-government infocomm collaborations with countries from all regions in the world. These include Brunei in Southeast Asia; Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain in the Middle East; South Africa; as well as Brazil and Trinidad & Tobago in the Americas. Their interests span across different public sector services. IDA International is currently in discussions with some of these governments on areas for collaboration, in partnership with our infocomm local enterprises.

    13. The opportunities look promising for our local Infocomm companies. They have built up their expertise and solutions over the years in Singapore. I am very pleased to note that our local infocomm companies such as ST Electronics, NCS, Ecquaria, Infowave, Eucharist, SQLView, Netrust and Elixir have all expressed interest in partnering IDA International to venture into the overseas markets.

    Conclusion

    14. I am confident that the establishment of IDA International will help our infocomm companies extend their reach to new markets overseas. I would like to encourage all local infocomm enterprises to explore possible collaboration with IDA International and tap on the Government’s resources to help grow their businesses overseas. We can work together to seize the opportunities that are still available in these difficult times, and at the same time prepare ourselves to move ahead even faster when the world economy recovers.

    15. On this note, I would like to thank the guests who have taken valuable time off to attend today’s launch and wish you a successful year ahead in your business endeavours.

    16. Thank you.

    Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang at Launch of IDA International [via]

    Several Players Enter Into the Already Crowded Smartphone Industry

    MWC 2009: Android, Windows in Smartphone Showdown [via]
    Microsoft Wages Mobile War [via]
    i-Mate Comes Back With Slim and Rugged Phones [via]
    AT&T Exec: Dell Entering Smart Phone Market [via]
    Acer Enters Smart Phone Market [via]

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Microsoft Announces Windows Mobile 6.5

    Microsoft announced the latest version of its Windows Mobile OS for smartphones at the Mobile World Congress trade show on Monday. Windows Mobile 6.5 is a cosmetic overhaul designed to make touch-screen phones easier to use and improve Windows phones' Web-browsing skills.

    Poor me, I am still using Windows Mobile 6.0.

    Microsoft Announces Windows Mobile 6.5 [via]

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Jackie Chan donates antique collection to Singapore's fourth university

    International superstar Jackie Chan donated his antique collection worth about S$100million to Singapore's fourth university which is estimated to start in 2011.

    Chan's property agent in Singapore, Simon Kwan, verified the news to local press but is unable to certify how much the donations are worth.

    Chan started collecting antique buildings 20 years ago, eight of them are old houses and old stages of the Ming and Qing dynasties with at least 200 years of history.

    He had actually wanted to donate the structures to the Hong Kong government but they took too long in replying so Kwan suggested donating to Singapore instead.

    Kwan also specially flew to Hong Kong to understand the artifacts before suggesting to the Singapore authorities. Chan finally decided to donate his antique collection to a Singapore new university which will open in 2011.

    According to reports, the new university, which will be located at Upper Changi near the Singapore Expo, will offer degrees in Design and Construction, Engineering, Business and Information Technology course.


    Jackie Chan donates antique collection to Singapore's fourth university [via]

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Google Holiday Logo for Valentine's Day 2009

    The above is Google's holiday logo for Valentine's Day 2009. It shows 2 love birds.

    Reason Why Not to Run Windows as 'Administrators'

    A study by security vendor BeyondTrust shows that the vast majority of critical vulnerabilities reported last year in Microsoft products are mitigated by not allowing users to run as administrator.

    Don't Run Windows as 'Administrator,' and Why [via]

    Bespin - Code in the Cloud

    Bespin is a Mozilla Labs experiment that proposes an open, extensible web-based framework for code editing that aims to increase developer productivity, enable compelling user experiences, and promote the use of open standards.


    Bespin - Code in the Cloud [via]

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    1234567890 Day - What's Your Local Date Time?

    The below C# code determines your local date time to celebrate 1234567890 Day.

    static void Main(string[] args)
    {
        DateTime dateOn1Jan1970 = new DateTime(1970, 1, 1);
        int partySec = 1234567890;
        DateTime dateToParty = dateOn1Jan1970.AddSeconds(partySec);
    
        Console.WriteLine("UTC DateTime to party: " + dateToParty.ToUniversalTime().ToString());
        Console.WriteLine("Local DateTime to party: " + dateToParty.ToString());
    }

    Removing Duplicates from a Table in SQL Server

    Removing Duplicates from a Table in SQL Server [via]

    Change of 2009 Deepavali Date

    According to Ministry of Manpower (MOM), 2009 Deepavali date will fall on 17 October 2009 (Saturday) instead of 15 November 2009 (Sunday).
    1. The Deepavali date for 2009 has now been confirmed. The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) has advised that Deepavali will fall on 17 October 2009 (Saturday) instead of 15 November 2009 (Sunday). The variation in date was due to the rare occurrence of two “no moon” days (amavasai) between mid October and mid November 2009. The earlier tentative Deepavali date of 15 November 2009 was based on the second “no moon” day. The Almanac has now affirmed that Deepavali will fall on the day of the first "no moon" day on 17 October 2009.

    2. Since Deepavali is no longer on 15 November 2009 (Sunday), 16 November 2009 (Monday) will not be a public holiday. Instead, 17 October 2009 will be gazetted as a public holiday.
    Change of 2009 Deepavali Date [via]

    It's time to party like it's 1234567890

    It's time to party like it's 1234567890 – 'cause it is! On this Friday, Feb 13 at exactly 3:31:30 PM (PST), Unix time (WTF is Unix time?) will equal '1234567890'.

    1234567890 Day [via]

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Critical IE, Exchange Flaws in Microsoft's Patch Tuesday

    Microsoft Corp. today released four patch bundles to fix at least eight security vulnerabilities in PCs powered by its Windows operating system and other software. The fixes are available through Microsoft Update or via Automatic Updates.

    The identified four critical vulnerabilities are found in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 Web browser and Microsoft Exchange.

    Critical IE, Exchange Flaws in Microsoft's Patch Tuesday [via]

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Scolari sacked as Chelsea manager

    The day has come. Scolari was sacked as Chelsea manager after a dismal season so far. Currently, Chelsea is ranked fourth in the Premier League, seven points behind league leaders Manchester United who has a game in hand.

    This shows there is no sympathy in a very result-oriented highly competitive league. Past experience and performance of a football manager does not count.

    Scolari sacked as Chelsea manager [via]

    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    Tertiary students seek lower public transport fares

    Close to 5,200 tertiary students have signed a petition for lower public transport fares. Earlier this week, the students even managed to meet up with transport operators to discuss on transport fares. This is a positive move.

    For many years, tertiary students have been paying 89% more than peers from Junior Colleges and Institute of Technical Education.

    Tertiary students seek lower public transport fares [via]

    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Ho Ching to Step Down from Temasek Holdings

    Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd on Friday announced the stepping down of its chief executive officer, Ho Ching, effective Oct 1, 2009.

    Mr Goodyear, 51, an American, joined the Temasek board on Feb 1. He assumes the position of CEO designate on March 1 and will succeed Ms Ho on Oct 1, 2009. Mr Goodyear retired from BHP Billiton on Jan 1, 2008 after leading the world's largest diversified resources company through its rapid growth and expansion.

    Ho Ching joined Temasek as a director in January 2002, becoming its executive director in May 2002 and CEO since January 2004. She has since made several headline investments whereby many did not perform quite well.

    Temasek Holdings Appoints Charles W. Goodyear as Member of the Board and CEO-Designate [via]

    Microsoft Smartphone Rumors Gain Steam

    Rumors that Microsoft will launch its own smartphones have gained steam again, with one analyst predicting that the device may be introduced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in two weeks.

    Microsoft Smartphone Rumors Gain Steam [via]

    Overwhelmed With Things-To-Do

    I am totally overwhelmed with my ever growing to-do list. I better come out with a strict to-do list and follow it diligently even if it means sacrificing precious sleep time.

    Coffee shall be my beloved beverage.

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Windows 7 Shortcuts Enables the Best Win7 Shortcuts in XP or Vista

    Lifehacker has created a tool "Windows 7 Shortcuts" to enable Windows XP / Vista users to enjoy some of the cool Windows 7 new keyboard shortcuts. I personally have tried the tool and it works without having to install it.

    Windows 7 Shortcuts Enables the Best Win7 Shortcuts in XP or Vista [via]

    Obama Cap Top Executives Pay for Companies Receiving Federal Aid

    I just cannot but applaud U.S. President Obama for his move in capping pay of top executives who are federal aid.

    "For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis is not only in bad taste it's a bad strategy and I will not tolerate it as President. We're going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid so that when firms seek new federal dollars, we won't find them up to the same old tricks. Top executives at firms receiving extraordinary help from US taxpayers will have their compensation capped at USD 500,000 a fraction of the salaries that have been reported recently."

    Obama announces compensation caps for top executives [via]

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Windows 7 and its Different Editions Available

    For those of us in the developed world, there are only three editions that matter:
    • Windows 7 Home Premium: This is the successor to Windows Vista Home Premium.

    • Windows 7 Home Professional: This edition drops the Business label used in Windows Vista and goes back to the old XP-era name, presumably to give XP users more comfort in their upgrade decision.

    • Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise: In the retail channel, this edition will be called Ultimate; for corporate customers with a Select license agreement, it will be called Enterprise.
    2 more editions of Windows 7 are around but the ability to get hold of is highly constrained.
    • Windows 7 Home Basic: Lacks the Aero interface, will be available for sale only in emerging markets and will not legally be available for sale in the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and other developed countries.

    • Windows 7 Starter Edition: with its artificial restriction on performance (you can only run three simultaneous programs) will be available for sale worldwide, but only as a preinstalled operating system on OEM-built PCs “limited to specific types of hardware.”
    Microsoft simplifies the Windows 7 lineup [via]

    Applied for Singapore Computer Society Professional Membership

    I have just applied for a 1-year professional membership with Singapore Computer Society (SCS). Membership fee is at S$107 plus a one-time entrance fee of S$85.60.

    I only recently know I can actually reimburse professional membership fees from my employer after close to 2 years working with in the company.

    Gmail Adds New Move To and Labels Drop-Downs

    Gmail adds new "Move To" and "Labels" drop-downs and both with auto-completion filter features.

    These 2 drop-downs may look similar but there is a difference.

    "Move to" applies the label selected from the list and removes all the other labels, including the "inbox" label (archive it). For keyboard fans, use v.

    "Labels" lets you add or remove labels from the list in a single action. You no longer have to repeatedly click on "More actions" to add multiple labels. For keyboard fans, use l.

    Gmail Adds Folders by Improving Label Management [via]

    Relatively Quiet Stock Market

    For the past few days, I am seeing a relatively quiet stock market, at least so in Singapore. The average numbers of shares transacted per day is around 700 million. I do not use actual numbers to compute the average but the small number is obvious.

    With low shares activity, fluctuations should be restricted. Are we seeing bottom soon?

    Monday, February 02, 2009

    MergePDF Combines PDF Documents for Free

    MergePDF is a free online tool for combining your PDF documents.

    Limitations but not very restrictive in my opinion:
    • Maximum number of input files is 10
    • Individual file size limit is 5 MB
    • All uploaded files are removed after the merge process has finished.

    STOMP Controversy on TPJC Case

    Sometimes, I feel STOMP is getting out of hand. Almost any articles sent in are published and I am not sure if the accuracy of them are verified.

    Weeks ago, a STOMPer sent in a photo taken on public bus 12 showing 2 Tampines Junior College (TPJC) students 'heavy petting'. For this reason, the 2 students were stripped of their leadership positions as student councillors.

    The 2 students had defended their behaviour and pleaded innocence. They are reported to be merely god-siblings. The male student was consoling his godsister who was unhappy as she had been appointed to a different class and that she did not bear to leave her friends. He pointed out that it was her mother (who is also his godmother) who wanted him to send her home and that the only form of intimacy was merely a consolation hug.

    I hope STOMP can verify accuracy of articles before releasing them to the public. This report on STOMP has definitely caused unnecessary inconveniences to innocent parties.

    Published on STOMP [via]
    "We are innocent!" [via]
    STOMP the biggest loser in TPJC controversy [via]

    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Google Search Glitch Marks All Sites As "This site may harm your computer"

    Yesterday between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m, search on Google returns "This site may harm your computer". Google has apologized and admitted a bug and have resolved the problem within 30 minutes.

    "This site may harm your computer" on every search result?!?! [via]
    Google glitch causes confusion [via]

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