Sunday, December 2, 2018

Are Business Trusts bad?

Shockwaves are still reverberating from Asian Pay TV Trust's crash down after announcing the large cut in their dividends. A lot of investors out there have steered clear of it and never bought into it in the first place; some others have bought in by acceptance of risk-for-reward either before or after the crash. I bought it in a past, and sold sometime soon after getting 1 quarter worth of dividends (net gain of $150 - I lost pocket change in capital loss).

I recalled how it was in essence Macaquire passing on debt by marketing the IPO of APTV, after unsuccessful attempt to divest. (Link here)

This incident also made me thought of Hutchinson Port Holding Trust, another counter I had been monitoring since a couple of years ago. Yield seemed nice at that point but the outlook and the share's performance just seemed abysmal.

This left a bad taste in my mouth based on observing the destruction of shareholder values. Then I had a thought, a wandering question in my mind:

"Are Business Trusts bad?"

This piqued my curiosity and of course, I have to cross-check and verify this.

There are some business trusts currently listed in SGX and I will be touching on them in my write-up.

Singapore Listed Pure Business Trust
Accordia Golf Trust
Ascendas India Trust
Asian Pay TV Trust
Dasin Retail Trust
Hutchinson Port Holdings Trust
Keppel Infrastructure Trust
Netlink NBN Trust
Religare Health Trust

There are also stapled securities that are a hybrid of Business Trust and REIT. My article will not be covering them beyond listing of the listed trusts. (3-Dec-2018 - just added CDLHT - thanks Relac 1234!)

Singapore Listed Stapled Securities (REIT + Business Trust)
Ascendas Hospitality Trust
CDL Hospitality Trust
Far East Hospitality Trust
Frasers Hospitality Trust
OUE Hospitality Trust
Viva Industrial Trust

What is the difference between REIT and Business Trust? They seem similar and they have "Trust" in their name, causing confusion in the distinction between them. I tabulated a summary of some of the key differences between them as well as share the structure of Business Trust and REIT.

Business Trust
Involved in Real Estates
Can operate in any field
Up to 45%
No borrowing limitations
Distribution of Profits
Paid from accounting profits. Min 90% of taxable income in dividends (to stay tax-exempt)
Declared out of Surplus Operations Cash flow. No minimum payout.
Management of Entity
Separate entities for:
- Ownership of Assets
- Manager running operations
Owned and Run by Trustee-Manager
Change of Trustee-Manager
Min 50% unitholders to remove manager
Min 75% unitholders in favour to remove manager
Source: SGX

Source: SGX

So have shareholders benefitted from investing in business trust in general?

At the very least, there's not many in which investors who have participated in their IPO and still held on have benefitted, and where there is, the net benefits have been marginal (to be fair, there is a couple of them like Dasin or Netlink which are still early days to be judged as good or bad). Here's a summary of their performance and charts since IPO. (Note - in my summary, this is a bit outdated; Current Price was as of 25-Nov-2018.)

* Additional Note - HPHT declares dividends in HKD and my summary has also converted them to SGD although there will be slight inaccuracies in the conversion.

Summary of Business Trust Performance

Source: Yahoo! Finance
The results are shocking (at least to myself) - I feel bad for the IPO participants who have held on.
  • RHT emerges as the only true winner if you participated in their IPO. 
  • While it is early days for Dasin Retail Trust and Netlink Trust, there is some gain to be had overall
  • APTT and HPHT are guilty as charge of wanton destruction of unitholder values
  • The remainders are generally lackluster, and only saved or partially salvaged by dividends.
Digging into the share performance and finding out the root cause to declines or raise will make for good case studies to build up one's knowledge base and improve our decision making as investors.

A closer look at the charts shows that in certain scenario, one can either average down (as investors of the business trusts who are still holding on) or enter (as investors who have not taken position yet) to benefit from investing them. Kudos to investors who managed to right-time, go in at those key points and made returns.

So what is the verdict?

Unfortunately, I feel my questioning of the benefit of investing in business trusts remains valid, although deciding to do this write-up has better built in me ability to assess the business trust on an individual basis. At the very least, the rewards most of them has got to offer do not seem in-line for the risk they expose the investors to. For APTT, I do hope this is the turning point to be worthy of being in one's portfolio.

Readers, what are your view towards Business Trusts? Feel free to share your view!

Thanks for reading.


  1. Stapled trust missed out - CDL Hospitality Trust

    1. Haha I just realised I missed that out too - added it in! Thanks!