....... I wish I could have known, enough of love to leave love enough alone............" (with acknowledgement to Doug Ashdown? - any misquoting is from my failing memory).
But, of course it's far from cold here in Singapore in early February. However it seems that North Queensland and this, couldn't be more different, city state share a predilection for music from the late 60s/early 70s because that Ashdown song (from whenever) has been played on two different taxi's radios, a bar in the hotel and a shopping centre lift within the last 18 hours.
It's really nice to be back in Singapore even for the brief stopover we are making en route to Sri Lanka. The humidity is the same together with the 30 degree heat and the hotel, office and restaurant air conditioning is as freezing as I remember it as are the people as courteous, friendly and helpful as I remember from previous visits.
There are more developments and many more major buildings than I remember but the roads remain as wide and travel around this 700 sqm city/State remains easy, comfortable and speedy - especially during Chinese New year as no-one is working.
The business people, at least the ones I have met with, are as razor sharp as ever and, while being as polite and solicitous as is Asian business custom, remain breathtakingly efficient and deeply analytical and so well prepared that having a complex discussion is far more pleasurable, and much shorter, than any I've had in Australia for a long, long time.
"yes - that seems possible" ...."well we'd also like to help you with that - but unfortunately we won't be able to do so at this time".....We look forward to seeing you next week after you've had time to consider the points we've put to you".....goodbye and it's been a great pleasure meeting with you. Total time 27 minutes to get to a point of either going ahead with a minute aggregation data contract at really interesting pricing, and some difficult to handle volume commitments, or not.
It would be wonderful to be able to do business in Australia in such a sensible, and time efficient way.
Singapore is a great place to do business in and just as great to relax in and shares amazing hotels, restaurants, bars, airport efficiencies with other major Asian and Gulf cities that are totally absent in Australia and that make Sydney, a city I'm unbelievably fond of, seem third rate.
We leave for Sri Lanka in a few hours (have to get up at 4.30 in the morning to make the flight) but will be back to finalise a data over 3/4G deal if that turns out to be possible mid next week before returning to Australia next Saturday.
I have made very few business trips outside Sydney since we started up Exetel and I had forgotten how stimulating it is to discuss mutually interesting business concepts with people from completely different backgrounds and completely different operating circumstances than you find in your own very limited daily routines. Perhaps I should have taken a wider view of the possible opportunities of resolving the 'unsolvable' issues I've tried to deal with over the past two years sooner than I did.
It seems that even being away from Australia for less than 48 hours I've been able to see several things completely differently thanks to listening to very different views on the same issues. I'm, definitely, not saying I've managed to resolve anything but I now see two, perhaps three, things that have concerned me for over a year in a very different way.
Then again - maybe it's just the second martini and the 3 hour time displacement.
The first email I read when I got to Singapore last night was the ASX announcement that David Teoh had sold his company to SPT for, effectively a quarter billion Australian dollars ($A150 millon in cash plus almost 40% shares in the merged TPG/SPT entity). A truly great reward for 22 years of deeply insightful, well executed and tough minded operation of building a company started by him and his wife in to the largest, and by far the most profitable, 'independent' communications company in Australia.
The figures quoted in the announcement by SPT to the ASX were outstanding:
200,000 ADSL customers
Annual sales of $A150 million
but most impressive of all:
Annual EBITDA of $A50 million - making a 33% profit before tax is an amazing achievement in the Australian telecommunications business based on the published results of the other large comms companies published figures.
It certainly reveals TPG as THE most successful communications company ever seen in Australia (including Telstra which doesn't count being a monopoly).
One of the truly impressive achievements in Australian business.
After I had digested the impressive nature of the achievement my tired mind began to wonder what the event meant, if anything, other than a long time entrepreneur finlly cashing out a major part of his accumulated business assets.
The timing could indicate nothing more than the serendipity of finding a buyer (there would be a very limited number) in SPT which had a lot of cash (from its sale of NBN) at a time when the future of a business based on an ADSL infrastructure had become less certain than when the initial investment decisions were made.
Retaining the Executive Chairman role in the merged entity would have been a given in that he would need to 'protect' the $100 million 'left in the business' plus there would be little doubt that his track record of building and managing a communications business is significantly superior to that of anyone else in Australia.
So maybe as straightforward as a cash exit with a period of retained control during the progressive liquidation of his shares for cash over a reasonable time frame based on the inability of any takeover buyer of TPG being able to come up with the full purchase price in cash.
Then again - David Teoh has always been one of the most/the most astute reader of the Australian communications industry and maybe this is just one more signal that the tough times coming are really going to be very tough and David Teoh's luck' held as he came across his 'Alan Bond' just as that other 'lucky' Australian businessman, Kerry Packer, did some 30 years ago
Will SPT add anything to TPG's abilities? Very hard to see - in fact the associated merger processes of rationalising the operations of two companies may well slow the current operations of TPG.
Will the new merged SPT/TPG be a strong 'new' player inthe communications marketplaces around Australia? I have no idea having no knowledge of what SPT has ever achieved other than buying up the defunct Comindico hardware and infrastructure.
Doubtless the usual 'industry experts' will say that "its another clear indication of the consolidation of the industry" and, no s*** Sherlock, that's just part of the bleeding obvious - it's the motivations of David Teoh and the timing that are relevant - not making a stupid statement that actually isn't even correct when you give iit more than 5 seconds thought.
One of the things that almost certainly will happen is that the boards and shareholders of any under performing (in profit terms) communications companies around Australia have just been iven some hard facts and figures about what a knowlegeable, cleverly strategic and competent management team can deliver in the Australian communications marketplace.
It certainly raises questions about (puts in perspective) the Optus report the day before which stated that Optus had a net loss in terms of its ADSL user base in the December 2007 quarter while Telstra, as had previously announced, a strong growth in net ADSL users and alo in overall market share. Being a long way away from my main files I have to rely on my memory which seems to be that TPG announced (ironically now, via a Telstra press release and 'award') that TPG activated its 50,000th ADSL customer in July 2003. A quadruple growth in a tough marketplace in the following 4.5 years is a very impressive achievement which, based on what's available from the public record, no other communications company has achieved.
In any event, being 7,000 kms away and heading further away tomorrow is not conducive to understanding one of the more surprising moves in 2008 in this industry which is certainly going to change a lot this year.
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