October 21st, 2009
04:57 AM GMT
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October 21st, 2009
04:55 AM GMT
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October 21st, 2009
04:53 AM GMT
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October 19th, 2009
08:48 AM GMT
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SEOUL, South Korea - There are a few reasons why Kim Han-Chal calls his supercar the “Tiger.”

The first is apparent when you get behind the wheel of the Spirra. Zero to 100 kilometers per hour (0-62 mph) in 3.8 seconds with 500 horsepower, your throat hits the back of your neck as the gas pedal hits the floor. The Spirra is the definition of supercar: fast, sporty, sleep, and a six-figure U.S.-dollar price tag.

But the more important reason Kim, the creator of the car, calls it the “Tiger,” is that the animal is a powerful symbol of Korea. That’s apropos for Korea’s first venture into the supercar market, made with all Korean parts, built with Korean hands. “We were the only country that didn't have a supercar,” Kim says. Neighbor Japan has a Toyota and Honda supercar, and Germany and Italy has Porsche and Lamborghini.

The car enthusiast, who pledges if you check carefully he has gas running in his veins, dreamed of building a car on his home soil. He believed in his countrymen’s ability to produce a high-end car, not just the reliable, eco-friendly Hyundai or Kia.

For 10 years, he tinkered with designs and poured his money into concept car after concept car. But it wasn't until he partnered with Oullim motors, backed by the wealth of a high tech company, that he began production. Now Europe is his first major customer. A dealer in the Netherlands purchased 145 orders of his handmade cars over the next three years, marking the first commercial entrée of his supercar into the global market.

CLSA auto analyst Christopher J. Richter says supercars are often losing business ventures and are built to send a message. “These guys, I think the message they want say is 'Hey, we can make a super car too, high performance car too, and we can do it with all Korean components. It stirs the pot a little bit and shows that auto-making is not just about Germany or Japan, but Korean auto-makers have a valuable contribution to make.”

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Filed under: Auto industryBusinessSouth Korea

October 19th, 2009
05:11 AM GMT
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Sometimes I think if you want to be a serious investor, you shouldn't become a business journalist. Sure, you learn a lot about various industries and get insightful advice from experts at the top of their game. On the other hand, you know all too well how everything can go terribly awry.

Jim Rogers, the famed commodities investor and author of new book "A Gift to My Children: A Father's Lessons for Life and Investing," admitted to me that he is a horrible short-term investor.  However, he says you don't need to be a good trader to make money.

Here are his tips for anyone looking to invest in the current economic crisis:

1) Buy what you know. "You should only buy things that you yourself know a lot about - whether it's cars, sports, hairdressing, fashion, or whatever it is," he told me.  "Do some research, do some homework, and if you see something really dramatic changing that is cheap, buy it.  You are going to know about it long before I am, long before a broker on Wall Street is, and that is how you are going to make a lot of money. "

2) Don't be cocky. "Being overactive is usually a mistake," Rogers mused.  "It always leads to problems.  People don't like it.  They want to jump around all the time.  That's not the way to succeed as an investor."

3) Buy low, sell high. "It's as simple as that," he said.  "Nobody likes to hear it.  Now that is so simple and so easy, but you cannot believe how difficult it is to buy low and sell high.  That is the hard part."

So what is Rogers doing with his money?

He wouldn't buy stocks today - not even in emerging markets.  He is selling the U.S. dollar because "it's a flawed currency."  Today, he would put new investments into commodities or what he thinks are "sound" currencies such as the Canadian dollar and the Japanese yen.  And one of his favorites - farmland.  With food prices rising, he believes farmland "may be one of the best investments a person can make in 2010."  But get to know the farmer and the industry first, he reminded me.

In other words, be sure to do your homework.

October 15th, 2009
03:57 PM GMT
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October 15th, 2009
11:20 AM GMT
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LONDON, England (CNN) - Just over a year ago, the heart of the financial system nearly stopped beating. The collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a massive collapse in confidence, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and an unprecendented response by governments and central banks.

Now given J.P. Morgan's best earnings in two years and the announcement of massive profits at Goldman Sachs, one has to ask: Crisis, what crisis?

Especially if you look at compensation levels. According to the Wall Street Journal, staff at major U.S. banks and securities firms will make as much as $140 billion this year - a record high - more than the previous peak of 2007.

Now there's nothing new about big amounts of money being earned on Wall Street. But given that we the taxpayer funded the bailout of Wall Street, and will be paying for it for generations, it does beg the question about sharing the pain with Main Street.

To be fair to J.P. Morgan Chase, it didn't get caught up in some of the reckless behavior that other big players on Wall Street did.

Goldman Sachs is another extremely well run bank, but has become the poster child for Wall Street's perceived greed, what one writer described as "a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."

Its expected bonus pool this year, some $23 billion, hardly seems like a chastened Wall Street. It's a fair target because it was bailed out by government, and that makes it fair game for criticism.

Business may be rebounding smartly for Wall Street but until Main Street's pain is over, Wall Street may want to think twice about paying hefty compensation.

What do you think?

October 13th, 2009
11:33 PM GMT
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Five years ago, Garuda Indonesia was an airline that seemed to be on a path of constant turbulence. It was losing money year after year, battling allegations of corruption within the state-owned enterprise and stained with a questionable safety record. Today, Garuda is a symbol of what's possible in the difficult airline industry. You need a leader with focus.

Emirsyah Satar, 50, is the CEO of Garuda. Now in his fifth year as the head of the national airline, he has turned Garuda from problematic to profitable through staged planning. “In the first two years, just surviving was good enough. And then the next two years was the turnaround stage,” he said. Now the airline is embarking on the growth stage.

The son of an Indonesian diplomat who grew up in Mexico City and Prague, Satar went on to become a banker and then the CEO of Bank Danamon, Indonesia's fifth largest bank. In 2005, he was brought to Garuda as President and CEO and he made drastic changes from the start.

"What happened in 2005, the business model was just not working,” Satar said. It increased accountability at all levels in the organization. And in the short term, Satar decided less was more: “We got out of routes where we were losing money … it was ok if we reduced our market so we could become profitable again."

He positioned Garuda as a “premium airline” and told his staff not to worry about local competition. With a domestic population of 240 million people, he bet focus on the cream of the crop would keep Garuda afloat while it restructured. His bet paid off, in part because Indonesia sidestepped the brunt of the global downturn thanks to the strength of its domestic market: Indonesia's economy is still growing at around 4 percent.

While Garuda is still juggling $700 million in debt, the state-owned enterprise has been able to turn a profit the past two years. Satar has plans to make what he calls a "quantum leap."  By 2014, he wants to bring the fleet from the current 66 to 116 aircraft.

The big challenge now is getting a stalled IPO back on track. Satar had wanted to bring Garuda public this year, but the global downturn put a halt to that. Now he's shooting for an IPO for June 2010. The airline is also in the process of restructuring its debt, which Satar hopes to have completed by the end of this month.

Then there was the issue of safety. In the past decade, a string of crashes involving various Indonesian airlines eroded the public trust in Indonesian air safety. In March 2007, a Garuda plane overshot a runway in Yogyakarta and crashed, killing 21 people. In June 2007, the European Union banned all Indonesian airlines in European airspace. Satar hired an American consultant and and cracked down on safety issues. In July of this year, the EU lifted the ban on certain airlines included Garuda.

The airline now plans to get into the long-haul market, starting with an Indonesia-Amsterdam route by June 2010. That will be followed by routes to Frankfurt, London, Paris, Rome and eventually in 2012, Los Angeles.

"We (Garuda) travel to Australia, Japan, Korea, China and these people still travel. And Bali is still a good attraction," Satar said.

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Filed under: Air industryAsia

October 12th, 2009
04:13 AM GMT
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The first thing that took me by surprise about my interview with Madhu Kannan, the CEO of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) was the timing of our chat. “Can you be here by 8.25 am?” he asked. Sure, I replied and cameraman, Sanjiv, and I reached his plush office right on time.


It had taken around 3 months and an endless number of emails and phone calls to the BSE’s press office to confirm a date and time for our interview. It was frustrating to keep chasing them – I put it down to Indian bureaucracy and poor time management, unfortunately still typical of many large Indian companies.

“That’s one thing I am trying to change,” said Kannan when we interviewed him. “I want to start meetings on time and change the culture so no one’s late for meetings.”

It’s just one of the many, many challenges Kannan has ahead of him.

His big task: To revamp the BSE and make it relevant again.

At 37, he’s the youngest CEO of Asia’s oldest stock exchange. It’s an exchange that needs help.

While it had a virtual monopoly over stock trading in India, the entry of a rival exchange – the National Stock Exchange in the early 1990’s – changed that. The BSE now handles only a fraction of all trading done in India. To compete more efficiently, it needs to invest in better technology, says Kannan, who also has plans to make the BSE a one-stop shop for investors looking to trade across multiple platforms.

Sure, Kannan may get the BSE back on its feet. However, the real challenge for any stock exchange in India – be it the BSE or the NSE  – is to get more people to invest in stocks. Only a tiny fraction –two percent of India’s billion strong population – dabbles in the share market. Those in rural areas still prefer to invest in tangible assets like gold.

Even if Kannan is able to win back customers who’ve switched to the NSE, convincing newcomers to try their hand at trading shares, say observers, could be key to the BSE’s success. Given the robust year the Indian stock market has had, it could well attract a bunch of new investors.

Kannan has already started the process of repositioning the BSE. He’s in the process of buying a technology firm, has cut transaction fees, and – oh yes – he starts all his meetings on time.

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Filed under: AsiaBiz ClinicIndiaInvestment

October 7th, 2009
11:26 AM GMT
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