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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

EPF’s 4.5% Dividend – Was Your Cheese Eaten by ValueCap?

(The following e-mail was sent to LINUNDUS KINABALU  today by DJJG, for information of the public, especially the EPF Contributors.)

"Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nobody likes to hear that their hard-earned money “invested” in EPF is earning pathetic dividend. I mentioned the word invested because your money was “forced” out from your pocket before you can even smell the aroma of the money and both of you (money and you) were cruelly separated on the same day you received your pay-slip.

It’s another way to say that your money is working for you (does that make you feel better?) so that when you retire you won’t die a hungry ghost *really?*.

And EPF is your custodian because it was deemed that all of you do not have the discipline in saving, let alone the knowledge to grow your money. So it was fair that the caring EPF took the huge burden of this responsibility. And we should be grateful to EPF because they know best on how to invest your money *grin*.

And so the EPF was performing exceptionally well from 1950s to 1980s - the highest dividend ever declared was 8.50% in the golden period of 1983 till 1987. Thereafter the dividend yield has been plunging from the roof.

In fact the great era of dividend was fast losing its shine after the 1993 Super Bull-Run. We  may never experience the 1993 Super Bull-Run again in many decades to come. Heck, the country has never recovered to the pre-1997 Asia Economic Crisis even until today and we’re already entering the recession again of which our politicians were saying otherwise.

Did you notice how the Second Finance Minister Nor Yakcop panicked when asked by reporter about the rumour that EPF was about to declare dividend of only 4.5%? He was almost speechless and was mumbling directionless.

The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Board declared a 4.5% dividend for 2008 yesterday for its members, lower than 5.8% declared in 2007. That’s 1.3% lower (than 2007) or 22.41% decrease year-on-year.

As usual the blame was on the global economic crisis. However the fact remains that EPF recorded the highest ever earnings of RM20 billion in “gross income” for 2008, an increase of 9.36% over the previous year's gross income of RM18.29 billion. But the “net income” (surprisingly) for 2008 was RM14.26 billion, a decrease of 15.47% over 2007 net income of RM16.87 billion.

It’s here where EPF needs to explain  – why the 15.47% decrease in net profit despite the 9.36% increase in gross profit? The EPF earned RM6.67 billion from equities in 2008 compared to RM5.37 billion in 2007 so the blame cannot be on stocks investment.  So which part of the overall investment portfolios went wrong?

Gross income: 2007 = RM18.29 billion ; 2008 = RM20 billion (9.36% increase)Net income: 2007 = RM16.87 billion ; 2008 should be = RM18.45 billion (9.36%)? But now 2008’s net income = RM14.26 billion, short of RM4.2 billion?

The above is of course the dummy way of deriving where the money has gone. Assuming the cost of doing business is the same the above average-Joes calculation reveals more than RM4 billion has disappeared into the thin air.

If not what expenses or losses equal to this amount has EPF incurred? This is not RM4 million or RM40 million but a whopping RM4.2 billion we’re talking about here.

EPF acknowledged that it was doing fine up until September last year but not thereafter. Could that same amount of money loaned to Valuecap Sdn Bhd (RM5 billion), coincidently occurred at the same period of time, was written off from the accounting book hence the EPF members are getting only 4.5% dividend?

In short, can we assume that the 12 million members’ “dividend money” was used for Valuecap’s so-called equity investment programme? Can the members’ hard-earned money loaned to Valuecap be returned to the rightful owners thereafter then, together with interest of course?

*boy, I am stupid for asking such question*? You can’t simply take away contributors’ money, presume everything is in order, everyone will forget about it after some grumbling and blame it on global financial meltdown, can you?

For God’s sake, we need to have some transparencies here because the money is our only retirement fund. No matter where the money has been siphoned to (if any), EPF contributors are still the victims (or rather suckers) ultimately.

Let’s hope the EPF’s total investment funds of over RM342 billion (as at Dec 31, 2008) still exists and this is not another big-time Ponzi-scheme *grin*.

I am made to understand that ValueCap Sdn Bhd was established in 2003. It is a fund management firm created to invest specifically in the Malaysian equity market. It is jointly owned by the government's investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Permodalan Nasional Bhd and Retirement Fund (Incorporated).

RM5 billion was injected into the company to maximise the investment portfolio in purchasing stocks of lower value as part of the local effort to strengthen the stock market.

The argument in the article above seems to make sense on the where-about of the RM4.2 billion shortfall. The people, in this case the EPF contributors have always been short changed. Of course, as usual the government has denied this allegation and stated it as baseless. 

We need the ingenuity, the grit and determination of Barack Obama to solve this predicament of the EPF Contributers - just as the way he resolved the AIG case when he managed to get the top management personnels to refund their bonuses they paid to themselves after getting the bailout money from the Government.  - LINUNDUS

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