Award-winning Singaporean comedian Jinx Yeo has poked fun at Temasek Holdings, one of Singapore’s largest state investment firms, for its recent failed investments in a cryptocurrency exchange FTX and a fashion technology start-up Zilingo.
During a comedy show, Yeo highlighted the peculiarities of Singapore’s attitude towards gambling in his speech, and the supposed gambling tendencies of Temasek Holdings, which he made fun of as “integrated investors”.
Jinx Yeo noted that Singapore has a complicated relationship with gambling as the government promotes anti-gambling while allowing two integrated resorts to operate in the country.
“But Singapore is this weird relationship with gambling, right? The government is anti-gambling, but we have two casinos. But our casinos are not called casinos, they are called integrated resorts.”
Lucky numbers on helpline for problem Gambling
Yeo jokingly referenced Chinese superstitions regarding the lucky numbers 6 and 8, which mean “striking rich” in Chinese.
“Our lucky numbers are six and eight, because in Chinese, 168, sounds like ‘yi lu fa(一路发)’, which means striking rich.”
“So when Chinese gamblers see the numbers 6 and eight together, we have to bet.”
He went on to make fun of the problem gambling helpline, suggesting that the number is full of 6’s and 8’s and sounds like a bookie’s phone number.
“Our problem Gambling helpline is a trigger to gamble. Like who sponsors it? Like Singapore Pools.”
“A number full of 6’s and 8’s, that’s not a helpline, that’s look like bookie’s phone number. People will call in to place bet.”
A check on the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG)’s official website, the helpline is indeed full of “lucky numbers”, which might sound auspicious, especially to Chinese people.
Yeo asked the operator how to know if someone is a problem gambler
Mr Yeo claimed he called the helpline out of curiosity and shared his conversation with the operator.
“I said, hey, how do I know if I’m a problem gambler?”
He said the operator told him that if someone lost a lot of money but still can’t stop, still want to keep playing, then the person might be a problem gambler.
“So I’m like, OK, in that case I know someone who may be a problem gambler, they’re called Temasek Holdings.”
He poked fun at the company’s recent losses in Zilingo and FTX, suggesting that they may have a gambling problem.
“Because I read the news! This week they just lost like millions of dollars in on some fashion company called Zilingo. Why are Singapore’s investing in fashion?”
To “cover his legal backside”, Jinx Yeo had to reminded his audiences that he was merely making a joke.
“Obviously Temasek Holding is not a gambler. They’re just integrated investors,” the comedian’s remarks elicited laughter and applause from the audience.
Temasek invested in Zilingo, entered liquidation after three years
In 2019, Singapore-based fashion technology start-up Zilingo raised US$226M in its Series D financing from Temasek Holdings, Singapore investment fund EDBI and other investors.
Temasek, one of Zilingo’s 23 investors, held an 8.3 per cent stake in the company as of 21 June last year.
But after three years, news broke that Zilingo’s CEO Ankiti Bose was fired over irregularities found in her company’s accounting.
The company later entered liquidation and faced enforcement action from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) for not filing its annual returns for two years.
When asked in Parliament, Mr Chee Hong Tat Senior, Minister of State for Finance, said, “Both entities follow industry practice to assess financial and corporate governance risks, such as having a structured due diligence process and engaging the management of investee companies to monitor their business strategy and performance,”
Temasek Holdings and 17 other banks being sued for alleged involvement in FTX fraud
Temasek’s investment loss of $275 million in the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX was also a major blow.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong called it “disappointing” and damaging for Singapore.
Temasek reportedly took eight months, from February to October 2021, to do its thorough due diligence before investing in FTX.
When FTX went bankrupt last month, Temasek quickly issued a statement blaming FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, “It is apparent from this investment that perhaps our belief in the actions, judgment and leadership of Sam Bankman-Fried, formed from our interactions with him and views expressed in our discussions with others, would appear to have been misplaced.”
Two weeks ago, a Mississippi resident, Connor O’Keefe, has filed a lawsuit against Singapore’s state investment firm, Temasek Holdings, and 17 other banks, venture capitalists, and accounting firms, claiming that they conspired with cryptocurrency exchange FTX to defraud investors.
Temasek can afford to be contrarian
In response to the writing down of the investment into FTX, Mdm Ho, who is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore sovereign wealth fund for more than 18 years, wrote, “A loss is a loss, and always painful”.
She added, “A loss in what may turn out to be a badly managed company without adult supervision is egg on our face.”
“I am glad that Temasek has made a clear decision to write down this investment to zero.
This helps clear the head on what to do as a next step, without being blinkered by wishful thinking.”
Mdm Ho who is also the spouse of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged that it does not mitigate the loss or reduce the pain by saying BlackRock or Softbank or Sequoia also invested in FTX.
She noted that some of Temasek’s best investments were made by being contrarian, although she did not name examples of such investments.
Mdm Ho goes on to state, “And Temasek can afford to be contrarian bcos it has its own balance sheet and can think long term.”
“With a long term stance, and all the pros and cons that come with that stance, Temasek is not fazed by the twiddles and sentiments of the market.”
Losses over the years
Blogger Philip Ang has also been tracking the alleged losses by Temasek Holdings over the years.
In February, Ang wrote in a Facebook post, “In 2004, Temasek offered to take NOL private and ended up with 69% shareholding. Offer price: $2.80! 12 years later, NOL was acquired by CMA CGM at … $1.30.”
“Today, Olam’s share price is 30% lower than Temasek’s offer price 9 years ago! Temasek currently owns 51.1% of Olam.”