Good article in the star business today
Pasal current credit crunch and banana republic. Haha
Never trust monkeys with bananas
Monkey in an Armani suit is still a monkey!
ONCE upon a time, there was a kingdom that was famous for its banana production. The bananas were so good and tasty that they were even used for money.
One day, a monkey came and made an offer to look after the bananas. The people said, “but we never let monkeys look after bananas!” But this monkey was different. He said, “I have got a physics degree Summa Cum Laude from Bantech, I got an MBA from Chicaton, I have worked for Simian and Simians, the best firm in the business and look, I wear an Armani suit.” People thought – “he is right, we should not be prejudiced.” So they allowed him to look after a small plantation.
This monkey was very able and clever and under his charge, the plantation prospered. He noticed that bananas ripened very fast and could rot easily, and there were good bananas and bad bananas. The best bananas were gold in colour and were very valuable. Some were hard and not easy to sell. This non-standardisation of bananas was a great loss to the plantation and there was no liquidity in the market.
So this clever monkey called Ah Yuen invented the first derivative, using one banana leaf (called one Ye) to represent a bunch of 10 bananas. And people thought, how clever. We don’t have to carry bananas – banana leaves are so light and so convenient. Anyway, whenever we need bananas, we just exchange Ye’s with Ah Yuen, who is always willing to buy and sell bananas in exchange. After this, Ah Yuen became the richest person in the country and established a banana bank called Yebank! Yebank’s slogan was “Ye’s we have bananas.”
Ah Yuen was so entrepreneurial that he expanded through mergers and acquisitions, first through an IPO and then issuing banana shares to acquire more plantations. Everyone was happy – because they were now trading Ye’s instead of bananas and they felt they were growing richer and richer.
One day, Ah Yuen had a brain wave. Instead of trading one leaf for 10 good bananas, why couldn’t he package the good and bad bananas into a super leaf called Banana Debt Obligation or BanDO. He persuaded a Banana Rating Agency to give AAA rating for these BanDOs and persuaded an insurance company called BIG (Banana Insurance Group) to insure these BDOs with a special leaf called BanDS or Banana Decay Swap. If the banana decays, you swap for another banana. For his success, he got a 20% bonus and also options to more future profits.
One day, the King sent his Grand Vizier to check on the market. Ah Yuen gave a dazzling powerpoint presentation on how the whole market was self-regulating. He showed how he had created a huge market on BanDOs with complete swap and futures markets based on what was formerly a primitive market of real bananas. The country was prospering and everyone seemed happy. The Grand Vizier did not want to show everyone that he did not understand what the BanDOs and BanDS were and as long as everyone looked happy, he did not ask any more questions. After all, they were all rated AAA. Moreover, his nephew worked with YeBank.
The market in BanDOs was so successful that some asset managers claimed that they would sell their mother-in-laws first before they sold BanDOs. One clever asset manager even created a PonBan scheme, whereby he guaranteed steady high returns because he could hedge everything in the BanDO market through options, hence the name Put On Bananas scheme. His sales principle was simple – if you have to ask questions on how the scheme works, you can’t afford it.
One day there was a banana blight and some people decided to cash in a few BanDOs. A few bold hedge fund managers even had the temerity to short the BanDO market, causing market nervousness. So, to stop the panic, the Banana Exchange Commission decided that short-selling should be temporarily banned in order to create orderly markets. People were advised not to listen to vicious market rumours. However, because the premium on BanDS had gone up, the Banana Rating Agency had no alternative except to downgrade BanDOs from AAA to BBB or junk status. Overnight the market collapsed and YeBank had a bank run causing it to be nationalised. The investigators found lots of leafs, but no bananas in the bank.
There was a royal commission to investigate the collapse. The first question to Ah Yuen was: what happened to the bananas? Well, he replied, “I ate a bit as I was entitled to my bonuses and options. I paid the lawyers, the distributors and the Banana Rating Agency quite a lot of bananas. I gave you all a banana split called BanDOs because you wanted more bananas. Everyone had a good time, so why blame me? Don’t forget that I am still entitled to my retention bonus under my employment contract.”
After days of hearings, the royal commission reached two basic conclusions: Never trust monkeys with bananas; and a monkey in an Armani suit is still a monkey!
Datuk Seri Panglima Andrew Sheng is adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Tsinghua University, Beijing. He has served as adviser and chief economist to Bank Negara, deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission