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SGX Market Dialogues

Author: SGX   |   Latest post: Tue, 29 Nov 2022, 6:15 PM

 

10 in 10 With ESR-LOGOS REIT - Futureproofing With New Economy Industrial Assets

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Tue, 29 Nov 2022, 6:15 PM


10 Questions for ESR-LOGOS REIT

Company Overview

Listed since 2006, ESR-LOGOS REIT (E-LOG) is a leading New Economy and future-ready Asia Pacific S-REIT which invests in income-producing industrial properties in key gateway markets. As at 30 September 2022, E-LOG has a diversified portfolio of logistics properties, high-specifications industrial properties, business parks and general industrial properties with total assets of c.S$5.5 billion comprising 82 properties located across Singapore, Australia and Japan, with a total gross floor area of c.2.0 million sqm, as well as investments in three property funds in Australia.

1. Describe E-LOG’s recent financial performance. How does E-LOG plan to maintain top-line and bottom-line resilience amidst macro challenges?

  • In our 3Q2022 business update, we announced higher gross revenue of S$243.9 million for 9M2022, an increase of 34.8% year-on-year (YoY). Net property income was S$172.7 million in 9M2022, an increase of 32.0% YoY. E-LOG’s strong performance was mainly attributed to contributions from ALOG Trust following the completion of the Merger in April 2022. While we rode on the accelerated growth of e-commerce in 2020-2021, we believe that demand in the short term may likely be affected by the looming recession.
  • COVID-19 had greatly accelerated the e-commerce growth story and while there may be some tapering of demand as world economies start to recover, e-commerce has now achieved new heights to continue its growth. Since the COVID-19 period, we have consistently collected over 95% of our rental collections. To further drive growth over the next few years, we continue to position E-LOG as a New Economy Future Ready REIT with proactive asset management, proficient investment management and prudent capital management

2. What is E-LOG’s strategy to mitigate the impact of high inflation and rising interest rates?  

  • We believe the supply crunch is a key reason for the continued rise in inflation and costs. As the world – and China eventually – opens its borders fully, supply side issues will be expected to improve and reduce inflationary pressures. In addition, interest rates have been rising to help curb inflation.  
  • To address rising operating costs, we have raised our service charges and have a pass-through arrangement with our tenants for their utility costs. We have also spread out the renewal of our contracts to ensure that any increases in operating expenses (e.g. cleaning, security contracts and insurance premiums) are smoothened out over time.

3. What is E-LOG’s acquisition strategy? How does the REIT ensure that it has a pipeline of potential acquisition assets?  

  • A bugbear for the Singapore industrial sector is the short land leases (maximum of 30 years) which results in a rapid land lease decay which affects the net asset value of the REIT. The short runway also does not allow us to meaningfully redevelop and/or enhance the asset to meet with required returns. As such, we took strategic steps to diversify our portfolio geographically and we now have a presence in Singapore, Australia and Japan.  
  • About 24% of our assets are in Australia and we recently completed the acquisition of our first asset in Japan – ESR Sakura Distribution Centre, a high-quality New Economy logistics building. All our Australia and Japan properties are either freehold and/or on land leases longer than 30 years, lengthening the lease expiry profile of our portfolio.
  • We have a set of stringent criteria when evaluating overseas acquisitions. First, there must be rule of law in the country to protect the interests of our Unitholders. In addition, funds must be able to flow freely in and out of the country to facilitate the payment of dividends and there should be ample access to local currency funding to manage capital and currency risks. Finally, the market should be scalable, allowing us to acquire and grow in a meaningful way. In addition, we also ensure that the markets will be where our Sponsor, ESR Group, has a presence in.

4. How does E-LOG strengthen portfolio quality, while appealing to and attracting new high-quality tenants in the future?  

  • As experienced asset managers, we understand that tenants drive rental, and rental drives value. To this end, we continue to enhance the quality of our assets to ensure that they remain relevant to tenants with fast growing businesses or operating in up-and-coming industries.
  • Through a periodic but rigorous process, our investment managers will evaluate individual properties to ensure that the properties remain value accretive to the overall quality of our portfolio. Through this process, we recalibrate our portfolio and shape it towards a modern and quality portfolio. Non-core assets are divested, and capital is recycled into higher yielding and/or value adding New Economy assets with robust and in-demand real estate attributes. This drive to quality has allowed us to attract new high-quality tenants operating in our core markets

5. How does E-LOG leverage on the Sponsor to enhance shareholder value?  

  • Our Sponsor, ESR Group, is APAC’s largest real asset manager and the third largest listed real estate investment manager globally and manages over US$149 billion in assets across 28 countries as at 30 June 2022.
  • ESR Group is committed to supporting our transformation into the leading New Economy S-REIT by extending its scale, extensive offerings, capability, and resources to E-LOG. This has been demonstrated at key points since the time ESR Group acquired a controlling stake in the Manager in early 2017. Our Sponsor has supported all our capital fund raising transactions, giving assurance to our Unitholders through market cycles. Furthermore, we can tap into our Sponsors’ portfolio of c.38 million sqm of quality assets, which includes US$59 billion of New Economy Assets.

6. What are your views on the outlook for industrial property across E-LOG’s key markets?  

  • The outlook for the Singapore and Australia logistics sectors remains robust as more occupiers and industrialists are building up inventories of just-in-case storage to manage unforeseeable supply chain disruptions. This continues to underpin the higher demand for industrial and logistics space.
  • In Singapore, our 62 properties are located close to major transportation hubs within key industrial zones and are well tenanted. Occupancy stood at 90.4% as at 30 September 2022 (industry average at 90.0%) and positive rental reversion of 11.4% for our Singapore portfolio in 9M2022. We see sustained growth arising from the semiconductor, precision engineering, aerospace, transportation, logistics, pharmaceutical and biomedical sectors in the mid to long term. The government’s drive in transforming Singapore into a digital economy has also contributed to demand for high-specs space. The logistics sector is expected to continue to be strong, however, fears of a looming recession are likely to put pressure on business sentiments and the overall growth momentum.
  • In Australia, our 20 logistics assets are located in key cities along the eastern coast of Australia – Brisbane (10 properties), Sydney (1 property) and Melbourne (9 properties). Our assets continue to see strong demand from the market. Occupancy was reported at 99.5% as at 30 September 2022, above the industry average of 99.0%.

7. How is E-LOG positioned to capture key emerging trends in the “New Economy”?

  • We continuously recalibrate our portfolio towards indemand, scalable and quality New Economy Assets. Our three-pillar approach covers (a) asset enhancements and redevelopment; (b) acquisitions; and (c) divestments. We have made excellent progress to-date with New Economy assets accounting for 62% of our total portfolio. This has allowed us to tap into the growth of “in-demand” sectors such as Logistics, High-Specs and Cold Storage.
  • As of 30 June 2022, we have a well-diversified tenant base of 453 tenants, anchored by New Economy industrialists. This, along with our multi-tenanted leases, provides the potential for organic rental growth given the positive demand and supply dynamics in our core markets.

8. Sustainability is a growing priority for investors, how is E-LOG committed towards sustainability practices and creating value?  

  • We have set committed achievable targets and have aligned the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals in which we contribute to, with the goals of our Sponsor.
  • Environmental – We have goals to reduce total energy and water consumption across our multi-tenanted buildings. We have 10 buildings with solar panels installed and are in the process of implementing more solar power generation systems at more properties. With the current solar panels, we can generate an estimated 15MW of power, which represents c.15% of the Group’s total consumption capacity. While not all our properties are able to achieve Green Mark certification due to the age and specifications of the property, our objective is to achieve Green Mark certifications for buildings that undergo Asset Enhancement Initiatives (AEIs) and/or redevelopment.
  • Social – We are a signatory to Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). We maintain high levels of employee satisfaction and our staff have at least 16 training hours per employee per year to upskill and advance their knowledge.
  • Governance – We value board and management diversity and are committed to zero lapses in corporate governance. We continue to ensure that procedures and business continuity plans are in place for preparedness and resilience.

9. What is E-LOG’s value proposition to its unitholders and potential investors? What do you think investors may have overlooked about it?  

  • We have a proven track record of value creation across the various real estate practices, and our primary objective is to improve the overall quality of E-LOG’s portfolio and ensure that our properties remain relevant to our tenants and unitholders over the long-term. To this end, we will continue to focus on delivering on three initiatives.
  • First, we rejuvenate mature assets through AEIs to attract tenants. For example, we will look to enhance and reposition a general industrial property to a high-specs property or redevelop a conventional warehouse to a coldstore facility thereby attracting higher rent paying New Economy tenants which in turn provides rental and valuation uplift. We may also develop unutilised plot ratio which will allow us to future ready our properties and engage tenants in trending industries with long tailwinds.
  • Second, we seek to divest non-core assets which are typically small and/or have short land leases and the proceeds from the divestments can be used to pare down debt and/or be redeployed to the acquisitions of higher quality assets. A lower gearing positions us to capture new investment opportunities faster.
  • Third, we identify assets for acquisitions which will augment our portfolio. Our preference is to acquire assets in New Economy sectors, and/or overseas assets with freehold or assets with long lease terms to provide an uplift to E-LOG’s distribution per unit and net asset value. We can leverage on our Sponsor’s portfolio of New Economy assets, of which we have identified an initial US$2 billion of visible and executable asset pipeline in Asia Pacific. This is a key differentiator for E-LOG in an increasingly scarce environment for logistics assets. We are not short of quality assets to acquire from our Sponsor’s pipeline.

10. By investing in E-LOG, what are the key trends in the “New Economy” investors can ride on?  

  • We believe that logistics remain the backbone of consumption, be it in traditional forms of physical stores or in ecommerce. E-LOG continues to actively manage our portfolio and pivot towards New Economy assets. Currently, 62.5% of the portfolio are New Economy assets with majority multi-tenanted building leases primed for positive rent reversions.
  • With COVID-19, US-China trade tensions and the continued zero-Covid policy of China have changed the way goods are produced, delivered and consumed. The cost of supply-chain disruption can be more costly than labour costs. Last mile logistics will become more important, and we are starting to see emerging demand from niche logistics subsectors such as cold chain logistics. Developing, managing, and operating cold stores require certain level of skill sets and hence there is a short supply of such facilities. We believe that E-LOG is in a good position to undertake redevelopments of our older conventional warehouse assets into cold-chain facilities.

10 in 10 – 10 Questions in 10 Minutes with SGX-listed companies  

Designed to be a short read, 10 in 10 provides insights into SGX-listed companies through a series of 10 Q&As with management. Through these Q&As, management will discuss current business objectives, key revenue drivers as well as the industry landscape. Expect to find wide-ranging topics that go beyond usual company financials.

This report contains factual commentary from the company’s management and is based on publicly announced information from the company.

For More, Visit Sgx.com/research.  

For more company information, visit www.frasersproperty.com/reits/fct

Click here for Frasers Centrepoint Trust’s 2H FY2022 results presentation.

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10 in 10 With Frasers Centrepoint Trust - Capturing the Suburban Wave

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Tue, 22 Nov 2022, 10:31 AM


10 Questions for Frasers Centrepoint Trust

Company Overview

Listed in 2006, Frasers Centrepoint Trust (FCT) is one of the largest suburban retail mall owners in Singapore with assets under management (AUM) of approximately S$6.2 billion. FCT’s current portfolio comprises 9 retail malls and one office building located in the suburban regions of Singapore. FCT is managed by Frasers Centrepoint Asset Management, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Frasers Property which is the sponsor for FCT.

1. Describe FCT’s Recent Financial Performance.

  • FCT ended FY22 on a high note as net property income (NPI) rose 4.9% year-on-year (YoY) to S$258.6 million and gross revenue grew 4.6% YoY to S$356.9 million. This uplifted full year distribution per unit (DPU) by 1.2% to 12.227 cents. FCT’s financial position remains healthy with gearing at 33.0% and interest coverage ratio at over 5 times. Net asset value also improved 1.3% to $2.33 per unit.
  • Broad based improvements in operating performance were achieved with higher shopper traffic and tenants’ sales, portfolio occupancy levels and lower retail portfolio occupancy cost. The retail portfolio also achieved better average rental reversion of 1.5% (on incoming versus outgoing basis) compared with the previous year’s -0.6%. Leasing demand for mall space has also improved with over 70 new-to-FCT brands onboarded in FY22, including Don Don Donki, new-to-Singapore Café BomBom from South Korea and Tiong Bahru Bakery. These new tenants are testament to the strong appeal and relevance our suburban malls continue to have for both retailers and shoppers.

2. Given the escalating manpower crunch and inflationary pressures, what is FCT doing to mitigate the impact on its business?

  • Measures to cushion the impact of rising interest costs and utilities expenses include rent growth and room for higher ancillary income, asset enhancement initiatives (AEI) for value creation and higher contributions from the acquisition of the additional 10% stake in Waterway Point to be completed in FY2023. We are also monitoring other costs such as energy prices and contracted service fees and will adopt appropriate hedging strategies to manage the risks.
  • We believe that our suburban retail properties have strong competitive advantages given its proximity to residential homes and transportation nodes and are well-positioned to benefit from trends such as hybrid work arrangements and the shift to omnichannel retailing.

3. FCT achieved 7.9% and 6.0% growth in gross revenue and NPI from 2HFY21 to 2HFY22. How does FCT plan to achieve higher levels of top-line and bottom-line growth?

  • According to CBRE, demand for suburban prime retail space has been firming up and we believe this will support positive rental reversions on lease renewals. The shift to working from home will also help to support demand for mall amenities during the weekdays.
  • We are also focused on optimizing FCT’s operations to drive efficiency and better NPI margin. Strategies include leveraging on technology to reduce reliance on manpower, sustainability-driven initiatives to reduce water and energy usage and optimizing resource usage in collaboration with business partners and vendors.
  • Through leveraging Frasers’ digital retail platforms, tenants could increase the sales productivity of their physical space with additional sales from online orders. This has helped to improve tenants’ sales and demand for retail space to support occupancy and rent growth.

4. What is FCT’s acquisition strategy? How does the REIT ensure that it has a pipeline of potential acquisition assets?

  • We will explore and evaluate acquisitions of income-producing retail assets as and when these opportunities become available to us. Such opportunities could come from our sponsor, Frasers Property Limited or from third parties.

5. What is FCT doing to help tenants enhance sales?

  • To help our retail tenants, we often run regular advertising and marketing programmes in our malls and on our digital retail platforms to draw shopper’s attention and interests.
  • Our tenant mix focuses on the provision of essential trades and services, including grocery, pharmacies, food and beverage, clinics, beauty and wellness, that serve the needs of the consumers in the catchment. We curate the tenant mix of each mall according to the profile of the shopper catchment (e.g. shopper demography, preference and needs) to adapt to the needs of our consumers.
  • We also strive to introduce new retail concepts and brands to constantly refresh the appeal of the malls and to stay relevant to shoppers.

6. COVID-19 has engendered a structural shift in consumer behaviour. How do you think this will affect the performance of FCT’s portfolio going forward?

  • COVID-19 has transformed many aspects of the way we live, work and play, which include the rise of omnichannel retailing and shift to hybrid work arrangements. We believe our malls to be well-positioned to benefit from these trends with competitive advantages of being near homes and transportation nodes, focus on diversified essential trade and services, high quality amenities and a well-established shopper loyalty programme.
  • The proximity of FCT’s malls to homes offers shoppers convenience for their orders through Frasers Property’s digital platforms to be fulfilled, while the rise in hybrid work arrangement will increase shopper traffic during weekdays.
  • Furthermore, there is a growing demand for prime spaces in large and well-located suburban malls as retailers and food and beverage operators assess their store location strategy to manage rising costs, manpower constraints and changes in shopper behaviour.

7. Sustainability is a growing priority for investors, how is FCT committed towards sustainability practices?

  • Sustainability is a core component of FCT’s business strategy. We work closely with our Sponsor, Frasers Property Limited, towards the Group’s goal to net-zero carbon by 2050. Notable progress has been made in FY22 with the introduction of Technology Risk Management and Environment Risk Management in FCT’s governance framework. FCT’s climaterated disclosures are also aligned with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures (TCFD).
  • For the second consecutive year, we achieved a 5-Star rating in the 2022 GRESB Real Estate assessment. FCT has also received an “A” rating from the MSCI ESG Ratings in May 2022, improving from our previous “BBB” rating, for advancing in FCT’s management of financially relevant ESG risks and opportunities.

8. Does FCT intend to diversity its portfolio into new countries or sub-segments?

  • We remain focused on our current strengths and core competence in the Singapore suburban retail sector. We review FCT’s business strategy regularly and believe that any proposition for diversification to new countries and/or sub-segments must be carefully evaluated to ensure the propositions are in line with our investment strategy, and to deliver long-term benefits in value creation and sustainable distribution returns for the Trust and our unitholders.  

9. Are there any opportunities for third party acquisition in Singapore in the near term?

  • We believe that good quality and well-located retail assets are tightly held in Singapore, especially sizeable ones. Our team is always looking out for good quality, well-located and sizable retail assets and will provide updates via SGX announcement if/when there is anything more definitive.

10. What is FCT’s value proposition to its unitholders and potential investors? What do you think investors may have overlooked about it?

  • We believe that FCT provides investors a compelling investment proposition of a stable, well-managed pure Singapore property REIT that has an established track record of steady performance. We have demonstrated strong growth, from our initial three-property portfolio with less than S$1 billion in AUM in 2006, to the current 10-property portfolio of over S$6 billion in AUM, through prudent and responsible management.
  • As the second largest suburban retail mall owner in Singapore and part of the larger Frasers Property Group, FCT has the scale and platform to thrive in the endemic phase of COVID-19 and beyond. We believe that we are wellpositioned to benefit from lifestyle trends post-COVID. The proximity of FCT’s malls to homes offers shoppers flexibility and convenience for their orders through Frasers Property’s digital platforms to be fulfilled. The rise in hybrid work arrangement means more people will work from homes and shop in nearby malls.
  • FCT’s focus on diversified essential trade and services also continues to serve the needs of our shoppers and this underpins the resilience and relevance of our retail properties moving forward.

 

10 in 10 – 10 Questions in 10 Minutes with SGX-listed companies  

Designed to be a short read, 10 in 10 provides insights into SGX-listed companies through a series of 10 Q&As with management. Through these Q&As, management will discuss current business objectives, key revenue drivers as well as the industry landscape. Expect to find wide-ranging topics that go beyond usual company financials.  

This report contains factual commentary from the company’s management and is based on publicly announced information from the company.  

For More, Visit Sgx.com/research.  

For more company information, visit www.frasersproperty.com/reits/fct

Click here for Frasers Centrepoint Trust’s 2H FY2022 results presentation.


 

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Lincotrade: Building on Diversified, Multi-Pronged Growth

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Fri, 11 Nov 2022, 11:20 AM


Lincotrade: Building On Diversified, Multi-Pronged Growth

Interior fitting-out specialist Jimmy Tan is well-versed in grit and diligence - core values he has honed through the process of co-founding his company, growing its reach, and eventually listing it on SGX Catalist in August this year.

“My co-founder Jackie Soh and I came from humble beginnings, and had really nothing at all, except a basic General Certificate of Education certificate,” recalled the Managing Director of interior fitting-out works company Lincotrade & Associates Holdings Ltd. 

Despite limited resources, Soh and Tan were able to build their business up from scratch over the past three decades - through sheer hard work, as well as a combination of blood, sweat, and quite a few tears. 

“In order not to disrupt our customers’ business and manufacturing activities during the day, we could only carry out our operations in the evenings. For several years, our families had to adjust to our night schedules as the company was our top priority, and we were determined to build a good reputation in the market,” Tan noted.

That meant excruciatingly long hours and precious little sleep. “For the first few years after we founded the company, we only slept three to four hours a day, because other than actual work assignments, we also needed to carry out marketing and business development operations,” he recounted.

“Sometimes, we were so tired that we would fall asleep behind the wheel! Fortunately, we didn’t get into any accidents back then!”

Not surprisingly, tenacity and commitment are qualities ingrained in Tan’s character. Other core values such as trust and integrity have also become second nature to him.

“Trust and integrity binds the relationships between our employees, customers and stakeholders such as our suppliers and bankers,” he pointed out. “As Warren Buffett once said, ‘Trust is like the air we breathe - when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everyone notices’.”

“We earn our customers’ trust to deliver our work on time and on budget. We also need to earn the trust of our workforce that we will treat them right so they put their heart and soul into doing the best work for the company and for the customer. For our other stakeholders, it means building a mutually beneficial relationship for the long term,” he said.

Integrity is another key value. “It’s inevitable that mistakes will occur in our business activities, but we make sure we take responsibility and remain accountable.”

And when mistakes are committed, it’s important to reflect, persevere and improve. “I recognise the opportunities of becoming better through hardships and challenges,” he added.

Distinct Competitive Advantage

Established in 1991 and based in Singapore, Lincotrade is engaged in the provision of interior fitting-out services, addition and alteration (A&A) works, and other building construction services for residential and commercial premises, as well as showflats and sales galleries. Since 2006, Lincotrade has had its own in-house facility to process, assemble and manufacture carpentry products to support and complement its interior fitting-out services.

The Group was listed on SGX Catalist in August after the completion of the reverse takeover by Fabchem China Ltd. 

Looking ahead, to gain scale and expand its operations futher, Lincotrade plans to focus on larger scale projects, such as hotels and commercial buildings. “We’re also exploring M&A opportunities to boost diversification and revenue streams,” Tan noted. “Such options include acquisitions, investments, strategic alliances and/or joint ventures in complementary businesses in Singapore and overseas markets.”

Lincotrade has an order book amounting to S$76.7 million as at 17 June 2022, which will be fulfilled over the next two years. Additionally, as one of the 39 contractors - out of a total of 1,868 - that are registered with an L6 grading under the CR06 Workhead as at 17 June 2022, the Group believes it has a distinct advantage over its competitors.

“Unlike others who are focused in one particular segment, we have a synergistic business model in the interior fitting-out industry to target both short-term projects, such as showflats, and long-term ones like residential or commercial projects,” Tan said.

“Not many are aware we’re in the business of building showflats and galleries for the high-end property market, and this is where we’ve developed a strong reputation. To attract high-end clientele, these showflats and galleries can cost S$10 million or more per project.”

Renewable and Sustainable Focus

Apart from the day-to-day operations, Tan is also focused on the Group’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities. 

“In recent years, we’ve used environmentally friendly materials, such as laminate and veneer made from reconstructed or recycled materials, in our projects, including our doors, to reduce the lumbering of forests.”

In February 2016, the Group was awarded the Singapore Green Label by the Singapore Environmental Council for its wooden panel doors made from renewable and sustainable materials. Since then, its Singapore Green Label award has been consistently renewed, and is currently valid from 18 February 2022 to 17 February 2024. 

Up till today, Tan remains inspired by technically challenging projects that come his way. “My business is my passion. I started this trade after my National Service and without any formal higher educational training, so I am thrilled that clients continuously acknowledge our good work,” he said.

He is also gratified to see how his employees have grown together with the company, and done well for themselves and their families. “In particular, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of our operations director Tan Chee Khoon, as he has been pivotal to the growth and expansion of our business model, as well as order book, for the past 20-odd years.”

When this 58-year-old father is out of the office, he enjoys playing sports, in particular badminton, as it is about knowing when to use the right technique, rhythm and strategies to bring the best out of everyone on the team.

“Sports are great for fun and exercise, but they’re also good for fine-tuning skills. There’re many parallels that can be drawn between competitive sports and business,” Tan pointed out.

“Communication is key in any sports. No team sport is won by an individual - success relies on a strong team chemistry. A large part of that team chemistry revolves around communication. This can be compared to the business world as well.”

When it comes to advice for his staff and children, who are in their mid-20s, Tan emphasises agility amidst opportunities.

“Never say no to any opportunity, and stay agile. Sometimes people get stuck in one place because they’re scared of taking risks and moving out of their comfort zones,” he said. “We can be much better at doing things that people have been doing for years - but you’ll never discover that unless you try!”

Lincotrade & Associates Holdings Ltd

Established in 1991 and based in Singapore, Lincotrade is engaged in the provision of interior fitting-out services, additions and alteration (A&A) works and other building construction services, primarily for (a) commercial premises, such as offices, hotels, shopping malls and food and beverage establishments; (b) residential premises such as condominium developments; and (c) showflats and sales galleries.

The company website is: www.lincotrade.com.sg

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the year ended 30 June 2022 financial results, click here.

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C  is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

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Luminor Financial Leverages Asian SME Growth Engine

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Fri, 4 Nov 2022, 10:34 AM


Luminor Financial Leverages Asian SME Growth Engine

Self-starter Kwan Yu Wen is passionate about empowering small businesses to achieve big goals - and rightly so, as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) constitute the backbone of most economies in the region.

“SMEs form a critical pillar of the economic system of most countries - they drive growth, job creation and generally contribute to about 80% of any economy, but they are massively underserved the world over,” the Executive Director of SGX-listed financial solutions provider Luminor Financial Holdings Ltd pointed out.

“That’s where Luminor Financial has stepped in - we identified a huge gap in the market where SMEs are unable to obtain financing from traditional banks for various reasons,” she noted.

“We sieve out companies running steady, honest operations, those with contracts in hand and who simply need to plug cashflow gaps. Our assistance enables them to complete their contracts and gain confidence to expand further, knowing that we are there to support them - not just financially but in terms of corporate advisory as well.”

So far, it’s been an inspiring journey, she admitted. “We’ve been doing this for about three years now. Having seen so many of our customers succeed and grow, we can say we’ve made an impact for sure, and that gives me and my team tremendous satisfaction and motivation to move forward.”

Since graduating from Singapore Management University with a Bachelor of Science (Economics) degree, Kwan has held various management roles in fund management and SGX-listed companies. Over the years, she has honed her core leadership values around empowerment, communication and respect. 

“At the end of the day, people need to feel seen, feel heard and be empowered. That’s instrumental in building trust and improving employee engagement, which is crucial for the success of any organisation,” she noted.

“You can have the best ideas in the world, but there’s no point if you don’t have a good team to execute it. My role is to create an environment in which team members can thrive, help them play to their strengths, and develop them into thinkers who are not afraid to speak out and question, so they can really grow with the organisation.”

Expanding Portfolio of Offerings

Listed on SGX Catalist and with operations in Singapore, China and Malaysia, Luminor Financial - formerly known as Starland Holdings Ltd - is a non-bank financial institution that aims to provide innovative financing solutions to SMEs across the region. The Group is primarily involved in delivering advisory services and funding solutions to address the growing demand for short-term financing among SMEs and consumers.

Luminor Financial first started out as a Singaporean-owned and managed property developer for quality integrated residential commercial properties in China and Singapore. In October 2019, shareholders voted for the Group’s diversification into the financial solutions business. 

Since then, the Group has employed a stringent risk management framework while growing its portfolio of service offerings, which comprise invoice factoring, supply chain financing, corporate advisory and secured loans, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore.

Moving forward, the Group will no longer focus on property development as it intends to sell all its remaining property inventory, including commercial units which have been leased out. Its last piece of land bank has also undergone repossession by the Chinese government.

Currently, Luminor Financial’s priority is to build and expand its business in Malaysia, Kwan noted.

“When we started out, we focused solely on funding clients that have contracts to supply goods and services to government and government agencies,” she added.

“We’ve recently started funding clients who have contracts with MNCs such as ExxonMobil, and GLCs such as Telekom Malaysia. These contracts tend to be larger in size, and hence have increased funding requirements, which contributes to a bigger loan book for us. This would definitely impact our revenues positively.”

Following rapid growth of the e-commerce market, the Group has also developed an innovative closed-loop inventory financing model for e-commerce market resellers on platforms such as Lazada and Shopee. 

“The inventory financing product could also be easily replicated in the FMCG e-commerce market. The e-commerce marketplace is an underserved market that we’ve been focusing on in our medium-term strategic initiatives.”

Spreading Regional Footprint

And now that Luminor Financial has established its non-bank financial institution (NBFI) infrastructure, it's ready to explore other markets, Kwan said.

“In the long term, our strategy is to grow organically and/or by acquisitions in the region, for example, in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam for the consumer and SME markets, so as to build regional NBFIs.”

As part of the Group’s strategy, it recently subscribed to the Exchangeable and Convertible Notes issued by PT AdiWisista Daya Investama (PT ADI). PT ADI is part of the AdiWisista Group, which provides loans to small business and individuals in Indonesia through its P2P-lending platform, danai.id, and holds an Information Technology-Based Borrowing-Lending Service Provider license issued by the Financial Services Authority of Indonesia. 

Luminor Financial has also signed a Collaboration Agreement with the AdiWisista Group to explore potential business opportunities and partnerships within the financial services industry in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“Indonesia is a huge market, and one that we’re eager to enter,” she added. “This is our first step in entering the market, albeit through an investment. We believe this collaboration is highly synergistic, and would allow us to build a deeper understanding of, and eventually gain a foothold in, the Indonesian market over the next three years.”

Despite a steady growth strategy in place, the Group faces a number of growing challenges in the industry, Kwan admitted.

“The fact that SMEs are underserved is a gap that many are trying to bridge. We believe the space will only get more competitive, with SMEs getting more and more funding options,” she noted. 

“For example, traditional NBFI lenders from North Asia such as the Japanese and Koreans are also entering these same markets, and such players tend to have larger balance sheets to lend. Fintech players are also finding a footing in this space, especially in the consumer market.”

On its part, the Group is constantly developing new funding structures to meet client needs and adding value to its offerings, such as providing corporate advisory services to help individual businesses expand, she said.

“At the same time, we’re conscious of shifts in the macroeconomic environment, and it’s important we do not lose sight of managing our risks versus returns in the chase for volume.”

Other issues that hover at the back of the 31-year-old's mind include attracting, motivating and retaining talent, as well as fine-tuning the Group’s strategy to expand into regional markets.

“We’re constantly seeking opportunities to develop an integrated financial services ecosystem, either through collaborations, or establishing the missing link ourselves. I’m always thinking about how to match borrowers and lenders in the fintech space, develop suitable products, or lower the cost of funding via different channels or pipes.”

For her team, Kwan has this advice to offer: Don’t be afraid to question or speak out, and never neglect to focus on yourself. 

“Focusing on yourself allows you to learn and grow, and consistently become a better version of yourself. When you do that, everyone around you will be able to see and feel it,” she said.

Luminor Financial Holdings Ltd

Luminor is a financial solutions business that aims to provide innovative financing solutions to SMEs across the region. The Group first started out as a Singaporean-owned and managed property developer for quality integrated residential commercial properties in China and Singapore. In 2019, the Group embarked on a transformative journey to diversify its operations into the Financial Solutions Business. Since then, Luminor has shifted its focus and expanded its service offerings into factoring, supply chain financing and corporate advisory, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore. By tapping its portfolio of offerings, the Group is committed to being a leading provider of innovative financial solutions to both consumers and corporates worldwide.

The company website is: www.luminorfinancialholdings.com

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the half-year ended 30 June 2022 financial results, click here.

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

Labels: Luminor
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Meta Health: Forging a Digital Future for Healthcare

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Fri, 14 Oct 2022, 12:34 PM


Meta Health: Forging a Digital Future for Healthcare

For Dr Bernard Ng, people - especially patients and employees - always come first. 

The healthcare industry veteran believes in prioritising the well-being, growth and empowerment of those around him, a key tenet championed by American executive Robert Greenleaf’s theory of servant leadership.

“As a physician, I’ve been trained to put my patients first, and that has been a guiding principle throughout my career. As a result, my leadership style is one of servant leadership,” said the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SGX-listed Meta Health Ltd.

“According to Greenleaf, a servant-leader's primary motivation and purpose is to encourage greatness in others, while organisational success is the indirect, derived outcome of servant-leadership,” Ng added.

“Servant leadership reflects a servant-first, rather than a leader-first, mentality. This is critical in today’s fast-changing environment, where a leader does not necessarily have all the answers.”

Ng, previously the Executive Director of Meta Health’s wholly owned subsidiary 5Digital, was appointed Chairman and Group CEO of Meta Health in June 2022. With more than two decades of professional experience in the pharmaceutical and consumer health industries, Ng is well-positioned to oversee Meta Health’s pivot to the digital healthcare space.

Prior to joining the Group, he served as Chief Medical Officer, Head of Global Medical and Clinical Affairs at Bayer Consumer Healthcare. Ng obtained his medical degree from National University of Malaysia in 1999, and his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Melbourne in 2011.

“I started my career as a clinician, but then realised I wanted to learn more about how the drugs and products we’re using in practice are developed. So I switched to a role in the pharmaceutical industry,” he recalled. 

“I had the opportunity to bring products from concept to market, lead global teams and learn about the different health and regulatory systems around the world. My career path has prompted me to look at the healthcare ecosystem in a very different light, recognising its strengths as well as its challenges.” 

Disrupting Healthcare

One key takeaway from Ng’s years in the industry is that the healthcare sector needs to be disrupted in order to offer sustainable care for patients and consumers across the region.

“To successfully disrupt the industry, collaboration is essential. The changes must first be piloted, then adopted by a wider group. In this respect, Singapore is well-positioned to be a test-bed for new products and technologies, before they are rolled out to the rest of ASEAN for adoption,” he added.

Meta Health, previously known as Metal Component Engineering, was founded in Singapore in 1987. With a consistent focus on quality and engineering innovation, the Group expanded its customer base by serving multinational corporations, electronic manufacturing services companies, as well as small and medium enterprises globally. It recently diversified into healthcare technology and services with an investment in Gainhealth Pte Ltd, a direct-to-consumer and high-growth, omni-channel health and wellness platform.

“The Group has made a conscious decision to expand into digital healthcare, where we help medical practitioners digitalise their operations to increase efficiency and provide personalised services to patients,” Ng noted.

Following various acquisitions over the past year, Meta Health now has four key segments within its healthcare division - Primary Care & Home Care, which includes GP consultation, telemedicine and home care services; Central Pharmacy and e-Pharmacy, which helps deliver medicines for teleconsultations and recurring medications for chronic illnesses; Clinical Nutrition Distribution, as well as Infrastructure-As-A-Service, where the Group helps medical institutions digitalise their backend operations.

“With an asset-light business model, our healthcare segment is already profitable since it started contributing to the Group in 2H 2021, with revenue of S$1.3 million and EBIT of S$0.25 million,” Ng pointed out.

“The number of users for the Group’s digital health and online e-Pharmacy services has grown from over 2,000 in 1Q 2021 to more than 14,000 by 4Q 2021, with average bill size also expanding from S$39 to S$48 during this period.”

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also played an instrumental role in accelerating the digitalisation of the healthcare industry. 

“Pre-COVID, the healthcare sector was already moving away from its traditional model, where processes are manual and physician-centric, to digital-focused services, where the use of data and new modes of delivery made it more patient-focused,” he noted. “The pandemic has further enhanced this trend.”

Scaling Growth

Looking ahead, Meta Health is targeting organic and inorganic growth avenues to realise its vision of becoming a leading healthcare services company in Southeast Asia, providing personalised healthcare within a curated ecosystem of online and offline care providers and e-pharmacies.

In particular, the Group plans to leverage on its highly scalable Infrastructure-as-a-Service division to enable medical institutions to digitalise their backend services that include customer relationship management and claims processing, without incurring heavy capital expenditure. 

This segment operates primarily through the Group’s 70%-owned Indonesian subsidiary, PT Gaido Digital Medika (PT GDM). PT GDM’s trademarked “Digital Hospital” product in Indonesia has gained significant traction - in an announcement by the G20 business council, Digital Hospital was identified as a partner of the Indonesian Tourism Medical Association in March 2022, amidst the country’s push towards digitalisation in the healthcare sector.

The Group also aims to expand its Central Pharmacy presence by extending services to nursing homes and individual clinics. “By enabling these institutions to offer telemedicine consultations and timely delivery of medications, we can help boost their productivity,” he added.

A fervent believer in digital transformation, Ng spends much of his time plugged into start-ups that pioneer technology with the potential to create significant value for medical professionals.

“I’ve always liked the story of David versus Goliath. Hence, I’m always rooting for the disruptors and the start-ups that are out to change the world,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m also passionate about sustainable access to healthcare, and for this to happen, technology must play a role. That explains my interest in healthtech and medtech start-ups.”

When the 48-year-old is out of the office, he can be found with his wife and son, 19. “The advice I would give my son is: always be humble, work hard, and be willing to try new things - because life is a journey,” Ng said.

“The more I learn, the more I realise there are so many things I do not know. Humility is an important virtue if we want to continue to grow and become better versions of ourselves over time.”

 

Meta Health Ltd

Meta Health (META), formerly known as Metal Component Engineering Ltd, was founded in 1987 in Singapore. With consistent focus on quality and engineering innovation, META has expanded its customer base by serving multinational corporations, electronic manufacturing services companies, as well as small and medium enterprises globally. It recently diversified into healthcare technology and services with an investment in Gainhealth Pte Ltd, a direct-to-consumer and high-growth omnichannel health and wellness platform. META is vertically integrated with licensed clinics that have pharmacy and online self-branded e-commerce portals, as well as product placements on regional e-commerce portals.

The company website is: metahealth.sg

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the half year ended 30 June 2022 financial results, click here.

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

Labels: Meta Health
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Manulife US REIT: Resilient Amidst Evolving Dynamics

Author: SGX   |  Publish date: Fri, 7 Oct 2022, 10:02 AM


Manulife US REIT: Resilient Amidst Evolving Dynamics

For real estate veteran Tripp Gantt, humility is an indispensable quality in leadership - it’s essentially empathy turned inwards, where the leader is fully cognisant of his own humanity and imperfections.                                                           

“Don’t be afraid to let your team see the real you,” said the Chief Executive Officer of the Manager of SGX-listed Manulife U.S. Real Estate Investment Trust (MUST), who describes himself as “calm, friendly, and doesn’t get too ruffled under fire”.

“As a leader, you don’t need to be the best at every single aspect of your business, but you do need to continue learning and growing every day. You can learn something from every single person on your team, no matter their rank or role.”

Likewise, empathy is another core value. “This goes beyond being nice or understanding. It’s about truly recognising the humanness of your team and comprehending their motivations and values, so you can build lasting connections,’ he added.

Gantt, who graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Geography and Urban Studies from Georgia State University, has spent more than two decades of his career in the global property industry. His previous roles spanned capital management, investment management, land planning, development, construction and valuation. 

This includes 16 years overseeing real estate operating companies on behalf of the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB), a U.S. pension fund with US$29.6 billion in real estate assets under management as at March 2022. He was appointed to his current role in MUST in May 2022.

“What continues to excite me most about real estate is employing creative strategies for a property portfolio to maximise its functionality and value, at different points of the property cycle, and in varying macroeconomic and sociological environments,” Gantt said.

“I think there is no more interesting time to be doing this than now, when we’re witnessing a once-in-a-generation change in how and where Americans work, and the implications that has for the U.S. office market.”

Compounding this trend, however, are numerous challenges in the broader landscape. “We’re experiencing one of the most volatile economic periods in recent memory, with inflation at the highest it has been in decades, fear of recession gripping the market, employment plateauing, debt costs rising, bid-ask spreads widening in the transaction market, and office leasing demand slowing as employers figure out their space needs with hybrid work arrangements,” he added.

"All of this makes for a very exciting time that calls for innovative ideas. In my first 100 days, we’ve already begun formulating creative ways to ensure that our portfolio is able to keep abreast of the trends, and stay relevant to the demands of tenants, so we can continue to deliver sustainable returns to our unit holders.”

Post-Pandemic Shifts

MUST is the first pure-play U.S. office REIT listed in Asia, established with the investment strategy principally to invest, directly or indirectly, in a portfolio of income-producing office real estate in key markets of the U.S., as well as real estate-related assets. 

The REIT’s portfolio comprises 12 freehold office properties in Arizona, California, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Washington D.C. The portfolio has an aggregate net lettable area of 5.4 million square feet, and is valued at US$2.2 billion as at 31 December 2021.

Manulife is part of a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the U.S. The Sponsor operates as John Hancock in the U.S., and as Manulife in other parts of the world, providing a wide range of financial protection and wealth management products, as well as asset management services. The REIT Manager is Manulife U.S. Real Estate Management Pte Ltd, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of the Sponsor.

Looking ahead, the outlook for the U.S. office market remains fluid as the sector continues to evolve post-pandemic, Gantt noted. “Hybrid work has changed America’s work culture and tenants’ space needs quite significantly.”

“There will be clear winners and losers in this market, and some assets may even be rendered obsolete as tenants relocate to modern and better-quality Trophy/Class A buildings,” he added. “Therefore, it’s critical for us to ensure that amid this great shift in the market, we emerge winners with the right formula and optimal mix of traditional, flex and turnkey space to win tenants over.”

At the same time, across the U.S., the return to offices has been slow. “That’s how we came up with our two-pronged approach to provide more flexible office solutions in our portfolio - by partnering with best-in-class operators, as well as shortlisting some of our Trophy/Class A assets in great live, work, play locations to embark on hotelisation,” Gantt pointed out.

In September 2022, MUST announced a management and licensing agreement signed with Flex by JLL to take up 15,407 sq ft of office space at 500 Plaza Drive in Secaucus, New Jersey, with options to lease a further 20,451 sq ft in two phases by 2023.

The space will offer flexible private offices, co-working space, meeting rooms, team suites and virtual offices to organisations and residents in the region. The three phases are expected to achieve a stabilised rent premium of about 30% to the market, and allow MUST to enjoy greater upside potential by sharing a majority of the operating profits with the operator.

As for hotelisation, Gantt describes how office landlords need to adopt new approaches to future-proof their portfolios. “Essentially, we plan to reinvent the office space in some of our Trophy/Class A assets to entice workers back, attract quality tenants, and remain competitive by commanding higher rents,” he added.

“To be very clear, we’re  by no means transforming our office buildings into hotels, but adding hospitality elements into  our buildings to create an environment and experience that employees would like to return to work in.”

Remaining Relevant

Overall, amidst changing office landscape dynamics, the REIT needs to adopt both a defensive and offensive strategy.

“On the defensive front, to ride out the cyclical office downturn, we're working on capital recycling/allocation to strengthen our balance sheet and contain gearing, while staying nimble in leasing to protect the occupancy and weighted average lease expiry (WALE) of our portfolio. We want  to continue to leverage the location and quality of our assets to attract stable and creditworthy tenants,” Gantt explained.

“ On the offensive, to embrace the secular shift towards hybrid work, we’ll partner flex operators and embark on hotelisation for some of our assets to provide a greater variety of workspace options in our buildings.”

At the same time, MUST’s strategy to pivot into growth markets and asset types remains, as it has already built a high-quality portfolio of Trophy/Class A properties since listing. “We’re always seeking JV and/or M&A and capital partners to work with,” he added.

In November 2021, MUST announced its entry into high-growth markets with three acquisitions - Diablo and Park Place in Phoenix, Arizona, and Tanasbourne in Portland, Oregon. 

“This objective hasn’t changed, and we plan to continue to increase our exposure to growth markets - sunbelt/magnet cities that benefit from population and corporate in-migration, growth sectors such as healthcare, life science, knowledge economy, as well as property types, for example, buildings with limited capital expenditure needs. We believe such assets will offer more resilience to ride through the structural shift towards hybrid work that the office sector is going through,” Gantt noted.

“Therefore, we’re evaluating capital recycling opportunities, but our focus in this uncertain leasing environment is more on intensifying leasing momentum to maintain our portfolio occupancy and WALE. We believe that by managing our spending prudently, it will help us improve the valuation of our properties, as well as keep them relevant and in-demand amidst the cyclical downturn.”

Future-Proofing 

Apart from its growth objectives, the REIT is also focused on its Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. “At MUST, sustainability is about future-proofing our business to create long-term value for our stakeholders,” Gantt said.

“Perhaps one of our greatest challenges when it comes to ESG - beyond operations - is really in terms of helping investors and stakeholders understand that sustainability has tangible returns, and can even offer competitive advantages,” he noted.

“Many people are under the impression that ESG comes at a high cost and will affect distributions per unit negatively. But not embracing ESG will incur greater losses in the long run for unit holders, with stranded assets, regulatory penalties, loss of competitiveness, and loss of market demand - all leading up to decreased returns.” 

MUST has seen increasing regulation and penalties imposed on non-green buildings and buildings with high carbon emissions in the U.S. Conversely, demand is on the rise for green buildings. “For us, 70% of our properties are already green-certified, versus the U.S. average of about 14%. Hence, there’s no need for us to spend huge amounts of capex to green our properties,” he added.

Indeed, there’s much to keep Gantt busy in terms of the REIT’s day-to-day operations, but when this 52-year-old is out of the office, he turns into a handyman and DIYer. “I like to build, repair and maintain things,” he admitted. 

“In the past year, I’ve replaced a gas-fired furnace - a necessity in the U.S. Pacific Northwest - and rewired a kitchen electrical system in my house. I’ve also done a complete 60,000-mile maintenance service, and rebuilt the suspension and drivetrain of an off-road SUV,” he said with a laugh. 

“I’m convinced you can learn how to do almost anything just by watching YouTube!”

Manulife US REIT

Manulife US Real Estate Investment Trust (MUST) is the first pure-play U.S. office REIT listed in Asia. It is a SGX-listed REIT established with the investment strategy principally to invest, directly or indirectly, in a portfolio of income-producing office real estate in key markets in the U.S., as well as real estate-related assets. MUST’s portfolio comprises 12 freehold office properties in Arizona, California, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Washington D.C. The current portfolio has an aggregate net lettable area of 5.4 million sq ft and is valued at US$2.2 billion as at 31 December 2021. Manulife is part of a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the U.S. The Sponsor operates as John Hancock in the U.S. and as Manulife in other parts of the world, providing a wide range of financial protection and wealth management products. The Manager is Manulife US Real Estate Management Pte Ltd, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of the Sponsor.

The company website is: www.manulifeusreit.sg

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the half-year ended 30 June 2022 financial results, click here.

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

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