Besides being a full-time tutor, I am also an active investor in the stock market. One thing I love about that is the opportunity to meet top business leaders at company Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and other investor events. There is so much to learn from these brilliant individuals, and I love to ask them lots of questions and pick their brains.
Today I had the privilege of meeting the CEO of Singapore’s oldest company – Boustead Singapore. It was established in 1828 – just nine years after Stamford Raffles founded Singapore! Boustead Singapore is an infrastructure engineering and technology company involved in energy, real estate solutions, water treatment and geospatial information systems.
Its CEO is Mr Wong Fong Fui (above). He was named Chief Executive of the Year at the Singapore Corporate Awards in 2009. A chemical engineer by training, he has taken Boustead Singapore from strength to strength since he was appointed Chairman and CEO in 1996. Today Boustead Singapore has a total market value of S$816 million (S$ = Singapore dollars). Last year the company made a net profit of S$81.4 million. A very personable, humble and humorous man, Mr Wong answered many questions from the investors present with great thoroughness and candour.
The company makes process heaters and waste heat recovery systems which place it in a good position to ride the shale oil and gas exploration boom in the US. The US has massive reserves of oil and gas trapped inside layers of shale rock – reserves which were once thought impossible or too expensive to tap as the rock was extremely hard to penetrate. But new technology now makes it possible to do so at an economically viable cost. Oil and gas production has thus taken off in a big way in the US as the country seeks to wean itself off its overdependence on oil from the politically volatile Middle East.
I asked Mr Wong, “It seems quite surreal, doesn’t it, that the world is facing a growing and immense problem of climate change, and yet the US is now poised to produce gigantic amounts of oil and gas? How sustainable is it? And might renewable energy replace fossil fuels in the foreseeable future?”
Yes, there may be an impact on our climate. But I believe that human beings will never run out of energy. You know, deep beneath the earth’s surface, there is molten rock with massive amounts of heat – geothermal energy. In fact the Earth was once just a big fireball. Right now this energy is difficult to tap, but it’s there. And it’s inexhaustible.
I believe Mr Wong was suggesting that not too far from now, we will have the technology to access geothermal energy, just as we do shale oil and gas now.
Later when I was leaving the boardroom and shook hands with him, he added with a laugh, “Don’t worry, there will always be energy! You might just have to pay more for it, that’s all.”
A truly thought-provoking view from a man with deep knowledge of science and engineering. Remember that GP is not only about reading. It is also about talking to people, drawing on their knowledge and unique experiences; this too is integral to steadily building that deep understanding of the world that GP requires.
Oh, and for all you investors and aspiring investors out there, here’s the stock price chart for Boustead over the last one year (the dark line is the price, while the bars below represent trading volume). If you had bought the stock one year ago, you would be looking at a 62% profit now.
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