My Love Affair with Starhub

Yes ! I finally sold off bulk of my Starhub stock and I am heart broken.  

Starhub has been one of my favourite stock that I have kept close to my heart for more than 10 years (since 2005 where I first started my investment journey). Total gains from Starhub todate is $ 383,340 (+95%). (Dividends : $272,666; Capital gain : $97,658; Unrealised Profit : $13,016 ).

When the management announced that Starhub was going to cut dividend Q1 2017 this year, I decided to trim a significant % of the stock. 

Why did I fall in love with Starhub

  1. Solid history of paying and increasing dividends.
  2. Yearly dividend distribution commitment and forecast by management.
  3. Loved their Hubbing Strategy.
  4. Telecom sectors are typically deemed defensive sectors during market corrections.

The Art of Selling

Although I have made seemingly good profits from Starhub, I felt that I could have done better in terms of the timing of  the sale.


Looking at the chart, if I had sold at it’s peak at $4.73 in year 2013, I would be looking at a profit of 581,767 (+144 % Capital Gain : $454,133 Dividend : $127,634). Although I was aware of these signs of trouble, I only decided to take action when the dividend cut was confirmed as I was hoping that the management will still try to keep it’s 20 cents dividend commitment for 2017. Even if there was a dividend cut, I wasn’t expecting the price to fluctuate so badly. The  share buyback and CEO Tan Tong Hai acquisition of 100K stocks at $2.795 in Nov 2016 also gave me the false assumptions that maybe the dividend cut wouldn’t happen.

Signs of Trouble


Uprising of Over-The-Top Players resulting in declines in value-added services revenues and lack of transformation strategy.

  •            Year 2008 – Launch of iPhone with Appstore.
  •            Year 2013 – Facebook mobile growth.
  •            Year 2016 – Netflix launch in Singapore.

2. Dividend-to-Free-Cash-Flow Ratio > 100%

If a company has a dividend-to-free-cash-flow-ratio over 100% then that means that the company is paying out more to its shareholders than it’s free cash flow. This is typically not a good recipe for the company’s financial health; it can be a sign that the dividend payment will be cut in the future. Sure enough, Starhub experienced dividend-to-free-cash-flow-ratio > 100% in 2013. It managed to hang on to 5 years before it eventually surrenders and cut it’s dividend in 2017.


3. Competition 

4. Shareholder Exit & Sell Off – Q4 2016

17 Aug 2016 Robert JaySachs dispose 100K at $3.90.

30 Dec 2016 Robert JaySachs Resigns

5. Dividend Cut – Q1 2017

Moving forward, I probably need to set some rules to protect capital gains in my dividend stocks. Thinking back, if I had sold it off at it’s peak, would I have picked it up later at a higher price and is now suffering from a capital loss ?

Do you have an exit strategy / checklist for your dividend stocks or similar experience to share? I would love to hear from you !

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  1. Selling is the hardest. How did you rationalize away the various signs of trouble at each time when it happens? I guess that might teach me a thing or two.

    I have a similar story on a way smaller absolute value terms. I should probably write that too.


    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Leopard,

      Looking forward to hearing your story !
      As for how I rationalize away the various signs of trouble
      1) Disruption
      Although the disruptions were ongoing but there are still areas for new revenue streams for the telcos e.g. IOT if they were smart enough to capture the market. Of course bulk of the IOT projects will probably go to Singtel in view of the government connections and NCS. But if they are clever, they should try to partner up with Accenture who also have very good track record of winning government and digital transformation projects. As for Netflix, they addressed only a segment of the content thus if Starhub was smart enough with their bundling and with proper execution of their hubbing strategy. They should have been able to prevent churn.

      2) Competition
      TPG. If you study deep into their ambition, they are just using singapore as a learning ground. As their intention was to set up a full mobile network, they wouldn’t be very profitable and probably won’t last long as they aim to be a cheap provider. Not sure Sg is ready for all the network hiccups as telecom has already matured in Singapore. We wouldn’t be as forgiving as we have been with Starhub when they first started as we are now so dependent on our phone compared to the prior smartphone era. If republic is the one who has gotten the 4th telco license, I would be more concerned.

      So I guess I was giving Starhub too much leeway to improve. Hopefully, their recent shakeup in the management team could help transform their strategy. They really wasted their brilliant hubbing strategy with absolute bad execution. I am getting mailers and rewards from Singtel on a regular basis to win me over, yet I haven’t received a single thank you/incentives from Starhub for being their customer for donkey years.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi sgxfish, tell me about it :-). I have to keep reminding myself. Don’t be greedy! On the other hand, these are all growth stocks :-/

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi My Sweet Retirement,

      Nice ! Hope you made decent profits from your divestment. Not sure why IMDA thinks that a 4th telco would increase innovation. If all telcos are doing a price war with hardly any revenues, where do they find money to innovate ?! A quick tour around our region, we would have had enough case studies for IMDA to realize that too many telcos have crippled many of these countries from innovating as at the end of the day there needs to be a business case for any kinds of innovation. We are not china where the population is big enough to support a free business model.

  2. Benjamin

    Hello! Thank you for selflessly sharing your portfolio with us and its composition. I think there are many valuable takeaways from your sharing.

    I would like to ask how much % cash and other safer instruments (such as bonds, notes) you normally hold on the sidelines as compared to your equity portfolio.

    I am looking to balance my risk for my equity portfolio so I am just wondering if you can provide me with any insights. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. Albert

    Hi ladyyoucanbefree,

    Glad at least you have decided to divest starhub. On the positive note, it is still a decent profit and soild yield over 12years of investment returns.
    Have u plan to use the cash to load in some reits or healthcare trust? As ASSI aka ak71 has mentioned he will buy if the premium is attractive to him… haha…. you can have a look at RHT HealthTrust which now the current valuation looks decent with a 9% yield as of last closing price. Technical wise, it has retrace from the recent high of $1 to now $0.85. They have soild healthcare assets in india and asia region. This sector will be will definately be a good defensive asset to own at this current value which i believe. Population is aging and we need more hospitals and healthcare related services.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Albert,
      Thanks for the recommendation. Will check it out :).

  4. Hi Lady, You Can Be Free

    I think this is the best post I have read so far on your blog. The best because it analyzes the decisions behind the actions of your portfolio and does not only show the contents of the portfolio. The educational value is high.

    I seldom talk about my own portfolio to avoid writing biased posts but I respect those who reveal their portfolio in public. It takes courage to do so. It can be distracting particularly when your readers start to question your losses. Of course, in this case, it is not losses but lesser profits but still very admirable and enviable profits. The dividends you earned over the years are mouth-watering, not to mention the good capital gains as well.

    I think your reason for selling is sound. You bought because Starhub was a dividend play. So, it is only logical to sell given that Starhub’s dividends no longer look sustainable and indeed, dividends have been cut.

    Your U.S portfolio is full of growth stocks. The FANG are there except for Netflix. Your U.S portfolio is doing very well so far. All the best, especially to Ali Baba because I own Ali Baba stocks too.

    • Lady, You Can Be Free

      Hi Hyom,

      Thanks for the kind words and you have a very nice blog yourself ! To be honest, I kinda regret revealing my portfolio as that restricted me from hanging out with the bloggers community and join them in alot of fun activities.

      However, as I am a very visual person and often finds it hard to visualize results by reading lengthy financial literature and imagining percentages of gain. Thus, I thought there would be people out there who might appreciate this form of sharing. I myself was skeptical of this whole trading / investment thingy until I saw the actual results in the CDP statements.

      I don’t like to provide in-depth analysis of why I buy a stock as I don’t want people to follow and lose money. I think there are plenty of expert advise around on the internet and there’s no need for me to add on my own opinion. I also believe that when one buys a stock, they need to know and be convinced why they want to own the stock themselves at a particular price not because xxx bought it else they learnt nothing when they earn/lose money. Reason I shared my selling of Starhub is because I think there are lessons learnt that may be helpful as I see a growing interest in the community to build passive income via dividends.

      Anyway, enough ramblings..good luck to you and me on Alibaba ! 😉

  5. Mrs spoon

    Kepcorp has increased quite a bit in recent months. I have some kepcorp on hand at high prices and I wondering whether kepcorp will be able to reinvent itself. Oil and gas is still not stable even though oil prices have went up a bit.

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