King Dollar rules as virus threatens global growth

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A powerful surge in the dollar threatens to magnify the pain for companies and nations already struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

The U.S. dollar index has jumped 3.5% this year, taking the greenback to its highest level since 2017 and making it the best performer of all global currencies year-to-date.

(Graphic: King Dollar dominates – here)

The rally is being fueled by investors pouring money into U.S. stocks and bonds amid expectations that the country will be less vulnerable to the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which already threatens to dent China’s growth rate and push Japan and the eurozone into recession.

Investors seeking a comparatively safe place to put their cash amid uncertainty over the virus’ trajectory and economic impact are also piling into the dollar. That effect has been heightened in recent weeks as concerns over Japan’s economy have weighed on the yen, traditionally a popular destination for nervous investors.

Meanwhile, though yields on U.S. Treasuries have dipped, they continue to exceed those offered by other developed countries, increasing the dollar’s allure to income-seeking investors.

(Graphic: 10-year Treasury/10-year Bund yield spread – here)

“You get some of the best growth in the developed world, plus a yield,” said Clifton Hill, who oversees $101 billion as global macro portfolio manager at Acadian Asset Management.

Hill came into the year expecting a trade deal between the United States and China to benefit a wide range of assets around the world, but the strengthening dollar has pushed him to shift his view.

He is now betting the buck will rise against a range of Asian currencies including the Korean won and Thai baht, and positioned for a decline in various commodity prices, which tend to weaken when the dollar rises.

(Graphic: Surging dollar – here)

A stronger greenback is an unwelcome development for U.S. multinationals because it makes it more expensive for them to convert foreign earnings back into dollars.

Currency headwinds accounted for $11.55 billion in collective losses for North American companies in the third quarter of 2019, according to treasury and financial management firm Kyriba. Companies such as Alphabet (GOOGL.O) and Apple (AAPL.O) have mentioned the strong dollar as a drag on their earnings.

“If we really start to see the dollar gain traction … that could potentially mean less fuel to sustain the rally we have seen in stocks,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

Companies in the materials and technology sectors are among the most exposed to currency headwinds, with around 50% of the corporations in both sectors deriving the greater part of their revenues from abroad, an analysis of Russell 1000 companies by Bespoke Investment Group showed.

By contrast, only around 5% of the companies in the real estate and utilities sectors receive the majority of their revenue from overseas, the firm said.

At the same time, the dollar’s strength is likely to increase the burden on developing countries, especially those more exposed to the economic effects of China’s coronavirus-led slowdown.

Total dollar-denominated debt held by emerging markets stood at $6.4 trillion as of the third quarter, according to the Institute of International Finance. That debt becomes more difficult for countries to service when the dollar rises.

(Graphic: Emerging markets total dollar-denominated debt – here)

On the other hand, a strong dollar will likely help the eurozone and Japan, as it pushes down their currencies. A weaker currency helps countries’ exporters by making their products more competitive abroad and makes it easier for central banks to spur inflation.

But the rising dollar’s potentially salutary effects on some foreign economies are unlikely to sit well with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly complained that other countries are benefiting from a strong dollar at the expense of the United States.

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Wall Street set to fall again as coronavirus spreads beyond China

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Friday as a spike in new coronavirus cases in China and elsewhere sent investors scrambling for safer assets such as gold and government bonds.

The risk-off mood was exacerbated by data showing Japan’s factory activity suffered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, underlining the risk of a recession in the world’s third-largest economy as the outbreak takes a toll on global growth.

With massive disruptions in supplies from China, parts shortages are hitting businesses as far away as the United States.

U.S. stocks fell more than 1% at one point on Thursday, with Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) taking the biggest hit.

Beijing reported an uptick in cases of coronavirus on Friday and South Korea reported 100 new cases that doubled its infections, while more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus in Japan.

However, hopes that central banks across the globe will take measures to counter a slowdown have cushioned global stocks and kept the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX near all-time highs.

“The economy here in the United States is doing well and people are worried about the next quarter earnings season and what kind of impact the coronavirus is going to have,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

At 8:38 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 95 points, or 0.33%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 11.5 points, or 0.34% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 29.75 points, or 0.31%.

Investors will keep an eye on IHS Markit’s U.S. manufacturing and services sector activity data for February, due at 9:45 a.m. ET, to gauge the impact of coronavirus on businesses.

A host of Federal Reserve officials including Dallas Fed’s Robert Kaplan and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester are set to speak later in the day.

Traders are looking for signs on whether the Fed will cut rates this year amid fears of the coronavirus outbreak denting global growth. However, recent data has suggested U.S. economy is showing no signs of losing steam.

Among stocks, Dropbox Inc (DBX.O) jumped 12.5% in premarket trading after it raised its outlook for operating margin, while Deere & Co (DE.N) rose 6.1% after an unexpected rise in first-quarter profit.

Sprint Corp (S.N) climbed 6.4% as it announced new merger terms with T-Mobile US (TMUS.O) that would reduce the stake of major Sprint shareholder SoftBank. T-Mobile shares dipped 0.9%.

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New £20 notes selling for more than £30 on eBay – the serial number to look for

People lucky enough to have got their hands on one of the first of the new, polymer, £20 notes are already cashing in – selling them for more than £30 each on eBay.

And so far, all the ones to be snapped up at more than their cover price have serial numbers that start the same way.

When the new plastic £5 came out, people rushed to get their hands on them to see if they had one of the coveted AA 01 serial numbers.

People lucky enough to find them were then able to sell them on eBay and Facebook Marketplace for hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

But that's not what's selling with the new £20 – instead it's the "AB" £20 notes that people are cashing in on.

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While the Bank of England has confirmed to Mirror Money that there are some AA notes out there, none have been tracked down yet and put up for sale.

However, 18 of the new £20s with an AB prefix to their serial numbers have already sold on the auction site – most going for more than £30.

One person has sold two "AB" notes for £75 (£32.50 each), another has sold 10 at an average price of £31 each and a third sold two sets of three for £99.97 (£33.32 each).

The better news is the Bank of England told Mirror Money that some AA notes would definitely be entering circulation – giving people another chance to find a £20 worth more than £20.

And they could pop up anywhere, with the Bank itself admitting it has no idea where they will be distributed as it simply doesn't store its notes by serial number.

What they'll go for if you find one is anyone's guess right now.

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Deere & Co reports unexpected rise in quarterly profits

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Deere & Co (DE.N) on Friday reported an unexpected rise in profits in the first quarter, helped by early signs of stabilization in the U.S. farm sector.

For the quarter ended Feb. 2, it reported net income of $517 million or $1.63 per share, up from $498 million or $1.54 per share last year.

That compares with average analyst estimates, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, of $1.26 per share.

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Daimler warns of "significant adverse effects" of virus outbreak

BERLIN (Reuters) – German luxury carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE) on Friday warned of risks for the economy and its own business from the outbreak of coronavirus that is spreading in China and around the world.

“Risks for the Daimler Group may not only affect the development of unit sales, but may also lead to significant adverse effects on production, the procurement market and the supply chain,” the Stuttgart-based company said in its annual report

It also noted that the epidemic posed a risk for economic growth in China, other Asian countries and worldwide.

Daimler CEO Ola Kaellenius announced last week that its key Mercedes-Benz brand had re-started production of luxury passenger cars in Beijing, adding it was still too early to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on Daimler’s business.

Daimler also said stricter anti-pollution tests have made it harder to comply with new rules and increased provisions for regulatory proceedings, liability and litigation risks to 4.9 billion euros, up from 2.1 billion euros in 2018.

The increase relates to ongoing governmental and legal proceedings and measures taken with regard to Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles in several regions and markets, as well as an updated risk assessment for an extended recall of Takata airbags, the carmaker said.

Due to the replacement of the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) with the new measuring method WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure), the average emissions of carbon dioxide have risen, the car and truck maker said.

“In the light of today’s knowledge, this makes it more difficult to achieve the CO2 targets as of 2020,” Daimler said.

The current public focus on vehicle emissions as well as possible certifications stops and recalls could result in damage to Daimler’s reputation, the company said.

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Lidl launches red wine magnums for an absolute bargain price

Lidl is now selling magnums of the highly rated Nero d’Avola and classic Chianti wines.

And you can pick up the super-sized 1.5-litre bottles for less than a tenner each, with the Nero d’Avola priced at £7.99 and the Chianti at £9.99.

In fact, the Nero d’Avola is so cheap that they've had to raise the price in Scotland to £9.75 to make sure it complies with the minimum alcohol pricing there.

The price was also raised in Wales, ahead of the Principality brining in its own minimum alcohol price laws in March.

Lidl said the wines were: "The perfect accompaniment to sip while dreaming of sunny Italian piazzas, let your palate escape to warmer climates with these sumptuous red."

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The Nero d’Avola was described as "a full-bodied red which is perfect for pairing with grilled meats".

"Considered Italy’s best kept wine-secret and described as Sicily’s answer to Malbec," Lidl added.

"As the lighter evenings approach, the spicy, fruity tannins in Nero d’Avola make it the perfect warming tipple for Spring sipping."

And buying one, big, bottle also saved you money too – with standard 750ml ones costing £4.99.

Lidl said the Chianti was "perfect for pairing with a tomato-based dish such as Ragu", adding "the dry red wine is a classic which is guaranteed to delight the taste buds of any wine lover".

"Encased in the traditional straw basket, or fiasco, this mouth-watering Tuscan Chianti produces a rich aroma of cherries," the supermarket added.

Like all Lidl’s weekly offers, the deals are only around until stocks last, so customers will have to be quick.

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Stocks head for worst week in four as coronavirus spreads

LONDON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Shares across the world fell on Friday and were set for their worst week in four as investors dumped riskier assets for the safety of bonds and gold, with coronavirus cases in China and elsewhere spreading.

China reported more cases of the disease on Friday, with finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meeting in Saudi Arabia over the weekend set to discuss risks to the global economy stemming from the outbreak.

Though investors have been sanguine about the long term economic risks from the virus, a steady drip of new cases in countries beyond China has kept worries gnawing away, with South Korea on Friday recording over 50 new cases.

Europe’s broad Euro STOXX 600 fell 0.3%, with indexes in London .FTSE and Paris .FCHI down 0.5% and 0.3% respectively.

“It’s risk-off – bonds are being bought again and hedges are being put into play at the moment,” said Olivier Marciot, investment manager at Unigestion.

Not helping the nerves were manufacturing surveys underscoring the grim state of the Japanese economy.

Japan’s purchasing managers’ index dropped to 47.6 in February, from 48.8, marking the steepest contraction in seven years.

European surveys painted a somewhat brighter picture, with French business activity growing faster than expected in February on a rebound in the service sector. Germany’s private sector expansion also held steady.

British numbers were due out at 0930 GMT.

Gold and U.S. bonds were among the main beneficiaries as funds sought safety.

Yields on 30-year U.S. Treasuries US30YT=RR fell below the psychologically important 2% level to the lowest since September 2019.

Yields on 10-year notes US10YT=RR were down 9 basis points for the week at 1.498%, lows last seen in September.

Ten-year German government bond yields fell to a four-month low DE10YT=RR, with the entire yield curve on the cusp of turning negative. The entire Dutch yield also returned to negative territory.

Gold was last up 0.8% at $1,631.16 XAU=, having added 3.1% for the week so far to seven-year highs.

“U.S. and EU equity markets have been sold across the board with core global yields benefiting from safe-haven flows,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at NAB.

Underscoring the economic impact from the coronavirus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated losses for Asian airlines alone could amount to almost $28 billion this year, with most of that in China.

Corporate earnings are increasingly under threat as U.S. manufacturers, like many others, scramble for alternative sources as China’s supply chains seize up.

The MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks shares in 49 countries, fell 0.2%, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped 1%.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 slipped 0.3%.


The flows into bonds have been a boon to the U.S. dollar, boosting it to multi-month peaks against a raft of competitors this week.

The most spectacular gains had come on the Japanese yen, as a run of dire domestic data stirred talk of recession there and ended months of stalemate in the market.

Still, the yen rallied on Friday, gaining 0.5% against the dollar JPY= in European trading to 111.51 though the greenback was still set for its best week since July 2018 with a rise of 1.7%.

“It was too soon to write off the yen as a safe haven,” said Mayank Mishra, an FX strategist at Standard Chartered in Singapore. “I think the yen is reasserting its status as a safe haven.”

The dollar against a basket of currencies was last down 0.2% at 99.649, but still near 33-month highs touched a day earlier.

Another casualty of its close trade ties with China was the Australian dollar, which plumbed 11-years lows AUD=D3.

The euro fared little better at $1.0811 EUR=, having reached depths not seen since April 2017.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar hit a three-year top at 99.910 =USD having climbed 0.5% for the week so far.

Oil prices fell around 1%, with Brent crude LCOc1 futures easing 78 cents to $58.54.

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China firms in $10 billion share sale rush as funding rules eased amid virus worries

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Listed Chinese companies are queuing up to issue shares and have already announced plans to raise more than $10 billion in the past week after fundraising rules were relaxed to help ease cash strains caused by the coronavirus.

More than 50 companies, including Bank of Ningbo (002142.SZ) and battery maker Yinghe Technology (300457.SZ), have published as of Thursday fresh or revised plans to raise as much as 73 billion yuan ($10.4 billion) through private placements, according to Reuters calculations.

The new rules allow companies to sell shares worth up to 30% of their share capital via private placements compared with 20% previously. The number of investors allowed to participate in such placements was lifted to 35 from 10.

The changes also make the deals more attractive to investors by halving the lock-up periods and enabling more flexible pricing.

The rush to market comes as China has been pumping liquidity into the financial system, cutting interest rates as well as easing other funding avenues, in a bid to limit the economic damage from the coronavirus that has killed over 2,000 people and stalled many business activities.

The share sales will also be helped by a resurgent stock market. The blue-chip CSI300 .CSI300 has rebounded roughly 13% from a low hit on February 3 when traders returned after the new year break, compared with 3.8% for the U.S. S&P 500 .SNP benchmark over the same period.

China cut its benchmark lending rate on Thursday, helping lift the tech-heavy ChiNext index .CHINEXTP to the highest level in almost three years.

“Investors are encouraged by monetary easing, and are looking beyond the epidemic,” said Wu Kan, a portfolio manager at Soochow Securities Co.

“China needs a booming stock market to help channel funding to the real economy.”


Relaxation of the rules comes as a relief to many companies. More than 75% of respondents in a survey of over 140 companies by Sealand Securities, said the epidemic was straining their liquidity, with smaller firms saying they will burn through their available cash within three months unless the situation normalizes.

Some companies badly hit by the virus reported an 80% slump in revenue.

But the relaxed standards represent a reversal of China’s stance since officials sharply tightened share placement rules following the 2015-16 market crash, where reckless fundraising was seen as a contributing factor.

Xu Chao, analyst at the Pacific Securities, said the rule changes represented a “very strong loosening signal” from the authorities.

Private placements raised just 122.9 billion yuan last year from a peak of 1 trillion yuan in 2016, according to Kaiyuan Securities, which expects fundraising via this route to at least double in 2020 from 2019.

The easier access to funds could increase the risk of moral hazard, some analysts have warned.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Fan Lei, economist at Sealand Securities, who said the moves implied regulators were becoming more tolerant toward market speculation, often dubbed “stir frying”.

“A bit of stir-frying helps attract money into the market,” Fan said.

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Asian funds seek a sheltered shore in U.S. assets

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares were under water on Friday as fears over the creeping spread of the coronavirus sent funds fleeing to the sheltered shores of U.S. assets, lifting the dollar to three-year highs.

Adding to the tension was the imminent release of flash manufacturing surveys for a range of countries. Japan’s index dropped to 47.6 in February, from 48.8, marking the steepest contraction in seven years.

Even Wall Street turned soggy late on Thursday on news of increased infections in Beijing and abroad. South Korea reported 52 new confirmed cases on Friday.

Corporate earnings are increasingly under threat as U.S. manufacturers, like many others, scramble for alternative sources as China’s supply chains seize up.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated losses for Asian airlines alone could amount to almost $28 billion this year, with most of that in China.

“COVID-19 anxiety has risen to a new level amid concerns of virus outbreaks in Beijing and outside of China,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at NAB.

“U.S. and EU equity markets have been sold across the board with core global yields benefiting from safe-haven flows,” he added. “Asian currencies have suffered sharp falls, including the yen as recession fears trump the usual safe-haven demand.”

All of which made gold shine as a safe harbor. The yellow metal was last at $1,624.94 XAU=, having added 2.6% for the week so far to seven-year highs.

Equities lagged badly, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS off 0.6% on Friday in nervous trade.

South Korea .KS11 slid 1.2% as the virus spread in the country, while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 went flat even as a plunge in the yen promised to aid exporters.

Shanghai blue chips .CSI300 were holding their nerve thanks to the promise of more policy stimulus at home. But both E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 and EUROSTOXX 50 STXEc1 slipped 0.3%.

The Dow .DJI had lost 0.44% on Thursday, while the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.38% and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.67%.


Sovereign bonds benefited from the mounting risk aversion, with yields on 30-year U.S. Treasuries US30YT=RR falling below the psychologically important 2% level to the lowest since September 2019.

Yields on 10-year notes US10YT=RR were down 9 basis points for the week at 1.498%, lows last seen in September.

“The U.S. 10-year has rallied more than all the other liquid G5 bond market alternatives,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 FX strategy at Deutsche Bank.

“Treasuries attract foreign bond inflows because of their higher yields, and because higher yields leave more scope for yields to decline.”

Those flows were a boon to the U.S. dollar, boosting it to multi-month peaks against a raft of competitors this week.

The most spectacular gains came on the Japanese yen as a run of dire domestic data stirred talk of recession there and ended months of stalemate in the market.

The dollar was last lording it at 112.02 yen JPY= and set for its best week since September 2017 with a rise of 2%. Another casualty of its close trade ties with China was the Australian dollar, which plumbed 11-years lows AUD=D3.

The euro fared little better at $1.0790 EUR=, having reached depths not seen since April 2017.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar hit a three-year top at 99.910 .DXY having climbed 0.8% for the week so far.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets noted the dollar’s outperformance had brought it close to breaching a host of major chart barriers, which could supercharge its rally.

“This has allowed the DXY to approach the 100.00 threshold – with a key resistance hurdle at 100.30 now within sight,” they wrote in a note. The same went for the Chinese yuan CNH=.

“USD/CNH is now poised to pierce resistance at 7.0559 after the USD hit new cycle highs against other EM currencies.”

Oil prices faded a little on Friday, but were still up more than 3% for the week.

U.S. crude CLc1 dipped 32 cents to $53.56 a barrel, while Brent crude LCOc1 futures eased 37 cents to $58.94.

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The multimillionaire family shaping Singapore's iconic skyline

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) – They’re places that encapsulate Singapore: Gardens by the Bay, with its gigantic artificial trees and botanical conservatories dripping with orchids; Lau Pa Sat, the colonial-era food hall beckoning with chili crab and chicken rice; Jewel Changi Airport, the futuristic shopping and entertainment complex straight out of Crazy Rich Asians.

All of those landmarks, and many more, are the handiwork of a company that has endured for nearly a century under a single family: the Yongs. Since the 1920s, when tigers still roamed what was then a steamy outpost of imperial Britain, the Yongs have been shaping the cityscape.

Today, a fourth generation is preparing to take over leadership of the family’s private empire, Woh Hup Holdings.

That the Yongs have maintained control of Woh Hup is testament to Singapore’s transformation as well as the clan’s shifting focus from basic infrastructure – such as prisons and piers – to entertainment and luxury apartments.

Woh Hup executive director Eugene Yong is the first to admit construction isn’t a glamorous job – “It’s more important that people are proud of what we’ve done,” the 67-year-old says. But however low key the family may be, serving as a contractor to some of the nation’s biggest property projects has created fabulous wealth.

Woh Hup’s revenue in the year through June 30, 2018 was $1.1 billion, up 31 per cent from the year prior and net income totalled $51.8 million. The family declined to disclose any more recent data, but according to Bloomberg estimates the clan is worth around U$600 million.

Woh Hup traces it origins back to 1927, when Mr Eugene Yong’s grandfather, Yong Yit Lin, founded the group after moving from Malaysia in the pursuit of government construction tenders. Mr Yong Yit Lin, originally from China, got his first big break as a contractor when he scored a job building fences and garden-gate posts for a British residence.

In Singapore, the business expanded to deliver large-scale projects such as Clifford Pier, Changi Prison and the former Ministry of Labour, buildings that helped fill in the city’s landscape in the early years. Mr Eugene Yong’s father, Nam Seng, took over the business as a second-generation member in the late 1950s and is still Woh Hup’s chairman. Mr Eugene Yong’s older brother, Tiam Yoon, is deputy chair.

Now that Woh Hup is into its fourth generation, it’s easily defying the stereotype that the third generation of wealth tends to blow through a fortune.

Michelle Yong, Mr Yong Nam Seng’s granddaughter, is one of the new guard. She joined the family business in 2007 after a period studying and working in the UK and heads Aurum, a 100 per cent owned subsidiary that focuses on boutique residential properties.

Key to Woh Hup’s success has been its ability to diversify.

“So many family members had already added much value,” the 41-year-old said in an interview from an office in Tanjong Pagar, a district where Chinese trading and tea houses have made room for yoga studios and fashionable bistros. “When the Aurum opportunity came up, it was a chance for me to take the reins and try to make something out of it.”

Other businesses Ms Yong has helped spearhead under the Aurum umbrella include co-working firm Found8, venture capital outfit Aurum Investments Pte, which nurtures property technology start-ups, and Core Collective, a collaborative centre for fitness and wellness professionals.

Aurum reduces reliance on Woh Hup, which Ms Yong refers to as the “castle”. She describes her other ventures as “little villages outside the castle” that contribute to its success. Found8 has plans to expand beyond Singapore and Malaysia, for example, while Ms Yong is also considering a retirement living concept.

“I do believe that if you have too many people fighting over the same steering wheel, it can lead to problems,” she said. “It’s better to create a lot of opportunities for not just family members but also team members to grow.”

As a mum to three children with another on the way, Ms Yong knows something about multitasking. Having domestic live-in help also plays a part, as does Ms Yong’s husband.

“He’s the one who gets the two older boys ready for bed every night so that I can work late if need be, and he also takes them out for boys-only trips to give me some down time at the weekends,” she said.

Still, Ms Yong doesn’t like the word sacrifice; as a mum, she’s incorporated flexibility into the companies she runs.

“Being an entrepreneur and being my own boss definitely gives me a lot more flexibility than if I were just an employee,” she said. “I’ve brought the baby into the office, and we’ve turned meeting rooms into a creche. At Found8, there’s a nursing room and working mums can bring their children in so long as they don’t disrupt other members. We have a very baby-friendly policy.”

On the question of whether her children will be Woh Hup’s fifth generation, Ms Yong says she’d like them to, but there aren’t any obligations.

“In fact, we’re starting to think about family governance, like corporate governance, where we set rules as to what expectations we have of different family members wanting to join the business,” she said. “It’s got to be merit-based rather than a charitable handout.”

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