What an Elaborate Way to Keep us in the Dark, Temasek
What I have gathered is as such:
26 August 2008 - Temasek announces its performance for Financial Year (April 2007 to March 2008) and reports that its portfolio value increased 13% from S$164 billion to S$185 billion (source: Temasek Review 2008 & Temasek Holdings)
10 February 2009 - Senior Minister of State for Finance, Lim Hwee Hua reveals in parliament that Temasek's 'net portfolio value at 30 November 2008 was S$127 billion', however AFP's request for confirmation of that figure from Temasek goes unanswered (sources: Singapore Parliament & AFP)
28 May 2009 - Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam corroborates Lim Hwee Hua's version by declaring in parliament that the 'full year accounts to end March 2009 have not been audited, but the picture should not be fundamentally different from what I have described as equity markets globally showed no major change as at end March 2009 compared to end November 2008' (source: Singapore Parliament)
29 July 2009 - CEO of Temasek, Ho Ching shares in a speech at a forum that the estimation of the VaR at S$40 billion 'has turned out to be so, and more' (source: Institute of Policy Studies)
So, essentially, nobody is lying about the figures - but they aren't telling the complete truth either. The 'magical' S$40 billion thrown up yesterday is merely a theoretical figure derived from a (purely) statistical estimation.
My speculation is that if the value of the losses was less than the November 2008 figure of S$58 billion (S$185 bilion - S$127 billion), Temasek would have used this opportunity to trumpet this positivity. Therefore, the very fact that no actual figure was mentioned and a wholly-theoretical number was relied upon instead (when concrete figures would be available to the CEO by now) suggests that the losses might very well be GREATER than the recorded S$58 billion.
Of course, a nice capital injection from Temasek's only shareholder, the Singapore Minsitry of Finance could mitigate that value nicely, just like it happened in 2008 - '(p)art of the increase in portfolio size came from a net fresh capital injection of S$10 billion from our shareholder as part of its asset allocation rebalancing' (source: Temasek Review 2008) - which would mean the portfolio increase was actually S$164 billion to S$175billion (6.7% growth) + S$10 billion.
Well, I'm waiting for Temasek Review 2009 which should be out sometime next month to get the actual figures - and all the creative accounting it will contain. I'll be sure to keep you all informed on what I find then but in the meanwhile, don't make too much of the magic S$40 billion figure - focus on the S$58 billion instead as it's closer to the truth.