Thursday, 27 October 2016

(The Star) Sarawak to bolster tourism ties with Singapore

KUCHING: The state government is looking to enhance tourism ties with Singapore by promoting tour packages that will benefit both countries.
Tourism Assistant Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said a discussion was ongoing between his ministry and the Singapore Tourism Board to create tour packages for tourists to visit both the island state and Sarawak in a single trip.
The Senadin assemblyman has visited Singapore to work out the proposal, which included negotiations with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, a regional airline based in Singapore.
“We are looking to create a tour promotion where tourists can visit Singapore and Sarawak in a single package. Tourists can visit Singapore during the weekdays and fly to Sarawak for the weekend. It can be considered a ‘plus one’ package.
“Sarawak will complement Singapore in the sense that a tourist can visit Singapore for the entertainment and shopping then escape to Sarawak for a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of a city,” Lee said at the dinner programme of the ninth Asia-Pacific Ecotourism Conference here.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president, Datuk Hamzah Rahmat and Sarawak Chapter chairman Chris Kon were present.
Lee said Sarawak saw Singapore as an important tourism hub in the region that could help connect the state with the rest of the world.
He was confident that the Sarawak-Singapore tour package would enhance tourist arrivals for both countries.
In his speech earlier, the assistant minister said Sarawak was blessed with amazing biological diversity, offering lush greenery with abundance of wildlife.
Sarawak has about 711,000ha of protected land area and 230,000ha of territorial waters comprising 36 national parks, 14 nature reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries.
By 2020, the state government is committed to have one million hectares of protected areas.
“We will continue to pursue more international standard operating procedures that are effective and adaptable on the state’s nature and wildlife conservation to ensure sustainability.
“Our nature parks are our tourism assets as such parks are becoming increasingly popular as tourist destinations,” he added.

As more emphasis was placed globally in protecting the environment, the state should capitalise on promoting its ecotourism to nature lovers from all over the world, he suggested.

(The Star) Grand show by eight ‘giants’

Eight developers are featuring RM12.5bil worth of projects at the Fair 2016 to be held at Queensbay Mall in Bayan Lepas, Penang, starting from today until Sunday.
The developers are Ideal Property (RM3.4bil), Aspen Vision City Sdn Bhd (RM1.54bil), IJM Land Bhd (RM2bil), Mah Sing Group Bhd (RM2.4bil), Eco World Development Group Bhd (RM700mil), Asia Green Construction Sdn Bhd (RM1.3bil), Sunway Bhd (RM256mil) and Tropicana Ivory Sdn Bhd (RM943.6mil).
Others taking up big booths at the fair include Runnymede Group and Zeon Properties Sdn Bhd, a leading Penang-based real estate firm.
Among the eye-catching properties on display are EcoWorld’s Eco Bloom in Simpang Ampat and Eco Terraces in Paya Terubong.
Asia Green’s QuayWest Residence in Persiaran Bayan Indah at Queensbay and The Clovers in Sungai Ara will also attract potential house buyers.
Those who buy properties in QuayWest Residence or The Clovers at the fair will receive a free iPhone 7.
Vervea, Vertu Resort, Beacon Executive Suites from Aspen Vision City will also appeal toproperty hunters due to their strategic locations.
Vervea and Vertu Resort are located in Aspen Vision City in Batu Kawan, a mixed-development scheme which will accommodate the IKEA store, a regional integrated shopping centre, Columbia Asia Hospital, condominiums, shop offices, serviced suites, a hotel, an office tower, a medical centre and an international school.
The Beacon Executive Suites is a SOHO development in George Town, which is set to grace the city’s skyline with a unique Sky Podiumproviding panoramic 360-degree views of the surroundings.
The projects from Ideal are the One Foresta, Forest Ville, and Summerskye Residences in Bayan Lepas, and I-Santorini in Tanjung Tokong, while the projects by Mah Sing are The Loft in Batu Maung, the Ferringhi Residence 2 in Batu Ferringhi, and Lakeville Residence in Kuala Lumpur.
As the proposed LRT project links up Bayan Lepas and George Town, most of the projects on the island stand to benefit from the implementation of the Penang Transport Master Plan, and will likely see a potential upside in the near future.
According to Raine & Horne senior partner Michael Geh said the property fair was very timely as the interest rates of banks have been lowered following Bank Negara’s move to cut overnight policy rate (OPR) by 25 basis points to 3%.
“Those eligible for loans should take the opportunity to buy properties, especially if they have yet to own one.
“The Penang Transport Master Plan, which would see the first LRT line on the island built, will help to boost the value of properties on the island when it is implemented,” Geh said.
The fair is open daily from 10.30am to 10.30pm. Admission is free.
More than RM100,000 worth of prizes are up for grabs in the Spin and Win Contest during the four-day event.

Prizes to be given away daily include Samsung Galaxy A9Pro, Samsung Galaxy A3, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0, Samsung Galaxy J5 and Parkson shopping vouchers.

(The Star) Zerin: Budget 2017 will spur hospitality investments

PETALING JAYA: The initiatives announced under Budget 2017 will spur investments in the Malaysian hospitality industry, said Zerin Properties.
The real estate agency said the initiatives were a timely boost as tourism was now a major contributor to the economy.
“With tourism contributing about 15% and being the sixth biggest contributor to the GDP, we see the incentives and fiscal policies in Budget 2017 encouraging hospitality investments in Malaysia,” said Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe.
Previndran, a chartered surveyor, estimated at least a 20% increase in terms of investment value next year.
He noted that two major transactions had taken place so far this year, with the sale of Aloft Hotel for RM419mil and Renaissance Hotel for RM765mil.
The biggest incentive announced in the Budget, he said, was the extension of application for pioneer status and investment tax allowance for new four- and five-star hotels, to Dec 31, 2018.
Other initiatives and policies announced by the Prime Minister last Friday included an allocation of RM400mil, for, among others, clean air and ecotourism initiatives, and an increase in tax deductions to RM700,000 from RM500,000 to encourage sponsorship by the private sector in local and foreign arts, culture and heritage shows and performances.
In addition, he noted that the Government will also promote Malaysia through Visiting Asean@50 Year Campaign in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Asean, as well as with Malaysia’s role as the host for the 2017 SEA and Para Asean Games.
To achieve the target of 32 million tourist arrivals next year, the Government had also announced that that it will extend eVisa to countries in the Balkans and South Asian regions.
“The main opportunities are in the 4 and 5 Star hotel sector but also increasingly in the lifestyle hotels in the likes of Aloft.

“Locations to benefit are Langkawi, especially in terms of eco-tourism, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor and Kota Kinabalu as the main locations, followed by the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia,” Previndran said. Zerin Properties, part of NAI Global, has been actively involved in hospitality transactions in the region.

(The Star) MQ REIT posts higher revenue in third quarter

PETALING JAYA: MRCB-Quill Real Estate Investment Trust (MQ REIT) registered a 2.2% increase in gross revenue at RM32.5mil for the third quarter ended Sept 30 compared with the same quarter a year ago.
However, it posted a realised net income of RM15.2mil, which was 3.2% lower than the corresponding period last year.
Notwithstanding the 0.2% higher net property income of RM25.53mil, the current quarter’s realised net income was marginally lower than last year, mainly due to higher manager’s fee, trustee’s fee, valuation fee and administrative expenses.
On a cumulative nine-month basis, MQ REIT’s realised net income rose by 21.8% to RM45.85mil compared to the same period last year.
Its net property income was 20.8% higher at RM76.68mil while gross revenue increased at a slower pace of 18.3% to RM97.72mil.
“We are pleased with MQ REIT’s financial performance even as we continue to weather a subdued macro-economic environment and challenging office market conditions in Klang Valley.
“Another growth opportunity that will augment MQ REIT’s income stream is the proposed acquisition of Menara Shell.
“The proposed acquisition is slated to be completed by the end of the fourth quarter this year and would increase the number of properties under the Trust to a total of 11,” said MRCB Quill Management Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Yong Su-Lin in a statement.
MRCB Quill Management Sdn Bhd is the manager of MQ REIT.
The completion of the acquisition exercise is expected to contribute to a stable and sustainable income stream to MQ REIT with effect from the first quarter of next year.
Besides that, MQ REIT also plans to set up a 20-year medium term notes (MTN) programme by the end of this year.
This would be a long-term debt financing platform to cater for immediate and future opportunistic acquisitions as well as future refinancing requirements.
Arising from this, MQ REIT’s special purpose entity, Kinabalu Capital Sdn Bhd (KCSB), has successfully obtained approval for the deferment of the expected maturity of the RM60mil MTN from Sept 5 this year to March 6, 2017.
MQ REIT added that KCSB obtained commercial papers (CP) noteholder approval for a new issuance with a nominal value of RM130mil with a tenure of six months to coincide with the expected maturity of the MTN.
As at Sept 30, 2016, MQ REIT’s gearing ratio was 42.8% and average cost of debt remains stable at 4.4% per annum.
“In terms of renewal of existing leases, our active leasing strategy has enabled us to successfully renew all leases due in the third quarter this year.

“With this, 64% of leases have been renewed while 8% of leases were not renewed. We are now on target to finalise the renewal of the balance 28% of leases that are due in the last quarter of 2016. MQ REIT’s average occupancy rate as at Sept 30, 2016 continues to be resilient at 97.2% in terms of net lettable area,” said Yong.

(The Star) World Bank gives high marks to Malaysia in Doing Business Report 2017

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has scored well in the indicators for getting electricity, protecting minority investors and dealing with construction permits under the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2017, according to the Malaysia Productivity Corp (MPC) director general Datuk Mohd Razlan Hussain.
“We are credited alongside Japan as being the best performers on the reliability of supply and transparency of tariffs index under the getting electricity indicator with a distance to frontier score of 94.34.
“Last year we were also one of the best performers on this index,” Razlan said at a press conference earlier in the week.
“We are also acknowledged as having made paying taxes easier by enhancing the electronic system for filing and paying the goods and services tax (GST),” he added.
Malaysia ranked 23rd out of 190 world economies with a distance to frontier (DTF) score of 78.11 in the Doing Business Report 2017 from 22nd in the previous year.
Commenting on the results, Razlan said that he was fairly confident that the country would be able to improve its ranking in the report by the year 2020 based on previous experience.
“Our aspirations for this particular report is to be in the top 10 by 2020. Given our experience we had before and the cohesiveness of the focus groups (working on this).
“As we speak, the focus groups are figuring out what has happened. With these factors we hope we can speed up the process for us to climb the rankings,” Razlan said.
“We actually saw a steady improvement in our rankings from 2010 (23rd) to 2014 (6th).
“The rankings’ methodology was revised for three times, with the last one for 2016’s rankings. We worked very closely with the World Bank when we were 23rd (then in 2010) to understand how we were being measured. The new methodology is very challenging as it does not just focus on just efficiency alone but also in terms of quality,” he added.
Razlan added that it was not for MPC to just work alone to improve these rankings but rather a joint effort of both the public and private sector.
“If we can improve on the collaborations, then we can see our rankings rise,” he said.
The MPC is an agency in the government that is tasked to look into this matter.
He said that key areas that Malaysia can improve on in the Doing Business Report 2017 include the starting a business and border compliance.
“The number of procedures to start a business has increased from three to 8.5. While under border compliance for exports has increased to 48 hours from 20 hours in the year before. This is the time taken to do border compliance: the processes that are required,” he said. “It involves several departments including customs, permits and issuing agencies, agriculture ministry and other government agencies. Customs is the main player which is in the focus group and we are engaging them at the moment.”

He also said one other area that Malaysia could improve on the paying taxes indicator which is an indicator that measures payments, time and total tax rate for a firm to comply with all tax regulations.

(The Star) BHS clarifies on Green Technology Park project in Pahang

PETALING JAYA: BHS Industries Bhd has clarified it will be developing the 26-acre Green Technology Park (GTP) land in Pekan, Pahang in five phases.
In a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, the company said phase 1 has taken off, adding that the company will be building a pulp and paper mill with an annual production capacity of 10,000 tonnes that will be ready for production by the middle of next year.
The company raised gross proceeds of RM41.6mil through a rights issue to finance the pulp and paper project in October last year.
It said phase 2 may involve a factory with a capacity to produce 100,000 tonnes of box liner paper and 120,000 tonnes of corrugated paper.
Another factory with a capacity to produce 65,000 tonnes of tissue paper will be developed under the third phase.
“BHS is presently talking to potential investors and once it has succeeded, it will make an announcement to Bursa. Phase 4 consists of a factory to produce agro-feed and organic fertiliser and under phase 5, the land has been earmarked for light industries.
“To support and service the manpower needs of the GTP, the company plans to build shop lots and also hostels for workers. These are still at the preliminary stage of the planning.”

BHS, primarily involved in printing and publishing, earlier this year purchased 375 acres from the Pahang state government for RM9.25mil. The move is part of the strategy to diversify existing core business.

(The Star) I-Bhd to build smart homes together with China's Hua Wei

KUALA LUMPUR: Property developer I-Bhd together with technology partner Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, will be launching the first ever smart home project of their tie-up, Converse @ i-City, next April in the company’s flagship i-City.
i-City director Monica Ong said the project would comprise 200 units of smart fully-furnished homes equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) technology as part of its readily available and standard utilities.
“The gross development value of Converse is yet to be announced as discussions are still in the pipeline, but the high-rise condominium will be located right above Double Tree by Hilton in i-City,” she told the press on the sidelines following the launch of the Malaysia-China Digital Economy Forum by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
It was reported that the automated smart homes will be wired up to answer questions and retrieve information from the Internet for their owners.
The homes will have auto control facilities that allows for owners to undertake tasks with a simple voice command
Ong also said the partnership with Huawei, a network and telecommunications equipment maker located in Shenzhen, China, covers more than just the Converse project as it involves the upgrading of i-City’s fibre infrastructure.
“Actually, our partnership with Huawei is for the entire development of i-City to further upgrade our fibre infrastructure, smart traffic as well as smart parking systems among others.
“We have the vision of i-City being an urban development that integrates and embeds the evolution of multiple information and communication technologies and IoT advancements.
“This is to provide better qualities of life for the people who reside and work there,” she said.
The i-City and Huawei partnership spans across the establishment of necessary ecosystem and the multi-towered and multi-faceted 72-acre ultrapolis that includes residential, commercial and leisure components. To this end, i-City was accorded MSC Malaysia Cybercentre status in 2008.
The partners will now be working with Huawei to address other elements of the eco-system such as the impact and integration of cloud computing and mobile broadband into property development and everyday living.
At the ground level, i-City has been providing home network connectivity as part of the basic infrastructure and it will be working with Huawei to ensure the most cost-effective solution.

Ong said digital economy has become one of the key contributors to the country’s economic growth with i-City supporting the effort to develop the industry to benefit the local economic landscape.

(The Star) SP Setia plans RM3bil projects

GEORGE TOWN: SP Setia Bhd plans to launch RM3bil worth of properties on the island over the next 10 years.
Group general manager Ng Han Seong said that the company had undeveloped landbank of 56.6ha on the eastern side of the island, Tanjung Bungah, Jelutong, Teluk Kumbar, and Balik Pulau.
“We expect to launch at least one project per year. There will be a mixture of high-rise and landed properties planned for our future launches,” Ng said at the unveiling of the RM470mil Setia Sky Ville project in Jelutong.
Setia Sky Ville will be launched on Nov 5.
On the weakened property market, Ng said the property cycle would usually last two to three years. “The trend is the same globally,” Ng said, adding that the company launched the Setia Sky Vista project in Relau last year which had seen a 55% take-up rate.

“The pricing from RM650,000 was very attractive. The built-up area ranging between 1,100 sq ft and 1,400 sq ft is sizeable. Because of the success, we are now launching Setia Sky Ville in Jelutong.”

(The Star) Cabbies could come under Socso by next May

KUALA LUMPUR: The Self-Employed Act for taxi drivers could be implemented as early as May 2017, said Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot.
Riot said that the Act would allow taxi drivers who were free agents to contribute to the Social Security Organisation (Socso).
“In the 2017 Budget, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that self-employed Malaysians, in particular taxi drivers, would be able to contribute to Socso.
“This will be good for both the taxi drivers and the country,” he said, adding that with the contribution, the taxi drivers will be protected under Socso’s insurance scheme.
He said that the draft for the Act was being finalised and the Bill would be tabled in Parliament in March 2017.
He, however, said that the details on how the contribution would be paid had not been ironed out yet.
“As taxis fall under Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) jurisdiction, we are in talks with the commission to ensure that the new Act will benefit both taxi drivers and their beneficiaries,” he said at the launching ceremony of the rebranding of Socso at Menara Perkeso here on Wednesday.
Speaking on the rebranding, he said that the process started at the end of 2015 through initiatives such as a new logo, Perkeso Prihatin (Socso Cares), to showcase Socso’s dedication to its members and stakeholders.
“The Socso Cares Squad has also been launched to respond urgently to cases reported by the media.
“When the earthquake occurred in Mount Kinabalu and Ranau, Socso officers were already on the ground to find out which victims were insured under our scheme and within one week they identified those eligible to get benefits under Socso,” he said, citing a recent example.
He added that the squad had also responded to the tragic fire at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor on Tuesday.
He said that the new logo and a series of marketing programmes were to also get more Malaysian workers to become Socso contributors so that they would be covered by the organisation.

He added that 6.5 million workers in the country were insured under Socso.

(The Star) Three towns to get more air links

KUCHING: Three more towns in Malaysia are set to enjoy increased air connectivity within the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region with the signing of an agreement in Manila next month.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the three additional destinations in Malaysia were Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah and Mulu in Sarawak. Malaysia currently has four cities with BIMP-EAGA air links – Kota Kinabalu, Labuan, Kuching and Miri.
Liow said the Protocol to Amend the MOU on Expansion of Air Linkages would be inked at the 22nd Asean Transport Ministers Meeting in Manila in November.
He said the protocol aimed to provide more flexible approaches to sustain air services on existing routes and encourages the opening of new routes within BIMP-EAGA, which covers Brunei, Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak and southern Philippines.
Every year, when we meet for BIMP-EAGA meetings, we would like to increase the number of townships that we’re going to fly to. In Asean, we practise an open sky policy but we only fly to certain destinations within Asean countries.
“Through BIMP-EAGA, we are opening up to all the small cities within this region and this is something very crucial,” he told a press conference after attending the 11th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting here yesterday.
The protocol was one of several points Liow highlighted in a joint statement by the BIMP-EAGA transport ministers following their meeting.
Also present were Brunei’s Com­mu­nications Minister Datuk Awang Mustappa Sirat, Indonesia’s Trans­por­tation Ministry secretary-general Sugihardjo and the Philippines’ Transportation Department undersecretary Felipe A. Judan.
Liow also announced that the BIMP-EAGA drivers’ log book was launched at the meeting to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers as part of the monitoring mechanism in implementing the MOU on the Cross-Border Move­ment of Buses and Coaches signed in 2007.
He said the log book would help to promote self-enforcement and regulation by bus operators and drivers while assisting enforcement agencies and the operators to monitor the drivers.

“They are cutting across different countries with different laws and regulations. With the log book, we can monitor the drivers whether they are abiding by the laws and regulations of that particular country,” he said, adding that the log books would be monitored by the enforcement agencies of the BIMP-EAGA countries.