Friday, 15 November 2019

(The Star) Packed with lovely products

Penangnites now have a new spot to buy their groceries and quality produce with the opening of Mercato in Gurney Plaza.

Located at the plaza’s basement level where Cold Storage used to be, the supermarket promises to bring quality, value and a wholesome retail experience to its customers.

Dairy Farm Group store operations director (Malaysia and Singapore) Mark Scates said the store has some 2,000 new products including an extensive range of wine, spirits and foodstuff among others.

“Also new is the fresh ice-cream stall (made on the spot) featuring various types of fruits. There is also a stall where shoppers can pick the type of nuts and have them grinded into nut butter.

Mercato employees all raring to serve customers.

“These stalls are the first of its kind and not available anywhere else. In addition to imported meats such as Japanese Wagyu A5, OBE organic beef and Dorper lamb, there is also a ready-to-cook range of marinated beef, lamb and poultry, ” he said, adding that Mercato Gurney’s opening on Wednesday is the third after two earlier ones in Kuala Lumpur.

Scates said Mercato has always put customers first and strived to understand their preferences which has led to the findings that premium supermarkets have become increasingly popular among middle-class Malaysians demanding a variety of imported products.

“As a result, Mercato has chosen to answer the need to continuously innovate and serve the customers’ needs in Penang with the launch of Mercato Gurney which will also complement Cold Storage in nearby Tanjong Tokong.

“This store sports a fresh new ambience with appealing decor and wider aisles. We also have unique selections like air-flown fresh flowers, fresh herb pots, an unbeatable cheese selection and a live seafood tank, ” he said.

(From left) Chan, Scates and Ng checking out the fruits during Mercato’s opening in Gurney Plaza, George Town.

Scates added that Mercato’s ‘Ready to Eat’ selections have been curated for everyone and features a variety of healthy options such as roasted antibiotic-free pineapple chicken, overnight oats as well as a sandwich and salad range.

To celebrate the new opening, the first 100 customers daily until Sunday, with purchases of RM80 and above will get an exclusive shopping bag and a gift while those (first 100) with purchases above RM100 get a RM10 voucher.

One lucky customer daily will also stand a chance to win a RM500 voucher during this period.

Also present were CapitaLand mall management general manager Selina Ng, Gurney Plaza manager Peter Chan and Mercato Gurney manager Hartono Mohamad Rasyid.Hartono, in his opening address, said the outlet has a total of 52 employees including several who have been with the company for 45 years.

Guests at the opening were treated to samples of food, a lion dance, and a performance by musicians who used vegetables and fruits as their instruments.

Musicians making sweet music using vegetables and fruits.

Scates added that GCH Retail (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (a Dairy Farm International subsidiary, which is the operator of the Giant Hypermarket and Supermarket chain, Cold Storage, Mercato and Jason’s Food Hall), will be opening another Mercato in the Klang Valley soon.

“We are also looking to expand in the northern region. Since May this year, we have ‘refreshed’ 32 of our stores so that our customers will have a better shopping experience.”

Keeping abreast with the latest market trends, GCH Retail continues to deliver on modern retail experiences and avails Malaysian customers to a wide range of products and produce.

GCH Retail’s latest industry accolades includes being Asia Pacific’s Top 500 Gold Winner as Malaysia’s No 1 retailer with stores in Peninsular Malaysia and in Sabah and Sarawak.

(The Star) Promoting nature’s treasures

Not many know that besides the heritage beauty and great food in Penang, there is a pocket of pure, undisturbed realm of Mother Nature.

Located in the northwest corner of the island in Teluk Bahang and about 20km from George Town, Penang National Park might be the smallest national park in Malaysia, but is among the easiest to access and spend time at.

About 20 participants consisting of bloggers, ‘YouTubers’ and representatives from travel agencies were given the opportunity to explore the serenity of Penang’s hidden gem in the Balik Pulau Nature Exploration programme organised by Tourism Malaysia northern region.

According to its director Ahmad Husni Ahmad Basri, the programme’s objective was to promote eco-tourism products that Penang has aside from the other already well-known attractions.

“Normally, we show off Penang’s beaches, food and culture. But, this time we wanted show this unique eco-tourism product to local and foreign tourists who love nature.

“This is also a reminder for us to protect our environment that is rich in flora and fauna, ” he said.

The pristine site of about 1,213ha of forest and coastline is home to more than 1,000 species of tropical rainforest trees which are generally dominated by the Dipterocarpaceae, Leguminoceae, Apocynaceae, Anacardiaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Moraceae family.

The tropical park is also often visited by researchers, nature lovers as well as scientists, who explore its natural treasures.

The 2D/1N exploration programme kicked off with a briefing session by park rangers at Penang National Park on the do’s and don’ts while at the park.

The group then visited Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs), located in the fringes of the jungle in Teluk Aling.

At Cemacs, participants were briefed about oceanic species such as Irrawaddy dolphins and jellyfish and toured the research centre which is also the national depository of the genetic material of studied marine specimens.

Then came a sumptuous lunch at Teluk Kampi, where the sandy beaches are a glorious sight for those who love the great outdoors.

Teluk Kampi is also a campsite but campers must first get themselves a guide before they can pitch tents there.

The exploration also included a visit to Pantai Kerachut, where the Penang Turtle Sanctuary is located. It is open to the public daily from 10am to 4.30pm.

Most of the time, there are turtle eggs being incubated at the sanctuary. They are gathered up safely from turtle nests, which are regularly found in Pantai Kerachut.

Fisheries rangers will care for the hatchlings till they are larger and then release them just before nightfall so that predators such as eagles have gone to roost; and when the tide is most gentle to make it easier for the baby turtles to swim far and spread out.

As night fell, participants were given the choice of either visiting Batu Ferringhi night market or remain in Teluk Bahang for some night fishing.

The second day of the exploration programme saw participants entering yet another whole new nature setting: mangrove forests.

They were ferried by boat to Kuala Sungai Pinang on the western side of Penang island.

They also went on a 10km ride on all-terrain vehicles (ATV) along a narrow trail between sprawling padi fields and the coastal mangrove forest in Pantai Malindo.

One of the participants, tourist guide Mirza Banoon Md Shahar, lauded the effort by Tourism Malaysia and described the programme as an efficient way to promote nature in Penang.

She said the experience she had gained was valuable to her as a tourist guide, as she could further promote other parts of Penang to clients.

She, however, lamented about the condition of some of the facilities at places she visited. She felt they should by upgraded or replaced as they can bring a bad image to Penang.

Blogger Ahmad Afiq Abdul Halid agreed that the programme showed off Penang’s eco-tourism offerings.

“I know Penang has its own national park but what I didn’t know is that it has such a good route for jungle trekking, ” he said.As an outdoor enthusiast, he said he felt the programme

could have been stretched, with some jungle-trekking activities.

Another blogger Jumie Shamsudin said after joining the tour, she no longer thought of Penang as an urban destination.

“Many visitors see Penang as a urban city full of history. They don’t know about nature on the other side of Penang island.”

For more details about Penang National Park and other attractions in Balik Pulau, call Tourism Malaysia northern region office at 04-261 0058.

(The Star) 4,000 more boys born in Q3 2019 than girls

PETALING JAYA: There were more boys than girls born in the third quarter of this year with 64,028 recorded male births compared to 60,122 females, the Department of Statistics revealed.

However, overall births shrunk by 3% compared to the third quarter of last year.

Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said 124,150 live births were recorded in the third quarter of this year compared with 127,956 in the same period last year.

Selangor remained the state with the most births, recording 24,246, while the lowest birth rate was recorded in Labuan with 427, he said.

In a statement, he said the country’s population was estimated to have increased by 0.6% in the third quarter of 2019 with 32.63 million people living in Malaysia compared with 32.43 million in the same period last year.

About 90.3% of the population was made up of citizens.

The statement also noted that the country’s male population increased to 16.85 million this period compared with 16.74 million in the last period while women now number about 15.78 million compared with 15.69 million last year.

However, the sex ratio remained at 107 males to 100 females.

The country is also fast becoming an ageing nation with the number of people over 65 years increasing from 2.12 million in the third quarter of 2018 to 2.21 in the same period this year.

The number of those aged between 15 and 64 also went up from 22.64 million to 22.85 million while people in the younger age bracket, aged from 0 to 14, decreased from 7.68 million to 7.57 million.

The country’s death rate also decreased by 0.9% in the third quarter of 2019 with 41,772 deaths recorded compared with 42,156 in the same period last year.

(The Star) Limited impact from CAAM downgrade on VM 2020

The downgrade of the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to Category 2 will have limited impact on tourist arrivals in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2020, says Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik.

The impact could be for local airlines with codeshare agreements with US-based airlines.

“I have checked with a few airlines and they informed me it doesn’t affect them unless there is codesharing, ” he said when answering a supplementary question raised by Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina (BN-Kepala Batas) at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The regulatory body governing Malaysian skies was downgraded by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) effective Nov 11.

Muhammad Bakhtiar pointed out that about 90% of tourists visiting the country were from regional countries and not from Europe or the United States.

He added that the ministry was optimistic of getting 30 million tourist arrivals and RM100bil in tourism receipts next year.

He told lawmakers that tourist spending increased by 6.8% to RM41.69bil for the six months of this year from RM39bil in the same period last year.

He noted that 35.3% of tourist expenditure was in the retail industry.

Earlier, to a question by Yamani Hafez Musa (PH-Sipitang), Muhammad Bakhtiar said the tourism industry contributed RM220.6bil or 15.2% to the gross domestic product compared to 2017, which was RM200.4bil or 14.6%.

He added that 3.5 million jobs or 25.3% of the country’s workforce were related to the tourism industry.

(The Star) Terengganu plans to invite large cruise ships

PETALING JAYA: Terengganu aims to boost tourism by attracting large cruise ships to stop over at the state during their voyages by 2021.

Terengganu tourism, culture and information technology committee chairman Ariffin Deraman said there were talks to arrange for cruise ships to include the state as one of their stops.

Although the plans have been presented at the state exco meeting, the state government is expecting for arrangements to be ready by 2021 as talks are still ongoing.

“We have smaller cruise ships docking here, but now we are planning to arrange for cruises from Singapore to make Terengganu one of their stops.

“What we are looking at now are larger vessels, with the capacity for 3,000 passengers and 1,500 workers, ” he said.

Plans are underway, he said, to bring passengers to visit Kuala Terengganu’s iconic drawbridge, museums and other tourist attractions in the state.

He added that cultural performances would also be included in the itinerary.

Ariffin said plans were still in the early stages, and there were no issues with cruise ships that serve alcohol or have gambling on board.

“On our side, we would not serve alcohol or organise gambling and we will not be going up to the cruise ships. We will only entertain the passengers when they get off.

“These tourists would only stop by for about seven to eight hours, they will not be spending the night here, ” he said. Terengganu MCA executive advisor Datuk Toh Chin Yaw said the move was “definitely good”, but the overall policies in the state need to be tourist-friendly.

“The tourism industry is doing well in Terengganu. But we must be prepared and have the will to make the tourism boost a reality, ” he said when contacted.

(The Star) Kula: Technical, vocational skills the way of the future

PETALING JAYA: Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran told parents there will be more technical and vocational jobs in the future, and academic qualifications would no longer guarantee their children jobs.

He advised parents to consider sending their children to technical colleges to assure employment.

He said medical graduates, for example, were facing problems in getting jobs because of over production.

“Look at the medical field. It is critical now. They have to study for six years and another two years for a housemanship post.

“They are then given a two-year contract but will subsequently not be absorbed into the civil service, ” he said during the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) Quality and Innovation awards ceremony yesterday.

He said 94% of graduates from technical institutes secured jobs as soon as they completed their studies.

“I hope parents will think carefully when sending their children for further studies. We have to understand that (technical) skills are the way for the future, ” he said.

Kulasegaran said the ministry was publishing a Critical Occupations List booklet on future jobs in the country.

He said the list has 20 jobs at risk and another 20 jobs with good prospects.

He said the list was compiled in collaboration with the World Bank and the Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis.

Kulasegaran said the International Labour Organisation has warned that 15% of jobs now will not exist in the future, while another 35% will face other challenges.

Kulasegaran also said Malaysians should realise that times are changing for employment.

(The Star) Govt to bear RM10.3bil premium in LTH rescue and restructuring

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will bear a RM10.3bil premium to ensure the financial health of Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) is restored as part of the rescue and restructuring plan of the pilgrimage fund, Urusharta Jamaah Sdn Bhd (UJSB) announced.

UJSB, which is a wholly-owned unit of the Finance Ministry (MoF), completed the transfer of non-performing assets valued at RM9.63bil held by LTH in December last year, following financial mismanagement and wrongdoings by the previous management.

The transfer was done from LTH to UJSB in exchange for RM19.9bil, consisting two tranches of sukuk totalling RM19.6bil, namely RM10bil of seven-year sukuk and RM9.9bil of Islamic redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS-i), as well as RM300mil in cash payable to LTH.

“The difference of RM10.3bil between the consideration of RM19.9bil and RM9.63bil market value of assets is to be borne by the government to ensure that the financial health of LTH is restored, ” UJSB said here yesterday.

UJSB pointed out that in the event the value of the assets depreciates further, the losses shouldered by the government will be higher than RM10.3bil.

Explaining on the assets transferred, UJSB said it consisted a mixture of listed equity holdings, properties and one unlisted plantation asset. The property assets transferred to UJSB include a 0.63ha of land at the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX).

The land was purchased by LTH for RM188.5mil or at RM2,760 psf, significantly higher than that paid for by 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which was at only RM75 psf (or RM5.1mil for 0.63ha). UJSB then purchased the TRX land from LTH for RM400mil or RM5,856 psf, which does not reflect the actual market value of the land.

The purchase consideration was done at a significant premium (112.2%) to what LTH paid in April 2015 (RM188.5mil or RM2,760 psf), it explained.

In a recent valuation exercise conducted in March 2019, the market value of the TRX land stood at only RM205mil.

The huge difference between the market value and the purchase value of the land (95% premium over market value), together with all the other assets acquired by UJSB, was needed to ensure the successful rescue and restructuring plan of LTH.

Overall, UJSB will bear significant losses as a result of impairment charges estimated at more than RM10bil for the assets acquired from LTH. The TRX land transaction itself will result in an impairment charge of RM195mil. — Bernama

(The Star) Sarawak mulls fourth major road project linking Kalimantan

KUCHING: Sarawak, which is currently implementing three mega road network projects, is mulling to embark on a fourth - a border security road stretching more than 1,000km to link up with Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The border security road project is estimated to cost a whopping RM24bil, according to Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Infrastructure and Ports Development Minister Tan Sr James Masing.

He considers it crucial to construct the 1,032km border road following Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s recent announcement to relocate his country’s capital to Kalimantan from Jarkata.

Dubbed Sarawak’s third trunk road traversing into the state’s last frontiers, Masing expects the border road project to start as early as next year. Construction work could take more than 10 years to beyond 2030.

He said the border security road network project was deliberated during a mini lab conducted last month to gather feedback and input from various stakeholders, including the state economic planning unit (EPU), his ministry, State Transport Ministry, Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda) and various relevant state and federal agencies.

“Arising from the lab, an indepth study on the proposed boader security road network will be carried out with priorities given to four sections, ” said Masing when he revealed the project for the first time in the state legislative assembly on Wednesday.

The four sections are the Baleh section and feeder road, Engkilili, Lubok Antu and Batang Ai section, Serian/Tebedu road upgrading to JKR standard and the Baram section and Tinjar feeder road.

“We have to get the priority sections ready by 2024 and because of this, we will propose this road project to our state EPU for submission to the Economic Affairs Ministry for consideration under the 12th Malaysia Plan, ” he added.

The project will commence from Biawak in Lundu district to Serikin (border town with Pontianak, west Kalimantan), passing through Lubok Antu, Long Silat, Long Banga and Bario and will be connected to the Sarawak-Sabah link road.

The Sarawak-Sabah road project was announced recently by Works Minister Baru Bian. The 425km new road project is estimated to cost RM5.2bil.

With the shifting of Indonesian capital to Kalimantan in 2024, Masing expects the movement of people between Sarawak and Kalimantan to increase in the next five to six years.

“More importantly, this proposed border highway will enable us to safeguard and protect our multi-billion ringgit assets, especially the Sarawak-Sabah gas pipeline and the four hydroelectric dam (Bakun, Murum, Batang Ai and Baleh) which are situated adjacent to our international boundary, ” he said.

Once built, the border road network would provide the connectivity to the highland regions along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border in northern Sarawak. The state’s three ongoing mega road network projects are the Pan Borneo Highway costing over RM14bil, the billion ringgit Sarawak Coastal Road and the Second Trunk Road.

(The Star) GDB unit bags RM20.6mil job from Hua Yang

PETALING JAYA: Construction services company GDB Holdings Bhd’s subsidiary has secured a RM20.67mil contract from Hua Yang Bhd’s unit to carry out piling and substructure work for the latter’s serviced apartment project in Puchong.

GDB Holdings said its 70%-owned GDB Geotechnics Sdn Bhd had secured the contract from Bison Holdings Sdn Bhd for the Aviary Residence@Puchong Horizon project.

The contract entails bored piling and pile caps for two blocks of serviced apartments comprising the 36-storey, 565-unit tower one and 37-storey, 337-unit tower two.

The development will also include a common facilities podium, as well as a six-storey car park.

“The overall duration of the contract is for 21 months from the date of possession of site on Nov 18 and it is expected to contribute positively to the group for the duration of the contract, ” it said in a filing with the stock exchange.

GDB Holdings group managing director Cheah Ham Cheia said: “To win this contract in less than two months since GDB Holdings’ completion of the acquisition showcases the strong value proposition of being an enlarged group that is capable of offering integrated construction service.”

Cheah said the group’s new wins amounted to RM885.97mil in the current year to date.

He said the group was positive on securing more substructure jobs, as it continues to leverage on GDB Geotechnics’ track-record and position in the high-rise construction space.

(The Star) Caring Pharmacy targets second and third-tier cities

PETALING JAYA: Caring Pharmacy Group Bhd is targeting to expand its outlets in second and third-tier cities in Malaysia next year, including Kota Baru and Kuantan.

Managing director Chong Yeow Siang said the group planned to open its outlets in shopping malls in such cities.

“We are now in major cities but we aim to slowly expand into highly populated second and third-tier cities next year which can sustain our business, ” he said after the launch of its collaboration with Australian-listed Holista Colltech Ltd to promote the pharmacist as the frontline in diabetes care.

Currently, Caring Pharmacy has 132 outlets nationwide, including four in Sabah.

By 2024, the local pharmacy chain plans to expand its outlets to 200 in Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sabah and Sarawak.

With a strong net cash position, Chong said the expansion would be funded internally.

Besides physical outlets, he said the group would focus on its online store next year to tap into the rising trend of online shopping.

“We are taking the online stores very seriously. I believe we are not doing enough but will continue to enhance our capabilities to invest in the online department to make it more significant, ” Chong noted.

Caring Pharmacy’s online sales are contributing an average of only 1% to group revenue. He expects the consumer sector to be challenging next year, given the intense competition.

Despite tough market conditions, Chong said the group is still committed to boost earnings growth, as it has achieved internal key performance indicators in the last few quarters.

Caring Pharmacy is a specialised retail chain with a growing presence in the most populated areas in Peninsular Malaysia. The group has the principal rights to distribute some pharmaceutical and personalised healthcare products.

It undertakes retail sales of pharmaceutical, healthcare and personal care products, and is the fastest-growing pharmaceutical retail chain.

Motivasi Optima Sdn Bhd is Caring Pharmacy’s largest shareholder with a 50.35% stake.