Thursday, 25 August 2016

(The Star) Highway project draws keen financier

KUCHING: Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd is keen to help finance the Pan Borneo highway, including sub-contractors involved in the project.
Bank Pembangunan president and group managing director Mohammed Rafidz Ahmed Rasiddi said the project fit the bank’s loan portfolio which comprised 85% infrastructure, with roads and highways making up a large portion of the segment.
“Bank Pembangunan is very excited with the potential of the Pan Borneo highway because it falls squarely into the type of lending that we do.
“Certainly, from our perspective, we are very eager to participate in funding it, not only in the project but also down to the sub-contractors that help the main contractors,” he told reporters at an infrastructure forum organised by Bank Pembangunan here yesterday.
Rafidz also said Bank Pembangunan had lent out over RM2bil for Sarawak-based projects such as hotels, roads and area development in the last five years.
He said the bank was exploring other opportunities in the state, including mini-hydro projects.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing, who opened the forum on behalf of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, welcomed Bank Pembangunan’s interest in funding the highway and other infrastructure projects in Sarawak.
“What is important is that the bank is helping the small contractors who are part and parcel of the project. The main bulk has been financed but the small contractors are the ones that require a lot of financing,” he said.
Masing also said the state required huge sums to develop rural areas, where road construction was estimated to cost RM16mil per kilometre.
“In the next 15 years, I have to implement and build 4,000km of roads, which will entail about RM24bil.
“I hope the forum will find ways and means to make the funds available to us and what the conditions are for us to get the funds,” he said.
Earlier, Bank Pembangunan board member Datuk Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad said Sarawak was set to become the next investment and growth frontier.
“With the state currently going through a rapid economic development phase, we see a growing focus and ample investment opportunities to develop major infrastructure facilities in Sarawak,” he said in his welcoming speech.
As such, he said the forum was a platform for the public and private sectors to address the state’s infrastructure needs, discuss what should be done and provide opportunities to strengthen partnerships and share resources and expertise in infrastructure and financing.

“Bank Pembangunan is committed to work closely with the state government and the industry. We recognise our developmental role as an agent of the Government and we are here to invest in infrastructure for a better tomorrow,” he added.

(The Star) New hotel opens in Pengerang

KOTA TINGGI: Visitors can now opt to stay at the newly-opened Amansari Hotel Desaru, currently the tallest building in the Pengerang area.
Developed by SKS Group, the 14-storey hotel is strategically located at Taman Desaru Utama, the gateway to Desaru, Pengerang and Kota Tinggi.
The Group director Amir Shariffudin Abd Raub said that the three-star hotel would cater to both business and leisure travellers, in view of the numerous nearby holiday destinations as well as various developments taking place in the area.
Among the mega projects in Pengerang include the Desaru Coast, the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) and the Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid).
“The opening of Amansari Hotel Desaru will reinforce the Group’s portfolio in hospitality, and significantly accentuate Desaru’s position as a holiday hotspot in the region.
“We expect the hotel to be well-received, as we have already received numerous enquiries prior to the official opening due to its strategic location and affordable room price,” he said during the launching of the hotel here.
Amir added that the Amansari Hotel Desaru features 238 spacious and comfortable air-conditioning rooms, comprising superior, deluxe, super deluxe and family suites.
“We will soon be opening a lounge on the first floor, which will be perfect for gathering and evening drinks,” he said, adding that a well-equipped gymnasium is also accessible to guests.
Other on-site amenities include a cosy coffeehouse on the ground floor and a multipurpose hall that can accommodate up to 250 guests for business conference, meeting or private function.
“Apart from that, hotel guests can also opt to enjoy more recreational facilities such as swimming pool, sauna and tennis or futsal courts at the Desaru Utama Clubhouse at special rates,” he said.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, who officially launched the hotel, said that the RM14mil hotel would further strengthen Desaru as a tourist destination.

“Pengerang is also an education hub and with room price from as low as RM168 per night, the management can also look forward to receiving bookings from parents of students studying here besides leisure and business travellers,” she added.

(The Star) Johor Halal Park attracts investors

JOHOR BARU: The country’s first premium integrated biotech development Johor Halal Park (JHP) has already attracted local and international concerns to set up base within the project’s 141.63ha site in Pasir Gudang.
UMLand J-Biotech Park Sdn Bhd (UJP) chief executive officer Mohd Noor Abd Salam said JHP’s complete eco-system and strategic location of 15 minutes from Pasir Gudang Port and Iskandar Malaysia’s Eastern Gate were some of the selling points of the project.
“Besides local businesses, there is also interest among investors from Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, China, Turkey and recently the United States,” he said after the launch of JHP’s sales gallery in Bandar Seri Alam on Tuesday.
He added that among the businesses interested in coming to JHP are those in food processing, ingredients, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and personal care sectors, among others.
The RM1.5bil in gross development value (GDV) project would be developed in different phases across the span of five to seven years, with the first phase expected to be worth RM200mil in GDV, he said.
Mohd Noor said phase one of the project consists of three sections where part 1A, which has 89 factory units, is expected to be Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC)-ready by April next year.
The progress of phase 1A currently stands at 80% and is slated to be completed by the end of this year and the first tenants are expected to move in and start operating then, he added.
Earlier, UMLand Bhd chairman Tun Musa Hitam launched the new three-storey JHP corporate offices and sales gallery, set up to assist investors and promote the halal bio-based and herbal-based park.
Musa said that halal industrial parks are in abundance in Malaysia but what sets JHP apart is the value-added strengths such as a Regional Marketing Clearing House which links the businesses in the park to the international market.

The freehold-halal park is a joint-venture project between UMLand and the Johor State Government-linked company Johor Biotechnology & Biodiversity Corporation (J-Biotech).

(The Star) One-stop info centre for Mersing

MERSING: Visitors and holidaymakers will soon be able to enjoy the convenience of a new one-stop information and service centre with a variety of public amenities that will be built in Pulau Besar here.

The Pusat Informasi dan Perkhidmatan Taman Laut Sultan Iskandar would also function as a Rural Transformation Centre (RTC) for Mersing’s group of islands, offering public services and facilities such as exhibition centre, surau, clinic, police station and a cafeteria.

Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar launched the project’s implementation plan during his two-day Kembara Mahkota Johor to the Mersing islands on Sunday.

East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Jebasingam Issace John said that the construction of the centre is expected to start in March next year.

“The project is scheduled for completion by the fourth quarter of 2018 and was part of ECERDC and the state government’s strategic implementation plan to transform Mersing into a premier tourist destination,” he said.

He said once completed, locals and tourists will be able to access the services offered by government agencies at the RTC, including the Mersing District Council and Southern Region Marine Department.

Jebasingam added that ECERDC is also working with the relevant government agencies through the Johor Economic Planning Unit (Upen) to build and improve basic infrastructure in Mersing and its islands.

“In line with sustainable tourism development, upgrades and construction projects have been completed in Pulau Sibu, Pulau Aur and Pulau Tinggi while construction of a new jetty for Pulau Pemanggil will begin in March next year.

“We are also looking at improving water supply at Pulau Besar, Pulau Aur and Pulau Sibu,” he said, adding that several ongoing upgrading projects were also being carried out in the Mersing mainland.

Some RM29mil was spent by ECERDC to upgrade infrastructure and facilities on Mersing’s group of islands to support tourism development programmes and meet the needs of local communities.

(The Star) Business visits a boost for tourism

Business events form a segment with good potential growth for the tourism industry.
Between January and September 2015, the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), the business arm of the Tourism and Culture Ministry, secured 109 international events.
This translated into some 64,810 delegates and delivered an estimated RM634.92mil.
MyCEB chief executive officer Datuk Zulkefli Sharif said they had, in the past few years, significantly increased activities in the business events sector, which included international corporate meeting, incentive travel, association convention and trade exhibition events.
MyCEB cited as an example the 2,500 business visitors from China-based multi-level lingerie marketing company Joymain (JM) China, who visited the country in June as part of their corporate meetings and incentive trip overseas.
This one event alone is said to have benefited the local economy to the tune of RM45.3mil.
During their six-day stay, the participants took in Kuala Lumpur’s spectacular aerial views in a helicopter tour, admired the famous Tuanku Zainal Abidin Mosque in Putrajaya, had team-building activities at the School of Hard Knocks at the Royal Selangor Visitors Centre and soaked in the culture and the natural environment at various homestay villages in Kampung Banghuris, Sepang and Kampung Pachitan, Negri Sembilan.
Several Joymain delegates having their picture taken during their visit.
The organising team, Sunflower Holidays Sdn Bhd, supported by the Malaysian Tourism and Culture Ministry and MyCEB, made sure the visit was a pleasant one.
The business events segment is certainly a welcome addition to an industry that draws more than 1.3 million business visitors a year, with an injection of more than RM19bil annually in economic impact.
According to MyCEB, the JM China Group visit is a clear demonstration of how intricate the process is to pull off a successful event.
With a wide network which stretches across industries, from destination management companies to hotels and homestays, tour guides and transportation, entertainment and food and beverage, business events are truly a convergence of expertise to make an event successful whereby all benefit greatly from the occasion in more than one way, it added.
“This result is a great example of our focus to work collaboratively with Chinese companies to escalate participant numbers and provide them with a unique Malaysian experience,” said Zulkefli.
“The overwhelming positivity towards the host of activities we have offered positions Malaysia as a compelling, value-for-money and attractive destination to do business, and be a leader in the international business events market and corporate incentives,” he added.
As an effort to encourage more industry players to step up in the international arena, MyCEB offers support services that are complimentary and impartial, designed to assist in bidding process, fostering government and industry collaborations, providing event support as well as consultation on products and services.
In addition to having marketing offices in major regions, MyCEB works closely with over 40 Tourism Malaysia offices worldwide to ensure seamless connections for staging successful business events in Malaysia.

Both aspiring and long-standing industry players are encouraged to be part of the business events movement in Malaysia, said MyCEB.

(The Star) No compromise on quality in this simple meal

There are many lunch options in Section 5, Petaling Jaya, and if you are craving a banana leaf meal, Kavitha’s restaurant offers affordably priced meals.
The new proprietors took over the business, from the elderly man who ran the original Kavitha’s that was in Petaling Jaya Old Town for 22 years. They retained the name and decided to keep it simple by focusing on breakfast and lunch servings.
A basic banana-leaf meal comprising rice, three types of vegetables, rasam, papadam and chilli pickle is RM6.50.
The curries are palatable and do not overwhelm you with the curry powder flavour.
We each had lashings of salt fish curry, crab curry and chicken curry with fixings of fried tenggiri.
The sizeable fish block was fresh but was priced at RM9 per piece.
1 The basic banana leaf meal at Restoran Kavitha’s is priced at RM6.50.2 The fried ikan tenggiri is slightly on the pricy side at RM9.3 Batter-fried ladies’ fingers (okra).
The basic banana leaf meal at Restoran Kavitha’s is priced at RM6.50.

“It does cost a bit more, but our fish is delivered fresh daily,” said restaurant manager L. Ganesan.
On our table were also portions of ikan billis sambal (RM3) and batter-fried okra (RM1.80).
We liked the sambal, which had just the right amount of heat and savouriness. The fried okra had that slightly spicy and crunchy texture like you would experience with the common fried bitter gourd.
As with running any other restaurant, staffing is always a problem so the new owners decided to stick to opening for breakfast and lunch only.
“Our cooks are from India and with the lack of manpower, it is a challenge to run Kavitha’s on full scale.
“We don’t waste any food because everything is prepared fresh every day and there are no leftovers,” said Ganesan.
The fried Ikan Tenggiri at Restoran Kavithas is slightly on the pricy side at RM9.
The fried ikan tenggiri is slightly on the pricy side at RM9.
Another drawback of banana leaf eateries is the poor ventilation, where you will most likely leave smelling like a fryer.
However, Kavitha’s is fairly airy which is a solace on a hot, humid day.
“We offer simple food in a clean environment. While we don’t have a big variety of dishes, we have enough to put up for lunch,” he added.
Restoran Kavitha’s is located along Jalan 5/51 in Petaling Jaya.

(The Star) DU park ready by end of August

Residents in Damansara Utama will welcome a newly revamped park in Jalan SS20/12 by end of the month.
The park, which was upgraded to “active field” status, will be equipped with a gazebo, new walkway, proper lighting and outdoor exercise equipment such as parallel bars and taiji wheel.
Resident Hui Seng Kit, 50, said a better equipped park would encourage people to spend more time outdoors, exercising.
“The park is a gathering place for residents and this will foster a closer community,” Hui added.
Damansara Utama assemblyman Yeo Bee Yin said the upgrade cost RM119,570.
“We installed an underground drywell tank, four types of exercise equipment, benches and lightings,” she said, explaining that the “active field” initiative was the state government’s effort to standardise selected parks in Selangor.
Petaling Jaya City (MBPJ) councillor Jamaliah Jamaludin said an “active field” was identified based on factors such as suggestion by the councillor, feedback from residents, and the state of the park as well as its sustainability.

“The proposed park will then be assessed by MBPJ Landscape Department and they will make the selection,” she added.

(The Star) RAM: Big projects will drive Sarawak growth

PETALING JAYA: Large infrastructure and power projects in Sarawak will propel growth and funding opportunities in the state, said RAM Ratings.
The rating firm said that the Malaysian debt capital market will play an instrumental role in funding Sarawak’s economic progress.
“Sarawak has been an important part of RAM’s journey,” said RAM chief executive officer Foo Su Yin in a note yesterday.
“Since 1993, RAM has cumulatively rated about RM31bil of bond and sukuk programmes from Sarawak-related issuers, with about RM18bil currently outstanding,” she said.
The power sector has fuelled many transactions, and now accounts for about 85% of the bonds and sukuk related to Sarawak, RAM said.
On Aug 11, RAM-rated Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd raised a RM5.5bil sukuk to partially refinance its debts related to Bakun Dam, which is a key source of electricity supply for the development of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).
“On a year-to-date basis, this is the largest rated corporate sukuk issuance in the Malaysian debt capital market,” RAM said.
It added that Sarawak is also a pioneer issuer state in the ringgit and foreign-currency bond markets, through its various special-purpose vehicles.
“Infrastructure development in Sarawak is gaining momentum and the Malaysian debt capital market will continue playing a vital part in this,” said RAM deputy chief executive officer Promod Dass said in the same statement.

RAM said that it expected companies like Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd to benefit from high-impact projects over the next few years catalysed by SCORE and the Pan Borneo Highway.

(The Star) July inflation up 1.1%, lower than expected

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s annual inflation in July had eased more than expected, and to its slowest in 16 months, due mainly to base effects from fuel price adjustments last year and slower food inflation.
Data from the Statistics Department showed that the country’s consumer price index (CPI) growth, which is a gauge of inflation, had slowed to 1.1% year-on-year (y-o-y) last month from 1.6% y-o-y in June.
Representing a fifth consecutive month of decline, the July CPI growth came in lower than the consensus estimate of a 1.2% y-o-y increase.
The larger-than-expected decline in CPI growth took the year-to-date average to 2.5%.
However, economists said Malaysia’s inflation had likely bottomed out in July.
The CPI was expected to pick up again from August onwards, as the base effects from fuel price adjustments wear off.
“We believe that this should be the trough and continue to expect inflation to start to rise in August, reflecting the profile of base effects from fuel price cuts in August and September after price hikes in June and July,” Nomura Research said in its note.
“As our projected pick-up in inflation is mainly the result of base effects, we do not believe this will significantly influence the monetary policy outlook,” it added.
The international brokerage said it continued to expect Bank Negara to cut interest rates again later this year, with the change in the overnight policy rate (OPR) likely to materialise in November, when the drag on growth from tighter fiscal policy would become more visible.
JF Apex Securities, however, said the country’s central bank would likely keep the overnight policy rate unchanged at 3% through the year.
“We do not foresee any further rate cut in the second half of 2016 unless the global economy continues to weaken.
“We opine that domestic demand would continue to be main driver of our economic growth,” the local brokerage wrote in its report.
JF Apex expected Malaysia’s CPI to record a moderate growth of 1.3% y-o-y in August, as the price impact of the goods and services tax, or GST, had gradually faded, while other main components that make up the index, namely, clothing and footwear and communication would likely see continued negative growth.
“In addition, we foresee the transport index to experience a flat month-on-month growth in August, as the prices of RON95 and RON97 petrol were unchanged this month,”JF Apex said.
“Nonetheless, we reckon the costs for food and beverages related products will rise further amid the increases in wholesale price of refined sugar by up to 30% effective August 1,” it added.
During the month in review, major CPI component that recorded increases were alcoholic beverages & tobacco (19.9%); food & non-alcoholic beverages (3.8%); housing, water, electricity, gas & other fuels (2.4%); education (2.2%; and health (2%).
The components that registered declines were transport (9.9%); communication (2.3%); and clothing & footwear (0.6%).
Meanwhile, RHB Research said Malaysia’s headline inflation rate was expected to remain manageable at a range of 2% to 2.5% for 2016, compared with 2.1% in 2015.
It noted that following the 25-basis point (bps) cut in the policy rate in July, Malaysia’s interest rate outlook was still tilted toward the downside.
This, however, would likely hinge on the strength of the country’s economy.
“We are of the view that the central bank will likely keep interest rate unchanged at the current level of 3% in the months ahead.

However, if economic growth slows more than expected, another 25bps cut in the overnight policy rate cannot be ruled out altogether in the coming meetings,” the brokerage said.

(The Star) WCT delays placement exercise; to sell properties to raise RM500mil

KUALA LUMPUR : WCT Bhd has opted to delay its private placement exercise and will move towards disposing key property assets in a bid to pare down its debts.
According to AmResearch in a note yesterday, the group’s management felt that a placement would not justify the subsequent earnings dilution, particularly given its depressed share price.
“Instead, WCT hopes to raise about RM500mil from the disposal of The Ascent, a 32-storey Class-A office tower worth RM380mil within the Paradigm development in Petaling Jaya, as well as an adjacent service apartment block within the same development, and a commercial building in Pandan Indah,” it said.
AmResearch has maintained its “hold” call for WCT with a fair value of RM1.66 per share.
The stock closed at RM1.60 on Wednesday,which is a steep discount to its net assets value of RM2.12 per share as at June 30.
The group has been exploring numerous monetisation efforts in order to lighten its debt load.
As at June 30, its net debts amount to RM2.15bil, giving it a net gearing of 79%.
The company has plans to monetise its cash flow generating retail assets via a real estate investment trust (REIT).
However, the listing of the RM1.2bil REIT may only happen by the second quarter of 2017.
The group will only embark on an initial public offering of its construction unit after the listing of the REIT, AmResearch noted.
WCT reported a net profit of RM32.07mil on the back of RM581.01mil in revenue for the second quarter ended June 30, 2016 (Q2FY16).
In comparison, its net profit and revenue during the same period a year ago were RM31.06mil and RM422.31mil respectively.
While its revenue rose to RM1.06bil for the first half of the year (H1FY16) from RM773.93mil last year, the group’s cumulative net profit for the period fell to RM40.9mil compared to RM64.27mil in 1HFY15.
According to AmResearch, WCT explained during an analyst briefing that the weaker H1FY16 results were due to lower construction profits recognised during the period.
In H1FY16, construction profits were largely derived from low margin building jobs, it noted.
It expects to report a better showing from the segment in Q3FY16 driven by stronger profit recognition from newly secured infrastructure jobs.
“WCT, reiterated its guidance for RM2bil worth of job wins this year.
To date, it has secured RM523mil, including a 30% share of a Pan Borneo Highway works package.
The group appears confident in winning Package V204 for the viaduct guideway project in Bandar Malaysia, which we believe is worth RM1bil,” the research house says.
Additionally, it has also submitted bids for two local building jobs worth a total of RM1.5bil.

On the overseas front, the group expects more tenders for infrastructure projects to be called in Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it said.