Friday, 6 December 2019

(The Star) Choice suites in prime area

Luxury and convenience awaits future residents of Iconic Regency — a well-designed freehold development located in the heart of Sungai Nibong, Penang.

Rising 42 storeys over the prime commercial district and matured residential neighbourhood, it consists of 268 fully-furnished residential serviced suites.

Interested parties are invited to attend its launching and Christmas Party celebration at the Iconic Development Sales Gallery in D’Piazza Mall, Bayan Baru, this Dec 14 and 15.

From 10am to 6pm on both days, there will be lucky draws, local delights, games booths, Santa Claus appearances and more, so be sure to bring your family over.

A talk on ‘What Is a Green Building’ by a special invited guest will prove to be insightful. To keep the young ones entertained, there will be kids’ activities and DIY workshop sessions.

More importantly, the launch presents a great opportunity for interested parties to find out more about Iconic Regency’s key features, including its low-density living environment.

Buyers can choose from six different and practical layouts. This affords greater flexibility should you intend to use it for your own stay, or as an investment opportunity.

If it is the latter, Iconic Regency’s strategic location at one of Penang island’s most popular neighbourhoods, makes it an excellent proposition.

As units come fully-furnished, it also negates the hassle of one having to source for furniture or go into tedious renovation works.

It will be in move-in condition upon vacant possession.

Iconic Regency provides well-needed work-life balance with various kind of facilities, spread across the Level 13 deck and the rooftop at Level 42.

It will also be situated next to the second Iconic Hotel Penang. Additionally, maintenance management services are also available.

Prices start from RM400,000 onwards. Booking fees are as low as RM5,000, while floor premiums are only RM500.

In line with the government’s Home Ownership Campaign (HOC), buyers also stand to enjoy special rebates and gifts.

This campaign ends on Dec 31, so take advantage of it now.

Sale and Purchase Agreements (SPA) for the project are ready for endorsement to meet the HOC’s final call.

For more information about the launch, call 04-6431888,012-7397888 or 012-7397999.

(The Star) Penang’s FDI soars

Penang has recorded RM13.3bil of total approved investments in the manufacturing sector from January to September, representing 23% of the country’s total manufacturing investments.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the total investments, which was the second highest in the country, had also surpassed 2018’s full year amount of RM5.8 billion, which was a 247% increase.

“This is testament that Penang continues to remain a favourable investment destination.

“According to Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida), the first nine months of this year saw Penang successfully garnering 113 manufacturing projects amounting to RM13.3bil and is expected to create 15,013 new job opportunities, ” he said in a press conference at Komtar on Tuesday.

Chow said the total approved investments surpassed this year’s target of RM10bil, which was announced early this year.

He said the two major sub- sectors with the most significant investments were electronics and electrical products, and scientific and measuring equipment.

He said Penang was one of the key contributors to Malaysia’s foreign direct investment (FDI).

“Penang attracted RM12bil in manufacturing FDIs, representing 30.6% of the country’s total manufacturing FDI, ” he said adding that top FDIs came from the United States, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Chow said despite rising global macroeconomic uncertainties and the prevailing US-China trade war that had taken place since 18 months ago, Penang continued to strengthen its position as a destination of choice for investors.

He added the state government was cautiously optimistic about the near-term outlook with the continued challenging global environment but maintained the stand that Penang would continue to position itself as a preferred destination for investment.

“We are committed to strengthening our efforts to work with new and existing investors for long-term growth together, ” he said.

(The Star) Breathing life into urban living

With the shift towards urban living and a growing population in towns and cities, there is escalating demand for quality housing and amenities, alongside an urgent need to find ways to enrich the lives of the expanding urban population.

Kiara Bay, the latest flagship development of UEM Sunrise Bhd — one of Malaysia’s leading property developers — responds to this need.

UEM Sunrise has unveiled the masterplan for Kiara Bay along with the newly opened Kiara Bay Sales Gallery for priority previews of Residensi AVA, which is strategically located in the heart of Kepong at The Walk, Kiara Bay’s central business district.

Residensi AVA consists of 870 residential units with built-up areas ranging from 75.5sq m (813sq ft) to 119.3sq m (1,285sq ft) priced between RM500,000 and RM900,000. Included in this phase are other amenities and facilities such as swimming pools, gym and sky deck.

The estimated completion date of Residensi AVA is targeted for the fourth quarter of 2023, with the township to be completed in its entirety in 2039.

The many conveniences and amenities that will be made available at Residensi AVA include auxiliary police, natural ventilation and cooling, an urban farm, 5G infrastructure, cashless environment, a wellness centre, assisted living, as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

In terms of accessibility, Residensi AVA Bay will be accessible via several highways and main roads, such as the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2), Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Duta Ulu Klang Expressway, Jalan Kuching and Jalan Kepong. There will be two new interchanges providing direct access from MRR2 into Kiara Bay.

Two MRT 2 stations — Kepong Baru and Jinjang — are scheduled to be operational by 2021 and will be the closest MRT points to Kiara Bay.

Anwar Syahrin says the company’s focus is to create active urban living for everyone.

Built together in joint-venture partnership with Melati Ehsan Group, Kiara Bay is an integrated township that leverages the lake, nature and active lifestyle with the convenience and connectivity of a vibrant urban environment to create enjoyable and effortless living.

The breakdown of the components is built upon the lifestyle concept of “live, work and play”. There is emphasis on diversity in the complementary use of space to create a vibrant atmosphere in this self-sustaining township.

The epitome of urban living, Kiara Bay offers elevated living by the lake given its proximity to Kepong Metropolitan Park, where residents can enjoy leisurely activities and picnics against the backdrop of the tranquil lake. To enrich the living experience further, a series of waterfront retail outlets will be built around the lake.

Another unique feature of Kiara Bay is its connectivity to nature with FRIM located only 15 minutes away — truly a treat for nature lovers.

In line with the growing consciousness of eco-living, Kiara Bay, guided by the EIU Global Liveability Index, Mercer Quality of Living factors and the UN Sustainable Cities and Communities, has incorporated features to create a sustainable compact city designed to bring liveability to the fore.

These are primarily divided into liveable neighbourhoods and inclusive communities, accessibility and sustainable mobility, diverse and sustainable local economy, culture and environment, technology and education and wellness.

A big part of what makes UEM Sunrise’s projects unique is the developer’s expertise in master town planning and Kiara Bay is no exception.

UEM Sunrise managing director and chief executive officer Anwar Syahrin Abdul Ajib said, “In designing these three districts, our focus is to create active urban living that has something to offer everyone from multi-generational communities.

“Mont Kiara serves as our proven track record and we want to replicate that success with Kiara Bay as the new heartbeat of Kuala Lumpur.

“As a whole, in comparison to pocket-sized developments, Kiara Bay’s master plan is all encompassing to ensure we bring out the best experience for homeowners and visitors, as well as maximise the economic and social benefits for the local community, ” he added.

(The Star) ICAEW: Malaysia’s 2020 GDP growth may slow to 4%

KUALA LUMPUR: The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has forecast that Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 may slow to 4% from 4.4% expected for this year.

Economic advisor Sian Fenner said the cautious outlook was primarily driven by the moderating household spending.

“Household spending is still going to remain quite healthy but we’re not expecting the 7% growth that we have been experiencing, ” she told reporters at the launch of the ICAEW Economic Insight: South-East Asia Q4 Report here yesterday.

Fenner said several tailwinds that have supported growth continued to fade, while the effects of the sluggish global environment will start to have a larger impact on the domestic economy.

“There is no longer support from the goods and services tax being abolished or tax holiday, we are seeing inflation starting to jump a little bit, ” she said.

The ICAEW projection is rather pessimistic compared with the Bank Negara’s GDP forecast of 4.8% for next year and 4.7% this year.

Commenting on ICAEW’s rather gloomy forecast, she said the government is maintaining a prudent budget and continues to have emphasis on fiscal consolidation.

“To get the 4.8%, you will need to expand the budget deficit significantly, you won’t be looking at consolidating. You need to support more on consumer spending such as having cash handouts for example, tax rate cut, ” Fenner opined.

She said although there has been some progress in the US-China dispute, friction between the two countries remains high and the bulk of imposed tariffs are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon.

“Alongside slower Chinese domestic demand, we are cautious that the outlook for exports and private investment will remain challenging.

“Inflation dynamics are also expected to favour a more accomodative monetary policy stance for Malaysia.

“We believe that more monetary policy easing is warranted, given the mildly expansionary budget for 2020, ” she said.

ICAEW, according to her, expects Bank Negara Malaysia to reduce the policy rate by a further 25 basis points cut in the first quarter of 2020 to 2.75%.

This is following the recent 50 basis points cut in the US Statutory Reserve Requirement.

Overall, she said Malaysia’s inflation is forecast at 0.7% for 2019 with the likelihood of rising to 2.1% next year, on par with the country’s average inflation over the past decade.

Employment growth is also expected to ease to 1.9% year-on-year in third quarter of 2019, while real wages grew by 0.5% in the same period.

“There are some positive, we do think that growth will be a little bit more broad base after investment being made this year. We actually wait for it to turn around, particularly the approval of some of the infrastructure projects.

“In terms of foreign direct investment for the Southeast Asian region, if we look at the medium term sort of score card of investment attractiveness.

“We see Malaysia is just below Vietnam, that is number two and that is because of the quality of labour and the ease of doing business here.

“Within the region, Malaysia could actually be the country to benefit from the ongoing US-China trade war, ” she added. — Bernama

(The Star) Paragon acquires land in Johor for RM61mil

PETALING JAYA: Paragon Globe Bhd is acquiring a 12.59 ha piece of freehold land in Johor for RM60.96mil through its wholly-owned subsidiary Paragon Globe Properties Sdn Bhd.

This is in line with the group’s plans to diversify into the property development business.

Paragon Globe Properties has entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement with Iskandar Capital Sdn Bhd to acquire the land, of which it has paid RM12.19mil.

The amount represents 20% of the total purchase price, being the deposit and part payment for the land.

It agreed to purchase the land with zoning approval for commercial use on an “as is where is basis” at a valuation of RM45 per sq ft.

The board of Paragon Globe is of the view that the land would provide the group the opportunity to create greater economic value and increase its earnings potential over the medium to long term as the land has promising development potential.

It intends to develop the land into a well-conceptualised commercial area.

The land is located at the western border of Iskandar Puteri and is connected by Iskandar Coastal highway to Johor Bahru city centre, Kota Iskandar and the Second Link Checkpoint.

Paragon Globe plans to finance the acquisition through a combination of internally generated funds, bank borrowings, or other fundraising corporate exercises.

The exact quantum and the resultant proportion has yet to be ascertained.

The funding for the development of the land is expected to be financed via internally generated funds or bank borrowings.

(The Star) Gamuda eyes boost from overseas

SHAH ALAM: GAMUDA BHD intends to grow overseas contribution to its construction business to 50% within the next three years from 20% currently, underpinned by projects in Australia, Taiwan and Singapore.

Group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said the move is necessary for the company to become a global player.

“No one likes to do it if they don’t have to.

“But there aren’t enough big projects in Malaysia, ” he told a press conference after the company AGM and EGM yesterday.

Lin also said more than half of the large construction projects in Malaysia were given to Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“For these SOE contractors, if they want a project, they can even tender below cost. How are Malaysian companies like us going to compete with them? Therefore, we have no choice but to go overseas.”

He added that going overseas also allowed Gamuda to tap local talent.

“If we don’t go overseas, we will lose a lot of the younger engineers, many of whom are going to countries like Australia and Singapore to find suitable jobs.

“Therefore, we feel that it is better to have a business in these countries and have Malaysian talents work for us.”

Lin also noted that it was more difficult for SOEs to penetrate countries such as Australia.

“Compliance is stricter in Australia, compared with Malaysia, ” he continued.

In October, Gamuda acquired a 50% stake in Australia-based Martinus Rail Pty Ltd to leverage on the significant pipeline of construction projects there.

According to the July 2019 BIS Oxford Economic Report, rail infrastructure works in Australia are expected to grow 14% per annum until 2023.

Lin said Gamuda currently has two projects in Taiwan. “We expect to secure a third project soon. We also have a few projects in Singapore, ” he said.

Gamuda’s construction book currently stands at RM9.2bil. Overseas contribution to its property division currently stands at 70%.

Strong property sales in Vietnam bolstered the company’s earnings last quarter and cushioned the impact of lower income from its construction division. It posted a net profit of RM185mil in the three-month ended July 31 on revenue of RM1.5bil.

For the full financial year, its net profit was RM706mil compared with RM539mil previously.

The group currently has two ongoing developments in Vietnam namely Gamuda City in Hanoi and Celadon City in Ho Chi Minh City.

The two projects are the biggest contributor to the group’s overseas sales ahead of developments in Singapore and Australia.

Separately, Lin said Gamuda, which is building the proposed Komtar-Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) project in Penang, expects the first package to be awarded by the middle of 2020.

He said the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) signing for the package is expected to be done “within the next few weeks.”

“Design works will start immediately, ” he added.

The LRT project is part of Penang’s multi-billion ringgit Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Gamuda was appointed the PDP for the PTMP.

Lin said the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), of which half was built on reclaimed land, has been Penang’s success story over the last 40 years.

“The semiconductor industry, in the next 40 years, is expected to see explosive growth through the next wave of emerging applications in AI, automotive electronics, IoT and digital medical devices, ” he said.

Lin said the first island (Island A) will have an 800-acre next-generation Smart Industrial Park, located next to the current Bayan Lepas FIZ and Penang International Airport.

Additionally, Lin said part of the proceeds from the disposal of Gamuda’s toll business will be utilised to pay a special one-off dividend to its shareholders.

“That is all we can say for now. The government will first need to decide what to do with Plus, before making a decision on their deal with us.

“They need to cross that bridge first (with Plus). Hopefully in the next few weeks, the government will make a decision.”

At Budget 2020, the Cabinet approved the takeover of four Klang Valley tolled highways for RM2.36bil.

The highways are Shah Alam Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway, Sprint Expressway and Smart Tunnel - all of which are linked to Gamuda.

Following the Budget announcement, AmInvestment Bank in an October report cautioned that the defensiveness of Gamuda’s earnings will be eroded with reduced recurring toll road earnings, which make up 35% to 40% of the company’s earnings.

In that report, the research house said it was maintaining its underweight call and forecasts considering that valuations of construction stocks.

It said construction companies, Gamuda included, had run ahead of their fundamentals in the heat of the euphoria sparked by the recent revival of the East Coast Rail Link and Bandar Malaysia projects.

Additionally, Lin said part of the proceeds from the disposal of Gamuda’s toll business will be utilised to pay a special one-off dividend to its shareholders.

“That is all we can say for now. The government will first need to decide what to do with Plus, before making a decision on their deal with us.

“They need to cross that bridge first (with Plus). Hopefully in the next few weeks, the government will make a decision.”

In Budget 2020, the Cabinet approved the takeover of four Klang Valley tolled highways for RM2.36bil.

The highways are Shah Alam Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway, Sprint Expressway and Smart Tunnel - all of which are linked to Gamuda.

Following the budget announcement, AmInvestment Bank in an October report cautioned that the defensiveness of Gamuda’s earnings will be eroded with reduced recurring toll road earnings, which make up 35% to 40% of the company’s earnings.

In that report, the research house said it was maintaining its “underweight” call and forecasts of construction stocks. It said construction companies, Gamuda included, had run ahead of their fundamentals in the heat of the euphoria sparked by the recent revival of the East Coast Rail Link and Bandar Malaysia projects.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

(NST) New PDP agreement for the expanded Penang Transport Master Plan

KUALA LUMPUR: Gamuda Bhd, which is the controlling shareholder in SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, will soon sign the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) agreement for Penang Transport Master Plan with the state government.

Gamuda group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said once the new PDP agreement is signed, the design works can start.

"The light rail transit (LRT), Island A, and Pan Island Link, and reclamation work for South Island will all move.

“We hope, by the middle of 2020, the first package of LRT would be awarded,” Lin told reporters at a media briefing, after the company’s shareholders’ meeting here today.

Also present was Gamuda deputy group managing director Mohammed Rashdan Yusof.

SRS Consortium is a 60:20:20 joint venture among Gamuda, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.

When SRS Consortium first signed a PDP agreement with the Penang government in 2015, its role as a PDP is to help the Penang government implement this economic stimulus growth project.

In recent years, the Penang government had expanded the project scope of the Penang Transport Master Plan to RM46 billion.

In formalising the latest plans, the Penang government will need to sign a new agreement with SRS Consortium.

When asked how soon the Penang government is likely to sign the new PDP agreement with SRS Consortium, Lin replied, “my guess is in the next few weeks.”

Last month, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced the federal government will issue guarantee to facilitate financing of the Penang Transport Master Plan.

Ownership of the planned three reclaimed islands will remain with the Penang government.

Penang’s economic growth of 8 per cent the early years of this last decade were largely contributed by the electronics and electrical sector, tourism and services industry.

This has slowed considerably to 4.7 per cent.

This is partly due to the lack of new sizeable lands for industrial development in Bayan Lepas area, small ad-hoc developments and congestion problems on the island.

Lin explained in the last 40 years, the Bayan Lepas FIZ (Free Industrial Zone), of which half was built on reclaimed land, has been Penang’s success story.

The existing electronics and electrical ecosystem there connects more than 480 tenants who are in the business of semi-conductor fabrication, components packing, assembly & design testing and development.

Penang South Islands, measuring 4,500 acres, is a catalytic project that will be the development model for Penang 2030’s objective of enhanced quality of life.

Lin explained the phasing of the Penang South Islands will be carried out sequentially for each of the three planned reclaimed islands. The development of Island A, measuring 2,300 acres, will be carried out across 10 years.

Two months ago, at the tabling of Budget 2020, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced the Cabinet had approved purchase of the four Klang Valley highways — Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Sprint Expressway (Sprint) and Smart Tunnel (Smart) for RM6.2 billion.

When asked on the sale of the tolled concessions which Gamuda has stakes in, Mohammed Rashdan replied “the ball is in Finance Ministry’s court.”

Lin added the government will have to first decide on the planned sale of the PLUS highway.

This is because on one hand, the government wants to sell PLUS to the private sector and on the other, they also want to buy four highways from the private sector.

“So, I think the government has to cross that bridge first,” he said.

Lin reiterated if the sale of the four tolled highways to the government materialises, Gamuda will make a one-off special dividend to shareholders.

“Part of it the sale proceeds of the tolled concessions will be dished out as special dividends to shareholders. That’s all we can say, for now. We don’t even have a deal signed with the government,” Lin said.

(NST) Malaysia's GDP is forecast at 4.3pct in 2020: Bank Islam

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow about 4.3 per cent next year driven by moderation in consumer spending and uncertainties in the global economy following the ongoing US China trade war.

However, higher deficit spending by the government of 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 from initial target of 3.0 per cent should provide a booster to the country’s economic growth.

Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the GDP’s growth would be underpinned by higher mega infrastructure development expenditure, which would translate into more activities in the construction, manufacturing and services sectors.

He said the GDP’s target would also be supported by stable income growth, fairly steady employment market and better access to credit, encouraging consumers to spend more.

“However, businesses are likely to be cautious as the outlook for the final demand looks increasingly challenging.

“We believe the central bank and the federal government might enact expansionary economic policies to cushion the impact from slower global growth,” he said at a press conference after presenting Economic Outlook 2020: The Way We See It here today.

Mohd Afzanizam said it is vital for the government to stimulate the economy by proceeding ahead with the planned major infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and High Speed Rail (HSR).

“In fact, the government can always find ways to fund the infrastructure projects through bond issuance like Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and Government Investment Issue (GII).

“These issuances have always been oversubscribed by foreign investors, banks, institutional investors, asset management companies and pension funds,” he added.

On the country’s nominal export growth, he said there might be a contraction of 1.5 per cent this year, followed by a growth between 1.8 per cent and 2.0 per cent next year.

“The global smartphone shipment has picked up by 0.8 per cent in the third-quarter of 2019. This was mainly driven by Huawei and Samsung smartphones production as well as the 5G network rollout which will be the catalyst for semiconductor growth going forward,” he said.

This would in turn spur Malaysia’s manufacturing for the electrical and electronic (E&E) sector as the country’s exports for smartphones components likely to increase.

However, local companies were not keen on increasing their capital expenditure as they prefer to utilise the existing capacities at their manufacturing facilities.

“Businesses have been complaining about their lacklustre sales performance and decline in domestic and external orders.

“Sentiments among the private sectors have been sluggish as consumers are plagued with rising cost of living and weaker current finances and stagnant growth employment,” he said.

On the local equity market performance, he said the construction, technology and energy sectors would likely boost Bursa Malaysia growth next year despite the massive foreign capital outflow.

The KLCI benchmark likely to reach 1,600 points this year and 1,650 points in 2020, Mohd Afzanizam said.

He also expected the banking sector to grow at a slower pace next year dragged by lower net interest margins and reduction in interest rate.

According to MIDF Research analyst Adam M Rahim, foreign investors have reduced exposure in the local stock market with RM9.9 billion in capital outflow as of November this year.

“KLCI was at 1668.11 points on January 2, 2019 and yesterday's (December 4, 2019) close was at 1560.93 points. About 107.18 points has dropped during the period under review,” he said.

On ringgit performance against the US dollar, Mohd Afzanizam said the local currency might linger between 4.2 and 4.3 against the greenback next year.

“This projection is based on the potential tariff enforcement by the US and China due to the ongoing trade war, which likely result in higher demand for safe-haven currencies such as US dollar and the Japanese Yen,” he said.

He said Malaysia has the ability to defend a potential recession on the back of stronger monetary and fiscal policies by the government.

“These measures are important for the government to spur local spending to keep the economy growing,” he said.

(NST) Leiking: Japan's halal market a big potential for Malaysia

KOBE: Despite its technological advancement, Japan continues to be a huge draw for foreign tourists as it provides a journey of discovery of its pristine nature and cultural resources.

Even some cities are bursting with natural beauty, with the solitary Mount Fuji – the country’s most iconic landmark – is definitely a magnificent sight to behold.

The Land of the Rising Sun is set to welcome 40 million foreign visitors for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

A vast influx of Muslim travellers during the Olympics from July 24 to Aug 9, 2020 is set to fuel a boom in halal and syariah-compliant foods and products, potentially a big market for Malaysian halal product producers to tap into.

These needs were asserted by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking during a trade and investment mission to Kobe which began on Nov 29 and ended today.

In his keynote address at a Seminar on Business Opportunities in Malaysia, which was organised in conjunction with the mission, Darell said halal industry is one of the most important sectors for Malaysia to explore together with Japan.

“With the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics 2020, Malaysia would like to collaborate with Japan in delivering a sustainable solution in halal matters through various angles such as logistics, data analytics, retail, certification, food distribution, and tourism for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and beyond,” he said.

He said one of the initiatives undertaken was the Export Acceleration Mission to Japan from Nov 4 to 8 by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and its trade promotion agency, the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), which was joined by 21 Malaysian companies.

“The mission was one of the initiatives planned under the Digital Trade Halal Value Chain initiative launched by MITI on Aug 15 this year,” he said.

According to MATRADE chief executive officer Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa, the Digital Halal Trade Value Chain initiative was aimed at delivering a sustainable solution for Malaysian companies to export their products to Japan.

“The initiative is also in line with Malaysia’s aim to become a Global Halal Economy Enabler for the Tokyo Olympics 2020,” he said.

He said Japan itself has indicated its interest to source for halal products and services to cater to Muslim tourists and athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.

“There is a potential of more than 140 million meals required at the Olympics’ Athletes Village and approximately 720 million halal meals to be prepared during the event,” he said.

He said given Malaysia’s close relationship with Japan and the strong credibility of Malaysian halal products and services attributed to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) halal certification, Malaysia is in a strong position to be the main provider of halal products during the Tokyo Olympics.

Besides expounding on the halal industry, Darell also took the opportunity during the trade and investment mission to call on Japanese investors to leverage Malaysia’s push for digital transformation.

He said with various initiatives undertaken and incentives offered, Malaysia is an attractive destination for Japanese investors to expand their investment either by directly establishing a business entity in the country or through partnership with local companies.

The minister said Japanese investors could also use Malaysia as their gateway to the lucrative ASEAN market.

“With a projected annual growth rate of over 5.5 per cent, ASEAN remains as one the most dynamic regions in the world and is forecast to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050,” he said.

He said with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN is envisaged as a community that promoted equitable access to opportunities for human development and closer economic integration.

Furthermore, he said the ‘significant conclusion’ of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during the recent 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok would provide a major boost for a free and fair trade through growing opportunities for ASEAN and its trading partners.

The minister, hence, called for a closer collaboration between Malaysia and Japan in exploring opportunities ahead.

“Malaysia has much to offer when it comes to business and we always appreciate the presence of Japanese companies in Malaysia.

“Let us continue to work closely together to forge a stronger cooperation and work hand-in-hand to grow and prosper together,” he added.

In 2018, Japan is Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner, while Malaysia is Japan’s 14th largest trading partner with the bilateral trade between the two economies amounted to RM134.24 billion.

For the January-September period this year, the bilateral trade between Malaysia and Japan stood at RM95.59 billion. –BERNAMA

(The Star) Five sites marked for PPR

The Penang government has identified five plots of land to build the People’s Housing Project (PPR) in the state.

State local government, housing, town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the five plots, two on the island and three on the mainland totalling 29.2ha (72.3acres), had been earmarked for PPR.

The projects would be built in Jelutong, Bayan Baru (Jalan Mayang Pasir), Butterworth (Ujung Batu), Bukit Mertajam (Kampung Tongkang) and Batu Kawan.

Jagdeep said he had instructed the state housing department and Penang Corporation Development (PDC) to write an official letter to the Housing and Local Government Ministry, to request for part of the RM10bil allocation announced in the Budget 2020 to be used to fund the PPRs on the five plots of land.

“Although we know that PPR will be rebranded by the federal government, we still feel there are certain groups that cannot afford to buy their first house, ” he said during a press conference at PDC recently.

On PDC projects in the state, Jagdeep said there were some 20 projects with a total of 21,484 units of affordable housing which were ready for qualified buyers.

Of the total, 1,568 units have been built, 3,677 units are in various stages of construction and 16,239 units have already been approved for construction.

Of the seven projects comprising 3,677 units, three projects would be ready in the first quarter of next year.

He said the projects - Dua Residensi in Teluk Kumbar (694 units), Jiran Residensi in Kampung Jawa in Seberang Prai Tengah (707 units) and Kepala Gajah in Seberang Prai Selatan (41 units) were expected to be handed over to buyers.

Jagdeep said he had also instructed PDC to write to the ministry so that some funds could be allocated to assist Penangites to buy remaining units at PDC projects under the rent-to-own scheme.

“This is particularly to help those Penangites who fail to get loans from banks, ” he added.

He said in total, 102,335 of affordable house units including those under PDC projects had been initiated by the state government and also private developers who had come on board to build affordable housing in Penang.

“In addition, we are also targeting 180,000 homes to be built by 2030 which is in line with our Penang2030 vision, ” Jagdeep said.