Wednesday, 31 October 2012

(The Star) Pangkor Island to expand its tourism products

The state government has suggested that the Manjung Municipal Council create more tourism products on Pangkor island in an effort to attract more tourists.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the suggestion was made because the current attraction on the island was limited to its beaches.
“For example, we are looking into the possibility of having a small water theme park that could be managed by the council.
“It is not a massive theme park, but a simple one that could probably have a ‘lazy river’ concept like the one found in Sunway Lagoon,” he said, after presenting meat to Pangkor folk during the Hari Raya Haji event on Saturday.
Dr Zambry said currently the tourism industry on the island was experiencing good development.
“As we can see, there is a large number of tourists visiting the island, not only during the long holidays but also during the weekends.
“Traders on the island have also commented that they are experiencing better sales due to increasing number of tourists,” he said.
Dr Zambry presented a total of 10 goats and eight cows. The meat of the animals would be distributed to the poor at Pangkor during the Hari Raya Haji celebration.

(The Star) Social networking has helped to boost Yeng Keng Hotel’s profile

<b>If walls could talk:</b> The hotel used to be an Anglo-Indian bungalow.
If walls could talk: The hotel used to be an Anglo-Indian bungalow.
Adopting online marketing strategies via the Internet has helped the cosy boutique hotel — Yeng Keng Hotel — in Chulia Street, Penang, to boost its stature among the state’s hospitality property.
Its manager Jacky Chung said after setting up a Facebook page and an official interactive portal, the hotel had seen a substantial improvement in its occupancy rates, recording an increase of Asian guests by 85% in the past few months.
“Besides enjoying returning guests from Australia and Europe, our hotel has registered an increased number of visitors from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.
“It’s all about cooperation with the other stakeholders that makes it work. We advertise through online tourism agencies and they enjoy commission by promoting our hotel,” he added.
Chung said through promotional articles and tourists reviews published on the websites, overseas tourists were becoming more appreciative of heritage buildings.
“Apart from the typical budget hotels and service apartments, boutique hotels have now become one of our choices,” he said during an interview at the hotel yesterday.
He said the online marketing strategy had proven to be useful, as Yeng Keng Hotel was rated as one of the top hotels at the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site in 2011.
With more and more boutique hotels mushrooming in the inner city of George Town, Chung said, good service was vital for Yeng Keng to compete with others.
<b>Heritage feel:</b> The 20-room hotel has a small bar, garden, swimming pool and a car park.
Heritage feel: The 20-room hotel has a small bar, garden, swimming pool and a car park.
“To provide convenience for the hotel guests, we also prepared food trip maps and vehicle arrangement to other tourism spots,” said Chung.
The 20-room hotel, which opened in June 2010, has a small bar, garden, swimming pool and a car park.
WiFi service is also available while its kitchen serves Hainanese and Western cuisine.
Chung said the hotel used to be an Anglo-Indian bungalow, which was bought by an Indian Muslim family, but it was sold to a group of Chinese businessmen who were trustees of the Cantonese Club ‘Yin Han Pit Shu’ in 1897.
“The club was a vibrant component of the old city in the early 1930s,” he said, adding that the club then donated the property to the trustees of the Straits Chinese British Association in 1939.
“In the early 1900s, the building was leased to another person, who set up the old Yeng Keng Hotel with a traditional Chinese arch at the entrance constructed,” he said.
The 150-year-old hotel is now wholly owned by Hoo Kim Properties Sdn Bhd, which decided to conduct the latest RM5mil restoration project in 2009.

(The Star) Ringing up a new market

<b>Largest mobile phone vendor:</b> Samsung Electronics sold 86.6 million devices worldwide during the first quarter of this year.
Largest mobile phone vendor: Samsung Electronics sold 86.6 million devices worldwide during the first quarter of this year.
Mobile devices have come a long way from their bulky forms in the 1990s to the sleek and stylish smartphones we carry today.
And anyone who knows what a mobile phone is would be familiar with Samsung.
The South Korean brand has grown its mobile technology arm to great strength and is considered by many to be tops in terms of controlling the Android market.
In fact, according to a Gartner report, Samsung is the world’s largest vendor of mobile phones.
The report said the company sold 86.6 million devices during the first quarter of this year and maintained a 20.7% market share.
Having dominated the consumer mobile device market, Samsung is now focused on tapping into the growth of the enterprise market, which presents a new area for the electronics giant.
“We have been a strong consumer player and at the corporate level, we are now looking at the business initiative.
“The goal is to have every customer’s growth of business. That is why the focus for enterprise came in,” said Varinderjit Singh, who is Samsung Malaysia Electronics (SME) Sdn Bhd’s enterprise and small medium business vice president.
The enterprise segment, said Varinderjit, encompasses commercial users from small medium businesses (SMB) to large corporations.
He noted that previously, smart devices were mostly for private usage such as reading emails, web browsing and gaming.
However, with the bring-your-own-device culture growing among commercial users in the workplace, there is a growing demand for mobile devices with enterprise solutions and applications.
“Customers are saying that they want to do everything in their existing device whether it is for work or play.
“For companies, this increases productivity when employees can do everything on their own device because they are more accessible and can check mails, approve things and so on. So that helps with productivity,” said Varinderjit.
<b>Varinderjit:</b> Samsung has a variety of products that are suited to consumers in various segments and recently launched a range of products for various segments in the region including its Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Ativ Smart PC and the Enterprise Mobility Solutions.
Varinderjit: Samsung has a variety of products that are suited to consumers in various segments and recently launched a range of products for various segments in the region including its Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Ativ Smart PC and the Enterprise Mobility Solutions.
Additionally, use of employee-owned devices also comes across as cost savings for the company as they don’t have to bear the full cost of the devices.
Nonetheless, security, or the lack of security assurance in the past, has been a concern with companies’ management as access to company data remained a sensitive issue.
Varinderjit noted that mobile device management (MDM) and security were among the top concerns of chief information officers.
Android provides an open source platform and application environment for mobile devices and its open nature makes it inherently susceptible to security threats.
But Varinderjit said Samsung changed the ballgame when it drove the development of solutions for the Android market.
“If you look at the size of the market, Android is really gaining market share. Android has been viewed as a consumer product. People were still trying it out and trying out the security. But when Samsung came up with one of the best solutions in the market, it changed.
“Enterprise customers are looking at Android more because they are realising that there are more solutions available out there. There are solutions for security and enterprise applications that can immediately address their business requirements. So if you look at the business side, Android is also gaining market share,” he said.
The Android market’s growth over the past year has been phenomenal.
According to Varinderjit, Android’s share of the smartphone sale by operating system was only 25.3% in the third quarter of 2010.
But Gartner noted that Android smartphones made up 56% of the global smartphones sold to end users in the first quarter of 2012.
And thanks to its heavy investments in research and development, Varinderjit said Samsung’s products have an edge over its competition.
Today, it has the most comprehensive IT policies of 338 policies to ensure a secure business-to-business platform for MDM.
Samsung has also collaborated with various partners to enhance its consumer experience and ensure that its customers’ requirements are met.
And as Varinderjit points out, Samsung has a variety of products that are suited to consumers in various segments.
Samsung recently launched a range of products for various segments in the region including its Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Ativ Smart PC and the Enterprise Mobility Solutions.
At its regional launch in Jakarta earlier this month, Craig Gledhill, vice president, enterprise and SMB for Samsung Electronics’ ANZ and Southeast Asia division, said there was a big opportunity to address the business needs in the region.
“We are starting to tell the market that Samsung is now focused on enterprise and we are building talent and focus for each market. There is already a big interest from businesses on how Samsung’s devices can be used in their corporations,” Gledhill said.
Gledhill acknowledged that the biggest challenge for Samsung was to create market awareness in the enterprise segment of the company’s new focus.
“Samsung is seen as a visionary brand and people are interested to engage us in enterprise. But we need to educate the market that we are there,” he said.
In line with its new focus, Varinderjit said Samsung is increasing its investment in the enterprise segment by 300% to set up strong foundations and clear plans to grow its share in the market.
“We are very serious in the business space. We cover all the elements that are required by the corporate consumer including our MDM.
“We collaborate with partners to ensure our security side is taken care off. And we have various devices to touch all our customers,” Varinderjit said.
Samsung may only be stepping into the enterprise space now but it is quickly claiming ground in the market.
Varin is unperturbed with other brands’ presence that are in the market as he believes Samsung is going about building their foothold in the market the right way.
Anyhow, Varinderjit loves a good challenge and welcomes competition in the market.
“Challenges are good. Of course, this means a lot of factors can fluctuate but we are excited at the opportunities.
“We are happy with where the market is going but there is definitely more to do. We are committed to the local market,” Varinderjit said.

(The Star) Second round of lane closure on Sprint Highway

The trial closure of the left-most lane on the Sprint Highway on Oct 29 did not show any major impact on Kuala Lumpur-bound traffic, said Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd.
However, since the closure was done immediately after a long weekend, MRT Corp and its contractors intend to do another round of trial closure, to allow for further observation and prolonged assessment on traffic flow.
The new round of closure will be implemented for seven days beginning Nov 1 to 7. The left-most lane of the Sprint Highway, from the Bukit Kiara junction to the Jalan Maarof junction (Kuala Lumpur-bound) will be closed from 9am to 4pm.
MRT Corp strategic communications and public relations Amir Mahmood Razak said the extended trial closure was discussed with Sprint officials, who have given the go-ahead.
“The second trial closure of the lane will allow us to further assess the impact on traffic flow in the area over the weekdays as well as weekend.
“We are aware this is a very busy area, but due to the limited work area available, this trial is necessary for us to be able to plan for contingencies,” he said.
The four-lane road does not have an emergency lane, while the immediate left side is a slope, followed by some houses.
Amir further explained the need for trial in the area was to ensure that during construction, impact on the traffic flow can be managed better.
“We need to build a retaining wall near the slope, which will allow us to build an additional lane next to the wall.
“We will then take the right-most lane, where the piers will be located. So the traffic in the area will then revert to a three-lane system,” said Amir.
During the trial closure, traffic personnel will be on site to ensure traffic flow is monitored. Safety barriers and traffic cones will be placed at the work site to ensure road users are pre-warned of on-going works.
For details, visit, Twitter @MRTMalaysia or call 1800-82-6868.

(The Star) TNB: There is provision for land conversion

PUTTING land under Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) pylons to good use is now possible.
TNB vice-president (Corporate Affairs and Communications) Adelina Iskandar said they had a provision to turn the land into parks or carparks but that there were several factors to be taken into consideration, including land ownership.
Many people have been confused over the ownership of the land, prompting them to ask for land use from the wrong department.
Adelina said there were two categories of land — government andstate land which come under the Land Office and private owners as well as TNB land acquired under the Land Acquisition Act (APT) 1960.
She said ownership of the land can be verified at the land office.
“Generally, state land is leased out with the consent of the Government via Temporary Occupancy License (TOL) to individuals or companies who have specified their intended activities and have obtained prior permission or no objection declaration from TNB,” she said.
She added that for privately-owned land, there must be evidence to show agreement from the owner.
The approval can be given for certain activities to be carried out in the transmission Right Of Way (ROW) with a width of 20m to the left and 20m to the right from the centre of the tower.
Adelina said in cases where land had been turned into parks, car parks or nurseries, it was part of TNB’s requirement that the applicant must obtain prior consent from the land owner, who is either private or individuals or the Government.
A letter of undertaking (LOU) will then be signed between TNB and the applicant, listing out the activities that can be undertaken under the lines and conditions to be fully adhered to by the applicant (for safety reason).
In addition, the LOU stipulates that all liabilities rest with the applicant.
When contacted, Federal Territories Land and Mineral director-general Datuk Azemi Kasim said the TOL is issued every year and renewable.
He added that they allowed land to be used for short-term cash crops, as nurseries or farms.
“There is no problem in applying for this. Those looking at converting and sharing the strip of land are welcome to do so,” he added.
Addressing fears of residents on the dangers of using the land, Adelina said there was no immediate danger as long as the activities complied with TNB’s safety rules and regulations.
“However, the issue of control over children at the park can be a great challenge, including flying kites and climbing towers,” she said.
As for maintenance of the land, it is primarily the responsibility of the landowner.
Nevertheless, in order to ensure the security of the transmission systems, to prevent the systems from any unwanted interference and to safeguard the safety of the public, TNB carries out maintenance at the strip of land below and adjacent to the high voltage supply lines, especially within ROW.
Adelina also added that TNB responded quickly to any complaints from the residents regarding the empty space.
“TNB has received many complaints from residents regarding overgrown grass, ponds, rubbish dumping and illegal activities under the line.
“We have taken steps to resolve all these.
“In the case of illegal dumping, for instance, we work with the local authorities to clear the rubbish and TNB will then fence up the area to prevent similar activities from recurring,” she said.
In fact, TNB has several success stories, turning the TNB reserve lands into productive strips like oxidation ponds, nurseries, pineapple farm, dragon fruit farm, padi fields and carparks.

(The Star) Public want land near TNB cables to be put to good use

<b>Ideal location:</b> This land beneath high-tension cables in Section 10, Petaling Jaya has been turned into a parking lot.
Ideal location: This land beneath high-tension cables in Section 10, Petaling Jaya has been turned into a parking lot.
EMPTY plots of land beneath high-tension electricity cables are a common sight in the Klang Valley but many are now asking if these pockets of land can be turned into something useful for the community in the area.
More often than not, the land is left idle and filled with undergrowth or used as a dumping ground. It then becomes a nightmare for residents living nearby who have to deal with unneccesary problems.
The issue plagues residents of Section 14, Petaling Jaya, who have long battled for a solution for the land beneath the high-tension cables near Jalan 14/1, next to the Asia Jaya LRT station.
Their idea is to turn the empty plot of land into a park that will serve the residents as a recreational area as well as a proper pathway for those heading to the Asia Jaya LRT station.
“The land is not well-maintained. Occasionally, Tenaga Nasional Berhad will get someone to cut the grass but that is just a temporary solution,” said Section 14A Residents Association pro-tem committee member P. Nagarajan.
He said snakes entering houses had become a normal occurrence for the residents in the area.
Many of them now tread carefully even inside the house for fear of stepping on the slithery visitors.
Section 14A Residents Association pro-tem committee secretary Dr Malini Shanmuganathan said turning the area into a park would help deter crime.
<b>Put to good use:</b> This empty plot of land in Cheras is being used as a carpark by nearby residents. However the surrounding is still unkempt.
Put to good use: This empty plot of land in Cheras is being used as a carpark by nearby residents. However the surrounding is still unkempt.
“Now, thieves hide in the bushes and wait for an opportunity,” she said, adding that installing floodlights would help brighten the area and keep it safe.
“They can also fence it up. Now lorries come in to dump construction waste,” she said.
Another committee member Tay Kok Yong said sometimes cut grass is not cleared away, creating a mess.
He said dried leaves and the cut grass were fire hazards and he had seen these catching fire on numerous occasions.
He fears that if a solution is not found soon, the fire may spread to the houses.
In Bukit Tinggi and Bandar Botanic Klang, the area near the pylons in Persiaran Batu Nilam 2 have been idle for sometime but residents are unsure what to do with it.
Bandar Bukit Tinggi Klang residents association secretary Kam Swee Khow said someone was currently operating a nursery beneath the high-tension cables while another patch had been turned into a resting place for cattle.
He said residents were also wary of the side-effects of the cables.
“Some residents have told me that they have felt static electricity running through their body after they touch a car that had been parked near or underneath the cables overnight,” he said.
Kam said if there was a provision under the law that allowed them to turn the plots of land into something useful, they were willing to look into it.
He said a carpark would be more appropriate in their neighbourhood.
“It is definitely a good idea to turn the area into something useful such as a carpark for the people but this must be done with approval from the authority,” he added.
As for Bandar Sri Damansara residents, they are still sceptical about using the land for any purpose due to the high voltage.
Bandar Sri Damansara Residents Association former secretary Karen Sharma said it was too dangerous to have anything beneath the cables.
However, earlier this year the committee asked for lights along a 100m stretch of TNB high-tension cables at the Sungai Buloh entrance to the area.
TNB turned down their request, saying thiscould not be done because of the pylons.
“They said it was dangerous but this has been done near the Taman Jaya LRT station. If we cannot use it, at least the area must be well lit and well maintained,” she said.
These residents’ associations are now looking into a precedent case in Section 10, Petaling Jaya.
The land beneath the cables have been turned into carparks for the residents and those using the Taman Jaya LRT station.
<b>Sheer waste:</b> Idle land in Jalan 14/4 and Jalan 14/5 in Petaling Jaya covered with undergrowth.
Sheer waste: Idle land in Jalan 14/4 and Jalan 14/5 in Petaling Jaya covered with undergrowth.
Section 10 Residents Association president Ronald Danker said it took the association some years to turn the place into a carpark.
So far, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has turned half of the land into a carpark and it is said the remaining half, extending all the way to Taman Jaya, would follow suit.
“The carpark has proven to be useful for residents and church-goers who attend service at the St Francis Xavier church and Gospel Hall,” Danker said.
He said earlier there were two occupants, a bonsai plant operator and a flower garden operator but that they only used part of the land while the other half was in a mess.
Danker said after the conversion, residents faced less problems, with the area made brighter and safer with lighting and partial fencing put up along Jalan 10/6a.
“It is definitely a positive change since it serves a purpose for everyone,” he added.
MBPJ councillor Derek Fernandez said their pilot project was the carpark in Section 10.
He said other areas in Petaling Jaya had also been identified for this purpose, including the area near Taman Aman.
“There is a masterplan and the area has been earmarked for a carpark as well as a greenwalkway, including a bicycle pathway,” he said.
He said it was valuable land and that it would be ideal if TNB could build the facilities underground.
TNB, however, had said based on legal grounds, this was not possible.
Fernandez said the land should be used productively and that carparks as well as bus depots were most needed in urban and suburban areas.
“The carparks and buses provide a linkage for transportation and we started providing free public carparks in Section 10 and will do the same in Taman Aman,” he added.
As for Section 14, the area has been identified for a carpark and a walkway that will be useful for those using the LRT.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL)media officer Zurida Hashim said so far they have allowed private companies to lease the land for carparks and nurseries only.
She said DBKL pays TOL to the land office while the land users pay rent to DBKL.
The carpark is located in Jalan Jejaka in Taman Maluri, Cheras, while the nursery is located in Taman Gembira, Petaling.
“The carpark is rented out for four sen per feet while the nursery is leased for two sen per feet,” she added.

(The Star) AirAsia records surge in passengers

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia Bhd recorded a 12% year-on-year increase in passengers carried for the third quarter ended September, while its revenue passenger km increased 8%.
In a statement, the budget carrier said there were 8.22 million passengers carried for the three months under review, compared with 7.35 million passengers carried a year earlier.
Its Malaysian unit posted a strong load factor of 77% in the third quarter, while capacity increased by 10% year-on-year as part of its strategy to increase frequencies on trunk routes during the holiday period.
As at end of the third quarter, AirAsia in Malaysia is operating 59 aircraft (out of the group’s fleet size of 103 aircraft).
Meanwhile, Thai AirAsia posted a third quarter load factor of 82%, a 2 percentage point increase year-on-year, with two million passengers carried or a 22% increase versus capacity increase of 19%.

(BUSINESS TIMES) Tutti Frutti: All outlets to be halal certified by year-end

KUALA LUMPUR: Naza Tutti Frutti (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Malaysia's first frozen yogurt chain owned by the Naza Group, expects its outlets to be halal certified by the end of this year.

The firm has 112 outlets in its portfolio, which includes three in Singapore and one each in Brunei and Cambodia.

It is seeking halal certification for all the outlets in several phases.

Under "phase one", the firm submitted its application for 36 outlets and 10 have so far been certified halal by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), said Naza Tutti Frutti managing director Izham Hakimi Hamdi.

According to Izham, this makes Tutti Frutti the country's first frozen yogurt chain to receive the certification.

He added that the rest of the outlets are pending approval from Jakim.

"The halal certification will be an added value to the product and the brand. We are confident that this would help us get more franchisees in the long term," Izham said.

"We will ensure that all our of outlets will get the halal certification as soon as possible," he said.

Izham said, the responsibility in ascertaining the halal status of the products involved not only on the official site inspection of plants, but on the examination on how the halal status of the raw material is maintained and monitored at all times.

"Jakim is getting very strict with halal certification process... This is to ensure that those involved in food products do not take for granted on halal requirements," he said.

Prior to obtaining the halal certification from Jakim, the Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt had been certified halal by the Islamic Services of America since it was introduced in the domestic market three years ago.


(BUSINESS TIMES) REITs: Malaysia ranked fourth in Asia Pacific

SINGAPORE: Singapore has arguably been the most successful country in introducing and encouraging the development of a real estate investment trust (REIT) market in Asia, but Malaysia now ranks fourth with 16 REITs and a market capitalisation of US$8 billion (RM25 billion).

Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (Aprea) chief executive officer Peter Mitchell said the industry in Malaysia has grown substantially in recent years, thanks in part to the rolling back of restrictive legislation and introduction of favourable tax laws, and also the adoption of best practice principles by many of the REITs.

"Malaysian REITs have been regular recipients of Aprea best practices awards since their inception three years ago," he said in an email interview.

Aprea is a non-profit industry association that represents and promotes the real estate asset class in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the industry body for the suppliers and users of capital in the real estate sector.

On the challenges and how a country like Malaysia can further promote the industry, Mitchell said: "One challenge for Malaysia is liquidity and the size of some of the REITs."

He said larger institutional investors are not attracted to small and illiquid REITs for many reasons.

"This leads to a lack of coverage which aggravates the situation. Regarding adoption of best practices, this is already happening, driven both by industry leaders in Malaysia (and the consequent beneficial impacts on performance, cost of capital and attraction to investors) and the demands of investors post-crisis for improved transparency and governance.

"The key to the success of any REIT model is its adherence to industry best practices.

"The differences in the long-term performance and stability of different REIT regimes can be linked in part to the underlying regulatory framework," he said.

Among others, Mitchell said such best practices include the quality of disclosure, including investment risk, financial reporting and accounting standards, a cooperative working relationship between the regulatory authorities and the potential REIT sponsors that encourage the formation of REITs.

"Tax transparency as to dividend payments, thereby eliminating double taxation at the entity and shareholder levels, thereby promoting higher investment yields," he added. Bernama


(BUSINESS TIMES) Malaysia may review interest rates

BANK Negara Malaysia is assessing on whether there is a need to review the country's interest rates.

Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the central bank is currently assessing the economic trends such as future inflation trends and the global economic situation.

"Bank Negara will review interest rates based on current inflation and the global economic situation. An assessment on whether there is a need to change interest rates will be made at the next monetary policy committee meeting.

"We will look at future trends in inflation to see if it will moderate further," Zeti told reporters on the sidelines of the 26th East Asian Insurance Congress here yesterday.

Malaysia currently has an interest rate or overnight policy rate of three per cent.

Zeti said the global economy's future direction will be taken into consideration as the external sector has eased significantly in the second half of the year.

"The external sector's economic progress has slowed more than expected but we have already expected it."

Zeti said for Malaysia, the economy did better in the first half of the year, registering a gross domestic product growth of 5.1 per cent which is expected to maintain its streak in the second half of the year.

Malaysia has forecast a GDP growth of between four and five per cent this year.

Meanwhile, on the insurance sector, Zeti said there has been some market driven consolidation in the insurance sector this year which is not driven by any policy under the central bank.

"There is a need for the industry to be sustainable and therefore the smaller insurers have been absorbed and merged."

Earlier in her keynote address, Zeti said insurance companies have generally held up well through the crisis but now the industry finds itself at the intersection of major regulatory developments.

"The crisis has also delivered a major blow to confidence in financial institutions. This needs to be regained. Both these factors will have an important influence on the way in which the industry responds to new insurance and asset accumulation opportunities in Asia.

"We can expect that the characteristics of growth in the industry going forward will therefore differ in some respect from the historical experience."

She said changes in the capital rules and related accounting standards aim to achieve a more risk-based and market consistent valuations of insurance assets and liabilities.

While this should improve understanding and accounting for the risks inherent in insurance business, it will also require insurers to manage more carefully risk and capital, while recognising the prospect for increased short-term volatility.


(NST) RM100m development in Permas Jaya

The InterAsia Group is developing the Permas City food bazaar project in Permas Jaya, here, which has a gross development value of RM100 million.

JOHOR BARU: Group director Jonathan Tok Beng Tong said the project which is being developed on a 12ha plot is divided in two phases, with a third phase under discussion.

The first phase, which started early this year, involves the construction of a supermarket in a 7,432sq m area, with completion expected by next May.

Tok said the second phase, which includes an integrated food bazaar for local and international delicacies, an exhibition room, retail stores and a hotel in a 37,000sq m area, is to be completed by 2014.

"The third phase may be carried out in collaboration with a company from China for the development of a shopping mall, commercial complex and serviced apartments," he said.

Tok said the first and second phases were located strategically near the city centre and Pasir Gudang port, and had a good transport network.

He was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the second phase at Permas Jaya, officiated by Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Ismail said the food bazaar was an entry point project under the National Key Economic Areas.

"The first food bazaar was opened in September at Medini Mall, Nusajaya.

"This is the second bazaar to be developed," he said, adding that the government was planning to open a third food bazaar in Nilai 3, Negri Sembilan.

(NST) Water park to be built in Desaru

ATTRACTIONS: Puteri Harbour opens first

JOHOR BARU: ATTRACTIONS and Resorts Sdn Bhd (TAR), a co-developer of Legoland Malaysia, is planning to open a water theme park in Desaru.

TAR chief executive officer Tunku Datuk Ahmad Burhanuddin Tunku Adnan said the water park would boost tourism in Johor.

"The new attraction will be a water park in Desaru. An announcement on it will be made soon."

He was speaking to reporters yesterday after a media familiarisation tour of "Sanrio Hello Kitty Town" and the "Little Big Club", two newly-opened indoor attractions at the Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, Nusajaya.

Ahmad Burhanuddin said the RM110 million theme park would also include "Lat's Place", which features some of the cartoonist's popular characters, and a restaurant serving local delicacies.

"Lat's Place is expected to be opened in December. It will complement the Sanrio Hello Kitty Town and Little Big Club that have been operational since Friday."

Ahmad Burhanuddin said Johor and Singapore had been dubbed the Orlando of Southeast Asia following the opening of Legoland Malaysia in Nusajaya and Universal Studios at Sentosa island.

"Besides Legoland and Puteri Harbour, visitors in this region will have more themed attractions to look forward to."

Tickets for Puteri Harbour are priced at RM65 per person and RM50 for MyKad holders.
"We are aiming to reach a target of 500,000 visitors during our first year of operations," Ahmad Burhanuddin said.

(NST) Stop-work on Batu Caves condo as state studies project

KUALA LUMPUR: The Selangor government has decided to issue a temporary stop-work order on the construction of a 29-storey condominium on the Batu Caves limestone hills amid a public outcry against the project.

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the state government would form a special task force to evaluate the effects of the construction on Batu Caves.

"The task force will advise us so we can ensure that the sanctity of the temple and the buildings surrounding it remains protected.

"The committee will be led by a former judge and comprises lawyers, town planners, industry experts and stakeholders, who have no interest in the project.

"We want to be transparent in handling the case and we are acting fast because we do not want to create any unfair business decisions, where delays will cost the company money," he said in the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Khalid said a timetable for the committee was being drafted and further announcements would be made soon.

"The state government will convene a meeting with the Selangor Planning Council to assess all development projects around Batu Caves for the past 10 years so we can evaluate the issue in a holistic manner."

Last Friday, a large group rallied near the Batu Caves temple to voice their concerns over developments in the area.

But Khalid said the state government was not bothered by the demonstration.

MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel said the state government should not allow developer Dolomite Properties Sdn Bhd to construct the high-rise building because of land stability and heritage issues.

At the Selayang Municipal Council board meeting yesterday, president Datuk Zainal Abidin A'laa said the project was approved in 2007 by its one-stop centre committee comprising eight technical experts.

"Out of the eight experts, only one did not support the project."

Zainal was scheduled to give a briefing to the state executive councillors during the Selangor Economic Action Council meeting tomorrow.

He said the menteri besar would decide on the fate of the condominium project.

Meanwhile, DAP national chairman Karpal Singh had expressed willingness to go against the Parti Keadilan Rakyat-led Selangor government in court to stop the project.

The prominent lawyer politician offered to provide free legal services to the Batu Caves temple committee.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

(BUSINESS TIMES) Mudajaya accepts job to build hotel

KUALA LUMPUR: Mudajaya Group Bhd’s unit Mudajaya Corp Bhd has accepted a Letter of Award (LOA) from TP Sepang Sdn Bhd to construct the new Tune Hotel at the upcoming permanent low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang (KLIA2).

In a filing that it made with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, the company said the contract sum for the 400-room hotel is RM65 million and it is expected to be completed by November 22 2013.

TP Sepang is a member of the Tune Group Company.


(NST) Property expo rakes in RM40m in sales

SOUND INVESTMENT: Expo proves Sabah is a fast developing property market

KOTA KINABALU: The recently concluded Property Investment and Home Expo held in Sandakan and Tawau has recorded more than RM40 million in sales.

More than 30 exhibitors, including prominent real estate agencies and property developers across the country, took part in the expo in Sandakan on Oct 13 and 14, and in Tawau on Oct 20 and 21.

The expo was only introduced this year with the first held in July at 1Borneo Hypermall here.

It was later held in Sandakan and Tawau to attract affluent investors and buyers there, said a statement from the expo secretariat.

"These events are aimed at capitalising on the recent property boom in Sabah, specifically targeting purchasers who have interest in investing in what is essentially a low-risk venture.

"In total, the two events managed to attract more than 3,000 people."

Besides showcasing a wide selection of property developments, the event also included property investment talks by leaders in the industry.

"Sabah has been widely acknowledged as one of the most profitable centres for property investment in the country today.

"Thriving primarily on its strong tourism and agriculture industries, Sabah is now widely recognised as one of the nation's fastest developing property markets," it said.

The expo secretariat planned to feature the three editions next year. The one to be held here will be the largest and will cater to the needs of the local property buyers.

The expos will be held between May and July next year.

"We are definitely looking at a larger event for the second time around and hope to have more participants," it stated, adding that half of the exhibitors this year were companies from Sabah.


(The Star) Malaysia’s achievements boosted by focused policies, says Yen Yen

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has travelled a long, hard road to earn the many accolades showered on it by the global tourism fraternity, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
She said the country's recent achievements becoming the ninth most visited country in the world, voted the second best shopping destination in the Asia Pacific and the 10th friendliest nation were the result of clear and focused government policies aimed at making Malaysia the world's top tourist destination.
Taking the example of Kuala Lumpur's rank as second best shopping city in the Asia Pacific according to the Globe Shopper Index, Dr Ng said her ministry was well aware of the need to make the nation's capital stand out from among the region's heavyweights.
“We know to compete with Hong Kong and Shanghai we have to have something unique,” she said yesterday.
Dr Ng said Malaysia's niche was low prices with a good range of products, adding that this niche in regional shopping ranks was developed over years of hard work that began with the Mega Sales programme in 1999.
She said all this could not have been achieved without the support of Malaysians, who share the same drive to succeed.
“Some shopping complexes are already top rated in Asia Pacific with FIAPC (International Real Estate Federation), and of course the lighting up of Bukit Bintang definitely helped,” she said.
Dr Ng acknowledged that there were still areas that could be improved on such as complaints by tourists against taxi drivers, the lack of events in Kuala Lumpur and low air connectivity to Malaysia compared to neighbours Singapore and Thailand.
Dr Ng added that the country had to remain alert and on the lookout for competitors. “Hence, our call (to all Malaysians) is to think tourism, act tourism. Everything that comes out of your mouth, you need to think tourism, act tourism,” she said.

(The Star) Mudajaya wins RM65mil Tune Hotel job

PETALING JAYA: Mudajaya Corp Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mudajaya Group Bhd, has been awarded a RM65mil contract to build Tune Hotel at the low-cost carrier terminal of KL International Airport.
In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the company said the project, awarded by TP Sepang Sdn Bhd, a member of the Tune Group Co, was expected to be completed on Nov 22 next year.

(The Star) Aeon Co may announce RM764.8mil Carrefour buy this week

PETALING JAYA: Japan-based Aeon Co will officially announce the purchase of France-based Carrefour SA's Malaysian business operations this week, a news report published in The Nikkei said.

The deal is expected to be priced at around 20 billion yen (US$250mil or RM764.8mil), according to The Nikkei, as Carrefour has been struggling to come up with cash to cut debt and fund the revival of its struggling European hypermarkets.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Aeon, which operates 29 stores in Malaysia, was in negotiations to buy Carrefour's 26 stores, which would bring the former close to the top spot among retailers.
“We have no comments on this as it is not related to Aeon Malaysia at this stage,” AEON Co (M) Bhd's (Aeon Malaysia) public relations executive personnel Ann Marie told StarBiz over the telephone.
Analysts contacted by StarBiz said it was likely that Aeon Malaysia would sooner or later be involved in a likely merger situation to synergise and consolidate both their operations.
RHB Research retail analyst Lee Wee Sieng said in his report that the deal, should it eventually materialise, would be positive for Aeon Malaysia as there would be “significant” operational synergies and “economies of scale”.
“Besides, the acquisition will reduce direct competition for Aeon's supermarket operations,” Lee said, adding that there were risks for Aeon Malaysia due to intensifying competition in the local retail scene.
OSK Research consumer sector analyst said the deal would make Aeon Malaysia the No. 1 supermarket operator and one of the largest retailers in Malaysia.
“The business acquired is likely to be placed under the wings of Aeon Malaysia.
“The acquisition will benefit the company as it will broaden the group's market since Aeon is a department store targeting the middle-income group while Carrefour is a hypermarket operator catering to the low-to-middle-income consumers,” OSK said.
However, OSK added that there could be a drawback due to possible cannibalisation with regard to Aeon Malaysia's four existing MaxValu stores, which are its value-for-money standalone stores.
Aeon Malaysia would likely need to finance the buyout either with debt or equity financing should the acquisition be made at the Malaysian operations level, OSK said, adding that a possible debt financing would see its gearing levels at 35.3%.
It is to be noted, however, that earlier reports stated that Carrefour, which operates the Malaysian stores under the company named Magnificient Diagraph Sdn Bhd, had also previously been brought to court by its former bumiputra partner and 30% shareholder Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin through Hartajaya Harmoni Sdn Bhd.
Hartajaya Harmoni, in its petition filed by its solicitors, alleged that there had been an intention before by Magnificient Diagraph's foreign majority shareholders to forcibly take away the former's 30% stake in the latter for no valuable consideration and thereafter sell the company to potential bidders.
Hartajaya Harmoni claimed the decision of these shareholders to invite bids for the 100% purchase of Magnificient Diagraph was done without the knowledge of and consultation of its 30% shareholder.
Hartajaya Harmoni had earlier claimed in its petition there were about four bidders that had expressed interest in buying over Carrefour's business and operations in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
These bid prices had ranged from RM3.1bil to RM3.6bil, the company claimed.

Monday, 29 October 2012

(BUSINESS TIMES) Penang hotel operators eye new areas for growth

GEORGE TOWN: Hotel operators in Penang are banking on the emerging investments in the state's manufacturing sector, to help cushion any adverse impact on the tourism sector due to the softening of the global economy.

The Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter singled out continued investments in areas like aviation and medical devices, that will have a spin-off effect on the economy, including good occupancy rates by corporate travellers.

"The softening of the US and European economies has already seen a reduction in hotel occupancy by city hotels here from business travellers," MAH Penang chapter chairman Mary Ann Harries told Business Times.

"However, we are hoping that the new industries which are coming into Penang, will serve as a light at the end of the tunnel for us, are we look at a potential dip in corporate travellers to Penang if a major recession sets in," she added.

MAH Penang is made up of 44 member hotels which boast three, four and five-star category offerings and a combined room count of 9,300.

For the first nine months of this year, Harries, said total hotel room nights sold at beach hotels stood at 530,097, representing a 3.86 per cent increase against the corresponding first nine months of 2011 where beach hotel occupancy stood at 510,558.

For city hotels, room nights sold for the first nine months this year stood at 737,008, while in the same period last year, room nights sold were at 753,049.

"The 2.12 per cent drop in rooms sold for city hotels this year is due to cutbacks in corporate spending and travel," noted Harries.

She stressed on the need for more direct flights from overseas destinations into the Penang International Airport.

"This is absolutely crucial for our tourism industry. Tourists do not relish the idea of hopping in and out of planes," she said.

With this in mind, the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority is currently fina-lising with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd details and components for a charter flight incentive programme which is expected to be launched next month.


(BUSINESS TIMES) Stalling but slump unlikely

ASIA'S export engine is stalling but a repeat of the export slump during the 2009 global financial crisis is unlikely says CIMB Investment Bank.

The bank expects global growth to remain slow in 2013 while timely policies should avert a recession in the US and Europe.

"Unlike 2009, global credit markets will not freeze up and result in a steep rise in the cost of trade finance or difficulty in getting trade credit," its senior economists Lee Heng Guie and Julie Goh said in a report yesterday.

They also expect commodity prices to rebound due to a pick-up in seasonal demand amid inventory adjustments.

Exports by most countries started shrin-king again between -1.4 per cent and 24.3 per cent in July to September, stoking fears that the worst is yet to come.

The export outlook for Asian economies, it said, is still weighed down by weak global demand due to unresolved financial dislocations in the advanced economies.

"The slowdown of the Chinese economy is also crimping the strength of intra-regional trade."

Exports by most countries started shrinking again in recent months, adding to the near-term uncertainty even though, so far, the region has demonstrated its economic growth resilience despite export strains.

A range of global indicators, including the OECD composite leading index and the less-promising PMI readings, dim the prospect for a quick revival in exports in the near term.

In addition to depressing demand for chips and electronics-related products, resource-dependent economies Malaysia and Indonesia, were affected by the rapid descent of crude oil and commodity prices.

Thai rice exports have so far tumbled by 46 per cent because of the controversial paddy price support scheme, while palm oil price was down 20 per cent year-to date to RM2,546 per tonne and 27 per cent from the peak of RM3,471 per tonne in Apr 2012.

With exports making up 25 to 228.1 per cent of total GDP in Asia's developing economies, a sharp drop in exports will drag down overall GDP growth if the slippage in external trade weakens domestic demand via lower export income and job cuts.

Asian policymakers have implemented measures to counteract the progressive weakness in external demand though the countercyclical measures are not as aggressive as during 2009.

In Malaysia, they said the domestic drivers such as the implementation of projects under the Economic Transformation programme (ETP) and cash transfers to targeted households should underpin both private consumption and investment.

The Indonesian economy has demonstrated its resilience in the wake of a sharp pullback in exports, thanks to supportive domestic policies and strong public spending. Thailand's economy is still a picture of health at this juncture, thanks to post-flood spending, government tax incentives, favourable labour market conditions and stable politics.

(NST) Wholesome fun for one and all

JOHOR BAHRU: The pylons on top of the apartments at Lotus Desaru Resort in Kota Tinggi are usually the first structures that guests notice from afar as they make their way into Bandar Penawar.

When they arrive at the resort's car park, they will be greeted by the sounds of the macaws and other birds nearby.

But there are more than just birds at the resort, which has been described as having almost everything for holiday makers.

"Our apartments are spacious and comfortable for guests who come with their families and friends.

"And of course, we have everything for a wholesome family experience, including beach activities and watersports, including the banana boat ride and para-sailing," said resort group director Indra Gandhi Pillai.

"Apart from boating, snorkelling, kayaking and fishing, guests can also indulge themselves in a day of fun at the mini water theme park," he added.

One will be drawn to the laughter of children and adults enjoying themselves on the superslide.

The superslide breaks into several small whirl pools before ending up in a larger swimming pool.

The most prominent feature of the water theme park is the giant coconut.

When the coconut is full of water, it tilts and sends an avalanche down to the bathers below.

The nightly room rates at the resort are RM420++ (one-bedroom suite) to RM1,320++ (four-bedroom suite).

All apartments are equipped with a kitchenette, microwave oven and refrigerator each. Each comes with a separate room lounge and dining area.

Now, with the new Senai-Desaru Expressway, Lotus Desaru Resort is less than an hour away from Johor Baru by car.

For details, call 07-884 2800 ext 1966, fax 07-884 2994 or email to