Tuesday, 31 March 2015

(The Star) Much-awaited Pan Borneo project will induce a multiplier economic effect

BINTULU: Today marks the official start of the Pan Borneo Highway construction, a project first talked about when Malaysia was formed in 1963.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will launch the upgrading of an existing road to Bakun Dam from Mile-32 of the Bintulu-Miri trunk road.
Also present will be Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, among other dignitaries.
The highway building will continue in segments in the third quarter of this year, starting from Tanjung Datu, which is the western most tip of Sarawak.
Workers looking at a video preview of the Pan Borneo Highway launching ceremony at Mile 32 Jalan Bintulu-Miri on Monday morning. The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem will launch the start on highway building on Tuesday. Presently, just 14 of the road is dual-carriageway, with the remains single lane country roads. Photo by ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE.
Let’s get going: Workers looking at a video preview of the Pan Borneo Highway launching ceremony. Najib and Adenan will launch the start on highway works today.
This 40km portion will bring road connectivity for the first time between Tanjung Datu and Sematan, which is represented by Adenan. It is scheduled for completion by end of 2018.
At the same time, the entire 740km stretch from Sematan to Miri city, in northern Sarawak, will begin construction in the third quarter of 2016, and is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2023.
Finally, the Tedungan to Merapok portion, which is the portion of Sarawak sandwiched between Brunei, will begin in early 2018. It is also scheduled for completion in early 2023.
The building of Pan Borneo Highway will mostly follow the route of the existing trunk road. It involves the widening of the present 3m wide single-carriage way into a dual-carriaway infrastructure.
Each of the new lanes will be at least 3.5m, while centre divider of 4m wide will also be built. New concrete bridges will replace metal ones.
Once completed, the new speed limit will be 100km/h across flat terrain (up from the current 70km/h), 80km/h on rolling terrain (from 60km/h) and 60km/h over mountainous terrain (from 50km/h).
In poor condition...the section of the Pan Borneo Highway at Selangau Bazaar.
Upgrade soon: Presently, only about 14% of the Pan Borneo Highway is dual-carriageway, while the rest remains single lane country roads, and not in good condition.
Currently, the condition of the trunk road requires major maintenance, due to heavy usage across its single lane. Road travel is slow, estimated at 19 hours from Sematan to Miri.
Roughly 87% of the road between Sarawak and Sabah is nothing more than twisty single-lane country roads.
According to a government study of the North South Expressway in Peninsular Malaysia, highway construction induces a multiplier effect of four times to the economy.
The lack of a proper highway in east Malaysia has been a key opposition campaign matter in recent elections. The proposed highway is one of the most keenly-awaited developments.
Previously the highway was slated for completion in 2025 under the Highway Network Development Plan.
During the unveiling of Budget 2015, the Prime Minister announced it would be fast-tracked under a public-private-partnership implementation model. The cost was estimated at RM27bil.

(The Star) GST: No changes for legal fees

Malaysians seeking legal advice and services will be glad to note that the percentage of tax imposed on legal fees will not change with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1.
Lawyer Mohamed Hafiz Jalaludin said the current 6% service tax on legal fees for civil, criminal, conveyancing and litigation cases would be replaced by a 6% GST.
“As such, the status quo remains, except that the name of the tax has changed,” he said.
Fellow lawyer Janet Wong said the implementation of the GST would, however, result in disbursement fees being taxed.
“Clients will have to pay 6% GST on photocopied materials, travelling costs and miscellaneous fees, which was not taxable under the Sales and Services Tax system.
“But its effects are minimal since such charges are between RM50 and RM150, which means that the tax amount is only a couple of ringgit,” she said.
On another matter, lawyer Baldip Singh said there was no surge in people buying property because of the implementation of the GST.
“People are not rushing to sign sales and purchase agreements, at least that is not the case at my firm.
“I think it is mainly because property prices are escalating, making them less attractive to buyers.
“I should think that property prices will shoot up even higher after the GST is implemented because construction materials will cost more,” said Baldip.

(The Star) ‘Historical’ bed impresses Chief Minister

MALACCA: Boutique Hotel’s collection of a wooden bed from Malacca Sultanate reign and various relics has impressed Malacca’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron.
Idris who opened the Settlement Hotel in Ujong Pasir here said it was an extraordinary effort placed by the owner Billy Leong to have his collections displayed at the hotel.
“It’s unique collections exhibited here and the hotel’s initiative is in line with the state’s status as a historic and popular tourist destination.
“It’s awesome that the relic such as the bed used in bygone Malacca Sultanate era is exhibited at the hotel,” he said after the opening ceremony.
Idris said he was amazed with the impeccably conserved collections that were procured by Leong from various antiquarians within the country and abroad.
“The hotel has complement our efforts in preserving relics and I am glad to unveil the bed and we will list it as part of our attractions,” he added.
Idris also commended Leong for holding a permanent exhibition on Ping Lian Yeak, a 22-year-old Kuala-Lumpur native who was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.
Ping Lian’s art works exhibited across the globe from New York to Sydney and recognised as “prodigious” savant artists in the world.
Leong who was met later said the wooden bed touted as the resting chamber of Malacca Sultanate some 600 years ago was bought during an auction in Palembang, Indonesia.
“Description about the bed by auctioneers clearly stated that it was used by Malacca Sultans and the design could be dated back to either Srivijaya Empire or Chola Dynasty.
“I paid quite a sum for the relic and first kept it at my premise in Kuala Lumpur before I transported to my hotel here in 2013,” he said.
The design of the bed is similar to those used by royalties during the Srivijaya or Chola Empire of Southern India.
Based on Wikipedia, Pelambang was conquered by the Cholas in 1025 after defeating Srivijaya during the period of Emperor Rajendra Chola where Parameswara, the founder of the Malacca Sultanate later originated.
Much of the architectural designs of palaces and furniture for the royalties in Malacca Sultanate were then adapted from the Cholas.
Leong admitted he bought the bed after it was told that the bed was brought back to Palembang after the fall of Malacca to Portuguese in 1511 without understanding the historical nuance of the Srivijaya or Chola.

(The Star) Dept hopes to build new offices soon

PASIR GUDANG: The Johor Civil Defence Department (JPAM) is waiting to get the necessary approval from the Home Ministry to build two additional offices in Ledang and Kota Tinggi.
Its director Kol (Civil Defence) Mat Zin Bujang said the department was hoping to get the approval as soon as possible and to get the two offices operational by this year.
“The department has received the necessary approval from the relevant agencies including from the state government to have the additional offices but we are still waiting to hear from the ministry and the Treasury Department,” he said.
Mat Zin said this when met after attending the closing ceremony of the state level JPAM cadet skills competition at UniKL here on March 29.
He pointed out that the reason to have the additional offices in Ledang and Kota Tinggi was to cater to emergency responses from the two districts.
Mat Zin added that during the floods that occurred last year, the state JPAM was unable to send out adequate help to the victims in time.
“We had to deploy teams from Muar and Johor Baru to help victims living in the two affected districts during the floods.
“The department received complaints from the public and we believe by having the two offices will certainly help us in helping the public,” he said.
Mat Zin added that throughout the state, the department has eight districts offices including a headquarters in Johor Baru.
“Each district office has about four branches where we are helped by more than 50,000 volunteers in Johor,” he said.

(NST) Kulim International Airport will start as cargo terminal

KULIM: The first phase of the proposed Kulim International Airport will begin as a cargo terminal, said Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

He said that based on feedback given by companies interviewed in Kulim, doing so would meet an immediate demand.

"The feedback we have received from existing investors, in not only Kedah but also Penang, is that they have been freighting their cargo by road to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"We would be meeting an immediate demand if the Kulim airport starts off as a cargo airport.

"Furthermore, this will not disturb the Penang International Airport," Mukhriz told reporters here today on the sidelines of International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed's visit to several companies at the Kulim Hi-Tech Park (KHTP).

Meanwhile, in other development, Mustapa said investments this year is expected to drop slightly.

He noted that it would be difficult to measure up to an outstanding year such as last year, which saw a total of RM74bil approved investments.

"The drop is due to a mix of factors.

"The global economy, for one is uncertain.‎ The United States is recovering, China is on the down side and Europe is struggling.

"The year 2014 just happens to be a very exceptional year," he said.

(The Star) Help for the less fortunate

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd (IWH) has set up a RM50mil foundation focusing on helping the less fortunate on education, welfare and sports development.
Its managing director Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo said that the Foundation was meant for the people of Johor to help improve their lives in the future.
He stressed that the foundation was part of IWH’s corporate social responsibility programme to give back to the community.
“Communities living here are very important to us where we have always been engaging with them to get their feedback.
“I believe that this foundation is timely as it will help those in need to get a better future either in education or for their community through sporting events,” he said.
Lim said this when met after attending the launching of Iskandar Waterfront beach netball competition held at Danga Bay here on Sunday.
On another matter, he added that the 20km boardwalk from the marine police until Country Garden has already commenced work where the first phase would be completed within the next two years.
Lim pointed out that the boardwalk would connect all the development projects taking place where the public is able to utilise it.
“The area itself is not privately owned where once all the projects along the waterfront is complete, the public can swalk through to see the developments currently taking shape.
“Danga Bay will also hold many upcoming events for the public in future such as international concerts and festive celebrations where it can attract not only locals but also domestic and foreign tourists too,” he said.
Lim added that each section along the boardwalk would have different landscape to provide a different ambience when the people travel either by walking or bicycles with their families.
Meanwhile, State Human Resources and Unity committee chairman R. Vidyanathan, who officiated the competition, applauded the initiatives set by IWH, as it would benefit the rakyat.
“The government has always supported the private sector to set up its own foundation programmes and I hope other big companies especially within Iskandar Malaysia will follow suit soon,” he said.

(The Star) Job vacancies on the rise

JOHOR BARU: The number of applicants signing up for skills training at government at private institutes in the state has been on the increase, State Unity and Human Resources committee chairman R. Vidyanathan said.
He said that skills training were no longer regarded as a “secondary field” for those who do not do well academically.
“In fact jobs with the right skills pay well these days,” he said, adding that the state had about 90 private and government institutions offering an array of skills training courses.
Vidyanathan stressed that there were plenty of opportunities in the state as each year the number of job vacancies were on the increase.
He added that last year, a total of 129,921 jobs were available statewide compared with 128,721 in 2013 and 105,993 in 2012.
Vidyanathan added that the state’s unemployment rate was actually lower than the national average.
“If a person in Johor tells me that they are finding it hard to find a job, then the person is either choosy or just not interested in working,” he said, adding that the state’s unemployment rate for 2013 was 2.8% compared with the national average of 3.1%.
On the upcoming five-day national skills carnival that will be held beginning April 1 near Angsana shopping mall in Johor Baru, he said some 35,000 people were expected to attend the event.
He added that 207 booths would be set up by various agencies and companies during the carnival which will not just showcase about skills training programmes but also offer an insight to people on the job trends in the state.
“We need people to take up courses that can help them earn well,” he said, adding that the carnival, the biggest in the state this year for skills development, was a good opportunity for youths to find out about the jobs in demand.
“I hope that school career counsellors will come and get to know about the jobs opportunities to help guide their students,” he said, adding that those interested in acquiring new skills or going for “re-skilling programmes” should also attend the carnival.
He added that three sectors that would be in demand in the coming years were the oil and gas sector, hospitality and tourism sector and creative and multimedia sector.

(The Star) Eyeing a higher growth

The Royale Bintang Penang in Jalan Pengkalan Weld expects its occupancy rate to be around 65% to 70% this year, compared to 65% in 2014.
Executive assistant manager Faizi Md Khalid said locals made up 50% of their guests, while the remaining were from Europe, America and Australia.
“Although some 60% of our clientele are from the leisure segment, we are capable of handling corporate clients as well.
“The hotel is able to provide customised services for VIPs.
“These include separate check-in services, specially furnished VIP suites, and a personal guest service officer to follow up with the needs of VIPs,” he said.
The hotel, which opened in March 2014, is located in the core zone of the Unesco heritage site in George Town.
Faizi said guests were attrac-ted to the location of the hotel, which was just minutes by foot from the city’s central financial district, and a stone’s throw away from George Town’s heritage trail.
“They are also captivated by the beautifully restored heritage building built in 1892.
“Complemented by the exis-ting British colonial architecture, the hotel boasts a delightful feel of ‘old world’ glamour perfectly in keeping with George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Status,” he said.
In conjunction with its first anniversary celebration, the hotel is offering a 50% discount for all the 180 rooms and the food and beverage outlets, from tomorrow until April 10.
“The issue of GST will not hinder us from having a promotion,” said Faizi.

(The Star) Good news for folk in flood prone areas

Residents and road users of Taman Usaha, Machang Bubok and Permatang Tinggi in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, can look forward to being flood-free the next time it rains heavily.
State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said a flood mitigation project was undertaken in the area by the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) at a cost of about RM14mil.
“The project will involve the upgrading of the existing pump house at a cost of RM6.7mil in Permatang Tinggi and the construction of a RM8mil bypass channel to bring water from Taman Impian Ria into the existing 4.8km drain.
“The project is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of next year. We hope the project, which has already started, will improve the water flow and reduce flooding in the affected areas,” he said after a site visit yesterday.
Also present at the site tour were DID engineer Mohammad Anuar Abdul Nasir, Seberang Prai Municipal Council secretary Rozali Mohamud and Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon.
Chow added that within the next five years, four more flood mitigation projects would be undertaken by the state government in the central Seberang Prai district.
“With a budget of about RM53.5mil, the projects will be from Kampung Tanah Liat to Taman Guru (RM11.5mil), Padang Lalang to Kampung Permatang Rawa (RM11mil), Bukit Tengah to Taman Desa Daman and Jalan Medan Tembikai (RM19mil) and Taman Mangga to Jalan Juru (RM12mil).
“The works include expanding the drains, improving the water flow system and the upgrading of water pumps,” he said.

(The Star) Getting a line on young

Guardian Malaysia launched its partnership with LINE, a communication app, as a platform to reach out to young Malaysians.
Focusing on health, beauty and daily personal essentials, followers can look forward to exclusive benefits such as special promotions, free gifts as well as invitations to participate in a series of exciting activities.
Guardian Health and Beauty Sdn Bhd e-commerce manager Tey Hong Leng said Guardian’s official account was a fun platform for consumers to further engage with the health and beauty retailer.
“Our research has shown that majority of LINE users are between the ages of 16 and 35, a youthful market segment that enjoys interaction, fun and excitement.
Through this engagement, Guardian Malaysia hopes to better understand and provide for the health, beauty and essential needs of this market segment,” said Tey.
Tey believed LINE would serve as an exciting avenue for Guardian Malaysia to give back to consumers.
As part of the launch, Guardian Malaysia also gave away RM2mil worth of prizes at the grand finale of its one-and-a-half month-long Guardian X LINE Scratch & Win Challenge.
The prizes included a Hyundai i10, 10 iPhone 6, 20 iPad Mini, LINE dolls as well as RM100,000 worth of Guardian vouchers.
Shortlisted from a pool of 220,000 submissions, 10 finalists were put to the test with a final round of questions and tasks during the event.
Finalist Nur’ Yasmin Mohd Yusof, who completed with the most accurate answers within the shortest time, walked away with a Hyundai i10, the grand prize.
“Although I was disorganised in the beginning, somehow everything went smooth after that,” said the lucky winner, adding that luck was with her throughout the game.
Overjoyed with her prize, Nur’ Yasmin said, however, she would give the car to her mother.
“My mum really wants it, and she needs it more than I do as I work near my house,” said the human resource analyst.
Nur’ Yasmin was positive that Guardian would continue to draw young customers to shop at the pharmacy with its attractive prices and through its official LINE account.
“Since the launch of Guardian Malaysia LINE official account, we have over 320,000 friends, and we hope to continue growing this audience,” said Tey, adding that the Scratch & Win Challenge was the first of many exciting activities that would be generated by its partnership with LINE.
He also expressed his appreciation to the team at LINE and IDOTYOU, its digital marketing agency, for the support given to Guardian Malaysia.
LINE Malaysia team leader Wind Koh Jehn Hon said LINE not only served as a messaging application, but also a platform that provided business opportunities.
“With Guardian on board as a LINE business partner, we are confident that they will bring more exciting and engaging activities for our users,” Koh said.
LINE, offers free text and voice messaging, voice calling and group chat with up to 200 people, integrated with various interactive elements such as stickers, timeline and official accounts.
Guardian’s Everyday Life with Guardian LINE sticker is now available on LINE app, and will be available soon on LINE Camera.
Download the LINE app for Android or iOS and follow Guardian Malaysia at @GuardianMY to enjoy exclusive benefits and be invited to loads of fun and exciting activities.

(NST) Pan Borneo Highway major engineering project in Sarawak: Adenan Satem

BINTULU: The multibillion Pan Borneo Highway project has been described as the biggest engineering project in the state, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said.

Adenan also said the project, which would involve the expansion and construction of new roads between Lundu and Lawas, would spur economic growth in the state.

"The construction of this highway will help to create economic activities for the people.

"On the left and right side of the highway, there will be shops and maybe markets developed nearby.

"On the bigger picture, the construction of the highway is more than just connecting one town to the other," he said in his speech during the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the first phase of the highway.

The ground breaking ceremony was conducted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today.

(The Star) Seacera plans RM10bil township

KUALA LUMPUR: Seacera Group Bhd is expected to develop a township-concept project on a 202.34ha site in Hulu Langat with a gross development value of more than RM10bil.

Group managing director Zulkarnin Ariffin said the manufacturing company would develop the land either on its own or through a partnership.

“We think this project will be a success because our land is nearer to the city than other properties which are located further away.

“The take up is expected to be good, if the positive response received by other developers in the area is anything to go by,” he told a press conference after the company EGM here yesterday.

On the EGM, he said Seacera’s shareholders approved a resolution to acquire a 15.23ha in Malacca from Sri Alai Sdn Bhd for RM32.75mil. The acquisition was entered into through its 51% subsidiary Seacera Land Sdn Bhd.

The shareholders also approved the proposed diversification of the company and its subsidiaries' businesses into property development and construction activities. — Bernama

(The Edge) Gamuda, IJM Corp, WCT bidding for Penang TMP

GEORGETOWN: Bursa Malaysia-listed construction giants Gamuda Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd, WCT Holdings Bhd and government-linked Prasarana Malaysia Bhd were among the six that submitted bids to participate as project delivery partner (PDP) in the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP), The Edge Financial Daily has learnt.

On Feb 16, Penang Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said only six out of 55 local and foreign companies that took the forms had submitted their bids when the request for the proposal (RFP) to be the PDP for the Penang TMP closed.

According to a source, the two others were Singapore-based CGC Group Pte Ltd, and two Hong Kong investors represented by independent strategic adviser Datuk Dr Nik Zamri Majid. While Prasarana itself is not a construction player, it could form a partnership to participate as PDP.

WCT’s (fundamental: 0.6; valuation: 1.8) corporate and finance head Chong Kian Fah said the company is able to fulfil the requirements of the Penang TMP, including the federal licensing condition for public transport and federal highways.

He said the state told the RFP submitters that they will be required to foot about RM16 billion to RM17 billion of the cost of the projects to be developed in the state.

To part finance the Penang TMP, the PDP will be awarded the reclamation rights to the 1,500-acre (607ha) Middlebank, located between Penang island and the Sungai Pinang river mouth.

The land swap business model is similar to the agreement with Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd, tasked with building the RM6.3 billion integrated infrastructure project comprising three highways and the 6.5km undersea tunnel. In fact, this project forms the first package of the Penang TMP.

“We have the experience of being project managers, so we know we have the capacity to carry out the Penang TMP. The winning bidder would be responsible for road building and public transport.

“Last month, we gave a 1½-hour briefing to the state and were told to be on standby for further details. We were told that the results will be announced in three to four months,” Chong told The Edge Financial Daily by telephone.

Asked about WCT’s proposed plans for the Middlebank land swap deal to finance the Penang TMP, he said the bidders were requested by the state to assist the Penang Development Corp (PDC) to carry out an open tender for reclaiming the land.

WCT has no idea of the scope of the development required. However it was informed that it is “welcome” to scout around for state land in Penang to help kick-start the packages in the Penang TMP while waiting for Middlebank’s complete reclamation.

“We believe the reclamation can be completed in five years while state land located on the island and mainland is acquired to kick-start the funding for the [Penang TMP] packages,” he opined.

Meanwhile, Gamuda (fundamental: 2.2; valuation: 1.5) group communications head Josephine Wong confirmed its participation in the RFP for the Penang TMP but refused to divulge details of its briefing to the state government.

According to investor briefing slides posted on its website, Gamuda stated that it was “eyeing” the PDP role in the Penang TMP and that it anticipated the results in mid-2015 (May to July).

IJM Land senior general manager for the northern region Datuk Toh Chin Leong also confirmed the company’s submission as a bidder to become a PDP for the Penang TMP.

IJM Land was recently privatised by IJM Corp (fundamental: 1.1; valuation: 1.2). 

The Penang TMP was jointly prepared by Halcrow Consultants Sdn Bhd, AJC Planning and Singapore Cruise Centre Pte Ltd in 2012 and recommended highway improvements, policy changes and public transport to improve traffic conditions in the state.

The expenditure for the four phases of the Penang TMP involves RM330 million between 2012 and 2015, RM7.13 billion from 2015 to 2020, RM8.9 billion for 2020 to 2025, and RM10.6 billion from 2025 to 2030.

Last July, it was reported that Gamuda, IJM Corp, MMC Corp Bhd (fundamental: 1.0; valuation: 1.8), Scomi Group Bhd (fundamental: 0.55; valuation: 1.2) and WCT were in the running for the Penang TMP PDP job.

(The Star) Pikom: Short-term sales dip projected

The National ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom) says it expects the sales of ICT-related products to dip in the near term due to the implentation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1.
Due to the general uncertainty arising from the imposition of the 6% GST on technology products (currently untaxed under the current Sales and Service Tax regime), Pikom expects price hikes across a large number of hardware, software and service categories as rising cost is passed on to consumers.
The expected impact is likely to be an overall slowdown in consumer sentiment and ICT spending, most notably the consumer retail segment.
Pikom chairman Cheah Kok Hoong said, “We estimate the next six months will see a general dip in the purchases of hardware and gadgets such as smartphones, PCs, laptops, printers and other peripherals by households and consumers.
“We expect smaller companies, in particularly small and medium enterprises, to be more affected by the GST, with most delaying their ICT investments for now. Overall, we anticipate a drop of up to 30% in the market.”
The results of a survey conducted by Pikom on the impact of GST on business showed that more than 60% of local ICT organisations acknowledged that GST would significantly impact their revenue.
However, Cheah says Pikom does not see a great impact on purchasing and investment decisions by larger enterprises and companies as the 6% charged by suppliers can be claimed as input tax from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, (RMCD) assuming these companies are GST registrants.
It is important to note that for GST registered companies, the effect of this value-added tax is neutral as they can claim the input tax from RMCD as soon as they are charged by their suppliers (in a valid Tax Invoice). It is perhaps the mindset that requires changing and acceptance of such a tax.
With the continuous education and roadshows held last year by the Government, business associations and NGOs, the confusion and misconceptions about GST, especially among companies and consumers have hopefully been addressed to a certain degree. However, there are still grey areas that may require more understanding and rationalisation.
Nonetheless, like many other Asean countries that preceded Malaysia in the adoption of GST, the market will eventually accept the new tax regime as part of business costs and processes and sales will recover in the long term.
To adapt, Pikom advises ICT retailers to define their differentiations and competiveness in the market.
“Besides trying to reduce internal costs through improving business efficiency or providing additional services to maintain their customer base, retailers are encouraged to consider leveraging emerging and fast-growing ICT trends and to position themselves strategically so they can benefit when the market picks up,” Cheah says, adding that ICT retailers should also try to look beyond pricing and switch to higher-margin products and services. This includes value-added consultancy, ancillary services such as free delivery and/or user training as well as offering strategic bundling or packages to complement sale of hardware and gadgets.
Pikom believes that despite the initial slowdown due to the market’s reaction to GST, Malaysia’s ICT sector is still poised to generate RM95bil in revenue by 2017.

(The Star) New mall adds 75,000sq m of space in Kota Kinabalu

Long known as the gateway to some of Sabah’s natural attractions including Mount Kinabalu and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the city is further establishing itself as a shopping destination with the opening of another mall here.
With just the Klang Valley and Penang ahead of it in terms of retail market, Kota Kinabalu’s prominence for “retail therapy” is set to grow further when Imago Mall opened its doors on Saturday.
The mall located along Kota Kinabalu’s Coastal Highway has more than 300 outlets sprawled over more than 75,000sq m of retail space, making it one of the largest shopping centres in Kota Kinabalu.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the opening of mall augured well for Kota Kinabalu’s retail environment, which is described as being strong due to increasing household income combined with the city’s booming tourism sector.
“Sabah is facing rapid economic development with growth of 4.5% to 5% expected this year, setting the stage for Kota Kinabalu as an economic powerhouse and this is seen particularly within the retail market,” Musa said in a speech read out by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan.
He said Kota Kinabalu had been experiencing significant growth in retail malls, housing and commercial projects in areas such as Tuaran Road, Menggatal and Penampang since 2013.
Due to their proximity to the city centre, Likas, Penampang, Putatan and beyond, strategically located shopping centres such as Imago are expected to cater to a resident population of about 400,000 within a 15-minute drive.
“The catchment area has an annual retail spending potential of RM1.38bil because of its location, which draws tourists and business travellers from the surrounding luxury hotels and resorts,” Musa noted.
“Tourism receipts alone are expected to hit RM7.3 bil from a target of 3.3 million tourist arrivals this year,” he added.

Monday, 30 March 2015

(The Star) Spreading its wings outside Sarawak

KUCHING: Ibraco Bhd will venture into property development in Kuala Lumpur with the purchase of a piece of prime land for RM55mil.
The city’s top property developer entered into a sale and purchase (S&P) agreement on March 26 with Bandar Park Sdn Bhd to acquire the 5,825 sq m freehold vacant land which is fronting onto Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Yew. The acquisition is expected to be completed within 90 days.
The land was granted with a development order by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur in 2012 for mixed commercial development, comprising office suite and commercial space. However, Ibraco said it intended to apply for variation/new development order in due course.
“The development of the land will be funded via internally generated funds and bank borrowings,” it added in a filing with Bursa Malaysia.
Ibraco, which has completed more than 10,000 commercial and residential properties mainly in the Tabuan area here, and spread its wing to Bintulu recently, said it was time for the company to expand and explore opportunities outside Sarawak.
It said as the land to be acquired is located strategically within Kuala Lumpur, it would make Ibraco group’s presence felt in Peninsular Malaysia once it was developed and would enhance the company’s future earning potentials.
Ibraco’s flagship development - Tabuan Tranquility - is in advanced stage of construction and slated for full completion in 2017, according to company’s managing director Chew Chiaw Hian. With as gross development value (GDV) of some RM520mil, the completed phases included 76 units of four-storey shophouse, 242 units of terraced houses, a Giant hypermarket, a petrol station and a drive-in McDonald’s restaurant.
Ongoing phases include 94 units of double-storey semi-detached houses, 398 units of terraced houses and 178 condominium units in six and 10-storey blocks.
In Bintulu, Ibraco is partnering Bintulu Development Authority in inmplementing an integrated mixed development project named “Bintulu Town Square” with GDV of over RM600mil. Under on-going phase I, 74 units of three-storey shophouses and one block of shops are being built.
Chew said the second phase, comprising 200 units of medium cost apartment, high-rise condominium units, a mall, shophouses and other components would be launched soon.

(The Star) New shopping and entertainment hub with the young in mind

SIBU: There is an exciting project in town for the youths.
For the first time ever, a commercial centre, New Generation Square specially built for young entrepreneurs to venture out into the world of retail has been completed and awaiting tenants.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh launched the project on Saturday in the presence of anxious youths.
The square is poised to be the new epicentre for entertainment and retail development in the town.
It will be a new destination for shopping, entertainment and business, drawing crowds from the city and beyond.
Created specially for the young generation in mind, the square will house over 30 unique retail outlets covering a space of over 18,000 sq ft.
The space available for each retail outlet ranges from as small as 100 sq ft to over 1,200 sq ft. The monthly rental has been set at a minimum of between RM325 to RM2,800.
Located at Jalan Pedada, the square will house over 10 food outlets ranging from sports bars to western bistros to authentic cuisine, making it a destination for entertainment and food in Sibu for the young crowd.
It will also feature the first new generation business concept centre for young entrepreneurs to rent an office space and enjoy the best office facilities available for them.
Wong in his brief address, advised youths venturing into business to be brave in facing every obstacles that come into their path.
He said the success and failure of their business, depend on how well they overcome all adversities in this ever challenging world.

(The Star) MRT2 works to start

PETALING JAYA: Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) is expected to start awarding contracts for the various packages of the RM23bil Mass Rapid Transit line 2 (MRT2) in the last quarter of this year.
Contractors who handled jobs in the first phase of the MRT (MRT1) would hold an advantage due to their experience in carrying out the works on the first line.
“Also, many of the contractors did not get the expected returns and profits from MRT1 works due to various reasons,” says a contractor.
The MRT2 project, which was given priority in the revised Budget 2015, was expected to ground break in the first quarter of next year, according to MRT Corp chief executive officer Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar.
Details are still being firmed up. But MRT2 will be the second main urban rail artery linking Sungai Buloh via Serdang to Putrajaya with about 40 stations and will complement MRT1 which is more than halfway to completion.
So far only MMC-Gamuda have been appointed the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) for MRT2.
For MRT1, the joint venture of MMC-Gamuda was appointed the PDP and their job is to ensure that the project gets done within time and budget. The PDP did not participate in any tender for works above the ground such as construction of stations or civil works to build the infrastructure.
But MMC-Gamuda was awarded the job to build the underground tunnels – which is the most expensive portion of the entire MRT1.
Sharil said that for MRT2, although existing contractors would have the advantage it was not certain that the companies would be rewarded in MRT2.
“For example, if Gamuda and MMC are proven to have good track record in their maiden MRT underground works, they would be given a number of ‘stars’ based on our strict merit system, but this is not an absolute assurance for them to be the winner as there are many other criteria that could influence the total weighted score,” said Shahril.
An analyst said that most short to medium-term investors would likely stay on the sidelines for now. The impact of MRT2 on MMC and Gamuda, the two companies that have a role in the job for certain, has already been reflected in their current valuations.
“The trick is to invest in less notable construction counters with unexpected ‘stars’, said the analyst.
At this juncture, Shahril, who was “promoted” to assume bigger responsibility at MRT Corp from Prasarana Negara Bhd since Jan 1, confirmed the recent news that the pre-qualification exercise to shortlist prospective tenderers for major MRT2 packages would start in the third quarter of this year.
“We will shortlist the pre-qualified candidates based on general checks on their technical know-how and financial standing. When the tenders are out and re-submitted to bid for jobs we then will do thorough checks on the bidders’ financial, technical know-how and the quality of their previous jobs under a stringent process not much different from the evaluation process in Line 1,” he said.
On the alignment, Shahril said MRT Corp was currently waiting for the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) to approve the submitted proposed alignment, thus he reasoned it would be premature to share the key details now.
“However, we plan to have the three-month public display from mid-May to mid-August,” he said.
Alignment is one of the interesting parts of the MRT initial development that could spark controversial issues in terms of residents’ complaints, loss of business, creation of new township and real estate booster as well as preservation of heritage sites based on the line 1 experience.
Former MRT Corp chief executive Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid, who bowed out on the grounds of being accountable for the death of several workers in an accident during the construction last year, faced a lot of resistance in firming up the alignment.
Malaysia, which is facing a challenging year with the fall in oil prices and commodities, revised its Budget 2015 that was unveiled in October last year.
However, MRT2 remained a priority. The other project that was not affected is the LRT3 line from Bandar Utama to Klang.