Monday, 30 November 2015

(The Star) PR1MA developers not exempted from building affordable homes

NUSAJAYA: Developers undertaking the 1Malaysia Peoples Housing (PR1MA) projects are not exempted from the state’s mandatory requirement for developers to build affordable units under the Johor Affordable Homes programme.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled nordin visiting a show house unit after the groundbreaking ceremony of affordable units and Johor community homes in Taman Scientex, Pasir Gudang.

State Housing and Local Government committee chairman Datuk Abdul Latif Bandi said that developers were subjected to both the PR1MA Act 2012 as well as the state housing policies to plan and construct houses at an affordable price.

Although they are developing affordable units for PR1MA, they still have to fulfil the requirement to build a certain percentage of houses under the Johor Affordable Homes programme, he said during the state assembly sitting last Thursday.

He said this in reply to a question posed by Suhaimi Salleh (BN-Kukup) on whether PR1MA housing developers were subjected to state housing policies.

Abdul Latif, however, clarified that the commitment to construct affordable homes depended on the zoning status of the developing areas.

If the project is in the commercial and industrial zone, the developer does not have to build affordable homes, he said, adding that three PR1MA projects have been approved in the state.

He said that two of the projects in Bandar Layangkasa in Pasir Gudang have been undertaken by Cahaya Bumimas Sdn Bhd while another project would be developed by Tentu Canggih Sdn Bhd in Plentong.

For the first phase of the PR1MA project in Bandar Layangkasa, the developer has started construction of 475 houses while another 1,995 units will be developed in its second phase, and expected to be completed next year.

The same company is also involved in constructing 1,225 houses and 159 medium-low cost shophouses under the programme in the same area, he added.

Abdul Latif said that Tentu Canggih would be developing 1,284 houses under PR1MA in Plentong but was not subjected to build houses under the programme due to the zoning area.

(The Star) RM1mil to resolve floods woes in Johor

This involves action plan to come up with long and short-term solutions

NUSAJAYA: The Johor government has allocated RM1mil to set up a flood action plan to tackle the recurring floods and flash floods throughout the state.

The city centre inundated after a flash flood recently.

Johor Environment and Health exco chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat said he would be chairing the first meeting on Dec 8 with a panel which includes the Johor Economic Planning Unit (Upen) and a group of academic experts.

He said that the action plan was to identify flood prone areas and places that are frequently hit by flash floods and come up with long and short-term solutions to tackle the issue.

This includes the flash floods that have been affecting the Johor Baru city centre for the past two weeks whenever there is heavy rain for a few hours.

“Our plan is to stop floods from recurring in the same area, including places that have been hit by floods year in, year out,” he told reporters during a recess at the state assembly here on Thursday.

Ayub added that the action plan included looking at climate change and tackling the problem accordingly in light of ongoing state developments and land reclamation works.

He added that the flood action plan takes up a major portion of the RM1.3mil that was channelled to the Johor Sustainable Policy under the state Budget 2016.

Besides floods, the policy would also look into tackling soil erosion, biodiversity, pollution and wildlife conservation.

He added that the state government has identified Pulau Sibu near Mersing as a suitable area to set up a dugong sanctuary to conserve the protected marine species.

“We have found 17 dugongs in Johor waters since 2011 and we need to care and conserve them as well as set up an elephant sanctuary in Panti,” he said.

(The Star) Orchards in Segamat to help lure tourists

NUSAJAYA: The Johor state government is turning Segamat’s thriving orchards and fruit production into the district’s main attraction to boost its tourism sector.

Segamat has six historical buildings gazetted under yayasan Warisan johor Enactment 1988, incluing Dataran segamat.

Johor Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism exco chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said Segamat fruit production activities were recognised by the government under its tourism master plan.

He said travel packages for tours, comprising mainly fruit-based activities called Orchard Route, were being promoted to attract people.

“There are many orchards in Segamat that produce durian, pomelo and rose apple (jambu air) and the district is known for the fruits,” he said during the state assembly sitting here on Thursday.

He said this in reply to Norshida Ibrahim (BN-Buloh Kasap) and Lim Eng Guan (DAP-Bekok) who asked about efforts to promote Segamat as a fruit paradise and the state’s efforts to preserve Segamat’s historical areas.

Tee said the district has six historical buildings gazetted under Yayasan Warisan Johor Enactment 1988, and they are Segamat High School, Dataran Segamat, Istana Hinggap Segamat, Makam Bendahara Tepok, Segamat train station and Pekan Buloh Kasap bridge.

“Besides attracting tourists who appreciate history, the historical buildings can also promote educational tourism where students are able to learn more about the history of the area through field trips.

“Efforts to maintain the buildings such as cleaning and beautifying the area including installing signages for the convenience of visitors have been carried out from time to time,” he added.

(The Star) More protected forest areas

Sabah to increase this by another 220,000ha and this will also boost its wildlife corridor

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s wildlife corridor is being boosted further with a state government move to increase totally protected forest areas by another 220,000ha.

Wildlife Department director William Baya showing a list of protected species in sabah.

Over 2,000ha of forest areas with high conservation value and also serving as wildlife corridor as well as water catchments were classified as totally protected reserves amendment to reclassify Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984 at the state assembly last Thursday.

In tabling the amendment, assistant minister to Chief Minister Datuk Elronm Angin said that totally protected forest reserves involving six forest areas, including Kinabatangan, would increase to 1.197 million reflecting about 15.3% of the state’s protected area.

He said Wildlife Forest Reserve would also increase to 137,991ha under the amendments aimed at preserving Sabah’s forests while balancing its development.

He said commercial forest reserves would also reduce to 1.812 million ha from 2.033 million ha under the amendments that also sees the 293ha mangrove forest rich with proboscis monkeys in Weston area of Beaufort being put under fully protected forest category.

The state assembly also passed the RM3.49bil state budget for 2016 which was tabled by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman on Friday.

Two other bills, the Animal Welfare Enactment and Animal Enactment 2015, tabled by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin, who is state Agriculture and Food Industries Minister, were also passed by the house.

The Animal Enactment is aimed at providing a comprehensive law for preventing the “introduction and spreading” of animal and bird diseases within Sabah and gives effective powers to the authorities to take legal action as well as move towards promoting veterinary public health, conservation of animals and birds.

The Animal Welfare Enactment is aimed at promoting the welfare and responsibility of ownership of animals and the prevention of cruelty to animals with guidelines towards killing of animals.

Under the guidelines, those organising or promoting animal fights will be seen as having committed an offence and could face a fine of up to RM100,000 or three years jail or both.

The new animal welfare enactments provide comprehensive powers to enforcement officers to investigate various acts of animal cruelty and also the power to arrest offenders, among others.

(The Star) Spice and everything nice

Mexico’s rich, fiery flavours come to life for diners in the capital

Ever since Mexican dining establishment Fresca first opened for business in Gardens Mall three years ago, the place has gained a following with diners who want authentic and accessible Latin American cuisine.

From left) Vegetable-filled Molotes, Snapper Ceviche and Braised Short Rib Taco, all garnished with wildflowers.

The second restaurant at Avenue K to hit the one-year mark has a split-dining concept with Chinese tea-house Dolly Dim Sum.

Lim Meng Lu, one of the two sisters running Fresca and their sister establishments, said the concept for starting the eatery was born after a visit to Mexico.

“Most people here are familiar with Tex-Mex-style cuisine but Mexico has so many regional styles and there are also similarities such as the use of rice, chillies and spices,” said Lim.

In keeping to the season, Fresca’s kitchen has also prepped a Christmas menu, although this review will only touch on the starter of Braised Short Rib Taco, Snapper Ceviche and Molotes.

This being a pork-free place, the beef short ribs are cooked overnight, flavoured with jalapenos and topped off with julienned red cabbage, spring onions and black sesame seeds and served in a freshmade corn tortilla.

Meanwhile, the ceviche prepared with golden snapper is as fresh as it gets.

This seafood treat is only available from Friday to Sunday.

Lim said the fish was brought in live from the wholesaler and filleted at the restaurant.

The fish chunks are steeped in lime juice, chunks of pomelo flesh hide among the fish for extra tang and spiced up with chilli, while for garnish, edible wildflowers added a touch of colour.

Moloteis a type of streetfood, where you have corn dough, filled (in Fresca’s version) with lots of stewed vegetables such as mushrooms, capsicum and zuchinni.

On the regular menu, I tried the Taco Ensenada – tortillas holding beer-battered tilapia and topped off with home-made coleslaw.

For further taste, squeeze the accompanying lime and drizzle some chipotle sauce on the slaw and fish.

Fresca’s stuffed jalapeno peppers, coated in breadcrumbs and fried are pleasantly mild as they are stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese melted over minced beef.

To set off the flavour, the kitchen had put in a sweet mango chipotle salsa accompaniment, the sweet-tangy sharpness balancing the stuffing’s richness.

From the Veracruz region on the Gulf, you get the Pescado a la Veracruzana, panfried red snapper on a tomato sauce base, flavoured with onions, olives and jalapenos,

A dish suitable for vegetarians is the Chile Rellenos – mild Poblano chilli stuffed with mushroom risotto and melted mozarella cheese. For extra filling, there are roasted potatoes and herbs.

Aside from the dishes, Fresca’s bar also turns out some pretty mean margaritas, whether on the rocks or ice-blended.

I tried the Cinco De Mayo cocktail – made from Jose Cuervo, creme de cassis and orange juice, flavoured with clover, honey and a squeeze of fresh lime.

One surprising drink was the warm Horchata – a thick milky beverage made from ground rice, flavoured with sugar and cinnamon for spice.

Dessert was a simple dish of churros, crunchy on the outside and chewy inside, with cinnamon and sugar frosting.

It comes accompanied with two dips – melted chocolate and cajeta (goats milk and caramel) – a sweet ending for a pretty heavy dinner.

FRESCA MEXICAN KITCHEN & BAR, G9 & G9A, Ground Floor, Avenue K, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (Tel: 03-2201 2893) Business hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday to Thursday) and 11am-12.30am (Fridays and Saturdays).

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by Starmetro.

(The Star) More funds sought for farm projects

KUCHING: Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has asked for more federal funds for agriculture projects in Sarawak, but in saying so, he also told locals not to abuse the system.

Visitors thronging the exhibition pavilion at the Farmers, Fishermen and livestock Breeders Day in Kota samarahan. – Photo: ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / the star

Adenan said it was no secret some in the industry were out to make a fast buck by selling subsidised goods.

“Subsidies aim to reduce production cost and increase volume. I hope everyone uses what they receive for the intended purposes. It does happen in Sarawak whereby some people sell off their subsidies,” Adenan told thousands at the Farmers, Fishermen and Livestock Breeders’ Day here on Saturday.

“Some recipients of subsidised fertiliser and pesticides, among other things, they sell it to the shops. It happens. Some ‘action jak’ (pretend only). Of course, I do not encourage such acts.”

There was no short-cut to success, he said, but conceded agriculture was one of the toughest industries to be in. Not only do farmers, fishermen and livestock breeders face global problems like climate

change, but they also have to deal with shifting social trends.

“Production no longer ends with harvest. You also need to figure out marketing strategies,” Adenan said.

Federal funds should go towards building basic infrastructure like roads to interior communities, marketing, grants and loans, Adenan suggested.

“On infrastructure like roads and agriculture projects, it’s not good enough yet in Sarawak. We ask to be at least on par with the peninsula. The Sarawak government itself is focusing on rural agriculture

development, trying to ensure no one is left out. Sarawak is very big, I hope the government will help us overcome challenges.”

He said the industry’s gap between peninsula and Sarawak meant there was still large potential untapped in Malaysia’s largest state.

Nationally last year, agriculture was the fourth largest contributor to Malaysia’s economy at 14%.

The event at Samarahan was only the second time the annual Farmers, Fishermen and Livestock Breeders’ Day had been held in Sarawak. The previous time was in 1987.

Also present were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

(The Star) Towards reducing carbon footprint

MPSJ to rent 10 electric m-bikes for its enforcement officers to cut air pollution

Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) will have another environmentallyfriendly feature next year when 10 of its enforcement officers move around in electric motorcycles.

Nor Hisham taking a closer look at the electric motorcycle that will be rented for usebyits enforcement officers next year.

The council will rent the motorcycles from Penangbased Eclimo Motor Sdn Bhd, which is the first local electric motorcycle company in the market.

With this, MPSJ will be the first council in Selangor to use environmentally-friendly motorcycles.

Among other agencies that use electric motorcycles are the police and the Penang City Council.

Council president Datuk Nor Hisham Dahlan said the RM15,000 electric motorcycles would help the council to turn Subang Jaya into a Green City by 2030.

“We will rent the motorcycles for five years and it will cost RM450 a month,” he said.

Apart from saving from cost of petrol, the council will also not have maintenance cost as it is under the liability of the motor company.

The motorcycles are smokeless and its quiet engine reduces noise pollution.

The motorcycles were brought to the council headquarters on Nov 25 where Nor Hisham, deputy president Abdullah Marjunid, councillors and women staff test drove the motorcycles around the council compound.

(The Star) City hall to hear traders’ appeal

Dialogue to be held to sort out issue on allowing foreign workers to man stalls in Petaling Street

A dialogue will take place between Petaling Street traders and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to discuss the move to prohibit foreign workers from manning the stalls.

Lau (right) speaking to trader Huan Min Ching, 61, who has operated a stall there for the past 40 years.

Gerakan national public complaints bureau chairman Wilson Lau said the session, to be held sometime in December, will be chaired by DBKL Socio-economic Development executive director Datuk Normah Malik.

“The session will hear out the traders’ appeal to employ foreign workers to help man the stalls.

“Meanwhile, the licences of the 56 traders which were revoked have been reissued to them,” he added.

Lau, who is also a DBKL advisory board member, said Petaling Street was not the only area to have undergone this exercise.

“Traders at the Pudu Market and Selayang Market also had their licences revoked for employing foreign workers full time. However, they had signed the letter of undertaking set by DBKL,” he said, adding that the exercise was carried outinjuly.

Petaling Street trader Pang Swe Har said at 48-years-old, she was one of the younger traders there.

“Most of the original traders are getting on with age and need the extra manpower to run their shop.

“As a single mother, I too need someone who can man the stall while I take care of my children. I hope DBKL will reconsider the terms of the letter of undertaking,” she said.

Starmetro had reported that Petaling Street traders complained that they were forced to sign letters of undertaking declaring that they would follow DBKL’S rules with regards to using foreign workers whereby their trading licence could be revoked if they breached the rules.

Some of the rules were that the traders employed only legitimate helpers to man the stalls and that they did not sell, rent or sub-let their stalls, among others.

DBKL Licensing and Petty Traders Management Department director Ibrahim Yusof said the requirement would apply to all traders in Kuala Lumpur, not only in Petaling Street and they will not back down on the decision.

This is not the first time that DBKL had issued such an ultimatum.

In 2009, traders operating in Petaling Street were given an ultimatum to get rid of their foreign workers or risk getting their business licences revoked.

(The Star) No clear ruling on guide dogs in malls

There are shopping malls that have become receptive to the idea of guide dogs but there are also some that are still not.

However, those that do not allow the dog in, have offered to take care of the dog while the blind owner is escorted around the malls if requested.

Capitamalls Malaysia Trust, The Mines marketing communications manager Paulin Lim said Stevens Chan came to them and brought awareness that Lashawn was the first guide dog in Malaysia.

“Many are still not aware of the practice so they may not accept the idea,” she said, adding that once it was understood that Lashawn was a trained guide dog for the blind, a sign that read “Guide dogs are allowed” was put up.

“In Singapore, the malls under Capitaland allow guide dogs to enter the malls as long as it is on a leash and under control,” she said, adding that the dog owner had to register their names at the information counter.

Lim said it was good for Chan to come once in awhile to create the awareness at malls.

He explained that three guards escorted him to explain to the public that Chan was blind and needed a guard dog to help him find his way around.

Lim added that Chan could ask for a guard to escort him the next time he visited.

Sunway Shopping Malls chief operating officer Kevin Tan Gar Peng said as a international standard mall, they welcome everyone without discrimination.

“This applies more for the people in need especially the blind who needs aid and we do not see any reason to deprive them of that aid.

“Although there may be sensitivities around it but we should let common sense prevail,” he said, adding that people had to show more empathy for those with certain requirements.

Tan said the dog was an aid for Chan to move around just like a person in need of a wheelchair.

“It is a guide dog and it is welltrained,” he said.

When asked if the tenants were notified of allowing guide dogs, he said there was no need to do so.

“Tenants know that they cannot be selective with customers,” he said.

The idea of guide dogs in malls is still new as not all shopping malls are open to the idea yet.

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur management in a statement said shopping malls adhere to policies set forth by the government agencies and local authorities.

“At present, there are no clear policies or guidelines on this,” it said.

“Pavilion Kuala Lumpur has procedures for the blind and for guide dogs.

“A concierge personnel will personally escort the blind around the mall while the guide dog is taken care of at the covered basement area of the mall,” it said.

1Utama Shopping Centre advertising and promotions general manager Patrick So said guide dogs were not allowed inside the shopping centre and that the mall’s standard practice was to assign a security personnel to assist the blind.

“Once the shopping is done, they will then be reunited with their guide dogs and if they need help in getting a cab or finding their way home, we will also offer our assistance,” he said.

(The Star) RM15mil rebranding exercise by Courts

KUALA LUMPUR: The soft market sentiment is not hindering Courts Asia Ltd, one of South-East Asia’s leading electrical, IT and furniture retailer to embark on a nationwide rebranding exercise in Malaysia.

The Singapore-listed company that more than doubled its net profit for the second quarter ended Sept 30, on higher sales in Malaysia and sales contribution from new stores in Indonesia, has set aside RM15mil to refurbish 15 outlets here.

“Beyond cost-saving initiatives, we are focused on optimising productivity and yield of each of our stores .

In Singapore, we continue to rejuvenate our retail concepts to meet changing consumer trends and drive healthier margins,” said Courts Asia executive director and group chief executive officer Dr Terence Donald O’Connor during an interview recently.

O’Connor, who became the managing director for Courts Asia in his early 30s, said although Singapore posted a marginal decrease in sales, Malaysian operations led the top-line growth with impressive bulk sales from digital products, mainly driven by its tie-up with Apple in Malaysia.

Despite currency pressures Courts’ net profit for the second quarter ended Sept 30, surged 253% to S$6mil (RM18.12mil) compared with a year ago against a revenue that climbed 4.2% to S$186mil from S$178.6mil in the corresponding period, the previous year.

Sales in Malaysia, which contributed 35% of the group’s total sales in the second quarter, rose 27% compared to last year.

Sales in Singapore that coughed up 63.3% to Courts Asia’s total sales, dipped 2.6% in the second quarter from a year ago, on lower sales across product categories and the muted retail environment.

“We have been witnessing strong results in Malaysia via credit campaigns and bulk sales of digital products.

“The evolving consumer trends and demographics is also one of the reasons for Courts to push for the refurbishment exercise that will see a wider range of digital and lifestyle products,” added O’Connor, who hails from Liverpool, England.

Declining to provide a forecast growth for the company for the financial year 2016, O’Connor said he was confident that Courts could weather the weak market conditions, catering a wide range of lifestyle products to the middle-income group.

“When the market is soft, people tend to look for products that offer competitive pricing with a range of promotions,” he pointed out.

In line with its brand campaign Living Easy with Courts, the group had completed refurbishments of two outlets in the Klang Valley, namely the 40,000sq ft Courts store in Setapak and 108,000sq ft store in Sri Damansara, and intends to move on to other outlets progressively.

O’Connor said the group was also focused on improving suppliers chain, post sales services and technical services, among others for better operations efficiency.

Another part of Courts Asia’s rebranding campaign would involve launching of a new online retail site to replace the old website and mobile-friendly online store.

O’Connor was not overly concerned by Courts Asia’s Indonesian operations that only contributed 1.7% to the group’s sales, saying that the outlets were progressing well and the country was one of the fastest growing nations.

“We have two stores in Bekasi and one in Bogor. And in order to see better earnings, we will be opening another six more stores in Indonesia over the next 12 months, in line with the group’s economies of scale strategy,” said O’Connor.

Courts Asia recently opened the first JYSK store in its Bukit Timah outlet in Singapore that introduced an extended range of Scandinavian-inspired home and living products. It also hopes to launch Ace Hardware, a home improvement solutions brand from the United States by December in its Singapore megastore.

Commenting on the outlook, O’Connor said Singapore’s retail landscape remained subdued, but he expected continued demand for household appliances and furniture given the expected hike in supply of public flats managed by Housing and Development Board of Singapore in 2016.

On Malaysia’s side, he said the recently announced Budget 2016 was slated to boost growth and home ownership with the planned construction of 351,000 housing units.

“This will inevitably drive more demand for affordable furniture and household appliances over the medium term,” he said, adding that the group was eyeing Vietnam as the next market for expansion.

(The Star) Johor plans tourism push in China

NUSAJAYA: The Johor government will promote the state in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong next year after seeing an increase of 28.4% in tourist arrivals from the republic.

Johor Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said they also planned to start entering “second-tier cities” in China – those with eight million to 20 million population – for promotional events next year.

“We have always focused on major Chinese cities.

“We feel that it is a good idea to promote Johor at second-tier cities where the cost of living is not as high as those in the major cities,” he told the state assembly yesterday.

Tee said Chinese tourist arrivals between January and October recorded a 28.4% increase at 677,549 compared to 527,685 in the corresponding period last year.

Johor, he said, was consistently improving its promotional activities such as Explore Johor and a series of familiarisation trips.

Among the events lined up for next year were the China Outbound Travel and Trade Mart in Beijing, the Guangzhou Travel and Trade Expo, the International Travel Expo Hong Kong and the Beijing International Tourism Expo.

(The Star) Klang Valley’s entire bus network to be revamped from Dec 1

KUALA LUMPUR: After negotiations which stretched over a year, a plan to boost public transport involving stage buses will get under way tomorrow.

The revamp involves the Klang Valley’s entire city bus network co­­vering 9,202km.

A new system covering 241 routes, including 35 new ones, has been drawn across eight bus corridors in the area.

Among others, wait times during peak hours will be cut to between five and 30 minutes for heavily-used routes.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) will assign each of the 11 city bus operators to specific routes to overcome competition along the profitable routes.

To benefit more than 600,000 commuters, about 1,500 buses will also be “freed” to better serve the Klang Valley.

About 3,000 new bus information signboards will also be put up by the end of 2016 to encourage more people to use public transport.

The changes will not hit the public in the pocket – bus fares will remain unchanged.

“What the people are going to experience is a reliable service with shorter wait times,” SPAD chief executive Azharuddin Mat Sah said in an interview.

A World Bank report earlier this year stated that a typical bus trip can take up to three times longer than by car.

SPAD Bus Rapid Transit division manager Ahmad Faizal Baharuddin said all buses would be given numbers to “tie” them to their routes and corridors.

Trunk buses on the Klang Lama Corridor will be numbered 600 to 699, with local buses from T600 to T699.

Operators will no longer ply similar routes as their competitors.

The only exception is the Klang-KL route, which has two companies plying it.

Ahmad said 80% of routes would not be changed, with the bus corridors to be made operator-specific.

For example, the Jalan Ipoh Corridor – which serves Kepong and Rawang, among others – would be serviced by RapidKL, Selangor Omnibus and Setara Jaya.

The Lebuhraya Persekutuan Cor­ridor will involve the RapidKL, Cityliner, Seranas and Causeway Link firms.

Ahmad said by revamping the network, buses could serve their routes without neglecting those which were less profitable.

Many routes would connect to direct KL‑bound ones, with commuters able to transfer from one bus to another to head on to Kuala Lumpur.

He said besides the bus information signboards, 3,700 bus stop info signs would be put in stages later.

For details on the revamp, visit SPAD welcomes feedback at 1-800-88-7723.

(The Edge) 7-Eleven seen to sustain growth on expansion plans

7-Eleven Malaysia Holdings Bhd (Nov 27, RM1.40)
Maintain hold call with an unchanged target price of RM1.65:
We make no changes to our earnings per share forecasts and our “hold” rating.

We believe that domestic consumer confi dence is still weak, but we expect 7-Eleven Malaysia Holdings Bhd’s growth to be sustained, led by its store expansion plans which should allow it to hold onto its leading market position.

For exposure to the Malaysian consumer sector, we prefer QL Resources Bhd.

7-Eleven’s third quarter ended Sept 30, 2015 (3QFY15) core net profit jumped 25.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM16.7 million, on the back of a 6.6% y-o-y increase in revenue to RM519.2 million.

For the cumulative nine-month period (9MFY15), revenue increased 6.7% y-o-y to RM1.51 billion, resulting in a 1.2% y-o-y rise in core net profi t to RM41.9 million.

9MFY15 made up 66% of our full-year forecast and 68% of the consensus. We consider this broadly in line, as we expect a strong 4QFY15, which is historically 7-Eleven’s strongest quarter.

Revenue rose 6.6% y-o-y, driven by new store additions, an improved merchandise mix and consumer promotion activities.

The growth was achieved despite the ongoing retail market negativity caused by the goods and services tax (GST) and declining consumer confidence.

However, selling and distribution expenses increased 10.4% y-o-y, mainly due to new store expansion, resulting in higher staff costs, rental costs and store depreciation expenses.

Revenue grew 6.7% y-o-y to RM1.51 billion, mainly due to new store additions (total stores as at Sept 30: 1,883), an improved merchandise mix and consumer promotion activities. Gross profit increased 11.9% y-o-y to RM460.5 million due to revenue growth and a gross margin expansion of 1.5 points.

However, selling and distribution expenses increased 14.2% y-o-y, mainly due to higher staff costs, rental costs and store depreciation expenses in tandem with the store expansion.

7-Eleven recorded sequential improvements as well. Revenue rose 7.7% quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q), while core net profit surged 55.9% q-o-q.

We believe that the improvements were due to 2QFY15 being severely affected by the implementation of the GST and consumers holding back their purchases. We expect the improvements to continue in 4QFY15.

(The Edge) S P Setia to launch RM1b projects in Aeropod

KOTA KINABALU: S P Setia Bhd is targeting to launch products worth more than RM1 billion in gross development value (GDV) in Aeropod, Kota Kinabalu next year.

The developer is looking at launching retail offices, a boutique hotel and two blocks of serviced apartments in the 60-acre (24.28ha) integrated development in 2016, said S P Setia’s acting president and chief executive officer of Datuk Khor Chap Jen.

Khor was speaking to the media during a trip to witness the groundbreaking ceremony of the flyovers at Aeropod last Friday.

The retail offices and two blocks of 800 serviced apartments will have a GDV of RM232 million and RM680 million respectively. They are expected to be completed by 2019.

“The first launch in Aeropod was the SoVo Exchange (smart office, versatile office), which offers a dual key concept. It was launched in two phases in 2013 and 2015. The SoVo Exchange has a take-up rate of 64%,” said Khor.

He said that Blocks C and D of the boutique offices launched in 2012 are completely sold, while Block H is 76% sold.

Aeropod is an integrated development and transportation hub anchored by offices, a 300,000 sq ft lifestyle retail mall, international class hotels, serviced apartments, SoVo , luxury residential towers and a modern railway station. It has 3.8 million sq ft of gross floor area.

Aeropod is set to be completed by 2022 and it has a GDV of RM1.8 billion. So far, about RM300 million in GDV has been developed.

The two flyovers (841m and 318m long) cost about RM40 million and will provide easy and safe access to Kota Kinabalu City Centre, Kota Kinabalu International Airport, and the upcoming Tanjung Aru train station, which is scheduled for completion by mid-2016.

“Currently, drivers heading to [the] Tanjung Aru train station have to make a dangerous U-turn. Once the flyover is completed, it will ensure safety for the users” said S P Setia chairman Tun Zaki Tun Azmi.

“At S P Setia, we make sure our buyers have the convenience of accessibility when they purchase our projects. Th us, this flyover construction is another milestone for the group,” Khor said.

The two flyovers are targeted to be completed by early 2018. S P Setia will also be constructing two additional flyovers at a cost of RM30 million, bringing the total cost to RM72.5 million.

In a weak market, Khor said it is important to look at the long-term prospects instead of narrowing down to the current environment as there will be ups and downs in prices.

“We will work according to the market condition to phase our launches. As for bank loan rejection rates, so far it is still normal within the 20% range” Khor said.

Khor said S P Setia launched the commercial components first as it made sense to develop the land surrounding the train station before proceeding to the residential component.

“With the train station coming in, it will bring in the crowd to the commercial hub. We also want to make sure our resident buyers have the amenities they need such as retail lots and shops for their convenience,” Khor added.

The groundbreaking ceremony was witnessed by Sabah Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Minister of Infrastructure Development Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan. 

(The Edge) Development accelerates at Damansara/Bandar Utama

  • This week’s spotlight falls on the non-landed residential property market in the prime Damansara area of Petaling Jaya. Specifically, the areas covered here are Bandar Utama, Damansara Kim, Damansara Utama, Mutiara Damansara and Damansara Perdana. Based on’s analysis of transactions, the average price of strata residences here grew sharply in 2013, peaked in 4Q2013 and has since retreated slightly.

  • The average price per square foot (psf ) was RM493 in 3Q2014, a 16% fall from the peak of RM587 psf in 4Q2013, and a 6.6% y-o-y fall from RM528 psf in 3Q2013. Monthly transaction volume in the secondary market also peaked at end-2013 and was subdued in 2014. Total transaction volume for the 12 months to 3Q2014 fell 24.1% to 813 units from 1,071 units.

  • On closer inspection, the falling average prices were not caused by falling capital values. Instead, transaction activity in the upper segment stalled, especially at the beginning of 2014. One explanation could be that transaction activity has instead shifted to the primary market.

  • Already one of PJ’s best addresses, property prices here will be buoyed further by infrastructure projects. The MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line will have stations in Mutiara D’sara, 1 Utama and Taman Tun Dr Ismail.

  • The LRT3 (Bandar Utama-Klang Line) due in 2020 starts at 1 Utama and includes a station at D’sara Utama. The controversial D’sara-Shah Alam Highway (Dash) will run through Mutiara D’sara and D’sara Perdana.


(The Edge) Astro Radio still Malaysia’s most popular radio network

KUALA LUMPUR: Astro Radio Sdn Bhd has once again emerged as Malaysia’s most popular radio network, according to a survey.

The latest Nielsen Radio Audience Measurement (RAM) survey showed that 52.7% of the Malaysian listening population tune into Astro Radio stations weekly. Astro Radio retained its ranking, with its top three radio brands in the country, namely ERA FM with 4.7 million listeners, Sinar FM with 3.7 million listeners, followed by THR (Raaga and Gegar combined), which has 3.6 million listeners.

The company said ERA FM, Hitz FM, MY FM and THR Raaga continue to solidify their positions as the preferred radio stations in their respective language segments, while THR Gegar remains unchallenged as the No 1 station in the east coast.

“We now have 12.8 million listeners accumulatively on our platform, with the top breakfast and drive shows in the country,” Astro Radio chief executive officer Jake Abdullah said in a statement.

“We are grateful for the continued support from all our loyal listeners. As our brands continue to thrive, our commercial business remains agile and committed to delivering effective solutions and results to all our clients.

Everything we do from the content, technology, marketing and advertising perspectives is focused on being social, local and mobile,” he added.

“We continue to be committed to drive 360 integrated multiplat-form branded content solutions to ensure our appeal and relevance to all Malaysians,” said Jake.

To further strengthen content localisation, Jake said Astro Radio has expanded its presence in Sabah and Sarawak to reach a largely untapped market and provide the service of localised content by locals for local listeners.

(The Edge) Bonia poised to raise prices next year

KUALA LUMPUR: Unable to absorb rising costs caused by the weakening ringgit and the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), Bonia Corp Bhd, the operator of retailing brands including Bonia, Sembonia and Carlo Rino, will pass on the additional costs to its customers by raising prices of its leather goods in the coming months.

Bonia managing director Datuk Albert Chiang said it will increase prices of its goods next year to offset shrinking profit margins caused by a combination of rising input costs, promotional activities and higher discount given to drive sales amid weakened consumer sentiments, as well as absorption of the 6% GST.

“We have not raised our selling price since the implementation of the GST. But moving forward, I think we have to,” he told The Edge Financial Dailyin an interview.

Nevertheless, Chiang assured shoppers that any price increases will be “gradual and marginal”.

“If the price hike is too much, the market might not accept it. It could, in turn, affect our branding,” he said.

To ease consumer price sensitivity, Chiang said Bonia has embarked on branding initiatives to improve product qualities, services and locations in the hope that they will help lessen the impact of any price hikes on its sales.

For its first financial quarter ended Sept 30, 2015 (1QFY16), Bonia saw its net profit drop by 31.5% to RM8.87 million from RM12.96 million in 1QFY15, on lower gross profit margin.

Revenue for 1QFY16 also fell 3.6% to RM164.71 million from RM170.88 million a year ago, amid a tough operating environment after the implementation of the GST, coupled with weakened consumer sentiments.

Chiang said he doesn’t see the outlook changing much for the remaining financial year as consumers are expected to be cautious in their spending in view of the slowing local economy, as well as rising costs of living partly due to the weakening ringgit and the GST.

“[The outlook for] FY17 (ending June 30) will be better, but for FY16, we don’t see any improvement,” said Chiang, expecting negative same-store sales results in its Malaysian operations.

To ease pressure on its margins, Chiang said Bonia will close non-profitable stores and be more selective in new store openings.

“We will continue to consolidate our non-performing outlets and subsidiaries to reduce rentals and costs. We have about 60 subsidiaries now [and] we plan to merge some of them to improve our business performance,” he added.

On its plan to focus on its expansion to overseas markets, Chiang said the group is looking to increase overseas contribution to 50% of its revenue in three to five years from 35% currently, in order to achieve its revenue target of RM1 billion by 2020. For FY15, Bonia posted a revenue of RM695.33 million.

“We see the oversea markets having more opportunities next year, their growth rates are indeed higher than Malaysia’s,” Chiang said, adding that the group is currently exploring partners to start new ventures in Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

“We are still studying these markets, and we expect to finalise them soon,” he said, adding that the group will open a new store in Egypt and Kuwait next year.

The group has recently re-entered China’s retail market by opening three Bonia counters at Parkson department stores in Shanghai and Beijing.

Bonia withdrew from the Chinese market in 2012 due to rising costs of production and difficulty in getting skilled staff.

Chiang said the decision to re-enter China was because its management felt that China still has significant potential. “As no capital expenditure is incurred [on the construction of the store there] by Bonia, we see this as another pilot testing”.

On the local front, Bonia will open two new boutiques in Shah Alam and Kota Baru in March and April next year respectively, which will involve a combined investment of RM2 million.

As at June 30, 2015, Bonia had a network of over 1,400 sales outlets and 170 boutiques in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Th ailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Currently, the domestic market accounts for about 65% of the group’s revenue, followed by Singapore (25%), Indonesia (4%) and Vietnam (4%).

Bonia (valuation: 0.9; fundamental: 1.6) shares closed unchanged at 70 sen last Friday, for a market capitalisation of RM564.4 million. Year to date, the stock has declined by 26.7%.

(The Edge) Reclaiming two islands to cost RM8b

GEORGE TOWN: Gamuda Bhd-led project delivery partner — SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd — for the Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP) estimates the cost of reclaiming two islands measuring about 1,300 acres (526.1ha) and 2,100 acres to be about RM7 billion to RM8 billion.

Its project manager Szeto Wai Loong said the reclamation, identified as a land swap model to finance the RM27 billion TMP, is expected to take off in 2018 once federal and state approvals for the project components are attained.

He said that an 800-acre island next to these islands was also identified for further reclamation in future, pending the state’s needs.

Szeto said that the cost of the detailed environmental impact assessments for the road and rail-based public transportation segments, reclamation, and also feasibility studies could amount to about RM300 million to RM400 million which would be borne by the state.

“We will discuss with the state government, but fi nancing would most likely be via land swap. A tender for the reclamation will be called once approvals from the authorities are completed and the detailed design for the rail-based segment is completed,” he told The Edge Financial Daily.

He said the islands with flushing channels would have 700 acres or 15% green space, 5km beach stretch, 25km coastal park, a 30 km-long waterfront, sheltered pedestrian walkways, and designated bicycle lanes.
“It would also house a meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions centre, sports arena, museum, and performing arts centre,” he told a press conference earlier.

Szeto, who is Gamuda Engineering Sdn Bhd executive director, said to date, the consortium has forked out RM10 million through bank borrowings to fund the preliminary study on the reclamation which included soil and aquatic studies.

He said that it was too early to determine the construction and development profit, but is expected to discuss land use with the state when the approvals are obtained.

On the estimated cost per sq ft, Szeto said: “The state would auction the reclaimed land to [the] public.
I believe it would be based on market prices and nominal value at the time of auction”.

The Penang TMP would feature a light rail transit from Komtar to Bayan Lepas, monorail from Komtar to Air Itam and Tanjung Bungah, e-bus across the North Channel, bus rapid transits on the mainland, and a 20km “spine road” connecting Tanjung Bungah to Penang International Airport, and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway with tunnels through the hills.

He said extensive studies conducted by the Danish Hydraulic Institute confirmed that the southern coast of Penang island was most suitable for reclamation.

“This is due to its natural embayment feature with weak tidal currents, shallow waters with a depth of about 3m, and is sheltered from the effects of tsunamis,” he said.

SRS Consortium, a joint venture in which Gamuda holds 60%, with Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd and Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd holding 20% each, received its appointment letter on Aug 14.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the TMP would be funded through the sale of reclaimed land from the proposed South Reclamation Scheme.

“The reclaimed land will be an asset of the state and as the sole owner, the state government will be able to raise the funds needed to deliver the TMP effectively in a timely and sustainable manner,” he said.
Chow said it was pertinent to implement the TMP now before the “window of opportunity is closed” as increased property development would make it difficult to identify road and rail alignments on land which is presently undeveloped.

Last week, Chow said the reclamation was expected to have a five-time economic multiplier effect amounting to RM100 billion while also being a catalyst for growth for the state till 2050.

“The reclaimed land is expected to house the new Penang International Airport and provide additional space for industries, hence the growth catalyst for Penang,” he said.