Sunday, 30 April 2017

(NST) IMT-GT Summit approves 40 projects worth RM204.04b: Rahman Dahlan

KUALA LUMPUR: The High-Speed Rail service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is among 40 projects costing US$47 billion (RM204.03 billion) approved by the 10th Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit in Manila, Philippines, yesterday.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the projects which would be implemented by the three countries were contained in the "IMT-GT Vision 2036" and "IMT-GT Implementation Blueprint 2017-2021".

He said the documents which was a continuation of the "IMT-GT Implementation Blueprint" 2012-2016 was presented by the Indonesian and Thai ministers overseeing the IMT-GT.

The projects would be implemented between 2017 and 2021," he said in a statement late Saturday night.

The IMT-GT Summit was chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and was attended by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Abdul Rahman said besides the HSR project, also listed in the development blueprint is the East Coast Railway, Chuping Valley Industrial Area and Perlis Inland Port.

Touching on another development, he said 57 main infrastructure projects estimated at US$21billion (RM91.16 billion) were sanctioned by the 12th Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area Summit in Manila.

Abdul Rahman, who is also the minister overseeing BIMP-EAGA Malaysia, said all the said projects were contained in the BIMP-EAGA blueprint - the "BIMP-EAGA Vision 2025" and would be implemented by all four ASEAN countries.

"The projects to be implemented in Malaysia are the Pan Borneo Highway (Sabah), Pan-Borneo Highway (Sarawak), Sepanggar Bay Container Port Expansion, Deepening of Kuching and Tawau Ports and the Mukah Airport.

"These projects will be a catalyst to the economic integration process between countries/provinces in BIMP-EAGA," he added. The BIMP-EAGA Summit, which was attended by Najib, was chaired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. -- BERNAMA

(The Star) Robot firm wants to invest RM15bil

PASIR GUDANG: Johor plans to become a hub for robotic development with a Chinese firm expressing its interest in investing RM15bil in the state.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said discussions between both sides are in the final stages.

“We hope to wrap up the deal soon and hopefully, the Chinese robotics firm will invest in Johor this year,” he said.

“The company wants to build a factory in Sedenak while having its sales as well as research and development programmes somewhere within Iskandar Malaysia.”

Mohamed Khaled said this when met after opening the SMK Pasir Gudang 1 Parent-Teacher Association meeting here yesterday.

The investment by the Chinese company will create more than 1,000 employment opportunities for Malaysians.

Mohamed Khaled also said the state’s human capital – skilled workers and professionals – must be balanced.

“This is important to ensure there is quality human capital to meet the demand of investments being made in Johor.

“Nowadays, parents keep emphasising that their children must become doctors or hold professional jobs to become successful.

“However, the state government wants a balance in human capital as skilled workers earn higher salaries than most professionals,” he added.

On another matter, Mohamed Khaled said Johor Umno was not afraid to face the upcoming general election and was prepared to handle any controversial issue.

“There will be many issues which the Opposition will play up just to create negative perception and anger among the people.

“We are not worried as their allegations are baseless. Besides, the ruling Johor government has a track record and a development plan to move the state forward,” he said.

(The Star) China-Malaysia ties to bloom

PETALING JAYA: Bunga Raya – Malaysia’s national flower – will bloom and coconut trees will sway in the soon-to-be-built Malaysia-China Friendship Garden in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

Located within the Dongguan Bo­­tanical Garden, this friendship garden is developed in reciprocation of the China-Malaysia Friend­ship Garden at Anjung Floria in Pu­­tra­­jaya, which was conceptualised in 2014 to celebrate 40 years of bilateral ties between the two countries.

The garden in Putrajaya, opened in June 2015, is steeped in traditional Lingnan-styled elements unique to southern China.

At the groundbreaking ceremony in Dongguan recently, Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikshan said the garden in China would portray the identity of Malaysia as a multi-cultural and diverse nation.

“As such, we have planned the garden to consist of a Malay traditional house – the Malacca Malay House – as the main component, surrounded by flowers, shrubs, herbs and fruit trees,” he said in his speech.

Adnan said the Malacca traditional house would demonstrate a mixture of cultures and harmonious blend of the multi-cultural communities.

The glazed and colourful tiles lining the staircases would be imported from China or Europe, while the rest of the house’s designs would feature Malay and Islamic elements, he said.

(The Star) No room for large hypermarkets now

PETALING JAYA: The days of having large grocery stores and retail shops are over, according to a seasoned hand of the retail industry.

CEO of Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd Paul Ritchie said that due to intensifying competition in the industry, including from online retail sales, large hypermarkets were no longer feasible and grocery stores were becoming smaller.

“Grocery stores that are larger than 60,000sq m are challenging to sustain.

“Instead, the optimal solution, which we are implementing in some of our stores, is to use space better by putting a wider and improved range of products in a smaller floor space,” he said.

He added that Tesco Malaysia’s objective is to make shopping more convenient for its customers.

However, despite the online retail trend, Ritchie noted that online grocery shopping is growing much slower as Malaysians still preferred to visit traditional markets or grocery stores.

“Consumers still want the physical aspect of grocery shopping. They want to touch, see, smell and pick groceries by hand,” he said at the Star Media Group’s Power Talks Business Series yesterday.

Shop till you drop: Ritchie talking about the trend of online shopping in Menara Star.

More than 250 people attended the talk, which focused on the challenges and trends of the grocery business and how Tesco is positioning itself.

Ritchie felt that the trend going forward would be higher demand for fresh food as more people adopted healthy eating practices.

“More people are consuming healthy food,” said Ritchie.

Tesco was the first grocery chain in Malaysia to introduce online grocery shopping two years ago.

Since 2014, Tesco Malaysia’s online sales have totalled RM179mil, with more than a million orders, and its delivery coverage has grown to reach 50% of the nationwide population.

Ritchie expected Tesco’s online sales to improve this year, in line with Malaysia’s online shopping growth of 18% a year.

This year, Tesco Malaysia will open two new stores and four or six next generation stores.

Tesco’s next generation stores are defined as smaller-sized stores with a proportionally wider range of products.

Ritchie began his career at Tesco sorting out trolleys in 1980, climbing up the ranks from trainee manager to store manager and later on, retail director.

Ritchie, who has 37 years of experience, both in Britain and internationally, is responsible for developing and growing Tesco’s business in Malaysia.

He was appointed CEO of Tesco Malaysia in 2015, developing the next generation of hypermarkets, while entering the competitive online market. Ritchie has since led Tesco Malaysia to be ranked the #1 Retailer by Kantar Worldpanel in 2016.

Prior to that, Ritchie was CEO of Tesco Retail and Property business based in Shanghai, China.

Tesco Malaysia celebrates its 15th anniversary this year with 56 hypermarkets, two distribution centres and over 7,000 staff.

(The Star) Road charge at Thai border

BENTONG: The RM20 road charge, currently enforced at the Johor-Singapore crossing point, will also be imposed at the border with Thailand, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The move is expected to be implemented this year following Cabinet approval.

“We are also in detailed discussions with the Finance Ministry, as we have four states bordering Thailand, and we will have to pass RM5 from every RM20 we collect to the states,” said Liow.

Malaysia has nine border crossings into Thailand’s southern pro­vinces.

However, compared to between 10,000 and 20,000 cars entering from Singapore on a daily basis, there are about 1,000 cars entering Malaysia daily from Thailand, said Liow after the Road Transport Department’s (JPJ) 71st anniversary national celebration at Dataran Bentong yesterday.

He said the JPJ had conducted 76 inspections on tyre factories from Jan 1 to April 28, and illegally retreaded tyres and equipment worth RM210,000 had been seized.

Freedom to soar: Liow releasing a pigeon at JPJ’s 71st anniversary celebration at Dataran Bentong. The event is also to foster cooperation between JPJ and the public in working towards reducing road accidents. — Bernama

The inspections and seizures were conducted together with the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) as part of the National Blue Ocean Strategy.

Operators from four factories have been brought to court, while others have been issued on-the-spot fines.

Liow said JPJ’s revenue increased by 6% to RM3.8bil last year compared to 2015.

The top three JPJ which recorded the highest revenue last year were Federal Territory, Johor and Selangor, he added.

JPJ director-general Datuk Nadzri Siron said the department was determined to lower the accident rate on the roads.

“Year after year, our accident rate is rising. This cannot be handled by one department alone.

“Therefore, we follow the National Blue Ocean Strategy and work together with the police, KPDNKK and other government bodies, and schools to increase safety awareness,” said Nadzri.

He added that other safety measures included using technology such as installing more cameras at additional locations to improve traffic monitoring and integrating them with other systems such as the AWAS demerit system.

(The Star) George Town street art gets ‘Lonely Planet’ listing

PETALING JAYA: George Town has joined other famous street art capitals of the world to make it into the Lonely Planet book Street Art.

The quaint street murals and colourful walls in the inner city of George Town, are bringing attention to this versatile city as one of the street art capitals of the world, alongside hotspots like New York, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Paris, Melbourne and San Francisco.

The Street Art book, which covers 42 cities around the world, listed George Town as its only Asian destination.

Apart from British artist Banksy’s stencils in London, and French artist Invader’s mosaics found in European cities, this new travel guide has mapped out the best examples of street art in George Town.

The book highlights prominent street murals by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, Russia’s Julia Volchkova, Britain’s Thomas Powell, and Germany’s Addison Karl.

Homegrown names like Fuazan Fuad and the urban art collective Artists For Stray Animals are also mentioned.

Zacharevic’s famous work Kids On A Bicycle and Volchkova’s proud Indian Boatman are recognised as the picks of the bunch.

To get a sense of George Town’s urban landscape through the eyes of the city’s street artists, visitors are advised to start in Lebuh Armenian, Lorong Stewart, Lebuh Muntri, Lebuh Ah Quee, Lebuh Chulia, and Hin Bus Depot Art Centre.

“This book is intended as a starting point to your journey, highlighting a selection of some of the key cities around the world to experience street art today, and providing guides to each city’s street art hotspots to enable you to explore further,” Ed Bartlett, who compiled Street Art, said.

London-based Bartlett is an independent curator and founder of The Future Tense, an arts initiative which puts on shows and exhibits, and is known for discovering new talent.

“Today, the proliferation of legal walls and organised festivals around the world makes it possible to encounter thought-provoking, transformative art in the most unexpected places. People are travelling to the four corners of the globe specifically to experience street art,” he added.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

(The Star) Developer and hotel pair up for tower project in Shah Alam

DoubleTree Tower, developed by i-City and comprising the DoubleTree by Hilton i-City Hotel and the Hill10 Residence @i-City, will be launched in June.

Hilton10 Residence has 200 exclusive residences which will give owners the privilege of experiencing hotel living permanently.

I-Berhad executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong unveiled the Hill10 Residence @i-City logo to media members recently.

Reflecting the elegance of the project, the logo design was inspired by Art Deco representing modernism turned into fashion.

The intention was to create a sleek and anti-traditional elegance symbolising wealth and sophistication.

The project name, Hill10, reads hill ten or hill 10 in the logo; 10 represents the 10th tower block in i-City.

Embedded in the logo is also the word IoT (Internet of Things) which is the culmination of i-City’s vision as an intelligent city.

The colours blue and beige put together connote weight and dignity.

Located above the DoubleTree by Hilton in i-City, the hotel will occupy the ground floor up to Level 22 while Hill10 Residence @i-City will occupy the upper floors from Level 22 Mezzanine to Level 43 and also the ground floor.

Seamlessly extending the prestige of Hilton worldwide brand, Hill10 Residence will be fully fitted and furnished with interior design concepts similar to the Hilton Worldwide standards.

The stylish and luxurious suites will be complemented by modern conveniences, and will be dream homes for those who enjoy a luxury lifestyle.

There are only 200 exclusive suites will be available – Standard, Deluxe and Executive suites – consisting of one bedroom, one study room and one bath, or two bedrooms and two baths.

Privacy is ensured as each floor has only 11 suites serviced by four lifts.

There’s a cantilever rooftop infinity pool at Level 43 and a grand entrance lobby on the ground floor.

Other facilities include a recreational zone, landscaped gardens and gym, besides being an IoT (Internet of Things) ready homes.

Prices for the exclusive suites start from RM500,000.

Hill10 Residence is open for registration.

The tower block comprising Hill10 Residence and DoubleTree by Hilton is expected to be completed in 2020.

(The Star) Getting better returns for retirement

There is a worrying trend among Malaysian investors, particularly the millennials, that their financial goals will not be met upon retirement. This is attributable to the lack of retirement savings and not making appropriate investments in different yielding asset classes.

Elaborating on this phenomenon, Manulife Asset Management Services Bhd chief investment officer Jason Chong (pic) tells StarBizWeek that at the moment most Malaysians, including the millennials, prefer to hold cash rather than diversify their investments in various asset classes that provide reasonable attractive yields.

“Cash is the lowest yielding asset class. Worse still, with rising inflation the value of cash ‘depreciates’ over time and making appropriate investments in different asset classes like unit trust, insurance, equities etc, will boost savings from higher yields for this younger group of investors.

“The financial assets of an average household in Asia mainly comprises cash and it’s a common phenomenon throughout the region. Asians hold a higher percentage of savings in cash and cash as a percentage of financial assets, for example, in the US is below 20% compared with between 40% and 50% in the region. Therefore, it’s a wake-up call for millennial investors to start saving early so as not to derail their financial goals upon retirement,’’ he says.

At the same time, he says EPF savings alone will not be sufficient to ensure comfortable retirement savings. Based on statistics, Chong says one-third of EPF members aged 54 does not have enough retirement savings in their accounts. The minimum wage level set by EPF upon retirement for its members is RM920 a month and which is expected to last them for the next 20 years, he explains.

Due to the low yield environment with current low interest rates, millennial investors should immediately embark on regular savings plan to ensure their financial commitments are met throughout their life journey.

“If one were to use rule 72 as a rule of thumb to estimate the number of years required to double a person’s money at a given annual rate of return, then for example, an average fixed deposit rate of say 3% will take 24 years to double his or her monies. With inflation on the uptrend and higher healthcare cost growing in the country at a rate of about 12% per annum, merely putting money into fixed deposit will not suffice for adequate retirement savings and meeting financial goals,’’ Chong says.

There is also a misconception and sort of an embedded culture among Malaysians that they should have more cash in hand to buy properties, he adds, noting that this should not be the case as inflation erodes bank savings. It will be better instead to diversify investments in a basket of asset classes rather than hold cash alone, he says.

Meanwhile, Manulife’s latest survey – Manulife Investor Sentiment Index (MISI) – reveals that millennial investors underestimate the financial challenges ahead of them. The survey shows there is a large generation gap in terms of confidence with millennial investors in Malaysia – defined as investors under the age of 35 – more likely to be overly optimistic about their retirement prospects.

The survey showed that investor confidence in future financial security decreases with age, indicating that millennial investors underestimate the financial challenges ahead of them. About 88% of millennials expect to maintain or enhance their lifestyles in retirement compared to 72% of respondents aged 35 to 49. Only 12% of millennials expect to scale back their lifestyle in retirement but among the middle aged, this figure more than doubles to 28%.

General optimism

Despite their general optimism for the future, millennials readily acknowledge that their financial planning for retirement will be challenged by future family and health burdens: 65% expect that their health will deteriorate as they get older and 56% believe it will deteriorate to the point where they can no longer work.

About 58% of millennials also expect that in retirement they will have to financially support their parents while 46% expect to have to financially support their children. Furthermore, the survey also revealed that 38% expect that they won’t receive any financial support from their own children.

Commenting on the survey, Manulife Holdings Bhd group chief executive officer Mark O’Dell said: “As the MISI survey shows, Malaysian millennials are rightfully ambitious for their retirement. However, confidence alone does not make for a good retirement. At Manulife our vision is to provide strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for each of our clients to help them meet their retirement goals. Every investor deserves good advice that will help them prepare for a good retirement.”

The MISI in Asia is a yearly proprietary survey measuring and tracking investors’ views across eight markets in the region on their attitudes towards key asset classes and issues related to personal financial planning.

It is based on 500 online interviews each in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, and 500 face-to-face interviews in Indonesia. Respondents are middle class to affluent investors, aged 25 years and above who are the primary decision maker of financial matters in the household and currently have investment products.

(The Star) My way or the highway

Following merger and acquisition activities in the infrastructure sector that have ascribed high valuations to highways in Malaysia, some investors have been turning bullish on WCE Holdings Bhd (WCE).

The shares of WCE have been rallying since January.

The stock hit a 52-week-high yesterday at RM1.53, giving the stock a lofty price to earnings multiple of over 60 times financial year 2016 earnings.

Notably, rallying alongside WCE is MWE Holdings Bhd, which also hit its 52-week high yesterday at RM1.64.

MWE, controlled by low-profile tycoon Tan Sri Surin Upatkoon, owns close to 26% of WCE.

A dealer says the excitement around these stocks relate to the West Coast Expressway (WCE) because of the high value of recent highway transactions.

Last year, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) inked a deal in which it bought 40% of the highly coveted Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (Duke 1 and 2) for RM1.13bil.

This price tag had valued Duke 1 and 2 at a whopping RM2.82bil, higher than the market capitalisation of Ekovest Bhd then, the vendor of the highway, at RM2bil.

This led to Ekovest being deemed an undervalued stock then, and since then, its share price has risen to give the company a current market capitalisation of RM3bil.

Recently also, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) became the latest suitor of Silk Holdings Bhd’s (SHB) unit Sistem Lingkaran-Lebuhraya Kajang Sdn Bhd, the concession holder of the Kajang Traffic Dispersal Ring Road, known popularly as Silk Highway.

The country’s largest fund management company is making a cash offer of RM380mil for the highway company.

In WCE’s case though, the highway isn’t built yet, but it is progressing well.

A unit of WCE (formerly known as Kumpulan Europlus Bhd or KEuro) was awarded a 60-year concession in January 2012 by the Federal Government to build, operate and transfer the 233km WCE, which will connect Banting in Selangor to Taiping in Perak.

Last October, WCE managing director Datuk Neoh Soon Hiong told StarBizWeek that some parts of WCE are expected to be open earlier than scheduled and the whole highway is on track for full completion in three years.

The WCE is the first in a new generation of future highways that will be built according to new concession terms that have been revised by the Government unlike its predecessors.

It has a profit-sharing element and after the highway reaches a targeted internal rate of return, whatever extra will be shared with the Government.

To be sure, the WCE is an old project that has seen many stops and starts.

But in 2007, IJM Corp Bhd bought into the highway, when it became the single largest shareholder of WCE and galvanised the project that was mooted by Tan Sri Chan Ah Chye.

The project was delayed for many years, mainly due Chan’s weak financial standing and KEuro’s weak balance sheet at the height of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997/98.

Subsequently in July 2013, MWE bought Chan’s 22.15% block of shares in listed company KEuro for RM155.79mil cash or RM1.35 per share.

It is also noteworthy that in November 2015, Upatkoon wanted to take private MWE with a takeover offer of RM391mil in cash and deferred amount, but later aborted the deal.

The RM6bil tolled expressway, slated for completion in 2019, is expected to connect main coastal towns including Klang, Kuala Selangor, Teluk Intan, Setiawan, Manjung and Hutan Melintang, among others.

These towns are only accessible via a trunk road.

According to a fund manager, the usage of the expressway is expected to be high.

“In a Perak alone, there are around 20 industrial estates that straddle the West Coast Expressway, while in Selangor there are 10.

“Usage (of the expressway) will be high as many of these factory owners would prefer it as its terrain is rather flat compared with the hilly North South Expressway (NSE), especially the route to Ipoh,” the fund manager says.

The fund manager also says that WCE will play a complimentary role in alleviating traffic congestion.

“The highway will cannibalise traffic from Changkat Jering to Banting.

“Therefore, more lorries, container trucks and private vehicles travelling to west coast town would use the highway.

“Additionally, Federal roads along the west coast leading to major towns are congested during the weekends and holidays.

“Many are likely to use the WCE to cut travel time,” he says.

In terms of earnings, WCE posted a net profit of RM23mil for its nine months ended Dec 31, 2016, marginally lower than RM25mil previously.

MWE saw a turnaround in its earnings, posting a profit of RM10.7mil for its nine months ended Dec 31, 2016 from a loss of RM4.17mil previously.

The Penang-based garment maker is also involved in businesses ranging from telecommunications to property.

More interesting is this - MWE’s 26% stake in WCE now has a market value of RM390mil, which is slightly higher than MWE’s market capitalisation of RM373mil.

(The Star) Just ‘like’ and ‘follow’ to win a home

PETALING JAYA: All Malaysians have a chance to win a unit of the trendy PJ Midtown serviced suites worth more than half a million ringgit.

To get that chance, they need only to visit any fair and “like” and “follow” its Facebook page.

Star Media Group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai said the Win a Home (WAH) campaign, which will kick off on May 11, is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

“A recent poll by the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) found that 56% of Malaysians want to own a home within the next six months,” said Wong during the contest launch at the Oasis Gallery in Oasis Damansara, a project here by Sime Darby Brunsfield, yesterday.

The value of owning a home is deeply entrenched in the Asian culture, he noted.

“However, the present economic situation has proven to be challenging in the real estate market and owning a home has become a distant dream for many Malaysians.

“But the WAH campaign gives everybody a chance to win a unit at the PJ Midtown Development located in Section 13, Petaling Jaya,” he said.

The WAH campaign is organised by and PJ Midtown Development.

The campaign was launched at Oasis Damansara by (from left) Teh Chin Guan, Wan Hashimi Albakri, Wong Chun Wai, Richard Ng Choon Seng, Gan Thian Leong and Gan Tien Chie.

Sime Darby Property chief operating officer Richard Ng Choon Seng said PJ Midtown is a mixed development sited in the most sought-after address in town.

“It is surrounded by a plethora of amenities within less than a 10km radius. It is also Green Building Index Gold-compliant, with its state-of-the-art energy management and rainwater harvesting systems,” said Ng.

PJ Midtown is a joint development by IOI Properties Group, Sime Darby Property, and Brunsfield International Group.

Also present were IOI Properties Group chief operating officer Teh Chin Guan, Sime Darby Property chief transformation officer Datuk Wan Hashimi Albakri, Brunsfield International Group founder and group managing director Tan Sri Dr Gan Thian Leong and executive director Gan Tien Chie.

To win a one-bedroom 57sq m (613sq ft) serviced suite, participants must first “like” and “follow” the Facebook page and then register online at

They must then submit the most creative photo with a background at any of the fairs, forums, or events with a caption of less than 50 words: “Why I should win this home ...” on their personal Facebook page.

The post must also tag the Facebook page and have the hashtag #WAHStarProperty. This entitles you to one chance of winning.

Meanwhile, the purchase of a home at any of the fairs from May 11 to Dec 31 will entitle the purchaser to three or five more entries per submitted proof of purchase.

The first fair featuring this campaign will be at Konvensyen Hartanah at KL Sogo from May 11 to 14.

The WAH campaign is open to all Malaysians aged 18 and above who are not bankrupt at the point of submission and winning.

For more information on the fairs that will be featuring the WAH campaign, visit and also follow the Facebook page to get alerts.

(The Star) ‘Get rid of trade barriers’

Asean still has a long way towards integrating its 10 economies due to a high number of trade barriers in the grouping.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said between 2000 and 2015, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and measures (NTMs) rose from 1,634 to 5,975.

“These NTBs and NTMs must be reduced and ultimately removed. This is a stubborn global problem, but it is in Asean’s own interest to lead the way in this endeavour,” he said in his keynote address at the Prosperity for All Summit organised by Asean Business Advisory Council.

The Prime Minister is here to attend the 30th Asean Summit today.

Najib said efforts to bring tariffs in Asean down to zero must be pursued vigorously.

“We must work to facilitate intra-Asean trade further. To achieve US$9.2 trillion (RM40 trillion) by 2050, there has to be a 20% reduction in fixed trade costs.

“We need to work towards facilitative measures such as national single windows seamlessly linked to Asean single window and standardised customs procedures,” he said.

The Prime Minister said Asean had made great strides in the last five decades, with its economy having multiplied 28 times from US$87.2bil (RM378bil) to US$2.5 trillion (RM10.8 trillion).

“When we signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Community in November 2015, we were looking at an Asean economy which was close to US$2.7 trillion (RM11.7 trillion), the seventh largest in the world.

“And recent estimates suggest that taken as one, Asean is now the sixth largest economy in the world,” he said.

On Malaysia’s experience, he said the Government did not want any Malaysian to be left behind regardless of ethnicity, religion and community.

“One of the lessons of the rise of extremist populism in Europe is that a neglected underclass – those left behind by economic growth, prosperity and the benefits of globalisation – can overturn elections and political systems,” said Najib.

He said as Asean entered its 50th year this year, the grouping must raise awareness of Asean and to make it feel real, relevant and tangible to all citizens.

“We are one of the most successful regional associations in the world and while some criticised us for moving too slowly, we have avoided the downsides of moving too fast.

“The turmoil in the European Union and strong swells of anti-EU sentiment there, demonstrate the dangers of Europe-wide institutions not having sufficiently won the support and affection of member state populations.

“At the same time, there is a large body of EU citizens who think of themselves as citizens of EU. I am not saying that Asean countries want to go that far, but to what extent do our people think of themselves as being members of Asean?” he said.

(NST) IMF gives thumbs up for M'sia's macroeconomic policies

KUALA LUMPUR: The International Monetary Fund has praised Malaysia for its “sound macroeconomic policies” which ensures that the economy stays resilient in the face of significant headwinds and risks – placing it as among the fastest-growing economies among its peers.

It said Malaysia’s resilience is due to a diversified production and export base, strong balance sheet positions, a flexible exchange rate, responsive macroeconomic policies and deep financial markets.

Policy buffers must, however, continue to be strengthened.

"While Malaysia's economic growth is expected to continue in 2017, weaker-than-expected growth in key advanced and emerging economies, or a global retreat from cross-border integration, could weigh on the domestic economy," said the Fund's executive board after its annual consultation report on Malaysia last night.

It has projected the Malaysian economy to grow by 4.5 per cent this year from 4.2 per cent in 2016, underpinned by domestic demand activities.

For Malaysia, risks to the growth outlook will not only come from external uncertainties, but also from the domestic side, particularly household debt, which remains high.

"The risks are primarily related to public sector and household debt, along with pockets of vulnerabilities in the corporate sector," the IMF said.

Federal debt and contingent liabilities are relatively high, which, it warned in its assessment, would limit policy space to respond to shocks.

With the target towards a near-balanced federal budget by 2020, the IMF said that this will help alleviate risks from elevated government debt levels and contingent liabilities, and build fiscal space.

While the monetary policy stance by Bank Negara Malaysia is appropriate, it also welcomes the commitment to keeping the exchange rate as the key shock absorber.

Foreign reserves would, however, need to be increased as a buffer in the event of disorderly market conditions.

The IMF also supports Malaysia’s emphasis on increasing female labour force participation, improving the quality of education, lowering skills mismatch, boosting productivity growth, encouraging research and innovation, and upholding high standards of governance.

The Fund expects the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to average 2.7 per cent on the back of higher global oil prices and the rationalisation of subsidies on cooking oil, while the current account surplus will be largely unchanged.

Friday, 28 April 2017

(NST) Economy on track for 4.5-4.8% growth in 2017: Bank Negara

LABUAN: The economy looks well on track to achieving the upper end of the central bank's 4.5-4.8 per cent annual growth projection for 2017, Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Datuk Seri Muhammad Ibrahim said today.

Export numbers for the first three months of the year have been good. Exports in Feb, in particular, surged by 26.5 per cent, the fastest pace since 2010.

"If that trend continues, we might see growth gravitate to the higher end of the range," he said at a media briefing here, held to announce the Labuan Financial Services Authority 2016 Annual Report launch.

If there are no unforeseen conditions which may cause the economy or sentiments to be adverse, especially in terms of geopolitical risks, that will also strengthen the upper end growth projection for the economy.

On the interest rate policy, Muhammad said the next monetary policy meeting, which will be held on May 12, will address risks to growth, inflation and financial imbalances.

"At the end of the day, it must be at a level that will promote economic growth… that is very important for us to look at," Muhammad said.

Although inflationary pressures have risen over the past two months, he said the level of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will go down.

But the central bank will still adhere to the 3-4 per cent inflation projection for 2017, until an assessment at a later date.

On the stronger performance of the ringgit, the central bank chief said the improved levels reflect the measures undertaken since Dec.

"We expect the demand and supply of the ringgit to be more balanced than before. It will reflect the strong fundamentals that we have now," he added.

(The Star) Poised for further growth

ISKANDAR PUTERI: The shared services and outsourcing industry continues to be a bright spot for Malaysia.

Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) chief executive officer Datuk Azman Mahmud said the sector also known as global business service (GBS) is expected to grow by between 10% and 15% over the next three years.

“The GBS sector is indeed a bright spot for Malaysia’s economy,” he said before launching Outsourcing Malaysia’s (OM) southern office here.

Azman said the sector has been one of the core contributors in Malaysia’s economic development and aim to become a high income and knowledge-based economy.

“It is worth noting that the performance has surpassed the target set under the Business Services National Key Economic Area (NKEA) of generating 43,300 jobs by 2020,” he added.

Azman pointed out that as at December, 2016, Malaysia was home to 499 global business companies that had resulted in the creation of more than 93,000 jobs

“We are delighted that the GBS sector is poised to register stronger growth as global companies strive to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently.

“More importantly, these jobs, which provide an average monthly salary of RM7,000, are very much in line with the Government’s aim to create middle-to-high income employment opportunities,” he said.

Azman added Malaysia’s strategic location in the heart of Asean, world class infrastructure, unmatched connectivity, large talent pool as well as pragmatic and business friendly policies had attracted these companies to set up base here.

He added these factors had made Malaysia a cost competitive base for companies to locate their shared services and outsourcing activities in the country.

Azman also said GBS Iskandar was one of the choice locations for companies that wanted to leverage on Malaysia’s strategic location and value proposition to set up their outsourcing centres and back offices.

“I am delighted that just three years after it was established, i2M Ventures has successfully engaged with nine companies to gain a foothold in GBS Iskandar.

“Some of the big names that are already here include Frost & Sullivan, Brandt International, VTC, DayThree, Vistra and Odinsoft,” he added.

Azman noted GBS Iskandar was well positioned to attract more investors given the vibrant ecosystem available in Iskandar Malaysia and Johor.

(The Star) Timely boost for online business

Maybank has launched a new payment gateway, Maybank2u Pay, targeted at supporting e-commerce entrepreneurs, particularly SMEs, to boost their businesses.

E-commerce businesses can apply online to obtain payment capabilities for their e-commerce sites, and receive an approval as quick as 24 hours.

The event was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in conjunction with Minggu Saham Amanah Malaysia (MSAM) 2017, held in Temerloh, Pahang.

Also in attendance were Maybank chairman Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin, group president and chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Farid Alias and Community Financial Services Malaysia head Datuk Hamirullah Boorhan.

Hamirullah said Maybank2u Pay was part of the group’s initiative to enable electronic payment capabilities for e-commerce businesses, especially small- and medium-sized (SMEs) entrepreneurs who need a simple, effective and cost-efficient payment platform to support their online presence.

“E-commerce is growing in Malaysia and expected to rise to more than 20% a year in 2020,” said Hamirullah.

“It is crucial that our local businesses are given every support needed to leverage this growing trend among customers to shop online.”

He added that it was important for businesses to build a stronger presence in the online market, given the vast opportunities available, particularly with the introduction of the Digital Free Trade Zone in the country.

“There is tremendous potential in the e-commerce space, and our aim is to enable small- and medium-sized businesses to tap into this and boost their revenue,” he explained.

“SMEs made a significant contribution of 37% to the country’s GDP in 2016. Our new Maybank2u Pay will help them grow their businesses online, and increase their contribution to the nation’s economy even further.”

Among the benefits of Maybank2u Pay are a low transaction fee, simple set-up and no requirement for documents as the application is made online.

Merchants will be able to integrate a payment gateway in a few simple steps into their company’s website so that they can receive payments from their customers online.

Customers can submit their application for Maybank2u Pay online at Upon approval, they will be able to download the Software Development Kit (SDK codes) and integrate them into their sites.

Once integrated, the site will allow the business to accept payments through the online debiting of accounts via Maybank2u.

Hamirullah said the bank ensured that the on-boarding process was kept so that many customers would benefit from this secure and convenient payment gateway solution.

“We understand that some small businesses may not be as familiar or comfortable with e-commerce platforms. As an organisation committed to humanising financial services, we have come up with this simple solution to provide them a convenient end-to-end process that will result in an effective payment gateway for their online business.”

The pilot launch of Maybank2u Pay in early March has so far seen encouraging response with close to 600 applications from SMEs for this new service.

Hamirullah added that the Maybank2u Pay gateway would be expanded to include acceptance of payment by credit and debit cards.

In conjunction with the launch of Maybank2u Pay, Maybank is offering transaction fee waivers for three months for those who sign up for this service before May 31.

(The Star) 700 get early delivery of Rumawip units

The 700 buyers of the Residensi Pandanmas apartment, an affordable housing project in the heart of the city, are a lucky lot.

They received the keys to their new homes on Tuesday, nine months ahead of schedule.

This follows the early completion of the project by Syarikat Faber Vista Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of property developer Aset Kayamas Sdn Bhd.

The project is part of the Federal Territories Housing Scheme (Rumawip), a strategic partnership between Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and private developers to build a targeted 80,000 affordable homes for middle-income earners in the city by 2020.

Aset Kayamas is also building the second phase of Residensi Pandanmas.

To be known as Residensi Pandanmas 2, the second phase will have 1,920 units located next to the first phase.

“Quality and the speed of completion are the measurements of value, and these are what our company holds very dear,” said Aset Kayamas chairman Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong.

The company was founded in 2011 and is today one of the biggest developers contracted to build Rumawip as well as the 1Malaysia civil servants housing project (PPA1M) in the Klang Valley.

Chai’s son Michael, who is the company’s executive director, said that Aset Kayamas would be building 10,147 affordable homes in addition to the 4,000 or so units under the free market category.

Other Rumawip projects which Aset Kayamas is constructing include Residensi Sentulmas, Residensi Puchongmas, Residensi Kepongmas and Residensi Gurneymas.

Meanwhile, the company’s free market projects include Parkhill Residence (Bukit Jalil), The Haute (in Gurney, KL), The Henge (Kepong), The Holmes (Bandar Tun Razak), and The Havre (Bukit Jalil).

“All of our finished projects have been completed ahead of schedule so far,” said Michael.

He explained as a Rumawip project, Residensi Pandanmas is geared towards first-time homebuyers.

“The buyers cannot rent or sell for 10 years from the date of signing their sale and purchase agreement.”

The 700 three-bedroom units are between 850sq ft and 900sq ft in size and were sold for RM280,000 and RM300,000 respectively.

Several of the buyers said they were fortunate to have been chosen among the many applicants.

“This project is sold below market price to help people like me, and I’m thankful for it,” said Phang Jiun Jiann, 30, a bank employee.

Mohammad Noor Bahari, 32, said that he first heard about the Rumawip project after browsing on the Internet.

“I work for an oil and gas firm in KLCC, so I’m very fortunate to be able to buy such an affordable home just minutes away from my office,” said Mohammad Noor.

Trading company employee Renee Young, 33, said Residensi Pandanmas was a value buy.

“I have long been looking to buy an apartment in the city that I can afford, so projects such as this are really welcome,” she said.

(The Star) Nestle eyes RM500mil in e-commerce sales

KUALA LUMPUR: Leading food and beverage player Nestle (M) Bhd is optimistic of achieving RM500mil in e-commerce sales in the next three to five years backed by the rapid expansion in the digital space.

Chief executive officer Alois Hofbauer said Nestle has tripled its e-commerce sales in 2016 versus 2015.

“We started our e-commerce store sometime in 2015 using Lazada’s and 11th Street’s platform and ever since then we are witnessing rapid expansion in this space.

“Going by this, we might achieve the RM500mil sales target in the e-commerce space faster in the next three to five years,” Hofbauer said during a media briefing after Nestle’s 33rd AGM yesterday.

While many firms had sacrificed brand investment last year in the surface of a subdued consumer sentiment, he said Nestle was aggressive and invested 50% more in marketing and branding to deliver growth.

“This has somewhat given us stronger earnings and revenue in the first quarter ended March 31, 2017,” he noted.

That said, Nestle does not intend to reduce its advertising expenditure (adex) in print, television or radio, but will go all out in marketing in the digital space, going forward.

In 2016, the company was ranked top three among advertisers in Malaysia with close to RM500mil in adex.

On capital expenditure (capex), he said the company will be allocating RM200mil for capex this year, from RM123mil last year.

“This will be spread equally in all product categories, including refurbishing our warehouse,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nestle’s improved operational efficiency in its facilities and supply chain as well as its strategy to fuel, innovate and transform will help mitigate the impact of higher commodity prices and weaker ringgit.

“Year-on-year, we have worked on optimising end-to-end processes.

“Despite the rising raw material prices, we have lowered conversion costs and this has enabled us to maintain our pricing structure.

“We have also generated close to RM200mil in savings to be re-invested into growing the business,” he added.

For the first time in history, Nestle reached the RM5bil sales target, driven by domestic and export sales.

Nestle booked a 4.4% hike in net profit to RM230.43mil for the first quarter ended March 31, 2017, from RM220.68mil, a year ago on the back of a 4.4% rise in revenue to RM1.37bil from RM1.33bil.

The stellar performance was driven by both domestic and export sales, which grew 4.7% and 3.6%, respectively.

On whether the company will increase prices of products, Hofbauer said it will only consider revising prices in a sensible manner depending on the usage of raw materials.

However, this will be Nestle’s last resort, he concluded.

(The Star) Malaysia, Singapore to sign RTS deal by year end

SINGAPORE: Malaysia and Singa­pore will sign an agreement on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) before the end of this year.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Ilango Karuppan­nan said the link to connect both countries would be a high bridge.

“After the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the High Speed Rail in December last year, this project will be another game changer,” he said.

Besides the high bridge, it is learnt that there had been other options such as an undersea tunnel.

Ilango said the RTS was an extension from Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station from Wood­lands to Johor Baru.

“Once this project is completed, it will greatly boost connectivity for thousands of people commuting between both countries daily,” he said, adding that the station on the Malaysian side would be at Bukit Chagar.

Asked about the project, he said the station would be located on the ground while the tracks would gradually increase to a height of several metres before descending when the train approached it.

He also said bilateral relationship between both countries was at an all-time high.

Ilango, who has been a career diplomat for 30 years, will be returning to Malaysia at the end of this month following a one-year stint in Singapore.

In his farewell speech during a gathering at his official residence Rumah Malaysia here, he said he was happy that he managed to accomplish three years of work in one.

“It has been a hectic year for me but I treasure the friendship and experience here,” Ilango said.

At least 100 people comprising ambassadors from other countries, and officials from Singapore and Malaysia attended the event.

(The Star) Tourism Tax Bill to exclude home and kampung stays

BANGKOK: The Tourism Tax Bill 2017 which was recently passed in Parliament will exclude accommodations such as homestays, kampung stays and pusat latihan asrama (boarding schools), said Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.

The new Bill will see tourists paying a levy to the operators of accommodation premises.

She said the rates are RM20 for a five-star accommodation, RM10 (four-star), RM5 (one- to three-star) and RM2.50 for non-rated accommodations, including bud­get hotels.

Mas Ermieyati reiterated that the rates are not per head but on a per-room and per-night basis.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit 2017 to the Malaysian media here yesterday.

Mas Ermieyati did not say when the Bill would be implemented but said hopefully by this year, adding that it was currently being debated in Dewan Negara.

She added that it was time Malaysia implemented the tax, adding that it has been long implemented by other countries, some of which have a higher tax than Malaysia.

On tourism, Mas Ermieyati said they expected some 32.2 million visitors to Malaysia this year.

Last year, the country hosted 31 million visitors.

She highlighted the importance of the travel and tourism industry, adding that Malaysia should model itself after other successful countries such as Thailand.

(The Star) KTMB wants right to operate ECRL

KUALA LUMPUR: KTM Bhd (KTMB) intends to ask the Government for the right to operate the proposed 535km East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) once the project is completed.

“KTMB has the expertise, manpower and long-standing tradition of operating intercity services,” its chairman Datuk Nawawi Ahmad told the media after the unveiling of KTMB’s new vision and mission at its headquarters here yesterday.

Earlier, he presented service excellence awards to KTMB staff.

The ECRL, which was reputed to cost around RM55bil, will have an electrified double track built according to standard gauge (1,435mm when measured from the inner edges of the track) – a significant departure from KTMB’s metre-gauge (1,000mm) network that spans 1,677km.

The ECRL project, which stretches from Port Klang to Wakaf Baru, Kelantan, is expected to be completed by 2024.

An ongoing market sensing exercise for ECRL is being conducted by the Land Public Transport Commis­sion until May 27.

Meanwhile, the public display of the first phase of the alignment will go on until June 7.

Nawawi also revealed that KTMB is addressing several loss-making cargo service routes.

“We operate 30 cargo lines, and several of them are making losses. At the very least, we want them to break even. We are in discussions with several of our customers to address this. After all, our rates have not been reviewed for a long time,” he said.

On passenger services, Nawawi said the ETS (Electric Train Service) was slightly profitable, earning KTMB one sen per passenger per kilometre from an operating cost of 17 sen per passenger per km.

However, he said the Komuter service is subsidised to the tune of RM70mil a year as KTMB could only charge 15 sen per passenger per km while operating costs remained at 17 sen.

On the status of Datuk Sarbini Tijan, the KTMB president who is on “long leave” following investigations into alleged impropriety, Nawawi said the matter would be decided by the Finance Ministry.

It is understood that an announcement will be made soon as Sarbini’s term expires on Sunday.

KTMB’s new vision is “to be a preferred and affordable rail transport provider for people and goods”, while its mission reads as “providing safe, reliable, comfortable and sustainable rail services on time and every time”.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

(NST) Tips for buyers in making smart purchases in soft market

HENRY Butcher Real Estate Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng was invited to speak in Mitraland’s Annual Property Talk at the Ibis Styles Hotel in Cheras on March 26.

Titled “Smart Investments During A Property Market Slowdown”, the talk started off with a review of the residential property market performance in recent years, followed by a forecast of the market outlook for this year and ended with helpful advice on how and what to invest in the current soft market.

According to Tang, the current property cycle started in 2009 and peaked around 2012, when a record 272,000 residential property transactions were registered.

The annual transaction volumes for residential properties declined after that. Although the value of the residential transactions continued to go up, the upward trend was finally reversed in 2015 when the value of transactions declined for the first time in 13 years.

The lacklustre performance continued into last year, with the first nine months recording a lower volume and value of residential transactions compared to the corresponding period the year before.

More stringent loan processing by the banks have resulted in higher rejection rates, lower loan margins approved and an overall decline in approvals. To cope with the more sluggish market, there was a noticeable shift by housing developers towards the affordable housing segment where units are priced under RM500,000.

Overall, 2016 was a year of weak market sentiments. Developers shrunk unit sizes to make them affordable and offered many variations of easy payment schemes as well as a host of freebies to entice buyers. The asking as well as transacted prices of condominium and apartment units in the secondary market came down to more realistic levels as vendors took a longer time to find buyers.

In addition, retrenchments that took place in high-paying sectors (O&G, airline, finance) had also affected the rental market.

Moving on to this year, it will remain challenging but unlikely to suffer a drastic downturn. Demand will be relatively stable although lower than previous years. There will not be any drastic plunge in property prices.

Developers will continue their focus on affordable mass-market projects and there will be an expected decrease in new launches of higher priced residences as developers defer launching projects that received lukewarm response during pre-launch registration exercises.

Developers would also become more creative in coming up with innovative sales packages, incentives and easy payment schemes, he said.

He also noted that the following factors could have an impact on the direction of the market:

The economy is expected to be stable, with a projected GDP growth of between 4.5 and 4.8 per cent this year. This will be positive for the property market.

The 2017 Budget focused more on the affordable housing segment with no incentives for the high cost segment. This will lead to even more developers refocusing on the affordable market segment.

Malaysian business and consumer sentiments continue to be weak. This will bear down on sentiments in the property market.

The ringgit’s drastic fall against the US dollar and Singapore dollar. This will increase cost of imported building materials but will at the same time make Malaysian properties even more attractive to foreigners.

China’s increasing investments in the Malaysian infrastructure and development sectors. This hopefully could lead to more individual Chinese investors turning their sights at the Malaysian real estate sector.

The long-term future of Malaysia’s housing market nevertheless remains bright as the country has a sizeable young population within the house buying age group (25 - 54 years old) and the relatively low home ownership rates offers room for growth.

Demand is expected to be weaker for non-landed properties and sales take-up rates will be affected by the more stringent loan processing criteria adopted by banks. The upcoming 14th general election could nevertheless boost market sentiments as the government is expected to offer more goodies to create a feel good factor in the run up to GE14.

Looking at the positive side, Tang feels that the softer market offers those with money, increased opportunities to invest as property developers as well as owners are now more realistic in their pricing and are more willing to negotiate in order to close a sale.

Tang then offered some tips for investors using the acronym PLUSH:

PREPARATION - research before making a purchase.

LOCATION - look for the right locations which could be in the established areas or new growth areas.

UNIQUE - leverage on unique selling points which differentiate the project from others.

STRENGTH - stick to reputable and financially strong developers.

HOLD - be prepared to hold for the long term.

As for where to invest, Tang suggested the following as a guide, under the acronym GET:

GROWTH AREAS - places made more accessible by new highways and developed with new townships.

ESTABLISHED AREAS - mature, popular locations and well-served by amenities and with strong rental demand.

TRANSFORMATION AREAS - areas that will undergo a massive change due to redevelopment or replanning by the Government.

In conclusion, Tang remarked that property is a good hedge against inflation and as long as investors are realistic, attuned to the market and invest time and effort in looking out for the right investment opportunities, the current soft market conditions will not be a deterrent but could actually be a good and rewarding time for investors to invest in the property market.

*Story courtesy of Henry Butcher Malaysia