Thursday, 31 January 2019

(NST) Vizione's JV bags RM815m Penang mega infrastructure contract

KUALA LUMPUR: Vizione Holdings Bhd, together with its consortium, has won a contract to undertake the construction works for Package 2 of a mega infrastructure project in Penang for RM815 million.

Buildmarque Construction Sdn Bhd, Vizione’s 50:50 joint venture with Vertice Bhd, has accepted the letter of award of contract from Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd for the job.

In a statement today, Vizione said Buildmarque would build a 5.7-kilometre by-pass from Bandar Baru Ayer Itam connecting to Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu.

It is for 36 months, subject to any extension of time granted under the construction contract.

Buildmarque planned to finance the project via internally generated funds, bank borrowings and/or additional funds from its shareholders.

Consortium Zenith had in October 2013 and November 2013 appointed China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for, among others, the Package 2.

CRCC’s scope of services included engineering, procurement and construction (excluding implementation, professional engineer endorsement, authorities liaison and any submission of document and drawing to local authority).

“As a fulfilment of the contractual obligation of Consortium Zenith to CRCC pursuant to the CRCC contract, Buildmarque in its capacity as project manager agrees and undertakes to cause the award of the civil and structural construction works under the CRCC contract to CRCC.

“Presently, Vizione’s wholly-owned unit, Wira Syukur (M) Sdn Bhd, is negotiating with CRCC for WSSB to undertake the bulk of the construction works as a sub-contractor.

(NST) Giant Sungei Wang gets a make-over

KUALA LUMPUR: One of the oldest Giant Supermarket, located in Sungei Wang, gets a make-over offering new shopping experience to its patrons.

The re-opening of Giant Sungei Wang offer wider selection of imported and local products with the introduction new sections such as the local food corner, The Citarasa Malaysia.

GCH Retail (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd managing director Pierre-Olivier Deplanck said the retail outlet, which was established in 1977 at Sungei Wang Plaza, is also famous for its vast selection of Malaysian delicacies among tourists.

“The new concept Giant store also features a commitment to Made in Malaysia products and goods with the introduction of a dedicated Malaysian Delights or Citarasa Malaysia area.

“We spent a great deal of time to understand the needs of our customers when they visit us at Giant Supermarket Sungei Wang.

“Every detail in the store has been meticulously planned and implemented for one purpose - to provide the best shopping experience to our customers,” he said.

Deplanck added the newly revamped Sungei Wang store will carry new products and items, such as ready-to-eat food items of Korean range, Japanese bento sets, Malaysian local delights and eight varieties of mixed rice.

To celebrate the re-opening of the store, visitors will also get to indulge on complementary local favourites such as Rojak, Tau Fu Fah and Apam Balik and other promotions from Jan 31 to Feb 27.

The retail outlet is also offering a RM5 Giant voucher to its first 1,000 customers who spend a minimum of RM50.

Meanwhile, customers are able to win a mystery gift via a ‘Snap, Upload and Win’ contest on Giant’s Facebook Page.

Customers would only need to upload a picture of their favourite corner at Giant Supermarket Sungei Wang with an accompanying caption that tells why it’s their favourite corner and include the hashtag #GiantMY to redeem the gift.

(NST) China offered to nearly halve cost of US$20 billion ECRL: sources

KUALA LUMPUR: China offered to nearly halve the cost of a US$20-billion rail project to save the centrepiece of its infrastructure push in Southeast Asia, two sources said on Thursday, but contradictory remarks by Malaysian ministers leave the outcome uncertain.

The conflicting statements made over the past week on the status of the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) underscore the political and diplomatic challenges facing the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in renegotiating the contract.

“If it was just about the cost, China has offered a big reduction on the cost, as much as around half,” said one of the sources privy to the talks.

Contractor China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) had offered to cut construction costs of RM67 billion (US$16.39 billion) for the 688-km project by as much as half, the sources said.

Expenses on interest and land acquisition help make up the rest of the total cost.

Despite the proposed discount, Mahathir’s government decided to cancel the contract this month, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic.

After coming to power in May, Mahathir, a critic of China’s investments in Malaysia, vowed to renegotiate or cancel what he calls “unfair” Chinese projects authorised by his predecessor Najib Razak, and suspended the ECRL in July.

However, on Wednesday Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said Malaysia was pursuing more talks with China.

That news came days after another minister said the cabinet had decided to terminate the contract and a day after Mahathir sought China’s understanding over the planned cancellation.

Negotiations have continued since the July suspension, with Malaysia indicating that it was looking for cheaper proposals on what would have been China’s biggest Belt and Road venture in Southeast Asia.

Too many officials

The sources also said negotiations had been complicated by the involvement of too many Malaysian officials.

Apart from the finance ministry, CCCC and its domestic partner Malaysia Rail Line (MRL) have also had to present their proposals to Mahathir’s long-time adviser, Daim Zainuddin, among other government officials.

“Each has their own agenda and looks at the project’s a very peculiar situation,” one of the sources said.

Daim led the now-disbanded advisory council formed soon after Mahathir came to power. His office declined to comment.

The Malaysian finance ministry directed queries to the prime minister’s office, which did not immediately respond to questions. MRL and CCCC declined to comment.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said this week he had seen the reports of the cancellation but was unaware of the specifics.

“As far as I know, this project was agreed upon by companies from both sides in accordance with market principles based on equality, mutual benefit and consensus-building,” he said.

“The Chinese and Malaysian sides have been in communication on the relevant matters.”

He did not elaborate.

On Wednesday, the Malaysian cabinet said it had decided to stop making comments on the project, save for those by Mahathir.

Ties with China deteriorated after Mahathir led a coalition of unlikely partners to election victory over Najib’s Barisan Nasional alliance that had governed the country for 60 years.

“It is not an easy task for a coalition of diverse parties with almost no experience in the federal government,” said Adib Zalkapli, Malaysia director of public policy consultancy Bower Group Asia.

“And each of the parties may have different ideas about foreign policy in the ‘new Malaysia’.”

The rail project was launched in 2017 in a push for Chinese investment during the administration of Najib, whose near-decade long rule ended in electoral defeat amid a massive financial scandal.

Hit by ballooning costs, lack of transparency and the risk it could saddle Malaysia with uncomfortably large debt, the project has come to symbolise Najib’s scandal-ridden administration.

At the time, the opposition, which included Mahathir, accused Najib of selling out Malaysia’s sovereignty to China.

(NST) Various factors weigh on sentiment

THE local property market is currently weak due to a combination of factors that includes political turbulence and relatively low-wage levels vis-a-vis inflation.

“Another reason is overdependence on property market activity to drive economic growth, rather than on economic fundamentals such as higher productivity and export earnings from industry and global services,” says CBRE | WTW managing director Foo Gee Jen.

Foo said while Malaysia’s economy registered 4.8 per cent growth for the first three quarters of last year, it did not trickle down to the property market.

Purchasing sentiment remains weak as Malaysians are more prudent in buying big items such as residential units.

This could be due to the lack of confidence in real wage growth, he added.

Job insecurity and house prices beyond the reach of prospective buyers further deters purchases.

“The business environment is still somewhat wobbly with Malaysia still recovering from the oil and gas slowdown which took place a few years back. In addition to that, 2018-2020 can be considered a crisis-prone period given the cyclical pattern of crisis hitting at 10-year intervals in the past since 1998.

“The recent change in government would likely lengthen such season of uncertainty as the market is still trying to grasp the government’s policy direction. All these point to cautious behaviour in the market,” Foo told NST Property.


Is it right to blame developers and bankers for not being able to own a house?

In the blame game, developers and bankers point fingers when property transactions are just a few. Buyers, on the other hand, blame developers for selling properties at prices beyond their affordability and supplying more than what the market requires.

National Property Information Centre statistics show for the first nine months of 2018, total new completions were about 68,700 units compared with about 74,000 units for the same period in 2017, down by 7.1 per cent.

Similarly, new launches for the period between January and September last year fell 47.5 per cent year-on-year to 25,810 from about 49,200 previously.

According to Foo, there is a lack of understanding on the market which has led to the mismatches in product supply and market demand, especially pricing.

On the high property price, he said it is due to the high costs of compliance to provide for infrastructure, public facilities, as well as quota and discount requirements.

“Consequently, developers have no option but to build high-end residences where profit margins are better and able to ‘subsidise’ the costs of compliance. This continues to persist even when the market for high-end residential becomes saturated.

“At these high prices, banks are only willing to extend housing loans to high-income households.

Again, this is basic banking prudence and banks cannot be blamed for lending only to financially capable borrowers. In fact, Bank Negara Malaysia may be obliged to step up its control over the credit market as household debts in Malaysia are high against the backdrop of a crisis season we are in now.”

On the buyers’ front, Foo said it is important to note that the context of affordability stretches beyond house price.

Aspects such as income growth, prospective buyers’ financial profile and market practices with regards to property transactions need to be looked into in order to address the affordability issue — all of which are “structural in nature and takes time to be rectified”, he said.

CBRE|WTW estimates more housing demand within the RM280,000-RM490,000 range, based on an average household income of RM6,000-RM10,000 per month (assuming both spouses are income-earners).

However, in economically poorer states where combined household income averages RM3,000 per month, the maximum house price could be about RM200,000.

“Transaction data in 2017 reveals that 82.6 per cent of residential units changed hands at below RM500,000 with the bulk of it actually having value less than RM300,000. This could serve as an indication of the price level that the market is looking at. Overall, this transaction trend reciprocates the consensus among various sources of Malaysians’ affordability not exceeding RM400,000,” he said.


In 2016, the total number of households in Malaysia was 7.7 million, of which about 24 per cent resided in rented premises or government quarters.

Foo said assuming all of this 24 per cent wish to purchase a house, Malaysia would need about 1.8 million new houses (landed and high-rise).

He said CBRE | WTW estimates that the numbers had not changed significantly over the past two years to 2018.

“However, we should also note that most Malaysian households do have a roof over their heads, whether it is owner-occupied or rented.

Looking at the rate of supply, our tabulation based on 2017 data shows that the annual supply of residential property fell slightly short of the estimated demand.

“The inference that can be drawn is that overhang of residential property should not have been as extensive as present. This reiterates the mismatches between supply and demand,” he added.

(NST) CEO: No overhang units at EcoWorld

ECO World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld) has no overhang units despite the weak property market environment, says its president and chief executive officer Datuk Chang Khim Wah.

National Property Information Centre reported that the number of unsold houses in Malaysia reached a record high of 30,115 units valued at RM19.54 billion in the third quarter of 2018.

According to Chang, EcoWorld consistently sells between RM3 billion and RM4 billion worth of properties every year.

“We always hear negative news about the property market, such as the increasing overhang units and affordable homes issue, but it is quite the opposite for EcoWorld Malaysia,” he said.

Chang was speaking at the launch of HOPE (Home Ownership Programme), its most comprehensive and complete home ownership solution, to date.

HOPE applies to EcoWorld Malaysia’s residential properties and will run for six months until June 30 next year.

EcoWorld Malaysia expects HOPE to raise RM6 billion in sales for the financial years 2019 and 2020, and is optimistic about its prospects following the success of a similar campaign which ran from July to October last year.

“We raked in RM2 billion worth of sales via the #OnlyEcoWorld campaign and we still see people coming to our sales gallery to know more about our residential units,” said Chang.

HOPE offers two methods—stay2own (S2O) and help2own (H2O) for purchasers to start their home ownership journey.

The S2O programme, which is a partnership with Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), will see the banking group purchasing Eco World’s properties and then leasing them to prospective home owners.

The mechanism, an adaptation of Maybank’s existing HouzKEY product, will enable aspiring buyers or upgraders to own houses today and purchase later.

The H2O offers flexible mortgage loan to make home ownership easier and more affordable.

“If we are able to assist the young to own a good home earlier, it will also enable them to accumulate wealth sooner,” he said.

According to Chang, many Eco World Malaysia employees, especially millennials and junior team members, had been keen to participate in the #OnlyEcoWorld campaign but they faced challenges.

“Either they had not saved up enough to make the downpayment or their credit profiles were not sufficiently strong to be able to obtain a mortgage from the bank.”

Chang believes HOPE will offer a great opportunity not only to first time house buyers but also upgraders looking to own a choice EcoWorld home.

(NST) LBS to develop 2 projects in Perak

LBS Bina Group Bhd is beefing up its operation and is venturing into Perak to develop two housing projects worth a combined RM200 million, in support of the government’s national housing agenda.

The government is targeting to build 50,000 affordable homes in the state within the next five years.

LBS’s subsidiary, Bimbingan Simfoni Sdn Bhd, has inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Perak State Secretary Inc (SSI) to develop two parcels of land in Temoh and Chepor.

Temoh is a small town near Batang Padang south of Perak. The town, which looks old and abandoned, is located mid way between Kampar and Tapah. It is slowly developing with the Temoh Lake recreation area up-and-running and new businesses setting up shop at the newly developed Dataran Amanjaya.

Chepor, located in Mukim Hulu Kinta in Kinta, is a much bigger town and has a few small developers.

Under the agreement, LBS will develop 20.2ha in Temoh and 15.6ha in Chepor into mixed used developments.

LBS group managing director Tan Sri Lim Hock San said the two parcels of land will be developed with cluster terraced homes in the affordable price segment, as well as terraced and semi-detached homes.

Construction works will start in the fourth quarter and will be completed in the next three to four years, he said at the recent signing ceremony, witnessed by PerakMenteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu.

Lim said the collaboration between LBS and SSI stemmed from the shared passion to help realise the government’s commitment to delivering one million affordable homes over the next 10 years.

“Affordable housing is the key issue for the nation now. We sincerely thank the Perak state government for placing its trust in LBS. We are committed to delivering homes that cater to the needs of the people in the state, specifically meeting the affordability criteria.”

LBS, which has over 25 years of experience in developing innovative projects, has delivered 35,000 quality properties that include affordable homes, high-rise apartments, integrated townships and commercial units.

The group achieved RM1.53 billion sales last year, recording its fourth consecutive year of growth.

Lim said the two projects in Perak will feature LBS’ signature qualities — quality homes promoting a balanced lifestyle.

“In this day and age, building homes has gone beyond constructing a house with a roof. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our house buyers, studying their needs and lifestyle in order to create homes that will improve their lifestyles.”

SSI chief executive officer Azizul Rahman Mohamad said the partnership with LBS is aligned to the state government’s mission to help more people from the low- to middle-income group to own a home.

(NST) Sunway Property: It's all about right product, pricing

MASTER Community Developer, Sunway Property, may develop townships in emerging economies, such as Vietnam or Thailand, says Sarena Cheah, Sunway Bhd property development division managing director.

“To jump into a township (in a foreign country) will be too big (to do it). But Sunway may look at it if there is a good opportunity in emerging economies. We are a good master community developer and we do get a lot of invitations from Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries who say they have a big piece of land and are asking us to look at it.

“We have to be quite selective where we want to play. Our plans for overseas are not township developments at this point in time. You can’t get a big parcel of land to develop a township in matured economies, where we are more focused in currently,” she told NST Property.

Sunway Property, which is active in a number of projects in China and Singapore, is eyeing global expansion, albeit cautiously, said Cheah.

The developer is targeting key cities in Australia such as Melbourne and Sydney, the United Kingdom, new areas in China, as well as Southeast Asia, including Singapore.

“If you look at the headlines, outlook on all the markets are uncertained and a bit more volatile. In every market, even though there is uncertainty and it is a bit volatile, there is a segment of opportunity where we can still launch. In the end it is about the right product and right pricing.

“Last year was not that hot as well, but majority of our launches garnered very successful take-up. In every market, there is always space to play and that is why we are very bullish on executive condominium. We are going into this. We are looking at executive condos, other then goodwill, which is also a very good site.

“In the end it is looking for the opportunities at the right price. So when we are buying land, we will look at it at the right price and when we launch, we will look at the right pricing,” said Cheah.

Cheah hopes Sunway Property will be able to conclude a land deal this year.

“I do feel that there are opportunities. We are looking at them. We are cautiously exploring because markets are correcting... A good time to look for landbank is when the market is correcting.”

Cheah also said that overseas ventures would be either through joint venture with locals in a targeted country, or going in entirely on its own.

“We can go in on our own but it depends on the potential, which land and so forth,” she said.

Sunway Property has said that in two to three years, the group’s international portfolio is targeted to contribute close to 30 per cent to its overall profit, from 10 per cent currently.

Cheah said while Sunway Property is looking at opportunities abroad, Malaysia would still be its key market.

“Going overseas, other then (for) diversification, is also very good because we learn how matured economies are run. We are going to pick something from there. But, really, in the end, if we go overseas, what’s our value contribution?,” she said.

Expansion in Singapore

Sunway Property has three joint-venture residential projects worthanestimatedS$2.3 billion (RM7 billion) to launch in Singapore, its second largest market after Malaysia.

The company would launch the first of three projects in Clementi, by the year-end, Cheah said, adding that it would have a gross development value (GDV) of RM1 billion.

The remaining two projects—located in Canberra Link(with over S$1 billion GDV) and Tampines (S$800 million) — will be launched next year.

“The Singapore market is very cyclical. Also, we don’t have much time. In Singapore, the moment we buy we have to launch within the time period,” Cheah said.

Last year, the company’s unit Sunway Developments Pte Ltd jointly acquired a private residential property — Brookvale Park in Singapore — with Hoi Hup Realty Pte Ltd.

Brookvale Park is located on 999-year leasehold land in Clementi. It is currently a 160-unit private residential estate with an area of 34,654sqm, which was built in 1983.

“It is a very strong location and we do believe that it is going to be a very good product,” said Cheah.

The targeted selling price for the condo in Clementi would average S$2,000 per sq ft (psf), which is the current market rate, she said.

“There are luxury condos which are selling at S$4,000 psf. Ours is mid-luxury so... the pricing is very fair but we haven’t finalised as we are not launching till year-end and we don’t want to prempt people.”

Last year Sunway Property launched the S$658 million (RM1.96 billion) Rivercove Residences in Singapore, which sold out in about three months.

Units of 904 to 1,485 sq ft were sold at S$830,000 (three-bedroom), S$1.1 million (four bedroom) and S$1.34 million (five-bedroom), or at an average price of S$965 psf.


An expert from a foreign consulting firm said a number of Malaysian property developers are venturing overseas to avoid hitting a growth plateau if they operate in the same region for a long time.

“It is imperative or logical for developers to expand their operations, preferably overseas, so that they can grow in an entirely new market,” the consultant said.

One of the most significant roadblocks when venturing abroad is adapting to the different cultures and traditions of an entirely new country, he said.

Companies expanding overseas may also underestimate competition in the targeted country and fail to plan competitive strategies.

He said in order to be successful overseas, the developer would have to come up with a product that can stimulate interest in the market.

“If the developer is offering a product that the market doesn’t require, it is at risk of failure. If the developer is introducing a product that already exists in the market at a higher price, customers might overlook its offering. The developer should look at introducing a product that is significantly better than those already in the market.”

The consultant said the developer would also have to establish themselves as a reliable and beneficial brand.

“If the developer has established a successful brand in Malaysia, then it would be easier for it to build the brand overseas, like in the case of the Sunway group. Sunway is well-known not just in Malaysia, but also in Singapore and China.

There are investors who have bought Sunway properties in Malaysia,” he added.

(NST) Total trade up by 5.9pc last year

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA has posted its largest trade surplus since 2012, as total trade grew 5.9 per cent to RM1.876 trillion last year.

Exports reached almost RM1 trillion, which at RM998.01 billion — a 6.7 per cent expansion from last year — outperformed the 4.9 per cent increase in imports to RM877.74 billion.

The higher-than-expected exports widened Malaysia’s trade surplus by 22.1 per cent to RM120.27 billion, the fastest in 10The ministry said average monthly exports last year was valued at RM83 billion.

Segments-wise, manufactured and mining exports expanded 9.1 per cent and 7.1 per cent, respectively, compensating for the lower performance of agriculture goods.

Exports of electrical and electronics products also saw continued growth, driven by wider application of semiconductors in technology advancement.

MIDF Research said exports of palm oil and liquefied natural gas had contracted year on year by 17.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively from a solid double digit growth recorded in the prior year.

“The poor palm oil export performance could be due to the declining price, on top of losing market share to our competitors, such as Indonesia.”

It expected palm oil sales to improve starting this month, buoyed by higher demands from India as a result of import taxes cut on crude and refined palm oil from Asean countries. years.

This was the 21st consecutive year of trade surplus since 1998, the International Trade and Industry Ministry said.

“Despite the uncertainties in the global environment, exports rose by 6.7 per cent to reach RM998.01 billion, surpassing the forecast export growth of 4.4 per cent in the Economic Outlook 2019,” the ministry said.

The ministry had targeted a growth of five per cent collectively for trade, exports and imports this year.

“We are forecasting a growth of five per cent across these three segments despite expected slowdown in global growth this year, on the back of multiple external factors, such as policies uncertainties in major economies and rising interest rate,” incoming Malaysia External Trade Development Corp chief executive officer Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa said at a briefing yesterday.

“Five per cent is not a conservative target given that some research houses are expecting 3.6 to five per cent growth in trade this year.”

Malaysia saw higher trade deals with Hong Kong (up 45.2 per cent), China (up 8.1 per cent), Asean (up 4.7 per cent), Taiwan (22.1 per cent), the European Union (up 4.8 per cent), Saudi Arabia (45.2 per cent), Korea (up 7.2 per cent), Australia (up 4.8 per cent), Bangladesh (up 27.3 per cent) and the United States (up 1.1 per cent).

The ministry said average monthly exports last year was valued at RM83 billion.

Segments-wise, manufactured and mining exports expanded 9.1 per cent and 7.1 per cent, respectively, compensating for the lower performance of agriculture goods.

Exports of electrical and electronics products also saw continued growth, driven by wider application of semiconductors in technology advancement.

MIDF Research said exports of palm oil and liquefied natural gas had contracted year on year by 17.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively from a solid double digit growth recorded in the prior year.

“The poor palm oil export performance could be due to the declining price, on top of losing market share to our competitors, such as Indonesia.”

It expected palm oil sales to improve starting this month, buoyed by higher demands from India as a result of import taxes cut on crude and refined palm oil from Asean countries.


(The Star) Private varsity opens medical centre

The Management and Science University (MSU) marked the soft launch of the MSU Medical Centre (MSUMC) in Shah Alam with a community service programme for orphans and the orang asli.

The medical centre was launched by MSU president Prof Tan Sri Dr Mohd Shukri Ab Yajid.

Also present were MSU vice-chancellor Prof Puan Sri Dr Junaidah Abd Hamid, MSUMC chief executive officer Datuk Nasharuddin Shukor and health director Dr Lailanor Ibrahim.

MSUMC personnel conducted comprehensive healthcare tests, including eye examination, dietary and physiology briefing, first aid demonstration, mammogram and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Those who needed it were given spectacles as part of the prevention of blindness initiative conducted by the Optometry and Visual Sciences Department of the Health and Life Sciences Faculty.

Among the organisations that took part in the free healthcare tests were Rumah Kasih Harmoni, Pusat Jagaan Baitul Hidayah, Rumah Siraman Kasih, Madrasah Anak Yatim dan Tahfiz Quran Hashimiah, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Ruman Anak Yatim, Asnaf As-Solihin, Home of Hope Al-Khadeem and Pusat Jagaan Baitul Hidayah.

The orang asli communities came from Kampung Rasau Hilir, Puchong, and Desa Temuan, Bukit Lanjan.

MSUMC, with the tagline “Caring, Healing, Educating”, is equipped with the latest medical equipment and healthcare facilities and complements the university’s involvement in the field of medicine.

“Besides catering to the healthcare needs of residents in Shah Alam and outlying areas, MSUMC aims to also open its doors to foreigners by developing medical tourism.

“It will also serve to train graduates from the adjacent MSU and act as a research and development hub,” said Prof Mohd Shukri.

MSUMC has six operating theatres, five intensive care units and six labour rooms as well as facilities for dental and ophthalmology and other specialist clinics.

When fully operational, the 250-bed medical centre will have medical consultants in 24 disciplines, including internal medicine, obste­trics and gynaecology, paediatrics, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, psychiatry, urology, endoscopy, otorhinolaryngology rehabilitation as well as traditional and complementary medicine.

MSU has plans to develop more hospitals in Malaysia and abroad in the future.

(The Edge Financial Daily) Malaysian exports up 6.7% to almost RM1 trillion last year

Trade surplus jumps 22% while total trade hits record RM1.9 trillion

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian exports last year grew 6.7% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM998.01 billion, nearly reaching the RM1 trillion mark, driven by growth in manufactured goods and mining, which compensated for the lower performance of agricultural goods, according to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti).

Total imports came in at RM877.74 billion, up 4.9% y-o-y on the back of higher uptake of consumption goods.

The higher exports boosted trade surplus by 22.1% last year to RM120.27 billion, its fastest growth in a decade and the largest surplus recorded since 2012.

Total trade reached a high of RM1.88 trillion last year, up 5.9% y-o-y from RM1.77 trillion, contributed by higher trade with Hong Kong (up 45.2% or RM27.9 billion), China (up 8.1% or RM23.4 billion), Taiwan (up 22.1% or RM17.4 billion), Singapore (up 6% or RM13.6 billion) and the European Union (up 4.8% or RM8.5 billion).

In terms of exports, shipments of manufactured goods accounted for 83.7% of the total, up 9.1% y-o-y to RM835.48 billion, driven by an 11% rise in demand for electrical and electronic (E&E) goods.

Shipments of mining goods made up 8.8% of total exports, up 7.1% y-o-y to RM87.62 billion, due to a 29.4% increase in crude petroleum. Agriculture goods, which contributed the remainder 6.7% of total exports, fell 14.2% to RM67.01 billion on lower global prices for palm oil and palm oil-based agriculture goods, despite higher volumes exported.

Among the destinations for Malaysian exports, Asean absorbed 28.6% or RM285.3 billion worth of Malaysian exports last year, up 5% y-o-y, supported by higher exports to Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Cambodia.

Exports to China, meanwhile, grew 10.3% to RM138.88 billion on the back of higher exports of products like chemical and chemical products, E&E and optical and scientific equipment. Exports to Europe Union and the US also improved, up 3.5% to RM98.6 billion and 2.3% to RM90.73 billion, respectively.

In terms of total trade, China remains Malaysia’s largest trading partner for the 10th straight year, with the tally reaching RM313.81 billion, 16.7% of Malaysia’s total trade.

The trade figures came after accounting for December’s performance, where exports rose 4.8% y-o-y to RM83.27 billion — double the 2.4% growth forecast by economists in a Reuters poll earlier — on sustained demand for manufactured goods and chemicals and chemical products.

On announcing the trade figures yesterday, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darrel Leiking said exports growth is expected to moderate to 5% this year, amid uncertainties in the global market, with concerns of disruptions to the global supply chain arising from the US-China trade spat, and softer commodity prices in anticipation of higher production and lower demand.

Hence, Miti expects total trade to only expand 5% this year, in tandem with the slower export growth.

Imports should also only grow 5%.

Still, Miti’s forecast is more optimistic than most analysts’, which range between 3.6% and 5%.

“Despite the uncertainties this year, we are still quite aggressive on our export growth forecast. We’re confident the strategies we are putting in [to drive] trade and investment can help absorb the impact of the global challenges,” said Malaysia External Trade Development Corp deputy chief executive officer Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa.

(The Edge Financial Daily) Alibaba revenue grows at weakest pace in three years


SHANGHAI: E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s quarterly revenue grew at its weakest pace since 2016, as the impact of a slowing Chinese economy and a crippling US-China trade war kept buyers away during its top-sale season.

The result is likely to add to investor worries as it highlights the mounting pressures facing the e-commerce behemoth, whose sales are often seen as a yardstick of consumer spending in the world’s second-largest economy.

Alibaba, the second most valuable public company in Asia after Tencent, posted yesterday a third-quarter revenue of 117.28 billion yuan (RM71.8 billion), compared with 83 billion yuan a year earlier. That compares with an estimate for revenue of 118.9 billion yuan from 31 analysts polled by Refinitiv.

Net income rose 33% to 30.96 billion yuan, however, beating estimates and sending Alibaba’s stock up by 2% in pre-market trade. Alibaba typically posts its highest revenue in the December quarter due to its mega “Singles’ Day” in November — the world’s biggest online sales event that outstrips the sales of US shopping holidays Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. Last year, even though Alibaba netted a record US$30 billion from the Singles’ Day, annual growth dropped to the weakest rate in the event’s 10-year history as a slowing Chinese economy and trade tensions chilled sentiment.

Anticipating headwinds from economic uncertainty, Alibaba had lowered its revenue outlook for its fiscal year ending March even before the top-sale season. However, last week, Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai noted that sales had ticked up in December, although demand for big-ticket items continued to slow.

Tsai also brushed aside concerns about the trade war, saying people were overly worried about its impact on China’s economy.

Chinese consumers are still fundamentally very strong and consumption is going to grow over the next five to 10 years, he added.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has previously described the US-China trade spat as the “most stupid thing in the world.”

China’s economic growth in 2018 slowed to its weakest in nearly three decades amid faltering domestic demand and bruising US tariffs. — Reuters

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

(The Star) Hom2stay programme a boost, says exco member

MELAKA: The “Home to Stay” (Hom2stay) programme has the potential to boost socio-economic activities of the people in the state, especially in rural areas, said state Agriculture, Entrepreneurship Development, Agro-Based Industry and Cooperatives Committee chairman Norhizam Hassan Baktee.

He said the programme, a joint venture betwen Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) Melaka and Generasi Mudah Berjaya (GMB), would be able to stimulate the state’s economic growth and empower homestay entrepreneurs.

He said through the programme, Mara would help the homestay entrepreneurs to be registered so that they could get guidance and consultancy services.

He said this after launching a Hom2stay entrepreneurship seminar in Ayer Keroh.Mara Melaka director Abd Wahab Yusoff and GMB chairman Suhairi Sulaiman were also present.

(The Star) New haunt for thrill seekers

A new immersive horror experience await thrill seekers and mystery lovers at The Linc in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

Spanning 7,000sq ft of space, Hauntu (pronounced “haunt-you”) welcomes guests to check in to Colle Eastern Hotel constructed in the architectural style of British colonial buildings of Old Malaya.

Participants are given roles for storylines that take place in the dark and mysterious hotel. They will get to experience Malaysia in different eras – from its pre-independence period to the present.

Hauntu has three inter-connected storylines that are introduced to the public over three months; each month, players have the opportunity to experience one storyline.

A cast of six to 10 actors and actresses perform their roles in full costume; some of them are bellboys, chambermaids and witches, and all of them interact with the guests.

The Breakout game, a form of escape room game in which players solve puzzles and riddles to make their escape, was introduced last December by founders Cheah Kah Wai and Johnny Ong. The game took two years of planning.

Actors and actresses perform their roles in full costume.

According to Ong, he travels around the world looking for something new and to incorporate into Breakout.

“One of the countries I visited was Amsterdam, where there is a thing called immersive theatre experience.

“Once I returned to Malaysia, I told my business partners about this new and interesting idea,” he added.

From there, Ong and his team further brainstormed for a method to combine other elements into the immersive theatre experience to make it unique.

The feedback and suggestions helped as many Breakout fans requested for a horror-themed escape room. As the important element in any escape room game is mystery, they decided to combine the immersive theatre experience with horror and mystery.

“So, based on these three components and after adding a few twists here and there, we came up with Hauntu,” said Ong.

Cheah added that the immersive theatre overseas were more artistic, and only a niche group in Malaysia would appreciate it.

“Because the haunted houses in Malaysia do not come with a story, there is no real character that you can interact with,” he added.

(From left) Founders Cheah and Ong combined an immersive theatre experience with mystery and horror as many Breakout fans had requested for a horror-themed escape room.  

Mohd Shazwan Yusop experienced Hauntu and he highly recommended the escape room for horror and mystery fans because they not only have to think their way around the room, but they also have to think ahead.

Participants are required to store all their belongings in the lockers provided as there will be some climbing and crawling throughout the session, and they are advised to wear long pants and shoes to avoid injuries.

Hauntu is located at 2-9, Level 2, The Linc, 360, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

Admission is RM58 per person. Operating hours are from 11am to 11pm, and last admission is 10pm.

For details, call 011-1686 9199 or visit

(The Star) First tunnel on second MRT line completed

The first tunnel drive for the MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP) Line was successfully completed despite difficult geological conditions, marking a significant milestone in construction.

The 1.9km tunnel between Bandar Malaysia North MRT Station and Chan Sow Lin MRT Station which took 11 months, was excavated with the same Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) used for the first successful tunnel drive in the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line in January 2014.

SSP Line underground works contractor, MMC Gamuda KVMRT (T) Sdn Bhd construction director Datuk Ubull Din Om said the arrival of the TBM on the other side was an achievement because the ground condition was unfavourable compared to Line 1.

“Karstic limestone is known for its unpredictable ground conditions, making it risky for TBM operations.”

Ubull said the experience gained in tunnelling Line 1 enabled them to take precautionary measures to ensure a smoother process this time.

He said they were very careful while going through two of the most sensitive areas which was the busy 13-lane Jalan Sungai Besi and under the live tracks near the Chan Sow Lin LRT station.

Ubull noted numerous sinkholes formed in the same area during work on the Smart Tunnel in 2003, leading to disruption in traffic and human activities above ground.

Ubull said several steps were taken to ensure safe tunnelling and timely completion.

“We enhanced our TBM from Line 1 and learned how to predict a sinkhole based on past experience, conducted very good soil investigation, used experienced tunnel crew and installed instruments to detect any movement.

“It was an integrated effort using technology and humans.

“We had two teams walking ahead of the TBM to detect any ground movement,” he said.

There are 16 tunnel drives that need to be bored with a cumulative length of 13.5km in the underground section of the SSP Line.

MRT Corp Sdn Bhd strategic communica­tions and stakeholder relations director Datuk Najmuddin Abdullah said the overall construction was on track with a 41% completion rate as of December 2018.

“We are confident of delivering the project as scheduled.

“We have 12 TBMs, five are in operation and seven more will be launched by the end of the year. Some TBMs will be handling two tunnel drives.

“The TBM that has arrived will be pulled across the Chan Sow Lin Station box and then restarted to excavate the second tunnel drive between the Chan Sow Lin Station box and the Tun Razak Exchange MRT Station.

“Once it reaches the Tun Razak Exchange MRT Station, it will be disassembled and retrieved in parts,” he said.

The SSP Line is scheduled for completion by the middle of 2022.

(The Edge Financial Daily) Resorts World Genting breathes new life into its indoor entertainment space

RESORTS World Genting (RWG) has breathed a new life into its indoor entertainment space, creating the new Skytropolis Funland that had a soft launch in December after closing for nearly one and a half years.

Previously known as the First World Indoor Theme Park, Skytropolis Funland is spread across four floors with LED screens from the walls to the ceiling (over 50m in length) that light up the park.

Thirteen rides have been introduced, while nine more will follow suit. Covering 400,000 sq ft, the indoor theme park includes Asia’s first The VOID, BigTop and the soon to open Imaginatrix that combines physical rides with virtual reality.

“We are always striving to excite and impress our guests with new experiences at the resort, and with Skytropolis Funland, we have succeeded in creating a carnival wonderland that can be enjoyed at any time of the year by children, adults and families alike,” said Brian Machamer, senior vice-president of Theme Parks for RWG.

He added, “We have invested over RM300 million into revamping this new indoor theme park. We brought in 15 of the favourite rides from the previous outdoor theme park and revamped them with an entirely new look.

“These rides remain as a big part of almost every visitor’s childhood and we are bringing them back, bigger and better than ever such as the Super Glider which was known as ‘Superman’.

“We are also introducing seven new cutting-edge rides for our visitors to experience for the very first time including Power Surge, Disco!, Sky Tower, Spin Crazy, Bumper, Boo Boo Bump, Tea Cups and Balloon Race.

“When the full collection of rides are opened, we expect to have more than 7,000 paying customers enjoying the rides on a daily basis.”

Pump up the adrenaline with the Family in Copper Express as it “choo-choos” its way along a 61m track, giving you a visual tour of Skytropolis Funland.

Space Cadets will then elevate and spin you around to explore the solar system. Coming back down with a regal spin on the Royal Carousel, or stay in the sky in the Balloon Race.

Coming soon are the magical mystery Tea Cups, the Charlot Cruise that loops around the park and Soaring Ships which offers an aerial view to enjoy with the family.

Up the ante in terms of adrenaline and go on the Thrill rides starting with super-sized version of bumper cars meant for guests who are kids at heart in Bumper Boss.

Soar into the sky with Sky Tower, and dance with Disco! which challenges one’s orientation, swirling them around a disco ball on a rollercoaster track, while Spin Crazy shows the world from very different angles where up is down and right is left, looping 360 degrees in the air around a central axis.

Go on Power Surge which is an intense high-flying ride. Rides such as the pendulum swing Stormy
Voyage, fast spinning turbulent ride Music Express and the Super Glider will be coming soon.

Skytropolis will also introduce the Resort’s Highland Heroes, its 2019 animal ambassadors, Joe the Orangutan, Tabby the Tiger, Allie the Elephant, Geno the Dinosaur, Bennie the Bear and Callie the Dragon will be the recognisable faces of Skytropolis Funland.

In the realm of Skytropolis, The VOID is not to be forgotten, as it is a highly anticipated hyperreality experience which now includes its other two titles Ghostbusters and their own original spooky experience: Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment.

BigTop is an arcade area with a circus-theme. It is located at Level 2 and has a total of 150 machines of cutting edge games for arcade lovers. BigTop carries games such as Spacetime Squad Virtual Reality,
PacMan Battle Royale, Jurassic Park, Star Wars Battle Pod and Storm Racer G for speed lovers.

Come July, visitors can run, race, research and reveal new worlds in the Imaginatrix. The latest in virtual reality (VR) gaming technology will be showcased with industry leading immersive VR experiences from Europe, Canada, UK, South Korea and Taiwan.

Head for the Eagle Landing Zip Line if you are an adrenaline junkie, stretching 200m across the indoor theme park, four floors from the ground. The zip line, which is the longest in a shopping mall in Malaysia, offers a one-of-a-kind view of the indoor theme park.

There is also plenty of food and drinks at Skytroplis’ eight food and beverage kiosks.

(The Edge Financial Daily) Pavilion REIT 4Q net property income up 13%


KUALA LUMPUR: Pavilion Real Estate Investment Trust’s (REIT) total net property income (NPI) increased 13.4% to RM100.98 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 (4QFY18) from RM89.06 million a year ago, on higher revenue. This resulted in an improved earnings per share of 3.3 sen for 4QFY18 compared with 2.73 sen for 4QFY17.

Quarterly revenue was up 13.6% to RM147.06 million from RM129.45 million a year ago, which the REIT attributed to income contribution from its new property Elite Pavilion Mall acquired at end-April 2018; a higher rental income from Pavilion Kuala Lumpur Mall after a repositioning exercise; and a higher occupancy rate at the Intermark Mall.

However, this revenue was offset by a lower occupancy rate at the Da Men Mall, said Pavilion REIT. It also declared a final income distribution of 4.44 sen per unit for FY18, payable on Feb 28.

For FY18, Pavilion REIT's total NPI rose 16.1% to RM374.79 million from RM322.91 million in the previous year. Revenue grew 13.3% to RM554.98 million from RM490 million in FY17.

Pavilion REIT said the retail market conditions are flattish for the first half of 2019 due to geopolitical tensions, uncertain investment activities, volatile commodity prices, as well as a lack of positive catalysts.

“The manager [Pavilion REIT Management Sdn Bhd] will continue exploring improvements to its tenant mix, cost management and offer shopping experiences to attract [more] shoppers to ensure Pavilion REIT’s results are sustainable,” it added.

(The Edge Financial Daily) RM1b fund to help low-income earners own homes

Bank Negara fund has a lower lending rate of up to 3.5%

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has launched an RM1 billion Affordable Home Fund (AHF) to help lower-income earners nationwide own their first homes. The programme was first announced by Putrajaya during the tabling of Budget 2019 last year.

Speaking at the AHF’s launch yesterday, central bank governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus said AHF had a lower interest rate of up to 3.5% and is expected to lower the monthly housing instalment by 23%, compared with available financing options in the market.

“Nevertheless, the lower financing rate under AHF should be seen as a temporary facility, which is only meant for a limited time, and be executed prudently.

“This is to ensure that home financing will remain sustainable, where home financing rates have to reflect the actual cost of risks faced by financial institutions, and by taking into consideration cost of fund, administrative costs and liquidity risks,” she said.

The programme is available for two years starting from Jan 2 this year. It is meant for Malaysians with a maximum monthly household income of RM2,300, with no record of impaired financing for the past 12 months. Loan tenures will be offered up to 40 years, or 70 years of the applicant’s age, whichever is shorter.

The maximum property price permitted under the scheme is RM150,000, and only those from the primary market — meaning homes that are sold by property developers — including homes under construction.

Applicants are also required to first participate in a mandatory financial education programme under the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK), called “Rumahku”. It is an online learning programme crafted to educate borrowers on how much they can borrow, and their financial obligations and responsibilities.

Applicants will be required to provide the certificate number of the completed online learning programme before their financing applications are processed.

Participating financial institutions (PFIs) under AHF include AMMB Holdings Bhd (Ambank), Bank Simpanan Nasional, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd.

CIMB Group chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz, who was at the launch, said the bank looks forward to more collaborations with the government and BNM.

“Having decent housing is a basic human right and helping the B40 and M40 (bottom 40% and middle 40%) own homes is the first step towards elevating their financial standing. We look forward to working with the government and BNM on this and future initiatives to help the deserving improve their socio-economic well-being, which will also benefit the Malaysian economy in the long run,” he said.

Borrowers are not allowed to sell their homes within the first five years from the date of the last loan disbursement. If they do so, a 2% penalty on the outstanding financing will be imposed by the PFIs on the borrowers.

Under the programme, participants can also seek for down payment support, where the sum
will be made part of the financing sought — meaning a 100% loan — subject to the PFI’s assessment.

There is also no financing application processing fee under this programme, and purchasers can enjoy stamp duty exemptions.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who officiated the programme’s launch, said since it has been made available on Jan 2, BNM has received 16 applications, of which five have been approved, and 11 are still being processed.

“We will keep thinking of creative ways to bridge the last mile of home ownership because many people cannot get loans. I always argue this with the bankers — they always say [the] loan rejection rate is below 30%, but I told them these were those who applied — there are many more out there who are not even eligible to submit an application,” he said.

Programme to boost demand for properties below RM150,000

Real Estate & Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Soam Heng Choon, who was also present, said AHF is expected to boost demand for properties below RM150,000.

“This new fund will definitely be useful in helping first-time homebuyers, especially for properties below RM150,000. Of course, the question being raised now is ‘are there properties below RM150,000?’ Definitely, there are. Even in Selangor, we have the Rumah Selangorku [programme], where we have different categories of houses — and there is a category below RM150,000.

“Rumah Mampu Milik Johor also has [it], [so do] Kedah, Perlis, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, and even in Penang. These are the states that have different categories of affordable housing.

“We hope that with this new scheme, it will help to spur the industry, given that it has been quiet for a while now,” Soam added.

Soam also pointed out that location is no longer the sole factor that determines the success of a property development project today.

“The overhang may be because of [the] wrong location, product and pricing. Today, properties are no more ‘location, location, location’. It is [the] ‘location, price and product’, these three things have to match to be successful,” he explained.

“If people want landed homes [in one place] and you build a high rise, people won’t buy. If you build a house that is RM1 million where people are earning RM3,000 monthly, nobody will buy either,” he added.