Wednesday, 31 July 2019

(NST) Synagie Corp seals agreement with Amer Sports Corp to manage e-commerce business

SINGAPORE: Synagie Corporation Ltd (Synagie) has signed an agreement with Amer Sports Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of NASDAQ Helsinki-listed Amer Sports Corporation, to manage its e-commerce platforms business in Southeast Asia.

As part of the agreement, Synagie will maintain and promote the online distribution and expand the online sales of Amer Sports brand products.

Synagie will also manage all its authorised online channels and online stores as well as provide integrated services from promotion to customer service for Amer Sports or its appointed distributors to help grow their e-commerce businesses in Southeast Asia.

Synagie co-founder and executive director Olive Tai said the company had started working with Amer Sports in November 2018 and had a successful model managing its e-commerce business in Malaysia.

"We look forward to replicating this successful model across different markets to help Amer Sports further expand its online distribution and sales in the region," she said in a statement today.

Synagie is Southeast Asia’s leading e-commerce enabler that assists brands to execute their e-commerce strategies using its cloud-based platform.

Amer Sports is one of the world’s leading sporting goods companies with a robust portfolio of internationally recognised sports brands that are household names in Southeast Asia.

Synagie currently provides an integrated multi-channel e-commerce solution and manages the online businesses for more than 280 brand partners in Southeast Asia.

Amer Sports leading brands include Suunto, Wilson, Salomon, Arc’teryx, Peak Performance, Atomic and Precor.

Amer Sports has a presence in all major markets offering a broad portfolio of sports equipment, apparel, footwear, and accessories that covers a wide range of sports.

The retailer sells its technically advanced products to consumers through brand stores, distributors, factory outlets, e-commerce and trade customers in sporting goods chains, specialty retailers, mass merchants and fitness clubs.

In 2018, Amer Sports-owned sales organisation covered 34 countries and in the same year, its net sales exceeded 2.6 billion euros.

In late 2018, an investor consortium formed by ANTA Sports Products Ltd, FV Mascot JV, LP, Anamered Investments Corporation and Tencent Holdings Ltd made a cash tender offer for the entire issued and outstanding share capital of Amer Sports, which valued the company at 4.6 billion euros.

The Asia-Pacific sports apparel market is expected to generate a revenue of S$62.6 billion by 2020, registering a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1 per cent during 2015-2020.

The sale of sports apparel through online stores is also expected to register a CAGR of 14.5 per cent during the years.

(NST) Malaysia-Morocco direct flight can boost tourism, says envoy

KUALA LUMPUR: Moroccan ambassador to Malaysia, Mohamed Reda Benkhaldoun, hoped that a direct flight would be established between the kingdom and Malaysia to boost the tourism sector in both countries.

Mohamed Reda said while the number of Malaysian tourists visiting Morocco and vice versa was still relatively low, he remained optimistic that the numbers would improve as there was huge potential in the industry that both countries have to offer to holiday-makers.

“Hopefully, there will be direct flight established between Casablanca and Kuala Lumpur soon, so (that) more and more tourists can visit both countries,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 20th Anniversary of the coronation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco’s celebration, here, Tuesday night.

Observed on July 30, the occasion commemorates the ascension of King Mohammed VI to the throne, succeeding his late father, Hassan II, on July 23, 1999.

The North African country has been gaining popularity among Malaysian tourists in recent years, especially since the abolishment of visa requirement in 2017.

“An average (of) 3,000 Malaysians visited Morocco prior to the abolishment of visa. The number has since increased to around 5,000 annually,” Mohamed Reda said. -- BERNAMA

(The Star) Fitch Solutions: Malaysians still prefer cash to cashless transactions

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has missed its 2020 cashless target, as many still prefer cash transactions despite the boom in e-wallet platforms, according to Fitch Solutions Macro Research.

Notably, Bank Negara has set some targets to migrate cash transactions to electronic payment systems under its Financial Sector Blueprint 2011-2020.

The targets include increasing the number of e-payment transactions per capita from 44 transactions to 200 transactions, and reducing cheques by more than half from 207 million to 100 million per year.

In 2018, data by Fitch Solutions showed that e-payment transactions per capita stood at 124.6 transactions from 49.1 transactions in 2011.

Meanwhile, more than 101 million cheques cleared in 2018, down from 204.9 million in 2011.

“We view that Bank Negara is unlikely to meet its target of migrating cash transactions towards electronic payment systems.

“Many Malaysians still prefer transacting in cash, with studies by Nielsen and VMWare collectively suggesting that many Malaysians are concerned about the security of e-wallets, and this acts as a major impediment to their adoption,” Fitch Solutions said in a report entitled “Industry Trend Analysis – Malaysia Fintech: Regulation Supportive, But Strong Inertia Impedes Adoption”.

Nevertheless, it pointed out that the central bank has announced that it is working on a new financial sector blueprint, and will continue to double down on incentives and support for fintech players to intensify the cashless society effort, together with other government entities.

In terms of players in the digital payment sector, Fitch Solutions said that many of the applications continue to be bank-led, including Malayan Banking Bhd and CIMB Bank, which have introduced their QR codebased, point-of-sale payment services that allow fund transfers directly from a buyer’s account to the seller’s business account.

In addition, Bank Negara has scrapped the 50-sen inter-bank transfer fee beginning July 2018, and introduced new digital platforms to facilitate fund transfers, namely, DuitNow, which enables a recipient to receive funds using their mobile or national identification numbers.

Other notable digital payment platforms include Touch n’ Go, GrabPay, and Boost.

Ant Financial’s AliPay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay are also accepted in major tourist hotspots in the country, although they largely cater to inbound Chinese tourists,

Fitch Solutions added.

The research house expects the impending digital banks to be introduced at the end of this year.

Towards this end, Bank Negara has announced that there are 10 parties who have expressed interest in applying for a digital banking licence.

“Little else has emerged on Bank Negara’s plans, although the potential of new disruptors emerging would definitely force incumbent banks to double down on their digitisation initiatives in other to prevent a significant ceding of market share to the newcomers.

“Ride-hailing app Grab has been widely purported to be among the potential applicants for a digital banking licence,” Fitch Solutions said.


(The Star) Fingo launches innovative social e-commerce platform in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Fingo (M) Sdn Bhd has launched Fingo, an innovative e-commerce platform that incorporates social e-commerce business models in Malaysia.

Fingo Malaysia chief executive officer Lee Chee Sing said unlike other e-commerce platforms that depended on their applications to secure customers, Fingo leveraged on major social platforms – WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram – to connect with its customers.

“We use Big Data technology to select suppliers and brand owners of products to socialise and interact with Fingo members.

“Based on members’ experience in using the products, members then can invite other people in their respective contact list to utilise the items by joining Fingo,” he said in a press conference after the launch of Fingo.

Lee said Fingo customers would be able to deal directly with suppliers or brand owners without going through middle man or resellers.

Fingo, which operates in three languages – Mandarin, English and Bahasa Malaysia – has over 200,000 registered active shoppers in the country to-date, and it hopes to reach 500,000 shoppers by year-end.

Lee said the major products featured on the platform included cosmetics, household items, personal care and soon, daily living products. It also aims to be listed among the top three e-commerce platforms in Malaysia within three years.

On expansion, he said the company targeted to have a presence in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia in its next development phase by next year at the earliest, followed by the Philippines and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming, who officiated at the launch of Fingo Malaysia mobile app, said the participation of Fingo in the Malaysian e-commerce circuit was timely as it gave more variety of goods and services to online consumers nationwide.

“Besides, this is an opportunity for Malaysian small and medium enterprises to promote and export their products to a wider customer base within Asean and Taiwan,” he said.

Ong also quoted the e-Conomy SEA 2018 report by Google and Temasek which cited that South-East Asia is one of the fastest-growing Internet regions in the world.

“This indicates that Malaysia and the rest of South-East Asia is well-positioned in offering massive opportunities in mobile e-commerce,” he said, adding the Asean Internet economy was estimated to reach US$200bil by 2025.

Fingo is founded by a group of former top executives from China’s e-commerce Alibaba Group, led by CEO Dong Fang who has 13 years of experience in various capacities and division within the Alibaba Group. — Bernama


(The Star) PRG ventures into Thai luxury fashion market

KUALA LUMPUR: PRG Holdings Bhd, through its 54.19%-owned subsidiary Furniweb Holdings Ltd, has opened a Philipp Plein outlet in Bangkok, marking its first venture into Thailand’s fashion apparel industry and the second such outlet in South-East Asia.

In a statement, PRG said the luxury fashion outlet was opened last Wednesday at the prestigious department store IconSiam Mall.

It followed the opening of a Philipp Plein flagship store in Singapore earlier this year.

Furniweb, which is listed on the Growth Enterprise Market board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, secured the distribution and retail rights in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia from the Switzerland-based Philipp Plein group last year.

PRG said it is enthusiastic to capture new business opportunities in the fashion apparel business and believes the association with a famous global apparel brand would bring new elements and dimension to the group’s profile.

“The business venture will also potentially broaden the customer base for the company’s existing core businesses and provide opportunities for growth,” it said.

PRG, a Bursa Malaysia Main Market-listed investment holding company, is mainly involved in the manufacturing, property development, construction, fashion apparel and healthcare businesses. — Bernama


(The Star) Strong 2020 for MRCB

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB), which has been through difficulties with its third light-rail transit (LRT 3) project and the overall slowdown in the property and construction sectors, is expecting to see its financial performance rebound next year.

The urban property developer, which will be releasing its second quarter results next month, had stated earlier that the pace of revenue recognition for its projects would increase in the second half of this year. This followed a weak first quarter, which the group had attributed to delays in revenue recognition.

A source familiar with the matter, however, said that while second half 2019 would see improved earnings, the group’s performance would be significantly stronger in 2020.

“There are a few key projects coming on stream next year that would lead to a significant improvement in the group’s earnings.

“As an urban developer involved in mostly high-rise projects, the booking of revenue for MRCB is slightly different compared with other developers.

“It takes about 18 months into the construction of the projects to complete the substructure of the building before it starts constructing the units and can begin booking revenue,” he said.

About two-thirds of MRCB’s projects are commercial developments, and the group has some RM1.6bil in unbilled sales.

With many of its big projects at their early stages of construction this year, MRCB was unable to book much profits in the first half, he noted.

Next year, however, the situation will be different.

Among the key projects that will contribute to MRCB’s revenue next year is the Sentral Suites development, which has a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.5bil.

Located across the road from Menara Shell, the development which is about 25% completed at the moment, has 1,500 units of which about 80% have been sold.

“The development is expected to be about 80% done at the end of 2020. So, the bulk of the revenue would be booked then,” he said.

The other major contributor next year will be the group’s second development in Australia, the residential project in Melbourne called 1060 Carnegie.

While the development is already over 80% sold so far, the group has not booked any profit on the project yet.

This is due to Australian regulations that do not allow developers to book profits progressively.

The entire amount can only be booked once the development is completed and the keys are handed over to buyers.

The source noted that the development is expected to be completed by November and is projected to be 100% sold by the end of the year.

“They expect to hand over the keys in first quarter 2020 after the settlement process is complete.

“With its RM275mil GDV, this would be a major contributor to the group’s bottom line.”

Another key project is the second phase of its Nine Seputeh project, called Tria Seputeh, which is estimated to be about 60% completed by the end of 2020.

The development, which was launched recently, includes two towers, which are about 40% sold.

“Profit recognition will begin when the project is about 30% completed. So, the group is likely to see meaningful contribution come in during the second half of next year, through to 2021,” he said.

And then, there is the LRT3, the mega project in which MRCB is involved via a 50:50 joint venture (JV) with engineering specialist company George Kent (M) Bhd.

The pace of recognition from the project is set to pick up next year after work commenced several weeks ago, following the earlier suspension of the project in June last year.

“By the end of this year, the project would be 30% complete and by the end of next year, it should be 60% complete.

“So far, the group has hardly booked any revenue from the project but profit recognition from the JV would be much stronger next year,” he said.


(The Star) GTF 2019 wraps up with a bang

The George Town Festival (GTF) 2019 ended on a spectacular note as visitors from near and far thronged Beach Street in Penang to witness the festival’s grand finale.

Around 120 street and performing artistes from 10 different countries took part in the celebration themed — The Extravaganza on Sunday.

The free-to-attend event was filled with a diverse selections of performance and arts ranging from contemporary to traditional at selected spots around the city.

Gymnasts showing their balancing skills on a vertical wooden pole in the Mallakhamb performance from India.

The crowd was amazed and excited during the Mallakhamb performance from India.

Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport where gymnasts perform feats on a vertical wooden pole.

Our local artists Odissi, Reborn and Fallen Angel & Light of Hope also did not disappoint the crowd.

Musicians on violin and harp entertaining the crowds at Beach Street.

Odissi did a classical Indian dance from Orissa while Reborn presented an awareness on environmental conservation as well as animal abuse.

The performance of Fallen Angel & Light of Hope was certainly awesome with a delicate aerial silk show.

Belgians Eveline Vermaesen 33, and her boyfriend Birger Schrevens, 35, were here in Penang for the first time, said they truly enjoyed themselves.

“We have plenty of festivals back home and we are happy to catch this one here.

A striking scene from the Fallen Angel & Light of Hope.

“We really loved the food here too especially the Indian food, ” Eveline said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state government had always been a firm believer in nurturing and supporting arts.

“We have invested and supported GTF since its debut in 2010 and will continue to develop the festival to be an international platform for local artists to showcase their works, ” he said.

Chow also announced that GTF 2020 would be held for 16 days from July 11 to July 26 next year.

An artiste performing an acrobatic act at the ‘Magical Light’ area during the closing of the George Town Festival 2019.

State tourism development, arts, culture and heritage committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said festival tourism was a rapidly growing trend in recent years, serving as a fuel for the development of the economy, cultural heritage and growth of sustainable tourism.

“GTF has been instrumental in positioning Penang as Asia’s arts and culture hub.

“This year’s GTF has seen arts blooming everywhere, allowing visitors to immerse themselves entirely in arts in every nook and cranny in the city. “There were also more free-to- attend events, more local engagements and local content this year, delivering the promise of ‘A Festival for Everyone’”.

Local performers presenting the Odissi classical dance.

Also present were state women and family development, and gender inclusiveness committee chairman Chong Eng, Ayer Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng, Bukit Tambun assemblyman Goh Choon Aik, Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang, George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee, Penang Global Tourism (PGT) chief executive officer Ooi Chok Yan, and GTF director Jack Wong.

(The Star) Transforming for the better

A passenger service employee was spotted speaking on her smartphone at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) international departure hall.

Hafizah Ahmad, a grooming executive with the training and certification department with AeroDarat, reminded her to put her phone away while on duty.

The employee responded with an apologetic smile and continued ushering incoming passengers to their respective check-in counters.

The watchful eye was part of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd’s (MAHB) “Happy Guests, Caring Hosts” transformation programme to improve service efficiency and passenger experience.

The programme not only involves MAHB staff but also encompasses airlines as well as ground handlers and government agencies such as police, immigration and customs.

A total of 38 trainers have been picked to develop content and conduct sessions touching on courtesy, handling passenger crises and developing inter-department rapport.

During the training sessions, staff are encouraged to share their personal experiences.

The target is to complete 170 sessions for 7, 500 participants by the end of the year.

To identify critical areas, Boston Consultant Group conducted a survey on where conflicts were likely and how airport staff could best deal with different behavioural types.

MAHB Guest Advocacy manager Noor Mohd Faiez Noor Azman has been conducting half-day training sessions eight times a week since February.

“We used to be number one in the Airport Service Quality ratings in 2007. But last year, we dropped to 14th, ” revealed Mohd Faiez.

In surveys, passengers complained that the facial expressions of uniformed units were too stern. Airport staff were also considered rude, unable to provide accurate information and seemed uninterested in passenger grievances.

“If our service efficiency continues to decline, we will lose out as airlines and group tours will pull out of KLIA, preferring to land or transit at other airports, ” said Mohd Faiez.

But the last thing trainers want is to force airport staff into pretending to be nice.

“People have to really feel welcomed. The hospitality must be genuine, ” said MAHB Guest Advocacy host culture transformation senior manager Noor Afzan Md Noordin.

There have been fewer complaints at KLIA since the programme was introduced last year.

During training sessions, airport staff are encouraged to talk about their experiences with passengers. One Aviation Security Division officer shared how she administered CPR to a passenger after his heart stopped. She was with him when he died.

Another told of finding an old woman wandering aimlessly at the departure hall after her shift. She was to fly to Kuching with one of her children but was intentionally left behind. The airport employee comforted her until the authorities arrived.

Seven months into the programme, immigration officers are heard saying “excuse me” and “thank you” during body searches.

Customs officers are seen smiling at new arrivals as they continue to keep a sharp lookout.

Traffic flow at pick-up and drop-off points is smooth for most part of the day.

Airport care ambassadors are learning to handle passenger enquiries without furrowing their eyebrows.

“We are learning not to let a situation get to a toxic stage. For example, a passenger who has missed his flight is not ignored and left to stew in frustration. We will let him know the next available flight, ” said Suhami Alan, an airport care ambassador who can also speak fluent Mandarin.

The programme is aimed at getting airport staff to be more courteous.

For now, feedback is positive. MAHB said complaints had declined compared with three years ago. In 2018, there were 1, 476 cases, 689 fewer than 2017. A total of 725 complaints have been recorded as of July 26. To-date, KLIA has handled 34.08 million passengers this year.

Several passengers shared their feedback and suggestions on what MAHB could do to improve further.

Jim Costta, an American who travels to China, Singapore and Malaysia up to seven times a year, said it would be useful for travellers to be given a short presentation about the country’s culture and customs before landing in KLIA.

Khalid Iqbal, a Pakistani who had flown in from Dubai, said there should be designated immigration lanes for passengers who have spent more than seven hours on a flight.

Singaporean Jojo Lee wishes there were more retail choices at the arrival lounge.

Indonesian Rachel Lina Mairing said though toilet cleanliness had improved, there were days when hygiene could be better.

Every suggestion counts, said MAHB Guest Advocacy head Suradini Abdul Ghani.

“For every one percent increase in passenger satisfaction, we gain 1.5% more in spend at the airport. This is the revenue we need for facility upgrades and staff benefits, ” said Suradini.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

(NST) Bank Rakyat to reduce personal financing contribution to 70pct by 2025

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd (Bank Rakyat) targets to reduce its reliance on personal financing to 70 per cent in 2025 from 89 per cent currently to drive profitability under its new five-year plan, BR25.

Chairman Datuk Noripah Kamso said this will be achieved through the bank’s plan to introduce more diversified products under its financing portfolio - in line with its mortgage, auto hire purchase, business and corporate financing.

“Under BR25, we will be less reliant on personal financing and reduce the concentration which now made up 89 per cent of our total financing.

“We are diversifying into creating more products. And the target will be built upon a larger financing assets with more customer base,” she told reporters at the announcement of BR25, here, today.

In creating larger customer base, Noripah said the bank is embarking on an intiative to turn all of its member shareholders to customers by 2025, as well as digitalising its operation and services.

She said currently, only 40 per cent of its 900,000 member shareholders are customers.

“The increase in customers can be added on with digitalisation as it will provide ease and convenience to customers.

“The whole productivity is skewed towards digitalisation from the customers’ perspective.

“Besides that, there is always an element of looking at reducing operation cost to also boost up profits,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bank Rakyat, which has an existing five-year plan expiring in 2022, has realigned the said plan to reflect three major forces that are profoundly transforming the entire global banking landscape - digitalisation, globalisation and regulation.

The BR25 is aimed to result in aspirational evolution for Bank Rakyat to remain relevant by 2025.

(NST) M+S to divest office, retail space at Duo to Allianz and Gaw Capital for S$1.575 billion

KUALA LUMPUR: Property developer M+S Pte Ltd (M+S), 60:40 owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings Private Ltd respectively, has agreed to sell its wholly-owned Ophir-Rochor Commercial Pte Ltd (ORC) and real estate private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners to Allianz Real Estate for S$1.575 billion.

ORC is the developer and owner of Duo Tower and Duo Galleria, while Capitaland Ltd and UEM Sunrise Bhd's subsidiary UEM Land Holdings are project managers.

The offer was received through an expression-of-interest process conducted by property consultant JLL.

The office and retail portion of Duo, a mixed-use development, also includes Duo Residences and the Andaz Singapore hotel.

M+S chief executive officer Kemmy Tan said with the office and retail assets performing well beyond expectations, the proposed S$1.575 billion at a record price for this area had presented the opportunity to maximise returns to its shareholders.

"As we continue to own the hotel Andaz Singapore, we look forward to working alongside the powerful combination of Allianz Real Estate and Gaw Capital Partners, who have impressive global track records in real estate management and development, to further reinforce Duo as an attractive place for global business and travelers.

"We continue to see tremendous growth opportunity for our Andaz Singapore, especially as Bugis continues its transformation journey as a vibrant, eclectic, and complementary leisure and business district to the existing CBD. M+S will continue to own and manage Andaz Singapore and the Marina One assets to the optimal level for our shareholders," Tan said in a statement.

The Duo development is situated in the Ophir-Rochor corridor in Singapore, next to the heritage district Kampong Glam, and was designed by acclaimed architect Ole Scheeren.

Duo Tower consists of 20 floors of prime Grade-A office space occupied by prestigious MNCs and leading local companies, while Duo Galleria is a retail mall that connects directly to Bugis MRT station, an interchange for the Downtown line and East West line.

The proposed transaction does not include Andaz Singapore, the five-star luxury lifestyle hotel by Hyatt that occupies the top 15 floors of Duo Tower.

M+S continues to own Andaz Singapore as well as Marina One, the newest and largest integrated mixed-use development in the heart of Marina Bay.

Gaw Capital Partners president and managing principal Kenneth Gaw said the transaction with Allianz Real Estate marked a great step forward in its partnership with the group.

He added that DUO had enormous potential given its good location and connectivity and marks an important milestone for Gaw Capital in the Singapore real estate market.

"After our acquisition of the 77 Robinson Road building in January, this deal marks our second major office transaction in Singapore in 2019 and signifies our continued optimism towards the office market here.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to acquire this well managed and iconic commercial asset. M+S has done a fantastic job developing the DUO office and hotel complex and has successfully leased the building to a full roster of world class tenants.

He said as M+S continued to hold the hotel portion of the complex, Gaw Capital Partners would enhance the asset and ride on the continued growth of the Bugis area as a new leisure and business district.

Allianz Real Estate Asia-Pacific chief executive officer Rushabh Desai said Duo provides live-work-play environment and is poised to establish itself as one of Singapore's major business hubs.

"It will be an excellent addition to our global 24x7 cities office portfolio” he said.

(The Star) Grocer with a garden-fresh motto

Neighbourhood grocer Mercearia at Eco Sanctuary Mall aims to offer shoppers fresh produce at affordable prices.

The neighbourhood grocer spans 1,114.8 sq m (12,000 sq ft) at the ground floor of the three-storey mall.

Other than fresh grocery items, the store also has a range of beauty care products, general household merchandise, stationery as well as an in-house café.

Mercearia chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Haniffa Abdullah said, “We are constantly looking for the best spots to open our stores.We want to provide a wide range of both local and imported fresh vegetables, fruits, poultry and seafood to the residents of Eco Sanctuary and its surrounding community.

“We want to give our customers value for money. Our motto is ‘Fresh from Garden’ and we have a wide range of organic products too. We are looking into providing home delivery services soon.”

Asked how they set themselves apart from other grocers, he said, “We will not keep the fresh produce for more than three days, it will be used up or destroyed.”

This is the second Mercearia store, with the first operating at Mahsa Avenue in Petaling Jaya.

The next one is set to open in Bangi Gateway.

“Our plan for this year is to open 10 outlets and add another 40 to our chain by the end of 2020.

“We will concentrate on the Klang Valley first and expand to other states next year,” said Mohamed Haniffa, adding that items will vary from outlet to outlet.

“At this outlet, 40% of the items are imported from countries like Australia, UK and US. And as there are Korean and Japanese customers in the area, we offer products from their country to cater to them.

“But in neighbourhoods where there are mostly Malaysians, we will provide local produce.

“We want to support local farmers and manufacturers,” he said.

When asked why he chose a Portuguese name, Mohamed Haniffa said, “Mercearia means grocery. Even though it is a Portuguese word, it sounds Malay, like mesra ria.”

Eco World Development Group Bhd deputy president and deputy chief executive officer Datuk S. Rajoo said they were excited to have Mercearia on board.

“We have seen a lot of traffic to Sanctuary Mall since it opened in December 2018. The township is truly coming to life with this latest addition.”

Eco Sanctuary divisional general manager Ho Kwee Hong said this was the first mall Eco World had built in Klang Valley and Malaysia.

“For the community to have a better lifestyle, we focus on things people need daily like a grocer and Life Space, a platform for people to gather, learn and improve themselves in all aspects of life, hence the name. And by participating in the activities, they will become closer as a community.

“The piano corner is also another example of how we want to encourage the community to be more balanced.

“Children can play the piano during the weekends and holidays and the shoppers are their audience; it provides them with a platform to nurture their skills and talents.”

She added that the centrepiece of the mall is the iconic Tree House that was built to create a platform for the community to gather.

The treehouse was specially crafted by a team of artists who have designed for Hong Kong Disneyland, Singapore Bird Park, Hong Kong Ocean Park, Universal Studio Singapore and Fox Studio Genting Highlands.

Eco Sanctuary Mall is a neighbourhood shopping centre with a net lettable area of approximately 100,000 sq ft, located in the heart of Eco Sanctuary City in Teluk Panglima Garang, Selangor. 

(The Star) A winning concept starts in heart of KL

KK Group of Companies is diversifying with the opening of a new concept store in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.

It is Malaysia’s first homegrown ready-to-eat and fresh food store that offers over 100 choices to cater to various consumers.

“The concept store offers a unique retail environment with the addition of a modern contemporary cafe selling freshly brewed coffee and an assortment of food items that highlight Malaysian cuisine,” said KK Group of Companies business development senior manager Kennise Sing during the store’s official launch.

“The launch of the new concept store is in response to modernisation and current lifestyle trends,” said KK Group of Companies founder and executive chairman Datuk Seri Dr KK Chai.

“We aim to provide an exclusive food menu that is convenient and offers value for money. We also want to offer a unique shopping and dining experience available 24 hours,” he added.

The concept store has snacks and meals that are truly Malaysian – all delivered daily for unsurpassed freshness.

The range includes premium satay sauce with kangkung, asam pedas oden, hainanese chicken chop, chicken rendang bento rice, pao and siew mai with ice cream along with frozen yoghurt for dessert.

Consumers who prefer healthier options can personalise their meals from the sandwich and salad bar.

KK concept store has also jumped on the bubble tea bandwagon by offering BB tea – freshly made milk tea with QQ Jelly and red bean toppings at its B Cafe.

The cafe has a built up area of 1,000 square feet occupying the upper floor with a maximum capacity of 150 people and free WiFi.

“We aim to open another 40 KK concept stores by 2020.

“We will continue to redefine our concept and offerings to meet the demands of consumers,” said Chai.

To celebrate the opening, promotions are on until Aug 31.

There will be 20% off on all Bento sets until Aug 11.

This will be followed by 20% off all sandwiches from Aug 12 to 31. 

(The Star) Noble take on cuisine

For a memorable dining experience, look no further than Yu by Ruyi at The Gardens Mall, Kuala Lumpur.

This modern Chinese restaurant scores points for its ambience, food presentation and taste – making dining here a feast for the eyes and palate.

Its chief innovator and executive director Lyn Siew said the food was prepared just like how they imagined the royalty would be served.

“The restaurant’s name Yu means royal, it is a new addition to the chain of restaurants under the Oriental Group.

“The diversified pork-free modern Chinese menu is crafted with the philosophy of bringing all races, nationalities and beliefs harmoniously together for a good meal,” she said.

During a review, we were served an array of dishes and true to the restaurant’s name, we ate like kings, both in quantity and quality.

One of the standouts was the colourful and lovely flower pillow, a steamed tofu in soy sauce dish.

A slab of matcha-infused tofu was steamed and sprinkled with salmon roe, caviar, fragrant crunchy oats, toasted walnuts, curry leaves and edible flowers, and rested on a bed of light soy sauce. It was almost too pretty to eat.

Green tea lovers would appreciate this version and the luxurious toppings added flavour and texture to the velvety tofu.

From the many choices of crab dishes, we were served the Steamin’ Crabilicious.

It came in a bamboo basket with salted fish, minced chicken pate and whole steamed crab with roe, served on a bed of rice.

This pork-free restaurant makes up for the absence of bak kut teh with its version made from chicken – “Chick-u-tei”.

The comforting broth was light and rich in herbs. Perfect on a cold rainy day, this dish was served with abalone, crispy mushrooms, quail egg and petit jasmine rice.

Another dish worthy of mention was the crackling wagyu hor fun.

The hawker favourite was served with wok-fried wagyu beef on crispy noodles in rich mustard- coloured chicken stock gravy.

You can hear a crackling sound from the noodles as the hot gravy is poured over, hence its name.

The prawn paste lemon chicken on the a la carte menu is also worth a try.

The chicken is marinated in prawn paste, fried and topped with a light tangy lemon citrus drizzle.

Corporate executive chef James Ho said the difference was in the gravy.

“It is double-boiled. The stock from the poached beef is boiled again with chicken stock that is mixed with carrots to give it a bright colour.

“The lemon chicken is also given a different twist. The chicken is marinated with prawn paste, coated with homemade powder and deep-fried to give it a crispy coating while still being juicy inside, before being drizzled with lemon sauce,” he said.

The restaurant also boasts a wide variety of dim sum, both steamed and deep-fried. A lot of effort was put into the presentation.They include wagyu puff, which had a smoky and sweet gooey filling inside and a crispy outside shaped like a bull’s head.

Similarly, swan-shaped pastry called crispy swan was fresh, flaky and buttery on the outside with soft savoury shredded duck on the inside.

On a sweeter note, there was the playboy lava carrot. Do not be fooled by its shape and name as the filling was actually molten peanut lava.

The Portuguese egg tart is worth mentioning too for its creamy rich custard that was then topped with a layer of sugar and bruleed until caramelised to perfection.

Other varieties include sweet chilli crab in toasted baos, fried yam caramelised with brown sugar and fish sauce, beetroot scallop dumpling, spicy dumpling and cheong fun with salted egg yolk fried fish skin as well as crispy net spring roll and prawn.

YU BY RUYI, G-243, Riverview Entrance, The Gardens Mall, Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2202 2602). Business hours: Daily, 11am-4pm, 6pm-11pm. Pork-free.

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

(The Star) Ambassador: China keen to strengthen cooperation in two industries

KUALA LUMPUR: China continues to strengthen its trade ties with Malaysia and is looking to engage in more discussions to strengthen cooperation in finance and high-value agriculture industries, says Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian.

Speaking at the Belt and Road China-Malaysia Forum on People-to-People Exchanges and Economic Cooperation yesterday, Bai Tian said the Chinese government is keen on exploring cooperation opportunities in the two industries, in areas such as the digital economy, artificial intelligence, high-technology and new industries.

“We encourage more large Chinese companies to invest in Malaysia, and also welcome Malaysian companies that seek market and investment opportunities in China to achieve complementary advantages.

“China is also willing to enable more interactions with Malaysian through think tank and media dialogues, international student exchange programmes, human resource training, tourism and sports, to encourage more exchanges of experience and mutual understanding between the two countries, ” he said.

Apart from the establishment of China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, the BRI initiatives have created interaction opportunities for both nations, in the form of tourism.

According to Bai Tian, an estimated three million Chinese tourists visited Malaysia in recent years.

Additionally, Xiamen University has received more than 3, 000 Chinese and foreign students since establishing its branch in Malaysia in 2016.

“There is an increase of exchanges and visits between China and Malaysia through various groups comprising young people, media and scholars.

“In line with Visit Malaysia 2020, China and Malaysia will jointly host the China-Malaysia Cultural Tourism Year next year.

“The Chinese Cultural Centre will also be open in Kuala Lumpur by then, ” he said, adding that such efforts shall enhance greater ties and build a better understanding and friendship among the citizens of both nations.

The Belt and Road China-Malaysia Forum on People-to-People Exchanges and Economic Cooperation saw participants from both China and Malaysia convening to discuss new achievements and progress made under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) framework.

The forum was aimed at further promotion of people-to-people exchanges as well as economic and trade cooperation as part of the strengthening of the bilateral ties between China and Malaysia.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-Malaysia diplomatic relations.

(The Star) Bank Rakyat realigns five-year business plan

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Rakyat is realigning its existing five-year business plan in a move to “future-proof ” the bank, in view of the rapidly changing global banking landscape.

Through the new business plan, the bank also aims to boost its customer base, diversify its product offerings and alter public perception that it is focused only on personal financing.

Chairman Datuk Noripah Kamso told a press conference that the five-year plan, dubbed “BR25”, would evolve the bank and ensure it remained relevant in the years to come, via three phases.

The first phase of BR25, called “Aspirational Evolution 2025”, was unveiled yesterday, with the next phase to be presented at the end of the year.

“In this Phase One of Aspirational Evolution 2025, we hope to future-proof the bank by constructing a business model that embraces the changes in technological evolution in the profile and expectation of our customers who are expected to be largely millennial,” she said.

Through BR25, the bank will execute a digitalisation blueprint, offering its services through smart devices and transforming some of its brick-and-mortar branches into digital branches.

Noripah said the bank’s staff would also be transformed, with the bank planning to employ more millennial and digitally-savvy staff and developing high-performance teams.

The bank, she said, also wanted to position itself as “the sustainable bank”, and integrate elements of sustainability into all its activities, initiatives and practices.

While she said the bank was prepared to invest in the plan, details about the investment would only be revealed later, in Phase 2.

On driving profitability, she said the bank was looking to growing its customers and would start with converting all its 900,000 members-shareholders into customers.

At the moment, only 40% of the bank’s members-shareholders are its customers.

“With the increase in customers, there would be an increase in revenue growth. Our move towards digitalisation would also increase our customer base,” she said, adding that the plan also outlined measures to reduce operating costs in order to boost profits.

On financing, Noripah said the bank would be reducing its reliance on personal financing, which now accounts for about 89% of its offerings.

“We would be diversifying to offer more products like mortgage financing and vehicle financing, as well as business and corporate financing,” she said.

The bank aims to reduce its personal financing portion to 70% by 2025.

Noripah said the bank, over the next four months, would be engaging with various stakeholders under the ecosystem of the Entrepreneur Development Ministry (MED) to translate the strategies into enablers and action plans.

Bank Rakyat is an entity under the control of MED.

MED secretary-general Datuk Wan Suraya Wan Mohd Radzi, who was present at the press conference, said BR25 aimed to make Bank Rakyat more accessible to the new generation.

“We also want to move away from the current perception that Bank Rakyat is only for civil servants or only for personal financing.

“This is to ensure the sustainability of the bank’s business model,” she said.

Another key feature of the BR25, she said, would be the bank’s focus on SMEs.

As a bank under the MED ecosystem, Wan Suraya said Bank Rakyat would operate in line with the government’s goals and make assisting SMEs a priority via various upcoming initiatives.

(The Star) Khazanah unit to divest office and retail space for RM4.73bil

SINGAPORE: M+S Pte Ltd has proposed to dispose of its entire stake in its wholly owned subsidiary, Ophir-Rochor Commercial Pte Ltd (ORC), for S$1.575bil (RM4.73bil).

In a statement, M+S said the sale of its property development unit, which manages office and retail space in Singapore, to Allianz Real Estate, acting on behalf of several Allianz group companies, and real estate private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners, acting on behalf of a sovereign wealth fund separate account, would equate to S$2, 570 per sq ft of net lettable area.

The offer was received through an expression-of-interest process conducted by property consultant JLL, it said.

M+S is a 60:40 joint venture between sovereign wealth funds Khazanah Nasional Bhd of Malaysia and Temasek Holdings of Singapore. It was set up in 2011 to develop two integrated developments in central Singapore, namely, Marina One and Duo.

ORC is the developer and owner of Duo Tower and Duo Galleria, the office and retail portion of Duo, a mixed-use development, which also includes Duo Residences and the Andaz Singapore hotel.

The Duo development is situated in the Ophir-Rochor corridor in Singapore, right next to the heritage district Kampong Glam, and was designed by acclaimed architect Ole Scheeren. Duo Tower consists of 20 floors of prime Grade-A office space occupied by prestigious MNCs and leading local companies, while Duo Galleria is a retail mall that connects directly to the Bugis MRT station, an interchange for the Downtown line and East West line.

The proposed transaction does not include Andaz Singapore, the five-star luxury lifestyle hotel by Hyatt that occupies the top 15 floors of Duo Tower.

M+S continues to own Andaz Singapore as well as Marina One, the newest and largest integrated mixed-use development in the heart of Marina Bay.

“With the office and retail assets performing well beyond expectations, we are delighted that the proposed transaction of S$1.575bil at a record price for this area, has presented the opportunity to maximise returns for our shareholders, ” M+S CEO Kemmy Tan said.

“As we continue to own the hotel Andaz Singapore, we look forward to working alongside the powerful combination of Allianz Real Estate and Gaw Capital Partners, who have impressive global track records in real estate management and development, to further reinforce Duo as an attractive place for global business and travellers, ” she added.Tan said the group continued to see tremendous growth opportunity for Andaz Singapore, especially as Bugis continues its transformation journey as a vibrant, eclectic, and complementary leisure and business district to the existing CBD.

“M+S will continue to own and manage Andaz Singapore and the Marina One assets to the optimal level for our shareholders, ” she said.

(The Star) MIER introduces new indicators to measure economic, cost of living growth

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) has introduced two new indicators to measure the Malaysian economic and cost of living growth, namely the genuine prosperity indicator (GPI) and cost of living indicator (CLI).

MIER associate fellow Prof Dr Jamal Othman said the indicators will complement the current gross domestic product (GDP), which was not designed to measure true progress, wellbeing or prosperity, and the consumer price index (CPI).

“The main weakness of GDP lies in its failure to separate costs from benefits and to distinguish welfare enhancing activities from harmful ones. It does not recognise the value of informal, unpaid activities such as charitable work and unpaid household workers, among others.

“GPI provides a remedy to the weaknesses inherent in GDP. It is an appropriate measure to reflect if we are on the path of true progress or prosperity, ” he told reporters at the launch of the indicators in conjunction with MIER’s 34th National Economic Briefing here, yesterday.

He said the GPI aids policymakers, analysts and the public at large to view the economy as a symbiotic ecosystem delivering economic goods, inseparable from the social and ecological systems.

“GPI is an inclusive macro measure which reveals concealed and hidden crucial dynamics inherent in our conventional economic growth-based measure of progress. With evidence from GPI, we can address arising issues, timely and effectively to ensure our path towards genuine prosperity is on track, ” he said.

Jamal said the GPI has been produced by researchers in various regions, including the United States, the European Union and Asia Pacific, with countries involved in the studies made up of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, among others.

On the CPI, he said even though it has been a very useful measure of general level of prices or inflation rate, it was never the right measure of cost of living as the index measures the changes in the prices of a fixed consumption basket and tracks it over time.

“The CLI measures the change in the cost of living subject to the given price change, while maintaining the same standard of living. It measures how much income is needed by a representative household to maintain the same or baseline standard of living, given the price changes that occur in the market, ” he said.

Jamal said MIER will develop and monitor two sets of the CLI, of which the first set will follow the existing consumption baskets where the CPI is being derived by the Department of Statistics Malaysia.

However he said a provision will be given to allow households to substitute any consumption goods in the face of relative price changes.

“The second set is based on the income level needed to acquire a set of food and non-food consumption items that constitutes a particular standard of living, ” he said, adding that the first announcement of the new CLI is likely to be made in December this year.

Meanwhile, MIER has revised upward its 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for Malaysia to 4.6% from 4.5% due to changes in its forecast model. — Bernama

(The Star) Five states pave way towards digital nation transformation

CYBERJAYA: Five states have been added as “test beds” for 5G technology, in addition to Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, says Gobind Singh Deo.

The Communications and Multimedia Minister said the states were Selangor, Perak, Terengganu, Kedah and Kuala Lumpur.

“Demand has been high from these locations to test 5G technology.

“After we launched the national task force on 5G, the MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) visited these states and met with the Chief Ministers and related state excos.

“We started pioneer testing in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. We will also consider further expansion, ” said Gobind during the presentation of the National 5G Task Force’s mid-term report.

Gobind said 66 use cases were identified, such as Smart City Applications, Virtual Reality for Education, Smart Factory or Manufacturing and Precision Farming.

“This was initiated by both the government and private sector, culminating in a total industry investment of RM50mil.

“Our vision to create a digital nation requires greater coordination and synergy across ministries, state governments, industry and support from all Malaysians, ” he said.

The minister said the task force, launched in April, was expected to finish its final report by year’s end.

“I will then present it to the Cabinet for a decision.

“We should be able to roll out 5G technology in the country but first, we have to look at several aspects such as regulations and safety.

“These are the things that the task force is looking into in order to be fully ready, ” said Gobind.

Although Malaysia expects 5G to be available within three years, he said the government hoped it could implement the technology for certain industries earlier.

“Our initial target is the first quarter of next year, if not mid of the year, ” he said.

The task force has outlined a comprehensive plan through four working groups – Business Case Working, Spectrum Management and Allocation, Infrastructure, and Regulatory.

(The Star) Penang the focus for selfies

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has been dubbed many wondrous things and bestowed various titles from coveted channels and outlets, with the latest accolade being the seventh Most Instagrammed City for Street Art in the world.

State Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin described the listing as “good exposure” for Penang.

“We are seeking to position Penang as a destination for experience through nature, culture, heritage and arts.

“To be placed seventh is definitely something we are proud of as Penang is listed alongside renowned cities, known for their arts scene such as London, Paris, Melbourne and Berlin.

“I believe the publicity will assist the state’s efforts to position Penang as a hub for arts in the region. With our Experience Penang Year 2020 less than six months from now, it will help to increase Penang’s visibility globally as a great destination beyond street art, as well as experiential travel.

“In addition, it will assist in boosting Penang’s vibrant art scene further and nurture young talents and emerging artists through recognition from this exposure, ” he said.

Yeoh said in recent years, travelling was not only to experience something new but also to capture memorable moments and share it on social media, a trend especially popular among millennials.

Penang beat out places like Toronto in Canada, Bristol in United Kingdom, and New York and Miami in United States, among others.

The United States-based site Blu stated that they scoured Instagram to find out which cities in the world have the most snapped street art.

In their feature, they explained that by tallying up the number of posts tagged to date, under the top three to five hashtags for each city, they identified the top international destinations for street art enthusiasts.

The site stated that across the 32 locations featured in their gallery, there were more than 1.9 million posts, using street art related hashtags and the results showcase everything from modern graffiti to tourist landmarks.

Topping the list were London, United Kingdom, followed by Paris, France, in second, while Melbourne, Australia came in third.

Monday, 29 July 2019

(The Star) Retailer has big plans for south Johor

JOHOR BARU: Australia-based retailer Harvey Norman is bullish about its prospects in the booming economy of south Johor and is planning on expanding its footprint.

Having just launched its second outlet at The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey here, Harvey Norman Asia managing director Kenneth Aruldoss said the company planned to open a third store in Iskandar Malaysia to reach out to more customers from south Johor and other districts in the state.

The 50,000 sq ft store to be located at Toppen Shopping Centre in Tebrau would open for business in October, he said, adding that response to the company’s first outlet in Johor in Paradigm Mall, which opened in August last year, was good.

“Johor, in particular Iskandar Malaysia, offers good growth prospects for us due to the progress and development taking place in the economic growth corridor,’’ Kenneth said when met after the launch of the new store at The Mall.

He said the influx of local and foreign investors into Iskandar Malaysia would create many jobs and business opportunities for south Johor, boosting the state’s economy.

He noted this would translate into more disposable income for the population and that the influx of new residents into the economic growth corridor would also create demand for electrical household products and furniture.“The market here is unique as there are thousands of Malaysians living in Johor Baru but working in Singapore, with strong purchasing power due to favourable Singapore currency,’’ he added.

Kenneth said the comprehensive range of products available at Harvey Norman, coupled with affordable prices were the main factors attracting customers to shop at the outlets.

He said they could shop with confidence with the company’s exchange-and-refund policy, product reservation, urgent delivery service and product care.

He also said Malaysians were house-proud and they wanted value for money and were willing to fork out extra to buy quality products with reputable brands.

He said the company catered to the needs for all segments including first-time house owners, upgraders and existing house owners renovating their homes.

“We have a homemaker package deal where customers can choose a wide range of products from our stores and enjoy further discounts from us,’’ said Kenneth.He said presently there were 19 Harvey Norman stores in the country and that three new stores would open in Ipoh (Perak), Kota Baru (Kelantan) and Batu Kawan, Penang by the end of the year.

(The Star) Redeveloped hotel stands tall in KL

Amid the rapid development that is reshaping the Kuala Lumpur skyline is the brand-new EQ.

Those in their 40s and older who grew up in the city will surely remember the site of the former Hotel Equatorial, a well-known landmark in the heart of the Golden Triangle with popular spots such as Blue Moon and Kampachi.

It has since been rebranded with a new identity – the modern and sophisticated EQ at the Equatorial Plaza – and its physical form now stands at 52 storeys high, a massive expansion from its former self that stood at 18 storeys.

General manager Robert Rick Lagerwey was busy chatting with guests when we visited the hotel that made its soft launch in March.

We were given a tour of the pristine structure and admired the visually-stunning additions, including the uber-swanky Sky 51 rooftop bar, dining area and outdoor deck.

“The new EQ is younger and fresher,” Lagerwey said, adding that prior to the refurbishment, the hotel hosted a pre-closing party for its regular patrons.

And the refurbishment was expansive. For starters, the entire floor of Level 51 offers unrivalled views of the city.

Lagerwey heads the team at EQ.

As Lagerwey and his team led the tour of Sky 51, he pointed out a metal staircase that leads guests to even more dizzying views of the city.

If you get even remotely nervy at such heights, you may want to steer clear, although Sky 51 is certainly tempting with its gorgeous decor.

Circular sofas enclosed like pods mark the outdoor area, while fine dining awaits guests at Sabayon.

Those in their 70s may remember slow dancing at the former Blue Moon in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, it is known as Blue, EQ’s open-air rooftop lounge, designed to cater to both past guests and new patrons.

“We care more about people than policies and whatever we do, we do it well. Our approach is to listen to the customers, to give them what they want.

“The hotel already has a huge following,” Lagerwey said, citing award-winning favourites such as Kampachi, the Japanese restaurant that has returned in its new form at EQ.

The 52-storey EQ boasts beautiful design details.

“Now we are taking things to the next level, becoming more nimble, more creative, encouraging our teams to share ideas and focusing on consistency and sustainability.”

The restaurants have been designed to shine in their own “personalities” and visitors to Nipah can expect all-day dining of pan-Asian cuisine while Etoile has been reintroduced as a hip street cafe.

While designer Gillian Hung has been credited for designing EQ’s uniform, the hotel’s interior design team has furnished its space with beautiful Asian accents. Modern touches such as high, sunlit ceilings flanked by large glass windows give the space a bright and airy feel while natural tones in wood, bronze and buff provide a warm ambience.

“Guests go for tailor-made experiences,” Lagerwey continued, acknowledging that the hospitality industry was crowded and competitive where service is often the differentiating factor.

“We want them (guests) to feel at home; details matter.”

This is evident as he shows us various rooms, where guests can wake up or wind down while enjoying the view of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

“The size of the rooms doubled when EQ doubled in size,” Lagerwey said, adding that loyal patrons and new ones were even consulted on their preference for the thread count of bed sheets.

EQ also boasts other exciting additions such as its infinity pool on the 29th floor. The entire floor is dedicated to wellness and fitness. A large adjoining pool, fringed by frangipani trees provides a visual delight and instant relaxation.

“We let the customers decide who we are and we are known for not engaging in gimmicks,” concluded Lagerwey.

Hotel Equatorial first opened its doors in 1973 and was closed for redevelopment in 2012.