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Saturday, 31 August 2019

(The Star) Seremban’s glorious past in murals

Artworks, some 70 of them, have added colour to Seremban lanes and alleys that were previously considered “unremarkable”, and are fast attracting their fair share of fans.

Dubbed Sabar (Street Art Back Alley Re-enhancement), the pilot back lane beautification project includes several streets – Jalan Dato Sheikh Ahmad, Jalan Dato Lee Fong Yee and Jalan Tunku Hassan – that cut across the Negri Sembilan capital’s main arteries of Jalan Tuanku Munawir and Jalan Dato Bandar Tunggal.

Spearheaded by Seremban Municipal Council (MPS), the project began in June and is nearing completion with about 90% of the work done.

A six-man team of artists, led by Ejad Ali, have been commissioned by the council and can be seen working under the scorching sun as they put the finishing touches to their masterpieces on walls and even roads.


An artist putting finishing touches to the mural of a Sikh guard and his Caucasian counterpart protecting an ATM.


The works of art range from colourful sketches measuring 1.5m by 1.8m to dramatic 6.1m-wide and 12.2m-high scenes covering entire walls, as well as large eye-catching designs painted on the road.

Among the pieces that now embellish the formerly grubby walls is Tin Mining Sungai Ujong – one of the project’s larger works and a nod to Seremban’s roots as a town that flourished on the back of the tin trade.

The tin mining district that grew to become Seremban was known as Sungai Ujong in the 1800s.

Ejad, 57, said the bulk of designs were inspired by local icons, historical figures and the trades that have traditionally occupied the buildings along Lorong Seni.

“The council came up with the initial designs that we improvised on where necessary.


A curious passer-by observing the artists painting a cheerful road design.



“Some of the designs like Tin Mining Sungai Ujong, for example, had to be scaled up for impact. A smaller version of the same mural would not have had the same appeal, ” he said.

Existing elements such as water pipes, hydrants, air-conditioning units, vents and windows were also integrated into the designs, lending them a realistic 3D effect.

Ejad, who runs his own business, said his favourite piece so far was one he dubbed “Crouching Lions, Hidden Dragon”, depicting two vibrantly coloured lions and a Chinese dragon amid lush painted on foliage.

“That piece has turned the back wall of an abandoned pre-war building into an eye-catching work of art.“That’s the objective of the project – to transform the unsightly into something beautiful, ” he said.

The murals pay homage to historical icons and local heroes, too.


This vintage poster-style artwork pays homage to Sergeant Hassan.



These include the late Malay Regiment hero Sergeant Hassan Othman, who was born in Kampung Pantai near here and whose brave exploits were the subject of the popular P. Ramlee-starrer Sarjan Hassan.

On a wall behind a bank, one image that makes passers-by do a double take is the imposing figure of a Sikh guard in the full garb of the British colonial police who appears to be guarding an ATM alongside his Caucasian counterpart.

Sari-clad Indian women balancing earthenware pots, Malay tarian lilin dancers, and a kampung scene featuring a family making dodol are images that celebrate culture and tradition.

For Ejad whose family hails from Negri Sembilan, the project is a labour of love and his way of giving back to the town.

The art lover and his team previously worked on the back lane beautification project in Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur.

“People often have negative opinion about alleys, so it is very fulfilling to watch the transformation taking place.

“The alleys have now been cleaned up, the drainage upgraded, and the area is also brightly lit – no more dingy lanes, ” he said.


A mural of women carrying earthen pots colours the back wall of a shop that sells the wares.



It takes the artists a day to complete smaller pieces like road designs while large-scale murals can take up to two weeks.

Before the murals could be painted, Ejad said the walls had to be blasted clean with a high-pressure water jet and defects had to be fixed and plastered.

“We used high-quality paint to withstand the elements for years. We even applied protective coatings to the road designs to ensure they do not fade.

“As long as the road is not resurfaced, the paintings should last, ” he said.


A vibrant mural of lions and dragons breathes new life onto the back wall of a pre-war building.

Tea stall owner Abu Llais, who plies his trade in a back lane along Jalan Dato Sheikh Ahmad, said his regular customers loved it and he also made new customers.



“I have been operating here for eight years but I have never seen so many people frequent this alley, especially to take photos of the murals, ” he said.

Store employee Miza Mohd Ali, 26, said the local council’s effort to transform the back lanes was a good initiative.


Some murals celebrate traditional tarian lilin dancers.



“I am from Shah Alam and we have a Jalan Seni there. I am so happy that Seremban too has its own Lorong Seni now. It is a wonderful idea to clean up the alleys and attract visitors, ” she said.

For 79-year-old Guok Boh Chio, who runs a backstreet stamping business, the improvements were a welcome boon for local business owners and a great way to revive interest in old streets.


(The Star) Another month to endorse local draft plan

It will take Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) another month before its councillors can fully endorse the Subang Jaya Local Draft Plan 2035 (DRTSJ 2035).

Minor changes and amendments to plot ratio in several business districts, new pedestrian bridges and issues on commercialised institutional land were some of the topics brought up at the monthly full board meeting.

“Some areas need to be clarified in the draft plan to avoid any confusion later on, ” said MPSJ president Noraini Roslan.

She added that the DRTSJ 2035 plan, which replaces the DRTSJ 2020 (second amendment), was important as it took into account development plans for the next 15 years.

“We will address the issues discussed and hopefully the councillors will accept it in the next meeting, otherwise we will have to wait for another round, ” she said.

Earlier, Noraini announced that DRTSJ 2035 was open for public feedback for eight weeks from Oct 15 to Dec 12 last year and that MPSJ had received 5,008 complaints and suggestions.

Eight meetings with residents and stakeholders were also held by the DRTSJ 2035 Local Investigative and Hearing committee chaired by Selangor housing and urban living chairman Haniza Mohd Talha, local government, public transport and new village development committee chairman Ng Sze Han as well as infrastructure and public amenities, agriculture and agro-industry committee chairman Izham Hashim.

The draft plan has four volumes covering written statements and proposal maps, development strategy and action, development control and development guidelines.

“The DRTSJ 2035 is more reader-friendly as we have added infographics, pictures and graphs, ” said Noraini.

After receiving endorsements from the councillors, MPSJ will present the draft plan to the Selangor planning committee for further approval and to be gazetted by the local authorities.

“We will gazette volume three (development control).

“If there is a need to make changes to the other volumes, we need approval from MPSJ, the planning committee and local authorities, ” she said.

The third volume needs to be gazetted as it involves overall zoning as well as development plans based on Transit Oriented Development (TOD) for commercial developments near public transportation amenities.

It also highlights the usage of plot ratio instead of density planning standards for certain housing developments.

On another matter, with the allocation from the Housing and Local Government Ministry, MPSJ has added six extra containers for recyclable items in residential areas such as USJ Heights, Taman Sungai Besi Indah, Bandar Kinrara 4, Taman Sri Puchong, PJS 7 and Taman Puchong Utama.

The project is in line with MPSJ’s commitment towards UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities campaign to encourage more municipalities to manage city waste better.

“We will reward those with the highest collection of recyclable items at the end of the year, ” she said.


(The Star) Ekovest targets more infrastructure projects

KUALA LUMPUR: Construction firm Ekovest Bhd, controlled by Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo, is eyeing new infrastructure projects as ongoing works on the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (Duke) phase 3 and River of Life projects boosted earnings in the fourth quarter of financial year 2019.


Net profit in the three months ended June 30 jumped 42% to RM23.3mil compared with RM16.4mil made a year ago.

Revenue was up 15.3% to RM338.5mil, it said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia. For the full year, the company registered a net profit of RM140.48mil, or 5.3 sen a share.

Ekovest has proposed a final dividend of 1 sen a share.

“The board expects the ongoing construction of Setiawangsa-Pantai Expressway, River of Life beautification packages, the toll revenue and the sales of completed properties units will continue to contribute positively to the group’s turnover and profitability in the coming financial year, ” it said.

“The company is working closely with the government on various infrastructure projects which has been proposed to the government, ” it added.

This includes projects in Sabah and Sarawak, where the company is working with local partners to bid for tenders. “The board is hopeful that the company is able to secure some of these projects, ” it said.


(The Star) IHH earnings up on contribution from new hospitals

KUALA LUMPUR: IHH HEALTHCARE BHD posted higher earnings in the second quarter ended June 30, supported by contribution from new hospitals.


Net profit rose 12% to RM185mil, as revenue increased 37% to RM3.64bil.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation, exchange differences and other non-operational items (EBITDA) jumped by 47% to RM773.7mil.

“Revenue and EBITDA improved on sustained organic growth at existing operations and contribution from Gleneagles Hong Kong Hospital and Acibadem Altunizade Hospital, both opened in March 2017, ” IHH said in a statement.

“For a second straight quarter, Fortis delivered an operational pre-tax profit, while also achieving higher revenue and bolstering its balance sheet, ” managing director and CEO Dr Tan See Leng said.

“Management remains fully confident that this transformational acquisition continues to be accretive for IHH in years to come, ” he added.

Meanwhile, the group’s proactive steps to pare down non-lira debt for Acibadem has reduced the impact of forex volatility on its earnings.

“In Greater China, we continued to ramp up Gleneagles Hong Kong and look forward to the opening of Gleneagles Chengdu and Gleneagles Shanghai over the next 18 months, ” Tan said.


(The Star) Mah Sing confident of hitting RM1.5b sales target

PETALING JAYA: MAH SING GROUP BHD is confident of achieving its RM1.5bil sales target for the current financial year, with a key focus in the affordable segment.

This is on the back of RM761.4mil sales accumulated for the first half of the financial year ending Dec 31,2019 (FY19).

Mah Sing founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said 81% of the group’s full-year target sales is from residential properties below RM700,000.

“Property is an asset which remains as one of the safest form of investments and a good hedge against inflation.

“We believe properties in the affordable range and at good locations are still seeing good demand.

“We are positive that our property projects will continue to gain traction with buyers, driven by our strong track record and established brand presence in the market, ” he said in a statement.

Backed by a healthy balance sheet with cash and bank balances of RM1.3bil, Mah Sing is in a comfortable position to continue its focus on replenishing its prime land in the Klang Valley, particularly those in the affordable property range, to continue meeting the current market demand.

On a year-to-date basis, Mah Sing has acquired three plots of prime land in Kuala Lumpur – M Oscar located off Kuchai Lama, M Luna in Kepong and M Adora in Wangsa Melawati – all of which come with approved development order that enables rapid speed to market.

All three projects, which opens for registration this year, are indicatively priced from below RM500,000, further reinforcing Mah Sing’s commitment in expanding its land bank for affordably priced projects in strategic locations across the Klang Valley.

“I am extremely optimistic that all three projects will be well received in the market as they are affordably priced products of good quality with ready amenities and are located within matured surrounding neighbourhoods, ” added Leong.

For the second quarter of the financial year ending Dec 31,2019, Mah Sing registered a net profit of RM50.32mil, bringing its first-half net profit to RM105.33mil.

As compared to the same period last year, the lower net profit was due to lower contribution from certain development phases which were at their tail end stage of completion.

Mah Sing’s remaining land bank is 2,086 acres with estimated remaining gross development value and unbilled sales of about RM25.8bil.


(The Star) MAHB income soars 86% in second quarter

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA AIRPORTS HOLDINGS BHD (MAHB) recorded a net profit of RM160.08mil in the second quarter ended June 30, an 86% jump over the same quarter last year.

The airport operator said there was improved revenue across its various operation segments, led by airport operations which expanded 9.6% to RM1.19bil.

The non-aeronautical segment grew 4.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM528.2mil while non-airport operation revenue expanded 2.7% from higher contributions from the project and repair maintenance business. In terms of passenger traffic, the domestic operations experienced 5.3% y-o-y passenger growth to 25.7 million passengers while the Turkey airport saw 3.6% more passengers passing through for a total of 8.7 million passengers.

While the Malaysian operations managed to grow profit before tax (PBT) by 21.7% to RM218mil, the Turkey operations posted a loss before tax of RM16.5mil, representing a 71.2% improvement over the loss recorded in Q2 last year.

The Qatar operations recorded a lower PBT of RM100,000 versus RM3.8mil in the same quarter last year. Meanwhile, the group’s share of associate profits dropped to RM3mil from RM6.1mil in the previous corresponding quarter while share of joint venture profits grew 10.9% to RM5.1mil. For the first six months of 2019, MAHB’s net profit dipped 41.65% over the same period last year to RM309.66mil on the back of 6% higher revenue of RM2.51bil.

In Q1 2018, MAHB’s performance benefited from one-off gains of about RM286mil from the fair valuation of investment in a joint venture in Hyderabad and a gain on disposal of its stake in a Maldives airport project.


(The Star) PSC cut from RM73 to RM50

PUTRAJAYA: The Passenger Service Charge (PSC) for non-Asean international flights out of all airports except KL International Airport (KLIA) has been reduced from RM73 to RM50.

The new rate will take effect from Oct 1, says Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

Passengers who have paid for PSC for flights after the said date can make a refund claim from airlines.

The PSC rate for flights departing KLIA main terminal for destinations beyond Asean will remain at RM73.

Rates for domestic and Asean flights for all airports are maintained at RM11 and RM35 respectively. The PSC is not the same as the government’s new departure levy that will take effect on Sept 1.

Loke said the reduced PSC would help cushion the effects of the new departure levy.

“The departure levy was announced by the Finance Minister during Budget 2019 as a means to add to government revenue and improve the country’s fiscal position.

“At the same time, we have heard the people’s views on the increased costs, so the Cabinet decided to reduce the PSC to balance with the departure levy, ” he said.

Loke said the decision was also in line with the government’s vision to have a framework where airport charges would be based on the airport’s infrastructure and services offered in the future.

“This is just the beginning. Mavcom (Malaysian Aviation Commission) will come up with this framework where there will be different charges according to the infrastructure of that particular airport.

“In the past, we had a regime where across all airports in the country, passengers just pay the same PSC rate, regardless if it is KLIA or smaller airports in Langkawi, Melaka or Subang.

“What we want to achieve is that the rates will be affordable and airport operators will be more competitive, ” Loke told a press conference yesterday.

On Jan 1 last year, Mavcom revised the PSC and imposed an equal rate of RM73 for international flights (non-Asean) at all airports.

Low-cost carrier AirAsia however continued to charge its passengers RM50 until Aug 8 this year as it felt the klia2 terminal which it uses is “inferior” to the full-service KLIA main terminal.

AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes described the Cabinet’s latest decision as “a big win” for Malaysians and the country’s tourism industry.

“After a long time, it was great to see the minister saying that there is a difference between KLIA and klia2 in facilities and other airports.

“At last airports will be priced according to facilities, ” Fernandes posted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Mavcom in a statement said it is in the “final stages” of establishing the tier-based airport charges, called the “Regulated Asset Base Framework” (RAB), which can be implemented next year.

“The RAB methodology is a globally recognised cost-based mechanism and provides a sustainable funding model for airports, whilst also taking into account impact to airport users.

“Charges will be implemented in accordance with the size, level of facilities and services available at the airports.

“This methodology will also free the government from subsidising airport operations as per the current practice, ” the statement said.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said in a statement that it was thankful to the Cabinet for lowering the PSC.


Friday, 30 August 2019

(NST) Mah Sing confident of selling RM1.5b affordable homes


KUALA LUMPUR: Mah Sing Group Bhd is confident to achieve RM1.5 billion sales target for the current financial year with key focus in the affordable segment.

The property developer has already secured approximately RM761.4 million sales accumulated for the period ended 30 June 2019 whereby 81 per cent of full year target sales is from residential properties below RM700,000.

Founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said property an asset which remains as one of the safest form of investment and a good hedge against inflation.

"We believe properties in the affordable range and at good locations are still seeing good demand. We are positive that our property projects will continue to gain traction with buyers driven by our strong track record and established brand presence in the market," he said in a statement today.

On earnings, for the six-month period ended 30 June 2019, the Group posted profit before tax of RM142 million on the back of revenue of RM931.6 million.

On a quarterly basis, the Group recorded profit before tax of RM68 million and revenue of RM481.2 million.

On the property development front, revenue was RM748.2 million, whilst operating profit was RM130.9 million for the six-month period ended 30 June 2019.

This is mainly attributable to a higher proportion of new sales secured from new projects where contribution to revenue is expected to pick up once past the initial stages of construction.

Higher revenue and profit contribution are expected from these projects when construction momentum starts to pick up.

Backed by a healthy balance sheet with cash and bank balances of RM1.3 billion, Mah Sing will continue its focus to acquire more prime land bank in the Klang Valley area.

In 2019, thus far, Mah Sing acquired 3 prime lands in Kuala Lumpur namely M Oscar (Off Kuchai Lama, next to Happy Gardens), M Luna (Kepong), and M Adora (Wangsa Melawati), which all came with approved development order (DO) which allows rapid speed to market.

This has brought Mah Sing’s remaining landbank to 2,086 acres, which would yield a remaining gross development value (GDV), and unbilled sales of approximately RM25.8 billion, providing steady earnings visibility for the Group.

(The Star) Everything points to a fruitful venture

Missed your opportunity to secure a prime shop office when Icon City in Juru, Penang, was launched five years ago?

Regret no more, as its successor – Iconic Point – will be soft-launched early next month.

Upon completion by the first quarter of 2022, the freehold development will be the vibrant heart of the Penang mainland and a true game-changer for its dining and entertainment scene.

Also undertaken by Iconic Development Sdn Bhd, it is designed to replicate the success of the original Icon City, a lifestyle haven with dining and entertainment options galore today.

Iconic Point will sprawl over 8.7 acres (3.5ha) and feature 49 units of modern three-storey shop offices with shared lift. Sized from 4,350sq ft to 5,556sq ft, they are available in both semi-detached and detached configurations.

The commodious layouts make units flexibly suited to a vast spectrum of business – from retailed store, cafes, restaurants and pubs, to beauty salons, boutiques and more.

A great complement to the lifestyles of modern individuals and families, it will be the place for one to swing by for a quick cuppa before work, have nice dinner with family, or enjoy a jolly weekend catch-up with friends.

All that makes Iconic Point a great opportunity for those looking to set up a thriving business, or an investment with great potential for returns. Units are priced from RM2mil onwards.

Already, it is set to have three drive-thru food and beverage outlets such as a Starbucks Coffee and more. There will also be a boutique hotel on-site.

Strategically located near the junction of Jalan Permatang Tinggi and Jalan Bukit Tambun, just off the North-South Expressway, Iconic Point will enjoy great visibility to thousands of motorists passing by daily.

Customers who stop by will find ample parking available, with around 589 car parking lots provided at basement and street levels. Shared lifts make it convenient for one to get up to businesses on upper floors.

The development is also a stone’s throw away from the nearby KTM station, and in close proximity to mature residential neighbourhoods.

Other nearby amenities include the Design Village Outlet and Ikea Penang which are both 8km away, the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge 11km away, and the Penang Bridge 15km away.

Do not miss the opportunity and check out Iconic Point at its roadshow at Queensbay Mall from now until Monday. It is located at the Ground Floor in front of the Bonia store from 10.30am to 10.30pm.

Otherwise, stop by Iconic Point’s Soft Launch on the weekend of Sept 7 and 8 at the Iconic Sales Gallery at Lot 70-1-30 in D’Piazza Mall, located along Jalan Mahsuri in Bayan Baru, Penang. The event is on from 10am to 6pm on both days.

For enquiries or to RSVP, call 04-643 1888,012-739 7888 or 012-739 7999.


(The Star) Affordable housing a shared responsibility

KUALA LUMPUR: Decent affordable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of people, and to the smooth functioning of economies. Yet around the world, in developing and advanced economies alike, cities are struggling to meet that need.

In line with the country’s commitment to provide adequate and affordable housing for all income levels, particularly for the lower-income group, Bank Negara governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus stressed that affordable housing is a shared responsibility and that the government is looking at how infrastructure providers could play their part in reducing the cost of houses.

“There are three components which make up the biggest proportion of the cost, namely land, construction and infrastructure, ” she said in an exclusive interview with Bernama.

“There is a greater recognition now on the need to reduce costs. For land costs, the government is collaborating with the state government on mechanisms to reduce costs; and for construction costs – that is where the government is looking to leverage technology such as the IBS (Industrialised Building System) to bring down the cost, ” she pointed out.

Explaining further, the governor said “more importantly is to adopt strategies to raise income levels of households to make housing more affordable to the rakyat.”

Over the period 2007-2016, growth in house prices have outpaced household income.

Based on the median multiple approach, a house is deemed to be unaffordable if it is priced more than three times the annual household income. Malaysia’s is at 4.8 times.

“Let’s take the B40 for example. With their median monthly income of RM3,000, they can only afford houses up to around RM108,000 – three times their annual income.

“If you look at the 68% of total unsold residential units, they are above RM300,000. That is why we also have to address the supply-demand mismatch.

“While there is demand for affordable housing, the developers are building outside the affordable reach of the majority of Malaysians, ” said Nor Shamsiah.

Recently, the central bank expanded the eligibility criteria for those seeking to purchase property under its RM1bil Fund for Affordable Homes.

Effective Sept 1,2019, individuals planning to apply for financing to purchase affordable houses would be eligible to do so if they have a maximum monthly household income of RM4,360, up 86% from the earlier threshold income level of RM2,300 per month.

Plus, the maximum property price will be increased to RM300,000 from RM150,000. These new terms would help buyers from this income group to obtain financing to purchase their first house.

Meanwhile, the governor reiterated the importance of the Guidelines on Responsible Financing.

“The Guidelines on Responsible Financing is still relevant because the main objective of these guidelines is to ensure that borrowers are able to afford the loan and can benefit from it.

“So, if a customer is taking the loan to buy a house, the customer should eventually own the house at the end of their loan tenure. Ultimately, the banks and the borrowers should also be responsible in the decision. It works both ways, ” she added.

The central bank’s responsible financing guidelines are in place to protect the interest of borrowers by ensuring that those who borrow are within their capacity to honour the financial obligation until the end of the loan tenure and eventually own the property.

This is as opposed to merely buying the house upfront and then fall behind their obligations and end up losing the property.

On that note, the governor said a lot is being done to educate consumers on areas relating to credit and financial management, especially through the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK), which has gained greater traction.

AKPK is an agency established by Bank Negara to help individuals take control of their finances through prudent financial management and financial education.

Financial literacy is among the factors that can contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth. It is the first line of defence for consumers to protect their rights when dealing with unfair market practices.

At the same time, to alleviate the public’s burden in coping with the rising cost of living, particularly for the M40 and B40 groups, the governor said Bank Negara has been emphasising the importance of improving technical skills, reforming the labour market and education system.

“There needs to be greater collaboration between training providers and the industry players to ensure Malaysia produces graduates with the right skills, ” said Nor Shamsiah. — Bernama


(The Star) Penang records highest investment in first half 2019

GEORGE TOWN: With investments worth RM9.21bil in the first six months of 2019 (H1 2019), Penang has once again taken the top spot among the states in Malaysia in terms of investments.

Citing the Malaysian Investment Development Authority’s (Mida) H1 2019 report on approved projects in the states, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said of the total amount, RM8.07bil was foreign investments while RM506.5 million was domestic, involving 56 projects.

Speaking at a press conference here yesterdy, he said the amount surpassed 2018’s total investments of RM5.78bil, involving 108 projects.

“Being able to remain in the top spot is not that important. The most important thing is that we are still capable of attracting investments to the state, given the current challenging economic climate.

“The state government would like to thank federal agencies such as MIDA, as, without the incentives, we might have lost our investor appeal, ” said Chow, who expressed his hope that Penang would be able to continue playing a major role in the manufacturing sector, particularly in the electrical and electronics industry.

He said total foreign investments in H1 2019 more than doubled the amount of foreign investments recorded in 2018, which was RM3.69bil.

“Domestic investments were much lower compared to 2018. We did better in foreign investments as it doubled that achieved last year, but we did not do as well in domestic investments compared to last year, ” he said.

Meanwhile, Chow commented on an English daily’s report yesterday on the Kulim International Airport’s development, which stated it may be built bigger than originally planned and have two runways.

He said the Penang state government held on to Kedah state government’s commitment that the airport would be prioritising cargo handling.

Chow said for the time being, the state government was focusing on the upgrade and expansion of the Penang International Airport (PIA) which had surpassed its maximum annual capacity of 6.5 million passengers. — Bernama

“Passenger arrivals’ have been growing at around 15 per cent to 20 per cent, and will hit eight million easily by this year. Thus it is very critical that upgrading and expansion of PIA goes ahead.

“Our engineers have submitted the application for planning permission, and normally we will only take 108 days to process it, ” he added. - Bernama


(The Star) Sime Darby Property to dispose of non-core land

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Property Bhd is looking to continue with its asset monetisation initiatives moving forward, with the aim of disposing of its non-core land in Kedah of about 526.09ha in the next two years.

Acting group chief executive officer Datuk Wan Hashimi Albakri Wan Amin Jaffri (pic)said proceeds from the disposal will be used, among others, for future developments and keeping the group’s net gearing ratio manageable.

“It’s not easy to find a buyer who are willing to buy all the 529.09ha at once, and the land is scattered in several places, with one big piece measuring about 404.69ha and it’s not easy to find a buyer who can afford that.“There must be monetisation (activities) for our non-core land, as they are not giving us any profit if we keep holding them. We might as well sell (them), take the money and invest in the Klang Valley, ” he told a media briefing on the group’s second quarter ended June 30,2019 financial results announcement here yesterday.

He said the land in Kedah was under the low-yielding assets for the group and outside Sime Darby Property’s common area of projects.

Among other asset monetisation initiatives for the current financial year to date include the disposal of 121.41ha of industrial land in Kedah for RM88.9mil, as well as the disposal of its hospitality asset overseas, namely Darby Park Executive Suites and an apartment unit in The Orion, Singapore, with a total value of RM290.9mil.

As at June 30,2019 the group’s total borrowings amounted to RM3.23bil, consisting of 35% or RM1.12bil short-term borrowings and RM2.11bil long-term borrowings.

Meanwhile, chief transformation officer Fairuz Radi said the property developer’s industrial and logistics segment is expected to contribute towards the group’s target of achieving 10% recurring income by the financial year ending Dec 31,2023.

“We really want to focus on developing industrial and logistics development capabilities within our business unit so that we can grow it as the key business segment moving forward.

“This helps us to create future recurring income by developing build-to-suit and lease industrial asset that we can lease to tenants, ” he said.

Fairuz said most of the company’s landbank is situated near residential areas, allowing them to focus on logistics and warehouse facilities development. — Bernama


(The Star) Bank Negara seen cutting key rate again this year

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara is likely to cut its key interest rate again this year if the United States Federal Reserve (Fed) further eases its monetary policy amid uncertain global economic growth, according to MALAYAN BANKING BHD (Maybank).

Group president and CEO, Datuk Abdul Farid Alias, said the central bank is likely to cut another 25 basis points off its overnight policy rate (OPR) this year to 2.75% that would help to boost private consumption.

“The government has mentioned that we still have plenty of tools to respond to any slowdown in the global economy and one of it is the key interest rates.

“What we anticipate is for rates to be cut further, not only in Malaysia but countries around the region, ” he said at a press conference to announce Maybank’s first-half financial performance.

Bank Negara cut its key interest rate to 3% in May from 3.25% previously. It was the first time the central bank had revised its rate in over a year since Jan 25,2018.

Notably, earlier this month, the Fed lowered its interest rate to a range of 2%-2.25% for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2008. Its chairman Jerome Powell said the weak global growth and the trade war between the US and China has been disruptive to the world economy and the growth in the US, despite the US labour market improving.

Meanwhile, Abdul Farid pointed out that while a cut in the OPR would impact Maybank’s net interest margins, he reckoned it would encourage businesses and consumers to spend more, which would boost the economy.

The country’s biggest banking group by assets is also adopting a cautious approach in the second half of the year, especially on the external factors.

“Domestically, there is more clarity in some infrastructure projects which would boost demand from the corporate side, ” Abdul Farid said.

For the first half of the year, Maybank’s overall loan growth was at 4.6% year-on-year (y-o-y), which was at the same rate as a year earlier. The bank’s stronger loans were contributed by its three home markets – Malaysia (4.2%), Singapore (2.3%) and Indonesia (6.1%).

Abdul Farid pointed out that the loan growth for 2019 in Malaysia is forecast at 4.7% y-o-y, driven by the revival of major infrastructure projects and government development spending.

Meanwhile, the bank’s deposit growth for the first half grew 3.9% compared with 5.5% a year earlier.

As for its performance in the second quarter to end-June, Maybank posted a marginal decline in net profit to RM1.94bil compared to RM1.96bil in the same quarter last year. This came on a 13.4% jump in revenue to RM13.05bil from RM11.51bil previously.

Its gross impaired loans ratio for the period stood at 2.01%, which was higher than the 1.81% posted in the second quarter of last year.

Maybank’s pre-tax profit for the quarter rose 1.6% to RM2.65bil on the back of a 1.2% rise in net operating income and a 19.6% decline in net impairment losses.

For the first half of the year, Maybank’s earnings fell 2% to RM3.75bil from RM3.83bil. Revenue, on the other hand, grew 12.5% or RM3bil to RM26.03bil compared with RM23.02bil previously.

Maybank has declared a dividend of 25 sen per share, payable within three months.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, Maybank said the second quarter also recorded a stronger earnings growth momentum compared with the first quarter. This resulted in pre-tax profit advancing by 8.2% quarter-on-quarter.

“Net profit also came in 7.3% higher, boosted by a 10.9% rise in net fee-based income arising mainly from better investment and trading income, ” it said.

Maybank chairman Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin said the better momentum in the second quarter was achieved despite the challenging operating environment globally.

“We have continued to create value for our stakeholders and remain committed to pursuing a responsible growth strategy.

“We are also optimistic that there would be better business opportunities in the second-half of the year, driven by the measures being put in place by governments regionally to stimulate growth and boost consumer spending.”

On the bank’s digital initiatives, Abdul Farid revealed that Maybank is exploring the digital banking space in the region.

“This is in line with the trend that is going on around the world, where because of the advancement in technology, digital banking is no longer just an idea, it’s a reality, ” he said.

He said in terms of licensing, Maybank could launch its own digital banking, but the bank would need to explore other opportunities to stay ahead of the curve.


(The Star) Litrak, MOF Inc extend cut-off date for highway takeover talks to Oct 31

PETALING JAYA: Toll-highway operator Litrak Holdings Bhd and the Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) have mutually agreed to extend the cut-off date to negotiate and finalise the terms of the acquisition of Litrak’s highways from Aug 30 to Oct 31.

Litrak Holdings said in a statement that MOF Inc and Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat Holdings Sdn Bhd (Sprint Holdings), a 50% associate of Litrak Holdings, have also mutually agreed to extend the cut-off date to Oct 31.

“Save for the aforementioned extensions, all other terms contained in the offers will continue to be in full force and effect, ” it said.

To recap, the company announced on June 21 that it had received a letter of offer from MOF Inc to acquire all the shares of its unit, Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd.

On June 22, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the federal government had made a conditional offer, subject to Cabinet approval, to acquire GAMUDA BHD’s four urban highways at a total cost of RM6.2bil. They are Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), SPRINT, Lebuhraya Shah Alam (Kesas) and Smart Tunnel (SMART).

Gamuda owns a 44% stake in Litrak, a 52% stake in Sprint, a 70% stake in Kesas and a 50% stake in SMART.

The proposed takeover, Lim had then said, would be funded by a bond issuance that was fully-financed and paid for from the collection of congestion charges. The takeover could save taxpayers RM5.3bil in compensation to the concessionaires, Lim had said.

However, in early August, there was uncertainty about the proposed takeover of Gamuda’s four urban highways.

It was reported that although the Finance Ministry has been consistent in its view that the government could afford the RM6.2bil deal, there have been comments by the Prime Minister that the government did not have the money to pay for it.

Ever since the deal was announced in June, there have been conflicting opinions on the status of the takeover.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said in early August: “The Finance Ministry seems to be convinced that it can be done. Our problem is that we don’t have the money.”

Meanwhile, in a filing with Bursa Malaysia, Gamuda also said that MOF Inc and Kesas, its 70%-owned subsidiary, have mutually agreed to extend the cut-off date to negotiate and finalise the terms of the definitive agreement from Aug 30 to Oct 31 in respect of the Kesas offer.


(The Star) I-Bhd posts net profit of RM10.8mil in Q2

PETALING JAYA: I-BHD has posted a net profit of RM10.82mil on the back of RM42.21mil in revenue in the second quarter ended June (2Q19) due to the lack of property launches, but remains upbeat on its investment properties.

It said in a statement that the 2Q19 financial performance was in contrast to a year ago when net profit was higher at RM22.31mil on revenue of RM107.16mil. I-Bhd’s earnings per share in the quarter was lower at 1.02 sen compared with 2.10 sen a year ago. As for its first half, net profit declined to RM17.26mil compared with RM46.79mil in the previous corresponding period. Revenue declined to RM83.27mil from RM266.51mil.

Executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong said 2Q19’s performance was affected by the lack of property launches. However, the group was upbeat on the potential of its investment properties, which are the central i-City mall, its 9,000 car parks as well as the upcoming corporate office tower. Lim said the RM850mil central i-City mall, which was officially opened in June 2019, had recorded a very encouraging shopping crowd.

“We are confident that the shopping mall would not only attract more visitors to i-City, but would also have a positive impact and catalysing effect on the next phase of our property launches, which is the BeCentral residential units that are targeted for launch early next year, ” he said.

“Notwithstanding the soft residential property market, the group is still on track to develop its investment properties and hospitality portfolio, namely, the GBI-rated corporate office tower (expected completion by 4Q19), DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel (expected to open doors in the first-half of 2021) and a second convention centre which will contribute strong recurring income streams to the group in the near future. “With these rapid developments, i-City is poised to cement its position as the heart of Selangor’s Golden Triangle with new business opportunities and investments, ” he said.


(The Star) Socso drives for more sign-ups

Socso launched “Ops Patuh” in Aug 1 this year with the aim of identifying self-employed but unregistered Socso drivers of taxi, e-hailing service and buses.

In an interview with Socso chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed, he shared that currently over 58,000 drivers have signed up and contributed to the Self-Employed Social Security Scheme (SEEIS).

Of that total, over 21,000 drive taxis, about 33,000 are e-hailing and over 3,500, buses. SEEIS was provided for by the Self-Employment Social Security Act 2017 (Act 789).

The Act came into effect in June 2017 for taxi drivers, in November last year for e-hailing drivers and in February this year bus drivers.

Dr Mohammed Azman pointed out that before Socso launched the operation, only about 35,000 taxi drivers, e-hailing and buses were registered.

“While this recent significant increase is encouraging, it only represents 16.64% of the total number of drivers, who make up an estimated 350,000 nationwide, ” quoted Dr Mohammed Azman, adding that many have not registered or contributed due to the lack of awareness.

Since Act 789 was enforced, Socso has performed over 2,000 transactions involving taxi, e-hailing and bus associations nationwide.

Various publicity programmes were also conducted that involved the mass or social media. It has also distributed brochures to drive awareness of the importance of Socso contributions.

The two-year period granted to taxi drivers and e-hailing services to register and contribute is sufficient and it is time for Socso to enforce the provisions of the law under Act 789.


Socso chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed said self-employed taxi or e-hailing service drivers are covered under the SEEIS - BERNAMA



With a contribution as low as RM13.10 a month or 43sen a day, Dr Mohammed Azman outlined that these drivers are covered under the SEEIS, which provides eight types of benefits.

Firstly, Socso bears the full medical treatment cost should any contributor visits a Socso panel clinic, government clinic or hospital for a work-related injury.

Contributors also receive between RM30 to RM105.33 a day as sick leave compensation for work-related injuries, depending on their contributions.

Another benefit involves permanent disability, which Socso apportions out in scheduled payments or in bulk, depending on the contributor's disability assessment percentage.

Eligible contributors also receive a monthly allowance of RM500 if they are severely disabled with the need for more treatments as compared to others.

In addition, qualified dependents can receive regular payments throughout their lives should the contributor die due to a work accident.

Bereft dependents are also eligible for payments even after remarrying. A further sum of RM2,000 can also be claimed by the beneficiary for the contributor’s funerary services.

Socso also covers the contributor’s physiotherapies, implants, hemodialysis treatments and other recovery treatments, as well as provide rehabilitation equipment, vocational training and free treatment at the Socso Rehabilitation Centre.

Those who have recovered can then take part in Socso’s "Return To Work" (RTW) programme.

In the event of a disability, Socso also offers education loans or scholarships to contributor’s beneficiaries who qualify.

To date, over 1,200 inspections were conducted with more than 340 notices issued to unregistered drivers with enforcement and detection being carried out nationwide. Although there has not been a prosecution yet, the penalty is a fine up to RM10,000, serving two years in jail, or both.

Dr Mohammed Azman warned that Socso will not hesitate to act if the offender still refuses to register or pay for contribution after being issued a warning notice.

In a proactive move, Socso formed a Socso Concern Squad stationed at each office over the country, which can provide prompt assistance to contributors and dependents in the event of an incident or accident.

“These officials will ‘go down the field’ by visiting the contributor's residence to obtain necessary documents without waiting for them to come and make a claim, ” explained Dr Mohammed Azman.


(The Star) Chow baffled over RM20bil price tag for tunnel and roads project

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has maintained that the cost of the Penang undersea tunnel project and three paired roads remains at RM6.34bil.

He said the Penang government had been consistent with its figures on the project cost and the land size meant to be swapped with project delivery partner Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd.

“Right from day one till the master agreement was signed on Aug 2, the cost of the tunnel and three paired roads remains at RM6.34bil.

“The payment for the project via a land swap of 44.5ha in Seri Tanjung Pinang remains the same at RM1,300 per sq ft, ” he said yesterday.Chow was responding to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, who had asked why there were no fines or contracts cancelled by the Penang government although the project was late.

Dr Wee also questioned the actual cost of the tunnel, claiming it could have exceeded RM20bil as the land along the Gurney Drive beach was among the most expensive.

The state government is paying for the mega project via a land swap of 44.5ha of reclaimed land in Seri Tanjung Pinang and a toll concession for the tunnel of not less than 30 years.

On the continued delay of the tunnel’s feasibility study, Chow said the progress could “roll back” every now and then as it was being inspected by independent checking engineers (ICE).

“It moves ahead and backwards as ICE is looking through the study. We saw that it went from 90% to 92% and then rolled back. This was because some parts of the study had to be checked.

“Now it is at 98.5% and we expect it to be fully completed by the end of September, ” Chow said.

On whether the state government would consider another bridge over the tunnel, Chow said this would depend on the outcome of the studies.

He also said the first phase of the project was the 5.7km Ayer Itam-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass. The cost of the first out of three roads is estimated at RM1.07bil.

“Construction will begin before the expiry date of the Environmental Impacts Assessment Report by Oct 31, ” he said.

The other two projects are the North Coastal Paired Road between Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang and the bypass connecting Gurney Drive to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway.


(The Star) Midis, not mini buses, to ply crowded Klang Valley streets

PETALING JAYA: The haphazard nature of the Klang Valley’s built-up landscape poses a huge challenge for operators of “normal” buses such as Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd.

Conventional buses such as the 12m-long double decker bus or even the 10m-long buses typically used as MRT feeder buses still have difficulty negotiating tight corners in housing and commercial areas, which are often compounded by inconsiderate parking.

To address this, Rapid Bus is introducing the midi bus for Route T300 for a three-month trial beginning this Sunday.

Keen to address misconceptions that this was a resurrection of the tiny (pink) buses that used to ply the Klang Valley decades ago, Rapid Bus said the midi it was using would be an 8m-long fully air-conditioned 27-seater.

Any bus of less than 10m is considered a minibus with buses shorter than 8m called a micro bus (the pink ones). A midi fills the gap between a normal and micro bus.

“Some routes have narrow roads or low demand or the distance is too short so we need to adjust and modify the kind of vehicles that we use to serve our users effectively, ” said Rapid Bus CEO Muhammad Yazurin Sallij yesterday.

Similar to all buses under the Rapid KL banner, the buses for Route T300 will use a cashless system, accepting only Touch’n’Go travel cards, as well as the My100 and My50 concession cards. Route T300 runs from the Bukit Indah hub to Ampang Point via Jalan Rasmi.

“We believe with shorter buses, we can increase the frequency and serve our guests better as it will have a faster turnaround time, ” said Muhammad Yazurin, who also pointed out that space constraints faced by normal-sized buses resulted in longer bus trips and delays.

“We felt that we needed a smaller bus because we believe we are not covering enough areas to solve the first-and-last mile problem for commuters.

“We are looking at opportunities to reach more areas, especially in residential neighbourhoods that are impossible for normal buses to enter as the roads in these areas have cars parked on both sides of the road, ” he said.

Rapid Bus’ announcement on Wednesday generated a lot of excitement on social media, with many imagining the return to the old mini-bus days that ended in July 1995, after nearly three decades of service.

Muhammad Yazurin said the objective of the trial was to determine the viability of using a smaller vehicle in terms of suitability, carrying capacity and cost.

“With the data that we collect, we want to do proper planning to see if we can reach more (hard-to-access) areas, ” said Muhammad Yazurin, who added that he welcomed feedback from the public.

“It does not matter if the feedback is good or bad. At least we would know, and it will be taken into consideration in our planning, ” he said, adding that the trial would involve three midis.

During the trial, they will run on a frequency of 15 minutes during peak hours, and 25 minutes during non-peak hours, with service hours being 5.30am to 11.40pm.

The public can channel feedback on this to 03-7885 2585 or suggest@rapidkl.com.my.


(The Star) All ready to bridge Pahang and Terengganu for ECRL

KEMAMAN: Work to span Sungai Kemaman, the longest river in the northern stretch of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), is ready to commence once regulatory approval is obtained.

In a site inspection on Wednesday arranged by the contractor, China Communications Construction (ECRL) Sdn Bhd (CCCECRL), the media was brought to see the temporary steel bridge that has been completed across the 180m-wide river near Kampung Binjai.

While the water body is less than 200m, the permanent pair of concrete bridges that will eventually be built will span 524m in order to provide a relatively level path for the railway, which is designed to provide passenger service at speeds of up to 160kph and cargo service at 80kph.

A total of 17 pile caps (pillars) will also be built to support the pair of bridges, which will collectively be known as the Kemaman viaduct, which is also the river closest to the Terengganu-Pahang border.

The Kemaman viaduct will be the vital link between Terengganu’s Chukai station and Pahang’s Cherating station.

The viaduct is located within Section 5 of the ECRL, which is divided into eight sections over 644km from Kota Baru all the way to Port Klang.

Section 5 is itself 82.4km in length, with 44.3km in Terengganu, and the rest in Pahang.

According to an ECRL spokesman, building the Kemaman viaduct will be challenging as the depth of the river can vary by up to 6m, depending on tidal conditions and rainfall.

“The average level is about 4m, but it can rise up to 10m, and therefore, the viaduct has to be built 15m above the riverbed to make it flood-proof, ” said a CCCECRL spokesman.

The deepest part of the riverbed is about 9m from the ground surface, compounding the challenges to the contractor who also has to make provisions to allow for small fishing boats to sail past safely during viaduct construction, which should be completed by August 2022.

Section 5 is rather undulating, and to smoothen the journey, embankments and viaducts will form 87.3% (72.3km) of the alignment.

There will also be a single tunnel measuring 2.866km for this section near Kuantan.


Thursday, 29 August 2019

(NST) Joint-ministerial committee approves 3 investments worth RM2.2bil


KUALA LUMPUR: The government, through the recently established joint-ministerial committee, has approved three investments worth RM2.2 billion.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said of the three investors, two were local-based companies, while the third was an international company.

However, the minister declined to provide further details on the investments, saying that it would not be fair to the respective investors.

“I believe we should respect the investors. Let them announce (the details) themselves. The important thing is that we have established the joint-ministerial committee co-chaired by (International trade and Industry Minister) Datuk Darell Leiking and I which allows us to make decisions quickly.

“Before this, it might have taken months (to obtain approvals), now we can make the decisions through monthly meetings,” he told reporters after the National Economic Forum 2019.

The Finance Ministry and the International Trade and Industry Ministry recently formed the joint-ministerial committee to speed up decision-making while simplifying approval processes at the highest level, especially when it relates to high-tech and high-value investments.

“The committee co-chaired by Darrell and I demonstrates the government’s seriousness in attracting the highest quality investments that will provide jobs for all Malaysians,” he added.

In the first half of 2019, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority approved RM49.5 billion in foreign investments for all sectors – a 97.2 per cent jump from RM25.1 billion recorded in the same period a year ago. -– Bernama

(NST) Sime Darby Property to sell 1,268 acres of Kedah land in two years


KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Property Bhd (SD Property) plans to monetise its non-core assets, in the form of 1,268-acre of lands with net book value of RM60 million in Kedah, in two years.

Acting group chief executive officer Datuk Wan Hashimi AlBakri Wan Amin Jaffri said the potential proceeds from the disposal would be used for future working capital developments and keeping its gearing manageable.

“The landbank is a low-yielding area and there is cost to hold it, might as well we invest it (the potential proceeds) in our projects in the Klang Valley.

“It is not easy to find a buyer who are willing to buy all the land at once because it is scattered in several plots, with one big piece measuring about 1,000-acre,” he said at a media briefing on its reulst here today.

Wan Hashimi said there must be monetisation of the company’s non-core assets. Otherwise, they would not yield any profits.

He said SD Property’s total inventories (unsold completed properties) had dropped 14.4 per cent to RM746 million as at June 30 this year from RM871 million as at December 31 last year.

For the first-half (1H) of 2019, SD Prop achieved total sales RM1.4 billion due to aggressive sales and marketing efforts as well as positive sales momentum.

For the full year, the company targets to achieve a total sales of RM2.3 billion backed by on-going property launches with mix-development comprising residential (landed), commercial and industrial.

Chief transformation officer Fairuz Radi said its industrial and logistics segment was expected to contribute towards its target of achieving 10 per cent recurring income by the year ending December 31, 2023 (FY23).

“We really want to focus on developing industrial and logistics development capabilities within our business unit so that we can grow it as the key business segment moving forward.

“This helps us to create future recurring income by developing build-to-suit and lease industrial asset that we can lease to tenants,” he said.

Fairuz said most of the company’s landbank is situated near residential areas, allowing it to focus on logistics and warehouse facilities development.

SD Property had disposed 300-acre of industrial land in Kedah for RM88.9 million. It also sold its hospitality assest overseas, namely Darby Park Executive Suites and an apartment unit at The Orion, Singapore, for a combined RM290.9 million.

As at June 30, 2019 the group's total borrowings amounted to RM3.23 billion, consisting of 35 per cent or RM1.12 billion short-term borrowings and RM2.11 billion long-term borrowings.

On whether Datuk Voon Tin Yow would be appointed as its group chief executive officer, Wan Hashimi said: “It is just a rumour. In this country, rumours are basically very rampant. As far as we are concerned, when the time is right, we will make an official announcement,” he said.

SD Prop’s net profit increased more than fourfold to RM205.26 million in the second-quarter (Q2) ended June 30, 2019 from RM46.57 million previously.

This was attributed to higher contribution for property development and disposal gained from non-core assets monetisation.

Its Q2 revenue rose 40.26 per cent to RM865.9 million from RM617.37 million.

For the first six months, SD Prop’s net profit surged 486.15 per cent to RM470.33 million from RM80.24 million previously, while revenue increased 22.03 per cent to RM1.44 billion from RM1.18 billion.

(NST) PropertyGuru Index: Improved purchasing sentiment


THERE is improved purchasing sentiment in the local property market, thanks to initiatives like the Home Ownership Campaign (HOC).

The PropertyGuru Market Index showed a 0.8 per cent increase to 86.2 in the second quarter of this year from 85.4 in the first quarter.

The HOC, a joint effort by the Housing and local government ministry and Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda), was unveiled early this year as one of the housing initiatives under the 2019 Budget to reduce the country’s “overhang property”.

Overhang refers to completed residential units which remain unsold or have been on the market for at least nine months.

According to the Malaysian Property Market 2018 Report, released by the National Property Information Centre, the number of overhang units last year increased 30.7 per cent to 32,313 units from the previous year.

Young working adults in Malaysia are struggling to buy a house as residential properties are getting more expensive, especially in urban areas.

The objective of the HOC is to assist first-time buyers to own a property and help reduce unsold properties in the market.

HOC 2019 only applied for properties sold between January 1 and June 30 of this year but has been extended to December 31 following strong interest in the campaign and recommendations for an extension from buyers and developers.

PropertyGuru Malaysia country manager Sheldon Fernandez said improved purchasing sentiment in the market was also due to stamp duty exemptions and Bank Negara Malaysia’s downward revision of its Overnight Policy Rate to three per cent.

Fernandez said these factors had contributed to upward ticks in asking prices for Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Selangor. However, they were not enough to overcome downward pressures in Johor, including a proposed ban on property sales to foreigners for selected projects in the third quarter of 2018.

“This comes despite a growing overhang in Malaysia of 53,078 units as of the first quarter 2019, including 32,936 residential units worth RM19.9 billion,” he said.

TOP THREE MARKET REVIEW

1. KUALA LUMPUR

The Kuala Lumpur market index witnessed a 0.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter increase in asking prices in Q2 2019, but from the long-term perspective, there was a stable downtrend.

Fernandez attributed the wider downturn to the ongoing mismatch between property supply and demand, where there was demand for affordable properties, but luxury projects were being launched instead.

“In general, home seekers are looking for properties below RM500,000 in Klang Valley. Sentiment is more positive moving out from the city centre, as Q2 2019 marked Selangor’s third consecutive quarter whereby asking prices have risen,” he said.

He said a year-on-year increase in supply from Q2 2018 to Q2 2019 of 42 per cent was seen this term, reflecting that sellers are more confident in the market as demand picks up from previous terms

2. PENANG

Fernandez said the asking prices in Penang have been more volatile, with its index showing a steady decline from Q1 2016 to Q4 2017.

The Penang market, however, has remained resilient since Q4 2018 as it grew 0.2 per cent from 92.8 in Q1 2019 to 93.0 in the second quarter.

Fernandez said oversupply is less of a concern than in metropolitan areas further south, with a 28 per cent increase in supply registered during the term.

“The appetite for affordable-ranged properties continues, with units below RM250,000 continuously in demand. The state government is increasing its efforts to meet these calls,” he said.

3. JOHOR

Residential asking prices in Johor went against the grain, said Fernandez.

Johor was the only state with an upward growth trajectory since 2015, ending with a 0.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter downturn in Q2 2019. Its long-term expansion can be attributed to consistent and heavy investment in the Iskandar Malaysia economic corridor, which is reflected in the state’s 118 per cent increase in supply volume in the second quarter, he said.

“This indicates that Johor properties are experiencing good take-up rates and prices are beginning to re-adjust. Year-on-year asking prices dropped three per cent, reflecting that the market is likely to see continued self-correction.”

HOME FINANCING

Jones Lang Wootton executive director Prem Kumar said property developers have taken heed, especially in terms of the profile of market demand, and this recognition of the change in market dynamics will ultimately be the main thrust towards effective stabilisation of the real estate residential market.

“The key economic drivers of the market, such as supply and demand, do not appear to have achieved a clear-cut equilibrium. There are still gaps which are obvious and need to be plugged before a more definitive direction of the market can be achieved,” he said.

Prem said more needs to be done for Bottom 40 per cent (B40) households.

According to Prem, B40 households continue to face challenges due to the continuing severe mismatch between property price levels and income levels.

“It is imperative that the government, together with financial institutions, formulate a specific financing structure which goes far beyond existing schemes such as the rent-to-own programme. A comprehensive platform will have to be formulated which addresses forms of ownership, access to funding, availability of specific product types, stakeholder participation, government grants, and more.”

Prem said a well-structured platform, which takes into consideration medium- to long-term property ownership sustainability aspects, would be essential in mitigating the crux of the problem whereby B40 households in the current environment are left entirely on their own and overwhelmed by complexities related to property purchases, especially with respect to securing funding within the existing structure of the real estate market.