Friday, 6 December 2019

(The Star) Choice suites in prime area

Luxury and convenience awaits future residents of Iconic Regency — a well-designed freehold development located in the heart of Sungai Nibong, Penang.

Rising 42 storeys over the prime commercial district and matured residential neighbourhood, it consists of 268 fully-furnished residential serviced suites.

Interested parties are invited to attend its launching and Christmas Party celebration at the Iconic Development Sales Gallery in D’Piazza Mall, Bayan Baru, this Dec 14 and 15.

From 10am to 6pm on both days, there will be lucky draws, local delights, games booths, Santa Claus appearances and more, so be sure to bring your family over.

A talk on ‘What Is a Green Building’ by a special invited guest will prove to be insightful. To keep the young ones entertained, there will be kids’ activities and DIY workshop sessions.

More importantly, the launch presents a great opportunity for interested parties to find out more about Iconic Regency’s key features, including its low-density living environment.

Buyers can choose from six different and practical layouts. This affords greater flexibility should you intend to use it for your own stay, or as an investment opportunity.

If it is the latter, Iconic Regency’s strategic location at one of Penang island’s most popular neighbourhoods, makes it an excellent proposition.

As units come fully-furnished, it also negates the hassle of one having to source for furniture or go into tedious renovation works.

It will be in move-in condition upon vacant possession.

Iconic Regency provides well-needed work-life balance with various kind of facilities, spread across the Level 13 deck and the rooftop at Level 42.

It will also be situated next to the second Iconic Hotel Penang. Additionally, maintenance management services are also available.

Prices start from RM400,000 onwards. Booking fees are as low as RM5,000, while floor premiums are only RM500.

In line with the government’s Home Ownership Campaign (HOC), buyers also stand to enjoy special rebates and gifts.

This campaign ends on Dec 31, so take advantage of it now.

Sale and Purchase Agreements (SPA) for the project are ready for endorsement to meet the HOC’s final call.

For more information about the launch, call 04-6431888,012-7397888 or 012-7397999.

(The Star) Penang’s FDI soars

Penang has recorded RM13.3bil of total approved investments in the manufacturing sector from January to September, representing 23% of the country’s total manufacturing investments.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the total investments, which was the second highest in the country, had also surpassed 2018’s full year amount of RM5.8 billion, which was a 247% increase.

“This is testament that Penang continues to remain a favourable investment destination.

“According to Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida), the first nine months of this year saw Penang successfully garnering 113 manufacturing projects amounting to RM13.3bil and is expected to create 15,013 new job opportunities, ” he said in a press conference at Komtar on Tuesday.

Chow said the total approved investments surpassed this year’s target of RM10bil, which was announced early this year.

He said the two major sub- sectors with the most significant investments were electronics and electrical products, and scientific and measuring equipment.

He said Penang was one of the key contributors to Malaysia’s foreign direct investment (FDI).

“Penang attracted RM12bil in manufacturing FDIs, representing 30.6% of the country’s total manufacturing FDI, ” he said adding that top FDIs came from the United States, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Chow said despite rising global macroeconomic uncertainties and the prevailing US-China trade war that had taken place since 18 months ago, Penang continued to strengthen its position as a destination of choice for investors.

He added the state government was cautiously optimistic about the near-term outlook with the continued challenging global environment but maintained the stand that Penang would continue to position itself as a preferred destination for investment.

“We are committed to strengthening our efforts to work with new and existing investors for long-term growth together, ” he said.

(The Star) Breathing life into urban living

With the shift towards urban living and a growing population in towns and cities, there is escalating demand for quality housing and amenities, alongside an urgent need to find ways to enrich the lives of the expanding urban population.

Kiara Bay, the latest flagship development of UEM Sunrise Bhd — one of Malaysia’s leading property developers — responds to this need.

UEM Sunrise has unveiled the masterplan for Kiara Bay along with the newly opened Kiara Bay Sales Gallery for priority previews of Residensi AVA, which is strategically located in the heart of Kepong at The Walk, Kiara Bay’s central business district.

Residensi AVA consists of 870 residential units with built-up areas ranging from 75.5sq m (813sq ft) to 119.3sq m (1,285sq ft) priced between RM500,000 and RM900,000. Included in this phase are other amenities and facilities such as swimming pools, gym and sky deck.

The estimated completion date of Residensi AVA is targeted for the fourth quarter of 2023, with the township to be completed in its entirety in 2039.

The many conveniences and amenities that will be made available at Residensi AVA include auxiliary police, natural ventilation and cooling, an urban farm, 5G infrastructure, cashless environment, a wellness centre, assisted living, as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

In terms of accessibility, Residensi AVA Bay will be accessible via several highways and main roads, such as the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2), Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Duta Ulu Klang Expressway, Jalan Kuching and Jalan Kepong. There will be two new interchanges providing direct access from MRR2 into Kiara Bay.

Two MRT 2 stations — Kepong Baru and Jinjang — are scheduled to be operational by 2021 and will be the closest MRT points to Kiara Bay.

Anwar Syahrin says the company’s focus is to create active urban living for everyone.

Built together in joint-venture partnership with Melati Ehsan Group, Kiara Bay is an integrated township that leverages the lake, nature and active lifestyle with the convenience and connectivity of a vibrant urban environment to create enjoyable and effortless living.

The breakdown of the components is built upon the lifestyle concept of “live, work and play”. There is emphasis on diversity in the complementary use of space to create a vibrant atmosphere in this self-sustaining township.

The epitome of urban living, Kiara Bay offers elevated living by the lake given its proximity to Kepong Metropolitan Park, where residents can enjoy leisurely activities and picnics against the backdrop of the tranquil lake. To enrich the living experience further, a series of waterfront retail outlets will be built around the lake.

Another unique feature of Kiara Bay is its connectivity to nature with FRIM located only 15 minutes away — truly a treat for nature lovers.

In line with the growing consciousness of eco-living, Kiara Bay, guided by the EIU Global Liveability Index, Mercer Quality of Living factors and the UN Sustainable Cities and Communities, has incorporated features to create a sustainable compact city designed to bring liveability to the fore.

These are primarily divided into liveable neighbourhoods and inclusive communities, accessibility and sustainable mobility, diverse and sustainable local economy, culture and environment, technology and education and wellness.

A big part of what makes UEM Sunrise’s projects unique is the developer’s expertise in master town planning and Kiara Bay is no exception.

UEM Sunrise managing director and chief executive officer Anwar Syahrin Abdul Ajib said, “In designing these three districts, our focus is to create active urban living that has something to offer everyone from multi-generational communities.

“Mont Kiara serves as our proven track record and we want to replicate that success with Kiara Bay as the new heartbeat of Kuala Lumpur.

“As a whole, in comparison to pocket-sized developments, Kiara Bay’s master plan is all encompassing to ensure we bring out the best experience for homeowners and visitors, as well as maximise the economic and social benefits for the local community, ” he added.

(The Star) ICAEW: Malaysia’s 2020 GDP growth may slow to 4%

KUALA LUMPUR: The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has forecast that Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 may slow to 4% from 4.4% expected for this year.

Economic advisor Sian Fenner said the cautious outlook was primarily driven by the moderating household spending.

“Household spending is still going to remain quite healthy but we’re not expecting the 7% growth that we have been experiencing, ” she told reporters at the launch of the ICAEW Economic Insight: South-East Asia Q4 Report here yesterday.

Fenner said several tailwinds that have supported growth continued to fade, while the effects of the sluggish global environment will start to have a larger impact on the domestic economy.

“There is no longer support from the goods and services tax being abolished or tax holiday, we are seeing inflation starting to jump a little bit, ” she said.

The ICAEW projection is rather pessimistic compared with the Bank Negara’s GDP forecast of 4.8% for next year and 4.7% this year.

Commenting on ICAEW’s rather gloomy forecast, she said the government is maintaining a prudent budget and continues to have emphasis on fiscal consolidation.

“To get the 4.8%, you will need to expand the budget deficit significantly, you won’t be looking at consolidating. You need to support more on consumer spending such as having cash handouts for example, tax rate cut, ” Fenner opined.

She said although there has been some progress in the US-China dispute, friction between the two countries remains high and the bulk of imposed tariffs are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon.

“Alongside slower Chinese domestic demand, we are cautious that the outlook for exports and private investment will remain challenging.

“Inflation dynamics are also expected to favour a more accomodative monetary policy stance for Malaysia.

“We believe that more monetary policy easing is warranted, given the mildly expansionary budget for 2020, ” she said.

ICAEW, according to her, expects Bank Negara Malaysia to reduce the policy rate by a further 25 basis points cut in the first quarter of 2020 to 2.75%.

This is following the recent 50 basis points cut in the US Statutory Reserve Requirement.

Overall, she said Malaysia’s inflation is forecast at 0.7% for 2019 with the likelihood of rising to 2.1% next year, on par with the country’s average inflation over the past decade.

Employment growth is also expected to ease to 1.9% year-on-year in third quarter of 2019, while real wages grew by 0.5% in the same period.

“There are some positive, we do think that growth will be a little bit more broad base after investment being made this year. We actually wait for it to turn around, particularly the approval of some of the infrastructure projects.

“In terms of foreign direct investment for the Southeast Asian region, if we look at the medium term sort of score card of investment attractiveness.

“We see Malaysia is just below Vietnam, that is number two and that is because of the quality of labour and the ease of doing business here.

“Within the region, Malaysia could actually be the country to benefit from the ongoing US-China trade war, ” she added. — Bernama

(The Star) Paragon acquires land in Johor for RM61mil

PETALING JAYA: Paragon Globe Bhd is acquiring a 12.59 ha piece of freehold land in Johor for RM60.96mil through its wholly-owned subsidiary Paragon Globe Properties Sdn Bhd.

This is in line with the group’s plans to diversify into the property development business.

Paragon Globe Properties has entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement with Iskandar Capital Sdn Bhd to acquire the land, of which it has paid RM12.19mil.

The amount represents 20% of the total purchase price, being the deposit and part payment for the land.

It agreed to purchase the land with zoning approval for commercial use on an “as is where is basis” at a valuation of RM45 per sq ft.

The board of Paragon Globe is of the view that the land would provide the group the opportunity to create greater economic value and increase its earnings potential over the medium to long term as the land has promising development potential.

It intends to develop the land into a well-conceptualised commercial area.

The land is located at the western border of Iskandar Puteri and is connected by Iskandar Coastal highway to Johor Bahru city centre, Kota Iskandar and the Second Link Checkpoint.

Paragon Globe plans to finance the acquisition through a combination of internally generated funds, bank borrowings, or other fundraising corporate exercises.

The exact quantum and the resultant proportion has yet to be ascertained.

The funding for the development of the land is expected to be financed via internally generated funds or bank borrowings.

(The Star) Gamuda eyes boost from overseas

SHAH ALAM: GAMUDA BHD intends to grow overseas contribution to its construction business to 50% within the next three years from 20% currently, underpinned by projects in Australia, Taiwan and Singapore.

Group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said the move is necessary for the company to become a global player.

“No one likes to do it if they don’t have to.

“But there aren’t enough big projects in Malaysia, ” he told a press conference after the company AGM and EGM yesterday.

Lin also said more than half of the large construction projects in Malaysia were given to Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“For these SOE contractors, if they want a project, they can even tender below cost. How are Malaysian companies like us going to compete with them? Therefore, we have no choice but to go overseas.”

He added that going overseas also allowed Gamuda to tap local talent.

“If we don’t go overseas, we will lose a lot of the younger engineers, many of whom are going to countries like Australia and Singapore to find suitable jobs.

“Therefore, we feel that it is better to have a business in these countries and have Malaysian talents work for us.”

Lin also noted that it was more difficult for SOEs to penetrate countries such as Australia.

“Compliance is stricter in Australia, compared with Malaysia, ” he continued.

In October, Gamuda acquired a 50% stake in Australia-based Martinus Rail Pty Ltd to leverage on the significant pipeline of construction projects there.

According to the July 2019 BIS Oxford Economic Report, rail infrastructure works in Australia are expected to grow 14% per annum until 2023.

Lin said Gamuda currently has two projects in Taiwan. “We expect to secure a third project soon. We also have a few projects in Singapore, ” he said.

Gamuda’s construction book currently stands at RM9.2bil. Overseas contribution to its property division currently stands at 70%.

Strong property sales in Vietnam bolstered the company’s earnings last quarter and cushioned the impact of lower income from its construction division. It posted a net profit of RM185mil in the three-month ended July 31 on revenue of RM1.5bil.

For the full financial year, its net profit was RM706mil compared with RM539mil previously.

The group currently has two ongoing developments in Vietnam namely Gamuda City in Hanoi and Celadon City in Ho Chi Minh City.

The two projects are the biggest contributor to the group’s overseas sales ahead of developments in Singapore and Australia.

Separately, Lin said Gamuda, which is building the proposed Komtar-Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) project in Penang, expects the first package to be awarded by the middle of 2020.

He said the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) signing for the package is expected to be done “within the next few weeks.”

“Design works will start immediately, ” he added.

The LRT project is part of Penang’s multi-billion ringgit Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Gamuda was appointed the PDP for the PTMP.

Lin said the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ), of which half was built on reclaimed land, has been Penang’s success story over the last 40 years.

“The semiconductor industry, in the next 40 years, is expected to see explosive growth through the next wave of emerging applications in AI, automotive electronics, IoT and digital medical devices, ” he said.

Lin said the first island (Island A) will have an 800-acre next-generation Smart Industrial Park, located next to the current Bayan Lepas FIZ and Penang International Airport.

Additionally, Lin said part of the proceeds from the disposal of Gamuda’s toll business will be utilised to pay a special one-off dividend to its shareholders.

“That is all we can say for now. The government will first need to decide what to do with Plus, before making a decision on their deal with us.

“They need to cross that bridge first (with Plus). Hopefully in the next few weeks, the government will make a decision.”

At Budget 2020, the Cabinet approved the takeover of four Klang Valley tolled highways for RM2.36bil.

The highways are Shah Alam Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway, Sprint Expressway and Smart Tunnel - all of which are linked to Gamuda.

Following the Budget announcement, AmInvestment Bank in an October report cautioned that the defensiveness of Gamuda’s earnings will be eroded with reduced recurring toll road earnings, which make up 35% to 40% of the company’s earnings.

In that report, the research house said it was maintaining its underweight call and forecasts considering that valuations of construction stocks.

It said construction companies, Gamuda included, had run ahead of their fundamentals in the heat of the euphoria sparked by the recent revival of the East Coast Rail Link and Bandar Malaysia projects.

Additionally, Lin said part of the proceeds from the disposal of Gamuda’s toll business will be utilised to pay a special one-off dividend to its shareholders.

“That is all we can say for now. The government will first need to decide what to do with Plus, before making a decision on their deal with us.

“They need to cross that bridge first (with Plus). Hopefully in the next few weeks, the government will make a decision.”

In Budget 2020, the Cabinet approved the takeover of four Klang Valley tolled highways for RM2.36bil.

The highways are Shah Alam Expressway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway, Sprint Expressway and Smart Tunnel - all of which are linked to Gamuda.

Following the budget announcement, AmInvestment Bank in an October report cautioned that the defensiveness of Gamuda’s earnings will be eroded with reduced recurring toll road earnings, which make up 35% to 40% of the company’s earnings.

In that report, the research house said it was maintaining its “underweight” call and forecasts of construction stocks. It said construction companies, Gamuda included, had run ahead of their fundamentals in the heat of the euphoria sparked by the recent revival of the East Coast Rail Link and Bandar Malaysia projects.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

(NST) New PDP agreement for the expanded Penang Transport Master Plan

KUALA LUMPUR: Gamuda Bhd, which is the controlling shareholder in SRS Consortium Sdn Bhd, will soon sign the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) agreement for Penang Transport Master Plan with the state government.

Gamuda group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said once the new PDP agreement is signed, the design works can start.

"The light rail transit (LRT), Island A, and Pan Island Link, and reclamation work for South Island will all move.

“We hope, by the middle of 2020, the first package of LRT would be awarded,” Lin told reporters at a media briefing, after the company’s shareholders’ meeting here today.

Also present was Gamuda deputy group managing director Mohammed Rashdan Yusof.

SRS Consortium is a 60:20:20 joint venture among Gamuda, Loh Phoy Yen Holdings Sdn Bhd and Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd.

When SRS Consortium first signed a PDP agreement with the Penang government in 2015, its role as a PDP is to help the Penang government implement this economic stimulus growth project.

In recent years, the Penang government had expanded the project scope of the Penang Transport Master Plan to RM46 billion.

In formalising the latest plans, the Penang government will need to sign a new agreement with SRS Consortium.

When asked how soon the Penang government is likely to sign the new PDP agreement with SRS Consortium, Lin replied, “my guess is in the next few weeks.”

Last month, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow announced the federal government will issue guarantee to facilitate financing of the Penang Transport Master Plan.

Ownership of the planned three reclaimed islands will remain with the Penang government.

Penang’s economic growth of 8 per cent the early years of this last decade were largely contributed by the electronics and electrical sector, tourism and services industry.

This has slowed considerably to 4.7 per cent.

This is partly due to the lack of new sizeable lands for industrial development in Bayan Lepas area, small ad-hoc developments and congestion problems on the island.

Lin explained in the last 40 years, the Bayan Lepas FIZ (Free Industrial Zone), of which half was built on reclaimed land, has been Penang’s success story.

The existing electronics and electrical ecosystem there connects more than 480 tenants who are in the business of semi-conductor fabrication, components packing, assembly & design testing and development.

Penang South Islands, measuring 4,500 acres, is a catalytic project that will be the development model for Penang 2030’s objective of enhanced quality of life.

Lin explained the phasing of the Penang South Islands will be carried out sequentially for each of the three planned reclaimed islands. The development of Island A, measuring 2,300 acres, will be carried out across 10 years.

Two months ago, at the tabling of Budget 2020, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced the Cabinet had approved purchase of the four Klang Valley highways — Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Sprint Expressway (Sprint) and Smart Tunnel (Smart) for RM6.2 billion.

When asked on the sale of the tolled concessions which Gamuda has stakes in, Mohammed Rashdan replied “the ball is in Finance Ministry’s court.”

Lin added the government will have to first decide on the planned sale of the PLUS highway.

This is because on one hand, the government wants to sell PLUS to the private sector and on the other, they also want to buy four highways from the private sector.

“So, I think the government has to cross that bridge first,” he said.

Lin reiterated if the sale of the four tolled highways to the government materialises, Gamuda will make a one-off special dividend to shareholders.

“Part of it the sale proceeds of the tolled concessions will be dished out as special dividends to shareholders. That’s all we can say, for now. We don’t even have a deal signed with the government,” Lin said.

(NST) Malaysia's GDP is forecast at 4.3pct in 2020: Bank Islam

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow about 4.3 per cent next year driven by moderation in consumer spending and uncertainties in the global economy following the ongoing US China trade war.

However, higher deficit spending by the government of 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 from initial target of 3.0 per cent should provide a booster to the country’s economic growth.

Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the GDP’s growth would be underpinned by higher mega infrastructure development expenditure, which would translate into more activities in the construction, manufacturing and services sectors.

He said the GDP’s target would also be supported by stable income growth, fairly steady employment market and better access to credit, encouraging consumers to spend more.

“However, businesses are likely to be cautious as the outlook for the final demand looks increasingly challenging.

“We believe the central bank and the federal government might enact expansionary economic policies to cushion the impact from slower global growth,” he said at a press conference after presenting Economic Outlook 2020: The Way We See It here today.

Mohd Afzanizam said it is vital for the government to stimulate the economy by proceeding ahead with the planned major infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and High Speed Rail (HSR).

“In fact, the government can always find ways to fund the infrastructure projects through bond issuance like Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and Government Investment Issue (GII).

“These issuances have always been oversubscribed by foreign investors, banks, institutional investors, asset management companies and pension funds,” he added.

On the country’s nominal export growth, he said there might be a contraction of 1.5 per cent this year, followed by a growth between 1.8 per cent and 2.0 per cent next year.

“The global smartphone shipment has picked up by 0.8 per cent in the third-quarter of 2019. This was mainly driven by Huawei and Samsung smartphones production as well as the 5G network rollout which will be the catalyst for semiconductor growth going forward,” he said.

This would in turn spur Malaysia’s manufacturing for the electrical and electronic (E&E) sector as the country’s exports for smartphones components likely to increase.

However, local companies were not keen on increasing their capital expenditure as they prefer to utilise the existing capacities at their manufacturing facilities.

“Businesses have been complaining about their lacklustre sales performance and decline in domestic and external orders.

“Sentiments among the private sectors have been sluggish as consumers are plagued with rising cost of living and weaker current finances and stagnant growth employment,” he said.

On the local equity market performance, he said the construction, technology and energy sectors would likely boost Bursa Malaysia growth next year despite the massive foreign capital outflow.

The KLCI benchmark likely to reach 1,600 points this year and 1,650 points in 2020, Mohd Afzanizam said.

He also expected the banking sector to grow at a slower pace next year dragged by lower net interest margins and reduction in interest rate.

According to MIDF Research analyst Adam M Rahim, foreign investors have reduced exposure in the local stock market with RM9.9 billion in capital outflow as of November this year.

“KLCI was at 1668.11 points on January 2, 2019 and yesterday's (December 4, 2019) close was at 1560.93 points. About 107.18 points has dropped during the period under review,” he said.

On ringgit performance against the US dollar, Mohd Afzanizam said the local currency might linger between 4.2 and 4.3 against the greenback next year.

“This projection is based on the potential tariff enforcement by the US and China due to the ongoing trade war, which likely result in higher demand for safe-haven currencies such as US dollar and the Japanese Yen,” he said.

He said Malaysia has the ability to defend a potential recession on the back of stronger monetary and fiscal policies by the government.

“These measures are important for the government to spur local spending to keep the economy growing,” he said.

(NST) Leiking: Japan's halal market a big potential for Malaysia

KOBE: Despite its technological advancement, Japan continues to be a huge draw for foreign tourists as it provides a journey of discovery of its pristine nature and cultural resources.

Even some cities are bursting with natural beauty, with the solitary Mount Fuji – the country’s most iconic landmark – is definitely a magnificent sight to behold.

The Land of the Rising Sun is set to welcome 40 million foreign visitors for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

A vast influx of Muslim travellers during the Olympics from July 24 to Aug 9, 2020 is set to fuel a boom in halal and syariah-compliant foods and products, potentially a big market for Malaysian halal product producers to tap into.

These needs were asserted by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking during a trade and investment mission to Kobe which began on Nov 29 and ended today.

In his keynote address at a Seminar on Business Opportunities in Malaysia, which was organised in conjunction with the mission, Darell said halal industry is one of the most important sectors for Malaysia to explore together with Japan.

“With the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics 2020, Malaysia would like to collaborate with Japan in delivering a sustainable solution in halal matters through various angles such as logistics, data analytics, retail, certification, food distribution, and tourism for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and beyond,” he said.

He said one of the initiatives undertaken was the Export Acceleration Mission to Japan from Nov 4 to 8 by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and its trade promotion agency, the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), which was joined by 21 Malaysian companies.

“The mission was one of the initiatives planned under the Digital Trade Halal Value Chain initiative launched by MITI on Aug 15 this year,” he said.

According to MATRADE chief executive officer Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa, the Digital Halal Trade Value Chain initiative was aimed at delivering a sustainable solution for Malaysian companies to export their products to Japan.

“The initiative is also in line with Malaysia’s aim to become a Global Halal Economy Enabler for the Tokyo Olympics 2020,” he said.

He said Japan itself has indicated its interest to source for halal products and services to cater to Muslim tourists and athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.

“There is a potential of more than 140 million meals required at the Olympics’ Athletes Village and approximately 720 million halal meals to be prepared during the event,” he said.

He said given Malaysia’s close relationship with Japan and the strong credibility of Malaysian halal products and services attributed to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) halal certification, Malaysia is in a strong position to be the main provider of halal products during the Tokyo Olympics.

Besides expounding on the halal industry, Darell also took the opportunity during the trade and investment mission to call on Japanese investors to leverage Malaysia’s push for digital transformation.

He said with various initiatives undertaken and incentives offered, Malaysia is an attractive destination for Japanese investors to expand their investment either by directly establishing a business entity in the country or through partnership with local companies.

The minister said Japanese investors could also use Malaysia as their gateway to the lucrative ASEAN market.

“With a projected annual growth rate of over 5.5 per cent, ASEAN remains as one the most dynamic regions in the world and is forecast to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050,” he said.

He said with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN is envisaged as a community that promoted equitable access to opportunities for human development and closer economic integration.

Furthermore, he said the ‘significant conclusion’ of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) during the recent 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok would provide a major boost for a free and fair trade through growing opportunities for ASEAN and its trading partners.

The minister, hence, called for a closer collaboration between Malaysia and Japan in exploring opportunities ahead.

“Malaysia has much to offer when it comes to business and we always appreciate the presence of Japanese companies in Malaysia.

“Let us continue to work closely together to forge a stronger cooperation and work hand-in-hand to grow and prosper together,” he added.

In 2018, Japan is Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner, while Malaysia is Japan’s 14th largest trading partner with the bilateral trade between the two economies amounted to RM134.24 billion.

For the January-September period this year, the bilateral trade between Malaysia and Japan stood at RM95.59 billion. –BERNAMA

(The Star) Five sites marked for PPR

The Penang government has identified five plots of land to build the People’s Housing Project (PPR) in the state.

State local government, housing, town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the five plots, two on the island and three on the mainland totalling 29.2ha (72.3acres), had been earmarked for PPR.

The projects would be built in Jelutong, Bayan Baru (Jalan Mayang Pasir), Butterworth (Ujung Batu), Bukit Mertajam (Kampung Tongkang) and Batu Kawan.

Jagdeep said he had instructed the state housing department and Penang Corporation Development (PDC) to write an official letter to the Housing and Local Government Ministry, to request for part of the RM10bil allocation announced in the Budget 2020 to be used to fund the PPRs on the five plots of land.

“Although we know that PPR will be rebranded by the federal government, we still feel there are certain groups that cannot afford to buy their first house, ” he said during a press conference at PDC recently.

On PDC projects in the state, Jagdeep said there were some 20 projects with a total of 21,484 units of affordable housing which were ready for qualified buyers.

Of the total, 1,568 units have been built, 3,677 units are in various stages of construction and 16,239 units have already been approved for construction.

Of the seven projects comprising 3,677 units, three projects would be ready in the first quarter of next year.

He said the projects - Dua Residensi in Teluk Kumbar (694 units), Jiran Residensi in Kampung Jawa in Seberang Prai Tengah (707 units) and Kepala Gajah in Seberang Prai Selatan (41 units) were expected to be handed over to buyers.

Jagdeep said he had also instructed PDC to write to the ministry so that some funds could be allocated to assist Penangites to buy remaining units at PDC projects under the rent-to-own scheme.

“This is particularly to help those Penangites who fail to get loans from banks, ” he added.

He said in total, 102,335 of affordable house units including those under PDC projects had been initiated by the state government and also private developers who had come on board to build affordable housing in Penang.

“In addition, we are also targeting 180,000 homes to be built by 2030 which is in line with our Penang2030 vision, ” Jagdeep said.

(The Star) Luxury living in the highlands

Ever wanted a home away from home without having to travel far? Look no further as IBN Corp has officially launched IBN Highlands City, the first phase of the project.

This development in Genting Highlands is set to enhance tourism in the area.

A joint venture between IBN Corp and B&G Property, IBN Highlands City will redefine luxury living in Genting Highlands with a total built-up area of 8.4mil sq ft.

During the launch, IBN offered a promotional price for all 244 fully-furnished units of Tower 2 — with built-ups ranging from 753sq ft to 1,346sq ft.

Comprising 12 blocks of leasehold service apartments, luxury hotel and a commercial area, this mixed-use development is located in Genting Permai.

Sitting within the mountain range of Genting Highlands, one can be close to nature while enjoying spring-like weather all yearround.

Encapsulating the design concept of “Your Home, Your Resort”, this residential property includes an infinity pool with glass bottom, hanging garden in the sky and well-developed surrounding facilities and amenities.

Accompanying the launch was ‘Snowderland in the Sky Carnival’ where visitors were treated to fun games and activities — such as ice skating, a magic show, Elsa cosplay photo sessions and scrumptious street food served at the newly-launched Sky City Food Street.

Present was Pahang local government and housing committee chairman Abd Rahim Muda who was accompanied by Bentong Municipal Council chief Datuk Aida Munira Abdul Rafar.

In conjunction with the celebration, all buyers were guaranteed a brand-new Proton X70 with the purchase of each unit.

Also present was IBN Corp executive director Datuk Seri Michael Yang alongside its senior management team and Tourism Malaysia Corporate Communication Division senior director Iskandar Mirza Mohd Yusof.

“We see a huge potential for our project in the market due to its strategic location and high demand, ” said Yang who said response for the project was very encouraging.

“The chilly weather here and great accessibility to the surrounding facilities and amenities such as Highlands International Boarding School, Awana Golf Course and Genting Highlands Premium Outlets will provide you with an ideal vacation home that is second to none in Malaysia, ” he added.

Iskandar Mirza said Malaysia needed more tourism real estate developers like IBN Corp to initiate integrated developments, further enhancing the country’s tourism, real estate and overall economic growth.

“Genting Highlands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia which attracts more than 60,000 tourists daily.

“However, there is a limited number of hotel rooms available currently.

“I am very excited as IBN Highlands City will be able to provide additional homes and hotel rooms to cater to the continual increment of tourists in Genting, ” he added.

As the project ambassador, Malaysian-born celebrity Eric Moo also made a special appearance at the IBN Highlands City sales gallery.

For details on IBN Highlands City, call 03-6106 0666 or visit its sales gallery at Jalan Meranti, Genting Highlands, Pahang (Waze: IBN Highlands City).

(The Star) Direct flights begin from Ipoh to Guangzhou

Scanda Sky Ltd, which offers chartered flight services between Ipoh and Guangzhou, held a ceremony to mark the launch in China.

Among those present were Consul General of Malaysia in Guangzhou Beh Ching Chye and Perak Tourism Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing.

Scanda Sky executive chairman Tengku Faizwa Tengku Razif said they aim to provide a different level of service.

“We have ambassadors to assist passengers as we don’t want them to be stressed during their journey, ” she said in her speech.

Scanda Sky charters flight services from Malaysia Airlines, flying twice weekly from the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport to Guangzhou. The inaugural flight took off on Nov 27.

Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah had launched their website last month.

Tengku Faizwa told those present that Ipoh was among the top nine places to retire in the world.

“It is a small cosy city which is not crowded, with first world healthcare, ecotourism attractions and nice local food. Likewise, I hope more people would come to Guangzhou, ” she added.

Beijing Federation of Industry and Commerce vice-chairman Li Zhiqi said he was happy to be a part of the ceremony.

“It took 45 years for Ipoh to have flights to Guangzhou. I hope there will be more flights from Ipoh to other big cities in China, ” he said.

(The Star) Mah Sing set to launch sales gallery of M Luna

KUALA LUMPUR: Property developer, Mah Sing is set to launch a four-storey sales gallery for its second project of this year’s land acquisition, M Luna, on Dec 18 located in Taman Wayhu here.

M Luna sits on 5.47 acres of land next to the Kepong Metropolitan Park with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM705mil.

Mah Sing’s founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said the group would continue to focus on the affordable segment, with M Luna project indicatively priced from RM385,000 and an indicative built up from RM700 sq ft ranging from two to four bedrooms.

Affordable segment: An artist’s impression of the M Luna project which sits on 5.47 acres next to the Kepong Metropolitan Park.

“The new sales gallery will enable home seekers to understand M Luna’s unique quality offerings. We believe that M Luna will be able to garner positive response from the market driven by its unique quality offerings in all aspects including the project’s concept and design elements, ” he said.

M Luna will enable homeowners to experience the amazing Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve view.

The registration for the project is currently open and the public preview will take place concurrently with the launch of the sales gallery.

(The Star) Exports in October at 12-month high at RM90.59bil

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s exports in October hit a 12-month high at RM90.59bil boosted by higher exports of optical and scientific equipment despite a contraction in electrical and electronic (E&E) products.

According to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) report issued yesterday, exports fell by 6.7% year-on-year (y-o-y) from RM97.12bil in October 2018 due to high base effect.

“Higher exports were registered to Singapore, Taiwan, the US and Russian Federation while lower exports were recorded to Australia, China, Japan, Thailand and India, ” Miti said.

RAM Ratings had expected Malaysia’s exports to contract by 8.2% and imports to contract by 6.8% and in October, resulting in a trade surplus of RM14.4 bil.

A Bloomberg survey expected a 12.3% contraction in exports and 7% decline in imports.

Miti data showed exports of manufactured goods -- 85.8% of total exports -- contracted by 4.5% to RM77.76bil.

However, exports of optical and scientific equipment hit a new monthly record high of RM4.03bil, with a double digit expansion of 17.6% from October 2018.

Transport equipment as well as non-metallic mineral products exports also increasaed.

Exports of petroleum products, electrical and electronic (E&E) products, manufactures of metal and chemicals and chemical products declined.

Meanwhile, total imports in October 2019 fell by 8.7% to RM73.27bil from RM80.27bil in October 2018.

Miti said imports of intermediate goods, valued at RM37.52bil or 51.2% share of total imports, decreased by 5.1% on-year. Capital goods, valued at RM8.48bil or 11.6% of total imports, fell by 11.5% and consumption goods, valued at RM6.13bil or 8.4% of total imports, contracted by 5%.

Trade surplus rose by 2.8% to RM17.33bil from RM16.85bil a year ago.

MIDF Research said trade surplus of RM 17.3bil was the highest monthly surplus ever recorded.

“This came in despite a -6.7% y-o-y fall in export during the month with import declining at harder pace of -8.7% y-o-y.

The research house pointed exports to two world’s largest economies continued to deteriorate.

“Malaysia’s exports to China fell for the third straight months and recorded double digit fall in October. Exports to the US, although still positive but consistently moderating since June 2019.”

(The Star) IGB shares hit record-high for second day

PETALING JAYA: Shares of IGB Bhd, the developer of Mid Valley Megamall, touched a new all-time-high for the second consecutive day following the plan to dispose of its joint-venture (JV) firm in the United Kingdom.

The stock, which emerged as the biggest gainer on Bursa Malaysia yesterday, rose by 15.29% or 52 sen to RM3.92. About 485,900 shares changed hands.

Earlier on Dec 3, the share price also hit a record-high of RM3.40.

IGB announced on Dec 3 that its 50:50 JV company, Black Pearl Ltd, which owns a plot of freehold London land, will be sold for £235mil or RM1.27bil.

Verokey Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of IGB Corp Bhd, which in turn is wholly-owned by IGB, together with its partner Tower Ray Ltd, have signed a non-binding heads of terms to sell the entire stake in Black Pearl.

A sale and purchase agreement for the deal will be signed on a later date.

The IGB counter has been rallying for the past two weeks, up by 45.2% since Nov 21 and has added over RM830mil to its market value.

With a current market capitalisation of RM2.67bil, IGB is Malaysia’s seventh largest listed property player by market value.

Year-to-date, the stock has risen in value by over 58.06%.

The strong investor interest in the stock came about after IGB proposed on Nov 21 to undertake its second real estate investment trust (REIT) listing of its assets.

The property player said it plans to list its commercial REIT on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia by lumping its commercial assets located in Kuala Lumpur.

The properties include Menara IGB, Centrepoint South, Centrepoint North, The Gardens South Tower, The Gardens North Tower, Menara Southpoint excluding the residential units, Boulevard Offices (Blocks 25 and 27) in Mid Valley City, as well as Menara Tan & Tan and GTower on Jalan Tun Razak.

“The proposed REIT establishment and listing will allow IGB to unlock the value of its commercial property portfolio

“The proposed REIT establishment and listing will be subject to, amongst others, valuation of the subject properties to be conducted, finalisation of the structure, terms and conditions, the necessary approvals, waivers and/or consents from the relevant authorities and the approval of the shareholders of IGB, ” the group said in a stock exchange filing two weeks ago.

IGB listed its first REIT - IGB REIT - which is retail-based, in Sept 2012. IGB REIT owns the Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens Mall.

According to Bloomberg data, IGB is valued at 10.22 times, in terms of price-to-earnings (PE) ratio. In comparison, the median PE ratio for the Bursa Malaysia Property Index is 8.91 times.

Currently, only PublicInvest Research covers the IGB stock. The research firm recommends a “buy” rating, with a 12-month target price of RM4.70 per share.

(The Star) Rehda sees steady demand for residential properties

KUALA LUMPUR: The Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) sees steady demand for residential properties despite the current property market glut.

President Datuk Soam Heng Choon said it was a misconception that asking prices for residential properties had dropped.

“It’s not that it’s dropping, it’s moderating.

“For some properties that are in the outskirts, then there’s no choice and developers will have to drop prices, ” he told reporters following a media forum that was co-organised by insurance firm Allianz Malaysia and automated mobile platform, Speedhome.

“But in places where people still want to buy, I think the prices have moderated. I wouldn’t say it has come down, ” Soam reiterated.

He noted that total sales for the ongoing Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) hit RM21bil as at early November.

“So far, 28,000 units have been sold, comprising a mixture of landed and high-rise properties. Our target for the HOC is to hit RM24bil by year-end.

“With the level of sales secured under the campaign, it is clear that there’s still demand. The our median age in Malaysia is only 28.6, which is young. This age group definitely will need housing.

The six-month HOC, which is a collaboration between Rehda and the Housing and Local Government Ministry, was kicked off in January but was then extended to Dec 31.

Separately, Soam said it would be a while before the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) comes into force.

“We’ve had meetings and it’s being drafted.

“It’s not new, as a lot of countries have it.

“We just need to adapt it to suit us. This act will help protect both the tenant and the landlord. We expect the act to be enacted and fully implemented in two years.”

Meanwhile, the media forum yesterday featured speakers from both Allianz and Speedhome, who touched on the latest digital initiatives in the property and insurance markets. Since partnering in 2017, Allianz and Speedhome have provided homeowners with up to RM30mil in insurance protection.

Speedhome chief executive office Wong Whei Meng said the collaboration has seen more than 400,000 downloads through its online app. “In terms of transactions, we’ve achieved RM17mil in gross rental value so far, a number that we intend to double by the first half of next year, ” he said.

(The Star) Maybank IB prefers oil, banking, consumer stocks and REITs

KUALA LUMPUR: Maybank Investment Bank Research says it continues to adopt a broadly defensive investing strategy as the equity market continues to contend with multiple external and internal earnings headwinds.

The research house cited principally continuing trade uncertainties, as well as political and policy uncertainties, but this was notwithstanding the positive macro signals.

“Our 12-month FBM KLCI target of 1,700 is based on 16 times forward price-to-earnings ratio (PER), in line with historical mean, ” it said in its latest report.

Its biggest sector “overweights” are in oil and gas, banks, real estate investment trusts(REITS) and selected consumer stocks.

For the oil and gas (O&G) sector, with Budget 2020 containing no additional demands on Petroliam Nasional Bhd’s (Petronas) cashflow (recall in 2019 Petronas was required to pay the government a special dividend of RM30bil), the national O&G corporation’s second half 2019 capex step-up is on track.

Coupled with broadly rising activity levels (ie jobs) offshore, its O&G sector analyst has been raising earnings forecasts, valuations and ratings across the O&G services value chain.

The top sector picks are Yinson Holdings Bhd (FPSOs), Dialog Group Bhd (storage), Velesto Energy Bhd (drilling), Wah Seong Corp Bhd (pipelines, fabrication) and FAVELLE FAVCO BHD (crane manufacturing).

As for banks, while the revised expectation on the overnight policy rate (OPR) is prima facie positive for the banking sector given interest rate reductions are a drag on sector NIM, its banks analyst has already factored in another OPR reduction over the next 12 months.

This is in line with the expectations of the economics team i.e. while there is near-term NIM relief from delayed OPR reduction, it does not change the long-term forecasts.

Nonetheless, indicative macro resilience bodes well for asset quality, while ample system liquidity (liquidity coverage ratio is at a generous 144%, while loan-deposit ratio is at a comfortable 88%) alleviates pressure on funding costs, especially with system loans growth remaining weak (Oct: +3.7% year-on-year).

(The Star) Not right time for stronger ringgit

PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest comment on the ringgit has raised questions on whether a stronger ringgit is on the cards.

On Nov 30, Dr Mahathir hinted at resolving the weak ringgit trend, which he said was one of the reasons behind rising cost of living.

Economists, however, think that ringgit appreciation may not be a good idea at a time when the Malaysian economic growth is slowing down and fund outflows are high.

They believe the move towards a strong ringgit policy may likely turn counterproductive to the economy, especially if it was done artificially through Bank Negara’s market intervention.

While a stronger ringgit would reduce import costs such as food prices purchased from abroad, it will be a bane for the country’s exports, which have played a key role in supporting the slowing economy.

Speaking with StarBiz, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said that the prevailing ringgit value must be determined by the markets.

“Bank Negara would intermittently intervene in the foreign exchange market to smoothen the volatility. In that sense, the central bank has done its part.

“The rest would be left to market forces to decide and this will hinge upon on sentiments and confidence.

“If ringgit suddenly appreciates excessively in a short period of time, it will not be desirable to the economy, ” he said.

Meanwhile, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain said that a stronger ringgit will only lead to more fund outflows.

“Foreign investors will be able to make a better profit if they sell local equities or bonds when ringgit is stronger and repatriated the funds into their country. That will only worsen Malaysia’s fund flow conditions, ” he said.Foreign investors in the Malaysian equity universe have largely been net sellers, particularly post 14th general election.

According to MIDF Research, between January to November 2019, foreign funds have taken out RM9.93bil of local equities from Malaysia.

This represents about 85% of last year’s total foreign outflow of RM11.69bil.

Manokaran pointed out that the ringgit’s recent trend did not correlate with the global crude oil prices, contrary to previous historical trend.

“Previously, ringgit moves in tandem with the crude oil price. But now, despite the higher oil prices, the local currency is not strengthening.

“This could be due to the trust deficit of investors in the government, which is why foreign investors continue to exit the domestic capital markets, ” he said.

Manokaran also added that while Malaysia is seeing an increase in foreign direct investments, the “real impact” from these investments could be felt only in three to five years to come.

Economist Peck Boon Soon of RHB Research Institute was asked whether there is room for Bank Negara to utilise its reserves to support a stronger ringgit.

“This will not be a sustainable approach. The country’s reserves are not big enough for the central bank to strengthen the ringgit artificially for a prolonged period.“A more sustainable way is to improve the domestic economic fundamentals. The government’s approach to address the fiscal and debt position is in the right direction.

“However, we won’t be able to see the impact on ringgit immediately, ” said Peck, who opined that the local currency is undervalued.

His estimates showed that the ringgit should be valued at 3.95 against the US dollar, based on the real effective exchange rate.As of yesterday, the ringgit exchange rate weakened against the key currencies, falling 0.04% against the US dollar to 4.165 and lost 0.52% versus the pound sterling to 5.4503. Meanwhile, the ringgit eased 0.06% against the euro and Singapore dollar to 4.6304 and 3.061 respectively.

By end-2020, Peck however believes that the ringgit could strengthen to RM4.00 versus the US dollar.

This is to be led mainly by US dollar weakness, a continued surplus in the current account of the balance of payments as well as FDI inflows, while bond yield differentials remain in favour of Malaysia.

A strong local currency may not necessarily be positive for the local economy. In the case of Thailand, its Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has recently stated that the country should spend in US dollars in order to weaken its currency, the baht.

For context, the currency has experienced a sharp appreciation against the US dollar, making it the best performer in emerging markets.

The surge in baht has hurt exports and local tourism, amid a slowing economy.

(The Star) TODs need to be redefined

KUALA LUMPUR: Over the recent few years, many property stakeholders have jumped on to the transit-oriented development (TOD) bandwagon without giving it much afterthought. Property developers leveraged on TODs because such developments are excellent marketing tools as homebuyers and investors buy into the concept of being able to easily use public transportation as a means to get around.

However, the real purpose of TODs is to help cut down energy consumption and thus reduce pollution and carbon footprint.

“This aspect of TODs has been lost in translation,” said Veritas Design Group founder and group president and director David Mizan Hashim.

There seems to be a dispute over plot ratios and higher density rather than looking at how TODs can solve environmental issues and help to alleviate traffic problems by encouraging the use of public transportation, he said.

He said there appears to be a contradictory scenario where TODs are built with more parking bays to support the higher resident density.

“Why do you call it a TOD when you are still relying on cars? Increasing the number of car parks to match the density, that is not what a TOD is all about,” he said.

Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd principal Ng Yiek Seng said that “if you get the fundamentals wrong, you will always get them wrong”.

Strong political will, he added, is needed to push such developments in the right direction.

Veritas Design Group principal and sustainable director Syah Kamaruddin pointed out that one of the main emphases of TODs is to build sustainable communities.

“We should look at low carbon communities where people can work, live and play within the same environment,” he said.

Ng said town planners and the local government need to look at each MRT or LRT station and analyse what is needed there to ensure sustainability.

“For example, you cannot have a hospital at every station as that is not sustainable,” he said.

Essential services that require a bigger population to sustain can be spread out so that people can have medical access three or four stops away.

“If you have good urban mobility, you don’t need to move around so much on any kind of transportation because you can walk anywhere – to work, to the shops, to the hospital and to school,” said David.

“That is the biggest impact that TODs will have and it is on reducing pollution and carbon footprint.”

One of the issues with TODs is the loose application of its definition and developers and stakeholders have taken advantage of this, according to David.

“Let’s take the MRT and LRT stations in Central Market. Does this make Central Market a TOD?

“No new building has been built but the availability of the MRT and LRT has created a certain uplifting of the whole area. It’s a kind of TOD but it only came afterwards.

“Have they benefited from it? Of course, they have,” he said.

The recently completed Penang Sentral completes the meaning of a TOD, which has connectivity and businesses around the hub.

Another good example is Ativo Suites in Damansara Avenue in Bandar Sri Damansara here, which is due to be completed soon.

He noted that both projects are undertaken by Veritas.

(The Star) More HK folk buying property

GEORGE TOWN: Hong Kong house buyers are looking around in Penang.

“Hong Kong people buying properties in Penang is not something new. But the number has definitely accelerated now,” said International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) Malaysia president Michael Geh.

“For the past five years, there had been quite a number of retired bankers and semi-retired professionals who came and stayed in Penang,” he said.

These Hong Kong residents, he added, would opt for properties priced between RM1mil and RM2.5mil.

Geh said Penang had always been popular for Hong Kongers as it is just a two-and-a-half-hour flight away. “There are daily flights from Penang to Hong Kong and vice versa. They can even plan for a ‘one-day trip’ if they want, as it is very convenient to travel between both places.”

He also said the cost of living in Penang is lower.

On Tuesday, the South China Morning Post reported from a survey that showed “Hong Kong has lost its preferred status among the world’s expats” due to soaring flat prices, high cost of living and long working hours, before the protests began.

The survey by InterNations ranked Taipei as the best city for expats, followed by Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City.

The simple life: Homebuyers from Hong Kong are looking at Penang for second homes or retirement.

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) Penang chairman Datuk Toh Chin Leong said the “unbeatable” property prices here was also one of the main draws for Hong Kongers.

“Landed properties in Hong Kong cost around RM10mil. Just consider the amount of money they can save if they buy a property in Penang,” he said.

With RM10mil, he said a buyer could get a luxury unit for RM2mil here and keep the balance of RM8mil in fixed deposit.

“Buying properties in Penang is a retirement plan for them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.

“Another draw to our island is the presence of international schools, the delicious food and sandy beaches which are quite similar to Hong Kong.

Even for the less well-off, Toh said prices here were still unmatched for those wishing to take up the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) plan.

Several Hong Kong stars are already accepted by the locals here as “semi-Penangites”.

According to China Press, they included TVB actors Hugo Ng, Dickson Lee and Philip Keung.

Ng, 60, recently moved to Penang with his actress wife Lily Chung, 55. Apparently, Chung was not too fond of the cooler temperatures in Hong Kong.

The couple rented a 4,000 sq ft condominium unit in Tanjung Bungah overlooking the sea. They would return to Hong Kong for work occasionally.

“The monthly rent here is RM8,500. In Hong Kong, with the same rent, I would only get a house that is 400 sq ft,” he was quoted as saying.

And he liked the food as well.

“My wife loves nasi lemak. She loves roti canai, too, and can eat that for breakfast and dinner. I prefer half-boiled eggs with toast and kopi-O,” he said.

However, he made clear that his decision to relocate to Penang had nothing to do with what was happening in Hong Kong, saying that it was purely a coincidence.

As for Lee, he decided to move to Penang after coming here for a holiday last year.

According to the China Press report, Lee had hurt his legs in an accident last year and decided to visit Penang with his wife while recuperating.

“I had not been to Penang before this and once I set foot on the island, I fell in love with it. The lifestyle here is simple and it’s like Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s.”

“I applied for MM2H and moved here in October last year,” he added.

“The people here are very nice and helpful. I enjoy the simple life here.”