Regional Notes 2018.05.18

Japan seeks private sector’s help with blowout health costs

Faced with an aging crisis that’s projected to push up heath-care spending by more than 50 percent in the decade through 2025, the economy ministry is leading efforts for local governments to draw on the expertise of private companies.

The focus in Japan is preventive medicine, which could in time cut trillions of yen from government spending, according to Shinichiro Okazaki, an official overseeing the effort at the economy ministry in Tokyo. The nation’s annual health-care spending is forecast to reach 54 trillion yen ($500 billion) in 2025, according to the health ministry.


Short-term transitional issues expected in shift back to SST

“GST as you know covers everyone, retailers and traders. On the other hand, sales tax only covers manufacturers while services tax covers certain prescribed services such as professional services, so there must be a thought process on the transition to SST. Also there are still GST issues hanging around such as liabilities to be settled, so having transitional rules in place is going to be a challenge, and it is not something that can be done overnight.”

Meanwhile, there is the issue of how the government would make up for the shortfall in revenue with the abolishment of GST. Last year alone, some RM44 billion was collected in GST revenue. SST, according to chairman of the board of trustees of the Malaysian Tax Research Foundation SM Thanneermalai, used to only contribute about RM17 billion to the government’s coffers before GST came into force on April 1, 2015.

“That, to some extent, resulted in discontent for many, particularly in the B40 group, who were not previously taxpayers from the outset. Despite the fact that there are a multitude of exempt and zero-rated items, GST still translates into a significant amount for the B40 through its impact on prices, so the abolishment is most certainly a boon for this group of Malaysians. But it is left to be determined if the abolishment of GST will result in retail prices being adjusted downwards and in what manner and form.”


Malaysia sees favorable growth outlook as policy risks mount

The government must still outline how it will raise enough revenue to fill the GST gap in order to keep the budget deficit under control. The Finance Ministry said on Thursday the move will be “cushioned by specific revenue and expenditures that shall be announced soon,” with plans also to re-introduce a sales-and-services tax.

A revenue squeeze may prompt the government to cut back on spending, while a review of infrastructure projects could put a halt on construction, curbing growth in the economy. “It’s encouraging to see that the new government is already taking action to try and rationalize unnecessary and unproductive government expenditure,” said Goh. “We think that would actually help in keeping the fiscal balance in check.”

The gridlocked streets of Manila have become the latest battleground for Grab, despite the fact that it controls more than 90 percent of the ride-hailing market in the Philippines. With just 35,000 vehicles on its app to service as many as 600,000 requests a day, Grab has struggled to keep up with demand in areas like Manila, where an estimated 19 percent of commuters use ride-hailing, nearly double the average in other Southeast Asian capitals, according to Boston Consulting Group Inc. The challenge has created an opening for startups like Hype Transport Systems Inc. and Ipara Technologies and Solutions Inc., both of which plan to start services this month.

A Saudi-backed Asia refinery is going to be a fuel juggernaut

“The immediate impact from RAPID will lead to more Malaysian exports of diesel and jet fuel, while also reducing the need to import as much gasoline,” said Joe Willis, a senior research analyst for refining and oil products at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Singapore. “For middle distillates, Johor is conveniently located next to the Singapore storage hub.”

The RAPID project, operated by Malaysia’s state-owned Petroliam Nasional Bhd, known as Petronas, is due to start operations in 2019 with 300,000 barrels a day of crude-processing capacity. That’s a massive increase for the Southeast Asian country, which has a total 660,000 barrels of daily capacity now, according to Willis.

Still, Chin is hopeful the overall impact will be limited in the long-run. When RAPID reaches full utilization in early 2020, Asian refiners will be scrambling to meet a bump in appetite for the fuel as maritime rules that start in 2020 push shippers to replace dirtier fuels with cleaner ones like diesel, Chin said.

“With new mega refineries starting up in China and Saudi Arabia by the first quarter next year, there could be a brief window of weakness in diesel cracks before IMO effects kick in,” he said, referring to the upcoming maritime regulations to be implemented by the International Maritime Organization.


Willowglen sees challenging year ahead

“This year, I am not too sure, it could be quite a testing year. We should be all right in the longer term, [but] in the immediate term, there [could be] not much improvement compared [with] last year, it could be even worse.” This is due mainly to issues in project execution and delaying of awards from clients who are still resolving technical issues, especially those that are infrastructure-related.

While more than 70% of its revenue was contributed by its primary market of Singapore, with the balance coming from Malaysia, the group said it will continue its exploration of business opportunities elsewhere, especially in Vietnam, where it commenced operations a year ago. He assured that the group will not exit the Indonesian market — where it is involved in trading as well as the provision of hardware and software consulting services — but instead work on restrategising operations there to improve efficiency.

Regional Notes 2018.04.27

Grab’s acquisition of Uber Southeast Asia drives into problems

Go-Jek won’t, of course, take all the Uber alums, but these conditions certainly put it in a good position to cherry pick critical new hires to fill out its business outside of Indonesia. Other Grab rivals, including well-funded logistics startup NinjaVan, food delivery companies Deliveroo and FoodPanda, bike-sharing startups, and even the likes of Facebook, WeWork, Google and Netflix are understood to have hastily arranged interviews with Uber’s departing Southeast Asia staff in a bid to suck up new talent. That’s precisely the scenario that Grab is trying to avoid.

Integrating the ‘unbanked’ into a cashless society

In Malaysia, the population of the unbanked stood at 8% or two million of the country’s 24 million adults, according to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in its Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2017. While this may seem small in comparison to regional neighbours such as Indonesia and the Philippines whose unbanked make up more than half the population, there is still a need to address this segment if Malaysia aims to be a full-fledged cashless society.

Lotte Chemical Titan sees no margin pressure ahead

“Our business is a margin game. As long as there is demand coupled with a limited supply, our margin will be maintained. Currently, there is limited supply capacity, and there are no new plants coming on stream until 2019.”

The group is looking to build a naptha cracker with a capacity of one million tonnes, next to its existing plant in Merak, Cilegon, Banten province of Indonesia. The mega project, estimated to cost between US$3 billion and US$4 billion, will take about three to four years to complete. Indonesia remains a crucial market for the group, as it is a net importer of petrochemicals backed by a huge population of nearly 300 million.

“When we sell in Indonesia and Malaysia, we enjoy a slight premium over international prices. [So] we are looking at duplicating our Malaysian facilities in Indonesia, and increasing the capacity as well.”


Hap Seng to buy Mercedes’ commercial vehicle business

Hap Seng said it and MBM will jointly undertake a stock take in respect of the fixed and current assets to determine the final purchase consideration. The group opines that the proposed acquisition will enable it to participate in the wholesale distribution of Mercedes-Benz and Fuso commercial vehicles in a growing domestic market.

On completion, Hap Seng Trucks will be responsible for handling the import, assembly, wholesale distribution and after-sales services of Mercedes-Benz and Fuso commercial vehicles in Malaysia. However, the business transfer is conditional upon Hap Seng obtaining the licence to import complete knocked down components from the international trade and industry ministry, which is required to carry on the business.


Nestle Malaysia hopeful to achieve RM400m sales from new products in 2018

Last year, the food and beverage manufacturer’s new products launches contributed about RM380 million sales. Hofbauer pointed out the company’s sales target contribution from new products would derived about 10 per cent of its domestic sales. Hofbauer said Nestle will also be allocating RM180 million in capital expenditures to grow its culinary and confectionery products as well as to enhance infrastructure manufacturing.

Currently, domestic consumption contributes about 80 per cent of Nestle Malaysia’s sales, while remaining 20 per cent for export market. “We export to over 50 countries including in the Middle East and South East Asia to Nestle’s affiliates,” he said, noting that the export value constitutes about RM1 billion. Nestle Malaysia manufactures and markets more than 500 halal products and the country is the biggest Halal producer for Nestle.


PetDag upgrading petrol stations and opening 15 new stations

The company, which has a capital expenditure of RM300mil for the year, has seen its previous and ongoing promotions boost fuel and non-fuel sales, with its retail segment continuing to be its highest revenue contributor.

“We have the largest network in Malaysia today with about 1,045 stations. The key focus for us will not be to grow the network much, although we are looking at opening 10 to 15 new stations. We are focusing more on upgrading our existing stations and particularly our convenience stores to boost sales. In 2017 and moving into 2018, we already have initiatives to assist dealers face the challenging market. We are revising the licence fee, providing better royalty programmes and offering better sales incentives for our dealers.”

“The volatility (in crude oil and pump prices) impacts working capital and gains or losses on inventory. To manage this, we are pushing for ultimate efficiency in managing inventory – our inventory holding days are now between four and four-and-a-half days.”

In the commercial segment, the company holds about a 70% share of Malaysia’s aviation jet fuel market, and recently secured deals with three more international airlines.

Intraday short selling measures claims first victim – Unisem

“To a certain extent, perhaps IDSS would exaggerate the downward pressure on stocks, but it won’t be severe. Regulated short selling (RSS) has already been in the Malaysian market for a while. In the latest measure, Bursa Malaysia further allows the PDT to do IDSS, which simply means they need to close out their positions within the day.”

RSS involves borrowing shares of a company’s stock and selling it with the hope it can be bought back at a later date at a lower value. Meanwhile, naked short selling involves betting that the stock will go down in price without actually borrowing the stock or finding out if there is available stock to borrow in order to short it. This can cause further volatility or leave a stock open to manipulation. RSS was banned in Malaysia in September 1997, but was reintroduced in 2007. Investors can participate in RSS so long as they have a stock borrowing and lending agreement approved by the Securities Commission.

Curated Insights 2018.04.08

The most important self-driving car announcement yet

The company’s autonomous vehicles have driven 5 million miles since Alphabet began the program back in 2009. The first million miles took roughly six years. The next million took about a year. The third million took less than eight months. The fourth million took six months. And the fifth million took just under three months. Today, that suggests a rate on the order of 10,000 miles per day. If Waymo hits their marks, they’ll be driving at a rate that’s three orders of magnitude faster in 2020. We’re talking about covering each million miles in hours.

But the qualitative impact will be even bigger. Right now, maybe 10,000 or 20,000 people have ever ridden in a self-driving car, in any context. Far fewer have been in a vehicle that is truly absent a driver. Up to a million people could have that experience every day in 2020.

2020 is not some distant number. It’s hardly even a projection. By laying out this time line yesterday, Waymo is telling the world: Get ready, this is really happening. This is autonomous driving at scale, and not in five years or 10 years or 50 years, but in two years or less.


Facebook, big brother and China

Whether users are OK with this is a personal judgment they make, or at least should be making, when using the services. In open and democratic societies, perhaps users are less worried about what large corporations, who can be secretly compelled to hand over data to the state, know about them. Users are protected by the rule of law, after all. If they are going to see advertising in exchange for content, storage and functionality, then they would rather see relevant than irrelevant advertising alongside their web pages, emails, photos, videos and other files. Most citizens are not criminals and not concerned about what the state knows – they just want to share their holiday photos and chat with each other and in groups via a convenient platform, knowing that Facebook can mine and exploit their data.

But in authoritarian states such as China which control what their citizens can see and which lack a reliable rule of law, such networks pose a bigger threat. Tencent, for example, with its billion active accounts, knows the social graph of China, who your friends and associates are, where you go, what you spend (if you use their payment app) and what you say to each other and in groups on the censored chat platform. Similarly Sina Weibo. The state security apparatus has access to all of this on demand, as well of course as access to data from the mobile phone operators. So even if you stay off the Tencent grid, if you use the phone network then the state will know a lot about anyone you call who is a user of these platforms, as well as being able to profile you based on your repeated common location with other users. All of this data is likely to be accessible to the state in China’s forthcoming Orwellian Social Credit System, a combination of credit rating with mass surveillance. Knowledge is power. No wonder then that China won’t allow Facebook into the game.

Nvidia announces a new chip… But it’s not a GPU

The new chip, NVSwitch, is a communication switch that allows multiple GPUs to work in concert at extremely high speeds. The NVSwitch will enable many GPUs – currently 16 but potentially many more – to work together. The NVSwitch will distance Nvidia from the dozen or so companies developing competing AI (artificial intelligence) chips. While most are focused on their first chips, Nvidia is building out highly scalable AI systems which will be difficult to dislodge.


Nvidia: One analyst thinks it’s decimating rivals in A.I. chips

[Nvidia CEO] Jen-Hsun [Huang] is very clever in that he sets the level of performance that is near impossible for people to keep up with. It’s classic Nvidia — they go to the limits of what they can possibly do in terms of process and systems that integrate memory and clever switch technology and software and they go at a pace that makes it impossible at this stage of the game for anyone to compete.

Everyone has to ask, Where do I need to be in process technology and in performance to be competitive with Nvidia in 2019. And do I have a follow-on product in 2020? That’s tough enough. Add to that the problem of compatibility you will have to have with 10 to 20 frameworks [for machine learning.] The only reason Nvidia has such an advantage is that they made the investment in CUDA [Nvidia’s software tools].

A lot of the announcements at GTC were not about silicon, they were about a platform. It was about things such as taking memory [chips] and putting it on top of Volta [Nvidia’s processor], and adding to that a switch function. They are taking the game to a higher level, and probably hurting some of the system-level guys. Jen-Hsun is making it a bigger game.

Nervana’s first chip didn’t work, they had to go back to the drawing board. It was supposed to go into production one or two quarters ago, and then they [Intel] said, ‘We have decided to just use the Nervana 1 chip for prototyping, and the actual production chip will be a second version.’ People aren’t parsing what that really means. It means it didn’t work! Next year, if Nervana 2 doesn’t happen, they’ll go back and do a Nervana 3.


Apple plans to use its own chips in Macs from 2020, replacing Intel

Apple’s decision to switch away from Intel in PC’s wouldn’t have a major impact on the chipmaker’s earnings because sales to the iPhone maker only constitute a small amount of its total. A bigger concern would be if this represents part of a wider trend of big customers moving to designing their own components, he said.

Apple’s custom processors have been recently manufactured principally by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. Its decision may signal confidence that TSMC and other suppliers such as Samsung Electronics Co. have closed the gap on Intel’s manufacturing lead and can produce processors that are just as powerful.

Live Nation rules music ticketing, some say with threats

Ticket prices are at record highs. Service fees are far from reduced. And Ticketmaster, part of the Live Nation empire, still tickets 80 of the top 100 arenas in the country. No other company has more than a handful. No competitor has risen to challenge its pre-eminence. It operates more than 200 venues worldwide. It promoted some 30,000 shows around the world last year and sold 500 million tickets.

Though the price of tickets has soared, that trajectory predates the merger and is driven by many factors, including artists’ reliance on touring income as record sales have plummeted.

Live Nation typically locks up much of the best talent by offering generous advances to artists and giving them a huge percentage of the ticket revenue from the door. Why? Because it can afford to. It has so many other related revenue streams on which to draw: sponsorships for the tour, concessions at venues, and, most of all, ticket fees. The fees supply about half of Live Nation’s earnings, according to company reports.

Critics say enforcement of the consent decree has been complicated by what they call its ambiguous language. Though it forbids Live Nation from forcing a client to buy both its talent and ticketing, the agreement lets the company “bundle” its services “in any combination.” So Live Nation is barred from punishing an arena by, say, steering a star like Drake to appear at a rival stop down the road. But it’s also allowed, under the agreement, to redirect a concert if it can defend the decision as sound business.

Roku’s business is not what you think

That’s far from the only ad inventory Roku has access to. The Roku Channel offers free-to-watch popular movies, which Roku sells ad time against. Many of Roku’s “free” channels are ad supported, with Roku having access to all or some of the ad time on many of those channels (not all of them).

While selling ads is the biggest piece of the company’s Platform business, there are some auxiliary sales as well. See those Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, YouTube, etc. buttons on your Roku remote? The company was paid to put them there. Additionally, some TV brands have licensed the right to include Roku OS right into their television set, another source of revenue.

All told, Platform revenue is 44% of total sales, and growing rapidly. In fact, it more than doubled in 2017, and has increased more than 3-fold over the past 2 years. Even better, Platform revenue carries a gross margin near 75%, meaning that already it makes up 85% of Roku’s gross profitability. Completing the trifecta of good news, Platform sales are far more recurring and reliable in nature than hardware sales, giving the company a firmer footing from which to expand their business. Bottom line here? Roku is not really a commodity hardware maker. It is more of a consumer digital video advertising platform.

There is no shortage of ways to get streaming content. And all of them are fighting tooth-and-nail for users. Google and Amazon practically give away their devices to get users into their ecosystem. Against that lineup, it really has very few competitive advantages. There is no meaningful lock-in to the platform. It is really quite simple and painless for a consumer to switch from a Roku to a competing offering. Getting new customers is even more of a dog fight.

Netflix makes up over 30% of streaming hours through Roku’s platform, but the channel provides essentially no revenue back. Same for Amazon, Hulu, and the most popular ad-supported video network in the world, YouTube. Roku relies on monetizing Roku Channel and other, less prominent content channels. However, there is nothing stopping those other channels from switching to a different ad provider, or (if they are large enough), building out their own.


Alibaba is preparing to invest in Grab

Alibaba leaned heavily on its long-time ally SoftBank — an early backer of Tokopedia and Grab — to get the Tokopedia deal ahead of Tencent. That’s despite Tokopedia’s own founders’ preference for Tencent due to Alibaba’s ownership of Lazada, an e-commerce rival to Tokopedia. SoftBank, however, forced the deal through. “It was literally SoftBank against every other investor,” a separate source with knowledge of negotiations told TechCrunch. Ultimately, Alibaba was successful and it led a $1.1 billion investment in Tokopedia in August which did not include Tencent.

CRISPR recorder

While the Cas9 protein is involved in cutting and correcting DNA, the Cas4 protein is part of the process that creates DNA and genetic memory. CRISPR evolved from a bacterial immune defense system in which bacteria destroy viral invaders. Now we are beginning to understand how bacteria detect the invaders and remember the encounters. With Cas4, bacteria can record these encounters in their DNA, creating a permanent ledger of historical events.

Our understanding of Cas4 is rudimentary, but its potential applications are provocative. Not only will it timestamp key events, but it should be able to monitor how an individual’s body works and how it reacts to different kinds of bacteria. A Cas4 tool should be able to fight antibiotic resistance, an important use case addressing a significant unmet need.

How do wars affect stock prices?

Our research is not alone in reaching this conclusion. A 2013 study of US equity markets found that in the month after the US enters conflict, the Dow Jones has risen, on average, by 4.0 percent—3.2 percent more than the average of all months since 1983. A 2017 study found that volatility also dropped to lower levels immediately following the commencement of hostilities relative to the build-up to conflict. During the four major wars of the last century (World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the First Gulf War), for instance, large-cap US equities proved 33 percent less volatile while small-cap stocks proved 26 percent less volatile. Similarly, FTSE All Share and FTSE 100 volatility has historically fallen by 19 and 25 percent over one- and three-month horizons following the outbreak of conflict.

Regression to lumpy returns

Missing a bull can be even more detrimental than taking part in a bear. Following the two huge bear markets we’ve experienced this century, many investors decided it was more important to protect on the downside than take part in the upside. Risk is a two-way street and I’m a huge proponent of risk management, but investors have taken this mindset too far. Missing out on huge bull market gains can set you back years in terms of performance numbers because you basically have to wait for another crash to occur, and then have the fortitude to buy back in at the right time. I have a hard time believing people who missed this bull market because they were sitting in cash will be able to put money to work when the next downturn strikes.


How to talk to people about money

In the last 50 years medical schools subtly shifted teaching away from treating disease and toward treating patients. That meant laying out of the odds of what was likely to work, then letting the patient decide the best path forward. This was partly driven by patient-protection laws, partly by Katz’s influential book, which argued that patients have wildly different views about what’s worth it in medicine, so their beliefs have to be taken into consideration.

There is no “right” treatment plan, even for patients who seem identical in every respect. People have different goals and different tolerance for side effects. So once the patient is fully informed, the only accurate treatment plan is, “Whatever you want to do.” Maximizing for how well they sleep at night, rather than the odds of “winning.”

Everyone giving investing advice – or even just sharing investing opinions – should keep top of mind how emotional money is and how different people are. If the appropriate path of cancer treatments isn’t universal, man, don’t pretend like your bond strategy is appropriate for everyone, even when it aligns with their time horizon and net worth.

The best way to talk to people about money is keeping the phrases, “What do you want to do?” or “Whatever works for you,” loaded and ready to fire. You can explain to other people the history of what works and what hasn’t while acknowledging their preference to sleep well at night over your definition of “winning.”

Regional Notes 2018.03.30

China’s push for tech self-sufficiency threatens Asia’s exporters

But at the same time, there’s been a spike in sales to China of precision metal working machines and equipment for making chips from firms like Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corp. With a Chinese state-backed fund gearing up to pour as much as $31.5 billion into homegrown semiconductor manufacturing, there’s potential for trade flows to start to shift.

Yet the direction is clear: Beijing is aiming higher and it has the resources to reach its destination. And that will mean difficulties for many companies around the region. “China, in a very short period of time, is rapidly going up the value chain,” said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow and trade specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, speaking from Taos, New Mexico. “They will produce the things that Korea and Japan are now producing, and Korean and Japanese firms have a big challenge to try to keep ahead on the technology.”


Uber pulls out of Southeast Asia, selling operation to rival Grab

The cease-fire marks a victory for Grab as well as SoftBank Group Corp., the biggest shareholder in both companies. Masayoshi Son’s firm is pushing to reduce competition in a Southeast Asian ride-hailing market forecast to reach $20.1 billion by 2025. Uber and Grab, together with two other SoftBank-backed ride-hailing firms — India’s Ola and China’s Didi Chuxing — provide about 45 million rides a day, according to SoftBank presentation material in February.


Regulators to ensure Grab-Uber deal will not erode competition

“We will ensure that no one single market player dominates the sector to the detriment of commuters and drivers,” an LTA spokesman said. The LTA added that it was reviewing a regulatory framework to license private-hire car operators “to keep the private-hire car and taxi industries open and contestable”.

The CCS said Singapore’s competition laws prohibit mergers that may result in a “substantial lessening of competition”, and indicated that it could “require the merger to be unwound or modified” to prevent an erosion of competition. It said it could also issue “interim measures” before it made up its mind.

The taxi company agreed in December to pay some $640 million for a 51 per cent stake in Uber’s Singapore rental car fleet. ComfortDelGro spokesman Tammy Tan said: “We are reviewing all aspects of the proposed tie-up with Uber Technologies, which is currently under review by the CCS.”

Pentamaster plans dividend in two years

“Currently, 50% of our exports go to mainland China, including to US-based multinational corporations located there. We expect the exports to rise to 60% in the near future. The business opportunity is great which is why we are expanding our facilities.”

“I think KWAP is seeing the potential in the future of technology we are in — 3D sensing. It is going to be used a lot in autonomous cars and electric vehicles. We have developed a 3D sensor testing capability to test the component that can be used in telco, automotive and smartphones.”

He said five years ago, PCB only focused on automotive handlers without test solutions, which “anyone could do”, so he built the handler with tester as a complete ecosystem to reduce competition.

“We are also looking to secure more IARM business from the US. We have secured a few now. This segment has a lot of growth potential because of Industry 4.0 where factories look to becoming fully automised. Our technical sales unit in Sunnyvale, US, would be able to discuss with clients regarding requests for quotations and proposals. Proximity to our clients is key, hence we see our US business growing. More so now with the US placing 30% tariff on raw materials which would make manufacturing in US expensive.”


US tariffs may hurt Malaysian technology firms

However, a report last Friday by Nomura highlighted US trade protectionism and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China as bigger risks to the Malaysian economy, as exports account for 71% of GDP. “We estimated Malaysia’s ultimate exposure to the US — including via intermediate goods to China for assembly into final products destined for the US — at 10% of GDP, about half of which is in electronics products,” the research house said, adding that another 8% is exposed to China’s final demand.


Minimal impact on M’sia from US tariffs

This is because Malaysia’s trade exposure to both China and the US accounted for 25% of its total trade, she said, pointing out that Malaysia was impacted by Washington’s earlier move to impose tariffs on solar panels.

Malaysia is the largest exporter of solar cells and panels to the US, accounting for 24% of total US imports of the products last year. Meanwhile, the country’s steel and aluminium exports to the US of US$300 million in 2016 accounted for only 1.8% of total exports to the US.

In 2017, China was Malaysia’s second-largest export destination, constituting 13.5% or RM126.2 billion of total exports, while the US was the third-largest export destination, accounting for 9.5% or RM88 billion of Malaysia’s total exports.

Bank Negara cautions of severe property market imbalances

“Such (the purchase of non-residential properties) financing accounted for 26.1% of banks’ exposures to the property market or 13.5% of banks’ total outstanding loans. End-financing for the purchase of shops accounted for the bulk (40%) of banks’ exposures to non-residential properties or 5.4% of banks’ total outstanding loans. Exposures (via end-financing) to the office space and shopping complex segments, where oversupply is particularly acute, accounted for 3.2% of banks’ total outstanding loans,” it said.

Based on Bank Negara’s analysis, the incoming supply of 38 million square feet of new office space in Klang Valley is expected to drive vacancy rates to an all-time high of 32% by 2021 (1997: 5.1%; historical high in 2001: 25.3%), far surpassing levels recorded during the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC).

The incoming supply of 140 new shopping complexes by 2021 across Klang Valley, Penang and Johor is expected to worsen the oversupply condition in this segment. In 2016, major states such as Penang, Klang Valley and Johor already had higher retail space per capita (10.5, 8.2 and 5.1 square feet per person, respectively) relative to regional cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore (3.6 and 1.5 square feet per person, respectively). This will continue to exert downward pressure on occupancy rates and rentals.


Malaysians’ income weighed down by low-wage foreign workers

“In Malaysia, our salaries and wages are low, as half of the working Malaysians earn less than RM1,700 per month and the average starting salary of a diploma graduate is only about RM350 above the minimum wage. The low-income segment of Malaysian households face many challenges with regard to their income level. Since 2014, the bottom 40% (B40) population’s income expanded by 5.8% on an annual basis. However, expenditure grew at a faster pace of 6%, reflecting the rising cost of living. It is high time to reform our labour market by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs for Malaysians,” he said at a media briefing after the release of the central bank’s 2017 annual report here yesterday.

From 2011 to 2017, the share of low-skilled jobs in Malaysia increased significantly to 16% compared with only 8% in the period of 2002 to 2010. Apart from that, local economic sectors that rely on foreign workers such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also suffer from low productivity.

Company Notes 2018.01.05

Malaysia mobile giant weighs $500 million tower IPO

Edotco raised $700 million in a private placement last year from investors including Axiata’s top shareholder, sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd., and government-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, according to an April statement. Malaysia’s second-biggest pension fund, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan), also invested in Edotco through the deal, which reduced Axiata’s stake to 62.4 percent.

Edotco was started in 2012. It owns more than 26,000 towers spread across Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Myanmar.


SCGM on track for expansion

“We take customer rapport very seriously; this is how we have managed to not just survive but thrive in a competitive world. In light of this, we do not simply increase prices merely to improve margins; rather, any price increases are carefully evaluated and justified by price hikes in costs beyond our control, such as resin costs.”

“We intend to increase our product range in the coming years. At present, we have only started producing biodegradeable lunchboxes, and aim to add on more items like bowls, plates and other common F&B-related items from next year.”

“The population is also increasingly mobile and need more convenient packaging. For example, in the past, thermoform lunchboxes were the only portable semi-rigid packaging. Today, thermoform is used for bento, soups, egg trays and a host of other items, replacing paper-based or glass packaging because of hygiene, cost and sustainability.”

Growing discord in Malaysia’s paddy industry

In its earlier incarnation in 1971 as Malaysia’s state-run rice board, Bernas was tasked with maintaining adequate rice supplies, keeping prices fair and stable for farmers and consumers, and improving the industry. It continued to shoulder these obligations after it was privatised in 1996 and became a for-profit company. Two decades later, however, farmers are up in arms over Bernas’ alleged failure to protect and promote the local industry, by favouring cheaper imported rice to bump up its own profits.

Rural voters – 400,000 farmers, with nearly 300,000 of them planting paddy – form 11.2 per cent of the country’s registered voters and have traditionally supported the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Many live in the states of Kedah, Perlis and Perak.

Malaysia produces about 2 million tonnes of rice annually, which is not enough to meet its own estimated annual consumption of 3 million tonnes. In 2016, it spent US$377.4 million (S$515 million) on 822,000 tonnes of rice to meet the shortfall, making it the 14th-largest rice importer globally.

BCG: Unlocking Cities–The impact of ridesharing in Southeast Asia and beyond

Solutions going forward should balance between further capital investments to expand capacity and initiatives to increase the efficiency of existing assets. Ridesharing is one way to significantly increase the utilisation of existing infrastructure. Three characteristics of the ridesharing model contribute to its potential as a cost-efficient part of the overall response to the growing demand for transport in Asia: (1) Flexible supply base utilising existing private vehicles, (2) dynamic routing with smart supply-demand matching, and (3) demand pooling.

Radiation risk in home construction materials

“Materials traced to natural materials like brick, mosaic, wallpaper, plastic or wooden flooring, granite or cement blocks… even toilet bowls, contain radioactive materials… There is no way for us to run away from them. The levels of radiation vary depending on the origin of the materials. For example, mosaic from Kerala, India, may have higher radiation levels than those from the domestic market because the earth in Kerala has higher natural background radiation. Exposure to radiation can have long-term, short-term or acute effects… We must be careful with the long-term effects because it can slowly kill us even though we may not realise it.”

“Different rays affect us differently. For example, although alpha rays can be blocked using things like a piece of paper, it could cause a lot more damage on a surface, compared with beta, which has smaller particles. Since alpha’s particles are bigger, they will affect a wider area when it enters the human body, including through wounds, inhalation or contaminated food. For example, if you knead dough directly on top of a chipped granite table top, you will not notice particles containing NORM attaching to it. When you consume it, these radioactive materials will enter your body… some might exit through the excretion process, but the rest will continuously emit rays that will kill your cells.”

“It is important for homes to have good ventilation. Open the windows, turn on the fan, as this will help remove the gases,” he said, adding that radon would remain in a confined area for four days before it dissipated. As these gases are continually produced, good air circulation will help channel them out of confined areas.

Company Notes 2017.07.28

Public Bank in a filing with Bursa Malaysia (and press release)

“The focus on the financing for the purchase of residential properties, passenger vehicles and lending to small and medium enterprises, has remained a market niche for the Group as it has maintained a large market share in these lending segments despite the still challenging lending market.”

“The Group’s funding and liquidity position has remained healthy with its net loan-to-deposit ratio standing at 93.6% as at the end of June 2017.”

In addition, Vietnam will continue to be on the Public Bank Group’s overseas expansion plan. With the 100% foreign-owned bank license obtained in 2016, the Group has further expanded its business through the opening of 2 new branches in the first half of 2017. As at to date, it has 9 branches and is planning to open 4 more branches in the near term.”


Globetronics in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…expects to see significant improvement in business and volume loadings from the mass production of new products from July 2017. The mass production of new products will enable the Group to register a strong recovery in its financial performance for the second half of the FY.

…will continue to focus on escalating up the value chain and riding on the R&D initiatives in new products design and development with our key customer. This initiative is expected to result in the manufacturing of additional new products in year 2017 and 2018.


Pensonic in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

On 28 November 2016, the Group successfully secured the distributorship for MYTV set-top-box (decoder) in anticipation of digitalisation of the Malaysian television broadcasting in 2018. By then, all households in Malaysia will require the decoders to receive television signals for continued access to Free-to-Air TV channels. This distributorship is anticipated to contribute to Group revenue in the shortto-medium term.


Sasbadi in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…aims to accomplish what we have set out to achieve by continuing to, among others, (i) leverage on our wide distribution network to improve effectiveness of product sales; (ii) expand our product offerings by leveraging on the intellectual properties across all subsidiaries; (iii) develop and introduce new print and online/digital educational products and materials to the market; (iv) grow the STEM education related offerings via Sasbadi Learning Solutions Sdn Bhd and its subsidiaries; (v) grow the direct sales/multi-level network marketing sales via Mindtech Education; (vi) explore opportunities for tenders under the Ministry of Education Malaysia; and (vii) explore collaboration opportunities for projects that leverage on the competitive strengths.


Bursa Malaysia Bhd in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…strong performance came on the back of increased trading activities across all segments. We are seeing renewed interest especially from foreign funds who, I am pleased to note, are continuing to return to Malaysia’s capital market since the start of the year.

…achieved many milestones in 1H2017. These include the revision to the Tick Rule on Regulated Short Selling and Securities Borrowing and Lending to create a more facilitative trading environment. The Exchange also launched the Mid and Small Cap Research Scheme (MidS) to elevate the profile of mid and small cap PLCs. The first half of the year also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Bursa Malaysia and the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The agreement allows both exchanges to explore potential ways to improve visibility and accessibility to market participants in Malaysia and China, reaffirming Bursa Malaysia’s status as the gateway for investors in the region.


Heineken Malaysia in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

“Our focus on growing the cider category is showing encouraging results, delivering double-digit growth in the first half. We are also proud of our latest innovation, Guinness Bright, which strengthens our winning portfolio and makes it even more exciting.”

Contraband remains a key industry concern with the continued influx, notably an increase in Peninsular Malaysia, representing a significant revenue loss to both the industry and the Government. The growing demand for contraband is a result of the large price gap between duty-paid and contraband products due to Malaysia’s excise structure, which ranks second highest in the world behind Norway and alongside Singapore.


Chin Tek Plantations in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Harvesting of newly mature fields in the oil palm plantation of the joint venture located in South Sumatera Province, Indonesia has been delayed due to unrest in the villages neighboring the estate. Commencement of harvesting is pending clearance by the relevant authorities. This has resulted in the joint venture suffering losses.


Tasek in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

…due to lower demand for cement in the domestic market and lower average net pricing for both cement and readymixed concrete.

The ready-mixed concrete pricing has been under pressure from the prolonged price competition in the cement market and the segment’s margin of contribution was further affected by higher cost of cartage from rising diesel cost…

…more challenging with the prolonged price competition for cement due to lower demand for cement and weak sentiment of the domestic property market. The demand for cement and ready-mixed concrete would largely be driven by demand from the infrastructure and large-scale property projects.


Pavilion REIT in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Total property operating expenses was higher mainly due to higher maintenance cost incurred as well as higher provision for doubtful debts.

Manager’s management fee was slightly higher despite lower net property income due to the increased in total asset value. Borrowing cost was higher due to drawdown of additional borrowings for acquisition of investment properties and working capital purposes.


New Hoong Fatt in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

PBT was lower mainly due to higher manufacturing and raw material costs, higher operating expenses and unfavourable impact from foreign exchange rates.

Amid a challenging operating environment where profit margins are impacted by rising raw material costs, the Group will continue to focus on driving business growth through expanding its product range and market expansion as well as further strengthening its cost efficiency programs.


Tenaga Nasional in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The increase in revenue was mainly attributed to the recoverability of the higher generation costs via the effective implementation of government approved Imbalance Cost Pass-Through (‘ICPT’) mechanism. The ICPT mechanism, a part of the wider regulatory reform called the Incentive Based Regulation (‘IBR’) allows for TNB to be financially neutral from any variations in generation costs and fuel prices.


Caring Pharmacy Group in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

The higher revenue was mainly contributed by the higher sales generated from existing outlets due to aggressive and extensive promotional campaign launched during FY2017.

During the quarter under review, we have established additional of 4 complex outlets, closed down 1 high street outlet and 1 specialty retail outlet. As of 31 May 2017, we have a total of 107 community pharmacies.


Kronologi Asia in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Demand for data backup is being driven by the proliferation of data such as emails, staff and business records, legal documents and more. Compliance with tighter regulations and business continuity requirements have led to the need for companies to safeguard their data more than ever before. As recent events have demonstrated, a safeguard against ransomware is also critical for business continuity.

Beyond the continuous efforts to build on the EDM business to meet the above demands, the Group is preparing to roll out its Transnational (cross border) backup solutions targeted for Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. As announced in June 2017, Kronologi has entered into a strategic collaboration with Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (“ST Electronics”) to expand in Hong Kong. This will be the second physical point of presence after Singapore for Kronologi, which is catering to the growing demand in Asia for data storage and protection solutions.


SWS Capital in a filing with Bursa Malaysia

Shortage of workers had resulted extra cost to the Group especially in the leather upholstery sofa division which is labour intensive. The leather upholstery sofa division has been recording a declining trend in gross profit margin. The Board notes these economic challenges and does not anticipate the predicament of the shortage of labour to be resolved rapidly in the near future. With the completion of the disposal of SWSISB, this will soften the issue of shortage of workers facing by the Group.

The management is in the process to increase in productivity and investment in technology, thereby reducing reliance on labour-intensive manufacturing practices especially in wood based division.

With the acquisition of ELE, the Group has been diversified to plastic manufacturing industry with a better prospect.

Kossan targets 2020 to complete automation overhaul

“Automation is the first thing we must work on before we can talk about big data or artificial intelligence. It (automation) is a key thing. Hence, we are working on the automation of our new plant while the old lines will be revamped to improve efficiency … the building of the new plant is not only for expansion but also for transformation. New features such as automation and computerisation will be in place. Our internal target is to complete the automation of our plants by 2020.”

With the new technology, Kossan became the first Malaysian glove manufacturer in the world to be granted the “low dermatitis potential” claim in gloves by the US Food & Drug Administration. The “low derma” gloves already contribute to about 10% of the group’s earnings, said Lim, who expects the figure to jump to over 30% in two years as the patented-technology gloves have a wider area of application.


AirAsia to list Indonesian, Philippine units by 1Q18

“That’s very much in progress. Indonesia is probably ahead of Philippines but both are going to be listed. This gives us the currency to look at combining into one AirAsia, which is my ultimate dream. I’ve highlighted to the market that AirAsia is not a company that takes short-term decisions, while the market was telling us to close down the Indonesia and Philippines units. We’re a company that takes a long-term view and we invest for the long term. Not for short-term quarterly profits.”


Malaysia Airlines: ‘China contribution to hit 20% in three years’

“I have never seen a potential in my life like there is from China to Malaysia. The market from China to Malaysia … I think people just don’t grasp the size of the opportunity for tourism in this country. It could easily double within the next six to seven years. I expect the China market to move from 8% to 9% of our business currently to about 20% in the next two to three years.”


Contractor’s pull-out flags mounting cost pressures

“We (big construction companies) were looking at the prices these guys were bidding and we were scratching our heads. Some were bidding as much as 30% lower than us! If they think they can do it at those sort of prices, we are more than happy to let them do it. For us, we rather focus on projects that can make money.”

“Without naming names, there are some parties out there that are looking for financing help to do these highway projects. They simply do not have the capacity to do such large projects. There are these so-called agents running around approaching other contractors, looking for help.”

“When your margin is low, you will try to squeeze your suppliers. In the case of these elevated highways, they will try and get better prices from the precast [concrete] boys. But the precast boys have enough work to do, MRT (mass rapid transit) 2, LRT (light rail transit) 3 are keeping them busy. No need to take the risk and prop up these low-margin projects.”


Grab raises US$2.5b in latest fundraising

Grab said it has a market share of 95% in third-party taxi-hailing and 71% in private vehicle hailing in Southeast Asia, and that the company will continue to strengthen its already-leading market position and invest in its proprietary mobile payment solution — GrabPay.

“We are delighted to deepen our strategic partnership with Didi and SoftBank. We’re encouraged that these two visionary companies share our optimism for the future of Southeast Asia and its on-demand transportation and payments markets, and recognise that Grab is ideally positioned to capitalise on the massive market opportunities.”


Touch ’n Go in mobile wallet venture with Ant Financial

“The collaboration will introduce a world-class e-wallet for Malaysians, and we plan to bring differentiated products for local users.”

The JV seeks to leverage TnG’s existing market presence in Malaysia, with up to 17 million cards in circulation and six million average transactions per day across multiple services such as toll roads, vehicle parking, public transportations and retail outlets.

“As long as CIMB and TnG are concerned, this will primarily be a Malaysian business. We do not have any plans to do this in the region.”


Single authority for property market

“If you look at Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) rate, the real affordable house, it has to be in the region of RM200,000 and below. That is the level where a first-time housebuyer will be able to get 90% or close to 100% financing, but the supply is not there. You talk to the private sector, their affordable house is RM500,000.”

“Today, you look at all the high-end properties in Kuala Lumpur at night, you can see only 10% of the total units have their lights on. I think this is an unproductive investment of our money in the economy.”