Business Times (Malaysia Finance/Economy News)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013, 12.53 AM
Updated: 36 weeks 3 days ago

Great Eastern in pole position, outperforms industry

Tue, 2.Oct.2012 - 1:22am
KUALA LUMPUR: Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Bhd recorded positive growth of eight per cent in total weighted new business premium for the first half of 2012, outperforming the industry and effectively keeping it at pole position. The steady growth was contributed mainly by its robust distribution channel with 17,000 agents as well as the bancassurance channel. Other significant drivers for growth included traditional and investment-linked sales that have grown by eight per cent respectively. Following its active recruitment effort, overall number of agents at Great Eastern had risen 27 per cent compared with the same period last year. The highest growth in brand new recruits to the agency force was in the Malay agents segment, at a significant 179 per cent increase year-on-year. "Agents' recruitment is crucial for sustainability and satisfying customers' needs, therefore Great Eastern places strong emphasis in not only growing the agency force, but also in developing highly professional and productive agents that can serve the customers well," Great Eastern director and chief executive officer Datuk Koh Yaw Hui said in a statement recently. Its efforts in agency force development includes an investment of around RM5 million, planned for the next three to nine months. This is to enhance the training and competencies covering training curriculum, quality recruitment and selection process, and agents' competency model and performance management system. Additionally, more than RM10 million will be invested in upgrading and refurbishing Great Eas-tern's existing Centre for Excellence at its head office over the next two years. Great Eastern expects stronger momentum in the second half, with continuous focus on protection-based products, particularly in medical and critical illness products. By year-end, Great Eastern will launch an annuity plan, which it claims to be markedly different to similar products in the market. Koh said the new product will become a natural "must-buy", particularly for the medium- to high-income bracket due to the tax exemption incentive.

Farmasia, Pro Bono Bio unveil gel for joint pain relief

Tue, 2.Oct.2012 - 12:52am
KUALA LUMPUR: Farmasia Sdn Bhd and Pro Bono Bio recently unveiled FLEXISEQ, which provides pain relief and improved mobility through cutting-edge nanotechnology. The companies said FLEXISEQ is a drug-free, topically applied gel, specially formulated to fight joint pain, in particular that associated with osteoarthritis. "FLEXISEQ contains a unique technology known as Sequessome TechnologyTM, which are nanostructures that cross through the skin after the gel's topical application. "On reaching the inside of the joint, the sequessomes help to lubricate the joint, reducing pain and increasing mobility," they said in a statement. The new technology was developed by Pro Bono Bio, an international healthcare company backed by British and Russian expertise and investment. The companies said in the short time since its introduction here in June 2012, FLEXISEQ has already been extensively used by leading orthopaedic specialists in both the government and private sectors. Dr Ozlan Izma, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, was one of the first medical practitioners in Malaysia to use FLEXISEQ gel on more than 20 patients. "FLEXISEQ is exciting as it can be used safely as a first line treatment to combat joint pains especially those associated with osteoarthritis," Dr Izma said in the statement. He said many patients will benefit as it is clinically proven to be as effective in reducing joint pain and enhancing joint mobility as many commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug medications. "There is no other product available on the market that is effective without the side effects," he said.

Young, wealthy and powerful

Tue, 2.Oct.2012 - 12:51am
MALAYSIANS who are young adults now will be the first generation to enjoy the benefits of a high-income economy come 2020, the country's second finance minister observed, referring to this emerging powerful lot as Malaysia's "baby boomers". Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, in his keynote address at the Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2012 here yesterday, highlighted that much like American baby boomers - a post-World War 2 generation of people born between 1946 and 1964 that today control 80 per cent of their nation's personal assets and more than half of its disposable income - Malaysian baby boomers will be the largest and wealthiest demographic category this country has ever had in about a decade. He noted that a census in the year 2010 revealed that one-third of Malaysia's population was between the ages of 15 and 29, born between 1980 and 1995. There was a decline in the birth rate after 2000. "In 10 years' time, this demographic bulge of Malaysian baby boomers will enjoy the benefits of a high-income economy. Their influence would be just as profound as their American counterparts," he said. Pointing out that it will be the baby boomers that determine the shape of the country's economy, society and politics for the next half-century, he voiced the concern as to whether they will maintain Malaysian values and ethics that have been passed down through the ages. "In those simpler days, whenever the government wanted to instill a value in the general public, all that required were a slogan, a number of posters and billboards and an upbeat song that were played over and over again by RTM. There was little competition. The government had practically all the space to itself," Husni recalled. He acknowledged that things are different now, with there being more "voices" in the public forum than before. While such campaigns are still relevant, their results are "inconsistent" and the government can no longer claim to be the single biggest determinant in shaping values. "The government has much to contend with. This new baby boom middle-class, with their expanded knowledge and higher confidence, will be the most vocal and the most cynical group of citizens, more so than any of their previous generations," he remarked.

Ong is CEO of Private Pension Administrator

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:55pm
KUALA LUMPUR: The Private Pension Administrator (PPA) has appointed Datuk Steve Ong Chong Gain as its chief executive officer with effect from today. Ong's appointment was made with the approval of the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC). Prior to his appointment, Ong was the chief executive officer of ING Funds Bhd, the company he was entrusted to start up in 2003. Ong, a certified financial planner and licensed fund management representative, has 30 years experience in the capital market industry. The PPA was established to administer, oversee and promote the growth and operation of the private retirement scheme (PRS) industry. The PRS is a voluntary long-term investment scheme to help individuals accumulate savings for retirement. The scheme was designed to complement the mandatory contributions made to the Employees Provident Fund.

Incentives to boost AgroSukuk lauded

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:54pm
KUALA LUMPUR: Bankers and industry players welcomed the government's plan to encourage the issuance of AgroSukuk. Under the budget, the expenses for such issuance will be given a double deduction for a period of four years effective 2012 to 2015. Bankers and industry players said this will help bolster the country's dominance in the global sukuk market. Maybank Investment Banking chief executive officer Tengku Datuk Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said the incentive will motivate agriculture-based enterprises to actively tap into the robust liquidity that the sukuk market offers. He said the sukuk market has proven to be an alternative source of funding and efficient capital creation which can translate into greater gains in overall productivity yield and output for Malaysia's agri-based sector. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the 2013 Budget announcement said the first seven months of this year, Malaysia continued to dominate sukuk issuance, accounting for 71 per cent or RM171 billion of the total global sukuk issuance. Maybank group president and CEO Datuk Seri Wahid Omar said the AgroSukuk incentive will boost sukuk issuances in the country consistent with the development of Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre. Meanwhile, CIMB Group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said the banking group looks forward to engaging with the Securities Commission as it finalises the AgroSukuk framework, "which in principle is a good idea". Standard Chartered managing director and CEO Osman Morad said issuance of AgroSukuk for the agriculture sector facilitates access to capital by these companies and provides investors with more choices. "Opening the plantation sector for sukuk issuance strengthens Malaysia's leadership in the sukuk market," he said. Head of the Islamic Ratings at RAM Ratings Zakariya Othman said the proposed AgroSukuk can "bring the genuine green revolution to an economy". "It is necessary for the growing network of Islamic financial institutions to cater to the rural areas of the country for their financial services," he said. Spire Research and Consulting CEO Leon Pereira commented that the new framework for the issuance of AgroSukuk and additional tax benefits for retail sukuk will stimulate the sukuk market where Malaysia is a world leader, strengthening the country's global position in the key area of Islamic finance.

UltraBac appoints Vanilla Applications

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:54pm
VANILLA Applications Sdn Bhd has announced that it is now the exclusive representative for UltraBac Software, the leading maker of back-up and disaster recovery software in Southeast Asia. UltraBac offers comprehensive file system back-up, image back-up, and bare metal disaster recovery for Microsoft Windows(R) servers and applications. The products were designed with simplicity in mind for implementation and use. UBDR Gold image back-up also provides its exclusive Continuous Image Protection, which maintains a fully recoverable image while recording changes to user's data as they happen in real time. The company said in a statement that the ability to bring Continuous Image Protection to its customers has triggered its interest in forming a partnership with UltraBac. "Our Continuous Image Protection (CIP) and bare metal disaster recovery software is particularly well-suited to the needs of small and medium sized enterprises in Southeast Asia," UltraBac Software CEO and founder Morgan Edwards. He said having Vanilla Applications as its Asean representative would ensure UltraBac partners and customers in Southeast Asia receive the same top-rated level of service and support as those do in other parts of the world. "The Vanilla team has many years of experience in managing operations for back-up software companies in the region ... we knew that UltraBac software is a great fit for companies in Southeast Asia," said Melina Hwang, co-founder of Vanilla Applications.

Entrepreneurship, Malaysian style

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:54pm
THEY say that each child is born on a white sheet of paper... it is how we colour the paper that shapes the child's character. Needless to say that the most appropriate time to instill good values in our children is always at an early and impressionable age, especially when we as parents wish to inculcate a habit or impart knowledge, such as educating our children on entrepreneurship. As we make our way towards achieving the country's aspiration of being a developed and a high income nation, baby boomers like me need to start embracing changes and adjusting to the demands of the Gen Y. Believe it or not, baby boomers like me have been drummed in our heads since our pre-school age about jobs and professions. At that time, our teachers and parents encouraged us to do well in our exams so that we can earn fat money as engineers, doctors, pilots and lawyers. During my school years, the word "entrepreneur" was hardly mentioned and believe you me, l don't think it was even regarded as a profession. Come to think of it, the word "entrepreneur" did not even appear in any of my spelling tests! Today as we evolve, entrepreneurship is a highly regarded profession. What used to be associated with the school leavers no longer is the case as many successful entrepreneurs that l know are graduates and PhD holders themselves. As we understand the effect of entrepreneurship on the dynamism of an economy, and the fact that the endogenous growth of any nation comes from domestic companies, today "entrepreneurship" has been given an elevated status as a profession. Entrepreneurship is no longer is a profession of the last resort, but a preferred one among many graduates. In fact, among Apec economies l observed start inculcation of entrepreneurship at a young age beginning in primary schools, especially in New Zealand, US and Australia. In fact, in the States, many organisations are dedicated to teaching entrepreneurial skills in schools which are becoming increasingly relevant in the job market and workplace. For me personally, it was a pleasant surprise when my youngest daughter in Primary Six last year went into the world of kidpreneur in school just before the end of the year school break. Armed with RM30 as capital to buy stickers and game cards, in addition to her sister's old handbags, shoes and jewellery, together Nazira and her other two "business partners" ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. Not only did the three young business partners made a handsome RM200 profit, they even "employed" two Standard Five students as salesgirls to mend their store as the goods they sold were attractive to the school kids and they had to keep on getting more stock. Meanwhile, to ensure that leaders like me communicate the right messages to the young, l myself have been invited to speak about entrepreneurship among secondary school children as well university students. To do this effectively and in more structured manner, Miti through SME Corp Malaysia collaborated with the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) when in 2008, we introduced the "SME-University Internship Programme". This programme, which was emulated from the model called Consulting-Based Learning for Asean SMEs (CoBLAS), enhances the synergistic relationship between universities as centres of excellence to the SMEs, with the government as a facilitator. Throughout the programme, undergraduates with the guidance from their lecturers and SME Corp Malaysia's Business Counsellors provide consultancy and advisory services to SMEs for them upgrade and improve their business operations. Coverage of advisory services includes management, branding, marketing, accounts as well as technical skills. This activity is also seen as a strategic approach in providing graduates with crucial on-the-job experience in an actual, real business world. Participating SMEs in the programme benefit from consultancy assistance provided by the students. The name of the game is to turn around the company within three months! The primary focus is to enhance the business performance of the company in various aspects of management, including to provide an expose of the best business practices and applications of technology. As SME Corp Malaysia's objective is to develop resilient and capable SMEs, this programme assists companies to enhance their capabilities as well as improve their efficiencies, especially the micro-sized SMEs. To date, the programme has attracted the participation of 15 public universities, involving 142 SMEs and 720 students. What's more interesting, in line with the government's aspiration to see more entrepreneurs bloom among our batch of graduates, this year SME Corp will organise the "SME-University Internship Challenge 2012" on October 9 at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. This inaugural event serves as a platform for universities that have participated in the 2011/2012 session to showcase their best teams that have been able to turn around companies and shown the best ROI results. This year, students from UKM, UPM, UTHM, UMP, UniMap, UUM,UiTM, UniSZA, UTEM, USM and USIM will put their best team forward to grab the title as the first winner of the "SME-University Internship Challenge" where the winning team will walk away with a trophy, a cash prize of RM 8,000 for the students and RM2,000 for the participating SME sponsored by Mydin, an iPad each as well as a Prosper Siswazah financing scheme with a maximum of RM50,000 by PUNB for the winner to kick-start their own business. So, as much as I am eager to listen and evaluate the student's presentation at this inaugral "SME-University Internship Challenge", I am also excited to congratulate the next new generation of young entrepreneurs.

More joint ventures in pipeline

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:54pm
PETROLIAM Nasional Bhd (Petronas) expects to announce by year-end several more joint-venture partners for the RM60 billion refinery and petrochemical integrated development (Rapid) project in Pengerang, Johor. This was disclosed by the vice-president and venture director for Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) Juniwati Rahmat Hussein. Currently, the national oil corporation has four partners which have confirmed their participation in the project. Juniwati said Petronas is now in the midst of selecting the potential partners and licensors for the various activities within Rapid. "Negotiations are running quite well with the potential partners. We hope by year-end, most major agreements would be agreed upon. "By July 2013, we have to decide whether we and the partners want to move ahead with the next phase of the project," she said in an interview with selected media here recently. To date, Petronas has signed Heads of Agreement with Germany's BASF, Japan's Itochu Corp, Thailand's PTT Global Chemical Public Co Ltd and Italy's Versalis SpA. "The rest have yet to pledge their commitment because the feasibility study is still ongoing. "But by end of this year, we hope to announce more than the current four partners," she said. To further develop and grow Malaysia's oil and gas industry, Petronas is undertaking the proposed 8,800ha-9,2000ha PIC project in Pengerang, of which the national oil corporation's portion is about 1,600ha. Apart from the Rapid project, the proposed PIC project scope includes re-gasification terminal, co-generation plant, and related infrastructures such as pipelines, tankages and logistics and warehousing facilities. Juniwati said currently the project is at the engineering stage and feasibility study and construction will only begin when Petronas and its partners have reached the final investment decisions by the middle of next year. However, she said, site preparations such as earth clearing and levelling of the land is expected to begin by next month and relocation of the affected villagers may probably start from March next year. "Under the Land Acquisition Act, they (affected villagers) have to move but when they move, it should be in a very orderly manner. Housing needs to be ready and compensation provided," she said, adding the Rapid project is important to the nation and must go ahead. On the spate of rallies and demonstrations on the PIC project, especially the Rapid project, Juniwati said Petronas, together with the Johor state government and its agencies as well as other investors are finding ways to resolve issues raised. "But it's difficult to understand what they are really opposing. If it's environment issues, all I can say is that Petronas has taken the necessary steps to ensure the building of plants and refineries are in accordance and comform to the health, safety and environment standards. "We are putting in place the adequate requirements needed to ensure less harm to the workers as well as surrounding communities," she said. "For this Rapid project, we have been very careful in our selection of partners and technologies. "We will look at the process design, types of chemicals used, the performance as well as experience of our potential partners. "When it comes to impact on the environment, 40 per cent of our selection is based on that," she said. But more importantly, she said, it should be noted that petrochemicals are used in everyday products. In this regard, she said, Petronas will go to the ground to explain and educate people on the importance and benefits of this project as well as measures that have been taken to ensure that safety, health and environment in the affected areas are protected. "But if it's land acquisition or compensation issues, then that is a separate matter altogether," she said.

RM1.5b MRT job awards soon

Sun, 30.Sep.2012 - 11:53pm
MASS Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) will award soon several jobs worth over RM1.5 billion, inclu-ding a contract for track works, for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MY Rapid Transit (SBK MRT) project, people familiar with the matter say. For the track works, which is estimated to be worth some RM850 million, it is understood that the frontrunner is DRB-HICOM Bhd-Mitsubishi. There are three shortlisted bidders for the job, which include Balfour Beatty Rail Sdn Bhd and Leighton-Lion Pacific. A source close to MRT Corp said the evaluation is still ongoing after the award of the contract (for track works) was deferred last month (September). On September 13, MRT Corp announced the award of five work packages worth RM3.47 billion for the SBK MRT project. This follows the conclusion of the One-Stop Procurement Committee (OSPC) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak. The contracts are for the sup-ply of train sets, signalling, power supply and depot equipment. MRT Corp was also expected to award the contract for track works then. Business Times reported that MRT Corp had requested the bidders (for track works) to re-submit their commercial clarification, including the final price, to lay tracks between Sungai Buloh and Kajang, totalling 41.5km. Although the stretch from Sungai Buloh to Kajang involves 51km, the job excludes the 9.5km underground tunnel work awarded to the MMC Gamuda JV at RM8.2 billion. The bidders had resubmitted their bids in mid-September following the request from MRT Corp. "MRT Corp will be transparent. It will not favour any one party. The group with the best proposal and technical know-how, including strong financing, will be awarded," the source. Meanwhile, for the five work packages announced last month, it is learnt that Canada's Bombardier Inc last Friday received a Letter of Award for the signalling contract worth RM281 million. The other winners are Siemens AG, which won two jobs worth RM1.6 billion, Japan's Meidensha Corp, which won a RM459 million job for power supply, and UEM Construction Sdn Bhd, which won a job valued at RM951 million to build viaduct guideway from Taman Mesra to Kajang station. It is unclear if the three groups also received their respective Letter of Awards last Friday.

OCBC: It's likely to be expansionary, friendly

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 1:22am
THE 2013 Budget will be expansionary, people-friendly and filled with ambitions entrenched in the Economic Transformation Programme, OCBC Bank said. Its economist Gundy Cahyadi does not think it would be surprising if the fiscal deficit to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio is kept at around 4.5 to 5 per cent for 2013. In the 18 months since January 2011, Malaysia's export growth averaged about seven per cent year-on-year per month, while the gross contribution to GDP from exports averaged about 4 percentage points per quarter. "With global growth likely to remain below trend in 2013, given the lacklustre US economy, unsettled Eurozone and a moderation in China, we think that it is very important for the government to maintain an expansionary fiscal tone going into next year," he said. OCBC expects the fiscal deficit at 4.6 per cent of GDP for 2013 but sees downside risks. But Cahyadi was concerned by operating expenditure which had risen markedly over the past decade. As of the first half of 2012, the ratio of operating expenditures to tax revenues is close to an all-time high of 137 per cent. "It is therefore interesting to watch out for what the government may announce this Friday, as we shift gears to discuss what we can expect from the micro perspective." Given the need to sustain high spending, the government would want to boost its revenue collection but there is little to do other than stepping up on its tax monitoring programme and enhance the effectiveness of the tax bureau. Cahyadi expects some boost in the form of cash handouts, incentives for RandD and grants/rebates for labour force training for local corporates, potential measures to boost affordability of the mass-market housing projects as well as possible reduction in personal income tax across the board. Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the 2013 Budget is also likely to forecast a smaller budget deficit of 4.2 per cent of GDP for 2013, to demonstrate fiscal discipline, down from 4.7 per cent in 2012. Its economist Dr Chua Hak Bin said measures to tackle the wide fiscal deficit and rising public debt will, however, be absent this time round and fiscal reforms will have to come after the elections. Budget 2013 will be about political survival than fiscal consolidation, Chua said, adding that it will raise the stakes on the upcoming polls. He said the markets might be more sensitive to the timing of the elections than Budget 2013 that will be unveiled today. "In the 2008 general elections, there was a market sell-off and huge capital outflows after Barisan Nasional lost their two-thirds parliamentary majority and five states." Compared to then, he said the economic gains are visible and difficult to dispute. Real GDP per capita is some 5.7 per cent higher, while unemployment has edged lower. House prices and the stock market have rallied an impressive 23 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. The ringgit has risen some 7 per cent. GDP growth appears to have moved up a notch, while inflation remains at below 2 per cent.

Emkay plans Cyberjaya affordable housing project

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 1:22am
PROPERTY developer Emkay Group expects to launch an affordable housing project in Cyberjaya by the second quarter of next year in an effort to enhance the middle-income group's accessibility to their own house. "This is an ongoing effort by us in providing affordable housing to the people, in line with the government's desire to see more of the middle income group owning homes," said chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar. He said although the project is still in the planning stage, the company expects it to include the development of about 3,000 units of medium cost houses with a selling price of below RM200,000 a unit. Speaking to reporters after the launch of the Star Central @Cyberjaya project here yesterday, he said the affordable housing project will be part of the group's plan to transform Cyberjaya as Malaysia Silicon Valley in 2020. Also present was Emkay chief executive Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal. The Star Central @Cyberjaya project, developed by its subsidiary, Joyful Star Sdn Bhd is a mixed-development project comprising 859,118 sq ft of office space, 814 units of shops and 1,900 residential units with a gross development value (GDV) RM1.8 million. The construction is scheduled to start next month and is expected to be completed in five years. It will be developed in four phases, Mustapha Kamal said. "So far, the project recorded a sales value of RM122 million, involving various types of development," he said. Among the development in the Star Central @ Cyberjaya project are an eight-storey semi-detached office tower units with a GDV of RM420 million, two 25-storey residential studio and office (SOHO) towers (GDV of RM319.4 million), 10-storey shop office (GDV of RM80.8 million), six-storey hypermarket (GDV of RM277.7 million), 48-storey serviced apartments (GDV of RM453.9 million) and a 41-storey hotel (GDV of RM332.2 million). The company will utilise the Industrialised Building System in order to reduce construction costs, Mustapha Kamal said, without revealing more details about the project. "We do not want to be too dependent on foreign labour services to build affordable homes in Cyberjaya," he said. Commenting on the proposed tax incentives for developers who use the IBS and green technology, he said if the government announces it in the Budget 2013 today, the company plans to build more affordable homes in Cyberjaya. "It is possible (to build more affordable housing) based on Emkay track record so far," he said. So far, Emkay has already built 22,920 units of affordable housing since 1990 with a GDV of RM1.37 billion. From the total, 11,118 units are located in Damansara Damai, Petaling Jaya and 11,794 units in Taman Bunga Raya, Bukit Beruntung.

Maybank Kim Eng aims to be top player in Vietnam by 2015

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 1:21am
HO CHI MINH CITY: Maybank Kim Eng is eyeing to become the top brokerage in Vietnam by 2015. Operating in 11 countries worldwide, the stockbroking and investment banking arm of Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) views Vietnam as an important market, especially with the increased activity on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange as well as anticipated developments in its capital market. "Looking at Vietnam, there have been positive signs such as more controlled inflation rates, slowing from 25 per cent to five per cent within the past 12 months, rebounding foreign reserves, near-elimination of the trade deficit and stabilisation of the Dong," said Maybank Kim Eng group chief executive Tengku Datuk Zafrul in a statement. Maybank Kim Eng launched its Vietnam operations in 2008 and has since seen increasing transaction volumes. Today, it is Vietnam's fourth-ranked brokerage and one of a few securities companies there that have turned profitable within the first year of its operation. In a bid to woo retail investors and meet market needs, Maybank Kim Eng Vietnam is targeting revenue growth, by increasing its current 330-strong sales force and expanding its distribution network. It plans to open at least one new branch every year to total 14 by 2015 from 10 branches currently. "These strategies are in tandem with Vietnam's tremendous market potential and its expected trading volumes," said Tengku Zafrul. Currently in Vietnam, there are 58 million people aged 35 and below, and of this, there are only 1.2 million trading accounts with 240,000 that are active. "Attracting and educating more retail investors help increase liquidity in the stock market, which in turn draws more investors, perpetuating a flourishing trading cycle," he said. Maybank Kim Eng Vietnam also plans to gain a foothold in the investment banking arena. Vietnam's 12-month merger and acquisition activity from August 2011 to July 2012 saw 22 deals worth US$2.5 billion (RM7.7 billion). With more government initiatives which are expected to improve licensing, rules and regulations, many analysts believe that the capital market's current trajectory is set for further growth.

More renminbi bond, sukuk issues in pipeline

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 1:20am
MORE renminbi bonds and sukuk will be issued in Malaysia soon with several in the pipeline to meet financing requirements, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz says. As to the timing of the issuances, Zeti said it depends on the approvals by BNM and the Securities Commission. "There is now greater awareness on the potential to raise funds in the renminbi especially for investments in China, as bilateral cross-border investment activity takes place between China and Malaysia," she said on the side lines of the "Renminbi Trade Settlement and Investment in Malaysia and Future Prospects" seminar yesterday. She said corporations looking to raise funds in the financial system need to look at market development in terms of the timing. Last week, the central bank accorded Emas status to the Islamic bond issued by Axiata Group Bhd and Khazanah Nasional Bhd for the one billion renminbi and 500 million renminbi issuance respectively. Earlier in her keynote address, Zeti said Malaysia is well positioned to realise this growth potential in renminbi bond and sukuk, given the market size and supporting infrastructure. Malaysia not only has the largest debt securities market in Southeast Asia, but is also a leading international centre for sukuk issuance. "Having renminbi bonds and sukuk as well as other financial products for portfolio investment will help build a pool of trade-driven renminbi liquidity in the Malaysian market." It would support the use of renminbi in trade and investment via repatriation as foreign direct investment in real sector activities in China increases. She said the benefits from the use of renminbi for trade settlement can be significant given the large and increasing trade base with China, which stood at RM167 billion last year. "By undertaking the transactions in local currency, exporters and importers in China would be able to eliminate the hedging and conversion costs, which will contribute towards more competitive pricing for both exporters and importers." BNM's currency swap arrangement with People's Bank of China, which was renewed early this year with an expanded amount of 180 billion renminbi, is to ensure a ready supply of the Chinese currency in the domestic financial markets to meet the demand. Malaysia's economic relationship with China has expanded beyond trade into the services sector, particularly the financial sector, tourism and education. China is Malaysia's largest trading partner, accounting for 14 per cent of our country's total trade. Malaysia also ranks as China's most significant trading partner in the Asean region. Trade settled in renminbi currently only represents slightly above one per cent of Malaysia's bilateral trade with China. There is therefore potential for this to increase. In addition, funding and foreign direct investment activities in renminbi have also increased with the greater awareness on the use of renminbi for the settlement of trade and direct investment transactions and on the potential to raise financing by businesses. The use of renminbi for trade settlement, which provides a natural hedge for businesses with renminbi obligations, also generates cost savings and minimises exchange rate risks as well as the exposure to exchange rate fluctuations of a third currency. "While the dollar will continue to remain an important currency for settlement of trade obligations, the availability of renminbi would provide companies an additional currency for such trade settlement." Meanwhile, Jin Zhongxia, who is the People's Bank of China's head of its research institute, said the bank had signed 18 swap agreements (including with Malaysia) totalling 1.6 trillion renminbi and the interest is growing among central banks across the globe. Asia accounts for 78.6 per cent of the cross-border renminbi settlement, which reflects China's significance as the largest trading partner for all its major neighbouring economies. Jin also said wider usage of the renminbi in cross-border transactions would contribute to a more resilient and stable international monetary system. China's share of world trade has increased to almost 10 per cent in 2011.

Maxis looks to empower SMEs with its latest offerings

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:51am
GEORGE TOWN: Maxis Berhad is looking to empower more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country with newer offerings aimed at making them more competitive and professional. A SIM card-based solution is expected to be launched next month for logistics and transportation players to track the movement of their trucks in real-time. "This machine-to-machine solution will enable our customers to log into a portal and track the location and movement of their vehicles, which will see SIM cards fixed into the trucks," Maxis head of business services Fitri Abdullah told Business Times yesterday. "We are also looking at extending this solution by incorporating the radio frequency identification (RFID) feature later," he added. Also being planned in January 2013, is the launch of a solution to optimise workforce management. "We are working on a solution to optimise a company's field force - such as those engaged in maintenance and support work," Fitri said. ""By using a mobile device, companies especially SMEs can monitor or track their staff on a real-time basis," he added, saying that Maxis is currently working on early trials for this solution with customers. Asked on Maxis' "Built for SME" solution since its April launch this year, Fitri said the take-up rate has been good, but did not elaborate. "It takes a bit of time for SMEs to understand the benefits of this solution, especially those who have been doing business the traditional way from physical shops," he said. The Built for SME integrated retail solution by Maxis is aimed at digitising the SME market by providing an extensive suite of services including closed-circuit television (CCTV) with business fibre internet, Software-as-a-service on MaxisCloud and Maxis Business Community Call. Earlier today, Maxis participated with Malaysia SME and Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd in a SME business conference in Penang, as part of its continuous support and commitment to growing local SMEs in the northern region.

Khazanah sets up SPV for highway jobs in India

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:51am
NEW DELHI: The Malaysian government's investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, has set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with a subsidiary of India's Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), with an equity base of Rs830 crores (RM478 million). The SPV will facilitate the financing of national highway projects, India's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles, Anand Sharma, said at the India-Malaysia Chief Executive Officers Forum. Recalling his visits to Malaysia in July 2010 and February 2011, Sharma said he identified several priority sectors of engagement, including roads and highways, railways, airports and information technology. Last year, IDFC and Khazanah agreed to enter into a joint venture to set-up a dedicated infrastructure development company with the focus on India's road sector. Khazanah's equity share in the proposed joint venture is 80.1 per cent with the balance held by IDFC. Bernama

Display Asia eyes new marts

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:50am
KUALA LUMPUR: Display Asia, a portable display specialist, aims to reinforce its market leadership by extending its reach beyond Malaysia and target new customers. Apart from its nationwide net-work within Malaysia, Display Asia has made inroads into Indo-nesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and China in recent years. "We're definitely making headway in extending our services in Asia," said People 'n Rich Group of Companies chief executive officer Datuk Rishya Joseph. Display Asia is part of People 'n Rich Holdings, which has a global presence covering 68 offices in 18 countries through its affiliation with the worldwide Hakuhoda Group, Japan's second largest agency network. Joseph said the company's partnership with Spennare, one of the world's leading specialists in portable marketing systems, has resulted in Display Asia's foot-print in all key cities in the Asia Pacific region. Display Asia offers a one-stop service, ranging from concept designs, display system fittings, material selections, printing and laminating, installations and set-ups, logistics and inventory managements, and maintenance. "Our goal is to deliver the best quality portable display products and solutions to help clients achieve their business and marketing objectives," said sales and operations manager Sugumaran Subramaniam. Display Asia's extensive range of portable display solutions includes products from partners like Spennare from Sweden, Penguin from Austria, Ex-pand from Sweden, and Twist from the United Kingdom. Its simple hub and panel design are ideal for fuss-free set-ups, and the various custom wall configurations are good for full-colour graphics and merchandising for roadshows, conferences, events, exhibitions, and retail. Subramaniam pointed out that one of the trade show rules is that you have a mere three seconds to catch the attention of a visitor. "The best portable displays need to work fast with bright colours, unique shapes and styles, and great designs," he said. Among Display Asia's key clients are CIMB Group, Pharmaniaga, Mida, Petronas, Tourism Malaysia, Green Tech and ECER.

Microsoft Malaysia reaffirms commitment

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:47am
KUALA LUMPUR: Microsoft Malaysia, which has invested over RM15.5 million in the Partners-in-Learning programme in Malaysia, has reaffirmed its commitment to accelerate the country's transformation into a developed nation by 2020 through sustainable technology. Its managing director, Ananth Lazarus said Malaysia would continue to get top priority from Microsoft. "Microsoft Malaysia's commitment to transform education is predicated on the country's aspirations which requires an innovative and well-prepared workforce. "Microsoft and our partners will work closely with government leaders, organisations and citizens to help them fully harness the power of innovation with flexible solutions, programs and partnerships to meet local needs," he said. Lazarus said this after announcing the availability of Microsoft's latest Windows Server 2012. "Technology and education have the power to economically expand the impact and accelerate the potential growth of every student, educator and school,".

Tune Insurance to be listed

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:47am
KUALA LUMPUR: Newly-launched Tune Insurance Malaysia Bhd, formerly Oriental Capital Assurance Bhd (OCA), will be the first company under the Tune group to be listed. Tune Group co-founder and group chief executive of AirAsia Bhd Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the listing is possible due to the strong growth projection of Tune Insurance compared to Tune Hotel and Tune Talk. "The announcement on the listing would be made when the idea has been finalised," Fernandes said after the launch here yesterday. In May this year, Tune Ins Holdings Bhd bought a controlling 79.8 per cent stake of interest in OCA for RM156.9 million cash, or RM1.96 per share, and renamed the company to Tune Insurance. As at yesterday, Tune Ins owns 83.3 per cent of OCA. Tune Insurance is licenced to issue policies in all classes of general insurance in Malaysia across a broad range of industry and customer segments. It now has about 1,000 agents and 16 branches nationwide. Fernandes also said that Tune Insurance is in discussions with other general insurance providers in Asia to boost its capacity. "We are definitely well positioned to capture growth opportunities in Asia and the timing is right as evidenced in the strong economic fundamentals and favourable demographics, such as expanding population, growing middle class and affluence and an increased realisation of the need for insurance," he added. Tune Insurance chief executive Su Tieng Teck said its gross premiums are expected to rise to RM330 million next year from RM260 million this year. "The projection for 2013 was conservative and the growth prospect of the company is imminent. We are looking at double-digit growth, up from the industry's growth of seven per cent," he added. Tune Insurance also expects to sign up 200,000 new insurance customers a month with the integration of Tune Group, AirAsia and AirAsia X.

PNB 'excited' over interest in Menara Warisan Merdeka

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:43am
KUALA LUMPUR: Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) is encouraged by companies' interest to locate their offices at the proposed 100-storey Menara Warisan Merdeka. "It's true that there has been positive response from the companies. Most of them have expressed their interest to open up offices within the building. It's very exciting to see the high interest shown," PNB president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman said after announcing Amanah Saham 1Malaysia's income distribution yesterday. Hamad Kama Piah was asked to update on the development of the proposed over 600m Menara Warisan Merdeka, touted to be the highest building in the country. Last week, Business Times reported that the proposed Menara Warisan Merdeka had received pre-booking enquiries for over 60 per cent of its lettable space. About 30 per cent of the space is being reserved for PNB and several government-link companies under its stable. Hamad Kama Piah indicated that PNB group will occupy about 60 per cent of the building. "Most of these companies are under PNB's group," he said, when asked to identify the companies that have shown interests to move into the building. On the construction date of Menara Warisan Merdeka, Hamad Kama Piah said it had yet to be ascertained but "the preparation is almost there". "Last month, I said that we have received the development order from City Hall, attached with several conditions. "We are trying to fulfill these conditions as best as we can and as hopeful. We are also trying to make sure the launch will be in order," he said. Scheduled to be officially launched by year-end, Menara Warisan Merdeka will cost between RM2.5 billion and RM3 billion. It will have gross floor space of 3 million sq ft and a net floor space of 2.2 million. This will be followed by two subsequent phases comprising a shopping complex and condominiums. The whole development, to be undertaken over a 10-year period, will cost RM5 billion. To be located within the Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara heritage area, the concept of the 100-storey building, its retail portion and the condominiums was mooted in early 2004. It took into account the need for enhancement of value and effective utilisation of the 7.6ha land adjacent to the two stadiums. Once completed, Menara Warisan Merdeka will be over 600m tall compared with Petronas Twin Towers at 453m; Burj Khalifa at 829m; and Taipei 101 at 509m.

Entries open for Effie Awards

Fri, 28.Sep.2012 - 12:38am
KUALA LUMPUR: Entries are now open for this year's Effie Awards that honours the most effective marketing communications campaigns. The Effie Awards recognise ideas that produce measurable results and it is already in its 40th year globally. "Winning an Effie award provides impactful validation about work that yields meaningful results," said chairman of the Effie Awards organising committee Nicky Lim. In a statement, Lim said the judging criteria for the Effie is very stringent with recognition for only the most outstanding work and last year, no Gold Awards were given out from over 80 entries. For this year, the jury team comprises some of the biggest names in the business and industry. The jury chairman is John Chacko, Proton's director of group marketing, branding and motorsports. "An international marketer like Chacko with a strong record and reputation in global brand marketing is an added asset to complete the panel of judges this year," said the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) president Tony Savarimuthu. The globally recognised Effie honours marketing campaigns that integrate a cross-section of disciplines including creativity, media planning, market research and account management. There are 15 products and services categories including beverages, financial services, household supplies and services, retail, food, and telco products and services, and two specialty categories: green and small budget. Closing date for all entries is October 31. Agencies that submit entries by October 15 will qualify for the early bird rate of RM1,200 per entry. There will be an additional fee of RM900 per submission for entries received after October 15. The gala dinner and awards ceremony will be held on December 6 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The Malaysia Effie Awards is organised this year by the 4As in collaboration with the Malaysian Advertisers Association and the Media Specialists Association, in association with Matrade.