Below is a list of news about our company. We welcome you to participate in any activities organized by our company.
Ecommerce Asia Expo & Conference sucessfully organized at Hong Kong Asia World Expo! (Posted: 29 April 2013 )

Ecommerce Asia Expo & Conference sucessfully organized at Hong Kong Asia World Expo! The trade show is structured four exhibition areas that group together key elements of a high-performance e-commerce: Service & Solutionl; Delivery & Logistic; Digial Marketing and Payment Solution For its 1st edition, E-Comnmerce Asia 2013, successfully organized from 27-28th March at Hong Kong Asia World Expo!

ITX Asia 2013 Trade Exhibition & Conference (Posted: 5 December 2012 )


Event : ITX Asia 2013 Trade Exhibition & Conference.

Date : 11 - 13 September 2013.

Venue : Hall 1 Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

Concurrent Event : Cloud Computing Asia 2013, ERP Asia 2013 & Enterprise TechVice 2013.

Theme : Where Technology Meets Business.

ITX Asia 2013 is the 2nd ICT and ERP Trade exhibition serving Malaysia and the Asean region. It aims to assemble vendors, suppliers and consultants of technology for business to meet business face-to-face, allowing seamless on-boarding to the world of technology.

The ICT industry keeps evolving and continues to captivate the enterprise for its latest innovations and its growing economical functionality; in helping enterprise of cost cutting and improves efficiency.

Despite the global market uncertainty, the ICT industry remains resilient. Take Malaysia as an example: the mobile broadband market is reported to be worth US$3 billion by 2015 while its enterprise services market which includes data centre services, M2M services, IT/System Integration services and WAN services is
expected to hit US$ 1.89 billion in 2015. Massive government infrastructural spending and the New Economic Model will drive higher hardware and product acquisition.

The event will be the largest ICT enterprise-driven platform in Malaysia for ICT showcase and trends as well as a networking avenue congregated in one place, making ITX Asia a must participate trade event for vendors, manufacturers and service providers keen to further strengthen their foothold in this key region.

For more information, please visit or email [email protected]

RM1B Sales Expected This Year, With Focus on 4 Clusters (Posted: 28 November 2012 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The sixth edition of International Trade Malaysia (Intrade 2012) is expected to rake in RM1 billion in sales, from RM973.9 million last year, as it focuses on a dedicated four clusters this year.


The number of profiled clusters has been reduced from 10 last year to allow greater focus on the chosen clusters this year, Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir said.

The four clusters to be showcased are electrical and electronics and information and communications technology, automotive, manufacturing support and lifestyle.

"We feel that there is a huge potential in these sectors... therefore, with a more concentrated effort in these clusters, we hope Intrade 2012 will ensure a focused exhibitors andvisitors," Mukhriz told a media briefing here yesterday.

He also said that the four clusters are ideally positioned to expand the country's export. "They possess strong growth potential by tapping the many opportunities available in international trade," he added.

The theme for Intrade 2012 is "Energising Export Growth", to reflect the importance of sustaining Malaysia's export opportunities in the face of increased competition and uncertainties in the global economy.

Lifestyle product is chosen to be among the four selected clusters following a growing demand for products like jewellery, textile and clothing and gifts and premium products from Malaysia.

Last year, Malaysia's export of lifestyle products increased 23.5 per cent to about RM25 billion. Collectively, lifestyle products contributed 5.3 per cent of the country's manufactured export.

During the year under review, jewellery contributed RM7.16 billion to the country's total export; textile and clothing RM10.8 billion; while gifts and premium RM7 billion.

Intrade 2012, which will be held from November 27 to November 29 at Menara Matrade, Kuala Lumpur, is expecting strong participation from Asia particularly Asean countries, Japan, Pakistan and India. Last year, the trade expo hosted some 8,972 visitors from 77 countries.

Industry Clusters

This sector supports the large worldwide automotive market which continues to grow at a healthy rate. It encompasses parts and components related to the automotive industry.
Exhibitors Profile: Automotive Aftermarket Parts, Components & accessories / Tools / Equipment / Mobile Electronics / Car Care Products & Service.

Electrical & Electronics And Information & Communication Technology
This sector has traditionally been a strong contributor to Malaysia's export revenues. In an industry synonymous with high production standards, innovation and the ability to deliver, these products have built a strong international brand name for Malaysia.
Exhibitors Profile: E&E Components / E&E Consumer products & services / E&E Industrial products & services / Telecommunications products & services / ICT products & services.

Manufacturing Support
This sector encapsulates many of the SME companies in business today. They are involved in manufacturing activities operating from small backroom businesses to larger factory scale operations.
Exhibitors Profile: Automation / Die Casting / E&E / Heat Treatment / Machining Services & Solutions / Mechatronics & Robotics / Metal Stamping / Mould & Die / Precision Machined Parts / Testing, Calibration & Certification / Toolings.

The demand for specialised and niche products has developed strongly over the last decade. Today this sector is ideally positioned to take advantage of the vast export opportunities on offer.
Exhibitors Profile: Fashion / Footwear / Jewellery & Gifts / Textiles & Apparels / Garden Products / Home Decoration & Interiors / Cosmetics & Toiletries / Stationery.

Source: New Straits Times

Oil below $113 amid light Asian trading after bin Laden killed in Pakistan (Posted: 11 May 2011 )

SINGAPORE - Oil prices eased off 2 1/2 year highs to below US$113 a barrel Monday after President Barack Obama announced that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was down $1.23 at $112.70 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose $1.07 to settle at $113.93 on Friday and reached $114.18 during in the session, the highest since September 2008.

In London, Brent crude for June delivery was down 98 cents to $124.91 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Obama said bin Laden was killed Sunday by American special forces in Pakistan. Traders said the death of bin Laden could weaken al-Qaida's ability to carry out attacks and destabilize the oil-rich Middle East.

However, al-Qaida operatives could also seek revenge for their leader's death, and political uprisings this year throughout the Middle East and North Africa that have threatened to disrupt crude supplies were not related to al-Qaida.

Trading volume was light in Asia as markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore will closed for international Labor Day. Markets in Japan were open Monday but will be closed the next three days for Golden Week holiday.

In other Nymex trading in May contracts, heating oil fell 2.5 cents to $3.25 a gallon and gasoline dropped 1.8 cents to $3.38 a gallon. Natural gas June futures were down 1.5 cents at $4.69 per 1,000 cubic feet.

SINGAPORE - Oil prices eased off 2 1/2 year highs to below US$113 a barrel Monday after President Barack Obama announced that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was down $1.23 at $112.70 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose $1.07 to settle at $113.93 on Friday and reached $114.18 during in the session, the highest since September 2008.

In London, Brent crude for June delivery was down 98 cents to $124.91 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Obama said bin Laden was killed Sunday by American special forces in Pakistan. Traders said the death of bin Laden could weaken al-Qaida's ability to carry out attacks and destabilize the oil-rich Middle East.

However, al-Qaida operatives could also seek revenge for their leader's death, and political uprisings this year throughout the Middle East and North Africa that have threatened to disrupt crude supplies were not related to al-Qaida.

Trading volume was light in Asia as markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore will closed for international Labor Day. Markets in Japan were open Monday but will be closed the next three days for Golden Week holiday.

In other Nymex trading in May contracts, heating oil fell 2.5 cents to $3.25 a gallon and gasoline dropped 1.8 cents to $3.38 a gallon. Natural gas June futures were down 1.5 cents at $4.69 per 1,000 cubic feet.

By The Canadian Press 

DagangAsia sees US$12m from Indonesian deal (Posted: 11 May 2011 )

JAKARTA: DagangAsia Net Sdn Bhd, a member of Webse Group, expects to generate total bilateral trade of US$12 million (RM33 million) from its venture in Indonesia by 2012, via trading platform

Yesterday, it sealed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Indonesia's Saptel Group, which is involved in telecommunication, information technology and business consultancy.

The signing in Jakarta was witnessed by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, chairman of Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Suryo Bambang Sulisto, and delegates from the 1st Asean-EU Business Summit.

DagangAsia chief executive officer Khairil Ismahafiz Muhadzir said under the agreement, Saptel will invest RM1.2 million to educate and assist halal industry players in Indonesia to promote and sell their products and services via the platform. is a halal business portal which helps Muslims worldwide source for quality halal products and services.

It comprises halal manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors and service providers from 48 countries offering products and services from beverages, bread, food additives, frozen food, meat and poultry to consultancy and service agencies.

"This is a private initiative by us to support the Malaysian government's aspiration in making Malaysia a world halal hub," Khairil said.

At the signing of the MOA, Khairil told Business Times that DagangAsia is looking to expand its business and will submit its application for an initial public offering to the relevant authorities in July.

DagangAsia hopes to list on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia next year, raising not more than RM20 million to build its profile and promote halal products and services globally.

Khairil said after Indonesia, the company is looking at the Middle East, Pakistan and Bangladesh, China and Turkey. It also plans to set up offices in Dubai and London, he said.

"Our aim is to make the leading Malaysian-owned halal portal in the world. We are upbeat on our plan," he said.

Khairil said he is optimistic that the company's net profit will jump threefold this year to RM3 million, driven by new ventures and expansion.

He said DagangAsia will provide offline channels and include halal asset management and investments related to Syariah-compliant products in the future to promote the halal industry globally.

By: The Business Times

China Shrinks Rare Earths Export Quota (Posted: 29 December 2010 )

China shrinks rare earths export quota

BEIJING - China said it is reducing the amount of rare earths it will export for the first half of the year by more than 10 percent _ likely to be an unpopular move worldwide since the minerals are vital to the manufacture of high-tech products.

China accounts for 97 percent of the global production of rare earths, which are essential to devices as varied as cell phones, computer drives and hybrid cars. Countries were alarmed when Beijing blocked shipments of the minerals to Japan earlier this year amid a dispute over disputed islands.

Concerns over China's grip on rare earths has led countries on a hunt for alternative sources. A number of companies in North America _ notably Molycorp Inc. in the U.S. and Thompson Creek Metals Co. in Canada _ are hurrying to open or reopen rare earth mines. Two Australian companies are also preparing to mine rare earths.

Numbers released Tuesday by China's Commerce Ministry show export quotas of the rare minerals will be down 11 percent next year as compared to the same period this year. China usually issues a second batch of quotas during the year, and it is not known how the figures will change later in 2011.

The new numbers say China is allocating 14,446 tons (13,105 metric tons) of rare earths among 31 companies. China allocated 16,304 tons (14,790 metric tons) among 22 companies in the first batch of quotas this year.

The ministry said in a online statement late Tuesday that the quotas for the rest of the year were still under discussion and would be released later. The statement also cautioned that it wasn't appropriate to guess the trend of future quotas based on the first allocation.

China has been reducing export quotas of rare earths over the past several years to cope with growing demand at home. A Commerce Ministry spokesman has also said that China is cutting its exploration, production and exports out of environmental concerns.

Earlier this month, state media reported that China plans to raise duties on some rare earth exports starting next year, but it did not say which minerals would be affected or how much the tax would be.

A state media report Tuesday said China is preparing to set up a rare earths association that would include nearly all of the country's leading rare earth companies, and could help them to coordinate their negotiating position. The report posted on the Sina Corp. portal said the association should be set up in May.

The United States last week threatened to go to the World Trade Organization with its concerns over China and rare earths. When asked for comment during a regular press briefing Tuesday, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu declined to answer.

But China has had to address the global concerns numerous times since the spat with Japan.

"China is not using rare earth as a bargaining chip," Wen Jiabao, China's top economic official, told a China-European Union business summit in Brussels in October.


India To Sign Trade Pact With Japan, Malaysia And Eu In First Half Of 2011 (Posted: 29 December 2010 )

NEW DELHI: India will open its trade in goods and services with Malaysia, Japan and the European Union in the first half of 2011, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said here.

Talking to newsmen here, Mr. Sharma said the first half of next year would witness signing of comprehensive market and investment promotion agreements with Japan, Malaysia and the EU. India has already signed a framework agreement for the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Malaysia and concluded negotiations for a similar pact with Japan

With the EU, which has a bilateral trade of $76 billion with India, differences had cropped up on the level of opening of the market, dairy farming, issues pertaining to child labour and environment. After the India-EU summit attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Brussels on December 9, the negotiations have been intensified and are likely to be concluded by March next with a formal agreement coming by spring time. Mr. Sharma informed that India had launched negotiations for comprehensive economic partnership agreement with New Zealand and Canada. India had already entered into comprehensive market opening pacts with Singapore, South Korea and 10-nation economic bloc ASEAN.

Similarly, Mr. Sharma said a national policy aimed at making India a manufacturing hub leading to creation of more jobs and boosting economic growth would roll out by the end of next month. "We are in dialogue with the Planning Commission and it is my expectation that by the end of January 2011, we should be able to roll out the National Manufacturing Policy,'' Mr. Sharma said.

He said the new policy seeks to attract high-technology from advanced economies. "Our aim is to make India one of the manufacturing hubs. It will create jobs and boost economic growth,'' he remarked. Mr. Sharma said the Commerce Ministry had recently sent out a note for inter-Ministerial consultation for formulating the policy.


M'sia May Turn Out To Be The Biggest Economic Surprise In Asia (Posted: 28 December 2010 )

MALAYSIA is blessed. We sit on a great location in Asia; in a geographically peaceful, fertile land with abundant natural resources.

We are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-talented nation. We have a well-trained workforce and also modern infrastructure in place. We also know there is an urgent need to quickly improve existing infrastructure; such as with better mass rapid transit in Kuala Lumpur, faster Internet broadband across the country and an improving education system for the population, among others.

Malaysia's good economic prospect was never in question; it is how Malaysia goes about fulfilling its good potential that has been in doubt.

Today, in general, expectations for Malaysia to outperform economically are not that high however, I personally feel Malaysia could potentially spring the biggest economic surprise in Asia.

Here are four reasons why:

First and second are closely linked. I believe the country's governance and economy could potentially improve substantially with both the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) and Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) now off the ground and running. While their successful implementation depends critically on political will and the determination of all Malaysians to work together, there has been gathering momentum and some early signs of success.

In the GTP for example, efforts to improve urban transportation quickly transformed into decisions to invest an estimated RM36bil in the mass rapid transit (MRT) system for "Greater KL" which is scheduled to start work by July 2011.

If completed successfully with an open tender system and full transparency as proposed, it will also speak volumes for good governance.

Similarly, reducing crimes and fighting corruption are two areas of GTP showing early results. Pemandu and the Home Ministry said in December that street crimes in the country were down by almost 40%, with certain parts of KL experiencing 47% reduction. The Government plans to continue rolling out new initiatives for crime prevention next year.

And in fighting corruption, we see many more prominent corruption cases being bought up to the courts this year.

Second, under ETP, both the New Economic Model and National Key Economic Areas crucially focus on lifting working Malaysians to a higher income level by attracting best-of-the best industries to operate in Malaysia creating high quality employment and income.

This model is to help get us out of the "middle income trap". Malaysia needs to move up the value chain as China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam have been out-competing us in our traditional areas of expertise in labour intensive and other export and contract manufacturing industries.

Wages and employment income of a nation's working population is the real measure of a nation's wealth. It is therefore more critical to create higher income jobs, professions and enterprises as a means to address any social inequality.

To quote the New Economic Model concluding part (Dec 3, 2010) executive summary chapter six, "After all, before wealth is to be distributed it must first be sustainably generated". It is hoped that the focus will be on expanding the economic pie rather than how to split an existing pie.

Third, while liberalisation increases competition domestically, it also encourages Malaysian companies to venture out and become regional champions. Khazanah, for example, has been fairly successful at transforming Malaysia's government-linked companies into regional champions such as with CIMB and Axiata.

There are many factors to Khazanah's success but one key secret I believe is that for many years, Khazanah has been hiring and paying for top talents from the financial, consulting and banking industries both locally and from abroad.

I personally have visited successful Khazanah-owned companies such as CIMB Niaga, the Indonesian subsidiaries of CIMB and XL, the Indonesian subsidiary of Axiata. A common thread I noticed is they are well integrated with local culture, they hire the best talents and they are meritocracy-based.

Meritocracy is also part of the foundation for a civil society where talents can come from any nation and be any race, all working to attain high level of accomplishments.

Finally, Malaysia is again fortunate to be a trading nation sitting in the middle of an economically-vibrant Asia. To our right is India, a market with one billion population and an economy that is just starting to take off after more than 10 years of reforms; to the far north of us sits China, the second-largest economy in the world with 1.3 billion people and the new economic engine of the world; and to the south of us lies Indonesia, 300 million strong of increasingly vibrant and wealthier consumers.

Malaysia enjoys good relations with all these major economies and should take full advantage of many economic opportunities in these coming years.

With China for example, Malaysia is not only one of China's largest trading partners (total trade was about US$52bil in 2009) but China is now increasingly funding Malaysian infrastructure projects such as for the Second Penang Bridge (US$800mil) and likely more projects in the future.

The potential inflows of large direct investments from China and other Asian countries can also be a very important component to boost our economic growth.

What we do with our advantages and opportunities will determine if we are a successful nation or not. I personally think Malaysia's government today is getting some of our priorities right in theory with these transformation programmes, I hope we put these plans into good practice.

Some direct or portfolio investors may still be sceptical but the increasing contributions by these programmes to Malaysia's economic growth are quite clear to me. In addition, good governance will attract more talents and investors to our shores, and will likely give an added boost to Malaysia's capital and equity markets.

I, for one, am certainly more optimistic and hopeful than before.

- The Star Online

Foreign Banks Join MEPS (Posted: 28 December 2010 )

They are HSBC, OCBC, UOB, Standard Chartered and Citibank

PETALING JAYA: Five major foreign banks in Malaysia have joined the Malaysian Electronic Payment System (MEPS) automated teller machine (ATM) network, which until recently had been the domain of local banks.

Effective next year, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, OCBC Bank (M) Bhd, United Overseas Bank (M) Bhd (UOB), Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd (StanChart) and Citibank Bhd will form part of the MEPs family, enabling customers to use the ATM facilities on a wider scale.

StanChart and Citibank had earlier announced their decisions last week.

The agreement links the banks to the MEPS service which provides interbank cash withdrawals and balance enquiries at more than 10,000 ATMs nationwide.

However, the banks will launch the service individually over time as soon as their respective systems are fully operational. Currently, there are 14 foreign banks in Malaysia.

This development is in line with recommendations in the Financial Sector Masterplan to allow incumbent foreign banks to set up a shared ATM network and introduce new foreign competition.

Given the intensifying degree of global competition and greater assimilation into the global arena, the banking sector has to be prepared for greater liberalisation.

HSBC general manager (personal financial services) Lim Eng Seong said through this partnership, the bank hoped to expand its reach to a larger and more diverse market segment.

"We aim to raise the bar in customer experience. Thanks to Bank Negara's various liberalisation initiatives, customers of locally incorporated foreign banks now have a wider access to their banking needs," he said in the joint statement yesterday.

OCBC head of consumer financial services Charles Sik said the combined customer base of the four banks would expand the national electronic payments solutions service in Malaysia to be one of the most convenient in this part of the world.

UOB senior vice-president and senior head of personal financial services Tay Han Chong said there was now another reason for Malaysians to develop their banking relationships with locally incorporated foreign banks.

MEPS group managing director Mohd Suhail Amar Suresh told StarBiz that the entry of five foreign banks would increase the total number of MEPS ATM outlets to about 11,000 from 10,253 as at November.

There are now 16 member banks in the network.

"In addition to convenient access to ATMs nationwide, banks with MEPS have the option of offering funds transfer and mobile prepaid top-ups, as well as interbank cash withdrawals and balance enquiry for domestic and cross-border services.

"These services have enabled member banks to improve and enhance operational efficiency and service delivery by offering multi-channel banking to their customers," he said.

Suhail added that MEPS had formed partnerships with switching networks in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and China for the provision of bilateral financial payment and credit transfer services and is set to expand it further to other regional networks.

- The Star Online

Govt Likely To Sell RM90bil Bonds Next Year (Posted: 24 December 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The Government is expected to sell more sovereign bonds going into 2011 despite expectations of a further narrowing of the budget deficit next year.

Both Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) and RAM Holdings Bhd expect the Government to issue some RM90bil debt securities next year.

"The Government is expected to issue up to RM90bil debt securities to cover RM49bil debt issues maturing next year and financing of the RM45bil deficit estimated by the Finance Ministry. The projected amount is 40% higher than the RM64.4bil issued in 2010," RAM chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng told StarBiz.

"Investors' appetite remains undiminished for sovereign bonds of most Asian countries, which have strong fundamentals and are experiencing robust domestic demand-led growth," he said.

He said the eurozone debt crisis had "cast a pall on the outlook of other sovereign bonds", especially those issued by countries which are saddled with high fiscal deficits and government debts. These countries also face weak growth prospects.

According to Yeah, strong global demand for higher-yielding sovereign bonds of emerging economies was stoked by low interest-rate regimes and excess liquidity unleashed by loose monetary policies across the developed world.

Of particular concern for emerging economies is the impact of the quantitative-easing programme of the US Federal Reserve over the next few months.

"While credit risk continues to improve for emerging markets' sovereigns, the demand pressure will be exacerbated by large capital inflows, driving yields lower," Yeah said.

MARC noted that although the country's budget shortfall was expected to be trimmed to 5.4% of nominal gross domestic product, the absolute amount of RM45.5bil was actually more than the RM43.3bil recorded in 2010.

This was on the back of Government anticipation for the economy to grow by 5% to 6% in 2011.

"Additionally, there will be RM45bil worth of Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) and government investment issues (GII) maturing in 2011, higher than that in 2010, which would translate into more issuances in 2011.

"Given the projected budget deficit and estimated maturing amount, financing needs should be about RM90.5bil," MARC said in a report.

It expected gross financing requirement of RM90.5bil in 2011 to be almost 50% more than the RM60.5bil seen in 2010.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that half of this amount is actually for the refinancing of maturing debt securities.

Net issuance would only increase by RM6.4bil to RM41bil.

"Based on the 2011 MGS/GII issuance calendar announced by the central bank recently, there will be a total of 29 sales in the coming year (of which eight will come via private placements) compared with 19 sales recorded in 2010."

MARC's estimate shows that the weighted average financing cost of the existing bonds maturing in more than seven years is about 4.56%, and at the time of writing, the seven, 10 and 20-year benchmarks were yielding 3.79%, 4.00% and 4.18% respectively.

It said foreigners were once again expected to be the net buyers for most of the year, as it was unlikely that interest rates in developed nations would increase anytime soon, with markets currently looking at the fourth quarter of 2011 as the earliest turning point in their respective monetary policies.

Yeah concurs with MARC. He said there was a strong likelihood that foreign purchases would rise further, as capital flows to emerging markets were projected to increase strongly following the quantitative easing mounted by the Federal Reserve.

On corporate bonds, MARC said 2010 had been undeniably quiet with extremely modest issuance in the earlier part of the year despite a rebound seen in the global bond market.

"The dry spell in primary market activities appears to have ended, judging from the pick-up in bond issuance in the second half of 2010," it said.

MARC has revised its 2010 corporate bond issuance target lower to RM38bil for the full year compared with RM35bil-RM45bil earlier due to lethargic environment.

- The Star Online

Ringgit Expected To Continue To Strengthen (Posted: 24 December 2010 )

Uptrend buoyed by second round of US quantitative easing

PETALING JAYA: The ringgit is expected to continue its uptrend, buoyed by firm sentiment on regional currencies and the current second round of quantitative easing (QE) by the United States.

"We see a broadly weaker greenback in the first half of the year, especially in the first quarter,'' CIMB Investment Bank Bhd currency strategist Suresh Kumar Ramanathan told StarBiz. "The ringgit is expected to strengthen to 2.97 against the US dollar, in line with the strengthening of the currencies in the region,"

However, among the Asian currencies, Suresh did not see the yuan story as compelling early next year compared with the same period of this year.

"The rise of the renminbi will take a back seat to the QE story," Suresh added.

He said the QE policy involving the US Federal Reserve's buying of US$600bil of Treasury bills over eight months, starting from November, would continue to be a major factor in the rise of emerging Asia's currencies for most of the first half of 2011, as "hot money" flowed in.

Suresh said there was a risk of further appreciation in the region's currencies, should a third round of quantitative easing be required, after the current round ended next June.

This is particularly so if the attempt to boost growth and cut unemployment, coupled with a promise to keep interest rates near zero, failed.

However, should the US economy recover in the second half of the year, there would be a marginal strengthening of the greenback against major currencies, said Suresh.

Meanwhile, OSK Investment Bank Bhd currency trader Godwin Chan expects the ringgit to strengthen against the US dollar in the first quarter on expectations of an increase in Malaysia's benchmark policy rate, which stands at 2.75%. This is expected to commence from next March.

"We're looking at the ringgit moving to between 2.90 and 3 against the US dollar by the end of 2011, as Bank Negara moves to increase the overnight policy rate to curb inflation," he said, noting the rise in property and food prices.

According to Chan, fundamentals driving the ringgit include inflows of funds from investors chasing higher returns and Malaysia's commitment to bring down the budget deficit.

A currency trader with a foreign bank said the first half of 2011 would still see funds flowing into Asia as high unemployment in the United States continued to worry investors.

"High unemployment in the United States and concerns over budget deficits in the euro-zone will be the main focus of investors," he said.

He expected the ringgit to be a laggard although the currency would continue to strengthen in tandem with regional currencies.

"The ringgit will be a laggard as it's been ahead of the curve in the first half of this year. For now, Malaysia will look to fundamentals including intra-regional trade to boost falling exports while domestic demand is still intact in the region," he said.

- The Star Online

Local Firms Set To Pounce On India Highway Projects (Posted: 23 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian construction companies are expected to be involved in the massive development of highways in India as early as the first half of next year under the recently inked memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two governments.

Malaysia and India signed the MoU on Monday to promote technical assistance services in highway development and management in India.

Malaysian construction players are slated to participate in the development of 1,000km of highways in India that could potentially be worth RM17.5bil.

India's Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath told StarBiz that the first project under this initiative was expected to roll out in the next six months.

"Although currently Malaysian construction companies have been participating in India's infrastructure development, we want to take this to the next level where we want to enhance not only in terms of the numbers of players involved but also in the length of kilometres undertaken.

"The opportunities are not only restricted to the building of highways. There are also other areas such as landscaping, tolling technologies as well as management and maintenance of highways.

"India has a major infrastructure programme as we have a huge infrastructure deficit because our growth has preceded infrastructure development.

"At the moment we are not building for the future but we are catching up with the past," he said.

It is reported that India has embarked on a major road construction programme where 7,000km of roads are expected to be developed annually.

To date, Malaysian companies have been involved in 74 construction projects worth RM14bil in India, half of which were road infrastructure projects.

Kamal said Malaysia was the only country with which India had developed this kind of arrangement under the MoU.

"That demonstrates our relationship, where Malaysia has the strength and skills in the road sector coupled with its construction capacity that we need in India," he said.

On details of the MoU, Kamal said that identified projects would go through a price discovery mechanism which would have to be mutually agreed by both governments.

"In India, you cannot have one-size-fits-all for road construction costs; there will be a basket of price discovery mechanisms and we are working on this starting today.

"Then together with the Construction Industry Development Board, we will assign the projects to the respective companies," he said, adding that previously Malaysian companies had done direct bids but this was a new level of engagement.

To recap, India's Road Transport and Highways Ministry had in June last year started "towards 20km a day" programme for national highways. Towards this, 201 projects with a total length of 9,923km had been awarded between October 2009 and September this year.

With the award of these projects, the total work in progress currently stands at 14,704km where a further 10,665km will be awarded this year and next. Thus next year, according to the ministry, it would have work in progress in excess of 25,000km.

- The Star Online

Foreign Entry Set To Alter Local Auto Landscape (Posted: 23 December 2010 )

Stiffer competition likely, especially for below-1,800cc segment

PETALING JAYA: The entry of foreign luxury car manufacturers, the latest being Volkswagen AG (VW), will likely result in a shake-up of sorts for the local automotive industry, as customers will now have access to some new models with affordable price tags.

"If these players also offer passenger cars below 1,800cc, it will lead to more intense competition in the local automotive market, especially for the below 1,800cc segment. Ultimately, it's the customers that win," said an analyst.

On Tuesday, DRB-HICOM Bhd signed a collaboration and licence agreement with Volkswagen AG to manufacture VW cars at the former's production plant in Pekan, Pahang.

Local assembly means prices of the cars will be cheaper. The manufacture of the first VW model is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of next year.

"Dominant players within this (below 1,800cc) segment will have to fight harder to maintain or grow their share of the profit pool. They need to become more innovative and competitive," the analyst said.

DRB HICOM and VW have decided that the first cars to be rolled out of the Pekan plant will be the Passat and Jetta models. Neither party has revealed the engine capacity of the vehicles.

According to Christian Klinger, VW's member of the board of management for sales and marketing, the Passat was launched at the Paris Motorshow earlier this year.

If this information is anything to go by, the seventh generation Passat that was launched at the Paris Motorshow comprises a range of advanced and highly efficient petrol and diesel engines.

The petrol line-up comes with 1.4, 1.8, 2.0 and 3.6-litre engines while the frugal diesel range comes with a 1.6-litre engine. The Jetta is likely to be above the 1,800cc range.

Given that the segment below 1,800cc is already over saturated with many makes, customers looking to upgrade would be more inclined to graduate to the luxury segment, said another analyst.

"The only thing more attractive than a luxury car is a luxury car that's more affordable," he said, adding that the luxury segment would become more attractive to prospective buyers, going forward.

"On a broader scale, the entry of a renowned car manufacturer will also spur the introduction of new technology and technical expertise, create more employment opportunities and encourage more foreign direct investment into the county," the analyst added.

HwangDBS Vickers said in a research report the tie-up with Volkswagen would help bolster sales for DRB-HICOM in the medium term.

"We have not imputed any earnings contribution from VW or factored it into our standard operating procedures value.

"In our view, growth in the medium term could be exponential when production ramps up to include Asean markets. DRB-HICOM will also have the first right of refusal for new VW passenger cars in Malaysia."

According to HwangDBS, DRB-HICOM's VW passenger cars sales in the 10-month period ended October rose to 1,501 units from 501 in the previous corresponding period.

The Passat, Polo and Jetta contributed 348 units, or 23%, of sales. The best-selling Golf accounted for 48%, it said.

- The Star Online

Iskandar Malaysia Records RM64.38bil In Investments (Posted: 21 December 2010 )

JOHOR BARU: The total value of investments recorded by Iskandar Malaysia from the start of the development corridor project in 2006 until September 2010 is RM64.38bil.

The amount far exceeded the RM47bil target set for this year, Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim said yesterday.

"We have annual targets. We started collecting information about investments in 2006.

"The final target we have set upon maturity in 2025 is RM382bil," Ismail told Bernama during the 1Malaysia Media Travel Programme here.

He said a large percentage of the investments were from domestic investors.

"In the initial stage, it's true that we tried to get as much FDIs (foreign direct investments) even though we thought of local investors as long-term players and better in the terms of investment, but to create that initial interest, we had to bring in FDIs.

"Only through this way interest can be generated among local players. It is about confidence building. Our local investors always have the wait-and-see attitude.

"So, once we brought in all the big players such as Legoland, Pinewood Studios and so on, it opened up their eyes.

"Praise be to Allah, the performance for 2009 and 2010 has also given the indication that investments from abroad are no longer the majority investment.

"Last year, 52% or more were from here. So, it is really giving a picture of what's in store for us," he said.

A total of RM37.26bil or 58% from the total investments up to September were by domestic investors while the balance of RM27.12bil from overseas.

During the same period, RM26.89bil or 41.85 were spent to carry out development projects in the region.

Of the overall investment recorded, RM25.65bil was in the service sector, RM12.81bil in the tourism sector, RM19.64bil in properties and RM6.28bil in the government sector.

- Bernama

Miti Set To Achieve Investment And Trade Targets (Posted: 21 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) is on track to achieve its investment and trade targets for this year, Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said yesterday.

"Generally, we are on track in terms of either investment or trade. Trade will increase 18% compared with last year and national investment is also on track," he said.

His deputy, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, said Malaysia's external trade was expected to reach RM1 trillion this year after easing to RM900bil in 2009 due to the global economic slowdown.

"In 2007 and 2008, we achieved RM1 trillion in trade. That's why our trade was two times the size of GDP (gross domestic product)," he said, adding that the country's trade was still growing rapidly, especially after the signing of several free trade agreements recently.

"What's most encouraging is our trade with China where we have a substantial surplus. This is because Malaysia's exports to China are bigger than its imports," he said.

Mukhriz said the ministry was trying to strike a balance between domestic and foreign investments. The present investment make-up is 60% foreign and 40% domestic.

"We want to change it to 50:50 in 2011 and 2012 and after that, we want domestic investment to exceed foreign investment. We are identifying which countries, industries and companies to invest in Malaysia.

"Previously, we focused on solar industry but there are many other industries we consider important, for example, advance electronics."

Mustapa said Malaysia had received positive responses, particularly from Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which were interested to invest in the country following a recent trade mission by Miti.

"They are keen on Malaysia. Saudi Arabia considers capital as one of its biggest exports and they have told us that Malaysia is not getting a fair share from this," he said.

He also said Miti would start underlining its plans and vision for next year from the second week of January.

- Bernama

Slower Growth In Insurance Sector Seen (Posted: 20 December 2010 )

But life insurance expected to expand by at least 12% in 2011

PETALING JAYA: The insurance sector is expected to continue its growth momentum, albeit at a slower pace, with the life insurance business projected to grow by at least 12% next year.

Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM) president Md Adnan Md Zain said: With the economic growth projected to be around 5% next year coupled with the recent Economic Transformation Programme initiatives such as the Employee Insurance Scheme, Private Pension Scheme and the Foreign Workers Health Insurance Scheme, we should see the industry topping at a pace of at least 12% in new business sales next year.

New business sales rose by 19% on a weighted premium basis in the first three quarters of 2010 attributed by a strong performance in regular premium sales which went up by 21% compared with the same period last year. Single premium business, however, registered a small decline of 1%.

With the low interest rate environment and higher disposable income, he said there was fresh impetus for consumers to seek high yielding products like insurance.

There was also a lot of potential in the life insurance market as the current penetration rate of 41% was lower than the more developed Asian economies, Md Adnan told StarBiz.

With rising medical costs and a slight uncertainty in the market, he said products such as health/medical, protection and savings related products would be the dominant types that would take the lead in seeking better penetration and growth.

Expressing a more optimistic outlook, Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd its director and CEO Koh Yaw Hui said the insurance market was projected to grow very strongly in the region of 15-20% next year. He added that the growth was underpinned by the strong growth momentum expected from the takaful business, especially with the issuance of four new family takaful licences this year.

General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM) executive director Lim Chia Fook said the association expected the outlook for the general insurance sector next year to be positive with an increased demand for general insurance in all sectors. The medical and health insurance (MHI) sector was expected to remain strong in terms of growth which would be driven by growing consumer awareness and an increasing need for protection against escalating costs of medical and health care services, he noted.

Lim said the recently announced medical insurance plan for foreign workers to be implemented early next year would add further impetus to the MHI sector.

Apart from further pick-up in demand for property and liability insurance, the automotive sector would provide the stimulus for growth in the motor insurance sector, he said.

He said PIAM expected new areas of growth in micro-insurance products, especially in view of the fast developing small and medium enterprises sector as well as the biotechnology sector.

ING Insurance Bhd president and CEO Datuk Dr Nirmala Menon said that besides medical, protection and savings-related products having the biggest potential for growth, the industry would also be seen formulating a more comprehensive financial solutions plan for women to help them plan ahead better.

She also reckons that education plans would be popular as parents opt to give the best education to their children and that financial planning would be crucial to ensure there are sufficient savings for their children's future education.

Special focus would also be given to takaful products to capture the under-penetrated Muslim population which currently stood at below 10%, she noted.

Prudential Assurance Malaysia Bhd (PAMB) CEO Charlie E. Oropeza said the company's nine-month performance to September 30 had been really strong with total new business sales (conventional life insurance and takaful ) increasing to RM655mil, up 40% from the same period in 2009.

He said investment-linked products have been the mainstay of PAMB's business and would continue to be the driving force behind the company's long term growth, adding that it also expected to see a strong demand for medical/health riders.

Great Eastern's Koh said the challenge for the industry was to design suitable and affordable products that suit people's needs and boost the penetration rate of insurance in the country, noting that Taiwan has an insured rate of about 200% compared with 41% in Malaysia.

ING's Nirmala said that besides educating consumers on the importance of financial planning, the training of agency force would need to be intensified further as the professionalism of financial planners would affect consumers' ability to trust their advisers when it came to financial purchases.

Oropeza said besides enhancing the quality and professionalism of agents, another major challenge would be in attracting and retaining talent in the industry as finding the right people was a common probleml faced by all financial institutions.

- The Star Online

China, Pakistan To Formalise US$10bil Deals (Posted: 20 December 2010 )

ISLAMABAD: China and Pakistan are set to conclude another US$10bil worth of deals, the latest signings on a trade focused trip to South Asia for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Business leaders are scheduled to formalise deals at Islamabad's five-star Marriott Hotel, where a devastating suicide truck bomb killed 60 people in 2008, adding to the US$20bil deals inked over last week.

Boosting trade and investment have been the main focus of what has been the first visit in five years by a Chinese premier to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan regards China as its closest ally and the deals are seen locally as incredibly important to a moribund economy, which was dealt a massive blow by catastrophic flooding this year and suffers from sluggish foreign investment.

Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the countries signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding on Friday in fields ranging from energy to railways, from reconstruction to agriculture and culture.

Kaira said China had promised to fund all the energy projects of Pakistan, which he termed a major breakthrough. Pakistan suffers from a debilitating energy crisis and produces only 80% of the electricity it needs.

China will provide assistance in 36 projects in Pakistan to be completed in five years, he said. Basically this is a five-year development plan.

Although not specifically mentioned, behind-the-scenes talks are also expected on China building a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant as part of Pakistani plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity by 2025 to make up its energy shortfall.

The outcome of the visit is beyond our expectations. It is an historic day, Pakistan's ambassador to Beijing Masood Khan said on Friday.

Pakistan depends on China's financial and political clout to offset the perceived threat from rival India and rescue its economy from the doldrums of catastrophic flooding, a severe energy crisis and poor foreign investment.

Pakistan's prime minister has expressed hope that trade would rise to between US$15bil and US$18bil over the next five years.

China, meanwhile, has been concerned about the threat of Islamist militants infiltrating its territory from Pakistan.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Wen visited India, where he and his 400-strong delegation inked deals that would see bilateral trade double to US$100bil a year by 2015. AFP

- The Star Online

Furniture Manufacturers Face Uncertainties On Unfavourable US, Europe Economies (Posted: 17 December 2010 )

KULAIJAYA: Local furniture manufacturers and exporters are still facing uncertainties in the international market due to the unfavourable economic conditions in the United States and European countries.

SHH Resources Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Teo Wee Cheng said demand for the made-in-Malaysia furniture from US consumers had yet to pick up as its economy was still in the doldrums.

He said the austerity measures taken by Ireland and several Western European countries could lead to another round of global economic recession.

The strengthening of the ringgit against the greenback in recent months is not helping either as our export to the United States has become more expensive,'' Teo told StarBiz after the company AGM recently.

He said to mitigate the problem, the company had already started producing value-added furniture especially bedroom sets for the US market as this segment generated higher margin.

Teo said the company's bedroom sets were its best-selling products in the United States as most Americans would change their bedroom sets after using them for an average of three years.

He said the United States remained the company's main export market but it would continue to look for alternative markets in Australasia, Japan and Eastern European countries to widen its market base.

Emerging economies especially China and India as well as countries in the Middle East and South-East Asia offer good opportunities for us too,'' said Teoh.

On a related matter, he said Malaysia still had abundant supply of rubberwood for the local furniture industry with Johor, Kelantan and Pahang having planting areas dedicated for rubberwood trees for furniture making.

Teo said the company would rebuild one of its finishing facilities, Kurnia Sejati Sdn Bhd, at Pagoh industrial area, which caught fire in September in the first quarter of next year.

- The Star Online

Airasia Invests 40% Stake In Philippine Ops (Posted: 17 December 2010 )

MANILA: AirAsia Bhd, which has formed a 40:60 joint venture (JV) with three Philippine partners, is investing US$8mil for its 40% stake in AirAsia Philippines.

We will be funding it internally via equity, group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said after a signing ceremony between AirAsia and Antonio O. Cojuangco Jr, Dr Michael L. Romeo and Marianne B. Honours yesterday.

He expects AirAsia Philippines to be profitable straight away and contribute to group revenue immediately as a lot of ground works had been done.

The set-up cost is very low. There are already flights from Kuala Lumpur to the Philippines. Everything is there already, Fernandes said.

AirAsia will hold 40% equity in AirAsia Inc, the JV company set up for AirAsia Philippines. The new airline is expected to begin operations in August 2011 with an initial working capital of US$25mil.

To a question, Fernandes said it was in the midst of getting approval from authorities for its airline operations in the Philippines.

He added that it was currently evaluating its choices of airport between Clark and Cubic International Airport as its hub in the archipelago.

The results (decision on its hub) should be in a couple of weeks, Fernandes said, adding that the Philippine market offered a lot of potential.

AirAsia Philippines will leverage on AirAsia's strength into markets in China, South Korea and Japan from the Philippines and will enable it to tap into existing prime markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Fernandes said the group took a while to decide to go into the Philippine market as it had to find the right partners.

AirAsia Philippines will begin operation with two aircraft.

Fernandes, however, remained mum on its route in the Philippines.

There are so many places to go. We will be flying both domestic and international, he said.

We will not cannibalise the market. We are looking to grow it. With the 140 routes we fly to, 50% are routes never before flown; you will see the same recipe in the Philippines.

Asked if AirAsia's plan to set up a unit in Vietnam was taking a back seat, Fernandes said it would focus on the Philippine market at the moment.

AirAsia also has subsidiaries in Indonesia and Thailand.

Greater connectivity across Asia would not only boost economic growth by providing better access to markets but also enhance links within travel, trade and tourism.

This initiative will also help bring Asian closer by enabling intra-Aseans travel with AirAsia's connectivity and route network via our strategic hub, Fernandes said.

Honours said the setting up of AirAsia Philippines would create healthy business competition and make air travel more affordable for Filipinos.

As part of the JV, AirAsia will provide technical, operational and commercial support on an arms length basis to AirAsia Inc to ensure commercial, operational, branding and service level uniformity throughout AirAsia's operations.

Meanwhile, AirAsia also announced that it would extend its association with the Asian Basketball League by sponsoring the 2009-2010 Grand Finals Champion, Philippine Patriots.

The three-year exclusive deal will see Philippines Patriots provide full branding rights to AirAsia including the use of player images and player appearances at AirAsia events across Asia.

AirAsia plans to use these images for community-driven events both on and off season throughout the tenure of partnership.

- The Star Online

Foreign Investments In Steel Plants May Hit RM27bil (Posted: 16 December 2010 )

Bagan Datoh park attracts foreigners

KUALA LUMPUR: Companies from Europe, Japan and South Korea have shown interest in building integrated steel plants at the proposed heavy industrial park at Bagan Datoh in Perak, which could generate total foreign investments of RM27bil.

KYM Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Raymond Chong Thin Choy said companies from the three countries were still considering the possibility of setting up their plants and that each company would likely invest about RM9bil per plant.

The intention of setting up their plants is driven by the Brazil mining giant Vale International SA's plan to set up an iron ore distribution centre and pellet plant and a 2.3km jetty, he told StarBiz in an interview yesterday. KYM will develop and promote the heavy industrial park.

Chong pointed out that the Bagan Datoh park was strategically located near Vale's proposed iron ore distribution centre and pellet plant, which would enable these companies to source their raw materials and also benefit from the shipping infrastructure planned by Vale.

The proposed industrial park is expected to have a spillover effect in Perak, which would take the state's development to another level, he said.

KYM signed a memorandum of understanding via its subsidiary with Perak State Development Corp on Dec 1 for the establishment of the heavy industrial park.

The agreement would involve the reclamation of an area of about 3,400 acres and the construction of infrastructure requirements, including a jetty or jetties.

On the contract awarded by Vale International for the provision of consultancy services for the acquisition of land and development, Chong said the contract was just a kick-start project for the company and that more announcements would be made when things were finalised.

We intend to participate in the operation of the jetty as well as its ownership.

We are exploring the possibility of further collaboration with Vale International now and wish to conclude the deal in the next four months, he said.

It has been reported that Vale plans to invest RM9bil in an iron ore distribution centre for Asia on the land it had bought. The land was sold by KYM's 54%-owned Harta Makmur Sdn Bhd to Vale for RM196mil cash last year.

Central to the project will be a pelletising plant, which converts raw iron ore into pellets that are used in steel production. The finished products will be distributed to customers in the Asian region.

A 2.3km jetty project is also in the works for the easy ferrying of iron ore and coal. The completed jetty is expected to be able to accommodate ships of 400,000-deadweight tonnes with handling capacity of 30 million tonnes of iron ore in the initial phase.

- The Star Online

Malaysia Confident Of 7% Economic Growth (Posted: 16 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government is confident of a 7% economic growth in 2010 following the positive growth recorded in the first nine-months of the year.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said economic growth this year would be more favourable than forecast earlier although there were still signs of global economic instability.

We are confident of attaining a positive figure in the fourth-quarter of this year and a 7% growth for 2010, he told reporters after an agreement signing between Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB), Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd and Inovatif Mewah Sdn Bhd here yesterday.

On the economic outlook for next year, Nor Mohamed said it was expected to be challenging against a backdrop of economic instability in several European countries.

However, he said the country had taken several steps to ensure continued economic growth.

Nor Mohamed also said the Government would continue with the Jejak Jaya Bumiputera Scheme next year.

- Bernama

Bank Negara May Raise Interest Rates If CPI Rises To 3.3% In 2011 (Posted: 15 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: A rise in consumer price index (CPI) may impel Bank Negara to resume increasing interest rates, by 25 basis points each in the second and third quarter of 2011, respectively.

The central bank, however, is expected to keep its monetary policy on hold in the first quarter of 2011 until there was more clarity on the global picture and given its moderate inflation projection through 2011.

We are more concerned about CPI inflation, expecting it to rise to 3.3% in 2011. This should impel Bank Negara to resume raising rates, with 25 basis point hikes each in quarter two and three of 2011, Nomura Securities International Inc said in its 2011 Global Economic Outlook released here yesterday.

Monetary conditions tightened in 2010 via real effective exchange rate appreciation and three 25 basis points rate hikes bringing the overnight policy rate to 2.75%.

Monetary conditions should also tighten through further ringgit appreciation, given the large current account surplus and potential for larger capital inflows, said Nomura.

We do not expect Malaysia to impose controls on inflows in the near future, it added.

Bank Negara recently further liberalised the capital account and set a 70% loan-to-valuation ratio cap on third mortgages in a bid to curb property market speculation.

- Bernama

YTL Corp Unit To Pay US$5bil For 30% Stake In Enefit's Oil Shale Projects (Posted: 15 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: YTL Power International Bhd is investing in oil shale projects in Jordan with the acquisition of a 30% stake in Eesti Energia's Jordanian oil shale projects.

YTL would invest US$5bil to buy the 30% block in the Jordanian oil shale project, Bloomberg reported.

Eesti Energia and its Jordanian partner Near East Investment (NEI), together with YTL Power, will develop an oil plant with output of about 38,000 barrels per day.

Construction will commence following further analysis of the resource and environmental studies.

The plant will utilise Eesti Energia's leading proprietary oil recovery technology, which has more than 30 years of industrial production in Estonia.

As the new strategic partner, YTL Power would contribute its experience in developing and operating large energy production and trading assets in emerging markets, it said in a statement yesterday.

According to the new shareholding structure, Eesti Energia owns 65%, YTL Power 30% and NEI 5% of the oil shale projects in Jordan.

Eesti Energia is the national energy company of Estonia which is internationally known as Enefit while YTL Power is the utility subsidiary of YTL Corp Bhd.

We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest alongside Enefit, with its leading expertise in oil shale fired power generation and technology for oil recovery, said YTL Power executive director Datuk Yeoh Seok Hong.

Enefit chief executive officer Sandor Liive said YTL's presence would make a great contribution to the realisation of these projects which would put Jordan for the first time on the way to energy independence.

In May, Jordan Oil Shale Energy Company, a subsidiary of Eesti Energia, signed a concession agreement with Jordanian government for the mining of oil shale from Attarat um Ghudrun oil shale deposit in Jordan.

This was the first surface mining oil shale concession to be awarded by the Jordanian government, Bernama reported.

In another development, YTL Corp announced it is selling four of the company's hospitality properties to Starhill Global Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) for RM472mil to be satisfied via a combination of cash and convertible preference units to be issued by Starhill REIT.

The properties to be sold include Cameron Highlands Resort, Hilton Niseko, Vistana Penang and Vistana Kuala Lumpur.

YTL Corp would then lease the properties from Starhill REIT for 15 years with an option to renew the lease agreements for a further 15 years.

YTL Corp in filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday said the lease payments for the properties were fixed and included a 5% step-up rate every five years.

Furthermore, a YTL associate company, Business and Budget Hotels (Kuantan) Sdn Bhd, has also entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Starhill REIT to sell Vistana Kuantan for RM75mil to be satisfied via cash and issuance of new units in the latter.

Starhill REIT would then lease the hotel back to Business and Budget Hotels.

- The Star Online

Asian Airlines Forging Ahead, Says MAS Chairman (Posted: 14 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 (Bernama) - Asian airlines, already the best in the world in terms of service levels, are forging ahead on the back of the continent''s growth which would make the civil aviation industry a formidable part of the rise of Asia, Malaysia Airlines Chairman Tan Sri Munir Majid said today.

"For every one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, you can expect 1.5 per cent of traffic growth.

"The Asian economy is expected to grow 7 per cent this year while growth is expected to be anaemic in America and Europe," he said in the statement today.

Dr Munir also pointed out Asia was starting out from a low base.

"With 10 times the US population size, if Asia was seen as a domestic market its passenger size was only 1.2 times that of the US.

"In terms of international level, while twice the 79 million of the US, this was still behind Europe''s 3.8 times," he said.

Overall, only 10 per cent of Asia''s population travel "domestically" (US:91 per cent; Europe:21 per cent) while international travel is limited to 4 per cent of the population (US 22 per cent and Europe 41 per cent), he said.

Dr Munir also said Asia has a high propensity to spend and quoted figures from Airbus indicating that real consumer spending growth for the period 2009-2014 was close to and over eight per cent against projected GDP growth of eight and 10 per cent, respectively.

On the number of seats per annum basis, he said nine of the top 20 airports in the world were located in Asia.

"China alone has 158 airports and plans to build 86 more," he added.


M'sia And Brunei Ink Billion-Ringgit Oil And Gas Exploration Pact (Posted: 14 December 2010 )

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Malaysia has sealed a 40-year joint oil and gas exploration deal with Brunei which is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue for both countries.

The deal involves two deep water blocks - CA1 and CA2 - located within the two countries' commercial arrangement area along the Brunei-Sarawak maritime border near the Limbang division.

Petronas will also be looking into possible joint ventures with Brunei National Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (PetroleumBrunei) to explore oil and gas in a third country and the development of downstream industries.

The signing of the agreement, which took diplomatic and economic ties between the two nations to new heights, was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at the Nurul Iman palace in the sultanate's capital here.

The agreement on the commercial arrangement area came about when Malaysia and Brunei amicably resolved the Limbang land and maritime boundary issues in March last year.

Speaking at a press conference after the signing ceremony yesterday, Najib said he was pleased to see the prospects of a new working relationship between Malaysia and Brunei.

"The Sultan said he was happy with the agreement.

"Petronas will be having an active role in the development of the two blocks. It might be given a greater role in the development of the region in time to come," he said.

Najib said the terms and conditions of the agreement were still being discussed.

The contractors and support services for the joint exploration and production project will come from Sabah and Sarawak as well as from the peninsula.

On the progress of the boundary demarcation between Limbang and Brunei, he said a technical group was proceeding with its work and it would be meeting again next month.

Najib also said Brunei was keen to expand its investments in the development corridors in Sabah and Sarawak and in Johor besides embarking on a major hotel project in Kuala Lumpur.

"Dialogues between the relevant ministries of both countries will also be held to enhance communication linkages between Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah.

"We hope to facilitate easier cross-border travel in the three areas," he said.

Najib was accompanied by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and senior officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the ministry and Petronas.

- The Star Online

Nine-Month FDI Jumps To RM17.1 Billion (Posted: 13 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign direct investments (FDIs) in Malaysia leaped to RM17.1bil for the period from January to September 2010 compared to just RM5bil recorded for the whole of last year, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said on Saturday.

We hope to achieve at least RM20bil in FDIs by end of the year. It is hard to estimate but we hope the momentum can sustain for the rest of the year, he said after delivering a keynote address at the annual Young Corporate Malaysians Summit here.

He said the amount was a clear reflection of increase in confidence in the Malaysian economy.

The various initiatives taken by the government to transform the economy have gone down well with the investor community and money is coming back into the country.

Malaysia recorded a higher net inflow of RM6.2bil for the third quarter of 2010, compared with RM5.1bil and RM5.9bil recorded in the first and second quarter respectively.

The investments in the third quarter were mainly in the finance and insurance, manufacturing and oil and gas sectors, he said, dismissing suggestions that the 81% drop in FDI last year was due to the Government's poor governance.

Mustapa said the government would promote Malaysia more aggressively as more and more foreigners were interested to invest in the country.

As the growth in Asean picks up, it would provide a lot of opportunities in the region in terms of trade, business and tourism, he said.

He said many Malaysian companies had also begun to venture into opportunites around the region and were benefitting from the process of trade with the flow of people and connectivity generated.

- Bernama

Huge Opportunities Available In Asean (Posted: 13 December 2010 )

But there is also need for greater integration and government reforms

KUALA LUMPUR: Asean needs to work towards greater integration and reforms of their governments to really become a force to be reckoned with in the global economy.

At the Second Annual Young Corporate Malaysians Summit 2010 held over the weekend, panelists, who comprised industry leaders from the region, agreed that there were huge opportunities available in Asean for investors to tap.

But at the same time, there were also huge challenges that governments need to address. We're in a truly landscape-changing environment. There are huge opportunities here, as the region has become the centre of gravity for the global economy, CIMB Asean Research Institute chief executive officer John Pang said.

Among the various opportunities in the region that panelists highlighted include those focused on natural resources, infrastructure and Islamic banking sectors.

Of the countries in Asean, Indonesia was largely seen as the next big thing in the region. Driven by its huge domestic market, Indonesia's economy, which is also the largest in the region, was among the very few in the world that still registered positive growth during the onslaught of the global financial crisis.

Last year, it posted a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.5%. This year, Indonesia is expected to chart a 6% growth rate.

Next year, the country's GDP growth is expected to exceed 6%. This makes Indonesia among the fastest-growing economies in Asia after China and India.

Indonesia is definitely a country to watch, and it is definitely attracting a lot of foreign direct investments (FDIs), PT Macquarie Capital Securities of Indonesia research head Ferry Wong said during his session.

He said that the present political stability in the country, with President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's party enjoying strong parliamentary support, meant that the Government had ensured capacity to push through various reforms that would make Indonesia more attractive.

Reforms are necessary, not only in Indonesia, but in all other countries in Asean, including Malaysia, if the region were to be in a much stronger position globally, Rothschild Investment Bank Singapore managing director Dr Peter Bird pointed out in his session.

Unfortunately, foreign investors in general tend to perceive that governments in Asean, safe for Singapore, were incapable of putting their ideas into practice.

You can rule Singapore out of this. The country has been run very efficiently and effectively and it is generally perceived to be clean' and transparent', Bird said.

But for others, he said earnest desire for reforms had to be demonstrated through quick execution of plans to change investors' poor perception of their economies.

Over the years, the lack of governments' will power to execute plans had been one of the main complaints among foreign businesses wanting to invest in the region.

Other grouses included the undue political influence in business dealings, the direct involvement of governments in business, poor infrastructure, corruption and corporate governance. Investors don't like these because they create uncertainties, Bird said.

She urged economic stakeholders to take the initiative to exercise proper governance in their companies to change corporate Malaysia and corporate Asean. She said independent directors were important as a system of check and balance in companies.

At the end of the day, integrity is something that no one can take away from you, she emphasised, as she encouraged young participants at the summit to instill good values when they become leaders of tomorrow.

According to Bird, Asean's main selling point was its people. CIMB's Pang concurred, but he said, the key challenge that Asean faces at the moment is the lack of managerial talent among its people.

We, therefore, need to create a new class of corporate talent with a different mindset, who sees themselves as professionals based not merely in their own country, but in the region as a whole, Pang added.

Panellists at the summit agreed that countries in the region should strive to break down barriers and bridge cultural divides so that the region can be more integrated with one another.

The summit was organised by a locally established group called the Young Corporate Malaysians.

The main sponsors included StarBiz, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Brunsfield, CIMB Group, Danga Bay, Weida, 1MDB and Insitute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

- The Star Online

Matrade Identifies Projects Worth US$428mil In Laos, Cambodia (Posted: 10 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: A recent business delegation of local construction companies to Cambodia and Laos identified US$428mil of building and infrastructure projects in both the countries, a statement from Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) said yesterday.

It said the Specialised Marketing Mission, which was in Phnom Penh and Vientiane from Nov 28 to Dec 2, focused on construction and related services.

The mission was led by Matrade, in collaboration with the Construction Industry Development Board and the Master Builders Association of Malaysia.

Infrastructure, hydropower and construction projects were identified to be among the most promising business opportunities in both countries, said Matrade chief executive officer Datuk Noharuddin Nordin.

He said both the Cambodian and Laotian governments were keen to work with foreign and local companies to develop their countries' infrastructure needs through Public- Private Partnership programmes.

Citing the example of the US$2bil Greater Mekong Subregion projects in Cambodia and the US$5.2bil hydro power sector plan in Laos over the next five years, he said both countries were projecting positive economic growth and vibrant outlook for their development plans.

- Bernama

Upcoming IABF Offers Malaysians 'Unique Business Opportunities' In India (Posted: 10 December 2010 )

MUMBAI, Dec  (Bernama) -- The booming Indian economy is inherent with huge business potential for Malaysian companies and they could tap some "unique business opportunities" in this market of roughly 1.2 billion people.

To facilitate this, Malaysian Trade Commissioner in Mumbai Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir said Malaysia would take about 1,000 square feet -- the largest amongst all the Asean countries -- of display space at the India-Asean Business Fair (IABF) that will be held from March 2 to 6, 2011 at New Delhi''s exhibition ground Pragati Maidan.

"This fair is the first of its kind and comes after the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and Asean. The FTA, which went into effect on Jan 1, 2010 will provide a strong impetus to trade and business between the two sides," he told Bernama in an interview here.

IABF is being organised by India''s Commerce and Industry Ministry, together with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. It will involve participation by India and all Asean member countries.

"We plan to bring some 80 Malaysian companies to participate in the fair, and will present our industries such as electronics and electrical, furniture, oil and gas, and construction and professional services such as engineering," Noraslan Hadi said.

India''s Commerce and Industry Ministry is inviting major importers to IABF which will be flanked by a cultural and food festival, and Minister Anand Sharma has personally extended an invitation to his Asean counterparts, including Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed who is expected to come for the IABF''s inauguration.

Noraslan Hadi who had his work cut out for him since he arrived in July 2009 as Malaysia''s first-ever trade commissioner in Mumbai, is also planning to set up a booth at another event for medical equipment and technology called the Medical Fair India from March 25 to 26, 2011 in Mumbai.

He will also be involved in organising the visits of two business delegations from Malaysia.

The first is a logistics delegation visiting Chennai and Mumbai from May 1 to 6, 2011 while the second will be an automotive spare-parts delegation in November. Dates for the second visit are being finalised.

Asked if it was realistic to achieve the target of US$50 billion in two-way trade by the year 2015 -- this goal was set by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during his visit to India this year, Noraslan Hadi replied: "We are working hand to achieve this goal."

Although Asean''s joint FTA with India will drive growth in trade and business, he expected the growth momentum in Indo-Malaysian economic relations to intensify when India signs a separate exclusive FTA with Malaysia.

The Indo-Malaysian FTA is being readied for signature next year.

Two-way trade during the first nine months of 2010 amounted to RM21.1 billion, up from RM18 billion in the previous corresponding period.

Though the Indian market''s sheer size is mind-boggling, it is not easy to penetrate it because it is considered to be still regulated and governed by a maze of complex trade rules.

But Noraslan Hadi urged exporters not to despair. "Despite the initial hurdles, India''s market is very lucrative. You have to be patient and understand its idiosyncrasies," he said.

"India offers too many opportunities.

"Take the furniture business. India, of course, has its own furniture business but there is still good demand for furniture. Malaysian companies may consider setting up a joint venture with Indian small and medium-sized enterprises for furniture manufacturing in India.

"Besides furniture, there is also demand for home appliances, parts and components, food processing, etc. Infrastructure projects offer opportunities for Malaysia''s construction companies," he said.

The Malaysian trade commissioner would like to encourage Malaysian businesspeople to use his office facilities when visiting Mumbai.

He is organising a reception to inform Malaysian and Indian businesses about "my existence in Mumbai, and to offer them my help in whatever way I can to promote exports to this country".

This approach, he said, was also in keeping with the idea of Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.


KFC Chain On Expansion Mode In India (Posted: 9 December 2010 )

17 stores projected by next year

MUMBAI: KFC India, a subsidiary of Kuala Lumpur-based KFC Holdings (M) Bhd, has been operating in India for a year, and has already opened six stores in the state of Maharashtra four in Mumbai, one in Pune and one in Aurangabad.

KFC had plans to increase its number of stores to 17 next year, said Hezal Ahmad, the CEO of KFC India.

India is a very interesting market because of its people, their lifestyle, diverse cultures and incredible business opportunities. The earning potential is unlimited. Our expansion will initially concentrate in Mumbai and Pune, both in Maharashtra, before we venture into other states.

We owe our success in Mumbai to its people who are very cosmopolitan and open to new ideas and food, Johor-born Hezal said in an interview.

The receptiveness of the Mumbai people to KFC had been phenomenal because of the exposure Mumbai's young people and professionals had to international cuisines, he said.

The KFC brand was easily recognised and accepted, he said.

The people of Mumbai also appreciated the idea of self-service in restaurants.

The self-service concept is new in India and is gaining ground.

The customers in our stores can have full meals and not confine themselves to mere snacking, he said.

KFC India, is in fact, doing better business than its parent company in Malaysia.

Mumbai is better than Kuala Lumpur or anywhere else in Malaysia in terms of sales turnover of restaurant stores.

KFC India employs about 300 workers, 90% of whom are Indians and the remaining 10% Malaysians. We have brought our 37 years of skills and expertise here from Malaysia, Hezal said.

India's cash-rich middle-class is discovering the advantages of convenience foods which are, however, not always beneficial to good health.

The future is bright for us in India. The country is also self-sufficient as far as ingredients for food preparation are concerned. We don't have to rely on imports of ingredients, as is the case with Malaysia, and can source these in India itself.

Of course, we have brought the equipment needed for the preparation of food, but then that is a one-time expenditure. India's middle-class is growing, at present, at a much faster rate than in South-East Asian countries, said Hezal.

KFC India buys chicken from Vanky's India Ltd in Pune and Godrej Food Ltd in Mumbai.

- Bernama

RM1bil Investment In Langkawi Resort (Posted: 9 December 2010 )

Khazanah in joint-venture deal under master development plan

LANGKAWI: Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the investment holdings arm of the Government, expects to invest RM1bil with its partners between now and 2014 to develop Teluk Datai in Langkawi.

Managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said the development would be done through Teluk Datai master development plan and Khazanah would get involved via its investee company Teluk Datai Resorts Sdn Bhd.

Under this master plan, we will re-invest in the existing hotels in Teluk Datai and investment in select pieces of earmarked land in an environmentally sensitive manner, he said yesterday at the launch of the master plan.

The plan was launched by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

In July, the group acquired 70% stake in Teluk Datai Resorts, which owns The Datai Langkawi hotel, The Golf Club, Datai Bay and 1,494 acres at Teluk Datai.

The remaining 30% interest in Teluk Datai Resorts are held by Tan Sri Razali Rahman and Datuk Hassan Abas through Archipelago Hotels (East) Sdn Bhd.

Azman said Khazanah's investment in Teluk Datai Resorts was in line with the Government's efforts to drive the economy upwards under the Economic Transformation Plan.

It is also consistent with the key thrust of the New Economic Model of moving Malaysia towards a high income economy, supported by high-skilled local labour force and sustainable products and services and embodies the spirit of collaboration and partnership between the public and private sector, he said.

The first of the projects under the plan was to enhance The Datai Langkawi hotel through the development of 14 luxury villas, expected to be completed in the first quarter 2012.

Teluk Datai Resorts had also commenced reviewing the realignment of The Golf Club, Datai Bay to upgrade the golf course and also enable the land to be optimised for beachfront development, targeted for completion in the third quarter of 2012.

At the event yesterday, Teluk Datai Resorts also signed a head of agreement with Shangri-La Hotels (M) Bhd for the establishment of a joint-venture company (51% would be owned by Teluk Datai Resorts) to develop a 5-star resort there that would later be managed by Shangri-La Int Hotel Management Ltd under the Shangri-La brand.

It was expected that there would be another premium 6-star hotel and a selection of premium villas for sale in Teluk Datai.

To preserve the environment during the development, Teluk Datai Resorts has engaged Camco South East Asia to undertake a sustainability study.

It also announced that the group had adopted Sekolah Kebangsaan Ewa as part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

- The Star Online

Scomi Marine, Indian Varsity Ink Pact On Maritime Courses (Posted: 8 December 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Scomi Marine Bhd has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form a framework of cooperation for the provision of maritime academic programmes in Malaysia.

The MoU was signed with Indian Maritime University (IMU), Intan Asia Sdn Bhd and Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

In a statement, Scomi Marine, an associate of Scomi Group Bhd, said the programmes, like training, research, consultancy courses and services, would be carried at a campus to be established in PKFZ.

The parties will undertake the establishment of the maritime academy, whereby a joint management committee and a joint academic committee will be formed to carry out the planning, direction and overall management of the project and the academic curriculum respectively, it said.

It said PKFZ had been identified as the ideal location for the IMU Asia campus as it offered excellent connectivity and infrastructure facilities.

IMU is a central university established by the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India with headquarters in Chennai.

Scomi Group chief executive officer Shah Hakim Zain said: IMU Asia campus will form a part of Scomi's corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Our intention is to train young Malaysians for a career in shipping. In addition, this will help alleviate the unemployment faced by youths.

PKFZ chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng said: It provides PKFZ with another nucleus of activity for the free trade zone and they aim to spawn a series of activities around the campus to support the shipping and logistics requirement of the industry.

He said the project would be able to utilise the existing facilities in the four blocks of office complex in PKFZ immediately.

- The Star Online

ADB: 5% Growth For Malaysia In 2011 (Posted: 8 December 2010 )

Growth of emerging East Asia likely to moderate next year

PETALING JAYA: The economic growth in emerging East Asia would likely moderate next year, with Malaysia posting a full-year growth of 5% against a weaker global economic outlook and the overall phasing out of fiscal and monetary stimulus plans, said Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In its bi-annual report on Asia Economic Monitor December 2010, ADB said external demand would remain subdued, given the weak and fragile recovery in advanced economies while export growth was expected to ease after a strong rebound early this year.

More trade-dependent economies such as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong are expected to be affected by weaker external demand.

The report said leading indicators such as industrial production, purchasing managers index and retail sales also suggested a moderation in growth trajectory.

Growth in emerging East Asia may reach 8.8% this year before moderating to 7.3% next year. ADB forecasts Malaysia's growth this year will be 6.8%.

Of the more open middle-income Asean economies, Thailand and Malaysia were said to have grown rapidly in the first half of 2010 partly due to low base effects, as both economies contracted in the first half of 2009.

Growth should moderate during the second half, with leading indicators such as industrial production and retail sales already moderating, the report said.

It also highlighted that the economic outlook for emerging East Asia remains highly uncertain and is subject to four major risks that include persistent weak growth in advanced economies, de-stabilising capital flows, inflation and asset-price bubbles in some economies, and protectionism.

A weaker and longer-than-expected recovery process in advanced economies would further delay policy normalisation, increasing economic distortions and lowering long-term growth prospects.

If the recovery in advanced economies falters, sluggish external demand could once again disrupt the region's robust growth, the report added.

ADB said global liquidity was bountiful, with central banks in major economies keeping interest rates close to zero and adopting more unconventional monetary policy measurers such as quantitative easing to stimulate their economies.

Interest rate differentials between emerging market economies and major developed countries are wider than before the crisis the rapid recovery and higher growth in emerging East Asian economies led authorities to unwind policy stimulus before advanced economies.

Moreover, limited exchange-rate flexibility in the region can draw capital inflows as investors anticipate currency appreciation, it said.

However, such capital flows could de-stabilise the real economy, causing major challenges for macroeconomic management. Another concern was that risk sentiment could change abruptly, leading to a sudden capital flow reversal.

ADB also said that for several economies, inflation could exceed targets with surging capital inflows fuelling asset-price bubbles while protectionism measures such as capital controls could emerge, given the unsynchronised global recovery.

The report highlighted that with spillovers from national policies and the growing interdependence of the region's economies, the next step for regional cooperation in East Asia could be on an exchange rate policy.

ADB said one of the initial steps towards having a regional exchange rate cooperation included that of being institution-lite rather than based on the full range of institutions created for Europe's monetary and economic union.

A realistic short-term objective would be to reduce intra-regional exchange rate variability while allowing exchange rates to respond to shocks outside the region, it added.

- The Star Online

M'sia-S'pore Joint Ministerial Committee Reports Progress In Several Areas Of Bilateral Cooperation (Posted: 6 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia-Singapore joint ministerial committee (JMC) for Iskandar Malaysia, which had its seventh working meeting in Nusajaya, Johor recently, has reported concrete progress in several areas of bilateral cooperation.

For example, cross-border traffic at the Second Link has increased with the reduction in toll charges since Aug 1 this year, while the number of new Malaysia Automated Clearance System users has also risen to more than 30,000 in the first 10 months of 2010.

A statement released by the Public Private Partnership Unit (UKAS) of the Prime Minister's Department on Saturday said the meeting, held on Dec 1, was co-chaired by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, and Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

Also present were Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman and Singapore's Transport Minister Raymond Lim as well as Malaysia's Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha and senior officials from both countries.

Meanwhile, at their retreat in May this year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong had agreed to jointly develop a rapid transit system (RTS) link between Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia.

The statement said the JMC discussed and agreed to carry out a joint engineering study to determine the technical parameters for the RTS link to achieve a convenient and cost-effective system that was well-integrated with transport services on both sides.

Both sides agreed to set up a co-located Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility in Singapore and another in Johor so that commuters need to clear immigration only once for each way of travel.

The statement said both prime ministers also agreed in May that Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd would form a 50:50 joint-venture company to undertake the development of the iconic wellness township project in Iskandar Malaysia.

The JMC noted that both investment corporations have made several site visits to Iskandar Malaysia and were actively discussing and working out a commercially viable proposal for the township with a view to launching it in May next year.

A new framework for cross-border sharing of information on lost and stolen passports has also been put in place to enhance border security.

The statement said officials from both sides had continued to collaborate on tourism promotion and development and river cleaning, and would further share experiences in other environmental issues such as air-quality management.

The JMC will meet again in the first quarter of 2011 to review the progress of the joint work groups.

- Bernama

US Cable: China Leaders Ordered Hacking On Google (Posted: 6 December 2010 )

BEIJING: Contacts told American diplomats that hacking attacks against Google were ordered by China's top ruling body and a senior leader demanded action after finding search results that were critical of him, leaked U.S. government memos show.

One memo sent by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to Washington said a "well-placed contact" told diplomats the Chinese government coordinated the attacks late last year on Google Inc. under the direction of the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of Communist Party power.

The details of the memos, known in diplomatic parlance as cables, could not be verified. Chinese government departments either refused to comment or could not be reached. If true, the cables show the political pressures that were facing Google when it decided to close its China-based search engine in March.

The cable about the hacking attacks against Google, which was classified as secret by Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Goldberg, was released by WikiLeaks.

The New York Times said the cable, dated early this year, quoted the contact as saying that propaganda chief Li Changchun, the fifth-ranked official in the country, and top security official Zhou Yongkang oversaw the hacking of Google. Both men are members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

The cable notes that it is unclear if Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were aware of the reported actions before Google went public about the attacks in January.

The Times, however, said doubts about the allegation have arisen after the newspaper interviewed the person cited in the cable, who denied knowing who directed the hacking attacks on Google. The Times did not identify the person it interviewed.

Another contact cited in that cable said he believed an official on the top political body was "working actively with Chinese Internet search engine Baidu against Google's interests in China."

Google's relations with Beijing have been tense since the U.S.-based search giant said in January it no longer wanted to cooperate with Chinese Web censorship following computer hacking attacks on Google's computer code and efforts to break into the e-mail accounts of human rights activists. Google closed its mainland China-based search engine on March 22 and began routing users to its uncensored Hong Kong site.

Google's spokeswoman in Tokyo, Jessica Powell, said the company had no comment on the cables released by Wikileaks, and on the hacking attacks, referred to a January statement that said it had evidence that the attack came from China. Google at the time declined to say whether the government was involved.

A man who answered the phone at the spokesman's office of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said no one was available to comment Sunday. Calls to the Foreign Ministry and the State Council Information Office, which is responsible for regulating Internet contact, rang unanswered.

The hacking that angered Google and hit dozens of other businesses was part of a rash of attacks aimed at a wide array of targets, from a British military contractor to banks. Experts said then the highly skilled attacks suggested the military or other government agencies might be breaking into computers to steal technology and trade secrets to help state companies.

In February, Peng Bo, a high-ranking official with the Internet bureau of the State Council Information Office, said the Chinese government was not involved in or supportive of cyber attacks, and called such accusations "sheer nonsense."

A separate cable released by WikiLeaks showed a Politburo member demanded action against Google after looking for his own name on the search engine and finding criticism of him.

In the version of the May 18, 2009, cable released by Wikileaks, the identity of the official was apparently removed. But the Times reported it was Li, the propaganda chief.

The cable, classified as confidential, cited a source as saying the Chinese official had realized that Google's worldwide site is uncensored, capable of Chinese language searches and search results, and that there is a link from the home page of its China site,, to

The official "allegedly entered his own name and found results critical of him," and asked three government ministries to write a report about Google and "demand that the company ceases its 'illegal activities,' which include linking to," the cable said.

The cable said American officials could neither confirm nor deny the details given by the contacts about the Chinese leadership's action.

A contact also said that China asked its three state-owned telecommunications companies to stop working with the search giant, the cable showed. China's main state-owned phone carriers are China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

- AP

NI Beefing Up Penang Plant (Posted: 3 December 2010 )

Bayan Lepas facility to be its third largest by 2012

GEORGE TOWN: Testing and automation product company National Instruments (NI) is targeting to transform its manufacturing-cum-research facility in Bayan Lepas, Penang, into its third-largest plant in the world by 2012.

Chief operating officer and chief financial officer Alex Davern said that by 2012, the Penang operations would be the US-headquartered group's third-largest global hub after its facilities in the United States and Hungary.

By 2020, the Penang facility would become its second largest in the world, he added.

Davern said this after the launching of NI's temporary office in SunTech Tower by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The temporary office is now occupied by NI's research and development (R&D), information technology (IT) and manufacturing employees.

Construction work on the first phase of NI's new US$80mil plant in Bayan Lepas would start next year and is scheduled for completion in 2012.

The plant will eventually employ 1,500 people in manufacturing, product development, R&D, IT and finance positions, he said.

Operations will begin in the third quarter of 2012, Davern said, adding that second phase construction was expected to start in 2016.

He said the group would hire about 200 people in the next three years for the operations in Penang.

The Penang operation is important as Asia-Pacific is expected to generate close to 40% of the group's revenue by 2016.

Asia-Pacific now contributes about 30% to group revenue compared with about 9% some 16 years ago, Davern said.

In its latest annual report posted on its website, NI said it had doubts on the long-term viability of Hungary as a location for its manufacturing and warehousing operations.

Our long-term manufacturing and warehousing capacity planning contemplates a third manufacturing and warehousing facility in Malaysia.

Deployment of this facility could be accelerated in response to an unfavourable change in the corporate taxation, regulatory or economic environment in Hungary, it said.

It added that if it failed to accelerate the deployment of its Malaysian manufacturing and warehousing facility, there could be a material adverse effect on its ability to meet customer demands, ability to grow its business as well as its liquidity, capital resources and results of operations.

- The Star Online

Bank Negara Malaysia's Interest Rate Is At Appropriate Level (Posted: 3 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not change its normalisation policy at this point in time despite Thailand's surprise interest rate increase on Wednesday.

Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the country's interest rate was at an appropriate level now.

Thailand's central bank surprised financial markets on Wednesday by raising its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 2% and said there would be further tightening to curb inflation, pushing up the baht.

Based on assessment, our interest rate is at the appropriate level at this point in time, given the outlook for inflation and growth, Zeti told reporters after the CEO Business Luncheon organised by International Chamber of Commerce Malaysia here yesterday.

Zeti was responding to a question whether Malaysia would change its normalisation policy after Thailand's move to raising its rates.

During the last monetary policy committee meeting, the central bank decided to maintain the overnight policy rate at 2.75%.

On the outlook for the mega Islamic Bank, Zeti said there would be an announcement later this month. It is premature to comment now. It is still in our schedule to make an announcement. But we are not saying when, she said.

Zeti also said the international reserves, which are subject to a high degree of volatility, must remain at a certain level to strengthen the nation.

She said during this uncertain period, the country certainly wanted its reserves to remain high to face the volatile situation.

The nation's international reserves had surged very high at one point and have since dropped to around US$80bil, she said.

Zeti said this when asked to comment on former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's remark recently that the country's reserves were too high and could be mobilised for other purposes such as development.

As at Nov 15, Bank Negara's international reserves amounted to RM326.5bil. The reserves position was sufficient to finance 8.8 months of retained imports and was 4.5 times the short-term external debt, it said.

- Bernama

October Exports Expected To Drop (Posted: 2 December 2010 )

StanChart sees first year-on-year fall after 10 straight months of expansion

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's export data for the month of October, which is expected to be released tomorrow, is likely to show an average decline of 0.9% year-on-year and also a slowdown from the month before, early estimates show.

Forecasts of 14 economists compiled by Reuters revealed that the average exports for October would decline 0.9% compared with a 6.9% year-on-year growth in September.

The decline was attributed to the lower base effect, which should not be too worrying, they said. Exports in October 2009 hit RM54.3bil, the second highest for that year.

A poll of 13 economists by Bloomberg showed that median exports for October would decline 1.8% versus a 6.9% year-on-year growth in September.

Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart) in its report said it was expecting to see the first year-on-year contraction for Malaysian exports after 10 straight months of expansion since December 2009.

While an unfavourable base effect certainly played a part in the poor export performance, weakness in demand from key export destinations would also be a factor, especially weaker demand from China which is Malaysia's top export destination outside Asean, it said.

StanChart said that in line with the weaker export performance, it believed the growth of imports would also ease although resilient domestic demand should still keep imports growth up.

Even as import growth clearly outstrips that of exports, Malaysia is still expected to record a trade surplus for October, and it may even turn out to be wider at RM8bil from RM7bil in September, it said.

Going forward, one economist said the weaker exports could have an impact on Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of the year.

Lower exports are likely to be a lug on GDP but this could be offset by better domestic demand during the period, he said.

Last month, Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said Malaysia was still capable of achieving GDP growth of 6% to 7% for 2010, supported mainly by domestic demand.

Malaysia's economic growth slowed to 5.3% in the third quarter compared with 8.9% in the second quarter largely on slowing external demand. For the third quarter, domestic spending increased by 5% helped by a sustained expansion in both private consumption and capital spending.

Also in a report last month, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp chief executive officer Datuk Noharuddin Noha said he expected better export growth in October and November compared with September due to the coming festive season in Western countries

- The Star Online

Prudential UK Aims To Double Asian Premiums (Posted: 2 December 2010 )

LONDON: The boss of Britain's biggest insurer Prudential Plc has outlined a plan to double Asian premiums by 2013, a move seen as bolstering his grip on the top job after a bungled takeover in the high-growth region.

Prudential, facing shareholder pressure after the failed multibillion-dollar attempt to buy AIA this year, also said it was targeting a doubling of last year's life insurance and asset management pre-tax profits by 2013.

This is a very positive statement and I think that Prudential can deliver, said Shore Capital analyst Eamonn Flanagan, who listened to the company's presentation.

Analysts said the ambitious targets would lessen calls for chief executive Tidjane Thiam and chairman Harvey McGrath to quit.

They were convincing and I think this should put an end to talk about the CEO or chairman quitting, Flanagan said.

Prudential was forced to pull its US$35.5bil bid for AIA the Asian life insurance business of stricken US insurer AIG in June after shareholders balked at the price.

The deal, pulled at the very last minute, left Prudential to pay 337mil in transaction fees. AIA was floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange in October.

Prudential's Asian business is seen as the jewel in the insurer's crown, generating almost half of group sales and still growing strongly thanks to its exposure to the dynamic economies of South-East Asia.

Broker Panmure Gordon said the aim to grow Asian profitability would help close the valuation gap between the implied valuation of Prudential's Asian operation and its competitors, including AIA.

The announcement is of stretching targets and reinforces the dividend paying capabilities along with adequate capital to grow the business, it said in a note.

- The Star Online

Malaysia Need Not Rush For Capital Control Measures (Posted: 1 December 2010 )

Mier says Bank Negara has sufficient instruments to manage risks

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no need for Malaysia to rush into implementing capital control measures to deal with the current flow of hot money into the country, says Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) executive director Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid.

I believe Bank Negara has sufficient instruments at the moment to manage the risks inherent in the massive inflow of short-term capital, he told reporters after addressing the National Economic Outlook Conference 2011-2012 organised by Mier yesterday.

At the conference, Dr Chad Steinberg, who is senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said short-term capital flows to emerging markets, including Asia, were complicating the region's effort to tighten (or normalise) their monetary policies. He also warned about the risk of capital flows causing financial instability in emerging economies.

Asia's past experiences show capital flows can easily trigger the boom and bust cycles in their economies. Hence the need for the region to take prudent measures, Steinberg said.

So far, only Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand have implemented macro-prudential measures to curb speculation and limit vulnerabilities to the risk of capital flows.

But emerging economies, including Malaysia, were becoming concerned with the high inflow of hot money from advanced economies that have been coming into the region to chase after higher returns.

This was particularly so after the US Federal Reserve announced last month its second round of quantitative easing (QE2), worth US$600bil.

Concerns were that hot money inflow could give rise to the formation of unsustainable asset bubbles and runaway inflation that could derail the economic recovery emerging of markets.

Zakariah opined that the full impact of the QE2 would remain largely unknown at this juncture as the stimulus measure would be implemented in a staggered phase until the first half of next year. What's crucial is for us to monitor the situation closely, Zakariah said.

In his presentation, Zakariah said Mier expected Bank Negara to raise the benchmark overnight policy rate from the current 2.75% to 3% by next year.

He said the inflation outlook for Malaysia remained stable, with the consumer price index expected to grow 2.2% this year and 2.5% in 2011.

The private think-tank's projection was for the ringgit's exchange rate to stabilise at 3.20 against the US dollar this year, before appreciating further to 3.10 next year.

Mier also maintained its projection for Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 6.8% this year and 5.2% in 2011, citing the country's economic policies, which remained supportive of growth. This compared with the Government's forecast for 7% GDP growth in 2010 and between 5% and 6% growth in 2011.

At the conference, the IMF projected the world economy to grow 4.8% this year and 4.2% in 2011. Asia, which would lead the gobal growth, was expected to grow 8% in 2010 and 6.8% in 2011. Advanced economies, on the other hand, would grow only 2.7% in 2010 and 2.2% in 2011.

Downside risks for the global economy remain, and they stem mainly from the weak financial systems in advanced economies, Steinberg said.

Zakariah said there was an urgency for Malaysia to deal with its structural weakness, particularly human capital. Malaysia has a severe shortage of skilled labour, he said, adding that the country was losing its competitiveness vis-a-vis other countries in the region.

On one hand, we are losing out on investments in the low value-add, labour-intensive industries, and on the other hand, we are not attractive enough for foreign direct investments in the high value-add, skilled labour industries, he said, adding that the country had to urgently address its human capital challenges to overcome those issues.

- The Star Online

Asean Faces Risks Of Lower Growth (Posted: 1 December 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Lower global economic growth and gross development product (GDP) will be among the biggest risks facing Asean countries in 2011, says Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah.

"One of the biggest risks for Asean next year is that relating to (global economic) growth and GDP. We need to monitor the situation in the European Union as growth there is currently fragile. This is also the case in the United States," he said at a press conference yesterday.

"The lower growth rate and GDP will (also) affect the world," Husni said.

Philippines Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima said Asean countries needed to look for opportunities in light of the challenges ahead.

"The challenge is to be able to ignite intra Asean and Asia trade. Funds need to be directed towards productive purposes rather than speculative purposes," he said.

The seminar, themed "Discovering Tomorrow's Asean," was co-organised by the Finance Ministry and Securities Commission. Finance ministers from the respective Asean countries, as well as 500 regional and international capital market players, investors and intermediaries, atten the event.

Husni said the finance ministers had collectively affirmed that Asean as an asset class is a reality with huge potential.

"Member countries remained committed to Asean economic transformation and regulatory changes to reduce regulatory friction and the cost of doing business."

He also said private sector participation and involvement in the Asean economic integration agenda was critical for sustainable and inclusive growth in the region.

"While the International Monetary Fund's current projection for Asean's growth is 5% to 6%, we believe it can go beyond 7%. To achieve this, it is imperative that Asean constantly reforms, collectively addresses tough issues and introduces regulatory changes to stay competitive and nimble," said Husni.

- The Star Online

RM1b Investment Fund For Bumiputras Launched (Posted: 30 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Pelaburan Hartanah Bhd (PHB) hopes next year to increase its Amanah Hartanah Bumiputera (AHB) investment fund size by 50% from the existing 1 billion units, said managing director and chief executive officer Kamalul Arifin Othman.

Launched yesterday, the fund would enable bumiputra investors to own real estate assets with a minimum investment of RM500.

The fund has an approved fund size of 1 billion units priced at RM1 each. It is open to bumiputras above three months of age, with investors below the age of 18 requiring a Malaysian legal guardian signatory.

It is a unit trust and not a real estate investment trust because the ownership is still with PHB. But the fund enjoys the beneficial ownership of the properties, Kamalul told reporters yesterday at the fund's launch.

The fund's underlying assets are CP Tower in Petaling Jaya, 26 Boulevard in Putrajaya, Wisma Consplant in Subang Jaya, Tesco Setia Alam and Industrial Complex in Shah Alam.

The fund's returns should be similar to that of Grade A buildings in the Golden Triangle, which would be not less than 6%.

The fund's income comes from the rental of these properties and we will pay the income distribution twice a year, Kamalul said.

The company's financial year ends on Sept 30, 2011, and PHB would look at an income payout every six months.

Kamalul said PHB remained positive on the property market in Malaysia considering the country's economic growth next year would create more business opportunities, therefore increasing office space demand.

PHB has seven completed assets in its portfolio. The two buildings not injected into the fund are Menara Bumiputra Commerce in Jalan Raja Laut, Kuala Lumpur and PHB's head office, Peremba Square, in Saujana Resort.

The unit trust scheme is aimed at boosting PHB's funding to allow it to invest in more properties. AHB would focus on investments in beneficial ownership of real estate which provide stable income and yield-accretive real estate.

Kamalul said PHB would enhance the existing fund and grow it to a certain level before considering launching another fund.

First announced during the tabling of Budget 2011, AHB aims to provide investors with a regular and consistent income stream and would be available throughout Maybank branches nationwide.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is also chairman of Yayasan Amanah Hartanah Bumiputera, said PHB had been pursuing selective acquisitions of completed properties, undertaking construction and accumulating land banks for developments in the last three years. PHB is a subsidiary of Yayasan Amanah.

PHB has assembled a stock of tenanted and revenue generating properties and it is now ready to implement its goal of distributing ownership entitlements' to bumiputra investors, he said during his speech.

Najib said he hoped the fund would receive the right support from bumiputras, which would contribute to the overall balance of the country's economy.

Further, the syariah-compliant nature of the fund will indirectly widen the Islamic banking instruments in Malaysia, in line with the Government's ambition to turn Malaysia into a global Islamic financial hub, he said.

- The Star Online

Mida Expects Rise In E&E Investments To Exceed RM5bil This Year (Posted: 30 November 2010 )

GEORGE TOWN: Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) expects total investment in the electronics and electrical (E&E) sector this year to exceed RM5bil from about RM4.7bil in 2009.

Mida chairman Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob said total investment for the first nine months of this year was RM4.3bil, of which about RM3.8bil was from overseas.

The total investment for manufacturing for the January-September period is RM21bil. We expect the figure to reach about RM32bil by the end of 2010, which is about the same as in 2009, he said after launching a seminar cum business networking session for the electronics industry in Malaysia yesterday.

He added that the top investors were from the United States, Germany, Japan, and Taiwan.

Mida was negotiating to bring in fresh investments for solar power, wireless communication, cloud computing and light-emitting diodes industries next year, Sulaiman said.

For the first nine months of this year, the E&E industry exported an estimated RM187.4bil or 39.5% of the total export of manufactured goods, he said.

Sulaiman said the E&E sector was expected to raise the gross national income by RM53bil to RM90bil by 2020 and provide an additional 157,000 jobs, both medium and high skilled.

On the proposed corporatisation of Mida, Sulaiman said the plan was to enable Mida to approve and obtain faster incentives for foreign companies wanting to invest in Malaysia.

Under the new corporatised body, we also look at providing promotional activities for the services sector, which do not include the financial and utilities services, he said.

On the shortage of skilled labour in the country, Sulaiman said: We are always ready to help bring in skilled labour from overseas. We can also tap skilled labour from local universities, collaborate with them and help revise their curriculum to enable them to produce more skilled labour, he said.

- The Star Online

Scomi Group in The Red with RM166m Net Losses (Posted: 29 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Scomi Group Bhd reported net losses of RM166.48 million in the third quarter ended Sept 30, in contrast to the net profit of RM22.97 million a year ago.

The company said on Friday, Nov 26 the losses were due to lower revenue from its core business while there was a potential impairment and costs amounting to RM52.6 million and provision of RM109.7 million.

Turnover was RM367.6 million compared with RM448.5 million a year ago, with the major contributors from the oilfield services division and the transport solutions division. Loss per share was 11.99 sen compared with earnings per share of 2.27 sen.

"The oilfield services division generated revenue of RM269.5 million for the current quarter, representing a decrease of RM31.4 million or 10% over RM300.9 million recorded in the corresponding quarter in 2009," it said.

Scomi said the decrease was mainly due to lower sales in UK, Middle East and India, whilst Russia and Asia countries performed fairly well. It added the weakening of US dollar against most currencies has also substantially impacted the revenue reported for the period.

Revenue from the transport solutions division was RM77.2 million, down RM45.1 million or 37% from RM122.3 million a year ago. The decline in revenue was due to the disposal of machine shop in the preceding quarter.

Scomi said the energy logistics division was impacted by the cabotage law in the regional markets which delayed the deployment of new vessels into these markets.

The company explained this caused it to reduce its equity interest in its coal logistics and offshore businesses in Indonesia.

This transaction resulted in the need to remeasure the disposal group to its fair value in the current quarter with a provision being made amounting to RM109.7 million. However, the division will receive approximately RM550 million in cash upon completion of the transaction, it said.

After the provision and other provisions for potential impairment and costs totaling RM52.6 million, net loss for the current quarter was RM166.5 million compared to net profit of RM23.0 million a year ago.

Excluding these adjustments, net loss for the quarter would have been RM4.2 million, it said.

- The Edge

Foreigners Invest More In Malaysian Government Securities (Posted: 29 November 2010 )

Strong ringgit and investors looking for safe haven instruments among reasons

PETALING JAYA: The appreciation of the ringgit against the US dollar, rising interest rate and redirection of funds are among the reasons that have triggered an increase in foreign buying of Malaysian Government Securities (MGS).

MIDF Research chief economist Anthony Dass said the strong ringgit against the greenback had whetted foreign investors' appetite for domestic assets, including bonds, at least for the short term.

We think investors are looking at safe haven instruments like the MGS which yields a lower credit risk compared with corporate bonds, he said.

Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) chief economist Nor Zahidi Alias said the major contributing factor to increased capital flows into the region was because international investors were redirecting their funds away from the troubled G3 (the United States, Japan and the European Union) economies and focusing their investments on high-growth regions in Asia.

RAM Holdings Bhd economist Jason Fong said the differing regional growth prospects between the East Asian economies and the West was one of the causes of the rise in the foreign ownership in MGS as debt in the advanced economies were becoming increasingly risky.

Apart from that, he said the increasing interest rate differential would allow for significant carry trade, the ringgit's steady appreciation and the excess liquidity in the advanced economies were other factors contributing to the rise in foreign holdings.

Excess liquidity in the advanced economies; specifically programmes such as the recent Federal Reserve actions to increase domestic liquidity will push foreign investors to emerging markets (such as Asia) for greater returns.

The foreign ownership of MGS stood at 26.8% as at Sept 30, the highest level since the data was compiled in 2005.

In January this year, foreign investors bought a total of RM45.04bil of MGS and has been on an uptrend. As at Sept 30, foreign investors had a total of RM67.97bil of MGS, representing an significant increase of more than 50%.

In September 2009, a total of RM35.2bil of MGS were bought by foreign investors against RM67.97bil in September 2010.

At this juncture, we do not foresee the need for any drastic policy change since Malaysia's balance of payments position is quite healthy with inflows being somewhat offset by outflows, Zahidi said.

This was reflected by the increased investments by Malaysian corporations outside the country evidenced by the turnaround in the net International Investment Position (IIP) to RM120.1bil in 2009 (suggesting that external assets are greater than external liabilities), he said, adding that the net positive value in the IIP implied higher direct investment abroad with total assets amounting to RM275bil in 2009.

According to Fong, the amount of MGS issued had reverted back to its pre-crisis level in recent months. However, he said, as the economy began to develop in the post-crisis period, there would be an increase in the supply of public debt as the Government plans to facilitate the nation's long-term growth programme the Economic Transformation Programme.

Budget 2011, he said, had pencilled in an increase in net issuance of public debt of up to RM51bil in the following year.

It translates to an expected aggregate gross issuance size of around RM96bil in 2011; compared with RM61bil in 2009 and RM55bil year-to-date in 2010.

However, this expected increase in issuance is supported by significantly lower long-term yields and can be sustainable if Malaysia reverts back to or surpasses its long-term growth trend.

Asked if the flow of foreign money would be a concern, MIDF's Dass said it should be regarded as an endorsement by investors who were confident of the country's macro management policies and the strength of Malaysia's currency.

Also it translates into a lower liquidity risk in the event investors wish to liquidate their MGS exposure for any specific reason. It is also less volatile, he added.

Fong did not view the rise in foreign ownership as a serious concern but said instead that it would add liquidity to the local debt market.

In the long run, it will increase foreign investors' interest in the domestic economy. Also, increased foreign participation has lowered the cost of long-term public debt.

He said it was particularly evident among the 10-year tenured MGS where the yields had been steadily declining since the second quarter of this year, and would thus assist in the Government's funding needs.

Hot money flows do not pose the same threat they did prior to the Asian Financial Crisis; Bank Negara's reserves are currently at around eight times retained imports as opposed to 3.4 times in 1997.

This build-up of reserves is largely due to Malaysia's persistent trade surplus since 1997 and is indicative of Bank Negara's considerable ability to combat against a sudden outflow of capital, Fong said.

Asked if the Government should introduce tax to control the strong inflow, Dass said it might cause some knee-jerk reactions and be viewed negatively. It might dampen the appetite towards such safe haven instruments, he added.

Fong opined that an increase in capital controls through tax or other monetary or financial rules should only be employed if there was excessive capital coming into or out of the domestic economy.

Despite this, it is important to note that many Asian countries, which have imposed different forms of controls recently, have experienced a range of results. Thus, both the timing and method of controls are important considerations before implementing measures to stem foreign capital inflows, he said.

Zahidi said the current situation was within the comfort zone and the central bank had been sterilising the inflows, causing stability in the monetary policy stance.

Although the IMF has been suggesting such a measure, we do not see the need to address it at this juncture the way other countries such as Thailand and South Korea did, unless the inflows start to destabilise the financial market in Malaysia.

- The Star Online

Private Sector Vital In Driving Innovation, Creativity And Investment (Posted: 26 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (Bernama) -- The private sector assumes a vital role in driving innovation, creativity and investments that are needed to boost Malaysia''s global competitiveness and support its goal to become a high-income nation.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said private sectors must therefore transform their thinking and reassess their practices.

"Malaysia needs to capitalise on its strengths to build more home-grown champions and strong international brands.

"We will like to see many more successes in a highly competitive and technology-driven global industry.

"We must recognise that diversity is the core strength and source of creativity and innovation needed to grow our economy," Muhyiddin said tonight at the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers'' annual dinner here today.

To achieve the goals, he said the public and private sectors must work together and utilise the talents of all diverse communities.

Muhyiddin added that the private sector must take risks and invest in new industries, products and services.

He said research and development expenditure and technology acquisition should be regarded as investments for long-term growth and profits.

The private sector should also value human capital by paying the right wages and allocate resources to nurture talent, he said, adding that businesses, industries and enterprises should invest in their employees to support growth and career development.

On the other hand, Muhyiddin said the government was strengthening the education system so that it can produce highly-skilled and educated employees needed by the industry.

"We are introducing measures to increase private sector investment and strategically aligning national key economic activities through the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

"This is how we will unleash the potential within the economy and make it easier for the private sector to drive economic growth. The government will continue its role to create an enabling environment that encourages and nurtures investment," he said.

Muhyiddin said the New Economic Model, the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Government and Economic Transformation Programmes collectively served as a roadmap to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation, supported by quality and sustainable economic growth.


Jala: PM To Announce New Projects Next Week (Posted: 26 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to announce on Tuesday new development projects as well as several entry point projects that will boost the oil, gas and energy sector.

He (Najib) will announce some of the confirmed projects and provide updates on previous projects announced, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala, said at the 29th Majeca-Jameca joint conference yesterday.

Jala, who had presented a paper on the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) earlier, was speaking to reporters on its updates and 2011 focus.

He said for next year, the focus would be on the roll-out of projects under the 12 National Key Economic Areas that were vital for the ETP. When we chose these areas, we believed they had competitive advantages and provided resilience to the economy in absorbing any shocks, explained Jala.

Meanwhile, on subsidy rationalisation, he said the Government would make revisions at the right time and adjust it accordingly over time. Bernama

I think what we have done is to ensure we manage the liberalisation of the pricing based on market prices, he added.

Based on feedback, he said the public agreed to further subsidy rationalisation, only if the Government did it in small doses rather than big increases and over a longer time period. Bernama

When asked whether the review would be done every six months, Jala said: We will take it as we go along and inform the public with regards to how it is to be done going forward.

However, he added, it would not be announced in advance to avoid any distortion in the market, like the hoarding of particular items by some parties.


M'sian Food Companies Secure RM20.8 Mln In Sales At Paris Trade Fair (Posted: 25 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- Malaysian food companies secured RM20.8 million in sales at last month''s Salon International de l''Alimentation Paris 2010 trade fair.

A further RM40.3 million potential sales was identified, said the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) in a statement today.

Matrade led the participation of 30 Malaysian companies at the event held in Paris from Oct 17 to 21.

"Despite the ongoing transport union strikes that occurred every day all over the country, which disrupted public transport severely in Paris and affected the number of visitors to the fair, Malaysian exhibitors still managed to record highly encouraging numbers in term of trade inquiries and concluded sales," Matrade Chief Executive Officer Datuk Noharuddin Nordin said.

"The most sought after Malaysian products were palm oil products, coconut products, cooked vegetarian food, cookies, biscuits and oat-based products," he added.

At the trade fair, Malaysian companies promoted products ranging from palm oil products, pepper products, snack foods, frozen foods, seafood, ready-to-eat meals, beverages, fruit juices, sauces, confectionary products, cookies and biscuits.

"In order to attract visitors to the Malaysian pavilion, Matrade organised cooking demonstration and food tastings of Malaysian cuisine twice a day using ingredients and products from our exhibitors.

"It was a definite crowd puller and attracted a lot of trade visitors and media attention," Noharuddin said.

For the Jan-Sept period, Malaysia exported RM84.4 million worth of food products to France.


Dubai To Issue US$1.5b Malaysian Sukuk (Posted: 25 November 2010 )

Gulf Arab Emirate looks to tap world's largest Islamic bond market

KUALA LUMPUR/DUBAI: Dubai plans to issue about US$1.5bil sovereign sukuk in Malaysia as the Gulf Arab Emirate looks to tap the world's largest Islamic bond market to diversify its funding avenues, sources said yesterday.

Work on the US$1.5bil multi-currency programme was more than 50% under way but the plan was not final given the volatility in financial markets due to Ireland's debt troubles and tensions on the Korean peninsula, one source said.

This will be the first foreign sovereign to issue ringgit (sukuk) in Malaysia, said the source who asked not to be identified as the plan has not been announced.

The Malaysian market provides cheap liquidity, interest rates are still attractive and the swap rates are also still attractive.

Dubai's finance chief said the government was meeting investors in Malaysia to explore opportunities for a potential bond issue.

This trip is a part of our plan to meet investors and explore opportunities, Abdulrahman al-Saleh, director general of Dubai Department of Finance, told Reuters when asked to confirm news that Dubai was aiming to issue about US$1.5bil multi-currency Islamic bonds in Malaysia.

We have not covered Malaysia in the previous visits.

Another source said the total issuance size had not been determined.

Tapping into a new investor base is important for Dubai, having gone through the global financial crisis, the source said.

Putting its name to various investor base may make sense to the government.

Malaysia has the world's largest sukuk market, accounting for 42% of total global sukuk issuance of US$19.1bil last year.

But the bulk are local currency issuance due to tax incentives and the authorities want more foreign issuers to build up the market.

Gulf Arab debt markets have reopened in recent months, with Dubai issuing a US$1.25bil government bond in September after an agreement on Dubai World's restructuring of some US$25bil debt boosted market sentiment.

But a Dubai-based fixed income trader said it was unlikely unrated Dubai, a part of the United Arab Emirates, would be able to raise anything near US$1.5bil.

It is going to be if anything next year. The market would not appreciate them coming back so soon, the trader said.

So it will be tough to see them raising too much, especially when the problem with Malaysia is that they tend to invest into a lot of investment-grade stuff, and with Dubai not being rated at all that is going to be an issue, he said.

Saleh told Reuters in September that Dubai was determined to get a rating but not immediately, with timing depending on market conditions.

Sources had said Dubai Group, which is part of a conglomerate owned by Dubai's ruler, missed two payments on separate loans in recent weeks, including one arranged by Citibank.

Gulf issuers sold about US$6bil in debt in September and October, capitalising on low US interest rates and high demand for paper from the region.

Other potential issuers include Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co, Qatar National Bank and Oman's Mohammed AlBarwani Petroleum Services.

Last month, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank issued US$750mil in sukuk which was nearly five times oversubscribed.

Qatar Telecommunications Co launched a US$1.5bil bond in October which got US$15bil in orders.

- Reuters

British Firms Mostly Support Malaysian Palm Oil (Posted: 24 November 2010 )

But the country urged to step up promotional efforts

LONDON: Top British retailers and food manufacturers are mostly supportive of local palm oil but they want Malaysia to step up its promotional efforts and communication strategies to heighten the awareness among British end-consumers of the sustainable credentials of the commodity.

This was unveiled during a dialogue session between Britain's palm oil retailers/end-users and the Malaysian palm oil delegation headed by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at the Malaysian High Commission in London on Friday.

While the interest in palm oil usage is good in Britain, the Malaysian delegation comprising the chiefs of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) was told there were still many misconceptions about palm oil among British consumers.

Many consumers are heavily influenced by the anti-palm oil campaigns of NGOs, which had extensively been playing up environmental issues such as the killing of orang utans, biodiversity and rainforest destruction, and impact on global climate change, said J. Sainsbury Plc branding director Judith Batchelar.

Sainsbury is one of Britain's top three grocery retailers.

Batchelar said: We seem to be getting more emails (from our customers) questioning the qualities of palm oil and its sustainability issues compared with other vegetable oils sold in the market.

Tesco Plc corporate responsibility director Ruth Girardet concurred, saying the retail chain was also constantly pressured by the Western media and NGOs (or non-governmental organisations) on looming issues concerning palm oil.

As a retailer, we share the equal responsibility to explain to our customers about palm oil. We need to know that our suppliers adhere to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification.

In fact, Tesco is committed to using only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, Girardet said.

Nestle UK Ltd corporate communications director Ian Rayson, meanwhile, said Malaysia must adopt a pro-active communication approach when countering the various allegations and misinformation about palm oil.

Malaysia should be telling a tomorrow's story. It is in danger of putting a defensive stance by continously comparing palm oil with our local crops like rapeseed and sunflower oils.

While palm oil may be the most efficient oil in terms of production, we (Europe) however cannot plant palm oil simply because of the unsuitable climate.

Rayson said Malaysia should focus on a more positive theme, like how palm oil could feed the world. It is also important for Malaysia to state its commitment where 58% of its land area is forest cover.

Europe's biggest biscuit maker United Biscuits (UK) Ltd, meanwhile, has targeted that by the end of 2011, all its palm oil is certified as sustainable and delivered through supply chains that are fully segregated from non-certified palm oil.

Its fats and oils director Dr Simon Roulston said: We will use only RSPO segregated, sustainable palm oil so that we can be sure the palm oil in our products is the oil from the sustainable plantations.

Currently, we have reached 70% usage of RSPO segregated palm oil.

And while Matheson & Co senior director Simon Keswick questioned the credibility of the RSPO certification, MPOC chairman Datuk Lee Yeow Chor said Malaysia supported the RSPO as it was the world's first certification programme for palm oil where companies had to adhere to its 24 strict principles and criteria.

MPOC is working with a new media company to come up with blogs, contests and short video clips to promote palm oil in Europe as part of efforts to counter the negative publicity over palm oil.

He suggested that British retailers and end-users of palm oil work together with MPOC to spread the good message on palm oil.

While many European consumers insist on RSPO certified palm oil, MPOA chief executive officer Datuk Mamat Salleh noted that the offtake for the premium oil was still not good.

Dompok, in summing up the dialogue session, said palm oil had become a victim of its own success. However, Malaysia will continue to put a clear message across that palm oil is a sustainable crop.

- The Star Online

Intercontinental To Make Debut In Malaysia Next Year (Posted: 24 November 2010 )

SINGAPORE: The InterContinental hotel brand will make its entry into Malaysia on Feb 1, 2011, when it replaces the current Nikko Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement yesterday, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) said the 473-room Nikko Hotel in Jalan Ampang would take the name InterContinental Kuala Lumpur.

IHG Asia Australasia managing director Jan Smits said IHG was excited to bring the InterContinental brand to Kuala Lumpur.

He said the hotel market in Malaysia had the potential for long-term growth, especially in view of the country's target of 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020.

Smits said Kuala Lumpur was a key regional destination and Malaysia was one of the few South-East Asian countries that saw an increase in visitor arrivals in 2009, a trend that had continued to-date this year.

Thomas Lee, director of the hotel's owning company MTJ Development Sdn Bhd, said with the InterContinental brand, the hotel would be able to capture an even greater share of the growing number of visitors to Kuala Lumpur, one of the most visited cities in the world.

The statement said the hotel was slated to embark on a 30-month refurbishment, which would take place in three phases.

Currently, there are 170 InterContinental hotels operating globally in more than 60 countries, including 50 in Asia Pacific.

In Malaysia, IHG also operates Crowne Plaza Mutiara Kuala Lumpur, Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie, Holiday Inn Resort Penang and Holiday Inn Malacca.

With the recent signing of the Holiday Inn Express in Kota Kinabalu, IHG will have all its key brands operating in Malaysia when the Holiday Inn Express debuts in the market.

- Bernama

Penang Attracts RM2.53bil Investments (Posted: 23 November 2010 )

GEORGE TOWN: Penang retained its third ranking in the country after recording a total proposed capital investment of RM2.53bil in the first eight months of this year.

The state had moved to third spot after attracting RM2.25bil in investments up to end-July.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng  said Selangor topped the list with RM5.66bil for the eight-month period, followed by Johor at RM2.97bil.

During the same period last year, Penang took the fourth spot with proposed capital investment of about RM2.1bil.

But ranking is not important. What is more important is we want to secure high value, high-tech and knowledge-based investments.

Our target is to reach RM4.2bil by the year-end and we need to double our efforts to woo investors, he said after visiting the newly restored Logan Building yesterday.

The 140-year two-storey building owned by OCBC Bank (M) Bhd was restored at a cost of RM6.8mil.

- The Star Online

US$47b Projects Needed To Facilitate Asean Trade (Posted: 23 November 2010 )

BANGKOK: Asean needs to implement 50 infrastructure projects worth US$47bil between this year and 2020 to facilitate trade in the region as it embraces Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

President of Thailand Trade Representative Kiat Sittheeamorn said the US$41bil was for energy infrastructure and the balance for transportation infrastructure which include roads and bridges.

To finance the infrastructure projects, Asean could utilise the East Asian Infrastructure Fund besides sourcing funds from the private sectors and governments, he said.

Governments funding alone could not undertake such huge infrastructure budget, he told the Asean Business Forum.

He said the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta), which came into force on Jan 1 with immediate elimination of 95% of tariffs, had enhanced Asean intra-regional trade.

Kiat said intra-regional trade recorded 40% increase between January and October this year compared with the corresponding period last year.

The AEC will turn this region into a single market and production base with free flow of investments and people.

Kiat, however, cautioned that the Asean governments should not be merely concerned with the countries' growth but also other aspects such as job creation and people's well-being.

On trade facilitation, he said, according to the World Bank report, goods importation into Asean had been reduced to 21 days now compared with 30 days in 2006.

In the wake of the current depreciation of the US dollars, the proposal to use the regional currency could materialise if Asean leaders agreed on the matter, he said.

- Bernama

Malaysia-Belgium Ties Poised For Growth (Posted: 22 November 2010 )

Relations at `prominent stage' but still room to further develop

KUALA LUMPUR: Bilateral relations between Malaysia and Belgium have reached a prominent stage but there is still room to further enhance ties, says Belgium Ambassador Dr Frank Van de Craen.

He said relations between both countries had come a long way since 1957 when Malaya gained her independence.

Our relations (then) were more of developing cooperation, but in the 1970s and 80s, economic relations became more important.

In the 21st century, it is the central point of our relations. Apart from trade and investment, of course, the relationship is wide. We are living in a globalised world; that means we have political, economic, religious, education and many more ties, he said in an interview.

Van de Craen said Belgium's most important trading partners were in the European Union (EU) but outside the EU, Malaysia was among its top 20 trading partners.

He said bilateral trade between Malaysia and Belgium stood at RM4.5bil in 2008 but declined a bit in 2009. However, it started picking up this year especially from the Belgium side, he said.

Our export grew 45% in the first-half of 2010; we traditionally have a deficit. But, since our exports to Malaysia have started picking up, we may see a balanced trade picture by year-end, he said.

Van de Craen, whose term in Malaysia ends in January, pointed that the free trade agreement (FTA) that was launched within the Asia-Europe Meeting framework in Brussels last month would bring cheer to businesses in both countries.

The EU wanted to conclude an FTA with the regional entity but this was not possible for different reasons. So we started to focus on individual countries, he said.

The ambassador said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who launched negotiations in Brussels, wanted the FTA to be finalised between 18 and 24 months.

On challenges to Belgian businesses, Van de Craen said: Our commercial policy is no longer a sovereign independent. It has been taken over to a large extent by the trade and commercial policy of the EU.

So, we have to act together with the 27-member states of the EU.

On doing business with Malaysia, he said many European countries investing here noted that the technical expertise of the Malaysian workforce could be improved.

There is no lack of elite engineering or management skills among Malaysian employees, he said, adding that there was a definite lack of middle management technicians.

Malaysia should look into the matter by establishing more vocational schools, he said, adding that the country was an attractive investment destination.

Belgian investments were mainly in the financial sector, he said, citing BNP Paribas Group's joint-venture with Malayan Banking Bhd through Etiqa insurance.

Belgian companies are also involved in the palm oil business and a diamond operation in Kelantan.

Van de Craen said Malaysia attracted investors from the Middle East and other Asean countries, particularly in the construction sector, but suggested that Malaysia also attracted investments which created jobs in the technology sector.

He also proposed that Malaysia and Belgium tapped the tourism sector of both countries.

We have about 10,000 tourists coming from Belgium to Malaysia (annually).

This is one area we can really improve, not only from the Belgium point of view but I think a number of European countries still have not discovered the historic destinations in Malaysia, he said, adding that this would encourage people-to-people integration.

Currently, more Belgian tourists visited Indonesia and Thailand than Malaysia, he said.

- Bernama

Malaysia Leads Asean Exports To Germany (Posted: 22 November 2010 )

BERLIN: Malaysia continued to retain its leading position as Asean's number one exporter to Germany in the first nine months of the year.

According to the Hamburg-based German-Asia Pacific Business Council, Malaysia's exports to Germany rose 47.9% to 4.046 billion euros during the January-September 2010 period, from 2.736 billion euros previously.

However, Malaysia's imports from Germany for the first nine months of the year also expanded 42.5% to 3.168 billion euros from 2.228 billion in the previous corresponding period.

Germany's imports have been buoyed by the strong economic recovery which the country staged, even as other countries in the West, particularly the United States, continue to be mired in the crisis that has not fully receded.

Total Asean exports to Germany grew 37.7% to 17.11 billion euros while Asean imports into Germany climbed 33.8% to 13.025 billion euros during the period under review.

The Asia-Pacific region's total exports to Germany amounted to 111.725 billion euros during the January-September 2010 period, up 33.1% from 83.349 billion euros registered a year earlier.

German exports to the Asia-Pacific region also jumped 39.1% to 91.312 billion euros from 65.629 billion euros previously.

Its exports to the Asia-Pacific rose twice as fast as the overall German exports in the first nine-months of the year, thanks to demand from China which rose 49.4% to nearly 39 billion euros.

In effect, over 40% of German exports to Asia were absorbed by China.

Germany's balance-of-trade deficit with the Asia-Pacific region increased slightly, rising from 18.3 billion euros to 20.4 billion euros in the period under review.

- Bernama

Malaysia Signs FTA With Chile, Its First With Latin America (Posted: 15 November 2010 )

YOKOHAMA, Nov 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia and Chile signed the Malaysia-Chile Free Trade Agreement (MCFTA) here today, marking Malaysia''s first bilateral FTA with a Latin American country.

It was also Malaysia''s fourth bilateral FTA after the Malaysia-Japan tie in 2005, Malaysia-Pakistan in 2007 and Malaysia-New Zealand in 2009.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Datuk Richard Riot Jaem, signed on behalf of the Malaysian government while Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile Alfredo Moreno Charme signed for Chile.

The signing was witnessed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.

In his address, Muhyiddin said although the FTA was confined to trade in goods and economic cooperation, both countries were committed to working towards a comprehensive agreement which would include services and investment within two years after the entry into force of this agreement by the first half of 2011.

"With this agreement, trade between both countries is expected to further increase and this would also be a vehicle for Malaysia''s expansion into the Latin American market," said Muhyiddin who is in Japan for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM).

The FTA which would eliminate duties for almost all products within five years, would also give plenty of scope for both countries to diversify their range of exports.

Meanwhile, a jubilant Pinera said this was Chile''s first FTA signed with a member of Asean and was indeed a historic day for both countries.

"In 2010, our trade accounted for US$350 million and we hope to double this within next year."

With the agreement, he said Chilean products, in particular its agricultural produce, would have significant access into the Malaysian market.

Meanwhile, a statement released by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said the agreement followed the conclusion of negotiations between Malaysia and Chile in May 2010 in Santiago after several rounds of negotiations which began in June 2007.

MCFTA encompasses liberalisation in trade in goods as well as enhancement of bilateral economic cooperation.

Bilateral trade between both countries grew from RM898 million in 2007 to RM1.05 billion in 2008, before slowing to RM788.8 million in 2009.

However, it made a remarkable recovery this year, with trade amounting to RM853.7 million for the first nine months of this year, with exports accounting for RM199.8 million and imports RM653.9 million.

Malaysia''s major exports included electrical and electronic products, rubber products, wood products and chemical and chemical products while imports were manufactures of metal, metalliferous ores and metal scrap, chemicals and chemical products, paper and pulp products and fruits.

Meanwhile, areas of cooperation which Malaysia and Chile have agreed to undertake include research and development and innovation, science and technology, trade and investment, mining and mining-related industry, SMEs, intellectual property, tourism, education and human capital development, culture and promotion of tourism.

The FTA will benefit Malaysian exporters as Chile will undertake full elimination of import duties for 6,960 tariff lines (90.2 per cent of total tariff lines) upon entry into force of the agreement while Malaysia will take full elimination of import duties for products comprising 9,311 tariff lines (89.5 per cent).


Profit-Taking Mood In Malaysian Market This Week (Posted: 15 November 2010 )

Analysts expect market to consolidate this week

PETALING JAYA: Profit-taking is likely to extend into this week following the benchmark FBM KLCI's gains earlier last week.

Analysts said the market would continue to consolidate this week after the index closed at 1,528.01 points on Wednesday, the highest in almost two years and since the global financial crisis started.

An analyst said this would be in tandem with regional markets, which have also seen profit-taking activities over the past few days.

Furthermore, news would likely be thin on the ground this week except for companies reporting their quarterly financial results for the period ending Sept 30, which are not expected to surprise on the upside.

"The market may be in the mood for consolidation or profit-taking," a technical analyst at a foreign investment bank told StarBiz.

He said investors had been quite spoilt as the market had had a "very nice run" since the end of May.

On Friday, the FBM KLCI closed 0.92% lower at 1,499.81 points, with Genting Bhd the lagging mover while Genting Malaysia Bhd was up.

There were 1.72 billion shares traded with a total turnover of RM2.39bil.

Other index-linked stocks that fell included CIMB Group Holdings Bhd although other financial stocks saw gains, including Malayan Banking Bhd, which posted a 16.6% rise in first-quarter net profit versus a year earlier.

TA Securities Holdings Bhd technical manager Stephen Soo said profit-taking activities would follow the upward movement of blue-chip stocks.

He said profit-taking activities were evident in the broader market since the middle of last week. "It's a good sign as the volume and liquidity were there; the broader market was negative but vibrant," Soo said.

He added that rotational plays in the various sectors were also healthy with all stocks moving up.

"There were healthy rotational plays even among the lower liners and small-caps," Soo observed.

He said the market's new support was at the 1,500-level with the upside capped at 1,532 points.

- The Star Online

Strong Economic Growth Ahead For M'sia Says IMF Official (Posted: 12 November 2010 )

Asia leading the global recovery

DURING the first half of this year, Asia was in the lead of the global economic recovery. As analysed in the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) latest Regional Economic Outlook for Asia and the Pacific (REO), this strength in activity was fuelled by both strong exports and robust domestic demand.

As anticipated, export growth for the region has moderated in the second half, reflecting the sluggish recovery in the United States and western Europe, as well as the maturing of the global inventory cycle.

In line with regional trends, Malaysia too has rebounded impressively from the impact of the global financial crisis. Growth in the first half of the year was 9.5%. While export growth in Malaysia has moderated, domestic demand - in particular from the private sector - remains robust and a broad-based expansion is under way.

The outlook for Malaysia is strong

For Asia as a whole, still accommodative macroeconomic policies, robust consumer confidence, improving labour markets, and higher asset values are all expected to help sustain consumption. In line with this, we project that Asia will grow at 8% in 2010 and a more sustainable 7% in 2011 as the recovery matures further.

The near-term outlook for Malaysia also remains strong. Domestic demand, led by consumption, is expected to continue to make a substantial contribution to growth. Macroeconomic policy settings have been normalised to reflect the transition to private sector-led growth.

The resumption of fiscal consolidation is welcome, while the monetary policy stance has become less accommodative but still remains appropriately supportive of growth. Moreover, the ringgit has appreciated markedly, providing further support to domestic demand as the driver of growth over the near term. In line with the above, we expect Malaysia's GDP growth to be close to 7% this year and 5.5% in 2011.

The region still faces risks

Despite the overall favourable outlook for the region, some important risks continue to cloud the horizon. The fragility and unevenness of the global economic recovery remains a concern. An unanticipated weakening in activity in the advanced economies would spill onto the Asian economies through weaker export growth. Asia as a whole has also attracted large capital inflows since the middle of 2009, reflecting ample global liquidity and favourable growth prospects for the region.

While asset markets in the region generally do not appear to be overvalued as of now, further capital inflows could pose vulnerabilities if they result in unsustainable asset valuations or excessive expansion of domestic liquidity. Inflation has already bottomed out in many countries across the region, and house price pressures have emerged in some economies.

This constellation of risks calls for a continued and cautious normalisation of macroeconomic policy settings, and careful monitoring of the financial sector. Macroprudential measures that have been implemented in some economies remain an important element of the toolkit to guard against financial sector risks.

Finally, should the downside risks to global growth materialise, Asian policymakers have ample room to readjust macroeconomic policies to counter any adverse effects on economic activity in their own economies.

In Malaysia, the financial sector has weathered the global crisis well and corporate balance sheets remain strong. The authorities have demonstrated an impressive track record in proactive financial supervision and sustained efforts to develop financial markets both in the conventional and Islamic finance areas. Nevertheless, there are some risks that need to be closely watched. For example, Malaysia too could be vulnerable to large capital inflows and excessive asset price rises. Household debt is also high, although this is mitigated somewhat by substantial asset holdings. We are confident that the authorities have the tools to address these risks, should they materialise.

The challenges for Asia over the medium term

What are the challenges for Asia over the medium term? The global financial crisis demonstrated the need for the region to rely more on a "second engine of growth" - namely domestic demand. Rebalancing towards domestic demand requires sustained steps to increase domestic consumption and investment, including through fiscal measures, structural reforms in labour, product and financial markets, as well as greater exchange rate flexibility.

Fewer motives for precautionary saving and greater incentives for businesses to increase investment in domestically-oriented sectors should be among the outcomes of such reforms. In the REO, we demonstrate that improving access to credit for small and medium enterprises operating in domestic markets, including services, as well as to increase investment in infrastructure, could help ignite the second engine of growth in Asia. Indeed, the development of SMEs and access to financing is an area Malaysia has emphasised and made progress on in recent years.

There are significant challenges for Malaysia too over the medium term. The growth momentum which propelled the country from low to middle income by the early 1990s stalled after the Asian crisis.

As a result, Malaysia continues to remain a middle income country while some of its peers that started from similar initial positions have achieved higher per capita incomes. As rightly recognised in the authorities' Economic Transformation Programme and the 10th Malaysia Plan, rekindling the growth momentum requires deep structural and fiscal reforms to unlock Malaysia's growth potential.

The key to success will be implementation. The reform process should proceed at a measured pace and take into account the need to protect vulnerable groups. At the same time it needs to be steady and sustained.

Key reforms under way must be pushed forward. In particular, poorly designed subsidies - especially fuel subsidies - should be phased out and replaced with targeted assistance. Improving the business environment by levelling the playing field through reform of government-linked companies and further labour market liberalisation will also pay dividends.

The IMF stands ready to contribute its international perspective and global expertise to the ambitious goals that the Malaysian authorities have set for themselves. We are looking forward to continuing a mutually beneficial engagement.

- The Star Online

Malaysia's Industrial Production Up 5.6% In Sept (Posted: 12 November 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Industrial production rose by 5.6% in September from a year ago and the slowing rate of activity by manufacturers in the country would mean slower economic growth in the third quarter.

With the September figure in, industrial production index (IPI) - a key figure for economic growth - for the third quarter averaged 4.3% compared with 11% in the second quarter.

CIMB Investment Bank chief economist Lee Heng Guie said the huge slip in IPI on a quarterly basis pointed to exports and industrial output losing steam.

With these latest IPI figures, he expects GDP for the third quarter to grow by 5.7%, compared with 8.9% in the second quarter. He maintained his full-year GDP forecast of 7%.

The year-on-year increase in the September IPI was due to increases in all indices: manufacturing (7.6%), mining (1.7%) and electricity (3.1%).

Month-on-month, however, the IPI contracted by 0.8%.

AmResearch Sdn Bhd senior economist Manokaran Mottain said the figures showed that manufacturing figures were still strong.

"While there is a moderation in growth of the IPI in the third quarter compared with 11% in the second quarter, this is due to the disappearance of the low base effect. We've been enjoying big numbers up to the second quarter because of the low base effect," he said .

He said that on a quarterly basis, the divergence was actually very small, at less than 1%. On a monthly basis, the contraction was due to the shorter working month.

While Manokaran targeted a slower GDP growth of 6.5% for the third quarter, he was still confident that the GDP would grow between 7% and 8% for the entire year.

- The Star Online

F&N Looking To Eat Up Snack Food Companies (Posted: 12 November 2010 )

Company wants to beef up food business; targeting sizeable firms in Asean

KUALA LUMPUR: Fraser and Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N) is aggressively looking for sizeable snack food companies in the Asean region to acquire in order to build up its business in the food segment, said chief executive officer Datuk Ng Jui Sia.

"Our acquisition of a stake in Cocoaland Holdings Bhd is just the start of a journey to build up the food business which we see as the third pillar of business for the group.

"However, the domestic market is small. Asean offers better growth opportunities for the food business," he told StarBiz.

As at Sept 30, the group had net cash of RM639mil.

F&N's other two pillars are the soft drinks and dairy businesses.

The group announced in August that it would acquire a 23.08% stake in Cocoaland for RM54.6mil, its first in a food manufacturer, to gain a foothold in the food business.

Ng said F&N wanted to spread its base wider by building a food pillar.

"That was why we invested in a snack food company. From a product perspective, snack food goes with soft drinks as well as coffee and tea. There is synergy of selling snack food with our existing business.

"We see a lot of synergies in the areas of marketing, distribution and export that our current businesses have with the food business," he said.

In addition, Ng said there was vast opportunity in the food business as consumption of snack food rose in tandem with an increase in income.

"Demand will go up especially for the high value snacks," he added.

F&N is also looking to expand its dairy business in the region as well.

Ng said the group was intensifying dairy exports out of Thailand into Indochina - Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

"Part one is to build enough sales to call for a manufacturing presence in these countries. This will lead to part two which is to have an investment presence there.

"Once sales build up to a critical stage, then we can put in the machinery. We hope to get to such a stage within three to four years provided we can continue the current sales momentum and barring any unforeseen circumstances," he said.

He added that F&N had marketing execution teams at the borders to build franchise and to market and stimulate demand for the products.

The group acquired Nestle's canned milk business in Thailand in 2006 and has dairy manufacturing facilities in Rojana that commenced commercial production early this year.

"The strategy is to go regional for all our businesses. Besides Asean, the Middle East is a good market to get into for the dairy and soft drinks business," Ng said.

On how F&N planned to fill the vacumn left by the expiry of The Coca-Cola Co's bottling and distribution agreement on Sept 30, 2011, Ng said the group would continue to launch more new products and variants as well as strengthen the distribution infrastructure of its remaining core products in the country.

"In addition, there are also a lot of global brands in the market that can use our extensive marketing and distribution infrastruture to gain instant access to the domestic market.

"We are in preliminary discussion with one now," he said.

- The Star Online

Talk On Bids For OSK And KFC Keep Their Share Prices High (Posted: 12 November 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Market talk on bids for OSK Holdings Bhd and KFC Holdings (M) Bhd has kept their share prices at high levels in recent weeks despite company officials indicating there were no concrete negotiations taking place.

Analysts, however, have opined that the sharp rise in the price of those company shares may jeopardise takeover chances as valuations may stretch, if indeed there were any takeover bids.

Over the past one month, shares of OSK have surged a whopping 47% from RM1.34 to RM1.97 at the close of trading yesterday.

The rise, which coincided with talk during the same period that controlling shareholder of OSK, Ong Leong Huat, was open to the prospect of selling, gained momentum in recent days after a report was published indicating Malayan Banking Bhd might be interested in OSK Holdings.

Both Maybank and OSK Holdings, the parent company of OSK Investment Bank, have issued statements on the matter.

OSK Holdings did not deny such a possibility outright as it said no serious or exclusive discussions had taken place.

Maybank, in its statement to Bursa Malaysia on Wednesday, said it was continuously seeking and assessing various propositions and opportunities that would help achieve its vision to be a regional financial services leader and help create shareholder value.

Ong could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

Industry observers suspect Maybank is going after OSK Investment Bank and, for negotiations to take place, both parties have to approach the central bank for permission to start talks. In this case, that might not have been done yet.

Analysts said the attraction of OSK Investment Bank was its regional licences and exposure.

OSK has built up a presence in four markets in South-East Asia - Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Cambodia.

Contribution from its operations overseas to the group was 25% of total pre-tax profit in 2009 compared to the previous 9% in 2008, with a significant portion derived from its Singapore operations.

According to previous reports, OSK has immediate plans to establish a presence in Thailand, while looking further ahead, it may venture into Vietnam and the Philippines.

"We believe that aside from potential pricing issues, OSK would provide a good fit for Maybank to beef up its Asean platform in the investment banking space," said an analyst from AmResearch.

A fund manager said Maybank was eyeing OSK for its international reach, particularly since it recently got its securities brokerage in Cambodia.

"This would benefit Maybank, as it would not need to go through any red tape for its regional exposure."

The fund manager added that OSK's local investment banking division was doing reasonably well, especially for deals among non-government linked companies.

The steep rise in OSK's share price would make any acquisition now more pricey than initially conceived but analysts said acquisitions of banking operations, which are judged on a price to book basis, should follow historical valuations as a guide.

In Malaysia, these would include CIMB Bank's merger with Southern Bank Bhd, the privatisation of AmInvestment Group Bhd (AIGB) by AMMB Holdings Bhd, the privatisation of CIMB by Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd and RHB Capital's purchase of RHB Bank from Khazanah Nasional Bhd. All these were done above two times (x) book value.

More recently, the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group bought AMMB at 1.7x book.

As of June 30, OSK has a net tangible asset of RM1.49.

As for KFC Holdings, its share price fell by 4%, or 18 sen, to RM4.29 yesterday but that drop did not quash talk that a large US private equity fund was looking to buy out the company. A top official from KFC Holdings had earlier brushed off talk that the firm was a target of takeover by a substantial shareholder during the recent run-up in the company's share price.

"We are not aware of any plans to privatise KFC Holdings," managing director Jamaludin Md Ali said on Tuesday.

Jamaludin is also the managing director of QSR, which owns a direct 28.8% stake in KFC Holdings.

Takeover vibes surrounding KFC Holdings have also lifted the shares of its parent QSR Brands Bhd and Kulim Malaysia Bhd, which owns 55% of QSR.

QSR shares have gone up 6.2% in the past month but Kulim, a plantations company now riding the benefit of surging crude palm oil prices, was up 42.9% over the same period.

Meanwhile, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index (FBM KLCI) tumbled 0.9% from a record to close at 1,513.70 points yesterday with big capitalised stocks taking the brunt of profit-taking activities following recent price surges.

Key plantation firm PPB Group Bhd's share price plunged in sympathy with Wilmar International Ltd, a Singapore-listed palm oil trader in which PPB Group owns an 18.6% stake.

Out of the 30 stocks that make up the index, 26 counters were down versus three gainers. Top stocks Maybank, RHB Capital Bhd and Tenaga Nasional Bhd fell by at least 1.5%.

Shares in Muhibbah Engineering Bhd surged 14 sen, or 11.2%, yesterday to RM1.39 after CIMB Research initiated its coverage on the stock with a "trading buy" call and a target price of RM2.

Meanwhile, PPB Group's share price plunged 86 sen, or 4.4%, yesterday to RM18.50 - its second straight day of decline from a record close of RM19.40 on Tuesday.

Shares in Wilmar dropped 3.2% yesterday following rating cuts by analysts who were surprised by a weaker-than-expected performance in the third quarter ended Sept 30.

Despite Wilmar's huge decline and weaker sentiment across the region, Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 0.1% higher at 3,293 points, boosted by rising banking stocks.

Fickled foreign investors, however, hit South Korean stocks hard yesterday. A wave of late selling yesterday pummelled the main Kospi Index 2.7% lower in what had turned out to be the biggest single-day equities rout recorded by the exchange in Seoul.

- The Star Online

F&N `Comfortable' With High Single-Digit Growth (Posted: 10 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N) is "comfortable" growing a high single-digit in topline and profits for the financial year ending Sept 30 (FY11), says chief executive officer Datuk Ng Jui Sia.

"We will have no problem growing at a high single-digit. We always outperform shareholders' expectations.

"The prospects are still favourable but the only concerns are raw materials and currencies. We will continue to manage operational efficiency; (being) efficient in buying raw materials and currency hedging," he said at a briefing yesterday.

Chief financial officer Joseph Tan said the high single-digit growth was not a slowdown in growth but due to F&N's large revenue base. He said a 10% growth in revenue would be some RM370mil.

Over the last five years, F&N has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.2% in revenue and 23.4% in profit before interest and tax (PBIT).

Ng said the concern was whether F&N could sustain the growth given its record FY10 in terms of revenue and earnings.

Ng said F&N was exploring the soft drinks market in Thailand, Brunei and Singapore through franchising and would continue to launch new products and variants.       "We are looking for opportunities to create new franchises. We expect sustainable growth for exports and regional expansion," he said.

For FY10, F&N's net profit more than tripled to RM695.3mil against RM224.4milin FY09. Its revenue rose 11.2% to RM3.64bil. The food and beverage company recommended a final single tier dividend of 38 sen per share. F&N topped the gainers' list yesterday, appreciating RM1.08 to RM15.70 on news of its bumper dividend.

It also announced a special interim dividend of RM1.10 per share, thanks to the divestment of the glass container business. This special interim dividend totalling RM393mil will be paid on Jan 6, effectively distributing the entire gain from the divestment.

Ng said the group would return all the gains made from the divestment to its shareholders. "Whatever you don't need, you return. We've done the first act by distributing cash to shareholders," he said.

He added that F&N had earmarked for capital expansion in FY11 some RM400mil, of which RM300mil would be allocated for its Pulau Indah plant expansion.

As at Sept 30, the group had a net cash of RM639mil.

Tan said the RM350mil plant in Pulau Indah was expected to be ready in mid-2011. The full relocation of its existing dairies production in Petaling Jaya's Section 13 could take up to six months and the extra production capacity would probably be fully reflected from FY12 onwards.

For FY10, F&N's local dairies division produced 12 million cartons of milk and contributed RM1.1bil (30%) to total revenue. Soft drinks remained the largest revenue contributor with RM1.58bil (44%).

Ng said F&N would be able to maintain the current level of margin due to its ability to harness economies of scale. In FY10, F&N's PBIT margin stood at 10.7%. It was 9% in FY09.

- The Star Online

Can The Malaysian Market Surge Be Sustained? (Posted: 10 November 2010 )

Heavy liquidity inflow gives positive near-term outlook

PETALING JAYA: The local bourse's benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index (FBM KLCI) continued to chart highs that were last seen on the eve of the global financial crisis in early 2008 when it closed 0.44% higher at 1,526.53 yesterday, surpassing the 1,524.69 achieved on Jan 14, 2008.

Among the companies that helped boost the index were Malayan Banking Bhd, CIMB Group Bhd and telecommunications stocks such as Maxis Communications Bhd and DiGi.Com Bhd.

But can the market's strong surge be sustained?

Analysts said that since the pace of economic growth had slowed in G3 economies - the United States, the European Union and Japan - with the outlook for the forseeable future continuing to look unexciting, investors were now looking to other markets and asset classes to place their money.

Year-to-date, several Asian markets including Indonesia and the Philippines have broken passed their record levels while the FBM KLCI has risen more than 20% since the beginning of the year.

Besides emerging-market equities, commodities have also seen their prices go up.

Spot gold surged to an all-time intra-day high of US$1,414.85 an ounce in London trade while crude oil has risen to near US$87 per barrel.

HwangDBS Investment Management Bhd chief investment officer David Ng said at a briefing yesterday that the local market could very well experience the bullrun of the early nineties when stocks were traded up to 30 times price-to-earnings ratio largely as a result of all the cheap money.

He said that Asian emerging markets' fundamentals such as positive demographics, young population, urbanisation and rising middle class would continue to drive domestic demand.

Ng said the "sweetest place" to park money was in this region as the liquidity created by accommodative monetary policies in developed economies chased higher returns in this part of the world.

However, Morgan Stanley Research analyst Gerard Minack said in a Nov 5 report that there seemed to be a disconnect between the markets and the macroeconomic outlook.

He said what was not clear was whether the US Federal Reserve's US$600bil plan to purchase government bonds over the next eight months to boost economic growth would work fast enough to significantly reduce recession risk.

Minack asked how long could markets run on the Fed's latest stimulus without confirmation from macro data that things were improving.

"I'd characterise the macro data as mixed over the past month or so. More telling was the upside-down reaction to incoming news.

"For example, equity markets rallied after the weak September US non-farm payroll report because bad data meant more stimulus," he said.

Minack pointed out that the S&P 500 finished lower after the stronger-than-expected Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index was revealed.

"It'll be important when markets return to a good-news-is-good or bad-is-bad behaviour," he said.

ECM Libra Investment Bank Bhd research head Bernard Ching told StarBiz that the Fed's quantitative easing would merely stabilise developed economies and prevent them from spiralling into a double dip or deflation.

"The stimulus will not be able to change the outlook on US growth seeing as the jobs lost to-date will take six or seven years to replace," he said.

As a consequence, Ching did not see demand picking up in the G3 economies as debt levels were high and consumption was "tepid".

Meanwhile, UOB KayHian (M) Holdings Sdn Bhd research head Vincent Khoo said emerging markets, including Malaysia, would continue to have a positive near-term market outlook until inflationary pressure brought on by the rise of commodity prices reversed the low-interest rate regime.

"The near-term market outlook will be positive, at least through the next few months, but if the threat of inflation is higher, central banks may be less accommodating," he said.

Khoo cautioned that crude oil price reaching US$100 a barrel would cause some worries.

"Commodity prices just need to be carefully monitored to gauge for inflation," he added.

- The Star Online

Herbal Product Makers Need Strong Distribution Network, Says CEO (Posted: 9 November 2010 )

SERDANG: Herbal product manufacturers and distributors in Asia need to develop "solid" product ranges and strong distribution networks to tap the global market, says INS Bioscience Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Yeat Sew Chuong.

He said demand for herbal products had improved over the years on growing awareness of the benefits of consuming herbal products.

Citing bio-herbs as an example, he said more nations were investing more efforts and resources in bio-herb development and the global herbal medical industry was estimated to be worth US$400bil this year.

"Indeed, the industry has rapidly grown at between 10% and 20% annually for the past few years.

"The prospect of the bio-herbs industry is boundless and it is predicted that the emergence of the information and communications technology and herbal medicine will spearhead the world economy in the next wave," he said.

Bestowed with an abundance of herbal resources and coupled with advanced technology of the West, Asia was working towards cultivating a greater value for these natural resources, he said at the 4th Global Bio-Herbs Economic Forum on Saturday.

On tapping the global market, Yeat said manufacturers and distributors needed to build a strong product base before expanding their business regionally.

"It will be very risky if you have a flaw in your products and this will definitely affect the brand perspective in the market," he told StarBiz at the sideline of the forum.

The financial capability of a company was also a consideration in business expansion as a lot of capital was needed to venture into overseas markets, he said, citing the high product registration cost as an example.

Besides, he said manufacturers and distributors should consider forming collaborations with partners on their overseas ventures in order to enlarge their capability, adding that it was important to have integration among manufacturers in the market as a way to establish strong global channels.

"Building a strong distribution channel is not an easy task but it is essential in expanding your business," he said.

Themed Building Global Channels, Steering Herbs Economy, the forum was held from Nov 5 to 7.

The forum explored the economic aspect of bio-technology and herbs in Asia, provided a plaform for further collaboration among Malaysian and Asian herbal industry players while increasing the awareness of herbs among the public.

- The Star Online

Emerging Economies Need To Be More Vocal (Posted: 9 November 2010 )

Need for more effective response to global issues

KUALA LUMPUR: Emerging economies have important roles to play in ensuring international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund become more effective in being responsive to the range of critical issues the world faces, says World Bank group managing director Dr Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

"It is important that emerging economies take their places at the table and have their voices heard," she said during a public lecture entitled Social Equity, Democratising Development and Global Governance here yesterday.

"As the global economic tectonic plates shift, so are those of global governance; with increased globalisation, emerging economies are gaining more voices in the international platform, including that in the World Bank," Mulyani explained.

"Increased voice in global governance for emerging economies comes with increased responsibility. This is part of democratising development - taking on more leadership through participation in global economic forum is requiring governments in middle-income countries to speak on global issues," she added.

"It is hard not to notice that the world has changed," she said in reference to the post- global economic crisis environment.

She pointed out that it was increasingly apparent that it was not the developed world - the world's established economic power - that could pull us out of this global crisis; rather, it was the emerging economies, including Malaysia, that were proving to be the engines of global growth.

"Increasingly, the United States and Europe are looking to emerging markets in Asia and Latin America to lift global demand. Led by many emerging markets, developing countries now account for half of global growth and are leading the recovery of the global trade," Mulyani said.

This trend was taking place even before the onslaught of the global economic crisis in 2008. For instance, Asia's share of the global economy in purchasing power parity terms has risen steadily from only 7% in 1980 to 21% in 2008. Asia's stock markets now account for 32% of global market capitalisation, higher than the US' 30% and Europe's 25%.

Last year, China overtook Germany to become the world's biggest exporter.

On the economic progress of middle-income countries, Mulyani said while the rate was impressive, there was a critical domestic dimension that emerging economies had to address to ensure social cohesion and stability. Of major concern was the need to eradicate poverty and minimise inequality.

By definition, there were presently around 100 countries, including Malaysia, categorised as middle-income. These countries collectively account for 69% of the world's population and 41% of global economic output.

"Despite their diversity, most of these middle-income countries are facing three common challenges," Mulyani said.

"First, how to get more sustained growth; second, how to make this growth more inclusive; and third, how to achieve green and clean growth," she said.

Policymakers in every middle-income country were concerned about figuring out how to avoid the middle-income trap. For instance, Malaysia has its Economic Transformation Programme to drive the nation towards high income by 2020.

But while achieving growth is important, addressing the inequality issue was also important, as "unshared growth" could threaten the very social cohesion and stability needed to sustain growth.

For most middle-income countries, poverty incidences may have declined, but wealth inequality continued to widen. To put that into perspective, Mulyani said "three-quarters of the world's poor live in middle-income countries".

In addressing wealth disparity, Mulyani said, policymakers needed to incorporate policies that could generate economic activities and provide improved access to the people to promote inclusive growth. "Sustained and inclusive growth also requires high level of investment, which is critical in moving an economy up the value chain," she explained.

"Investments by both smallish and big corporations are critical in generating jobs and enhancing opportunities for all," she added.

To become a high-income nation, innovation cannot be ignored. The ability to introduce new or improved goods and services or adopt more efficient production processes and better mode of operations were a necessity, she said.

But above all, she pointed out that economic stakeholders had to ensure that both investments and innovation must be translated into job opportunities to improve labour mobility within a country. In addition, Mulyani also pointed out that it was critical for countries aspiring to become high income to build their human capital base.

"Immediate action is necessary to strengthen the link between industries and education to ensure a match between skills and market demand," she said, adding that education and training opportunities in Malaysia had not kept pace with the progress of the nation, hence leading to the lack of skilled human capital the country needed now to achieve developed nation status.

"More money is not always the only answer. The content and design of education curriculum are a more critical factor," Mulyani said.

- The Star Online

MAS Launches Cheap Fares To Local And Foreign Destinations (Posted: 8 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Global Sales is back with great offers to domestic and international destinations from Nov 8 to 15.

Promising to offer something for everyone, the sale kicked off with a pre-sale for Enrich members yesterday. Pre-sale tickets are only available at MAS tickets offices and call centre.

In a statement on Saturday, MAS executive vice-president Datuk Bernard Francis said the Global Sale covered all travel segments ranging from business to economy passengers.

"For the first time, the sale also includes destinations some of our codeshare partners fly to. This is an excellent opportunity for travellers to take advantage of our vast network connections to travel around the world. We are also rewarding our Enrich members with an exclusive preview a day earlier than the general public," he said.

Business class passengers can enjoy fares from RM799 to Bangkok, Hanoi and Manila, RM999 to Taipei and Xiamen, RM3,999 to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and RM2,199 to both Dubai and Jeddah. Fares to London and Paris on business class are from RM5,999 and to Los Angeles and Buenos Aires from RM7,999.

"If you are looking for a getaway closer to home, look out for business class offers from RM299 to Penang and Langkawi, RM519 to Kuching and RM639 to Kota Kinabalu," MAS said.

Those travelling on economy class can fly to Asean destinations such as Jakarta and Bandung from only RM199 and RM339 to Bali, while fares are from RM349 to Hong Kong, RM599 to Maldives and RM889 to Tokyo.

"Take advantage of the lower euro with European-getaway fares from RM1,599 to London, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome and RM1,699 to Amsterdam," it said. - Bernama

For the first time, travellers can enjoy discounted fares to MAS' codeshare destinations under its partnerships with British Midlands , Alitalia and KLM.      

"Fancy a trip to Old Trafford stadium? Fares are now available from RM1,899 to Manchester via London with British Midlands.

"Explore Barcelona, Madrid and Athens via Frankfurt from only RM1,999 with Alitalia. Check out Brussels at RM2,099 and Oslo at RM2,199 via Amsterdam with KLM," it said.      

"With flexible travelling periods from Dec 8 to Sept 30, 2011 as well as competitive fares, it's the perfect time to plan your holiday in advance," Bernard said.

Fares quoted are for one way travel. Tickets are available at MAS' ticket offices, call centre, selected travel agents and online at

- Bernama

Mah Sing: Local Property Market Sustainable (Posted: 8 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Mah Sing Group Bhd is confident the local property market is sustainable as the current buying activities are backed by economic fundamentals and genuine purchasers.

"Despite Bank Negara's measure to cap the loan-to-value ratio at 70% for third and subsequent house purchase, the prevailing low interest rate, healthy employment market and the fact that property investments have proven to be a reliable asset class will continue to sustain and drive the sector," group managing director and chief executive Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said.

The Government's Economic Transformation Programme to pave the way for the country to become a high-income nation will also boost demand for properties in economic hot spots that include the Greater Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor.

Leong said careful market studies to match supply with demand was necessary to make sure that the products offered meet market needs in terms of concept and design.

"It is important to invest in research and development to continuously create a healthy, sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Other attributes include good locations, unique concepts and on-time delivery of quality products," he told StarBiz.

Leong said gated and guarded landed properties seemed to be the most sought after, both for new launches and the secondary market.

"Besides a good location, buyers today place more importance on security, concept, design and lifestyle.

"The current price trend for link homes in good locations are approximately RM700,000 onwards for double-storey link homes and RM1mil onwards forthree-storey link homes," he added.

Leong said Mah Sing was confident of chalking up sales of more than RM1.5bil this year after having turned in RM1.02bil for the first seven months this year from projects in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor.

As at June 30, the company had unbilled sales of RM1.17bil, nearly twice the revenue recognised in 2009.

"Our landed properties generally attract local buyers, and our serviced residences have a higher quantum of foreign buyers due to ease of maintenance," Leong said.

As part of the company's marketing strategies, Mah Sing takes part in property exhibitions locally and overseas as they are good brand-building campaigns.

"We look forward to the upcoming Star Property Fair on Nov 19-21 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, and will be showcasing some of our latest projects at the fair," he added.

The company currently has 15 ongoing projects while 10 projects are at various stages of planning. Its existing projects include One Legenda and Hijauan Residence in Cheras, Garden Residence in Cyberjaya, Perdana Residence 2 in Selayang, Icon Residence Mont' Kiara, Aman Perdana in Meru-Shah Alam, Southgate, StarParc Point, [email protected] Jelutong and iParc [email protected] Alam in Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley, [email protected] and [email protected] in Penang island as well as Sri Pulai Perdana 2, Sierra Perdana and Austin Perdana in Johor Baru.

Those in the drawing board include M Suites @ Jalan Ampang, Kinrara Residence and Kinrara joint venture project, Garden Plaza in Cyberjaya, Star [email protected]'Sara in Sungai Buloh, Icon City in Petaling Jaya, [email protected] Jelutong, and Bayu Sekamat in Hulu Langat in Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley as well as Southbay Plaza and Icon Residence in Penang island.

Mah Sing is previewing its second project in Cyberjaya, namely Garden Plaza comprising Garden Suites (residential) and Garden Retail which are lifestyle retail shops.

The project-awareness exercise has attracted more than 2,000 registrants for the Garden Suites. Comprising fully-furnished small to medium-sized units that will be furnished and in move-in condition, the units are targeted at both users as well as investors looking to tap the vibrant student population in Cyberjaya which is currently in excess of 17,000.

The indicative price for the smallest unit of 500 sq ft starts from RM236,800 and there are flexible sizes to meet various requirements.

Leong said the company's medium to medium-high end properties, including [email protected] Ampang, received overwhelming response during its preview. M-Suites offers freehold apartments from 502 sq ft to 1,630 sq ft which are designed specifically to provide easy ownership and ensure long-term rental demand - criteria which appeal to both investors and residents alike when investing in the city.

The residential landed projects in Cyberjaya, Selayang and Bandar Kinrara had also attracted positive response. Garden Residence in Cyberjaya comprises two- and three-storey superlink and semi-detached as well asthree-storey bungalows. The gated and guarded project has been very successful, with sales hitting RM419mil as at July this year. Meanwhile, Perdana Residence 2, a gated and guarded project in Selayang, achieved more than 98% in take-up rate since its launch in March.

Kinrara Residence, a mixed residential development comprising super links, semi-detached units and executive bungalows priced from RM708,800, has also garnered positive response.

The gated and guarded development offers a communal lifestyle living with a clubhouse equipped with facilities such as swimming pool, wading pool, changing rooms, gymnasium and a community centre.

- The Star Online

Positive Market Outlook (Posted: 4 November 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Liquidity and a strengthening ringgit are the key forces propelling the FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) in the last few months. Now, as concerns of a double-dip recede, along with economic reforms by the Government and the possibility of general elections next year, analysts are becoming more positive on the market's outlook.

OSK Research Sdn Bhd research head Chris Eng said the outlook for 2011 had improved, with corporate earnings continuing to increase.

"We also have the possibility of the general elections to look forward to. Elections are normally held when the economic prospects are a lot more sound," said Eng.

He added that the Government had implemented various reforms which seemed to be supportive of the economy and the market as a whole.

On a year-to-date basis, the FBM KLCI was up 18.21% to close yesterday at 1507.60. Over the same period, the ringgit has strengthened close to 10% at approximately 3.087 to the dollar.

Standard & Poor's Malaysia Sdn Bhd director Alexander Chia said the market was partly being driven by liquidity with the strength of the ringgit a function of this liquidity.

In addition, recent concerns for a double-dip recession had receded somewhat, while positive numbers from China had helped to return confidence to investors.

Markets also got a boost from strong manufacturing figures from China and a general increase in risk appetite ahead of the much-anticipated Federal Reserve meeting yesterday.

China's Project Management Institute for October came in at 54.7, better than the 53.8 that was expected and the 53.8 in September.

JF Apex Securities Bhd deputy managing director Lim Teck Seng said retailers were starting to return to the market.

"Liquidity is not linked to fundamentals. Eventually fundamentals will dictate," he said.

"But, for now, there are many people holding cash, and bank lending is relatively easy. Hence, people are putting their money to work through equities and property. The market should be relatively safe over the next six months."

Lim added that foreigners were coming because Malaysia's interest rates were moving relatively higher than its regional neighbours.

The overnight policy rate was up by 25 basis points respectively in March, May and July to 2.75%.

"We are positive until the first half of 2011. For the second half of 2011, we will have to look at global numbers," Eng said, adding that he would turn buyer in December, as he was expecting some correction this month.

"With the continued global quantitive easing, and the slower growth in the West, foreigners realised that there is much better growth here," he said.

Chia, meanwhile, added that he was buying on dips. He expects more upside for the market in the next six to 12 months.

- The Star Online

New Growth Areas For KL Property Sector (Posted: 4 November 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Amid concerns that the property market is overheating, consultants believe the areas of Jalan Cochrane and the Batu Cantonment army base in Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, are "too valuable to be ignored".

"Both areas are in great need of redevelopment, definitely too valuable to be ignored," CB Richard Ellis Malaysia executive chairman Christopher Boyd said.

Henry Butcher Malaysia Sdn Bhd president Lim Eng Chong described the Jalan Cochrane site as fantastic because it was well populated and close to the city centre.

"The land is due for redevelopment, the buildings there are very old. It's been too long, redeveloping it would be a catalyst for the entire area," Lim noted.

"These areas have the potential to be high growth areas," DTZ Nawawi Tie Leung Property Consultants Sdn Bhd director Adzman Shah Mohd Ariffin said.

Their comments came after it was recently highlighted in the news that Boustead Holdings Bhd's major shareholder Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) was close to closing land deals involving 60 acres in Jalan Cochrane and 245 acres in Jalan Ipoh.

Although Boustead deputy chairman and group managing director Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin did not confirm this when queried by the press on Tuesday, sources said the deals were almost done.

"We are very close to finalising some (land) deals in Kuala Lumpur.

"We are actively looking at a few areas in the Klang Valley with strong potential for mixed property development," Lodin had said instead on Tuesday.

On the same day, the group, which is involved mainly in property, manufacturing, financial and plantation, said it would raise some RM1bil via bond issues, largely to expand its land bank in the city.

Boustead currently has about 2,000 acres of undeveloped land, mostly in the Klang Valley, which can keep it busy for up to 15 years.

Boyd said Boustead had the potential "to add value" to the areas of Jalan Cochrane and Jalan Ipoh.

"Given its track record in developing Mutiara Damansara and Mutiara Rini (Johor), the two strategically located land bank would further add value to the group and consolidate its status as a undervalued stock and attract investor interest," Hong Leong Research told clients yesterday.

In a report dated Oct 12, HwangDBS Vickers Research noted that Boustead's property segment was due for major transformation as LTAT was close to finalising two "lucrative" Government land deals, referring to both the Jalan Cochrane and Jalan Ipoh land.

"Both developments will be served by the mass rapid transit system," it noted.

Reports have indicated that the developments could see mixed real estate projects comprising residential and commercial properties and that gross development values could run into billions of ringgit.

At the close yesterday, Boustead added 3 sen to RM5.62.

- The Star Online

Malaysia-EU FTA Set To Be Concluded By 2012 (Posted: 3 November 2010 )

EU official: First round of talks scheduled for Dec 6-9

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is set to be concluded by 2012, said EU Ambassador and head of delegation to Malaysia, Vincent Piket.

He said the first round of the FTA meeting was scheduled for Dec 6-9 in Brussels, Belgium, while at the same time the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) talks will be held in Putrajaya.

On Oct 6, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso officially launched the negotiations for the Malaysia-EU FTA and Malaysia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in Brussels on the sidelines of the Eighth Asian-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Najib headed the Malaysian delegation to the two-day ASEM Summit hosted by Belgium. It was the first visit to an EU member nation by a Malaysian Prime Minister, marking the next phase of expanding Malaysia-EU relations.

The confidence is there to conclude the session and "we are on the right track," according to Piket.

"We have been promoting better understanding between both parties. It has just started and we are busy fixing for the first round of negotiation," he said at a media conference with selected media organisations, in conjunction with the visit of the EU parliamentary delegation to Malaysia yesterday.

Also present at the event were EU parliamentary delegation chairman Dr Werner Langen and second vice-chairman Ivo Belet.

Piket said the EU-Malaysia FTA would provide a long-term, stable and legal framework for ties between the two partners.

"The FTA will remove tariffs on the near totality of goods, will open up trade in services (beyond the level of commitment undertaken by EU and Malaysia in the WTO), will boost bilateral investments by providing a legally secure framework for trade relations, thus providing legal certainty and predictability to economic operators," he said.

The EU is Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner. Malaysia is EU's second individual trading partner in Asean.

Bilateral trade in goods reached 23 billion euros (RM99.3bil) in 2009. Although EU exports grew 1.2% on average a year between 2005 and 2009, Malaysia has consistently recorded a trade surplus of about five billion euros with the EU over the same period.

The EU-Malaysia PCA, when finalised, will provide the state-of-the-art strategic framework for enhanced cooperation by adding significant value to EU-Malaysia bilateral relations.

On the PCA, the parliamentary delegation chairman Langen said it would provide opportunities to expand the EU's engagement in a number of areas of mutual interest with Malaysia such as taxation and customs; intellectual property rights; combating terrorism and transnational crime; corruption; good governance; human rights; migration; trafficking in persons; non-proliferation and disaster risk management.

The agreement will further strengthen EU-Malaysia policy dialogue on environment, green technology and climate change. It will also establish a more intensive platform to exchange views and enhance cooperation on global and multilateral matters.

The PCA would be the EU's first bilateral framework agreement with Malaysia.

- Bernama

Cyberview Sees 10% Investment Growth In Cyberjaya (Posted: 3 November 2010 )

CYBERJAYA: Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the landowner of Cyberjaya, is optimistic of achieving a further 10% growth in investment in Cyberjaya by year-end from the current RM3.19bil.

"Giving the rapid growth of development in Cyberjaya, we are confident to achieve that growth through land sales for enterprise, commercial, institutional and residential space," managing director Hafidz Hashim said yesterday after Cyberjaya's annual media briefing.

Hafidz said the RM3.19bil represented more than a third of Cyberjaya's total investment value of RM9.1bil since its inception over 10 years ago.

In 2009, Cyberjaya received investment worth RM1.29bil.

Hafidz said the company was also optimistic of surpassing this year's investment figure for 2011, as it had secured projects worth RM1.48bil to start next year.

"Cyberjaya intends to support the Government's aspiration to become a developed and high income nation as had been tabled in Budget 2011.

"We are poised to bring development-centric initiatives to fruition in line with what had being announced during the recent budget," he said.

He added that to date, more than 500 companies, including global multinationals such as HP, Dell, Fujitsu and Motorola, had set up regional and global centres in Cyberjaya.

"Cyberview aspires to strengthen the key government initiatives by driving inward local and foreign investments, developing skilled workers and talents, and nurturing creative economies in Malaysia via its thriving content creation and multimedia industries," he said.

On the other hand, Hafidz said Cyberview had in place initiatives from Budget 2011 that called for creative content development as a key contributor to the national economy with, which went on air earlier this year.

"As a whole, Cyberview's vision and direction for Cyberjaya closely echoes the four major thrusts identified by the National Economic Advisory Council for the implementation of the New Economic Model, which are talent development, the creation of research and development ecosystem, provide growth infrastructure and institutional development," he said.

On the current population living in Cyberjaya, he said there are 12,000 residents at the moment and the figure was expected to reach 35,000 in 2014.

The annual media briefing brought together Cyberjaya stakeholders such as Multimedia Development Corp, Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd and the Sepang Municipal Council.

- Bernama

China And India Lead As Asia Shows Growth (Posted: 2 November 2010 )

They support global economy as US and Europe face a slowdown

BEIJING: Growth in China and India powered ahead last month, providing welcome support for the global economy at a time of sluggishness in the United States and most of Europe and a faltering in Japan's recovery.

Two surveys of Chinese executives showed broad-based strength in the manufacturing sector of the world's second-largest economy and helped boost Asian shares outside Japan by 1.7%.

The official purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to a six-month high in October of 54.7 from 53.8 in September, easily beating market forecasts of 52.9.

A figure above 50 denotes expansion; a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The strength of the official PMI was especially striking because the index normally headed down in October, said Yu Song and Helen Qiao, economists at Goldman Sachs.

"The fact that the PMI went up despite this seasonal bias suggests real activity growth was likely to have been exceedingly strong in October," they said in a note.

The survey showed that manufacturers continued to run down stocks last month to meet rising domestic orders, which Ting Lu with Bank of America Merrill Lynch said was a reflection of strength in construction and consumption.

"These readings bode well for a recovery of output in coming months," Lu told clients.

A companion PMI produced by Markit for HSBC painted a similar picture, rising to 54.8 from 52.9 - one of the largest month-on-month rises in the history of the survey.

Calling the official PMI one of the best leading indicators of the economy, Lu said the October report supported his forecast of 9.3% year-on-year growth in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter and 10.3% for all of 2010.

In contrast, the United States reported on Friday that its economy grew at a tepid 2% rate in the third quarter, reinforcing expectations that the Federal Reserve will agree this week to ease monetary policy by embarking on a new programme of bond purchases.

The HSBC Markit PMI for India, Asia's third-largest economy, rose to 57.2 in October from 55.1 in September.

"The manufacturing sector remains supported by strong local consumption growth, and growing employment suggests that domestic demand will remain robust," Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian Economics Research at HSBC, said in a statement.

Not all the economic news from Asia was rosy. The South Korean manufacturing sector shrank for the second month in a row as the HSBC/Markit PMI fell to 46.7 in October, the lowest since February 2009, from 48.8 in September.

New export orders also fell below the boom-bust line of 50 for the first time since February 2009.

But actual exports from Asia's fourth-largest economy rose 29.9% in October from the same month last year.

That surpassed the 21.9% increase economists had expected and boosted investor confidence in the export-dependent economy. Shares in South Korea's top automakers shot to record highs, while the won rallied against the dollar.

"It bodes well for the economy and solid overseas demand will continue to be a major driver for economic growth," said So Jae-yong, an economist at Hana Daetoo Securities in Seoul.

Together with a jump in inflation to a 20-month high of 4.1% in the year to October, the data also strengthened the case for a rise in interest rates this month.

South Korea's PMI mirrored that for Japan, released last Friday, which showed that manufacturing contracted for a second consecutive month as slowing demand and a rising yen led to the first drop in export orders in more than a year.

- Reuters

Seafood Export To Russia Likely To Resume Soon (Posted: 2 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's export of seafood products to Russia is expected to resume by the year-end.

This follows the discussions between Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) and Russia's Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Service of Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor).

Matrade said in a statement yesterday that to revoke the current ban and expedite the process of re-starting Malaysian seafood exports to Russia, Rosselkhoznadzor had proposed a memorandum of understanding to be initiated with the relevant Malaysian agency.

In January last year, Rosselkhoznadzor issued its requirements with regard to approved Malaysian seafood-processing establishments permitted to export products to Russia.

In May this year, Malaysian authorities had a meeting in Russia to further discuss import requirements.

Matrade chief executive officer Datuk Noharuddin Nordin said the discussions between Matrade and the Russian authorities were very fruitful.

"There is a clear willingness by both sides in wishing to meet all conditions in order to fast-track the recommencement of Malaysian seafood exports to Russia," Noharuddin added.

In 2009, Russia's seafood imports were valued at US$1.63bil.

Among Asean exporters, Malaysia is ranked fourth after Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in respect of seafood exports to Russia, amounting to RM2.11mil in 2009.

Seafood exports to Russia include crustaceans (shrimp, prawn and lobster), fish and cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus).

- Bernama

CIMB Represents Malaysia In Deal With China (Posted: 1 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: CIMB Group, as a representative bank for Malaysia, along with other major Asean financial institutions, have signed a framework agreement with the China Development Bank Corp (CDBC).

Following the agreement, the signatories would formalise the setting up of the China-Asean Interbank Association (CAIBA), CIMB said in a statement.

"CIMB is and has consistently been a strong advocate of regional integration," said the group's corporate and investment banking deputy chief executive officer Datuk Charon Wardini Mokhzani.

"With the establishment of this association, we will build long-term relationships with other member banks as well as look into providing more extensive financial services for cooperation between China and Asean countries."

CAIBA was set up to achieve a mutually-beneficial social and economic development between China and Asean by promoting mutual trade and investment.

It can provide relevant financial services for infrastructure construction and other projects supported by the governments of China and Asean countries.

Initial members of CAIBA consist of renowned financial institutions which have influence in their own countries, as well as in South-East Asia.

Other members include Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam Bhd, Canadia Bank PLC, PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk, Laos Development Bank, Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, Banco de Oro Unibank, DBS Bank Ltd, KasikornBank Public Co Ltd and Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam.

- Bernama

Tin Mining Prospects Bullish Since Price Hit All-Time High On Oct 14 (Posted: 1 November 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The country's languishing tin mining sector has come under the spotlight lately after the price of the commodity hit an all-time high of US$26,900 per tonne on Oct 14.

The prospects for the industry, which contributed about RM2bil to the country's gross domestic product annually, now appeared bullish mainly driven by the consistent consumption globally.

Malaysian Chamber of Mines executive director Muhamad Nor Muhamad said the global consumption for tin was quite consistent although it was hard to predict the future trend of its prices.

"In fact, many brokers and dealers are of the view that the current high tin prices are not reflecting the actual market fundamentals. Prices could have been lifted by speculative buying and the tightness of supply from China and Indonesia due to poor weather conditions," he told StarBiz.

Given the current uptrend in tin prices, the share price of the country's sole tin company Malaysia Smelting Corp Bhd (MSC) reached its highest level this year at RM5.11 on Oct 15, up 34.5% from RM3.80 on Jan 4.

Its subsidiary, Rahman Hydraulic Tin Sdn Bhd, is to date the largest producer of tin-in-concentrate, accounting for about two-thirds of the country's total production.

Last year, a 30-year mining concession was awarded to Rahman Hydraulic for prospecting tin ore and other minerals in a newly identified 14,000ha at Pengkalen Hulu, near Ipoh. The Perak state government stands to receive a 5% royalty from the tin ore and minerals to be extracted.

MSC in September had proposed a secondary listing of its shares on the Singapore stock exchange.

Ho Wah Genting Bhd which is involved in mining activities also saw its share price surging by 55% to 31 sen on Oct 29 from 20 sen at the start of the year. Recently, its unit HWG Tin Mining Sdn Bhd was awarded a 10-year mining lease in 2008 to mine tin and other minerals on a 202ha in Pengkalan Hulu with a potential for a further 202ha as work on the initial area progresses.

According to the Companies Commission of Malaysia, HWG Tin Mining is 51% owned by Ho Wah Genting, 35% by Jiwa Seribu Sdn Bhd, 10% by Majuperak Holdings Bhd and 4% by Multi Prolific Sdn Bhd.

A check by StarBiz revealed that the Perak royalty directly owns a 35% stake in HWG Tin Ming through Jiwa Seribu Sdn Bhd,which is a 100% wholly owned subsidiary of Ras Sdn Bhd.

Ho Wah Genting managing director William Teo told StarBiz the company was set to become a resource-based company as its tin-mining operations would start production by early next year.

The tin mine now has been a hive of activity since its Chinese partner, Nanning Guangxi, transported its equipment to the mine's site in Grik, Perak two weeks ago and began rock blasting on targeted areas.

He said the company was targeting to produce 1,800 tonnes in 2011 and would double the capacity in 2012.

"We have spent RM10mil to get Nanning Guangxi to start the commissioning of our plant.

"In Malaysia, tin miners have previously used the palong method. China is the world's largest tin producer and it has the most advanced technology. We are using the hard rock tin-mining blasting method for our Grik mine," said Teo.

In another development, he said, the company would maintain its existing wire and cable business.

"The business sentiment has picked up and we have return to the black for the current financial year ending Dec 31.

For six months to June 30, the company recorded a net profit of RM4.6mil from a previous loss of RM11.01mil. Revenue increased 67.26% to RM98.02mil.

The company also owns a 35% stake in Hong Kong-listed magnesium producer CVM Ltd, which has dolomite reserves of some 20 million tonnes in Perak. Dolomite is used to produce magnesium.

- The Star Online

FTA With Australia Possible By Mid-2011 (Posted: 29 October 2010 )

Australian premier's visit to build on strong relations between both countries

KUALA LUMPUR: The free trade agreement (FTA) talks between Australia and Malaysia are likely to be concluded by mid-2011.

The eighth round of FTA talks between Australian and Malaysian officials ended last Friday in Canberra.

According to Australia Malaysia Business Council national president Larry Gould, both countries are likely to come to an agreement in the middle of next year.

"The general mood among officials from both countries is that there is an agreement to move forward with the talks, which will be built on the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA)," he told StarBiz.

Gould said discussions for a bilateral FTA commenced five years ago but paused to give the wider AANZFTA precedence.

The AANZFTA as well as the Asean-China FTA and the Asean-India FTA's component covering trade in goods came into operation at the beginning of this year.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, at a joint press conference with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said on Wednesday that a bilateral FTA with India would come into operation by next July and could achieve two-way trade worth US$15bil by 2015.

"With the AANZFTA coming into operation, we felt that now was the appropriate time to pick up on the negotiations," Gould said, adding that three rounds had been held this year including the just concluded talks in Canberra.

He said there were issues to be ironed out and in general, discussions centred around the services sector as well as manufacturing.

Last week, Australian Trade Commission officials said the Australian government was keen to further relations in services, especially in the area of financial services.

Gould pointed out that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's visit to Malaysia this Sunday after the East Asia Summit in Hanoi further underscored the importance of not just this country but the region for Australia.

"This is only her second trip out of Australia following the general elections and she wants to continue to build on the strong relations between both countries," Gould observed.

He said issues such as the 30% bumiputra equity policy, which was reaffirmed by Najib at the recent Umno general assembly after being left unclear following a spate of public-sector reforms, were not an obstacle to further investment by Australians.

Malaysia Australia Business Council chairman Michael Halpin said the current Malaysian administration had gone "much further than what we've expected" in helping business grow.

"Malaysian officials are much more approachable and whenever there are issues it's very easy to get to them, and the issues are also resolved quite quickly," he said.

Halpin said this helped when Australian companies debated on whether to invest here as they could get third-party endorsements from Australian companies with operations here.

He said the changes taking place in the country with the reforms to bring about a high-income nation status by 2020 and in particular the emphasis on human capital development meant opportunities for both sides.

"Australia is keen to get involved on a win-win basis, bearing in mind the changing world," Halpin said.

Halpin and Gould said the services sector was one area in which both countries could benefit. "Upskilling the Malaysian workforce could be the route to a bigger Asean market," Halpin said.

Ultimately, Gould said Australia needed to be in a trade bloc in its region. "My belief is that Australia need to work with her neighbours and support them," he said.

- The Star Online

Malaysia Gives Full Support On ASEAN Connectivity - Najib (Posted: 29 October 2010 )

HANOI, Oct 28 - Malaysia will give full commitment and support to the implementation of the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In a statement issued here Thursday, the prime minister said there was a need to mobilise the required financial resources for effective implementation of the Master Plan.

Najib also stressed that Asean must exert all efforts in implementing over 635 action lines in all the three Community Blueprints if it was to achieve the common vision and aspiration of realising the Asean Community in 2015.

At the same time, he underscored the importance of implementing the necessary programmes and activities at national level.

On evolving regional architecture, Najib welcomed the intention of Russia and the United States to join the East Asia Summit (EAS).

He said the inclusion of both countries in the EAS was of strategic importance to Asean, and would further enhance the substance and profile of the forum.

Najib also said it was timely for the Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC) to involve young Asean entrepreneurs.

He said this could be achieved through programmes such as Young Business Leaders Exchange Programme, to provide a platform for them to exchange views and information on economic cooperation.

Najib also encouraged ABAC to fully utilise the funds provided by Asean Dialogue Partners to initiate new projects.

He noted that Malaysian companies were winners and finalists of Asean Business Awards.

The prime minister said the companies won awards and were finalists for the categories of growth, innovation, corporate social responsibility and employment.

He said the companies were Top Glove Corporation Berhad, Tenaga Nasional Berhad, KPJ Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital, Microlink Solutions Berhad and Smart Reader Worldwide Sdn Bhd.

On climate change, the prime minister emphasised that it must continue to be a priority agenda of any government.

He stressed the need for collective effort in further exploring the use of energy sources that could progressively meet the regional and global energy demand.

Najib said he also encouraged closer regional collaboration across the spectrum of green technology which was a potential driver in generating new areas of growth in this region.

The statement also said that during the Asean Leaders" Retreat, the Asean leaders adopted four documents.

They were Master Plan on Asean Connectivity; Declaration on the Adoption of the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity; Asean Leaders" Statement on Human Resources and Skills Development for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth; and Hanoi Declaration on the Enhancement of Welfare and Development of Asean Women and Children.

Najib, who arrived here early Thursday morning, had a busy programme when he attended the Asean Leaders" Working Lunch with ABAC, opening ceremony of the 17th Asean Summit, Asean Leaders"s Retreat, Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit, as well as the Informal Working Dinner of Asean leaders later in the evening.

- Bernama

Indian Company To Invest RM500mil In R&D Facility In Johor (Posted: 28 October 2010 )

PUTRAJAYA: Biocon Ltd, a biotechnology company from India, plans to invest RM500mil in the first phase of its new biomanufacturing and research and development (R&D) facility for insulin products in Bio-XCell, Iskandar, Johor, said chairman and managing director Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

"The investment is just the beginning, as much more than this will be put in the years to come," she said at a press conference after the document signing ceremony between Biocon and Malaysian Biotechnology Corp Sdn Bhd (Biotech Corp).

The event was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his India counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh.

Bio-XCell, a 60:40 joint venture initiative between BiotechCorp and UEM Land Holdings Bhd, is being developed to cater to the needs of industrial and healthcare biotechnology initiatives, particularly in renewable and green technologies.

The investment by Biocon is the largest in Malaysian biotechnology thus far and the facility is targeted to be operational by 2014.

Kiran said Malaysia was a compelling global destination for biotechnology, backed by world-class infrastructure and attractive tax incentives.

"Investing in Malaysia provides us with an international location with strategic geographical proximity to India," she said.

She added that Biacon was pleased to be an early mover in this emerging opportunity as the company dovetailed its research and biomanufacturing operations with those in Malaysia to gain a global competitive advantage.

Kiran also said the project would also focus on R&D and production of high-end biosimilars and other bio-pharmaceutical products.

Biotech Corp chief executive officer Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood said Biacon's strategic and impactful investment in Bio-XCell would move the industry to the next level.

"It will be a catalyst in our commercialisation efforts as we enter phase 2 of our National Biotechnology Policy - the Science to Business Phase," he said.

He added that Biocon would stimulate growth for this sector, providing commercial opportunities for Malaysian biotechnology's small and medium enterprise in its supply chain, growing specialised local services and products.

"This will also promote a more vigorous domestic direct investment especially in the value chain. We can also expect greater presence of global giants in biotechnology which are affiliated with Biacon, driving the sector to new heights," he said.

- The Star Online

Council Calls For More Bilateral Trade With Pakistan (Posted: 28 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia-Pakistan Business Council is calling for more bilateral trade between the two countries and stresses that Pakistan offers vast investment opportunities across many sectors, said new chairman Datuk Mohd Salim Fateh Din.

"Currently, only 12 to 13 companies from Malaysia have a foothold in Pakistan in the areas of real estate, energy and banking," he said after the council's inaugural meeting yesterday.

Also present was Pakistan High Commissioner Masood Khalid.

Masood invited Malaysian companies to invest in Pakistan especially in the businesses of livestocks, food-processing, education, halal products, construction and Islamic banking.

"I can assure that foreign investors in Pakistan are making a lot of profits," he said.

Mohd Salim said the council had embarked on several trade projects such as setting up an abattoir in Pakistan and the import of buffaloes.

He added that total trade between the two countries stood at US$1.7bil last year.

- The Star Online

Higher Digi Profit In Q3 (Posted: 27 October 2010 )

Net profit came in at RM289mil on improved data revenue

PETALING JAYA: DiGi.Com Bhd net profit for third quarter ended Sept 30 rose 19% year-on-year to RM289mil on higher data revenue.

The celco, which is in the midst of changing the way it operates and dealing with its customers in its quest to record better growth, posted RM1.35bil in revenue for the quarter.

For the same period a year ago, the revenue was RM1.23bil.

Pre-tax profit for the third quarter was 17% higher at RM390mil compared with RM333mil a year ago.

Earnings per share were 37.2 sen compared with 31.4 sen previously. The celco has announced a 50 sen per share net interim dividend for the quarter.

"We are satisfied with the third-quarter performance. It is a comfortable level of growth that we are seeing.

"In fact, we have been experiencing the momentum of growth for several quarters now but as we go forward, we (need) to work on the way we do our business and deal with our customers,'' chief executive officer Henrik Clausen told StarBiz.

The need to change the way it operates is to meet the needs of the more demanding consumers.

Clausen said the change would involve tweaking all areas of its operations - customer care, call centres, distribution network and even the build-up of its network.

For the nine months ended Sept 30, DiGi net profit rose to RM845mil from RM753mil while revenue increased to RM3.97bil from RM3.66bil. The revenue reflects a 9% growth, which is above the industry's average of 5%-6%.

The celco has 8.2 million subscribers as at end-September compared with 7.4 million as at end-December 2009.

There is a decline in average revenue per user to RM53 compared with RM55 in 2009 mainly due to competitive price pressures.

DiGi will invest to improve on its coverage and network capacity to cater to the rising demand for Internet services for small and large screens.

Its capital expenditure this year is expected to be about RM718mil, the same amount invested in 2009.

Clausen said DiGi would continue to leverage on bundling its services and reach out to a wider population in rural and urban ares by increasing its distribution channels.

"The major drivers of growth will be mobile Internet and mobile broadband. We will also defend our voice business.

"There are several areas of growth, one of which is the youth segment which we intend to capitalise on,'' he said.

- The Star Online

New Mobile Phone Service Coming Up In Malaysia (Posted: 27 October 2010 )

Firm will also launch its 4G mobile Internet services soon

KUALA LUMPUR: YTL Communications Sdn Bhd (YTL Comms), which is gearing up for the launch of its 4G mobile Internet services next month, is expected to unveil its own mobile phones soon.

"We are working on our own Android platform phones and it is likely to be introduced in three months," said executive director Datuk Yeoh Seok Hong.

He said this at a signing ceremony to appoint ECS ICT Bhd as a distributor of YTL Comms' 4G devices.

Although details on the mobile phones remain sketchy, market talk has it that YTL Comms was working on a number of WiMAX devices and had outsourced the production of its mobile phones to a smartphone manufacturer.

It is not known if the mobile phones will be under the YTL brand.

YTL Comms is expected to launch the name for its 4G mobile Internet services early next month, to be followed by the launch of the services on Nov 18. The group will embark on a series of roadshows later.

Yeoh remained tight-lipped on pricing, saying the services would be "affordable".

However, he hinted that YTL Comm's pricing plan might do away with the usual monthly commitment packages currently available in the market.

YTL Comms chief executive officer Wing K. Lee said the group had acquired some 2,500 base stations from Samsung and had about 1,000 yet to be deployed.

He said it may complete the deployment of all the base stations next year.

However, Lee said YTL Comms would review the density of the usage from time to time and add more base stations if needed.

ECS managing director Foo Sen Chin expects the distributorship agreement would contribute significantly to the company's earnings.

ECS has about 2,500 information and communications technology-related resellers comprising retailers, system integrators and dealers.

For the six months ended June 30, ECS posted a net profit of RM13.5mil on revenue of RM626.2mil.

- The Star Online

ETP Shows Encouraging Results - Najib (Posted: 26 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR Oct 25 - The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) has shown encouraging results to achieve 45 per cent of the investment target. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said based on the government"s monitoring, about 45 per cent of the total investment of US$97 billion, which represented 53 Entry Point Projects (EPPs), were now at various stages of active discussions.

"All the projects showed that the ETP has started to show initial positive results and the government will announce more new investments soon.

"We have proven wrong those who are suspicious of ETP," Najib said at the launch of the Economic Transformation Programme: A Roadmap for Malaysia here today.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said one important component in the implementation of EPT was the setting up of an administrative structure that was transparent and systematic. "On my part, I will give an assurance that the respective ministers will monitor the achievements of the EPPs and investments and this will form part of the means to gauge their performance," he said.

Various ETP projects have taken off. Among them are: A German company, Lfoundry GmbH, will set up five fabrication clusters in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park within five years.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd plans to open 14 more branches nationwide with an investment of RM1 billion within three years.

St Regis plans to open a 208-room hotel and 160-unit The Residence at the 2.2-hectare site at KL Sentral.

Schlumberger, oilfield services provider, has set up its Eastern Hemisphere Global Financial Services Hub in Bandar Utama, Selangor as part of the Greater KL/Klang Valley initiative. Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd has awarded a 25-year concession to WCT Bhd to build RM486 million integrated complex at KLIA2.

Mubadala, from West Asia, to collaborate with 1MDB to develop KL International Financial District at a cost of RM26 billion on 34-hectare site near Jln Tun Razak.

Premium Renewable Energy to build five bio-oil plants over five years. The first will be at Lahad Datu, Sabah costing RM124 million. The Higher Education Ministry has selected Asia e-University as the gateway university for international education for distance and online learning. It is expected to generate RM100 million.

Johor Premium Outlet at Genting Indahpura offers designer labels at less than retail price. The investment is expected to cost RM150 million.


Banks Target Mass Affluent Market (Posted: 26 October 2010 )

Segment which accounts for 6% of population still underserved

PETALING JAYA: After gaining a foothold in the premier banking segment, many banks are now looking to expand their revenue base by targeting the underserved growing mass and emerging affluent market which accounts for some 5% to 6% of the country's total population.

OCBC Bank (M) Bhd head of mass affluent Teh Bee Gaik said the mass affluent segment was currently underserved as most banks do not target this group specifically but rather they tend to focus solely on the high net worth individuals, broadly referred to as the premier banking segment.

Even today, she said only a handful of banks were looking seriously at meeting the specific needs of the mass affluent segment.

She said a mass affluent customer would contribute to three or four times the revenue brought about by a regular mass retail customer.

"We estimate the mass affluent segment to comprise around 1.4 million people nationwide, which is roughly 5% of the country's overall population and expect this segment to grow by 5% each year. The mass affluent segment encompasses broadly those earning between RM5,000 and RM20,000 a month compared to the premier banking segment, which most banks tend to define as those with total assets under management of about RM250,000 to RM300,000,'' she told StarBiz.

Teh said the mass affluent customers were time-stressed individuals, namely those on the fast track and with little time to spare. They could also be defined as those whose next stage would, ultimately, be premier banking, she said.

The bank, which currently has about 10% market share in the mass affluent market, via its mass affluent banking platform iQ, hopes to chart an annual growth rate of 10% to 15% by year-end.

Through the cash flow management facility of the iQ platform, she said customers no longer needed to initiate payment transactions for utility bills, mortgage or car instalments as these would be left to the bank to remember on their behalf instead.

This also include personal and non-banking needs like access to services such as 24 hour-auto assist, home assist, restaurant delivery service, gift delivery, personal shopping, air ticket bookings and others.

Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd country head for consumer banking Tiew Siew Chuen said the bank was ramping up its business to serve this untapped segment. To this end, it launched Preferred Banking in August this year.

She said that with this service, the bank aimed to reach 200,000 customers in this market segment within two years.

Tiew added that the emerging-affluent segment in Malaysia was one of the fastest growing and most attractive demographics for consumer businesses, with banking as no exception.

This underserved segment numbers 1.6 million in Malaysia and constitutes 5.7% of the population, she said. From 2005 to 2009, she said, this segment grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 17% despite the challenging economic conditions of the past year.

The segment, she added, was also dominated by young, upwardly mobile executives, professionals, couples and families comprising over 44% of the emerging-affluent segment in 2009 and representing nascent and untapped potential.

HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd general manager for personal financial services Lim Eng Seong said the bank's core focus had always been on the mass affluent segment.

He said this was in line with its ability to tap on the group's global knowledge and wealth management capabilities coupled with its ability to provide international connectivity.

Lim said the bank was expecting double-digit growth over the next three years as the country continued to progress and create new wealth.

- The Star Online

KL-S'pore High-Speed Link Proposal To Be Made Soon (Posted: 25 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: A proposal for a high-speed train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore using the magnetic levitation (maglev) technology will soon be submitted to the Government, industry sources said.

The sources also said the Government would soon appoint an international consulting firm to study the various proposals for the high-speed rail link to Singapore.

The maglev is the train system that links Shanghai's Pudong airport with its financial district and was the first installation of its kind in the world.

The journey of 30km takes about seven minutes. The maglev train in Shanghai can reach speeds of up to 350km per hour in two minutes, although new generation trains being developed on this technology can go even faster, it is understood.

The maglev proposal will be competing with that of the conventional high-speed rail network, an idea first mooted by the YTL Group. Its technology partner then was said to be Germany's Siemens, a global expert in high-speed rail technology.

The YTL proposal however did not get the green light, due in part to the high costs involved. But the concept of a high-speed rail link from KL to Singapore recently surfaced again. It was cited as a proposed "high impact" project in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) that was unveiled last month.

While there is no indication on costs involved, maglev's proponents argue that it is a more suitable technology as it requires less maintenance, is safer and faster. The maglev system uses more electronics and essentially involves "non-contact electromagnetic levitation". It has been operational for the last eight years in Shanghai and carried more than 20 million passengers without any accident.

"The technology is mature and commercially tested. Malaysia is in the market for alternative railway technology and could be the catalyst for maglev on the global map," said a party familiar with the proposal.

According to maglev's proponents, the technology has yet to take off in a big way in Europe where there is a wide rail network of conventional train systems.

"The huge existing track network of those countries, and parties that represent those vested interests, continue to support the 150-year-old wheel-steel technology," said a source, adding that the conventional train technology had its limitations.

"The enormous weight of conventional trains is borne by its wheels.

"This requires precise routine maintenance, which is costly and requires tremendous skill and labour, which is not necessary in maglev trains, which are highly automated and do not even use wheels," the source added.

- The Star Online

Manmohan Wants To Amplify India-Malaysia Ties (Posted: 25 October 2010 )

NEW DELHI: Terming Malaysia as key partner in Asean, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keen to forge strategic partnership between Delhi and Kuala Lumpur during his impending visit.

Manmohan, on his three-nation Asian tour, which includes Japan and Vietnam, will officially be in Malaysia from Oct 26-28, on the invite of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"I will seek new areas of understanding with Prime Minister Najib that reinforce the rich bonds of history and culture that unite us," he said in a statement today.

The visit will mark Manmohan's inaugural bilateral visit to Malaysia since taking office in 2004, and after almost a decade, he is the first Indian premier to come to Malaysia.

Manmohan hoped his visit would lead to greater integration of the two economies and cooperation in the areas of infrastructure development, railways, knowledge industries, energy, defence and greater people-to-people exchanges.

"In today's unsettled world, it is all the more important for societies that are democratic, multi-religious and multicultural to work together.

"We share a special bond with Malaysia because it is home to one of the largest People of Indian Origin (PIO) communities of over two million, and I look forward to meeting some of them," he said.

The 78-year-old premier will be accompanied by wife, Gursharan Kaur, and a high-powered delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma.

- The Malay Mail

KFC Eyes 17 Outlets In India (Posted: 22 October 2010 )

Fast-food operator has three outlets now in the subcontinent

MUMBAI: KFC Holdings (M) Bhd, which is fast expanding its operations in India, expects to have 17 outlets in the subcontinent by the end of next year.

The fast-food outlet operator now has three outlets in India - one in Pune and two in Mumbai. It opened its first in India in the city of Pune in April this year.

Chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim said the 17 outlets would include five in Mumbai that KFC Holdings would acquire from master franchise holder Yum! Brands Inc. They would also include two outlets in Pune that would be acquired from another Indian franchise holder, Kernel Food Pte Ltd.

Ali said KFC Holdings would open four more outlets of its own by year-end. Of the four, two would be in Mumbai, one in Pune and one in Aurangabad - all these cities are located in the state of Maharashtra, which is on the western part of India.

"We want to build a critical mass as soon as possible. By the end of this year, we will have a total of nine outlets which will involve an investment of about US$9mil," he said after launching KFC Holdings' third outlet in India here yesterday. The event was also attended by Yum! chairman David C. Novak.

He added that KFC Holdings would open eight outlets next year costing a total of US$10mil.

Ali said contribution from the Indian operations to KFC Holdings' group profit would be small initially but he was confident about the venture in the long run.

This is given that Maharashtra has a population of about 100 million, of which 21 million lives in its industrial and financial hub Mumbai and 5.7 million in its education-cum cultural centre Pune.

The Indian consumer market is also considered to be under-developed, having an estimated 1,200 brand restaurants in a country with over 1.13 billion, of which 50% is under 25 years old.

Ali said KFC Holdings expected a return on investment of at least 15% a year from its Indian operations.

"We are impressed with the sales recorded so far. Our expansion in India should be faster than in Cambodia," he added.

On whether the company would venture into poultry and chicken-breeding business to support its operations in India, Ali said: "We'll do things one step at a time. Maybe we'll do it in the long run."

The company now sourced its halal chicken from Venky's India Ltd.

He said KFC Holdings would focus on Maharashtra before looking at other states in India. At the moment, the company is only allowed by YUM! to operate in Maharashtra.

KFC Holdings deputy chairman Ahamad Mohamad said the company would open six outlets in Cambodia next year, with each outlet expected to cost RM1mil. It now has seven in that country.

He also said the company would open a Pizza Hut outlet in Phnom Penh soon.

- The Star Online

Vietnam Welcomes Investors, Business Conference Told (Posted: 22 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Vietnamese business landscape continues to offer investment opportunities, with its economy being powered by a growing young population and a government that seeks foreign investment.

In a HSBC business confidence index conducted in June, it was discovered that businessmen in Vietnam are the most confident in Asia, and the second most confident in the world.

"Vietnam has become an economic hotspot in Asia, attracting international investors in several sectors including agriculture, infrastructure, energy, transport, finance and banking. The country can and should be the new engine to power the South East Asian economy," said president of the Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Kuala Limpur and Selangor Tan Sri William Cheng.

He was speaking during his opening address for Activate Asia: Vietnam In View conference organised by HSBC Bank.

Vietnam's economy has been growing at an average of 7% in the last 10 years and is likely to grow 6.4% this year.

On the downside, it's budget deficit remains high at about 5.7% and has an inflation rate of about 10%.

"Key business opportunities are in Vietnam's strategic retail market, and setting up manufacturing and export bases. Retail spending now contributes 42% of Vietnam's gross domestic product," said HSBC Bank (Vietnam) Ltd senior vice-president and head of commercial banking, Huynh Buu Quang.

Vietnam's robust retail market can be attributed to Vietnam's young population which is growing both in numbers as well as affluence.

Presently, 65% of its total population of 86 million people are below 35 years of age.

"Vietnam's biggest asset is its people. In a trade off between a learning opportunity and making money, the Vietnamese will choose learning opportunity," said HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd managing director commercial banking, David Morton.

"It is their amazing work ethic, the raw intellect, good computer skills and high productivity that makes the Vietnamese such good workers," said Morton.

He added that the Vietnamese government has been extremely pro-business and pro-investment in its stance.

However he cautioned that it was extremely important to look for the right partner in Vietnam when setting up business.

To date, since Vietnam opened up its economy in 1986, total foreign direct investments from Malaysia to Vietnam is RM18.06bil.

It's major export items include commodities like rice, coffee and pepper. Vietnam's per capita income currently stands at US$1,200.

Huynh sees opportunities for Malaysian companies to invest in the infrastructure, spare parts and machinery sectors.

Infrastructure is now the weakest link for Vietnam, especially with its underdeveloped port system. This is presently a key area of focus for the government.

"Vietnam is looking to spend some US$3.7bil in infrastructure and transport. This could be an opportunity for small and medium enterprises (SME) in Malaysia to create significant value. These SMEs need to look beyond the domestic market to grow," said HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd deputy chairman and CEO and global CEO of HSBC Amanah, Mukhtar Hussain.

- The Star Online

Cheaper Goods In Sight As Ringgit Strengthens (Posted: 21 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Consumers can expect prices of goods to drop by the year-end, bringing a bit more cheer during the festive season as a stronger ringgit makes it less costly for businesses to stock up on inventories.

Several trade associations said the savings would be passed through to consumers at the earliest by the end of the year but prices would definitely be lower by Chinese New Year.

The ringgit has been strengthening throughout the year in tandem with other currencies in the region and was at the highest level this year when it settled at 3.08 to the US dollar last Friday.

While it has weakened recently, currency strategists expect the ringgit to trade at between 3.10 and 3.15 to the greenback for the rest of the year.

An economist with a local investment bank pointed out that the ringgit could have strengthened even further if there had been no interventions over the past few months.

Malaysian Retailer-Chains Association president Datuk Tay Sim Kim told StarBiz that with the ringgit's current strength, consumers could expect prices to drop in two to three months.

"This is assuming that most businesses have an average 60 days' worth of stock, which will mean that by the end of the year or latest by Chinese New Year, prices will be lower," he said.

The Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry president Shaifubahrim Saleh said there could be a price advantage as inventories depleted and businesses stocked up with cheaper imported products.

"We may see over the next few months some lowering in the prices but this will really depend on the market and how aggressive retailers are," he said, adding that margins in the industry were already low.

Shaifubahrim said the other factor determining whether business could meet consumer expectations of lower prices was in the inventory cycle.

"There may be a disconnect between the strengthening ringgit and when businesses order their stocks, so there may not be any savings passed through so soon," he said.

- The Star Online

Asian Corporate Travel Group Set Up (Posted: 21 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: A one-stop travel alliance for corporate travel aimed at reducing travelling costs has been set up in Asia.

The Corporate Travel Alliance (CTA), a grouping of 10 travel agencies from Asia, believes it has the reach, experience and expertise, and is able to share resources, systems and operations that can help their clients save travelling costs. The range of savings can be anything from 10% to 35%.

"Ours is a one-stop corporate travel alliance involving 10 travel agents and each can leverage on the partner's strength to save costs and widen its reach," said CTA director, partner relations, Benjamin Christen.

Corporate travel is starting to creep back to pre-economic crisis levels even though the latest figures released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) point to a slight decline in air passenger traffic in August.

But the alliance members are of the view that demand for air travel will remain strong, especially in Asia, and corporate travel will continue to grow.

IATA said on Monday that high load factors were beginning to lose altitude.

Having reached all-time highs earlier this year, there had been a slippage of around 1.5% and, in August 2010, loads were no better than that seen in the same month in 2007, the previous peak, it said.

The slowdown in demand in August was consistent with its forecast for a tougher end to 2010 as government stimulus monies would run out without having generated significant improvements in employment, it added.

But more and more companies are getting their executives back to travel, upgrading them from economy to business and that is the market CTA is after besides managing travel arrangements for conferences and events.

The CTA members are from Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Its headquarters is in Singapore. Since it is an alliance a company will be formed to legalise the entity.

Although set up only in April, its members have been in the business for more than two decades with a combined sales of about US$1bil.

Its partner in Malaysia, Cor-porate Information Travel Sdn Bhd (CIT), has seen a 10% growth in business since joining the alliance.

"As an individual company we have been in the travel business for a long time but with the alliance we are looking at a 10% to 30% growth in our business each year," said CIT managing director Thaddeus Foo.

He said the alliance was able to give the agency the support system to manage travel beyond its borders and "it is all about providing a new experience in travelling where quality is assured since we have partners in all the different countries that are familiar to the local culture and conditions."

There are several travel alliances in the world but CTA has claimed to be the biggest in Asia. The alliance will expand its reach into China, India, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East. Most of the 10 countries are represented by one member each in the alliance but, for vast countries like China and India, there may be more.

The alliance may be a platform to save costs for its members but the agencies will have to compete with airlines that have their own units for corporate sales and also online booking.

"We are not competing with the airlines but complementing them. Similarly, many more corporations prefer to use travel agents rather than go online. In any case, the market is big," said Christen.

- The Star Online

Johor Urged To Be More Proactive In Attracting Chinese (Posted: 20 October 2010 )

BATU PAHAT: The Batu Pahat Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BPCCC) wants Johor to be more proactive and aggressive in attracting investments from China.

President Chink Poh Cheng said Johor should bank on the close relationship between Malaysia and China and the republic's emergence as a global economic powerhouse to attract more Chinese investors to the state.

He said China's acknowledgement that Malaysia was one of the top preferred foreign investment destinations for Chinese investors sent a strong signal that Chinese companies were spreading their wings internationally.

"Johor needs to move fast to attract Chinese investors or risk losing out to states like Sabah and Sarawak," he said in an interview in conjunction with BPCCC's 102nd anniversary.

Chink said Sabah was targeting Chinese investors for resource-based industries particularly in palm oil-related activities with its palm oil industry cluster in Lahad Datu.

With the Bakun Dam, Sarawak would attract more foreign interest as sufficient power supply was crucial to draw investors, he said.

Chink said other countries in the region especially Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam were also aggressively courting Chinese investors.

He said Johor should review its strategies from time to time to attract more foreign direct investments including pushing the investment-related Federal Government agencies to expedite project approvals.

"Johor has a competitive edge over the other states because of its proximity to Singapore as an international leading financial centre and extensive air and shipping connectivity to all over the world," said Chink.

He said Johor could bank on the networking between BPCCC members and their business counterparts in China to attract Chinese investors, especially the small and medium enterprises, to the state.

Chink said Batu Pahat had always been strong in the food processing, furniture, textile and commodities-based manufacturing activities and should target Chinese companies to invest in these activities.

He said for the food processing industry, a halal park could be set up in Batu Pahat where Chinese companies and local partners could establish joint-venture operations.

"The halal food can be exported all over the world as the halal certification from Malaysia is like a passport to penetrate the global halal market," said Chink.

The halal food could also be exported to China's Muslim-majority regions such as Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang where some 20 million Muslims lived, he said.

Chink hoped Bank of China would consider opening a branch in Batu Pahat as this could encourage Chinese investors to invest here.

Bank of China currently has three branches located in Kuala Lumpur, Muar and Penang. A fourth branch is expected to open in Johor Baru by year-end.


Major Projects Under Budget 2011 Will Drive Demand For Building Materials (Posted: 20 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The construction sector emerged as the clear winner from Budget 2011 but a rally in the past months means stocks valuation are no longer cheap and the risk is higher.

The smart money call is on the building material suppliers, from steel makers to cement producers, analysts said.

"We expect more positive news flow in the coming months for the construction sector," MIDF Research said in a note yesterday, predicting a slew of project roll-outs and tender awards in the coming months.

While the question of who will bag what remained unanswered, analysts said the sheer number of upcoming construction jobs out there would drive up demand for building materials.

Malaysia Iron and Steel Indsutry Federation (MISIF) president Chow Chong Long said there was enough capacity in the country to meet the anticipated increase in demand for construction steel bars and other products.

"We don't foresee steel shortages if the construction projects listed in Budget 2011 are implemented next year," he said in a SMS reply to a StarBiz query.

He noted that steel factories in the country were currently running at about half their installed capacity.

"MISIF does not expect steel demand to increase until the middle of next year as it usually takes up to six months for projects to take off from the date they are awarded," Chow said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced that a number of multi-billion ringgit projects would start construction next year.

This includes the RM40bil mass rapid transit system in Kuala Lumpur, six highways, the RM26bil KL International Financial District and a plan for an iconic 100-storey tower by Permodalan Nasional Bhd, on top of smaller builds such as rural roads, schools and hospitals.

Most of the big projects were already made known prior to last Friday because they were part of the 10th Malaysia Plan, or the Economic Transformation Programme.

Hence, it was not really a big surprise for the market when the projects were announced in the budget.

"These construction and infrastructure projects would require a lot of steel bars and cement," BIMB Securities head of research Rosnani Rasul said yesterday.

"We are comfortable to retain our forecast 7% growth in cement demand in 2011," she added. Among potential beneficiaries are Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd and YTL Cement Bhd.

Shares in bigger construction groups Gamuda Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd, MMC Corp Bhd and WCT Bhd declined yesterday, largely in sympathy with the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index's (FBM KLCI) 9.16 points drop yesterday to 1,480.70 points.

The few big gainers yesterday included Ann Joo Resources Bhd, a steel maker rated as a "buy" by AmResearch and BIMB Securities.

"We expect significant gains for the steel sector, which is a cheaper entry for leverage to the Malaysian infrastructure theme," AmResearch analyst Mak Hoy Ken wrote yesterday.

Mak's top pick for the steel sector is Ann Joo. The stock yesterday climbed 14 sen, or 4.7%. to RM3.12 - its highest level since January.

Specialisation may help smaller firms stand out from the pack and MIDF Research sees pre-cast concrete manufacturer MTD ACPI Engineering Bhd as a potential beneficiary.

In the budget, the Government forecast its development expenditure would drop 9% to RM49.2bil in 2011, and the slack in spending to be taken up by the private sector.

One of the key aspects of infrastructure development hinges on the success of the implementation of public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

But given the lack of clear details, "much (uncertainty) still lingers on issues like execution of these projects,'' Inter-Pacific Research head Anthony Dass noted in his report yesterday.

- The Star Online

More Research To Strengthen Relations Between Arab And Islamic Countries (Posted: 20 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR Oct 18 - The Arab and Islamic countries have been urged to undertake more serious research to strengthen relations between them in order to tackle the challenges arising from globalisation. Head of the Central Training Academy of the Baath Arab Socialist Party of Syria, Dr Ali Diab said it was critical to have such research conducted through the parties in order to achieve serious steps on the path of political, economic, media and cultural cooperation. "We should integrate together quickly to achieve cooperation to confront the globalisation challenges, and to achieve justice and equality in the world, as the international economic, political alliances and blocs are the ideal tools for progress and prosperity.

"If Arab and Islamic countries wanted to gain status, prestige and influence in the media globalisation era, the existing Arab and Islamic institutions should be activated to promote solidarity in the face of global media domination threats pursued by the West," he said.

He said this during a panel disscussion on "New Media and the Creation of Global Citizens" at the international forum titled "The Global Civilian Structuring, Media Liberation and the New Political Events", here today.

Dr Ali also pointed out the need to make a reformation that promote the performance to serve economy, society and culture and preserve the Arab and Islamic identity.

To do that, he highlighted the steps including revising the curricula of education, culture and media, and eradicating illiteracy to immunise the cosmopolitan citizens against the misinformation of the prevailing media.

Another panelist, Zimbabwe"s member of Parliament, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said the media was certainly playing a major role in creating global citizens.

Events, wherever thay may occur, were communicated to a large number of people all over the world and people reacted to them at a global scale, she said.

"Advanced communication technologies like the internet create global citizens. Under the new circumstances, politicians have two options; to renounce, slow down, delay or obstruct the change or they can manage the change by embracing and becoming part of the change," she said.

She said the advent of the new media had changed social information systems and had posed both challenges and opportunities to media guidance undertakings of the party and government.

"Examples are network theft, obscenity and vulgar information undermining mental and physical health, spread of rumours thus infringing upon individual privacy and reputation," she said.

Meanwhile, Wanita Barisan Nasional assistant secretary Datuk Raja Ropiaah Raja Abdullah, said Malaysia had followed the transformative model of globalization, taking what was good for the country and at the same time actively influencing the globalization process.

Raja Ropiaah said being a global citizen did not mean that Malaysians would lose the country's identity.

"With the information and the knowledge that we have, we are able to make comparisons of what is good and bad in each country and with the new media, we are also able to promote and address any negative issues that arises," she said.

The two-day forum, officiated by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today, is attended by 63 representatives from 22 political parties from 22 countries, the Overseas Umno Club (KULN), foreign embassies" delegations and political analysts. It was held in conjunction with the 61st Umno General Assembly.


Service Tax On Paid TV To Bring In RM150mil Revenue (Posted: 20 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The Finance Ministry said that service tax on paid television (TV) broadcasting services will contribute some RM150mil per annum to Government revenue.

The Government announced its plan to introduce a service of 6% on paid TV broadcasting services under Budget 2011 last Friday.

The proposed service tax on paid TV was part of the announcement to increase the overall service tax rate from 5% to 6% in line with its aim to grow its revenue base.

"The service tax is not only confined to Astro (Astro All Asia Networks). It is charged on all paid TV broadcasting services except internet based TV services. Essentially, internet services are exempt of services tax to promote ICT," the ministry said in an e-mail response to questions sent by StarBiz.

Currently, paid TV broadcasting services are not subject to service tax. But effective January 1 2011, the service tax of 6% is charged on the monthly subscription fees on TV broadcasting services.

This means a subscriber paying RM100 per month for subscription fees will pay an additional RM6 per month as service tax.

Analysts contacted by StarBiz on Monday said that a possible reason for service tax being imposed on Astro consumers was due to Astro's substantial penetration rate.

According to the Economic Report 2010/2011, Astro has three million subscribers, which works out to a household penetration rate of 49.2% as at end June this year compared with 2.8 million subscribers and penetration rate of 44.9% a year ago.

- The Star Online

Strong Growth Projected For Malaysia (Posted: 13 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The slowdown in economic data pointing to a cooling of the economy has some economists worried but many are sticking to earlier projections of strong full-year growth on the strength of the first-half numbers.

Economists said expectations of an economic slowdown in the second half of the year was anticipated but say the dip in export, industrial production and the health of the global economy adds to worries that next year would be more difficult to read.

"The stimulus packages and the huge low-base effect contributed to the strong first half but the picture globally is not pretty," said an economist.

He said any slowdown would not lead to a recession this year given the momentum that had been built on so far but said next year's performance, which would see slower economic growth, would be more worrisome.

The economy grew by 10.1% in the first quarter and 8.9% in the second quarter.

Uneasiness has cropped up after recent data came in on the soft side.

Export growth for August was 10.6% which was the fifth consecutive month of slower external trade and industrial production for growth for August was 4% after dipping to 3.4% after a reading of 9.3% in June.

Economists attribute the fasting month for the declines in export and also industrial production and believe a pick-up in September is imminent given the low-base effect from last year.

"Because of the low-base effect, the IPI for September could come in between 6% and 7%," said an economist.

Economists had said external trade globally was sluggish given the direction leading indicators were pointing.

"Based on latest consensus forecast and our in-house calculations, the global economy is expected to average 3.7% year-on-year in the second half of 2010 after growing by 4.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2010 and 4.8% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2010," said Maybank Investment Bank in a report recently.

While the general belief is that China would remain a locomotive for Asia, Malaysia's export growth to China was a meagre 2.4% in August, causing some to wonder if that is a one-time blip. But the export growth rates to South-East Asia too have slowed in recent months and showed growth of 5.6% in August.

Working against exports has been the ringgit's steep appreciation against the dollar this year which Maybank noted that apart from Malaysia, countries such as South Korea, Japan and Thailand were showing a significant slowdown in exports in recent months as their currencies gain strength.

Another insight to the health of the global economy is the appetite for companies to consume goods.

Global purchasing managers indices are still on the health side of 50 - anything below would mean a contract and a reading above 50 would mean expansion - but the global average has been falling over the past three months.

In Asia, the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for China shows an expansion with the index reading of 53.8 for September but in other parts of Asia where external trade is a big component of growth, the index reading is below 50.

Those countries with a reading below 50 are South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

"Softening PMI numbers alongside index of leading economic indicators also support the view that growth will be slower in the second half of this year," said Maybank Investment Bank in a report.

An economist said a slight drop below a reading of 50 would not cause much stress but a reading in the mid-40 region would.

"The global PMI is a good indicator of trade," said the economist.

While many are hoping that the last couple of months of economic data would not be a reflection of things to come, the message though has been clear.

"Going into 2011, very few people know what the outcome will be. It's still uncertain." said an economist.

- The Star Online

Malaysia Has To Develop, Attract And Retain The Best Global Talent To Survive (Posted: 13 October 2010 )

HIGHLY skilled workers are sought after by various organisations globally.

Since no economy will be able to survive without a highly-skilled talent base, it is imperative for Malaysia to develop, attract and retain the best global talent.

As the nation embarks on the important mission towards becoming a progressive and high income nation as envisioned in Vision 2020, a key issue in the 2011 Budget would be developing the right affirmative-action policies to attract local and foreign talent, and reducing the outflow of local talent.

One of the steps to attract and retain talent would be to reduce the personal income tax rates.

Last year, the Government reduced the maximum rate by 1% to 26% for individuals with chargeable income exceeding RM100,000.

A further reduction in the top marginal rate to 25% would ensure consistency with the current corporate tax rate of 25%.

The chart illustrates the comparison of the top marginal rates of some of our neighbouring countries.

Although the top marginal rate in Malaysia is generally lower than most of the countries indicated, Malaysian taxpayers would hit the top marginal rate of 26% if their chargeable income exceeds RM100,000.

In comparison, taxpayers in Singapore would only hit the top marginal rate of 20% if their chargeable income exceeds S$320,000 (about RM764,320).

As part of Malaysia's effort to attract foreign talent, it should consider a review of the tax rates.

A reduction in the tax rates and the widening of the tax bracket will particularly appeal to higher income earners to continue working in Malaysia and will also attract foreign talent to work in Malaysia as these measures will enable them to retain a higher level of disposable income.

In the last Budget, the Government introduced an incentive to attract foreign and local talent into Malaysia via Iskandar Malaysia.

Iskandar Malaysia is set to attract world-class talent to pursue their career prospects there.

Knowledge workers residing and working in Iskandar Malaysia would be subject to a flat rate of 15% on their chargeable income.

The incentive is for those who apply and commence work in Iskandar Malaysia before the end of 2015 and they will enjoy it indefinitely.

As the tax rate in Iskandar Malaysia is even lower than some of the countries in the region, the incentive would make Iskandar Malaysia an attractive work destination in Malaysia.

One of the recently much-discussed measures introduced by the Government under the 10th Malaysia Plan to attract and retain talent is the establishment of the Talent Corporation (TC).

TC will commence operations in 2011 and has the objective of attracting, motivating and retaining the talent needed for a high-income economy.

Currently, it is estimated that more than 700,000 Malaysians, many of whom are highly skilled professionals, are working and living abroad.

Furthermore, the Government is looking at ways to address the shortage of skilled talent in our country in order to increase the ability to attract high-technology industries.

Based on the 10th Malaysia Plan, TC together with the Immigration Department will actively develop measures to attract skilled foreign talent into Malaysia.

In this respect, the Government is working to further improve and simplify the current processes of hiring foreign talent. This can be achieved by aligning and benchmarking our work permit requirements with the more liberal ones of other high- income countries.

Initiatives by the Government in allowing more flexibility and mobility for skilled foreign talent earning above RM8,000 per month and open visas to highly skilled foreign professionals would encourage the inflow of highly skilled foreign talent, and this in turn will help alleviate the shortage of local talent.

The 2011 Budget is essential to transforming Malaysia into a high- income nation. The right affirmative action policies in place will ultimately assist in developing and retaining the much-needed world-class talent in Malaysia, and in tackling the constraints in our human capital.

- The Star Online

Malaysia Needs Green Roadmap (Posted: 12 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: There is a need for Malaysia to have a roadmap to address climate change and its effects on the environment, businesses and the community among others, industry leaders said.

Panellists of the StarBiz-Institute of Corporate Responsibility Malaysia forum entitled Climate change vs profits: Striking a balance yesterday also stressed the importance of the roles of regulators and corporates as well as the community in combating climate change.

The forum was moderated by Datuk Johan Raslan, chairman of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility (ICR) Malaysia and had as panellists Intel Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director (MD) Atul Bhargava, AirAsia X chief executive officer (CEO) Azran Osman-Rani, Boh Plantations Sdn Bhd CEO Caroline Russell and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia MD and CEO Osman Morad.

Climate change refers to long-term, significant changes in the climate usually as a result of human activity including carbon emission and deforestation.

A recent catastrophe linked to climate change was the floods in Pakistan.

Russell noted that although regulators and industry leaders were taking necessary steps to make changes, the scale of the problem was "immense."

Citing an example, Russell said Malaysia ranked 25th as the world's largest emittor of carbon dioxide and the ranking was too high when compared with the size of the country's population.

"Although the Prime Minister has committed to reducing carbon emission by 40% in the country by 2020 there is no roadmap to achieve that.

"Both the political will and industry initiatives still have a long way to go in meeting carbon production commitments. Greater impetus is required to address the problem of climate change," she said, adding that it was forecast that the country's carbon emissions could rise 73% by 2020.

In addition, Russell said there was a misalignment in terms of the aims of the regulatory authorities.

"Boh has been using biofuels for decades in our tea manufacturing process.

"We have been upgrading some equipment to use more fuel efficient methods.

"However, our application to the Department of Environment to implement that change required us to revert to fossil fuel," she said.

- The Star Online

Airasia X: Malaysia Losing Billions In Air Travel Sector (Posted: 12 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is losing billions of ringgit for not having sufficient flights to popular travel destinations such as Sydney and Jeddah, said AirAsia X Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani.

"There are a lot of destinations that we are losing out in terms of the opportunity cost and people have to pay more to go to places such as Sydney, Jeddah and Istanbul because they don't have a choice. It's costing the country a lot of money," he told reporters on the sidelines after the StarBiz-ICR Malaysia forum yesterday.

"The most popular routes where Malaysia is losing billions of ringgit for not allowing us (AirAsia X) to fly there are Sydney, Jeddah and Istanbul."

Azran said the routes, other than being popular travel destinations, were also prominent "economic centres" that promoted investment flows.

Meanwhile, on Budget 2011, Azran said: "We're less concerned about taxes or subsidies. We're more concerned about the Government creating a level playing field. We'd like to see policies that encourage competition and therefore innovation.

"One thing that Malaysia needs as an economic strategy is to remove the monopolistic and protectionist barriers and allow companies to compete."

The Government will table its Budget 2011 in Parliament this Friday.

Azran also said he is hopeful that the Government would announce incentives at the Budget that would promote the local tourism industry.

"For this industry to grow, Malaysia really needs to think about promoting itself and having much better infrastructure for tourism, such as public transportation.

"This needs to be resolved to the extent that there are resources and budget allocations towards improving taxis (services) and allowing Tourism Malaysia to promote themselves better."

- The Star Online

YTL Hybrid TV By End-2011, Cost Between RM1bil-RM2bil (Posted: 12 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: YTL Communications Sdn Bhd (YTL Comms) will roll out its wireless hybrid television service by the end of 2011, and it will cost the company substantial investments.

The company will also create local and regional content as part of its offering to users, said its executive chairman Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.

While he did not indicate the actual amount needed to roll out the new TV offering, sources said it could be in the range of RM1bil to RM2bil.

Yesterday, YTL Comms inked a licence and service agreement with US-based Sezmi Corporation to deploy hybrid TV in Malaysia and Asia Pacific.

Yeoh said the hybrid TV - comprising traditional TV, on-demand and Internet content - would be offered to users at "very competitive'' prices, but declined to elaborate.

Yeoh is also the managing director of YTL Corp Bhd which has a stake in YTL Power, which in turn controls YTL Comms.

This confirms an Oct 8 StarBiz report on the tie-up between YTL Comms and Sezmi and the launch of the former's WiMAX-based services on Nov 18.

Yeoh has confirmed that the nationwide launch of YTL Comms' WiMAX-based services is slated for Nov 18.

At the launch date the service will cover 65% of the population and this will be extended to 80% by January.

YTL Comms is investing RM2.5bil for its WiMAX network and that amount does not include the RM1bil to RM2bil for the TV offering.

He is confident that Sezmi's entry into Malaysia and the Asia Pacific region will disrupt the TV market as this is an offering that gives users the right to watch the programs they want at the time they prefer.

Globally viewers are opting for cheaper alternatives to cable and satellite TV channels. Whilst consumers wanted more choices, he said content providers also wanted to work with more service providers so that they could maximise on revenue and that the era of monopolies on content will slowly fade.

Sezmi has an arrangement with content providers such as CNBC, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox, ESPN, The History Channel, Planet Green, CNN, Animal Planet, Bravo, Discovery, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, MTV, Lionsgate, Boomerang, Paramount, Sony, Cartoon Network and Universal.

YTL Comms is building a wireless network that is able to carry huge content at higher speed and the hybrid TV offering will be available on multiple devices such as mobile phones, personal computers and television screens by using set-top boxes.

Asked on the Internet speed, YTL Comms CEO Wing K. Lee said it would be three to five times faster than what was currently available in the market place.

Asked to comment if YTL Comms had taken a 20% stake in Sezmi, Yeoh said "we will announce details at the appropriate time.''

Yesterday Sezmi announced that it had raised an additional US$17.3mil to fund its expansion and sources said part of the funding came from the stake sale to YTL Comms.

A report from the US said Sezmi had been rapidly expanding, as users in 36 markets throughout the United States could now purchase its hardware and use the service.

The company has also struck a deal with Amazon to sell its hardware online.

Sezmi's most recent round of funding came less than a year after the start-up raised US$25mil.

- The Star Online

Zeti: Over-Reliance On Ringgit Devaluation Can Cause Instability (Posted: 11 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: Bank Negara has warned that any attempt to engineer a significant exchange rate adjustment within a short period of time carries the risk of high destabilising consequences.

"Global imbalances that have been built up over several years need to be unwound by a combination of adjustments in demand, prices and exchange rates," said central bank governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

"Over reliance on the exchange rate to do the adjustment may not only not produce the desired result, but it also risks becoming a trigger factor to causing instability and future crisis."

Her comments were made on Saturday during a luncheon address at the 2010 Institute of International Finance Annual Membership Meeting in Washington.

Touching on the ongoing debate globally over targeting exchange rates as a solution to the current global imbalances, Zeti said there should be recognised that the foreign exchange market was unlike any other market.

"With a daily transaction amounting up to US$4 trillion, it is the most liquid and dynamic market in the world. It is a market that is prone to excessive movements and overshooting," she said. "Any effort to engineer a significant exchange rate adjustment within a short period of time carries the risk of highly destabilising consequences."

Many countries are seen to be trying to devalue the currencies as a way to spark exports and generate employment.

The International Monetary Fund failed to reach a deal on tackling a mounting global tension over looming currency conflict on Saturday with the world's largest economies.

In her speech, Zeti said generating growth and a long-lasting recovery was the primary priority for the global economy in this aftermath of the recent crisis.

"The massive life support that was provided to avert a deep recession was to be temporary - to provide the opportunity to address the weakness in the system and to rebuild the capacity for a self-sustaining recovery,"' she said.

"Recent indications are that this prospect has not been realised. The emerging world has, however, performed well with the potential to generate such a sustained recovery. These developments have drawn significant interest to the Asian emerging economies and on their changing role in the global economy and in the international financial system."

She said the global challenges called for a collaborative approach to strengthen the prospects for a global recovery.

Zeti said the way forward was also to recognise the relative strengths of different parts of the world and the potential to leverage on these strengths.

"The transformation of Asia in this new environment offers the prospects for a greater shared responsibility towards a greater shared prosperity in the world," she said.


Entry Of Foreign Vehicle Players Healthy For M'sian Industry (Posted: 11 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The potential entry of five foreign vehicle players into Malaysia is expected to boost competition and provide long-term benefits to the domestic industry, observers say.

"New players coming in means added competition which, in turn, means existing players would need to stay on their toes," said an industry observer.

It was reported last month that the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) was evaluating five foreign vehicle assemblers with a view of allowing them to operate locally.

Mida director-general and chief executive officer Datuk Jalilah Baba was reported as saying the foreign assemblers were from China, India, South Korea and Japan.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said on Oct 4 that the Government would decide on the five foreign assemblers by the year-end.

Frost & Sullivan partner and automotive and transportation practice head for Asia-Pacific, Kavan Mukhtyar, said the robust growth of Malaysia's vehicle market this year was attracting original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to the country.

"It is certainly good as they (consumers) will have more choices. In addition, competition always brings out the best of the various market players. Hence, in general, competition should be welcomed," he said.

MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad said she viewed the entrance of the new players positively, adding that it was in line with the trends of market liberalisation and globalisation.

She said the new players would help introduce newer technology and technical expertise to the domestic industry, as well as bring in vehicles with the latest designs.

Aishah also said it would help create more employment opportunities, increase the inflow of foreign direct investments and further enhance the country's image as an attractive investment destination.

"Ultimately, the consumers at large would benefit as the increasing competitive environment would drive auto players to be more innovative and customer-centric in their businesses," she told StarBiz.

An analyst said the outlook for the local motor vehicle industry would be bright if the potential foreign assemblers were keen to develop hybrid or electric vehicles here.

"It would definitely be a shot in the arm for this (hybrid and electric) sub-segment of vehicles. With the possibility of hybrid and electric vehicles being assembled in Malaysia, it would be more affordable," the analyst said.

An industry observer reckons that the freeze on manufacturing licences for vehicles under 1,800cc and which are priced at RM150,000 and below under the revised National Automotive Policy (NAP) would be deterrent for potential assemblers to "set up shop" here.

"Whether you want to admit it or not, the automotive industry is a volume-based industry. The high price of cars puts a strain on sales and buying power, especially within the 1,800cc segment and higher," the observer said.

MAA's Aishah, however, said the freeze should not be viewed as a limitation.

"Passenger cars of 1,800cc and below are by far the largest sub-segment in Malaysia, constituting about 90% of the total passenger vehicle market. Both national and non-national players as well as markets in other Asean countries have been focusing on this sub-segment.

"Therefore, the new measures in the revised NAP are designed to shift this concentration to the next (higher) segment which has not been capitalised in the Asean region," she said.

Aishah said the measures would help attract global car companies to set up production bases for this segment in Malaysia to cater for the regional market and that it would lead to economies of scale and lower production costs.

An analyst said local assemblers, who are besieged by excess capacity issues, could benefit from foreign players coming into the country.

"The capacity in Malaysia is one million vehicles at present but production is only about 500,000. The main beneficiaries would be DRB-HICOM, which owns the massive assembly complex in Pekan, Pahang; and Proton's Tanjong Malim plant.

"Setting up a plant here is also costly and that is why we're seeing more foreign car companies entering into contract assembly agreements with local players," he said.


Govt's Golden Share Delaying Pos Stake Sale (Posted: 11 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The planned divestment of Khazanah Nasional Bhd's 32% stake in Pos Malaysia Bhd is taking longer than expected due to negotiations surrounding the Government's "golden share" in the company, banking sources said.

"They (the Government) are grappling with how to deal with watering down the golden share, which is what potential bidders want," one banker familiar with the situation said.

Golden shares are typically held by the government, giving it veto power in major decisions of the company.

In their simplest form, government golden shares do not interfere with the day-to-day operations of companies but rather with major decisions like amend certain provisions in the articles of association or allowing foreign interests to acquire more than a certain percentage of the shares in the company or to prevent hostile takeovers which a government judges is against the public interest.

In the case of postal services, governments' golden shares usually seek to ensure that basic postal services reach rural areas, without being subordinated to purely profit motives.

However, it is understood that in Malaysia, golden shares have had a wider ambit, covering areas such as appointment of top management personnel and of capital expenditure, which is likely to be the case with Pos Malaysia.

Interestingly, in 2006, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had ruled against The Netherlands holding a "golden share" in postal services provider TNT. The ECJ decided that the practice of holding a share, which gives the state a veto over mergers, was incompatible with the free movement of capital in the internal market.

The Dutch government had argued then that holding this special share was necessary to guarantee a universal mail service. But the court decided that "the special share goes beyond what is necessary to safeguard the solvency and continuity of the provider of the universal postal service."

It is reported that 11 parties have expressed interest in picking up Khazanah's 32% stake in Pos. These include two global express and courier players, DHL Express and TNT NV.

Local players said to be eyeing the stake include National Express Courier Services, Konsortium Logistik, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), DRB-HICOM and Tune Group.

The EPF, which holds a 5.76% stake, is also interested in raising its shareholding in Pos Malaysia, possibly driven by an intention to hold a bigger stake in this dividend-yielding asset.

It is also understood that Khazanah had opened the initial stages of the bidding in May this year. Other substantial shareholders in Pos Malaysia include Permodalan Nasional Bhd, with 8.45%, and Aberdeen Asset Management with 7.09%.

Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar has stressed that there will be a transparent bidding process to select the buyer for the 32% stake.

He wants to make the divestment of Pos Malaysia an "iconic template".

Some analysts reckon that interested parties may team up to bid for the stake.


Hong Leong To Expand Banking Ops To China And Vietnam (Posted: 8 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd (HLFG) plans to expand its banking operations to another emerging market after venturing into China and Vietnam, said president and chief executive officer Raymond Choong.

"Our strategy is to have a strong presence in two or three large emerging markets within the region either through new start-ups or acquisition of existing businesses.

"We are already in two markets now so we are looking for another one. Our third emerging market could be Indonesia or Thailand," Choong told StarBiz. "However, this does not stop us from looking at Singapore, Hong Kong and even Australia. The focus is mainly within the region. So we will continue to explore."

He said HLFG's banking arm, Hong Leong Bank Bhd (HLB), was looking to expand into Indonesia - which has been the favourite foreign market for other domestic banks such as CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and Malayan Banking Bhd - but was taking a very careful approach as "pricing and valuations in Indonesia were very high."

"We are taking a very careful and disciplined approach. We are not rushing to grow for the sake of growing," Choong said. "Indonesia has been a market that we have been looking at for many years but we have not found anything that is fair and reasonable yet."

HLFG has some 63.5% stake in HLB.

He said funding any acquisitions, be it locally or overseas, would not be a problem as the group had the capacity to raise funds due to its strong balance sheet.

"This puts us on a very good footing to take advantage of any opportunities that come about," he added.

Choong said despite being a successful bank in the country, HLB was still not a major player unless it had a regional presence as the local market was still small.

"We have entered China through the Bank of Chengdu and we have a full banking licence in Vietnam. Nevertheless, we will continue to look for other opportunities in emerging markets," he said.

HLB acquired a 20% stake in Bank of Chengdu in 2008. It entered Vietnam last year.

According to Choong, HLB's maiden foray into China via Bank of Chengdu had been a rewarding investment.

Contribution from Bank of Chengdu increased 44.4% for the year ended June 30, 2010 to RM143.6mil year-on-year, making up 12.1% of HLB's pre-tax profit.

According to Bank of Chengdu's latest published accounts for the year ended Dec 31, 2009, its return on equity stood at 15% while its non-performing loan ratio was 1.3% and loan loss coverage stood at 167%.

The next big market for HLB is Vietnam. It has a branch in Ho Chi Minh City and is in the midst of opening another one in Hanoi soon.

"We are working hard to grow the business. With the banking licence, we have no restrictions on the number of branches we can open. We can also buy local banks there.

"However, we are treading carefully before expanding. Vietnam is an unknown market for us and one that is evolving very fast," Choong said, adding that the banking industry had been growing more than 20% every year for the last few years.

The initial plan is to open five to 10 branches/transaction centres in the next 24 months to have the basic infrastructure to tap the Vietnamese market.

Choong also sees regional opportunities for the group's investment banking business, especially in Vietnam.

"Our plan for the investment banking business is to find our own niche in the market to serve Malaysian corporates. We also want to complement the products and services offered by the big boys in the industry," he said.

In the insurance business, the group completed a strategic partnership with MSIG Insurance (M) Bhd, the local unit of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co Ltd (MSI), on Oct 1.

"We see a lot of synergies in the tie-up as MSI is the biggest insurer in Japan and it has a lot of expertise in the life and general insurance business.

"MSI has seconded staff to us for bancassurance, product development and actuarial services. This will enable us to up our game here," he said.

Choong also said the group's Islamic banking and takaful business was growing well.

"A major focus is to find new innovation in Islamic financial solutions for corporates and large businesses.

"Our takaful business is a new business with a strong potential for growth," he said.


Govt Can't Prevent Hike In Price Of Milk - Ismail (Posted: 8 October 2010 )

SEREMBAN Oct 7 - The government cannot prevent a hike in the price of milk as it has risen in the world market, said Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said the hike in the price of dairy products was unavoidable as local producers had to bear the high cost of import due to higher price of raw products.

"It is normal for dearer goods to be sold at higher prices. However, the price stays for the time being. We can't suppress the price as it is beyond our control.

"The hike in the price of garlic is a good example as it is imported from China," he said after opening the new Negeri Sembilan KPDNKK building in Seremban 2 here today.

Newspaper reports said that the price of skimmed milk was expected to increase to over AS$3,000 (RM9,630) per tonne this year compared to AS$2,100 (RM6,741) in fourth quarter last year.

Ismail said the Price Control and Anti-Rationing Act to be tabled in parliament this month would prevent profiteering but it would not prevent price hikes.

He urged consumers to plan their shopping as this would lead to wise spending.

- Bernama

Malaysia's Foreign Reserves Soars To RM310.8b (Posted: 8 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Bank Negara's international reserves amounted to RM310.8bil as at Sept 30.      

"The reserves level as at Sept 30, 2010 had taken into account the quarterly adjustment for foreign exchange revaluation loss, following the strengthening of the ringgit against most major currencies during the quarter.      

"The reserves position is sufficient to finance 8.5 months of retained imports and is 4.3 times the short-term external debt," the central bank said in a statement yesterday.

The gross international reserves comprised gold and foreign exchange and other reserves including special drawing rights (SDRs) of RM310.76bil.

Other assets included Malaysian government papers (RM2.38bil), deposits with financial institutions (RM31.36bil), loans and advances (RM11.80bil) and other assets (RM6.49bil).

- Bernama

Malaysia To Join Trade Talks (Posted: 7 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: All eight Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) members have unanimously agreed to include Malaysia as a full negotiating member of the TPP negotiations, the International Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

"This would effectively enable Malaysia to be involved in negotiations at the third round in Brunei (this week)," it said.

Current TPP members include Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

"If successfully implemented, the TPP offers an excellent platform to realise the creation of a huge market, encompassing some of the biggest economies in Asia. It also acts to introduce a new dimension in regional trade - one that could potentially change the dynamics of trade and investment between the countries of the Pacific Rim and possibly even world trade," the ministry said.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama's administration notified the US Congress that it planned to begin free trade talks with Malaysia as part of a broader trade initiative in the Asia-Pacific region.

Reuters reported that the move came as Malaysia also kicked off free-trade talks with the European Union, a chief US export rival in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, and as a new poll showed a majority of Americans were wary of trade pacts.

"On behalf of the president, I am pleased to inform the Congress that we intend to include Malaysia in the ongoing negotiations on the TPP Agreement," US trade representative Ron Kirk said in a letter to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The United States and seven other countries in the Asia-Pacific region launched formal negotiations on the proposed TPP earlier this year.

This would be the second time the United States tried to negotiate a free trade deal with Malaysia.

According to Bloomberg, Malaysia's reluctance to open its rice market and increase access to government contracts were among issues that derailed talks on a bilateral trade deal with the United States in 2007.

"Malaysia, which is engaged in extensive domestic economic reform, has assured us that it is now prepared to conclude a high-standard agreement," Kirk said in the letter to Pelosi and an identical one to the Senate.

Including Malaysia in the proposed TPP would create significant new export opportunities for US manufacturers, service suppliers and farmers, he said.

AFP quoted Kirk as saying that Malaysia already was an important US export destination. Goods and services exported to Malaysia totalled US$10bil in 2009.

Reuters said the announcement, which had been expected for some time, came the same day that the EU launched free trade talks with Malaysia, and one day before the EU will sign a free trade pact with long-time US ally South Korea.

"Europe's aggressive pursuit of free-trade agreements has raised concern in the US business community that they could be put at a competitive disadvantage in global markets if Washington does not move quickly to catch up," Reuters said.

"Business groups are especially frustrated that Congress still has not approved a US-South Korea free-trade pact signed three years ago.

"However, many Americans have become hostile to free-trade agreements, which Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, made a hallmark of his administration."

Reuters cited a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in which 53% said free trade agreements had hurt the United States, up from 46% three years ago and 32% in 1999.

While there is no formal deadline for completing the talks, supporters hope for a deal by the time that Obama hosts the annual Apec leaders summit in Hawaii in November 2011.


Reasonable Growth Predicted For World Economy (Posted: 7 October 2010 )

The International Monetary Fund has said the world economy will expand 4.8 percent this year but will slow down a bit next year.

IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard has said emerging nations will be behind most of the recovery, helping the rest of the globe escape the global financial crisis.

The IMF economist said the wealthier nations would need to cut budget deficits before next year's slowdown.

He claimed emerging nation economies would expand by a bit more than seven percent this year, while developed nations could expect to grow just 2.7 percent in an uneven and fragile comeback.

Blanchard warned that it is necessary for governments to show that they have a clear path out of debt, with faster and stronger action to reform the financial system.

He said severe problems in banks and other major financial firms were a major reason for the current financial crisis.

- Malaysia Sun

Syed Mohamed To Head Iskandar Investment (Posted: 7 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: DRB-HICOM Bhd group director for properties and infrastructure Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim will be heading Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB), the company tasked with bringing investments into Iskandar Malaysia in Johor, by year-end, sources said.

He is expected to take over from Arlida Ariff, who is currently IIB president and chief executive officer. Arlida's contract ends on Dec 31.

Syed Mohamed declined comment while Arlida was on business in Singapore. She is expected to be back in Johor today, sources said.

With Syed Mohamed slated to helm IIB, it was reported that Arlida would be taking up a position in Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

Johor Baru-based IIB is a 60% owned subsidiary of Khazanah. The other stakeholders are the Employees Provident Fund and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor, each having 20% equity.

IIB's job is to promote Iskandar Malaysia, an area three times the size of Singapore. Iskandar Malaysia is also Khazanah's largest property investment.

Because of its size, the growth corridor is divided into five flagship development zones with Khazanah's UEM Land Holdings Bhd (which is part of UEM Group Bhd) being the master developer for Nusajaya, which is one of the five regions.

Sources said its proximity to Singapore offers plenty of leverage, given the latter's air and sea linkages.

Iskandar Malaysia is not being promoted as a project but as a region, with neighbouring Singapore playing a huge part in it, both in terms of potential investment and its geographical location as investors will be able to leverage on Singapore's connectivity to the rest of the world, a source familiar with the project said.

Iskandar Malaysia has two ports - Johor Port and Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP). Senai Airport is located north of Johor Baru district.

On Monday, MMC Corp Bhd confirmed it had made a bid to acquire UEM Group with all its listed entities, which includes UEM Land and PLUS Expressway Bhd.

MMC is the flagship company of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary. MMC has, thus far, invested RM15bil in Johor, namely Johor Port (RM1.2bil), PTP (RM4.4bil), Senai Airport (RM300mil), Senai High Technology Park (RM1.1bil), Aliran Ihsan Resources Bhd (RM200mil) and Tanjung Bin Power plant (RM7.6bil). Syed Mokhtar also controls DRB-HICOM, with a 55.92% stake via Etika Strategi Sdn Bhd.

Khazanah recently reduced its stake in DRB-HICOM to just under 5%. Following the move, it ceased to be a major shareholder. It has also initiated an audit probe into the financial management and operations of IIB following reports on various questionable procedures.


JTI Raises Cigarette Price After Excise Duty Hike (Posted: 6 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: JT International Bhd (JTI) has increased the retail price of its cigarette brands in Malaysia for packs of 20 sticks by 70 sen effective yesterday.

In a statement, the company said the price for Winston, Mild Seven, Camel and Salem were raised following the hefty 16% hike in excise duty by the Government on Oct 1.

"JTI is very disappointed with the Government's decision to impose this large excise duty increase of 3 sen per stick of cigarette.

"The other tobacco players have mentioned their concern on the potential growth of illicit cigarettes in Malaysia due to the impact of the large excise increase, and we concur," said managing director Shigeyuki Nakano.

"We have continuously appealed to the Government that a more holistic approach is needed to meet not only the Government's health but also revenue objectives."

JTI believes the 16% excise increase will spur the growth of the country's multibillion ringgit illicit cigarette trade, significantly benefiting illegal operators.

As such, the company believes is is imperative that the Government continue and strongly intensify its enforcement efforts to combat the smuggling and trade of illicit cigarettes.

"We would like to call upon the Government to have more integrated initiatives among the law enforcement agencies - the Royal Malaysian Customs, Health Ministry, Royal Malaysian Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperative Ministry to get the incidence of illicit cigarettes under control," Nakano said.

He said JTI would continue to work closely with the Government to combat the growing problem of illegal cigarettes in the country.


Govt Studying MMC Bid For UEM Group (Posted: 6 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has received MMC Corp Bhd's bid to acquire UEM Group Bhd and is presently studying the proposal, said Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.

"A decision will be made in due course," Azman said at the sidelines of Khazanah's Megatrends Forum 2010 yesterday.

He added that the Khazanah board had some discussion on the matter last week.

"PLUS Expressways Bhd is a strategic asset of the country and belongs to all Malaysians as it is a critical infrastructure provider for the country. Hence, there are various issues that we have to work out with the regulators such as toll rates. PLUS is also listed company," Azman said.

He added that the Government would not simply sell national assets on the basis of "value and financial status of the bidder".

To a question, Azman said any bids for PLUS would be studied fairly quickly. "We know the asset well. So, we can evaluate what someone else wants to do," Azman said.

He also noted that other bids had to be looked at as well "but there is also the status quo option, which the country should also consider because Khazanah is owned by everybody."

Meanwhile, sources said MMC`s offer for UEM Group included an undertaking to keep toll rates at PLUS at current levels until the end of the concession period, without the need for an extension of the said concession period.

MMC also hoped to include the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) as part of the special purpose vehicle (SPV) taking over UEM Group, at a price tag of around RM15.6bil, one of the sources added.

The SPV is said to be led by MMC (40%), with EPF and PNB each holding 30%.

On Monday, MMC confirmed speculation that it did indeed submit a proposal to buy UEM Group. It said that it proposed to lead a consortium for the acquisition but added that to date it had not yet approached the EPF or PNB for this purpose.

A key asset in the UEM Group stable is a 38.5% stake in PLUS. Khazanah, which owns UEM Group, also holds a direct 16.7% stake in the toll road concessionaire.

Listed companies within the UEM Group include Faber Group Bhd, UEM Land Holdings Bhd and Time Engineering Bhd. UEM Group also owns UEM Builders Bhd, Opus Group Bhd and Cement Industries of Malaysia Bhd, companies which it privatised a few years ago.

According to UEM Group, it has more than 40 major operating companies, including eight public companies listed in Malaysia and overseas. Its website listed the group's shareholders' funds at over RM7.9bil while its net assets as at Dec 31, 2009 stood at about RM12.3mil. Total assets stood at RM31.1 bil.

MMC, the flagship of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, is understood to have submitted its proposal to the Finance Ministry in August.

PLUS had recently also been the target of Asas Serba Sdn Bhd, a privately-held company which is the vehicle of Datuk Syed Md Amin Aljeffri and Ibrahim Bidin, who are former executives of the Renong group.

Asas Serba's proposal, which was submitted to the Government in May, entailed a proposal to pay RM50bil for 25 toll highways. It said that it would end toll rate increases and help the Goverment save RM114bil in compensation payments until 2038.


Halal Cosmetics Spell Big Opportunities (Posted: 6 October 2010 )

The market for Halal cosmetics is growing on a global basis, but nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the Middle East, where conscientious consumers are specifically searching out Halal endorsed products.

With the global market for halal commodities currently valued at $2 trillion alone, the slice of that market commanded by halal personal care products in the Middle East is currently estimated to be valued at $560m.

Currently the market for beauty and grooming products as a whole in the Middle East is growing at 12 per cent per annum, and is valued at $2.1bn - growth that is being mirrored by the demand for halal personal care products, according to Messe Frankfurt, a company that organizes beauty industry exhibitions throughout the region

Specific demand for halal personal care products is in turn being driven by increased consumer knowledge of the ingredients used in the formulation of such products and they way they are produced.

Halal cosmetics can contain animal-derived ingredients, but these have to be prepared according to Islamic codes dictating procedures for killing and preparing animals.

Although the trend for halal cosmetic products spells opportunity for producers worldwide, Messe Frankfurt believes that in particular it is Dubai that is well placed to serve the burgeoning halal cosmetic market, particularly in view of its position as a regional hub for the distribution of halal commodities.

"There has been a common misconception up until now about what constitutes halal, with many people assuming that it relates purely to foodstuffs," said Heather Nix, Mess Frankfurt group exhibitions manager of Messe Frankfurt.

"Others who have had a better understanding of the rulings have simply been unaware that some cosmetics contain ingredients that they should avoid. Recently, however, more people have become aware about the nature of beauty products and are choosing to spend money on make-up and lotions that fit in with their religious and cultural requirements", she added.

Dubai currently handles an estimated $150m worth of halal merchandise each year, a significant proportion is said to be accounted for by personal care products.

One development in particular that has helped to boost this situation is the addition of a marketing centre in Dubai for the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia, which is said to have seen the addition of a significant number of halal personal care products being traded throughout the region.

"There is clearly an increased demand for halal related cosmetics. We have received more trade enquiries this year wanting to find out about exhibitors at our event who will be showcasing halal products at Beautyworld", said Nix.


Corporate Responsibility Awards 2010 (Posted: 6 October 2010 )

IN conjunction with StarBiz-ICR Malaysia CR Awards 2010, a CEO forum will be held on Monday, October 11 at Cybertorium, Level 2, Menara Star, Petaling Jaya.

Titled Climate Change vs Profits: Striking A Balance, it will be moderated by Datuk Johan Raslan, chairman of ICR Malaysia, with panellists Azran Osman-Rani, AirAsiaX CEO; Osman Morad, Standard Chartered Bank CEO; Atul Bhargava, Intel managing director; and Caroline Russel, Boh Plantations CEO.

The forum, which begins at 9.30am, will focus on balancing Malaysia's high-income nation goals and addressing the issue on environment/climate change.

Those interested to attend are encouraged to register with Che Sham Ahmad at [email protected] or call 03-2173 0410 by October 8. Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis. Attendance is free with light refreshments served.


Century Bond Plans China Factory (Posted: 6 October 2010 )

JOHOR BARU: Century Bond Bhd is looking at setting up a factory in China to produce household care products for the mainland market.

Chairman and managing director Allan Tan Siew Kim said the venture could take off in one to two years.

"We are going to set up our plant either in the second or third-tier cities there, targeting consumers in the semi-rural and rural areas,'' he told StarBiz after the company's AGM recently.

Tan said the company would avoid first-tier cities in China due to intense competition in these areas.

He said the cost of doing business in China's first-tier cities was no longer competitive, unlike 15 to 20 years ago when China was aggressively attracting foreign investors.

He said this had resulted in many manufacturers, including multinational corporations and Chinese companies, to relocate to second or third-tier cities and to countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Tan said despite being second or third-tier cities in China, the population of these cities was higher than the entire population of Malaysia.

"Chinese living in the semi-rural and rural areas also benefit from China's booming economic growth and many are willing to spend on consumer products,'' he added.

He said Century Bond's household care products for the Chinese market would include laundry detergent, fabric softener, floor and glass cleaning liquid, toilet bleach, dishwashing liquid and car -care products.

Tan said the company would also further strengthen and develop its contract manufacturing division by securing more customers in Malaysia and Singapore.

He said it was now doing household care packaging contracts for major hypermarket operators and retailers in both countries.


Cigarette Price Hike Likely to Drag Down Fag Sales (Posted: 5 October 2010 )

PETALING JAYA: The hike in cigarette prices yesterday caught many by surprise, not only for the huge quantum of the increase, but also the lack of immediate official announcement on the new pricing structure.

This led to some speculation earlier in the day - evidenced in reports issued by several brokerages - that a major manufacturer had raised product prices in what some analysts had called a "pre-emptive" strike against a Government-imposed excise duty hike ahead of the upcoming Budget 2011 to be tabled on Oct 15.

A random check at several retail outlets yesterday morning showed premium brand cigarettes distributed by the top three makers in the country are now priced at RM10 per pack.

This was despite the lack of new pricing notices from cigarette distributors that usually accompanied such price hikes.

Meanwhile, a statement from British American Tobacco (M) Bhd (BAT) yesterday said the Government increased cigarette excise duty by 3 sen a stick across the board from Oct 1, from 19 sen previously.

This was confirmed by a Finance Ministry spokesman yesterday.

For a pack of 20 sticks, the additional 3 sen excise duty amounted to 60 sen. The new price of RM10 for a pack of Dunhill was 70 sen higher compared with the previous selling price of RM9.30.

In the value-for-money segment, prices went up from RM7.80 a pack to RM8.50.

BAT listed down the new selling prices of its brands in a statement yesterday evening.

"Historically, manufacturers have always increased retail selling prices by a higher amount than the hike in excise duty due to higher advertising and promotion (A&P) expenses in anticipation of lower sales volume," AmResearch said in a note to clients.

But more expensive cigarettes are likely to translate to lower sales volume.

OSK Research yesterday noted that in 2008, total industry volume (TIV) dropped by 11.2% following an 80 sen price hike per pack.

"A greater than 10% fall in TIV is possible next year" the firm said, as the pricing for a 20-stick pack hit what it called a "psychological" important RM10 level.

BAT shares declined 90 sen, or 1.8%, to RM47.50 yesterday. The stock hit a record high of RM48.64 on Sept 29. Rival JT International Bhd's share price was flat at RM5.68.

Based on industry figures tracked at AmResearch, cigarette sales volume had dropped from just above 20 billion sticks a year in 2002 to just a shade below 15 billion sticks last year. Estimates put BAT with a local market share of 65%, followed by JTI at 22% and Philip Morris (M) Sdn Bhd at 13%.

While the official TIV had been on the decline in the past eight years, illegal cigarette trade has grown from strength to strength, according to industry players.

BAT in its statement yesterday described the illicit cigarette market in the country as "excessively rampant" and said the huge price discrepancy between legal and illicit cigarettes meant it would face a "greater challenge" to sustain its sales volume.

The sentiment was shared by Philip Morris.

"We were extremely disappointed to learn of this 16% increase in excise tax, which is eight times in excess of the current inflation rate," said corporate affairs director Richard James.

"This will surely boost Malaysia's incidence of illicit cigarettes, already at 37%, which according to a research report by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, is the world's highest.

"Our only hope from this announcement is that a commitment will be made to apportion a significant amount from this increase to fund enforcement efforts to fight illicit trade," he added.

- The

Tax Reductions Proposed For 2011 Budget (Posted: 5 October 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Chartered Tax Institute of Malaysia's (CTIM) proposal of tax cuts for companies for Budget 2011 is to make Malaysia more business friendly and to remain globally competitive.

CTIM president Khoo Chin Guan said the government, in line with its efforts to achieve a high-income economy by 2020, should consider a reduction in corporate tax as an incentive for small-and-medium enterprises as well as large corporations to flourish and grow.

"It has been shown in many of the developed countries that high corporate tax rates have been counter productive in creating a conducive business environment, especially in spurring entrepreneurship," Khoo told reporters at a CTIM briefing on its pre-Budget proposals.

The current corporate tax rate in Malaysia is 25%, which is within the bandwidth of most countries tax rates within the region.

He reckons the tax rate for small businesses should be lowered. Thus giving support to the growth of SMEs. Many SMEs are of the opinion that they should be subjected to a lower tax rate of 20% on their entire income and not only on the first RM500,000 of chargeable income.

However, Khoo said any tax rate regime in any country has to be balanced out with other forms of incentives provided by its government to the private sector, including Malaysia.

"Tax cuts and other forms of tax incentives are only some of the ways to encourage greater economic activity. The tax incentives should be provided to sectors identified by the government (under the 12 National Key Economic Areas) such as the tourism industry, and other service sectors.

"In places like Hong Kong and Singapore, the tax rates have been reduced to 16.5% and 17% respectively. This was done over time, which had allowed more businesses to flourish and spurred greater entrepreneurship," he noted.

On goods and services tax (GST), Khoo said there was a need to set a time-line for the implementation of GST and corporations needed to prepare themselves and work towards it.

"GST is a more transparent and efficient broad-based consumption tax (compared with the existing sales and services taxes)," he said.

However, Khoo said to implement GST successfully, there was a need for greater cooperation from individual taxpayers as well as corporations and this can only happen with deeper awareness and education on GST.

Khoo said there was undeniably a cost to taxpayers but on the longer term it was an efficient tax collection system for the government and a fairer system for its people, based on consumption.

"However, there is still a need to offset the GST cost, with a reduction in tax rate, to ensure a cost effective and conducive business environment is maintained," he noted.

Khoo said other effective tax incentives included liberalising of reinvestment allowance.

"Currently there is a 15-year cap on reinvestment allowance and it was confined to a specific product.

"We believe the time frame should not be capped or at least extended and the reinvestment allowance be granted for products within the company," he said.

Khoo said another important tax incentive was on capital allowance, which currently was only applicable to factory buildings but should be broadened to include shopping malls, conventions and office buildings.

"The broadening of tax allowances to include these costs will help reduce the burden on corporations, especially SMEs with limited funds and allow them to grow quickly," he said, adding that many of these enterprises incurred many risks and costs in doing business without getting any form of tax relief.

Khoo said there was a need to recognise companies that have subsidiaries (companies that have at least 51% ownership by a parent company) and treat them as a single organisation (in terms of tax) and to allow the parent company to benefit from exemptions granted to subsidiaries, which otherwise was wasted.

In conclusion, he said, CTIM would like to see the government create a more competitive investment environment, strengthen and grow the service sectors, enhance the efficiency of tax administration, have greater support for the development of local industries, in particular the property sector and promote an equitable and business-friendly taxation system.

- The

MMC Climbs On Credit Suisse Upgrade (Posted: 1 October 2010 )

MMC Corp, a Malaysian builder and power group, rose to its highest level since June 2008 after its stock rating was raised to "outperform" from "neutral" at Credit Suisse Group AG.

The stock climbed 1.7 per cent to RM3.05 at 9:03 a.m. local time in Kuala Lumpur trading, set for its highest close since June 11, 2008.

The brokerage raised its share-price estimate to RM3.80 from RM2, according to a report by Annuar Aziz.

- Bloomberg

Malaysia-Singapore Business Council Revived (Posted: 30 September 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Singapore Business Council (MSBC) that was dormant for the past few years, has been revamped and re-energised following the recent visit to Singapore by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Set up in 2004 to promote business and investment between Singapore and Malaysia, the Council has also been reconstituted with Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia chairman Datuk Lim Say Chong as the new Chairman.

In a statement, the secretariat for MSBC, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers said the council discussed ways of enhancing greater cross border flows of trade and investments between the two countries at the first meeting of the new MSBC recently.

"They also discussed the promotion of more effective utilisation of the Malaysia Singapore Third Country Business Development Fund," it said, adding that a joint meeting with its counterpart, Singapore-Malaysia Business Council was scheduled to be held in the first quarter of 2011.

- The Star online

Mains Ventures into Hotel Sector (Posted: 29 September 2010 )

PORT DICKSON, Sept 24 (Bernama) -- The project to build an observatory and a three-star hotel at the Baitul Hilal Complex in Teluk Kemang here, is now 35 per cent complete.

The project, on a 1.21 hectare (three acre)site, is a joint venture between the Department of Wakaf, Zakat and Hajj (JAWHAR) and the Negri Sembilan Islamic Religious Affairs Council (MAINS), the owner of the land.

Acting MAINS secretary, Kamal Amran Kamarudin said, the projects began in December 2009 and is expected to be complete by November next year.

"The overall project cost is RM30 million with RM18 million funded by JAWHAR and the rest by the Council," he told Bernama during a site visit to both projects here today.

Commenting on the two-storey observatory project, he said among the facilities within it are, a hall to accommodate 200 people, a surau, lecture room, meeting room and exhibition area.

"The observatory will centralise all activities pertaining to the sighting of the moon,firmanent and planets to drive progress in the knowledge of astronomy.

"The observatory will also be an important reference and research centre.

"The implementation of this project is also an effort to enhance awareness in astronomy among students and the general public.

"It will be equipped with 24-inch telescope, which is among the largest of its kind in Malaysia, for viewing the stars and planets as such," he said.

Kamal Amran said the management of the observatory will be done jointly with University Malaya (UM).

When complete, he said, UM will place its officers and research staff there to assist in the management.

He said a unique feature of the observatory is the sundial to be placed within its compound. The sundial shows time based on the movement of the sun.

"At the same time, the observatory will also have a gallery for placing historical items related to astromony in Islam," he added.

Meanwhile, the four-storey hotel with 84 rooms and three apartments, will also have facilities such as a restaurant, surau and recreational area.

"This is MAINS'' first investment venture into the hotel sector. An additional feature of the hotel is that it is packaged together with the observatory.

"Those staying at the hotel will also an involvement in the observatory programme," Kamal Amran added.


Islamic Answers To SME Finance Needs (Posted: 29 September 2010 )

With both the value of the SME and the Islamic finance sectors predicted to skyrocket over the next few years, it's not surprising that the two have successfully intertwined in the GCC region. Isla MacFarlane reviews the most recent offerings for Shari'ah-compliant SME financing.

SME financing could be deemed a natural fit for Islamic finance, by virtue of the fact that it deals directly with the real economy; creates employment; involves the productive use of resources; and contributes directly toward the alleviation of poverty. Seeming to take to heart the criticisms of a few years ago about Islamic financial institutions being too focused on corporate and high net worth individuals, Islamic banks now appear to have cottoned on to the potential of the SME market with more Shari'ah-compliant offerings coming onto the market.

Last year saw more Islamic banks trying to corner the growing SME market, with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank launching a new Shari'ah-compliant covered card for SMEs, and Noor Islamic Bank debuting a profiling and rating service, which gives credibility to customers who do not have credit profiles or balance sheets.

ADIB explained that a covered card is the Shari'ah-compliant equivalent to a credit card. Offered in Platinum and Gold versions, the Visa card provides SME customers with a line of finance up to AED $250,000 ($68,066). The card also provides SMEs with a payment tool that can help them control their expenditures, improve their accounting management and access their funds more conveniently.

Cardholders can use the cards as a substitute for less efficient and more risky cash and cheques.

ADIB said that the introduction of the card is in line with ADIB's commitment to develop SMEs in the UAE and also with the bank's strategy that aims to provide tailored solutions to the business community at large.

Saif Ali Al Shuraifi, an ADIB customer, said, "As an SME owner, I have been missing a practical solution like this that would help me manage my business better. Having access to extra liquidity is an important factor in managing my business successfully. Sometimes you have to cope with unplanned expenses and this can be challenging, particularly in the current economic environment."

The Business Banking Division at ADIB - ADIB Business - is another of the bank's initiatives created to offer banking services for the SME sector in the UAE. The bank has pledged that new products and services will be offered to the SME sector. According to ADIB, last year there was a lack of Shari'ah-compliant products designed to meet the needs of SMEs, and the launch of the covered card was its contribution to bridging the gap.


New Zealand Put New Curbs on Land Sales to Foreigners (Posted: 27 September 2010 )

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand's government announced Monday it will place new controls on overseas investors buying large land holdings, reacting to growing public concern that the country is selling too much farm land to foreigners.

New measures to assess the merit of foreign investment in sensitive land will include a test to allow Cabinet ministers to consider whether New Zealand's "economic interests" are adequately safeguarded and promoted. "They're designed to reduce our vulnerability to large-scale alienation" of farm land to offshore buyers, Finance Minister Bill English said.

The review of foreign investment in the economy comes amid widespread concern sparked by Hong Kong-based company Natural Dairy's bid to buy 16 farms covering nearly 20,000 acres (8,090 hectares) in the country's central North Island. New Zealand's economy is based on agriculture with dairy products alone accounting for about a fifth of exports.

The outcome of Natural Dairy's bid will not be affected by the new controls, because they will come into effect from December.

Last month a "Save the Farms Group" warned that foreign buyers were lining up to buy New Zealand land, with spokesman Tony Bouchier saying the government needed to take urgent action.

English said the economic interest test was "fairly broad" but New Zealand still needed foreign funds to aid its economy. "We need to maintain a country that's attractive to foreign investment," he said, while protecting assets "that really do matter to New Zealanders."

A new "mitigating factor" test will allow ministers to decide whether a foreign investment bid provides enough opportunities for New Zealand interests to have oversight or involvement, English said.

A number of large, aggregated land holdings likely to come onto the market in the next few years could generate a lot of overseas interest, he said, and the new controls would clarify how the government would respond.

A new ministerial directive to the Overseas Investment Office would provide extra clarity and certainty for potential investors about the government's general approach to foreign investment in sensitive assets. The Office has yet to make a decision on the Natural Dairy application.

Office figures show 235 consents for foreign investors to buy more than 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) of farm land were approved between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2010.

Some 60 approvals were for buyers from the United States, 36 from Britain, 24 from Australia, and nine from Asian countries.

--The Star online

Blockbuster Bankruptcy Filing Soon (Posted: 23 September 2010 )

NEW YORK: Troubled video-rental chain Blockbuster Inc. could file for bankruptcy protection as early as Wednesday, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Citing unnamed sources, the Journal said Blockbuster is working with creditors to develop a bankruptcy restructuring plan that would free it of debt and allow the company to keep some stores open and focus more on digital distribution.

If Blockbuster misses an interest payment on Sept. 30, more than $900 million in debt will be due in full.

The article says billionaire investor Carl Icahn owns one-third of Blockbuster's debt and would return to the company's board once it exits bankruptcy protection. He resigned from the board in January.

Blockbuster and Icahn did not return calls for comment.

Once a home entertainment powerhouse, Blockbuster, based in Dallas, has been losing market share for years as more consumers switch to video subscription services like Netflix Inc., video on demand services and curbside rentals such as Redbox.

Blockbuster peaked at about 9,100 stores in 2004, but it has since shut many to cut costs and is down to about 5,800 as of August. In the same period, Netflix membership has grown from 2.6 million to about 15 million. - AP

JF Apex To Bank On E-Trade (Posted: 22 September 2010 )

JF Apex Securities Bhd is embarking on various initiatives to boost income, by among others, promoting its online trading as well as enabling foreign players to trade on it.

"We are already in talks with potential brokerages from Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand for tie-up and things could materialise within two months," JF Apex deputy managing director, Lim Teck Seng said.

He said with the possibility of brokerage fees in Malaysia being restructured, promoting e-trade, especially beyond the shores of the country is key to income sustainability.

- Bernama

MAS Orders Airbus Freighters (Posted: 21 September 2010 )

MALAYSIA Airlines (3786) has placed a firm order with Airbus for two more A330-200F freighters, following the conversion of two existing options.

The latest contract increases the airline's firm orders for freighter aircraft to four.

The aircraft will be operated by its air freight arm, Malaysia Airlines Cargo Sdn Bhd (MASkargo).

The aircraft will be powered by PW4000 engines from Pratt & Whitney.
"We are confident that the A330-200F is set to become a game changer in the mid-size freighter market," MASkargo managing director Shahari Sulaiman said in a statement yesterday.

"The aircraft will enable MASkargo to efficiently match capacity closely to demand on many medium lift sectors across our cargo network, and especially those operating via intra Asia," he added.

Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy said the additional order underscores the increasing popularity of the new A330-200F as it enters airline service.

The A330-200F is the latest addition to the A330 family.

Offering the lowest operating costs in its size category, it is the only modern mid-size, long haul, all-cargo aircraft capable of carrying 65 tonnes over 4,000nm/7,400km or 70 tonnes over 3,200nm/5,900km.

--Business Times

Blown-Out BP Well Finally Killed 4KM At Bottom Of The Sea (Posted: 20 September 2010 )

NEW YORK: A cement plug has permanently killed BP's runaway well nearly 2.5 miles (four kilometers) below the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico, five agonizing months after an explosion sank a drilling rig and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's point man on the disaster, said Sunday that BP's well "is effectively dead" and posed no further threat to the Gulf. Allen said a pressure test to ensure the cement plug would hold was completed at 5:54 a.m. CDT (1054 GMT).

President Barack Obama called the successful "kill" for the blown-out well a milestone in his administration's response to the disaster. Obama said in a statement that his administration remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers fully from the disaster.

The gusher was contained in mid-July after a temporary cap was successfully fitted atop the well. Mud and cement were later pushed down through the top of the well, allowing the cap to be removed.

But the well could not be declared dead until a relief well was drilled so that the ruptured well could be sealed from the bottom, ensuring it never causes a problem again. The relief well intersected the blown-out well Thursday, and crews started pumping in the cement on Friday.

The April 20 blast killed 11 workers, and 206 million gallons (780 million liters) of oil spewed.

The disaster caused an environmental and economic nightmare for people who live, work and play along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of Gulf shoreline from Florida to Texas. It also spurred civil and criminal investigations, cost gaffe-prone BP chief Tony Hayward his job, and brought increased governmental scrutiny of the oil and gas industry, including a costly moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling that is still in place.

Gulf residents will be feeling the pain for years to come. There is still plenty of oil in the water, and some continues to wash up on shore. Many people are still struggling to make ends meet with some waters still closed to fishing. Shrimpers who are allowed to fish are finding it difficult to sell their catch because of the perception - largely from people outside the region - that the seafood is not safe to eat. Tourism along the Gulf has taken a hit.

The disaster also has taken a toll on the once mighty oil giant BP PLC. The British company's stock price took a nosedive after the explosion, though it has recovered somewhat. Its image as a steward of the environment was stained and its stated commitment to safety was challenged. Owners of BP-branded gas stations in the U.S. were hit with lost sales, as customers protested at the pump.

And on the financial side: BP has already shelled out $9.5 billion in cleanup costs, and the company has promised to set aside another $20 billion for a victims compensation fund. The company could face tens of billions of dollars more in government fines and legal costs from hundreds of pending lawsuits.

BP took some of the blame for the Gulf oil disaster in an internal report issued earlier this month, acknowledging among other things that its workers misinterpreted a key pressure test of the well. But in a possible preview of its legal strategy, it also pointed the finger at its partners on the doomed rig.

BP was a majority owner of the well that blew out, and it was leasing the rig that exploded from owner Transocean Ltd.

- AP

AP Source: Oracle, ex-HP CEO Hurd in Talks for Job (Posted: 6 September 2010 )

SAN FRANCISCO: Former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd is in talks to take a top executive job at Oracle Corp., the database software maker run by his friend Larry Ellison, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions said Sunday.

It wasn't immediately clear what job Hurd would take. But the person told The Associated Press that Ellison, the only person to serve as Oracle's CEO since he founded the company 33 years ago, wouldn't be leaving that post. This person emphasized that the talks were not yet finalized.

The person was not authorized to discuss the confidential negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The possibility of Hurd landing at Oracle isn't a surprise. Ellison was vocal in coming to Hurd's defense after Hurd's sudden resignation Aug. 6 in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation.

Hurd's resignation was stunning because he was widely praised on Wall Street.

nvestors praised his cost-cutting; HP announced about 50,000 job cuts over the five years Hurd was CEO. Wall Street also liked that he engineered more than $20 billion in acquisitions, which helped HP reduce its dependence on printer ink for the bulk of its profits. HP is now a major player in technology services and computer networking.

Those traits could help Hurd at Oracle, which is also known for aggressive dealmaking and cost cuts.

Hurd would also join Oracle at an interesting juncture for both companies.

Oracle, the No. 1 database software maker, and HP, the No. 1 personal computer and printer maker, are longtime partners that are increasingly squaring off against each other. Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems last year made it a competitor to HP in the market for computer servers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Hurd's job talks with Oracle earlier.

In coming to Hurd's defense following his resignation, Ellison called HP's decision to oust Hurd the worst personnel decision since Apple Inc. forced out Steve Jobs - another of Ellison's friends - 25 years ago. Jobs later returned and lifted Apple out of a funk, turning it onto a top maker of consumer-electronics products.

Ellison has said the HP board's decision to publicly disclose the harassment claim against Hurd amounted to "cowardly corporate political correctness," as the board had found that Hurd didn't violate the company's sexual harassment policies.

The investigation unearthed inaccurate expense reports connected with Hurd's outings with his eventual accuser, an actress and HP contractor named Jodie Fisher.

The substance of her claim was that her work helping organize HP events dried up after she rebuffed Hurd's advances. Hurd, 53, who is married with two children, denies making any advances on Fisher. Hurd also insists he didn't prepare his own expenses and didn't try to conceal his outings with Fisher, which often included dinner after the events Fisher helped organize and that Hurd attended.

HP has emphasized that its board voted unanimously for Hurd's resignation. - AP


Heavy in Dollars, China Warns of Depreciation (Posted: 3 September 2010 )

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday offered a rare glimpse into its foreign exchange reserves, confirming that they are overwhelmingly allocated in dollars, while a central banker said the mountain of cash could face depreciation risks.

The Chinese government's currency reserves, the world's largest such stockpile at $2.45 trillion, are held roughly in line with what was described as the global average: 65 percent in dollars, 26 percent in euros, 5 percent in pounds and 3 percent in yen.

The report in the China Securities Journal, an official newspaper, cited unnamed reserve managers.

The allocation of Chinese foreign exchange reserves is considered to be a state secret, but analysts have long estimated that about two-thirds are invested in dollar assets.

Separately, Hu Xiaolian, a vice governor with the People's Bank of China, warned that depreciation loomed as a risk for foreign exchange reserves held by developing counties.

"Once a reserve currency's value becomes unstable, there will be quite large depreciation risks for assets," she wrote in an article that appeared in the latest issue of China Finance, a Chinese-language magazine published under the central bank.

She reiterated China's long-standing discomfort with a global financial system dominated by a single currency in the dollar.

"The outbreak and spread of the global financial crisis has highlighted the inherent deficiencies and systemic risks in the current international currency system," she said.

"A diversified international currency system will be more conducive to international economic and financial stability," she added.

To that end, developing countries must speed up reform of their financial markets, and China would work to promote greater cross-border use of the yuan, she said.


There have been signs in recent months that Beijing has stepped up the pace of diversification of its foreignexchange reserves away from dollar assets.

Chinese net buying of Japanese debt has surpassed 1.7 trillion yen this year, far surpassing its record of 255.7 billion yen in 2005.

China has also raised holdings of South Korean bonds by 2.48 trillion won ($2.11 billion) in the first seven months of this year from 1.87 trillion won at the end of last year. However, Chinese investors only started buying South Korean bonds in the middle of 2009.

At the same time, China has slightly cut back its vast holdings of U.S. Treasuries, from $894.8 billion at the start of the year to $843.7 billion in June, according to the most recent data. China remains the biggest single holder of U.S. government debt.

But analysts have also warned against reading too much into the apparent shifts in the flow of cash from China. Like any investor with commercial interests in mind, Beijing has shown a readiness to shift its strategy depending on what it sees as good buys at the time.

The China Securities Journal laid out the prospects for a shift back to the dollar in the near term.

"It is unlikely that China will increase purchases of Japanese bonds in the coming months because the yen might weaken at any time," the newspaper said.

"China is very likely to increase purchases of U.S. Treasuries in September. The possibility for China to buy more Korean bonds can't be ruled out," it added.

- Reuters

LTKM Expects Earning Contribution From Glass Business In 2012 (Posted: 25 August 2010 )

SHAH ALAM, Aug 25 (Bernama) -- An egg producer, LTKM Bhd, diversifying into processed glass manufacturing, expects the new business to start contributing to its earnings in the next financial year ending March 31, 2012.

Managing Director Tan Kok (rpt Tan Kok) said the company has allocated RM35 million to build the new plant at Jalan Kapar in Klang.

The plant is to commence operations by early next year.

It will have a production capacity close to 200,000 square metres of glass annually, he told BERNAMA after the company's annual general meeting here Wednesday.

The new business will be managed by the company's subsidiary, Lumiglass Sdn Bhd.

Tan said though the diversification provides a good prospect for the company to re-invest and diversify its sources of income, poultry business would remain its core activity and key financial contributor.

"However, we expect the poultry business to be more challenging due to stringent operating requirements, higher price of raw materials and keen competition from other egg producers," he said.

The 160-hectare LTKM's poultry farm in Melaka produces over a million eggs in a day. Almost 60 per cent of its eggs are for the domestic market while the balance 40 per cent are exported to Singapore.

Its main brand is "LTK Omega Plus".

For the financial year ended March 31, 2010, the company s pre-tax profit jumped 74 per cent to RM21.069 million from RM12.132 million in the same period last year.

Revenue however eased by two per cent to RM131.429 million from RM133.537 million.


Vietnam To Host International Exhibition And Competition For Young Inventors (Posted: 20 August 2010 )

HANOI, Aug 20 (Bernama) -- For the first time ever, Vietnam will host the 7 the international exhibition and competition for young inventors in science and technology, to be held here from December 16-18, reports Vietnam's news agency (VNA).

As many as 700 inventors and 200 stands from 40 different countries and organisations will take part in the event, announced the Vietnam Fund for Supporting Technological Creations (VIFOTEC) at a press briefing on Thursday.

The young Vietnamese inventors, aged between 6-19, will compete from September 21-26. They will present their inventions in one of five areas, including learning aids, software, children's toys, environmental protection and energy saving measures.

According to Le Xuan Thao, VIFOTEC's permanent deputy chairman, Vietnam needs to encourage its young people to become more creative if the country wants to turn itself into an industrialised nation.

He said that previous competitions had revealed that Vietnamese children have a lot of potential and abilities compared with other nations. He also called on support from both international and domestic organisations and businesses to make the event a success.


Motorcycle Sales To Grow 15 Per Cent, Says MASAAM (Posted: 19 August 2010 )

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 19 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's motorcycle sales are expected to grow 15 per cent this year from the 500,000 units recorded in 2009.

This forecast was made after the reduction in petrol subsidy, said Motorcycle and Scooter Assemblers and Distributors Association of Malaysia (MASAAM) President Datuk Syed Mohamad Aidid Syed Murtaza Thursday.

Sales had risen 10 per cent up to June, he told reporters here.

He said the increase enabled the motorcycle industry to provide up to 200,000 job opportunities and bring overall benefits to the economy.

"It creates employment opportunities in the manufacturing sector like motorcycle component factories and the engine assembly sector. It also helps insurance expansion and generate business for motorcycle workshops, big or small," he said.

Syed Mohamad Aidid said the country's motorcycle industry would now have a big potential to expand its international market following his two-year appointment as President of the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association (IMMA).

The handing over of duties from his predecessor, Hendrik Von Kuenheim, took place in Munich in May.

"So far, Modenas motorcycles have penerated the market in Greece.

"With this appointment also, Malaysia can dictate terms for foreign motorcycles wishing to come to our market," he said.

Through membership in IMMA, Malaysia could forge international cooperation relating to quality standards amd road safety, he added.


Hartalega Expects To Grow 15 To 25 Per Cent In Next 3 Years (Posted: 18 August 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, August 18 (Bernama) -- Hartalega Holdings Bhd, which manufactures nitrile gloves, expects to grow by 15 to 25 per cent for the next three years, driven by strong demand in the global healthcare industry.

Executive chairman and managing director Kuan Kam Hon said strong demand is expected from the continuous conversion of natural rubber gloves to nitrile gloves in the US healthcare industry.

"Nitrile conversion is still on, coupled with the completion of Plant 5 by the end of this financial year ending March 31, 2011. The full operation of Plant 5 will also contribute a total of RM260 million in terms of annual turnover," he told reporters after the company's annual general meeting and extraordinary general meeting here Wednesday.

Currently, the company commands 23 per cent market share of nitrile gloves in the United States, he said.

Kuan said the company's annualised growth rates over the last three years showed that it had embarked on the right strategy to remain focus on the nitrile glove sector.

Hartalega recently posted a pre-tax profit of RM53.7 million for its first quarter ended June 30, 2010, which represents a 64.4 per cent increase from RM32.7 million in the preceding year's corresponding quarter.

Deputy managing director Kuan Mun Leong said apart from the US market, the company was looking at strengthening its presence in developing countries, which could be converting to using nitrile gloves from natural rubber gloves due to cheaper pricing.

He said to enter these markets, the company was looking at expanding its Plant 1 from the current production of 700 million pieces a year to 1.4 billion pieces, with some of the extra capacity to be used in producing natural rubber gloves.

"By doing this, we can have a better foothold in these emerging markets, especially with many new players in the nitrile glove business stepping up competition," he added. At the moment, about 75 per cent of the company's sales came from the US market, with the emerging markets taking up less than five per cent of the exports.


Brazil, India & China Fared Well During The Financial Crisis (Posted: 13 August 2010 )

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Bernama) -- At least three countries India, China and Brazil fared well during the current economic crisis that has engulfed the world in the past two years, mainly because of inherent strengthen of their economies, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported a Congressional oversight panel as saying.

"Because the financial crisis originated in domestic housing bubbles, and was transmitted by highly leveraged multinational financial firms, countries that were shielded from those forces fared comparatively well," said the panel in its report for the month of August.

"Brazil, India, China, Australia and Canada, for example, generally avoided the banking crises that plagued US and much of Europe; nonetheless their economies felt many of the aftereffects of the global financial crisis," it said.

Brazil, the 162-page report said is one of the countries that has fared best during the global financial crisis

"India also fared comparatively well," it said.

"Its highly regulated banking sector had limited operations outside India, and therefore very little exposure to subprime lending in the US," the report said, adding that although India did feel the follow-on effects of the crisis, though.

Its export-driven economy suffered when global demand dropped; its financial sector suffered from the global liquidity squeeze, which led to a fall in lending; and its stock market lost roughly 50 per cent of its value between June and December 2008.

"Although the Indian government did not provide capital to Indian banks, it did respond to the crisis with fiscal stimulus equal to about 2 per cent of GDP, and it shifted from a tightening monetary policy to an expansionary one," the report said.

The Congressional Oversight Panel said China's financial system also fared relatively well during the crisis, though it should be noted that China's state-owned banks have benefited from repeated government rescues in the recent past.

China maintains capital controls that limit foreign investment by individuals and businesses; these controls had beneficial effects during the crisis, since Chinese investors had little exposure to troubled parts of the US and European financial systems, it said.

Banks in China had invested heavily in US securities, but those investments were generally not in subprime securities, but rather in safer Treasury bonds and securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the US government stepped in to backstop during the crisis, it said.

"Therefore, China's financial system, like Brazil's and India's, did not sustain major damage from the crisis.

"China's export-driven economy did suffer, though, from the sharp downturn in global demand and the slowdown in foreign investment," the report said.

China's explosive growth slowed during the crisis, but the government countered the effects of the slowdown by increasing bank lending, lowering interest rates, and introducing fiscal stimulus spending that was among the largest in the world as a percentage of GDP.

"Australia also suffered relatively little from the crisis. Its only decline in GDP occurred in the fourth quarter of 2009, meaning that Australia did not enter into a recession," the report said.



BOLOGNA, Italy, July 28 / PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ -- - Transaction Pursued With a Medium/Long Term Investment Perspective, Which Will Contribute to the Improvement of Herambiente's Leadership in the Environment Business at a Nationwide Level


Hera Group and a company controlled by EISER Infrastructure Limited(Ambiente Arancione Cooperatief U.A) have signed today a binding agreement for the acquisition of a 20% stake in the share capital of Herambiente, the holding company of the Hera Group in the environment business.

-- Bernama

Infrastructure, Regulatory Framework Needed For Stronger Shariah Investments (Posted: 28 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- There is still need for improvement, especially to create infrastructure and regulatory framework, for Shariah-compliant investments to be stronger, says fund manager, HwangDBS Investment Management Bhd (HwangDBS IM).


"We have to deal with the challenges of a developing industry where the regulatory framework and collaboration at the country level are still in a relatively preliminary stage," its head of international equities Peter Chiang Ngee Onn told a media briefing Wednesday.


HwangDBS IM together with its sister company, Asian Islamic Investment Management Sdn Bhd (AIIMAN), and industry authority, Amanie Business Solutions Sdn Bhd, shared the highlights, opportunities and challenges of Shariah-investment.


Chiang said Shariah-compliant investments are currently merely a sliver of the global financial system, hence, there is an enormous untapped market locally and abroad.


"In order to capture these opportunities, we need to attract and develop talents, have indepth understanding of our target audience and ensure we are able to innovate and customise our offerings to meet clients' needs," he said.


Chiang said Shariah-compliant investments are gaining popularity with investors of diverse race and culture as an alternative to post-financial crisis due to its relative transparency, stability and resilience.


"The stable and consistent double-digit growth rates of the total assets under the Shariah category is strong proof that these are vehicles that are feasible options to its more popular conventional counterpart," he said.


Chiang said it was interesting to note that 88 per cent of the total listed securities on Bursa Malaysia are Shariah-compliant, making up 64 per cent of the total market capitalisation.


"Locally, on an average basis, one in three funds launched is Shariah-compliant and many of the equity-type have been charting double-digit growth rates.


"Furthermore, the average investor profile ratio in Shariah-compliant investments is about 60:40, where 60 per cent of the investors are non-Muslims," he said.


On AIIMAN business, Chiang said the company will focus on the HwangDBS AIIMAN A20 China Access Fund, an Islamic fund that offers investors access into China's A-share market.


"We are working with several distributors in Dubai and Bahrain to distribute the fund there," he added.


AIIMAN, an innovative Shariah investment solutions provider focused on Asian equities and global sukuk, is a joint venture between Singapore's DBS Asset Management Ltd and Hwang-DBS (Malaysia) Bhd.


Launched on March 26, HwangDBS AIIMAN A20 China Access Fund was aimed to provide exposure to the 20 largest Shariah-compliant China A-share companies that were listed in Shanghai or Shenzhen stock exchanges.


Todate, AIIMAN manages a total asset worth RM1.2 billion, comprising unit trust funds and discretionary mandates. They currently manage five funds, of which, four a retail-oriented and one institutional.



Wikipedia Founder To Join Speakers At WCMS 2010 (Posted: 28 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, will join policy-makers and financial industry experts in sharing their thoughts at World Capital Market Symposium (WCMS) 2010 here on Sept 27-28.


The symposium, themed, "Transforming Capital Markets: Leadership, Change and Governance", will see Wales share his vision, perspectives and insights by drawing from lessons on the democratisation of information and knowledge.


The organiser of the event, the Securities Commission (SC), in a statement today said, Wales would also address, how to use or impart information responsibly, especially in the fast-evolving financial and capital markets.


"Wikipedia is the outcome of Wales' vision that every single person on the planet is given full access to the sum of all human knowledge.


"Showing great foresight and leadership, he is one of the most prolific members of the current generation of thinkers who have helped shape the evolution of the World Wide Web (WWW) as a participatory and a truly democratic platform," the SC added.


As Malaysia is moving towards an innovation-led and knowledge-based economy, the experiences of Wikipedia will provide lessons for enterprises as they redefine their strategies and business models to become part of the global chain supply.


The second edition of WCMS will once again bring to Asia a truly unique platform aimed at providing participants with varied perspectives of the capital market, the SC said.


It will also give participants an insight into the opportunities presented to the international financial services industry to change,"business as usual", by rethinking leadership and governance principles.




HONG KONG, July 27 /PRNewswire-Asia-AsiaNet/ -- New resources allocated to Account Management for Corporate Investor Relations business Ipreo, a leading global provider of market intelligence and productivity solutions to investment banks and corporations, announced that after two years in client support in Hong Kong, Natalie Wong has been promoted to handle Account Management for Corporate Investor Relations clients in the APAC region.


Ms. Wong came to Ipreo from Dealogic. For the past two years, Natalie has been supporting key investment banking accounts around investor days for their corporate clients. As part of her career progression, Ms. Wong has moved into Ipreo's Award winning client support team in Hong Kong.

-- Bernama

BP Set To Replace CEO; Spill Cleanup Resumes (Posted: 27 July 2010 )

LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) - BP Plc is expected to install an American known for diplomacy as chief executive, replacing Tony Hayward who has come under fire for his gaffe-prone handling of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.


Bob Dudley, the U.S. executive managing BP's response to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is poised to get the top job, a move that could soften U.S. criticism of the British oil major, sources close to the company said.


BP said it did not plan to issue a statement before 2 a.m. EDT/0600 GMT on Tuesday, the time it is due to report its results for the second quarter.


Analysts at Barclays said BP could report a loss of $13 billion for the second quarter as it makes provisions of up to $25 billion for the cost of the spill. Those figures would far exceed an expected 77 percent jump in underlying profit.


BP could begin the final procedure to kill its leaking well late next week, the top U.S. spill response official said. That will involve pumping mud and cement through a relief well that has been drilled since May 2 to a spot close to the bottom of the damaged well.


"The next thing that we need to do is get this well in the position where we can make the intercept and kill this well from the bottom," retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen told reporters in Washington.


More than five million barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the undersea leak began in late April, according to U.S. government estimates, hitting the coastlines and economies of five states and killing or injuring countless sea creatures and coastal birds.




Some Gulf Coast residents, seething about damage from the spill and BP's compensation process, said they would be happy to see Hayward go.


"He will not be missed," said Larry Hooper of Empire, Louisiana, who runs an offshore fishing charter business.


Hayward, a 53-year-old geologist, has described Dudley as BP's "secretary of state" for his role overseeing the cleanup efforts.


Dudley, who was raised in Mississippi, would be the first non-Briton to become chief executive of BP. He was previously head of BP's Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, until he was forced to flee the country amid a spat between BP and its partners.


A source close to the matter said Hayward will be offered a directorship at TNK-BP as part of his departure deal.


Investors cheered Hayward's expected departure, sending BP shares up nearly 5 percent in London and New York even though the company is expected to report large losses on Tuesday.


BP has lost 40 percent of its market capitalization since the April 20 blast on a drilling rig that killed 11 workers and started the spill that has hit about 39 percent of the coast stretching from Brownsville, Texas, to the Florida Keys.


Analysts said Hayward's exit was good for the stock because he had become an easy target for angry U.S. lawmakers and Gulf residents. Hayward was pilloried in the United States for complaining he wanted his "life back" weeks after the deadly rig explosion and start of the spill.


"It is customary that when things don't go right, you are going to chop heads and usually that starts at the top," said Steve Goldman, a market strategist with money manager Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.


BP on Monday dropped its previous insistence that Hayward remained chief executive with the full support of the company's board and management. Sources said BP's board discussed a plan for Hayward's departure on Monday evening.


Hayward and Dudley left the board meeting separately, neither making any public comment.




Even if Hayward steps down as chief executive, he may not escape another round of testimony before the U.S. Congress. Senator Robert Menendez said he wants Hayward to testify on whether BP influenced the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber to further the company's business interests.


"Tony Hayward, regardless of his status whether he is going to be the CEO tomorrow or not, we believe that he was in the midst of the negotiations with the Libyans as it related to this oil deal," Menendez, a Democrat, said in New York.


BP's boardroom drama unfolded as it prepared to account for the financial impact of the environmental catastrophe, which at its worst lopped $100 billion from BP's market value.


Dougie Youngson, an analyst with Arbuthnot, said he expected BP to write down $20 billion in clean-up costs this quarter "in order to give the new CEO a fighting chance." That would mean a loss in the order of $15 billion for the quarter, he wrote in a research note maintaining his "sell" rating.


If Hayward goes, he will be the third of the last four BP chief executives forced into an early exit. John Browne left after lying in court papers about a gay love affair and Bob Horton was pushed out over strategic disagreements in 1992.


Under BP's terms of employment, Hayward would be entitled to one year's salary, or 1.045 million pounds ($1.6 million), and he could be in line for additional payouts under the company's incentive scheme, which awards shares options.


Hayward would also keep his pension entitlements, which were worth 10.8 million pounds at the end of last year.

-- Bernama

Earnings optimism lifts jittery markets (Posted: 23 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Small-sized construction counters sizzled on Friday led by sharp rises at MTD-ACPI Engineering Bhd and Zelan Bhd amid strong rotational interest, as traders took advantage of improved sentiment to chase up prices for quick profits.


Stocks were up by at least 2% in Japan and Australia, as upbeat corporate earnings outlook and strong commodity prices jolted investor' mood across the region.


But lingering concern about the global economic health kept stock prices from rising too far, as investors waited for the results of "stress tests" on 91 banking institutions in Europe to be released later today.


At the midday break, FBM KLCI climbed 7.18 points, or 0.5% to 1,343.23 points. Out the 30 stocks that made up the benchmark index, 18 counters advanced against five decliners, while seven counters flat.


In the broader market, the FBM Emas Index climbed 0.5% to 9,113 points, with 440 gainers leading 216 decliners.


Tebrau was the most active stock, up 4.5 sen, or 6.6% to 72.5 sen on volume 24.6 million shares transacted, followed by Berjaya Corp up 1 sen, or 0.9% to RM1.07 with 24 million shares traded.


Construction firm MTD ACPI Engineering surged 15 sen, or 35% to 57 sen on volume of 20 million shares, Sycal up 3.5 sen, or 26% to 17 sen on 15.3 million shares.


Power plant builder Zelan rose 4.5 sen, or 7.2% to 67 sen on 31 million shares, but property developer UEM Land failed to hold on to early gains and was flat at RM1.76 on volume of 13.4 million shares.


In overseas markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 index climbed 236 points, or 2.56% to 9,456 points and in Australia the main index rose 93 points, 2.1% to 4,467 points, while Singapore's Straits Times index advanced 17 points, or 0.6% to 2,972 points.


In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index jumped 1% to 20,814 points, while in korea the main Kospi Index shot up 1.16% to 1,755 points.


After US markets closed yesterday, Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, reported a 48% climb in fourth- quarter net income, exceeding the average analyst estimate in a Bloomberg survey. About 85% of S&P 500 companies that have reported results since July 12 beat analysts' per-share earnings forecasts, Bloomberg data show.


In the commodity market, crude palm oil futures on Bursa Derivatives fell RM5 from a two-month high to RM2,512 a tonne.


Other key commodities were also almost flat following recent price surge. Crude oil futures in New York eased 24 cents to US$79.06 a barrel, while spot gold added 90 cents to US$1,195.88 an ounce.


The ringgit strengthened 0.3% to 3.1995 against the US dollar, up 0.4% against the Japanese yen at 3.676, but fell 0.2% against the euro at 4.1304.

-- The Star

Strong SMEs Are A Safety Net For External Shocks (Posted: 22 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Bernama) -- Strong small medium entreprises (SMEs) can be a safety net for Malaysia, if growth in the global economy remains protracted, due to weaknesses in developed economies.


Public Bank in its July Economic Review said strong SMEs not only support stable economic growth but can also increase the resilience of the Malaysian economy to external shocks in the long run.


The government in the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) said it would continue to focus on the development of SMEs as a more vibrant engine of growth.


To further promote SMEs, the 10MP will introduce new measures to reduce regulatory costs of doing business, build capacity and capabilities of SMEs and enhance access to financing the sector.


It said measures to improve the regulatory environment for businesses are expected to improve Malaysia's ranking in the global economy in terms of ease of doing business in the country.


In 2010, Malaysia was ranked 23 out of 183 economies by the World Bank in terms of the ease of doing business.


Public Bank said the potential of SMEs is ample in the 10MP, given their established and strong foundation in the Malaysian economy.


The sector currently, contributes about one-third of Malaysia's GDP and provides over 56 per cent of total employment in the country.


Based on the experience of other economies in Asia such as South Korea and Hong Kong, where SMEs contribute about half of the GDP, there is ample room for growth and to form a stronger backbone of the economy, it added.


In addition to this, the transformation of the public sector to a "competitive corporation" will help economic growth in the 10MP period by boosting the efficiency of delivering public services and facilitating private investment.


"The transformation process will not only result in higher efficiency and productivity of the public sector, but also result in higher capability and capacity to meet the increasing expectations for the public sector to deliver more sophisticated services ahead," the bank explained.


It said with the expected increase in private investment and once again the private sector to lead economic growth, the size of the public sector in the economy is expected to be leaner at the end of the 10MP period.


Since the Asian financial crisis in 1997/98, private investment in Malaysia as a proportion of GDP has trended down significantly due to increased competition for foreign investment with other emerging economies, such as China.


To increase private investment, the government said it would embark on efforts to create a more business-friendly environment with clear, stable and consistent policies.


The efforts will also focus on building the capacity of the public sector and improving the interface between the government and businesses by injecting best practices while attracting high calibre talent into the public service.


German economy bounces back, post-stimulus (Posted: 21 July 2010 )

BERLIN: Germany, Europe's economic engine, is back in gear after a painful recession, as foreign customers snap up cars and industrial machinery and the country reaps the benefits of stimulus spending that helped keep the motor running at home during the downturn.


In particular, economists point to government support for keeping workers on the job with shorter hours instead of laying them off - a measure that kept more money in people's pockets and prevented a growth-killing spike in unemployment.


As things pick up, those programs are scaling back, while the government expects to exceed its economic growth estimate. Meanwhile, carmakers Daimler AG and BMW AG say their prospects have brightened - enough for BMW to pay workers a bonus to thank them for their commitment during the tough times.


Not bad for a country where the economy shrank by a painful 4.9 percent only last year - easily the worst performance since World War II for Europe's largest economy. Germany is now a bright spot in a Europe still shaking off recession and struggling with heavy levels of government debt in some countries.


The economy minister proclaimed in parliament this month that Germany can be proud "that we are the economic locomotive for the whole European Union."


So far, the government is predicting 1.4 percent growth in 2010, but Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle says he is "sure it will be significantly more at the end of the year."


"This development will continue next year because the economic motor has sprung into life beyond exports," Bruederle told the B.Z. newspaper last weekend.


Economists see more sedate growth ahead. But for now, the signs are rosy: Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, said in its July monthly report that "gross domestic product likely grew extremely strongly in the second quarter."


It gave no figure, but estimates for quarter-on-quarter growth range up to 1.5 percent - a huge increase on the 0.2 percent seen in the previous two quarters. Official figures are due Aug. 13.


The main driving force for Germany, a major exporter, remains the growing world economy, the Bundesbank said. Still, there's general agreement that the way to recovery was paved in part by government spending,


That included two stimulus packages worth some _80 billion ($104 billion), featuring infrastructure spending on roads, schools and other projects that is still keeping builders busy and a now-expired car-scrapping bonus.


That fueled sales at home for much of 2009; this year, big increases in demand from export markets such as China and the U.S. have helped Germany's automakers.


Top-end car companies Daimler AG and BMW AG both said last week they were upping their 2010 outlooks; BMW said it would pay German workers a special bonus averaging _1,060 each this month to reward their commitment during the economic crisis.


Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Germany's performance during the crisis was its success in keeping down unemployment, which was tamed by widespread use of a government-backed program allowing companies to put workers on reduced hours in an effort to avoid layoffs.


The number of people involved in the program peaked at 1.5 million in May 2009 but has since shrunk as people return to full-time work. BMW, for example, had up to 24,000 employees on short work at the height of the crisis, but hasn't used it since January.


Germany's jobless rate was 7.5 percent last month, with some 3.15 million people registered unemployed - relatively low by German standards and well below the double-digit figures now seen in other parts of Europe.


In 2009, domestic consumption "to some extent saved Germany from an even bigger crash," said Ulrich Kater, the chief economist at Deka Bank in Frankfurt.


"It was surprisingly stable - that was, of course, due to the short-work solutions," he added, noting that "it would have been significantly worse if people had lost their jobs."


The various government measures are all part of the reason for the upswing, "individual building stones in a gigantic building that worldwide economic policy has built in the past two years," Kater said.


Just as Germany was hit hard and fast by the crisis, its exposure to the world economy - and to the benefits of stimulus programs and low interest rates elsewhere - has helped it to a quick recovery, he argued.


In addition, labor-market and welfare reforms carried out under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder before 2005 helped make Germany's economy more stable and enabled it to "better withstand this storm," he said.


Kater said he expects growth of nearly 2.5 percent this year. But he cautioned that the second quarter "was clearly the high point of the recovery."


"This recovery won't break off, but it will become significantly slower," he said, adding that he still expects German production to reach its 2008, pre-crisis level in 2012.


Andreas Rees, an economist at UniCredit in Munich, said current indicators point to "a positive note" in economic data for the next few months but that businesses' and investors' outlooks are now darkening.


"After the harshest recession ever and the surprisingly strong upswing in the last 21 months, there are a lot of question marks and unknown quantities going forward," Rees wrote in a research note.


Among other things, "the fizzling out of the fiscal stimulus packages and the public spending cuts in European countries entail the risk of a stronger-than-expected setback," he said.


-- The Star

Johor Corp chief: It's due to contract expiry (Posted: 20 July 2010 )

JOHOR Corp's president and chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim quashed rumours that he is retiring due to the company's debts.


He said JCorp's asset value of RM12 billion, including RM6 billion in quoted securities are higher than the debt itself.


"JCorp will not face bankruptcy. The RM3.58 billion debt due is on July 31 2012 and we will negotiate with the bank to refinance. Debt is normal in business," he said during the soft opening of the KPJ Tawakal Specialist Hospital in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.


The six-month notice of resignation was submitted to the board of directors, as required under the contract, which is due to expire by year-end.


JCorp is expected to announce the name of the new CEO end of the month after a board meeting to be chaired by Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman who is also JCorp chairman.


Last week, Muhammad Ali confirmed that he intends to vacate his seat which he has held for close to three decades. He took over the position from Tan Sri Basir Ismail in 1982.


As part of the succession plan, five executives in JCorp has been identified to succeed him as president and CEO.


They are KPJ Healthcare Bhd managing director Datin Paduka Siti Sa'adiah Sheikh Bakir, Kulim (M) Bhd managing director Ahamad Mohamad, QSR Brands Bhd and KFC Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH) managing director Jamaludin Md Ali, JCorp senior vice-president Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim and Sindora Bhd managing director Rozan Mohd Sa'at.


Under his leadership, JCorp has emerged as the most successful state corporation in the country. One of the most high-profile take-over led by Muhammad Ali was in 2007 when JCorp's 57 per cent-owned subsidiary Kulim proposed to acquire a controlling stake in QSR Brands, the 42.9 per cent majority owner of fast-food operator, KFCH.


Today, the group is involved in diversified business activities such as palm oil and olechemicals, quick service restaurants, healthcare, property and hotels and intrapreneur venture.


It has more than 280 companies in its stable, including eight public listed companies (PLCs) such as Kulim, KPJ, KFC Holdings and London Stock Exchange-listed New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. Turnover from its PLCs stood at RM8.4 billion as at June 30 2010.

-- Business Times

Asian shares retreat after Wall Street tumble (Posted: 19 July 2010 )

TOKYO - Asian stock markets fell Monday after U.S. consumer confidence weakened and corporate results fell short of expectations.

The region's losses came after Wall Street tumbled on Friday, with all major U.S. indexes losing 2.5 percent or more. Second-quarter results from Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. disappointed investors because revenue fell even as the banks generated an increase in profits.

Adding to the gloom was a twice-monthly survey from the University of Michigan and Reuters which showed that consumers in the world's biggest economy are becoming more pessimistic. That suggests the U.S. economic recovery will slow and is bad news for Asian economies whose exporters rely on America as a key market.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 194.42 points, or 1 percent, to 20,060.80 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.4 percent to 4,362.80. Seoul's Kospi fell 0.3 percent to 1,733.18.

Benchmarks in mainland China and Taiwan also retreated. Markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday.

In Seoul trade, major banks lost ground, with KB Financial Group Inc. down 1.3 percent and rival Woori Finance Holdings Co. falling 2 percent.

Australia's Aquarius Platinum Ltd. tumbled 24 percent amid worries over the potential impact of new mining safety rules by South Africa.

In New York on Friday, the Dow fell 261.41, or 2.5 percent, to 10,097.90. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 31.60, or 2.9 percent, to 1,064.88. The Nasdaq composite index fell 70.03, or 3.1 percent, to 2,179.05.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 86.66 yen from 86.56 yen. The euro fell to $1.2911 from $1.2929.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 24 cents at $75.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled down 61 cents at $76.01 on Friday.

Bina Puri venture wins RM997m airport job (Posted: 16 July 2010 )

Bina Puri Holdings Bhd, a Malaysian builder, said its joint venture was awarded a RM997.2 million contract to construct a budget airline terminal outside Kuala Lumpur. This brings the Bina Puri's current order book to RM2.7 billion, the company said in an exchange filing today. - Bloomberg

Bursa Malaysia Q2 net falls to RM27.5m (Posted: 16 July 2010 )

Bursa Malaysia Bhd, the country's stock exchange operator, said second-quarter profit fell to RM27.5 million from RM35 million a year earlier. - Bloomberg

Honam to buy 73pc of Titan Chem (Posted: 16 July 2010 )

Honam Petrochemical Corp, South Korea's second-largest ethylene maker, agreed to pay 1.5 trillion won (US$1.25 billion) to buy Malaysia's Titan Chemicals Corp. in a push to increase revenue from overseas markets. The Seoul-based maker of the chemical used in plastics and synthetic fibers has signed an agreement to acquire a 37.3 per cent stake in Titan from Chao Group and a 35.3 per cent holding from Permodalan National Bhd, Honam said in an e-mailed statement today. It will make an unconditional takeover offer to Titan's remaining shareholders. Titan is Malaysia's biggest producer of olefins and polyolefins, used in making plastic parts in appliances and automobiles, and reported sales of US$1.64 billion last year. Honam expects the acquisition to strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and Central Asia, and increase its revenue to 12 trillion won this year, according to the statement. "This is a very exciting opportunity in extending the reach in global markets through strengthening overseas cross- supply of products," Honam said. Shares of Honam rose 5.7 per cent to 157,000 won in Seoul trading as of 1.19 pm local time, while the benchmark Kospi index dropped 0.5 per cent. Titan shares were suspended in Kuala Lumpur today. - Bloomberg

Dearer F&N Diaries products likely (Posted: 16 July 2010 )

F&N Dairies (M) Sdn Bhd may increase the price of its products, due to the sugar and fuel price hike announcement yesterday. However, its Chief Operating Officer for the Dairies Division Tony Lee said the group had yet to make a decision on when the price revision would take place. - Bernama

Alliance Bank And Temasek Co-Host Asia Banking CEO Roundtable (Posted: 8 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 (Bernama) -- Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd of Singapore on Wednesday co-hosted the sixth Asia Banking CEO Roundtable with the theme "Managing for the Future".

The event is Temasek's annual closed-door initiative to bring together chairmen and chief executive officers of major banks in the Asian region for a lively exchange on key issues and trends facing the banking industry.

The event is a platform for Asian banking stewards to share key learnings towards forging a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges Asian financial institutions face in a fast changing landscape.

It also provides opportunities for them to interact and network with their peers and counterparts in the region, Alliance Bank said in a statement today.

Chairman of Temasek, S.Dhanabalan said that the consolidation within the banking sector coupled with the new entrants had increased the competition in the existing markets and new business areas.

"The aftermath of the crisis has also changed the regulatory landscape in banking.

"Banks are operating under tighter supervision at a time when they are also trying to restore customers' trust. They will have to re-examine the way they operate and manage for the future," Dhanabalan said.

The one-day session saw the delegates discussing four major issues facing the region: The New Financial Landscape; Growth Strategies Post-Crisis; Expanding Beyond: Tapping Opportunities in Pan-Asian Banking; and Competing in the Global Market: Opportunities and Challenges for Islamic Finance.


Malaysia Sees Several Products Have Potential For Export To India (Posted: 8 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 (Bernama) -- Malaysia has identified several products which have potential for export to India once the Comprehensive Economic Agreement with India is concluded.

These include medical devices and healthcare products, computers and peripherals, building and construction materials, automotive parts and components, processed food and beverages as well as household items, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

Indian investors also had already entered the Malaysian market, he said at a dinner honouring India's Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Anand Sharma.

"We have seen a total of eight projects secured in the manufacturing sector last year with Indian participation with a total value of US$24.22 million," Mustapa said.

He said they were involved in projects such as food manufacturing, textiles products, wood products, furniture and fixtures, chemicals and chemicals products, petroleum products and rubber products.

He said Malaysia was India's 12th largest trading partner with total trade value last year amounted to US$7.1 billion.


Midea Aims At RM60 Million Sales For Its Electronic Appliances (Posted: 6 July 2010 )

PETALING JAYA, July 6 (Bernama) -- Midea Scott & English Electronics Sdn Bhd (Midea SEE) is confident of seeing sales for its Midea brand of electronics goods increase to RM60 million this year.

It also expects to increase its share in the local market, having embarked on a multi-million ringgit nationwide campaign to re-position its brand and increase awareness of the Midea brand.

The company recorded RM33 million in sales last year, said Managing Director Ng Kong Chin.

Midea SEE is the sole distributor of the Midea brand of electronic appliances in Malaysia including a range of air conditioners, washing machines, freezers and small appliances from China.

He said the company which has already recorded RM26 million in sales for the first half year, was confident of seeing a sales growth of 80 per cent for the year compared with 60 per cent growth seen last year.

Speaking to reporters at the Midea brand re-positioning launch today, Ng said the target was achievable based on an anticipated higher demand for Midea products as goods from China would be cheaper following the lower duties now. Duties had come down from 12 per cent in 2008 to five percent last year and it is presently at zero per cent.

On its market share, Ng said the company aimed to capture 10 per cent of the local market share for air-conditioners.

As for its promotions, he said the company had RM4 million for promotional activities this year.

"As our brand name is relatively new in the market, we hope with our marketing strategies, we will be able to speed up the acceptance of our products by consumers," said Ng.

It also plans to expand its dealership by another 100 networks this year from 350 active networks currently.

Midea See is a joint venture between Midea Group of China and DRB-Hicom Bhd.


Najib Asks Private Sector To Step Up Role In NEM Implementation (Posted: 6 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Monday called on private sector to step up its role as the engine of growth following the implementation of the New Economic Model (NEM).

He also stressed the importance of the private sector's role in the NEM and the 10th Malaysia Plan that will chart Malaysia's development in the years ahead, which is premised on high income, inclusiveness and sustainability.

"While the plan outlines strategies for a more focused role for the government as an enabler, regulator and catalyst, it is important for the private sector to step up its role as the engine of growth," he said in his keynote address at the Edge Malaysia Billion Ringgit Club gala dinner here.

According to him, a strong, vibrant, competitive, dynamic and innovative corporate sector is crucial for Malaysia's economic and social well-being.

Najib said the government could act as a facilitator, provide the incentives and create an environment conducive for businesses but it was for the private sector, businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the incentives to create employment, enhance value of their businesses, generate revenue and contribute to national development.

"Management is under intense pressure to be highly competitive, efficient, to increase productivity and generate higher revenues for the corporation and provide better returns to the stakeholders, including enhancing their products and services to consumers," he said.

Citing the Edge Billion Ringgit Club, Najib said its creation for companies with at least RM1 billion in revenue or market capitalisation will serve to encourage smaller Malaysian companies to strive harder.

He said it would also encourage and prompt management to work harder if they want their companies to be members of the exclusive club.

"The Billion Ringgit Club members can lead the way by setting standards with adoption of corporate best practices, increased corporate governance, transparency and increased productivity," he added.

He also said that as Malaysia strived to move up the development ladder, it was essential for the private sector to lead in the march towards efficiency, and create value for employees, shareholders, consumers, customers and society at large.

Despite the difficult stock market environment, the number of companies that qualified to be included in the exclusive club is heartening, with a total of 163 companies or 17 per cent of all listed companies on Bursa Malaysia.

Although Bursa Malaysia may not be the largest in the region in terms of market capitalisation, but with 962 listings, it has the largest number of listed companies, Najib said.

The 962 companies accounted for a market capitalisation of RM1.044 trillion as of March 31, 2010.

At the event, Najib also presented awards to successful corporate leaders.

Among the award recipients were Public Bank Bhd's founder Tan Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd's group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak. They were chosen as the "Value Creator: Malaysia's Outstanding Chief Executive Officer" award winners.

The "Company of the Year" award went to to homegrown rubber glove manufacturer Supermax Corporation Bhd.


Airbus To Showcase A400m, A380 And A330 Freighter At Farnborough Airshow (Posted: 6 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 (Bernama) -- Airbus, a leading aircraft maker, will showcase its full range of civil and military aircraft at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom from July 19 to 25.

The aircraft to be displayed include the world's most modern and eco-efficient passenger aircraft A380, A400, the newest A330 freighter, the smallest in the family range A318 and alongside C295 twin-turboprop military transport plane.

During the exhibition week, visitors can see Airbus' range of aircraft products including a 1:20 scale cut away section model of the A350 XWB and also an A350 XWB surround vision cinema, it said in a statement.

On the military side, there will be a 1:25 scale model of the world's preferred refuelling aircraft, the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport, and an actual size A400M fuselage section with videos showing the aircraft's operational capabilities, it said.

A multimedia surface will demonstrate the deployment capabilities of the entire Airbus military aircraft family which also includes the Light and Medium C212, the CN235 and the C295, it adds.


China Car Output Up 44.3 Per Cent To 8.47 Million Units (Posted: 6 July 2010 )

BEIJING, July 5 (Bernama) -- China's car production rose by 44.3 per cent to 8.47 million units in the first half of the year, maintaining its position as the world's top car-producing country.

Data released by China Automotive Technology & Research Centre (CATRC) showed that car sales in June 2010 fell 1.41 per cent to 1.29 million units compared with May 2010.

Passenger car output grew by 10.32 per cent to 956,100 units in June with sales up 10.9 per cent from a year earlier to 839,228 units.

Output of commercial vehicles in June rose by 18.73 per cent to 338,100 units.

Total cars imported from January to May rose by 174.14 per cent to 319,900 units when compared with the same period last year.


Nur Jazlan To See UDA Holdings Focus On Three Major Cities (Posted: 5 July 2010 )

JOHOR BAHARU, July 3 (Bernama) -- The newly appointed Chairman of UDA Holdings, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed will stress on the company focusing on three core business areas namely real estate, development of town and management of shopping complexes in three major cities in the country.

This is to make a success of the Bumiputera mission as set out by the government in the 10th Malaysia Plan and the New Economic Model, he said.

"The cities would be Johor Baharu (Johor); Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown (Penang)," he told reporters here Saturday.

Nur Jazlan said he had received the official briefing from the Managing Director of UDA, Datuk Jaafar Abu Hassan, and had directed that all management of UDA focus on the businesses in the three cities.

He said he wanted the existence of UDA to enable the Bumiputera community to compete with other communities and at the same time did not want to hear incidents of them having to move out of the cities because they could not afford to buy residences or business premises in the cities.

USA also has strength in the management of shopping complexes being the sole Bumiputera company managing properties in the cities such as BB Plaza, Pertama Complex and Daya Bumi in Kuala Lumpur and Plaza Angsana in Johor Baharu.

This is an edge UDA has and it should be fully exploited to ensure that the Bumiputera community can do businesses in the main cities, he said.

UDA has already been delisted from Bursa Malaysia and currently under the patronage of the Minister of Finance Incorporated and the government wants it to be a corporation as was its mission during its establishment 40 years ago.

"The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is very concerned and wants to see UDA return to the root of its establishment which is to strengthen the ownership of properties by Bumiputera be it business or residential in the city area," he said.

In mid June, Nur Jazlan who is also Member of Parliament for Pulai was announced as the new Chairman of UDA, replacing Datuk Hilmi Abd Rashid, for a two-year term.


Lesotho Holds Good Prospects For Malaysian Investors In Tourism, Diamond Industries (Posted: 5 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 (Bernama) -- An investment mission from Lesotho which was here recently to promote more trade and investment activities with Malaysia, said its tourism and diamond industry had the potential to offer good prospects for Malaysians.

Lesotho's Minister of Trade and Industry, Corporatives and Marketing, Popane Lebesa said the two industries were key contributors to their economy and that Malaysia could take advantage of the two industries as their development were still at an infancy stage.

Lesotho, which has a population of more than two million people, is a landlocked country completely surrounded by South Africa.

Lebesa said total trade between Malaysia and African countries currently accounted for only five per cent of Malaysia's international trade.

"We want to initiate trade and investment between the two countries which is currently quite negligible. Obviously there's a lot of potential to grow," he told Bernama in an interview recently.

Currently, there are only two or three companies from Lesotho present in Malaysia with education being the focus especially with the setting up of the Limkokwing Lesotho branch there.

Besides mining and tourism, Malaysian investors are encouraged to tap into the water and services industry, said Popane.

He said Lesotho could also be a springboard for Malaysia to enter other market groupings such as the Southern African Customs Union and Mercusor, which comprises Southern American countries like Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil.

"Africa is an awakening giant and the world has recognised its potential. They realised that there are many resources in Africa that have not been tapped for quite some time," he added.

Lebesa who was in Malaysia for the first time, led a three-day business mission as part of the country's effort to attract foreign investments into their country.

During his stay this week, he met his counterpart, Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed on Monday and Foreign Deputy Minister Senator A. Kohilan Pillay on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Lesotho's Tourism Development Corporation, Investment Promotion Officer, Tserang Hatase said the country was looking at investments in developing upscale accomodation, golf estates and ski resorts.

He said tourism was a booming industry but a lack of proper accommodation and facilities deterred people from around the region visiting the country.

"Tourism always booms during our winter season as everywhere else in the continent it will be summer. We are the only African country which has winter," he said.

The country also wants investors to develop health and wellness spa in the resort, taking advantage of its high altitude environment which is suitable for such purpose.

Last year, tourist arrivals was at 400,000, with most of them from African countries, United States and Europe.


Kaspersky Lab Aims Bigger Share In Online Security Solutions Market (Posted: 2 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 (Bernama) -- Kaspersky Lab, a leading developer of secure content management solutions, is looking at increasing its share in the personal secure content management software market in Malaysia from the current 50 per cent.

Channel Sales Director of South East Asia, Kaspersky Lab, Jimmy Fong said this at the launch Thursday of the latest version of Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 and Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 and the introduction of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, world number one badminton men's singles champion as the first Malaysian ambassador for Kaspersky Lab.

"We are the most committed anti-virus (software solution provider) in Malaysia. The introduction of new version of our products as well as appointment of Datuk Lee Chong Wei will increase our market share," Fong told reporters after the launch.

He said the new version of Kaspersky Internet Security 2011 and Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2011 will be available in a week's time.

On the appointment of Lee as the brand ambassador of Kaspersky Lab, Fong said: "We are proud to have Lee on board as Kaspersky Lab's first Malaysian brand ambassador. He is a Malaysian and a world champion, which complements our aim to be number one in Malaysia and globally."

Lee will join international action movie superstar, Jackie Chan as the second Asian brand ambassador for Kaspersky Lab.

Meanwhile, Lee said that it was an honour to be selected to represent Kaspersky Lab.

"I have been using Kaspersky Internet Security for the past two years with excellent results.

Lee said being a professional badminton player requires him to be out of the country for almost half the year, participating in tournaments during which time he stays in touch with family, friends, team mates via the Internet.

He said he also carried out numerous online transactions including banking, shopping and bill payments.

Lee will appear in Kaspersky Lab advertisements in Malaysia.


Boeing, Air China Finalize Order For 20 Next-Generation 737-800s (Posted: 2 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 (Bernama) -- Boeing has finalized an order with Air China, the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China, for 20 Next-Generation 737-800 jetliners.

Air China operates international and domestic passenger and cargo services.

The carrier will use the airplanes to expand its domestic routes.

"Our long-standing and productive partnership with Air China goes back to the airline's beginning and we're proud to be part of their success," said Jim Simon, vice president, China Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"Air China's order reflects our solid partnership and the proven performance of the Next-Generation 737 in its fleet."

Boeing announced in June that it will increase production rates on the Next-Generation 737 program to 35 airplanes per month in 2012.

The rate increase will meet continued strong demand for the Next-Generation 737.

The Next-Generation 737 family has more than 2,000 unfilled orders from customers around the world.


Terengganu Malay Chamber Proposes Kemaman Port As Trading Hub (Posted: 2 July 2010 )

KUALA TERENGGANU, July 1 (Bernama) -- The Terengganu state government should consider making Kemaman port the trading hub for goods from the Asian region for the East Coast market.

The Terengganu Malay Chamber of Commerce, in making the call, said the port at Teluk Kalong was seen as the most strategic location for the purpose.

"As a state which relies on the output of crude oil, the trading hub can be seen as new source of income for Terengganu when the oil runs out," said the chamber president Datuk Tengku Ismail Tengku Jaafar.

He said this when met at a seminar here today to promote the China-Asean Expo 2010 which will be held in Nanning, Guangxi, China, in October this year.

Also present were Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) eastern regional office director Hasziah Mohd Yazid and the expo secretariat deputy secretary Gong Qijun.

Tengku Ismail said when compared to ports like Port Klang in Selangor or Pasir Gudang in Johor, Kemaman port was the closest to countries like China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

"Obviously, the goods imported from these countries can be sold cheaper due to the lower cost if send through Kemaman compared to ports in the south or the West Coast," he said, adding that the move would also benefit people in the East Coast.

Tengku Ismail, who is also on the Terengganu Entrepreneur Development Foundation (YPU) board, said the foundation was preparing a working paper on the proposal which would be submitted to the state government for consideration soon.

"If the state government agrees, it can become the first such trading hub on the East Coast. The infrastructure cost is expected to exceed RM50 million. The warehouses and inland port can be located in an area of 200 to 300 acres," he said.

According to Tengku Ismail, the proposal is line with the development plan of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) as a catalyst for a more dynamic economic sector in the states involved.

"It will also help to produce more Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the long term," he said.


6 Per Cent Annual GDP Growth Achievable, Says Najib (Posted: 1 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 (Bernama) -- The target of six per cent annual growth for real gross domestic product (GDP) on the road for Malaysia to become a high-income nation may be ambitious but it is achievable, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

He said that in order to meet the target, public investment in the economy must play a relatively smaller role than private investment.

"Another important facet is that the government must point out at the sectors where the private sector can invest," Najib said.

"The challenge at the same time is to reduce fiscal deficit to less than three per cent by 2015 from 5.3 per cent now," he said at the launch of Oxford Business Group (OBG)'s "The Report Malaysia 2010" here Wednesday.

Earlier at the event, OBG regional editor Paul Kuncinas said Malaysia would be posting a high growth number in 2010 of at least six per cent, thanks to a bounce back in traditional exports and steady consumer demand.

"I'm relieved today in the sense that the OBG has given us a ringing endorsement by saying yes, Malaysia can achieve six per cent this year. As you can qualify, that is not flattery but factual," said Najib.

He also said that attracting additional foreign direct investment was becoming more challenging and Malaysia would continue to seek new areas of growth and resuscitate old areas.

"Such investment will include the 12 National Key Economic Areas that we have identified," he added.

Najib said Malaysia also recognised that the country's ability to encourage innovation may provide the tipping point in the national development goals.

"It is clear that countries that make innovation a priority, and we would certainly drive this, have a clearer competitive advantage," he said.

According to Najib, Malaysia has also learned valuable lessons from its Asian neighbours and is in the process of applying those lessons in the right areas.

This was the impetus for the 10th Malaysia Plan and the rationale for the country's policy initiatives focusing on the pursuit of high-income status by 2020.

"Malaysia is poised to undertake the major structural transformation that a high-income economy requires through an approach that is holistic yet focused on specific outcomes," he said.

Najib also said that transparency was a key factor to facilitate business and economic activities, adding that a list of government projects that the private sector could participate in would be made known.


MAHB: US$373 Million Construction Cost For Maldives' International Airport (Posted: 1 July 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 (Bernama) -- Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) announced Wednesday that construction cost for the Male International Airport in Maldives is about US$373 million (US$1 = RM3.23).

A consortium comprising MAHB and India's GMR Infrastructure Ltd had entered into a concession agreement with Maldives Airport Co Ltd and Maldives' Finance Ministry and Treasury of Maldives for the expansion, operation and maintenance of the airport on June 28.

"The construction is expected to commence by mid-2011. Construction of the project must be completed no later than July 1, 2014," MAHB said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia Wednesday.

Under the agreement, tenure of the concession is 25 years, starting from the date of handover, and extendable for another 10 years subject to mutual terms and conditions between the relevant parties, the airport operator said.

MAHB said a limited liability company would be formed under Maldives laws on or before the effective date.

"The parties to the consortium are in the process of discussing the terms and conditions of the joint venture arrangement as well as the financing for the investment in MIA," it said, adding that the financial effects to MAHB could not be determined yet.

According to MAHB, the project is expected to be positive arising from the future transportation network to be commercially developed which will integrate a new transportation hub for Maldives.

"The concession agreement is not expected to have any material effect on the share capital and substantial shareholdings of MAHB," it said.

MAHB also said that it aspired to move from being a company managing local airports with a few overseas activities to being a global airport management through carefully planned investments.


No Firm Decision Taken To Cancel A380s, Says MAS (Posted: 30 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 (Bernama) -- No firm decision has been taken to cancel the A380s, says MAS managing director and CEO Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin.

"We are still evaluating various options and are in discussions with Airbus.

"In the final analysis, whatever decision we make must be the right decision for MAS. The RM329 million compensation was for past delays and was booked in the first quarter of 2010," added Tengku Azmil.

Deputy Minister of Transport Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri told the Dewan Rakyat that MAS will not cancel its order for six A380 super jumbo aircraft from Airbus despite the prolonged delivery delay.

Airbus was supposed to deliver the 555-passenger largest civil aircraft in January 2007 but the delivery was postponed to January 2011 following delays in the manufacture of the "Big Bird".

The delivery was deferred further to August 2011.

"MAS is expected to receive the aircraft only in April 2012," said Abdul Rahim when winding up the debate on the 10th Malaysia Plan.


Western Asset Managers Eye Asia As First Spot To Look For Clients (Posted: 30 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 (Bernama) -- Asia will remain as the first destination for Western asset managers to look for clients, according to a research finding sponsored by Principal Global Investors (PGI), a diversified management company.

Its chief executive officer (CEO), Barbara McKenzie, said Asia would hog the limelight, but it won't be the next gold rush, yet.

"The reasons identified are legal barriers, the roller-coaster nature of the region's stock markets, momentum-driven behaviors of retail clients and the obligatory domestic focus of pension plans.

"And indigenous managers and banks will remain the dominant players," she told a press conference after a panel discussion on 'Create Report 2010: Exploiting Uncertainty in Investment Markets' here Tuesday.

McKenzie said two factors would hold the key to promote organic growth in assets over the next three years.

"The key one will be the recovery in the four main engines of the global economy -- US, China, Europe and Japan.

"The other driver will be the rising prosperity in the emerging markets and growth in private pensions in the key fund markets," she said.

McKenzie said the resulting asset growth would accrue alongside a significant rebalancing in the global asset base, as baby boomers approach retirement, defined benefit plans and changed their investment approaches and regulators frame new rules.

Meanwhile, CIMB-Principal Islamic Asset Management Sdn Bhd's CEO, Datuk Noripah Kamso, said the company would play an active role as a global platform for Malaysia to capitalise on global expertise.

"The joint-venture company between PGI and CIMB group will attract international monies into Malaysia, in effort to make this country as the Islamic financial centre in the global hub.

"This boutique outfit is the Islamic solutions-driven boutique asset manager of PGI, and it is closely to the latter's investment philosophy, particularly in the management of global assets," she said.

Noripah said the partnership would also allow CIMB-Principal Islamic to leverage on the strong Islamic finance background of CIMB Group (via CIMB Islamic) while PGI offered its expertise in global asset management.

A total of 237 asset managers, pension plans consultants and fund distributors from 29 countries (with total assets of US$29.1 trillion), participated in the survey.

The research aims to provide an early indication of how asset managers worldwide see their prospects and what they need to do to ensure that a resilient industry emerges from the ashes of the 2008 meltdown.


SunPower To Source Ge Water Systems For Plant In Malaysia (Posted: 24 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 (Bernama) -- General Electric (GE) International will design, supply and install a pure water system featuring the reverse osmosis process, to SunPower-AUO joint venture solar cell fabrication plant in Melaka.

The plant known as Fab 3 would be the largest silicon solar manufacturing factory in the world when its begin operations end of this year, said Jeff Connelly, Vice President, Engineered Systems-Water and Process Technologies for GE Power and Water.

"The GE system will help SunPower save more than 230 million gallons of water, relative to other technologies, sufficient to meet the daily water needs of more than 8,300 residents," he said in a statement Thursday.

GE served the energy sector by developing and deploying technology that helps make efficient use of natural resources.


Guangxi Launches Cross-border RMB Trade Settlement Programme (Posted: 24 June 2010 )

NANNING, June 24 (Bernama) -- Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Thursday launched its cross-border renminbi (RMB) trade settlement pilot programme at the border town of PingXiang, less than 24 hours after the State Council approved its extension to another 18 provinces and municipalities.

The Finance Office of Guangxi said as at noon Thursday, it has transacted 55 cross-border trade settlements, amounting to 88 million RMB, with Singapore, Vietnam and other members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

Guangxi's deputy governor, Li Jinzao, said the programme would boost China-Asean trade.

"Guangxi has been in the forefront of China-Asean trade and the programme will certainly benefit enterprises of both sides," he said at the ceremony to launch the programme here Thursday.

Li hoped that Asean countries' consulates here and Guangxi officials would give their support and work together towards a win-win partnership.

Earlier, director-general of the Finance Office, Zhao Deming, said the regulations and operation procedures for participating enterprises and banks under the pilot programme had been formulated.

He said the Chinese banks had held talks with commercial banks of Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia to boost the programme.

Zhao said todate, over 500 enterprises had applied to participate in the programme.


Hong Leong Bank Modifies Terms Of Offer To Acquire EON Cap (Posted: 22 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Bernama) -- Pursuant to various discussions with EON Capital Bhd, Hong Leong Bank Bhd (HLBB) said, it had clarified and modified certain terms of its offer with regard to the proposed acquisition of the entire assets and liabilities of EON Cap.

Among others, HLBB said it reserved the right to withdraw the offer if all approvals from Bank Negara Malaysia, the Minister of Finance, the shareholders of EON Cap and HLBB and the Securities Commission were not obtained by August 15.

In terms of the timeline of the offer, the bank said in a filing to Bursa Malaysia Monday, that EON Cap shall accept the offer no later than one business day, after the last of the approvals is obtained.

HLBB shall pay a deposit of RM25 million to its solicitors within two business days of receipt of the acceptance of the offer by EON Cap while the completion date for the transfer of the assets and liabilities of EON Cap shall be within 30 days after receipt by HLBB of the acceptance of the offer.

In terms of payments, it said there should be no reduction in compensation and benefits of the employees of EON Bank and its subsidiaries, from the date it becomes a subsidiary of HLBB for a period of one year from the completion date.

HLBB also agreed to EON Cap's request to continue with the occupation of its current office premises on the 12th Floor of Menara EON Bank without any rental charges, for a period of up to 12 months from the date of EON Cap's acceptance of the offer.


Kencana Petroleum To Acquire 3 Units Of Mermaid Drilling (Posted: 22 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Bernama) -- Kencana Petroleum Bhd's wholly-owned subsidiary Kencana Petroleum Ventures Sdn Bhd (KPV) has proposed to acquire all equity interest in Mermaid Kencana Rig 1 Pte Ltd (MKR1), Kencana Mermaid Drilling Sdn Bhd (KMD) and Mermaid Kencana Rigs (Labuan) Pte Ltd (MKR Labuan) held by Mermaid Drilling (Singapore) Pte Ltd.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia, the company said it has executed three separate conditional sale and purchase agreements for the proposed acquisition.

In addition to the purchase cost for MKR1, KMD and MKR Labuan totalling US$43.650 million, KPV shall also pay to Mermaid Drilling US$22.950 million for settlement of intercompany loans and other debts in the companies.

Accordingly, the total cost of the proposed acquisition will be US$66.60 million, and it is to be financed by borrowings and/or internally generated funds, Kencana Petroleum said.

The proposed acquisitions will increase Kencana Petroleum Group's involvement in the drilling rig operations business in line with the group's plans to expand its recurring income and to secure businesses with higher margins.

It would also result in Kencana Petroleum Group becoming the only Malaysian group with a wholly-owned offshore drilling company.


Kota Mas Declares 7.25 Pct Dividend (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

LANGKAWI, June 19 (Bernama) -- Koperasi Telekom Malaysia Bhd (Kota Mas), the country's oldest cooperative, declared a dividend of 7.25 per cent or RM5.687 million for 2009, against RM5.151 million paid out in 2008.

Its Chairman, Ismail Nordin, said Kota Mas was able to maintain dividend payment for four consecutive years despite the recession.

"Kota Mas declared its highest dividend last year, since its inception in 1922, and we hope to maintain our dividend levels in future," he told reporters after Kota Mas's 79th annual general meeting on Saturday.

He said the cooperative reported nett profits of RM8.5 million in 2009 against RM8.1 million recorded in 2008.

Ismail said the cooperative involved itself in loan schemes, investments, tour agencies and real estate to derive income for its 16,400 members.

"Kota Mas declared its highest dividend last year, since its inception in 1922, and we hope to maintain our dividend levels to members," Ismail added.

He also said the cooperative was identifying several other businesses to increase earnings.


PKNS Bags state Economic Development Agency Of The Year Award (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) -- The Selangor State Economic Development Corporation (PKNS) has bagged the "State Economic Development Agency Of The Year" award presented by SMI and SME Worldwide Network.

The award is testimony of the commitment and dedication of the staff and management of PKNS.

"This achievement is especially sweet as the year 2009 marked PKNS's 45th anniversary," said General Manager Othman Omar in a statement Saturday.

The award will be presented to PKNS at the "Business of the Year Awards 2009" presentation tomorrow.

PKNS has funded various local social development programmes in rural areas such as the resettlement of squatters and helped the underprivileged in urban areas.

As of 2009, the corporation successfully subsidised the resettlement of 29,000 families in Selangor to the tune of RM130 million.

Othman said PKNS disbursed RM5.85 million towards the "Caring Government Programme", implemented since 2001, and targetted an annual contribution of at least RM1 million.

"PKNS plays an important role as the catalyst and driver of economic development in the state, where today, PKNS can be proud of 11 townships.

"We are confident PKNS will accelerate the development in new areas outside the Klang Valley and continue to upgrade existing ones," he added.


Higher Acceptances Received For M3nergy Takeover Offer (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) -- Adamus Avenue Sdn Bhd (AASB), which launched a conditional takeover of M3nergy Bhd, offering RM1.85 per share, has received over 71 per cent acceptances for the voting shares of the oil and gas services provider, as of June 19.

Companies controlled by major shareholder, Tunku Datuk Yaacob bin Tunku Tan Sri Abdullah, who owns 71.14 per cent of M3nergy, have confirmed acceptance of the conditional offer.

These include Melewar Equities (BVI) Ltd which holds 45.42 per cent controlling block (57.53 million shares) in M3nergy, Melewar Industrial Group Bhd, 22.3 per cent or 28.25 million shares and Malaysia Assurance Alliance Bhd, 3.69 per cent stake or 4.677 million shares, sources told Bernama today.

The decision to accept the offer was made after considering that M3nergy shares were thinly traded and would be difficult for large blocks of shares to be transacted in the open market besides the wish to redeploy the consideration received from the offer, the sources said.

AASB, via Kenanga Investment Bank, made a conditional takeover bid for M3nergy by offering RM1.85 per share.

The offer remains open for acceptance until Friday, June 25, but half of the acceptances were already received by June 16.

It is understood that M3nergy shares have been thinly traded the past one year with the price hovering below RM1.50.

As such, the offer price of RM1.85 provides an opportunity for shareholders to realise their investment in M3nergy at a higher return than it would derive if disposed in the open market.

The premium of 9.47 per cent being offered at the price of RM1.85 by the offeror is also within the range of takeover premiums and higher than the average takeover premiums of 8.61 per cent for the comparable take-over transactions over the last 12 months, sources said.

Meanwhile, it was reported that AASB is a private company owned by Datuk Shahrazi Sha'ari, who is the current Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of M3nergy.

The conditional take-over offer of 100 per cent of M3nergy shares comprises all existing 126.658 million ordinary shares of RM1.00 each in M3nergy, excluding 828,000 treasury shares, as well as any new M3nergy shares of up to 6.116 million that may be issued and allotted to eligible employees and directors of M3nergy.


Exhibition To Position Penang As A Real Estate Destination For Investors (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

PENANG, June 21 (Bernama) -- The real estate exhibition to take place here from September 24-26 is aimed at promoting Penang as an attractive real estate investment destination especially for foreign investors.

Chief Executive Officer of Penevents Sdn Bhd, Ong Ban Seang, said it will be the first time such a real estate trade exhibition will be held in the northern region and dedicated to the 20 main players in the real estate sector.

"The exhibition will allow the real estate companies to display all the products, projects and services offered," he said.

He was speaking to reporters during a briefing here to introduce the companies participating in the exhibition.

The event is being organised by PIP Creations Sdn Bhd with the help of Penevents Sdn Bhd and Raine & Horne International.

The exhibition, which will carry the theme "Green and Heritage", will be held at the Penang International Sports Arena (PISA).

Other activities to be held during the exhibition will include forums and discussions on real estate issues.

Ong said from the 20 spots allocated, nine real estate companies from the northern region have confirmed their participation in the event.

"The exhibition and forums which will be open to all, will provide a good opportunity to know more about the issues and future of the real estate sector," he added.


Agrobank To Disburse More Loans For Paddy Cultivation (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

ALOR SETAR, June 19 (Bernama) -- Agrobank will disburse more loans under the paddy planting programme, in the next planting season, to increase the number of paddy farmers and to lure them to become its customers.

Its Managing Director Datuk Ahmad Said said the bank would now offer a loan of RM2,500 to cultivate per hectare of paddy land against RM1,400 given out previously.

He said loans for paddy cultivation must be stepped up as it was a niche business which offered good returns to the bank.

"Our records show that unlike big loans, we don't have much problems with smaller loans. So we will concentrate on small loans and the paddy cultivation market," he told reporters after launching Agrobank's Business Carnival on Saturday.

Ahmad said the bank received an average annual funding of RM500 million from the government and, todate, had RM1.3 billion in funds available for disbursement.

"We have about 300,000 borrowers and 75 per cent of them borrowed from the government funds and the remainder secured loans from our deposits. Anually, we have 15,000 new customers, each year.

"In six months of last year, we had about 20,000 borrowers who secured loans under the economic stimulus packages and the repayment rate is about 90 per cent," he said.

Earlier in his speech, Ahmad said the two-day carnival, held for the first time since the bank was corporatised in 2008, was targetted at agro-entreprenuers, small-and-medium entreprenuers, businessmen, investors and the public to obtain information on the bank's products and services.

It also offered businessmen, who secured loans from the bank, to showcase their products.


The Rising Importance Of Emerging Markets (Posted: 21 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 (Bernama) - The share of Malaysian exports to emerging markets had risen over the decade from 18.1 per cent in 2000 to 36.7 per cent in 2009.

Exports to emerging markets had expanded to RM203 billion in 2009 from RM67.5 billion in 2000, says the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in the 2009 International Trade and Industry Report released here on Monday.

It says emerging economies constituted about 80 per cent of the world's population and contributed more than 20 per cent to the global economy.

For instance, China opened up its economy to Malaysia's exports in the last decade.

Total trade between both countries increased at a compounded average annual rate of 21.7 per cent and China became Malaysia's second largest export destination in 2009 compared with 10th position in 2000.

Exports to China accounted for 12.2 per cent of Malaysia's total exports in 2009 compared with 3.1 per cent in 2000, the report says.

Besides Malaysian products, China is also a potential market for Malaysian services with companies such as Parkson, England Optical and Nelcon having made inroads into the republic.

Education, port construction and management, infrastructure development and water treatment are other services that Malaysian companies have supplied to China, the reports says.

As for India, Malaysia's exports to the republic had expanded to RM17 billion in 2009, from RM7.3 billion in 2000, with the composition shifting from mainly commodity-driven to a mixture of manufactured exports and commodities.

Crude petroleum was Malaysia's largest exports to India followed by electrical & electronics (E&E) and palm oil products.

Malaysian companies have also gained a strong foothold in the services sector especially in infrastructure and construction, telecommunications and property development.

For example, Malaysian companies in the construction sector have completed 52 projects worth RM7.8 billion, the report says.

As for West Asia which comprised 15 countries, Malaysia's exports to the region rose to RM23.1 billion in 2009 from RM7.3 billion in 2000.

MITI also says Malaysian service providers were given the opportunity to undertake various construction projects involving architecture, project management, structural work and facilities management.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) was Malaysia's primary trading partner in West Asia, accounting for more than 40 per cent of Malaysia's exports to the region.

Meanwhile, Russia was Malaysia's largest trading partner within Eastern Europe, accounting for 51.9 per cent of the country's trade to the region.

Russia was the 33rd largest export destination for Malaysia from 48th position in 2000 with exports increasing to RM1.9 billion in 2009 from RM282 million in 2000.

Major exports to Russia include palm oil, E&E, processed food, plastic and rubber products.

As for Latin America, Malaysia's exports to the region increased to RM9.1 billion in 2009 from RM5.6 billion in 2000 with the top three export products being E&E, rubber products, textile and clothings.

Mexico is Malaysia's largest export market in Latin America followed by Brazil. Other significant export markets were Argentina, Panama, Colombia, Chile and Peru.


Alliance Bank Appoints Sng Group CEO (Posted: 18 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Bernama) -- Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd has appointed Sng Seow Wah as group chief executive officer, effective next month.

Sng is an experienced banker with more than 24 years of experience, the bank said in a statement.

Prior to the appointment, Sng was executive vice president and head of enterprise banking at OCBC Bank in Singapore.

Sng holds a bachelor's degree in accountancy from the National University of Singapore, and attended the advanced management programme at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


Boeing 787 Dreamliner Passes 1,000 Hours Of Flying (Posted: 18 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, 18 Jun (Bernama) -- The Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight test fleet passed 1,000 hours of testing yesterday.

The program estimates that it is about 40 percent through the test conditions required to certify the first version of the all-new jetliner.

"More work remains but we are seeing excellent progress in flight test," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"Even more important than the hours we've logged are the test conditions we have completed.

The team is being very efficient in getting the data we need.

"It's also important to note that we are making solid progress on the ground testing required on the flight test fleet as well," Fancher said.

Follow the progress of 787 flight test at


Report On Aman Resorts Acquisition Speculative, Says Khazanah (Posted: 18 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Bernama) -- Khazanah Nasional Bhd and its related companies are in dialogue with various parties, including Aman Resorts, on possible projects, the government investment arm said Thursday.

However, it said that an article in the press yesterday on "Khazanah to buy major stake in Aman Resorts" was purely speculative and misleading.

"Khazanah as a principle does not comment on speculation," it said in a statement.

A news report quoted the Economic Times of India as saying that Khazanah was close to acquiring a major stake in Aman Resorts, a popular luxury hotel chain.

It said Khazanah was likely to spend about US$350 million (RM1.225 billion) to buy the controlling stake in Aman from DLF, India's largest real estate developer.

Aman operates 23 luxury hotels worldwide, including in Bhutan, France, Indonesia, Morocco, Thailand and the United States.


SMEs Seek To Emerge As Economic Powerhouse With New Initiatives (Posted: 17 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (Bernama) -- New initiatives undertaken by the Small and Medium Industry (SMI) Association will help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to realise their vision of becoming an economic powerhouse.

The initiatives include participating in the SMI 1-Stop Solution 2010 Exhibition and sending a mission to the 6th APEC SME Technology Conference and Fair in Fuzhou and the World Expo in Shanghai, both in China.

SMI Association president Chua Tiam Wee said continuous efforts were critical to further strengthen the SME sector which faced challenges such as access to financing and markets, technological competition and human resource shortage.

"In this respect, I am pleased that our recent proposal of topping up the Working Capital Guarantee Scheme under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) has resulted in the scheme being topped up by another RM3 billion," Chua said.

"This shows that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak listens to the ground on the needs of the SMEs and we trust the government's sincerity in developing the SME sector," he said during the launch of the SME Recognition Award 2010 here Wednesday.

The event was officiated by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai.

Chua said the association had submitted 16 proposals in the recent budget dialogue with the Finance Ministry to accelerate private investments.

These included soft loan proposals, revamp of SME Bank, redefinition of SMEs, and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), he said.

On the award ceremony, Lim said that there will be roadshows in 15 cities and towns prior to the award's closing date on August 31, 2010.

"Through these roadshows, we will take the opportunity to disseminate information on the transformation of the economy under the New Economic Model as well as the 10MP and to obtain feedback from local SMEs which can help in formulation of appropriate government policies," he said.

At a press conference later, Lim said the government viewed seriously the provision of credit facilities for SMEs to facilitate their participation in key economic activities.

"The government will consider increasing the financial resources of the SME Bank and the Agro Bank to enable them to provide effective services to entrepreneurs," he said.

"The government will also continuously working to formulate new strategies to improve the performances of this sector, while setting the ground rules and providing a conducive environment," he added.


Help Promote Locally-Produced Rice, Persatuan Berasabah Urged (Posted: 17 June 2010 )

KOTA KINABALU, June 16 (Bernama) -- The Bumiputera Rice Wholesalers Association Sabah and Federal Territory of Labuan (Persatuan Berasabah) has been asked to help promote locally-produced rice aggressively to reduce the dependence on imported rice.

Sabah's Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin, said he was confident the high demand for local rice would encourage the farmers to plant them.

"The production of local rice is still low and we still have to depend on imported rice.

"We do not want this to continue. Therefore, we are striving hard to increase rice production through the cultivation of idle land, introduction of various schemes and assistance to encourage the farmers to plant the crop and increase the yield," he said.

Yahya, who is also Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Affairs, said this at the launch of the association here Wednesday.

He said wholesalers should grab the opportunity to market local rice and not depend too much on the quotas fixed by the government under the National Rice Programme.

"It should be remembered that the programme will be withdrawn when the time comes, that is when the rice subsidy programme (Subur) is launched," he said.

"So I hope the Bumiputera rice entrepreneurs in the state will continue to grow and make progress in their businesses," he said.

Yahya said the government has introduced the rice subsidy scheme in June 2008 as one of the steps to reduce the burden on low-income group.

He thanked Persatuan Berasabah for helping distribute the rice to the targeted groups in rural and remote areas.


Boeing 737 Production Rate Increases To 35 Per Month (Posted: 16 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (Bernama) -- Boeing today announced a second production rate increase on the Next-Generation 737 program, taking the rate from the previously announced 34 airplanes per month to 35 in early 2012.

In May, Boeing cited continued strong demand for the Next-Generation 737 as reason to ramp-up production from 31.5 to 34 airplanes per month and indicated plans to study further increases.

Today's announcement acknowledges the anticipated long-term growth in this market segment and the continued pressure to raise airplane output to match expected market demand.

"Our customers continue to show their preference for the Next-Generation 737 by exercising order options as well as by placing new orders," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh.

"We've managed our current backlog efficiently and increasing rate is the product of our comprehensive planning and preparation. We will continue to monitor demand as we go forward."

Boeing and its suppliers will prepare for the rate increase over the next 18 months, assessing readiness and ensuring an orderly ramp-up from the current 31.5 airplanes per month.

The rate increase is not expected to have a material impact on 2010 financial results.

The Next-Generation 737 program continues to innovate in the areas of improved navigation, performance and passenger comfort.

The program will deliver its first 737 Boeing Sky Interior in October and is progressing with its implementation of a package of performance improvements by early 2012 that are expected to reduce fuel consumption by 2 percent.


Maxis Opens Door To Sharing Network Infrastructure (Posted: 16 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 (Bernama) -- Maxis Bhd is opening its door to other telecommunication operators on the possibility of sharing network infrastructure to reduce cost, chief executive officer Sandip Das said Tuesday.

Speaking after the company's annual general meeting here, he said the local telecommunications industry could benefit from extensive network sharing as it would allow the industry players to explore new ways to provide wider coverage at lower cost.

"Maxis has an open mind to share the network infrastructure with whoever, even with a new player, especially for new territories and areas," Sandip said.

"However, we are not making any announcement on this matter, but we are definitely willing to share the network," he said when asked whether the company had talks with any telecommunication companies to share network infrastructure.

Last week, Celcom Axiata Bhd and DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd signed a memorandum of understanding on plans to explore long-term network and infrastructure collaboration, especially on operations and maintenance, transmission and site sharing, and radio access network.

ECM Libra in a research note said that this was a positive development for Celcom and DiGi subject to signing a definite agreement by year-end once both parties determined the long-term viability of the collaboration.

It added that reducing costs would help boost margins and generate bottomline growth which has tapered off due to the saturating mobile market.

"Network sharing is a good move, we are already sharing 40 per cent of our tasks (such as the development of fibre optics) with others," Sandip said.

"When we look at the investment of the telecommunications industry in Malaysia, you really need to conserve that monies so that most of it will go towards new development growth for the country," he said.

"For example, we should conserve that monies for broadband or 3G network, the two areas which are not geographically served, then why should two or three companies duplicate and replicate that expenses?"

Maxis is looking forward to support the national vision of bridging the digital divide among Malaysians and the country's resolve to achieve a broadband household pentration rate of 50 per cent this year, Sandip said.

On other developments, he said that Maxis hoped for its second-quarter results to be better than the first quarter.

"We also hope to continue to record another year of over 50 per EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) margin in 2010. We will work very hard to achieve this target, focusing on revenue growth and reduce our operation costs," he added.

Maxis, the fifth largest company on Bursa Malaysia by market capitalisation, recorded a revenue of RM8.611 billion in 2009.

The company has allocated RM1.4 billion for capital expenditure this year to, among others, increase its high speed wireless broadband coverage and expansion of fibre-to-the-home broadband.

Maxis' chief operating officer Jean Pascal Van Overbeke said the company was also looking to introduce new exciting services such as Internet protocol television (IPTV) this year.

"In the third quarter this year, Maxis will have a soft launch and hope our customers can try the service and give their feedback before the official launch later," he said.


SC To Host World Capital Markets Symposium In September (Posted: 15 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 (Bernama) -- The Securities Commission (SC) will host the Second World Capital Markets Symposium on Sept 27 and 28, 2010, with the main agenda focusing on leadership and governance in transforming the future landscape of the global capital markets.

This year's symposium with the theme "Transforming Capital Markets: Leadership, Change and Governance" will focus on opportunities afforded to the global community to change international practices, rules and regulations as well as governance structures to make financial markets and systems more resilient.

"The symposium is also expected to examine the strategic role of leadership in achieving sustainable and balanced global growth through an inclusive transformation process," SC chairman Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar said in a statement Monday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to officiate and deliver his keynote address at the symposium.

Speakers are expected to include economic and finance ministers from the region, senior regulators and chief executive officers of public-listed companies and leading financial institutions.


Academy Sees Steady Rise In Retail Participation In Forex Trading Globally (Posted: 14 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 (Bernama) -- Foreign exchange (forex) trading will continue to see a steady rise in retail participation globally, due to lower entry cost and technological advancement.

Singapore-based Forex Asia Academy founder and director, Choo Koon Lip, said these factors could help bring forex trading to the retail level which was previously only accessible via banks.

He said the stock market volatility has also encouraged investors to shift from equities to forex in light of global economic uncertainties.

"The credit crunch at end-2008 was the best time for retail investors since I started trading seven years ago.

"For a few months, the markets were harsh and we got a significant profit as people exited stocks for forex," he told Bernama at the firm's introductory seminar here Saturday.

Citing a monthly profit of 5-15 per cent, Choo said, new traders must actively trade and constantly test the best forex strategy that suited them.

"We are well aware of the illegal forex trading that has been highlighted and are always telling participants that risk management is the most important factor, even before profit," he said.

Forex Asia Academy teaches newcomers the key components in retail forex trading such as fundamental and technical analyses, strategy creation process, trading techniques and psychology, money and risk management and algorithmic trading.

The academy was awarded the Best Education Project In Asia by ShowFxAsia Expo 2009, and among the criteria it had was it traded on forex instead of theoretical discussions, rejected the service of teachers who are not traders themselves and it was independent of any brokers.

The academy will be holding its workshop here from June 23-24 from 7.30pm-10.30pm and on June 25 from 12.30pm-6.30pm.


Bursa Malaysia, SC To Take Action If BCorp Acquisition Of Stake In Ascot Breaches Regulation (Posted: 10 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 (Bernama) -- The Securities Commission (SC) and Bursa Malaysia will take appropriate action should there be elements of misrepresentation with regards to Berjaya Corp Bhd's (BCorp) proposed acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd.

In a statement here Wednesday, a spokesperson for SC said both Bursa Malaysia and SC would take appropriate action as provided for by the Listing Requirements and the securities laws.

"Bursa Malaysia is looking into this matter, including the disclosures and statements made by BCorp and other parties," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said in this regard, Bursa Malaysia would take appropriate steps, including where necessary, requesting BCorp to issue further clarification.


Current Account Surplus In Q1 Up 11.1 Per Cent To RM30.4 Billion (Posted: 10 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's current account surplus in the first quarter (Q1) of 2010 rose by RM3.0 billion or 11.1 per cent to RM30.4 billion from RM27.4 billion in the previous quarter.

It was equivalent to 16.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

The increase was mainly due to higher surplus on goods by RM7.1 billion to RM45.0 billion, from RM37.9 billion regitered in the fourth quarter of 2009, and lower net payments on services of RM94.2 million, from RM142.2 million previously, the Department of Statistics said in a statement on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, both income and current transfers registered higher net outlays of RM8.9 billion (Q4 2009: RM5.6 billion) and RM5.6 billion (Q4 2009: RM4.8 billion), respectively.

Year-on-year, the current account surplus declined by RM0.8 billion or 2.7 per cent, from RM31.3 billion in the last quarter of 2009, to RM30.4 billion, the department said.

The decline was attributed to higher leakages on both income and current transfers and reversal of services to net payments, thus offsetting higher goods surplus.

The department said in the first quarter of this year, the overall balance recorded a deficit of RM19.6 billion against RM3.0 billion registered in Q4 2009, an increase of RM16.6 billion, as current account remained positive while the financial account recorded higher outflows of RM19.5 billion.

The overall balance in 2009 reversed from an inflow of RM3.3 billion to an outflow of RM19.6 billion.

The capital account posted outflows of RM65.0 million in Q1 from RM33.0 million recorded in the Q4 2009 as a result of capital transfers which experienced a net outflow of RM36.0 million (Q4 2009: RM23.0 million).

In the Q4 2009, the net outflow from the financial account rose to RM19.5 billion, from RM17.4 billion a quarter ago, because of other investments of RM32.3 billion.

In contrast, portfolio and direct investments recorded inflows of RM11.6 billion and RM1.2 billion, respectively, it said.

Year-on-year, the financial account net flows narrowed to RM19.5 billion from RM31 billion, a year ago, due to a large turnaround in portfolio investment from -RM12.6 billion to +RM11.6 billion in the quarter under review.


Proton Signs Collective Agreements With Two Workers Unions (Posted: 10 June 2010 )

SHAH ALAM, June 9 (Bernama) -- Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd (PONSB) and Proton Tanjung Malim Sdn Bhd (PTMSB) have signed collective agreements with their respective workers unions which incorporate new and improved financial and social benefits.

The agreements covered a period of three years starting from Jan 1, 2010, and included an average of 7.5 per cent increase in salary across the board.

"The agreements were drafted to allow Proton to remains as a competitive employer in the Malaysia automotive industry," said Proton Holdings Bhd's managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir.

Speaking at the signing ceremony here on Wednesday, he said the agreements would benefit 4,195 PONSB employees and 2,204 PTMSB employees with improvements in transport allowance, laundry assistance, medical benefits and condolence contribution.

"The agreement will create a motivated and skilled workforce, and obtain employees' commitment towards increasing productivity," Syed Zainal said.

"It will also encourage a harmonious industrial climate and instill awareness among employees on the consequences of the National Automotive Policy," he said.

This was the eighth collective agreement signed by PONSB and the second for PTMSB.

Syed Zainal signed on behalf of Proton while the PONSB Workers Union was represented by president Mohammad Fauzei Yusuf and the PTMSB Workers Union by president Mohd Yusmar Omar.

The signing was witnessed by Proton chairman Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh.


RBTR Investors Seek Bank Negara & MOF Help (Posted: 9 June 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 (Bernama) -- Justice4Investors, a group of individual and corporate investors who lost RM13.532 million investment to a licensed asset management firm, is seeking Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Finance Ministry's (MOF) intervention to initiate investigation into Bank Rakyat's involvement in the firm.

The Securities Commission licensed-firm, RBTR Asset Management Bhd, was formerly known as Rakyat BTR Capital Partners Bhd (Rakyat BTR) when the investors shored their money around mid-2007 to mid-2008.

At present, the funds have been reduced to only RM9,858 in RBTR's bank account.

Justice4Investors committee chairman and the group's spokesperson, Datuk Abdul Razak Latiff on Tuesday said the confidence to invest in the Euro Deposit Investment scheme was based on the credibility of the firm being an associate of Bank Rakyat, that the fund was capital guaranteed and that it was licensed by a regulatory body.

However, he said Bank Rakyat had disposed its 20 per cent stake in the asset management firm in the fourth quarter of 2008 without notifying all 58 account holders in the scheme.

"We now seek BNM and MOF's intervention and we want to know why Bank Rakyat pulled out of Rakyat BTR without informing the investors," he told a media briefing here.

The EDI scheme's maturity dates were from February 2009 to May 2009, with a supposed annual return of eight per cent that is payable semi-annually.

However, Abdul Razak said the funds were not channeled into two AAA-rated European banks as told to investors, namely Liechtensteinische Landesbank listed on the Swiss Exchange and Geneva-based EFG Group.

Instead, the funds were re-routed into Barclays Bank PLC in Singapore via Locke Guarantee Trust (NZ) Ltd (LGT)/Locke Capital Investments (BVI) Ltd without investors' knowledge.

He added that there was also negligence on the part of Rakyat BTR for appointing LGT as the manager of the fund, when the Securities Commission of New Zealand had issued a public warning on June 20, 2007 that LGT was engaging in conduct that is misleading the public.

"Investors were not informed of the involvement of LGT in the EDI scheme. We were presented with two European banks where our monies are supposed to be invested in.

"We want to know how the monies or our investment ended up in the hands of LGT which is wholly owned by a British Virgin Island company," he said.

As RBTR defaulted in re-paying the principal funds upon maturity, SC had appointed monitoring accountants to monitor the funds of RBTR and to prevent dissipation in April last year.

Four months ahead, the regulatory body said it was investigating RBTR, and had in October 2009 obtained a receivership order against RBTR, thus appointing Datuk Gan Ah Tee of BDO Binder as the receiver.

SC has also not renewed RBTR's license and has taken legal action against the firm and its director, Al Alim Mohd Ibrahim.

"We were informed that the investments in Barclays Bank are not likely to be recoverable and the possible recovery avenue as advised by BDO Binder is to take legal action against the responsible parties for the refund of RM13.532 million," said Abdul Razak.

Asked if they knew if the investments were still in Barclays Bank, he said they were not privy to that as the bank was answerable to LGT and that information by LGT was only for RBTR.

He said before the receiver was appointed, the investors could still speak to Al Alim, who had even sent them two letters each on March 24 and June 26, 2009 asking for their patience, and a promise that all monies due would be fully repaid upon redemption.

He added that BDO Binder has also withdrawn as receiver as there was nothing left to do and the issue was now back with the SC.

"Apart from seeking BNM and MOF's assistance, we also want to see better regulation and laws to govern funds and asset management companies licensed by SC in the future and make them liable for any misrepresentation and to be charged and jailed if found to be true, just like how it is done in the United States," said Abdul Razak.


EU MP's Impressed With Palm Oil Industry's Contribution To Malaysia's Wealth And Economic Growth (Posted: 31 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 (Bernama) -- European Union (EU) Members of Parliament (MPs) are impressed with the palm oil industry's contribution towards creating wealth and economic growth for Malaysia.

Danish MP Dan Jorgensen, who is Vice-Chairman of the Environment Committee and Member of the Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament said: "We think palm oil has contributed towards creating wealth and the growth of the country.

"As a whole, I think, it has helped take people out of poverty, which is a very positive thing.

"The challenge now is the sustainability of the commodity.Even though progress has been made, there is still the possibility of becoming better in this area," he said after a Stakeholder Roundtable Discussion on Issues Related to Biodiversity and the Sustainability of Malaysian Palm Oil here last Friday.

Jorgensen was on a week-long visit to Malaysia together with two other EU MPs, Martin J. Callanan (Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) and Ole K Christensen (Member of the ACP-EU Committee).

Also present at the roundtable was Malaysia's Ambassador to the EU Datuk Hussein Haniff and Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron.

Jorgensen said the next decade would continue to see an increase in the focus on sustainability, as a competition criteria on the global stage, whether for fuel food or any other commodity.

"We also think that from the sustainability point of view, palm oil has great potential compared to other oils," he added.

Many have voiced concerned concern over the new sustainability criteria in the European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED), due to come into force from Dec 5 this year and its impact on palm oil exporting countries like Malaysia.

On that matter, Jorgensen expressed the willingness of MPs to assist Malaysia in ensuring there is no discrimination against the country's palm oil export to the region.

"Firstly, we do not want any discrimination at all of the palm oil sector. We have promised our friends in the industry here to help them in discussions that we have in the EU on different criteria.

"If there has been any discrimination, we will do everthing possible to change it.

"Secondly, we are at the same time, very committed to the sustainability criteria," he explained.

The sustainability criteria is related to two issues, the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels and the land used to produce the biofuels.

During their stay in Malaysia, the MPs had the opportunity to visit the Felda Trolak land scheme.

According to Jorgensen, the Malaysian palm oil industry can help itself by making the issues surrounding it irrelevant, by starting to trap the methane in the mills.

"It is already being done in some mills. If it was done in general and there was legislation for this, it would help. But this is just a recommendation," he said.

Christensen also noted that in many parts of western Europe, there was the perception that palm oil is a bad thing because rainforests' are being destroyed in order to make way for plantations.

"That's what many people believe.So, we are very gratified to get assurances here, that Malaysia has very strict laws in place to ensure no more forests are destroyed," he said.

He also said that it was a challenge to get this point of view across to a lot of western audiences.

When asked whether if the RED would affect Malaysian palm oil exports to the EU, Callanan said in the short term, the new directive would not.

He said this was because the amount of Malaysian palm oil used for biofuel is very small.

Callanan said only 18 per cent of Malaysia's palm oil exports actually go to the EU.

"Obviously, we understand your concerns that the EU legislation might spread to other countries that Malaysia exports to.But only two per cent of palm oil is used for biofuels," he added.


Rationalising Subsidies For Real Growth (Posted: 27 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 (Bernama) -- Malaysia needs to rationalise its subsidy issue to move forward economically, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala said Thursday.

Idris, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), said in addition to encouraging greater conservation and less consumption, Malaysia also needs to keep abreast of the global trend of less subsidies.

"Imagine, even Somalians are paying much more for petrol than Malaysians," he said at the Subsidy Lab Opening Day at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) here.

The lab, open from 9am to 2pm today, is being held to get suggestions and feedback from the public on the government's plan to reduce subsidy.

Idris said according to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Malaysia's subsidy expenditure as a percentage of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) between 2006 and 2009, was at a staggering 11 per cent.

This, he added, was almost three times more than non-OECD countries like the Philippines and 55 times more than a OECD country like Switzerland.

"Our subsidy bill is not sustainable, especially in light of the rising budget deficit and government debt (as a percentage of gross domestic product). It is higher than Indonesia at 28 per cent and getting closer to the Philippines at 62 per cent," he highlighted.

According to Idris, a subsidy culture has negative consequences, staing that subsidies often go to wrong beneficiaries and are subject to leakages and abuses while promoting market distortions as well as encouraging over-consumption that results in over-production.

He said approximately, 97 per cent of Malaysia subsidies are dispensed on a "blanket" basis.

"It is given to everyone regardless of income level, for example, subsidised primary, secondary and tertiary education, medical services, petrol, sugar and cooking, as well as welfare aid and sustenance allowance," he explained.

The government, in its subsidy rationalisation framework will among others, focus on big ticket items to achieve bigger savings as for fuel, gas and toll while continuing to subsidise education, as it is a human capital investment.

Efforts will also be made to reduce wastage and abuse.


Council Discusses Measures To Raise Bumi Participation In Manufacturing (Posted: 26 May 2010 )

PUTRAJAYA, May 25 (Bernama) -- The inaugural meeting of the Entrepreneur Development Council (MPU) held here Tuesday discussed among others, measures to raise the level of Bumiputera participation in the manufacturing sector.

Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the level of Bumiputera involvement in the sector now was more concentrated in Terengganu and Kelantan but in smaller scale.

"It is more on making (snacks) keropok and kerepek. The entire involvement of the Bumiputera community in the sector for a turnover exceeding RM25 million is only three per cent at the moment," he said after chairing the meeting which lasted for three hours here.

"In Sabah and Sarawak they are also far behind."

Quoting the 2006 economic statistics, he said there were 6,641 or 25.2 per cent of Bumiputera companies in the sector from a total of 26,374 companies.

Therefore, a special approach must be taken to raise the participation of the Bumiputera community in the sector in which the other communities have ventured far more deeply, he said.

Mustapa said the MPU today also discussed looking at updating the database of Bumiputeras in all the economic sectors.

The MPU, a platform to raise Bumiputera participation in the country's economy, is a continuation of the mechanism implemented under the previous Ministry of Entrepreneur and Cooperation Development to help Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

Following the dissolution of the ministry last year, its various functions and duties were taken over by eight ministries and agencies.

Mustapa said in order to avoid any redundancy in functions and duties and wastage of funds, a special monitoring and supervisory committee would be formed. The establishment of such a committee was agreed during the meeting, he said.

He said that at the end of the New Economic Policy in 1990, Bumiputera equity achievement stood at only 19.3 per cent against a target of 30 per cent.

In terms of household income in 2008, he said Bumiputera recorded RM3,412, Chinese community RM4,823 and Indians RM3,739.

In terms of number of professionals in the same year, the number of Malay doctors and engineers exceeded 50 per cent from the total number of professionals in the field but this was still low when compared with the ratio of Bumiputera citizens who make up 65.9 per cent of the Malaysian population, he added.


Automotive Component Manufacturers Urged To Have More Global-Local Collaborations (Posted: 26 May 2010 )

SERI KEMBANGAN, May 25 (Bernama) -- Malaysia hopes to see more technical collaboration between locally-based and global automotive component manufacturers.

Making this call, International Trade and Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said collaborations of such nature were important channels for the transfer of technology and sharing of best practices.

He said this at the 30th anniversary celebration of Denso (M) Sdn Bhd here Tuesday.

Denso is the largest producer of automotive components in Malaysia.

As of December 2009, more than 690 automotive component manufacturers and 110 motorcycle/scooter component manufacturers have established their operations in Malaysia, producing more than 5,000 different components.

Mustapa said the country strongly welcomed the development as more than 75 per cent of the components industry in Malaysia was Malaysian-owned.

He said some of the companies have also established strong technical collaborations with global automotive component companies.

Mustapa said the growing sophistication of the Malaysian components manufacturing industry was also evident from the fact that more than 60 per cent of the component manufacturers operate according to approved international standards.

For the first quarter of this year, sales of parts and components went up to RM1.7 billion, or a 30.8 per cent growth compared with the same period last year.

On Denso, he said the government was encouraging the company to consider Malaysia as its production base for other high value-added components.

Mustapa also hoped manufacturers like Denso would further invest in research and development facilities as an extension of their already established local production facilities.

"We have had an excellent partnership and we hope this relationship will continue to grow as Malaysia embarks on an exciting new phase ahead."

As Malaysia has jumped eight notches to enter the top ten most competitive nations in the world, as compiled by premier Swiss business school, IMD, the government also believes that it will be able to further deliver on the country's potential with the New Economic Model, he said.


China Wants US To Set Timetable On Removal Of Curbs On Trade In High-Tech Products (Posted: 25 May 2010 )

BEIJING, May 24 (Bernama) -- China hopes that the US will set a timetable and road map on the removal of curbs on trade in high-technology products as well as the details of how it plans to treat Chinese firms investing in US.

Vice Premier, Wang Qishan, said China was glad that the US has promised to ease its export restrictions on high-tech products and open up the American market for Chinese investors.

"As economic exchanges between China and the US broaden and deepen, it is unavoidable that some frictions and disputes will arise," he said at the second round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue here Monday.

The dialogue will conclude Tuesday.

As the special representatives of Chinese President Hu Jintao, Wang and State Councillor, Dai Bingguo, co-chair the dialogue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, special representatives of US President Barack Obama.

About 50 representatives from 40-plus government departments from the two countries also participated in the talks.

He said China-US economic ties were a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship, adding that the high economic complementarity between the two sides made for win-win cooperation, not a zero-sum game.

"We hope the two sides could, in line with our consensus of anti-protectionism in tackling the financial crisis, bring forward concrete policies to stifle trade protectionism in all forms," he said.

He said the world economy was at a "critical juncture," but as long as the two countries communicated with candour, enhanced mutual trust and looked for common ground, China and the US would overcome any future difficulty.

Wang said the dialogue's core objective was to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive China-US relationship for the 21st century.

"The dialogue will enable us to further our cooperation, solidify the positive momentum and promote the strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the global economy," he said.


Bold Intiatives By Government Pushed Up Malaysia's Competitiveness (Posted: 20 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (Bernama) -- The bold initiatives taken by the government has helped to push up Malaysia to the top 10 most competitive economies in the world, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said Wednesday.

The 2010 World Competitiveness Yearbook released today has placed Malaysia among the top ten competitive nations of the world.

"This unprecedented result is clearly rooted in the innovation and bold initiatives the government has undertaken this past year to drive development and economic growth and create a resilient private sector," Mustapa told reporters at the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum, here today.

Malaysia for the first time since 1999 has earned a position among the top 10 most competitive countries in the world, jumping eight notches to 10th place this year from 18th position in 2009.

The yearbook is published by the Swiss-based Institute for Management Development.

"With an index score of 87.228, Malaysia has joined the ranks of the most competitive countries in the world, sharing the top 10 ranking with Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Taiwan and Norway.

Noting that it was an outstanding performance, Mustapa said Malaysia has overtaken several developed countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, adding that the country continues to be ahead of the United Kingdom, Korea and Thailand.

Mustapa said a remarkable advancement in the government efficiency rating, where it has moved up to 9th from 19th place, demonstrated that the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) was beginning to deliver results.

The GTP, launched last year, has focused government efforts in key areas such as enhancing the business climate, fighting corruption, improving the infrastructure, streamlining government procedures and strengthening the education system.

"While the government has implemented the right policies to improve competitiveness, local entrepreneurs have played a vital role in leveraging this business climate to create change and drive growth," Mustapa said.

The business efficiency rating has gone up to 4th place from 13th place previously.

Mustapa said the government will continue to enhance the services delivery system, strengthen high quality investments, groom small and medium enterprises for global competition and nurture innovation and creativity.


Inflation To Remain Modest, Rate Normalisation Will Be Dynamic - Zeti (Posted: 20 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (Bernama) -- Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz says inflation will remain modest this year and the process of rate normalisation will be dynamic.

"Right now, we don't have any treat of inflation. Inflation will remain modest this year although it will rise.

"What we want to do is to make sure that the strong growth that we have experienced so far will be continued and will be sustainable," she told reporters after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Bank Negara and the Australian Treasury here Wednesday.

She said the process of normalisation would be a dynamic one because if there was any slowing down, the rate normalisation would take a pause. "But in a period of very strong growth, there is potential room to normalise further," she said.

She said the monetary policy on interest rates remained supportive to promote growth.

Malaysia's economy grew 10.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010. The overnight policy rate was raised on May 13 by 25 basis points to 2.50 per cent towards further normalisation of monetary conditions.

Zeti said the central bank expected the local economic situation to improve further despite the uncertainties coming out from Europe.

She stressed that local financial institutions had limited exposure to the debts crisis in Europe.

"We believe that action will be taken and has been taken and this will contain the development and address the issues that have evolved. This is very important so that it doesn't have spillover effects," she said.

The MoU signed today aims to foster long-term strategic business development in conventional and Islamic finance between Malaysia and Australia, focusing on several key areas such as enhancing mutual co-operation on capacity building and human capital development in the financial services industry, and the exchange of information and experience in the legal, regulatory and supervisory frameworks.

It also seeks to facilitate and promote the development of an effective and conducive financial market infrastructure, and enhance cross-border financial activities including research on Shariah matters in Islamic finance products and services to promote consistent application for cross-border transactions.

The signing of the MoU follows an agreement by trade ministers of both countries -- Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Simon Crean -- to explore cooperation on Islamic finance during the August 2009 Malaysia-Australia bilateral trade talks.


Western Digital Invests US$1.2 Billion In Malaysia (Posted: 19 May 2010 )

PUTRAJAYA, May 18 (Bernama) -- Western Digital (WD) Corporation is to further expand its research and development and manufacturing activities in Malaysia which involves US$1.2 billion investment over the next five years.

WD President and Chief Executive Officer Datuk John F. Coyne informed Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak of the company's decision in a meeting with the prime minister at the Prime Minister's Office here Tuesday.

Western Digital's decision to have the project in Malaysia was made following discussions with Najib during the prime minister's working visit to Washington last month.

WD chose Malaysia for this latest expansion following the success of its operations here over the last 38 years, said the prime minister's office in a statement Tuesday.

The new investment will involve the construction of a new 1.5 million square foot multi-storey building for research and development and manufacture of magnetic head and media components and hard disk drives.

Construction is slated for completion by the third quarter of next year and the facility will be ramped to full capacity over the following five years.

There will be up to 10,000 additional jobs which involves a substantial number of high qualification jobs, 100 PhD holders, 1,000 degree holders, 3,000 diploma and certificate holders created at the facility over time, said the statement.

This was in line with the New Economic Model goals to create high wage jobs, it said.

Western Digital is a global leader in the development and manufacture of hard drives and solid state drives for internal, external, portable and shared storage applications.

The hard drives are used in desktop, notebook computers, mobile devices, corporate networks and home entertainment equipment while its solid-state drives are used in embedded applications such as network communications, industrial, medical, military and aerospace markets.

The company, which celebrates its 49th anniversary this year, has had a presence in Malaysia since 1972, with a cumulative investment todate of US$2.5 billion and current employment in excess of 19,000 here.


Amidst Euro Crisis Eurozone Nations Defend Currency Union (Posted: 18 May 2010 )

BRUSSELS: Eurozone finance ministers defended the euro as a "credible" currency on Tuesday, despite its slide to four-year lows against the dollar, as they sought to tame the fears that have gripped financial markets in recent weeks.

Investors fear that as European nations make painful spending cuts to rein in their swelling debt, growth will be stifled for years to come.

There are also concerns that governments' rescue efforts for debt-laden EU countries, combined with the European Central Bank's move to buy government bonds, could cause inflation to rise.

Those worries have helped fuel the euro's fall to the lowest level against the dollar since April 2006 and hiked the price of gold, traditionally a safe haven when markets lose faith in other assets.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads regular talks between the ministers, tried to reassure investors.

"We trust that the euro is a credible currency," he said, reading out a statement released early Tuesday after a meeting of finance ministers of the 16 countries that use the euro.

"Price stability has been fully maintained in the euro area for 11 years and will be maintained in the years to come. This is a major feature of the euro and a major asset for investors," he said.

The eurozone meeting came ahead of a Tuesday session of finance ministers from all 27 European Union members that are set to agree on new rules to regulate hedge funds.

The ECB moved ahead Monday with a controversial program to buy government bonds - something it has previously vowed not to do because it can effectively mean that the bank is backing government moves to print money.

It said it will borrow euro16.5 billion ($20.4 billion) Tuesday to offset the bond purchases.

It did not specify the amount of bonds it has bought or intends to buy.

Germany called earlier on other countries that use the euro to swiftly cut budget deficits as the only way Europe's battered currency union can restore confidence and climb out of a debt crisis that threatens to wreck it.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters that getting deficits down was "the only task that everyone has to fulfill for himself and for all."

Germany, Europe's largest economy, is providing the largest chunk of a euro110 billion bailout for Greece and a euro750 billion ($1 trillion) rescue package for other euro nations - and voters and politicians there have bridled at bailing out free-spending governments.

However, some EU nations may need to reduce debt less quickly because rapid cuts to public spending could see their economies grind to a halt. Juncker said eurozone nations have asked the EU's executive commission to check how "the efforts of fiscal consolidation on the economic recovery" would affect each country.

EU Economy Commissioner Olli Rehn said the first payment of euro20 billion to Greece would be transferred to Athens on Tuesday - euro14.5 billion from EU nations and euro5.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

Germany wants to propose stricter budget rules that would require Portugal and other vulnerable countries to make big spending cutbacks - and remove the need for them to seek a bailout from other countries.

Schaueble wants to put his proposals to a Friday meeting of eurozone finance ministers with EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who will draft a report by October on the kind of reforms that EU nations should make.

The EU already has rules against running up deficits and debt, but they have been widely ignored.

On paper, the so-called Stability and Growth Pact called for heavy fines for violators but the EU never imposed them. - AP


Earlier report

Eurozone nations: common currency is 'credible'

BRUSSELS: Eurozone finance ministers say Europe's currency union is "credible" and the region won't see rapid price hikes despite the euro's recent slide against the euro.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who led ministers' talks Monday, said "we trust that the euro is a credible currency" after it hit a four-year low against the dollar earlier in the day.

He says the 16 countries that use the euro believe that price stability "will be maintained in years to come" as a major asset for Europeans and for investors.

Some market traders worry of far higher inflation across the eurozone after governments offered to bail out debt-burdened nations and the European Central Bank said it would buy government bonds _ which some see as printing money. - AP

ECER Offers Middle East Investors Agricultural Opportunities (Posted: 17 May 2010 )

JEDDAH, May 16 (Bernama) -- The East Coast Economic Region (ECER) of Malaysia which is steadily positioning itself as a globally competitive investment destination offers vast opportunities to Middle East investors who are keen to invest in the agriculture sector.

ECER Development Council (ECERDC) Chief Executive Officer Datuk Jebasingham Issace John said they were encouraged to explore the possibility of venturing into large-scale commercial farming using modern technology on the vast tracts of land in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Mersing in Johor.

"They should also explore the high-value downstream activities, such as Halal food manufacturing for the export market," he told Bernama here.

In this regard, he said: "We would like to invite investors from the Gulf to particiate as anchor companies to set up nucleus and contract farming arrangements with local farmers in ECER Malaysia.

Jebasingam is a member of the ECERDC Investment Mission to Abu Dhabi in the United Emirates and Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia from May 7 to 17, led by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Jebasingham said investors were also welcomed to establish One-Stop Collection, Processing and Distribution Centres (CPPCs) in the region to increase the supply of high quality raw materials and processed products for manufacturers and retailers locally and abroad.

By participating in the value chain and improving the supply chain management, he said, Middle East investors would also achieve high levels of quantity control to meet the requirements and demand of their respective countries.

On livestock projects, he said, each state in ECER Malaysia was assigned a specific commodity to focus on.

"Pahang for cattle, Terengganu for goats and Kelantan for poultry. The livestock sub-clusters consist of upstream activities comprising production of animal feed and improvement of breeder stocks and genetic.

"It also comprise of downstream activities such as meat and diary production, breeding and multiplication and processing," he explained.

As an example, he said, ECERDC had earmarked over 1,000 ha of state land in Ulu Tersat, Kuala Berang, Terengganu to be developed as the goat breeding and improvement hub.

He said the target set for the goat production cluster was 403,190 by 2015, and 685,400 by 2020.

As for cattle projects in ECER Malaysia, Jebasingham said investors can take part in research and development (R&D), Nucleus Farms, Beef Breeder Integration Multipliers and Feedlots, as well as Diary Anchor Farms.

The beef cluster, mainly carried out in the state of Pahang, he said "is being developed as an integrated component of oil palm plantations.

"There will also be special beef valleys for feedlots and integration within pineapple-growing areas.

"The establishment of the Nucleus Cattle Breeding and Research Centre in Muadzam Shah, Pahang will play a key role in improving the genetic quality of cattle reared in ECER Malaysia," he said.

Jebasingham also said that poultry farming was also expected to grow in the region with the establishment of several poultry parks and processing facilities in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

He said investors in this sector were invited to participate in the animal-feed production industry area, located on a 10-ha plot close to the Kuantan Port City.

ECERDC is a special purpose vehicle established to drive the implementation projects and key programmes identified in the ECER Masterplan.


Pekema Seeks Answers From Mustapa (Posted: 17 May 2010 )

JEDDAH, May 16 (Bernama) -- The Association of Malay Importers and Traders of Motor Vehicles Malaysia (Pekema) hopes International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed will reply soon to its queries regarding the National Automotive Policy.

Acting President Datuk Zainuddin Abdul Rahman said Pekema would hold its annual general meeting on Wednesday and had invited Mustapa to address its dinner later that day.

He said the association had met senior ministry officials on the automotive policy, especially on the move to end the issuance of approved permits (APs) by December 2015 and the RM10,000 charge imposed for each open AP issued.

The response from the ministry was positive, he said.

"What Pekema is fighting for goes beyond individual problems faced by players in the automotive sector. We are fighting for the survival of Bumiputeras in the automotive business," he told Bernama.

Zainuddin said that in Malaysia, the import and sale of used cars would not adversely affect the business of local manufacturers and assemblers since the number of imports was only around five per cent of the total cars assembled locally.

"Despite that, in term of value, it generates over RM1 billion annually for the government in the form of import taxes and excise duties, not including corporate taxes which amount about RM120 million per year," he said.

He said that for Bumiputeras, the road ahead was still long and strewn with thorns.

"The government is still stable, strong and does not need to bow to any pressure. Let the Bumiputera enjoy a policy that does deviate from the aspiration and what has been enshrined in the constitution.

"If the economy is a cake, this is the only piece where the Bumiputera can taste economic success brought about by the country's independence and wisdom of government policies," he said.


Kuwait Finance House Reports Net Loss For 2009 (Posted: 14 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 (Bernama) -- Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Bhd (KFHMB) recorded a net loss of RM30.9 million for the year ended Dec 31, 2009 following higher allowances and impairment for losses on financing of RM184.7 million.

The group's revenue for the year stood at RM485.0 million, the company said in a statement Thursday.

Despite the tough operating environment, KFHMB said it continued to provide support for its customers with a total distributable income amounting to RM162.3 million.

Total assets grew 20.1 per cent to RM11.6 billion, from RM9.6 billion a year earlier while its core capital ratio and risk-weighted capital ratio (RWCR) stood at 19.9 per cent and 23.8 per cent, respectively.

KFHMB said this was well above the Islamic banking industry average of 11.9 per cent and 14.4 per cent, respectively, as at March 30, 2010.

Total deposits amounted to RM8.5 billion while shareholders' equity increased 28.7 per cent to RM2.3 billion.

KFHMB Chairman Shaheem Al Ghanem said the bank's strong capital position allowed it to take an aggressive provisioning stance.

He said the bank had drawn up a robust business plan with a more focussed business direction targetted at business growth, better processes, enhancement of asset quality, recovery and cost optimisation.


BURSA MALAYSIA: Share Prices Lower At Midday (Posted: 14 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 -- Share prices on Bursa Malaysia ended the Friday's morning session lower as investors reduced their holdings ahead of the weekend, coupled with further selling in Sime Darby Bhd, dealers said.

At 12.30pm, the FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) slipped 8.69 points to 1,338.23. It had moved between 1,337.36 and 1,341.23 during the morning session.

Sime Darby, which resumed its trading this morning, fell 38 sen or 4.393 per cent to RM8.27 following news that it will incur negative impact from energy and utilities projects in the current financial year.

The Finance Index surged 20.069 points to 12,101.28, the Industrial Index slipped 40.49 points to 2,703.33 and the Plantation Index shed 9.65 points to 6,408.08.

The FBM Emas Index dwindled 49.36 points to 9,005.34, the FBM70 fell 23.13 points to 8,847.24, while the FBM ACE edged up 12.46 points to 3,976.5.

Losers beat gainers by 335 to 172 while 246 counters were unchanged, 624 untraded and 32 others were suspended.

Turnover stood at 378.87 million shares worth RM600.024 million.

Among actives, Olympia Industries added half sen to 27.5 sen, while Advance Information lost 1.5 sen to 14.5 sen.

Heavyweights, Maybank earned one sen to RM7.73, CIMB Group Holdings shed eight sen to RM14.40 and Maxis lost one sen to RM5.32.


Optimum iT To Create Growth Platform For Malaysian Entrepreneurs (Posted: 13 May 2010 )

CHONGQING (China), May 13 (Bernama) -- Optimum iT Sdn Bhd plans to create a platform to drive the growth of small and medium enterprises in Malaysia.

The company's Corporate Communications Director Yantie Ismail said Optimum iT would provide training and support for the entrepreneurs to boost its sales performance.

Optimum iT is Beijing Taiyuan Automobile Automatic Collision Avoidance System Co Ltd's sole agent for the computerised accident safety system product, 1M Taiyuan.

"We are confident of achieving our sales target of 50,000 units this year as the product would be able to attract both local and overseas demand," Yanti said.

She said the product has a radar detection system that can sense any form of danger that can lead to accidents.

"When there is a threat to driving safety, the system can execute auto-alarm, auto-deceleration and auto-braking in order to avoid accidents or crashes," she said.

It is suitable for all vehicles, she added.

Optimum iT expected the first shipment of 1M Taiyuan from China to be distributed in Malaysia by end of 2010, she told Bernama after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Beijing Taiyuan Automobile here.

Present at the ceremony were Beijing Taiyuan Automobile Director Liu Taiyuan and Optimum iT Business Development Director Charlie Chan Yong Guan.


TM Collaborates With SMECB (Posted: 12 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 (Bernama) -- Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) has collaborated with SME Credit Bureau Sdn Bhd (SMECB) to facilitate the former's access to the latter's credit information and credit ratings on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The agreement also sees TM sharing its SME customers' payment data with SMECB, albeit with their consent.

TM's executive vice president, SME, Shanti Jusnita Johari, said the availability of accurate credit information and credit ratings would enable TM to expedite the approval process of telecommunication facilities for the SME community.

"We can now get fast and hassle-free access to comprehensive information of our potential SME customers and their credit ratings," she told reporters after the signing ceremony between both parties here Tuesday.

TM SME has about 450,000 customers.

Meanwhile, SMECB chief executive officer, Alex Lim, said the collaboration would benefit SMEs, especially the start-ups, in accessing credit facilities from financial institutions.

"The data from TM will show the payment pattern of the SMEs for the telecom facilities, and they (SMEs) can use this as a reference in getting the credit line from banks," he said.

He said the reason for the agreement was not to look at the negative aspect of an SME's credit rating but rather to share a balanced view of them, and ultimately benefitting the macro economy at large.

SMECB is a subsidiary of Corporate Guarantee Corp and has 28,000 SME members and 38 financial institution members.


US$1 Billion Business Deals Evidence Of Trade Commitment (Posted: 11 May 2010 )

PHNOM PENH, May 10 (Bernama) -- The five business agreements, worth US$1 billion, to be signed between the private sectors of Malaysia and Cambodia on Monday, is evidence of both countries commitment to enhance bilateral trade.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the agreements to be inked would be in the halal industry, supply of poultry, education, bistro network and, identity card and passport security systems.

Speaking to Malaysian journalists here Monday, Najib said Cambodia had also agreed, in principal, to allow the CIMB Group to conduct banking business in the country.

CIMB will become the fifth Malaysian bank to operate in Cambodia after Maybank, Public Bank, HwangDBS and OSK Bank.

He also said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen invited Malaysian companies to establish a rice mill in the country which has 3.5 million tonnes of rice available for export.

Najib said Hun Sen made the invitation during their meeting at the office of Council of Ministers.

Earlier, Najib attended the wreath laying ceremony at the Independence Monument, here before attending the "four-eye" meeting with his Cambodian counterpart.

Both leaders later led their respective delegation for an hour delegation meeting at the same venue.

Najib also held dialogue with Malaysian businessmen and investors in this country at a hotel, here, before Hun Sen joining him at the Malaysia-Cambodia Business Forum, here.

Later, Najib visited a Malaysian-based telecommunication giant Hello Axiata Operation Centre and the construction of the new complex of Embassy of Malaysia, here.

Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will attend an official dinner hosted by Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany at a hotel, here, Monday night before concluding the second-day official visit.


Malaysia's Trade With UAE Up 20 Per Cent, Says Envoy (Posted: 11 May 2010 )

ABU DHABI, May 10 (Bernama) -- Malaysia's economic growth is on track with a 20 per cent increase in trade with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the first two months of this year.

"We have seen in January and February this year that trade has again been increasing about 20 per cent," said Malaysian ambassador to the UAE, Datuk Yahaya Abdul Jabar.

"This is a good indicator that economic recovery is progressing well, at least for Malaysia and the UAE," he told Bernama here.

Yahaya said total Malaysian exports last year amounted to about RM11 billion and imports from UAE totalled about RM6 billion.

"Trade is still in Malaysia's favour. However, last year because of the global economic recession, there was a drop in our exports compared to about RM20 billion in 2008," he said.

"We hope this year to recover to the level of 2008," he added.

The major export item from Malaysia to the UAE was gold, followed by jewellery, electrical and electronic, palm oil, wood products, furniture, and chemical products.

Yahaya was speaking on the sidelines of the East Coast Economic Region Council (ECRDC) investment mission to the Middle East from May 7 to 17.

Malaysia's trade commissioner in Dubai, Datuk Dzulkifli Mahmud, said the UAE remained as Malaysia's largest source of imports from the West Asian region despite registering a decline in import value by 27.1 per cent to 6,117 million dirhams last year.

He said that during the first two months of this year, imports had moved in positive direction by registering a growth of 23 per cent as compared to the January-February 2009 period.

The major import item from the UAE was crude petrolem, followed by manufactured metal products and refined petroleum products.

The ECRDC mission is aimed at attracting investors from the Gulf as well as to enhance bilateral business relationships between Malaysia and the Middle East countries.

It is led by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is the Adviser of Corridor Development in Malaysia.

The mission was the result of a collaboration between the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority and the Malaysian embassies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with the participation of officials from ECERDC, ECER state governments and Halal Development Corporation.

ECERDC conducted a series of business meetings with identified potential investors from the Gulf region, including the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, Emirates Investment Authority and Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


Najib To Witness US$1 Billion Business Deals (Posted: 10 May 2010 )

From Jamaluddin Muhammad PHNOM PENH, May 8 (Bernama) - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to witness the signing of six business agreements worth US$1 billion during his three-day official visit to Cambodia beginning tomorrow.

The five business agreements will be between the private sectors of both countries while another agreement will be signed between a Malaysian company and a Cambodian government agency.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will join the visiting premier on Monday to witness the inking of all agreements covering education, ICT security, halal industry, agriculture, training and retail sectors.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman told Malaysian journalists here that Najib's first official visit to this country, after assuming office April last year, was very significant in further cementing bilateral ties between both countries.

Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia Datuk Pengiran Mohd Hussein Pengiran Mohd Tahir Nasruddin disclosed that total trade volume between the two countries amounted to US$150 million last year.

Ninety per cent of the trade involved Malaysian exports of textile, palm oil, food and beverage while the remaining 10 per cent constituted Malaysian imports of rubber, textile and rice, he said.

Mohd Hussein said there were vast opportunities for Malaysians to explore Cambodia's services sector such as education, healthcare, construction, halal industry, tourism and, oil and gas.

Malaysia, with an investment of US$1.8 billion, is currently the fourth largest investor in Cambodia after China, Korea and Vietnam.

The ambassador said Malaysian investment in Cambodia included the manufacture of sports apparels, hotels, education, banking and fast food chains.

"Trade and investment between both countries are expected to be intensified as the region moves towards becoming an Asean Economic Community by 2015 which allows the free movement of goods, capital and people," he added.

Mohd Hussein called on Malaysian businessmen to consider Cambodia seriously as it was also located in the Mekong basin comprising Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam with a population of 100 million people.

Najib, together with Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, is scheduled to arrive at the Phnom Penh International Airport, here, at 7.05pm (Malaysian time: 8.05pm) on Sunday.

A total of 117 Malaysian businessmen will join the Malaysian delegation during the official visit.

On Monday, the prime minister is expected to attend the wreath laying ceremony at the Independence Monument, call on Hun Sen and later hold bilateral talks at the Council of Ministers, here.

Najib will then hold a dialogue with Malaysian investors and businessmen in Cambodia before he is joined by Hun Sen at the Malaysia-Cambodia Business Forum and Luncheon.

Both leaders will then witness the signing of the six business agreements.

Najib is also scheduled to visit Hello Axiata Operations Centre here, a Malaysian-Cambodian telecommunication joint venture, and later visit the construction site of the new complex which will house the Embassy of Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Rosmah will have a separate function on Monday by visiting the Kantha Bopha IV Hospital and the Bun Rany Hun Sen High School.

The prime minister and his wife will conclude their second-day visit by attending the official dinner hosted by Hun Sen and wife Bun Rany.

On the final day, Najib will have an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace.

The visiting premier will also call on the President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin and President of the Senate Chea Sim.

Najib and Rosmah are scheduled to depart Phnom Penh International Airport for home at 11.30am (Malaysian time:12.30pm) on Tuesday.


UDA To Invest RM5 Billion On Bukit Bintang Commercial Centre (Posted: 10 May 2010 )

IPOH, May 9 (Bernama) -- UDA Holdings will invest RM5 billion to develop the Pudu Jail site here as part of the masterplan to transform Kuala Lumpur as one of Asia's most prominent cities, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said.

He said the plan for the Bukit Bintang Commercial Centre, which includes a condominium, hotel and commercial building, would be carried out in six phases.

"The project involves a total area of 8.6ha and is part of the Kuala Lumpur development masterplan," he told reporters here.

He said UDA Holdings had yet to decide on whether to carry out the project on its own or find a partner.


Ministry Identifies Five Key Areas To Enhance PPSB's Productivity (Posted: 7 May 2010 )

PENANG, May 6 (Bernama) -- The Ministry of Transport has identified five key areas to enhance productivity of the Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB) and compete globally.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said PPSB should not rest on it's laurels after being ranked 64th in the international port ranking, but instead improve their services to achieve their target of handling one million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) this year.

"We have identified five areas to help the port improve and become more competitive among Malaysian ports," he told reporters after a dialogue session with port users here Thursday.

He said for a start, the port must improve on its productivity especially on its work force and equipment for port activities.

"Secondly, coordination among various agencies with the port need to be enhanced and third, the sea dredging to serve mother vessels calling at the port," he said.

He added that the fourth would be rebranding of the port to allow them to compete internationally while the fifth area will be to focus on Port-Rail-Link to boost business.


ESCAP: Rosy Economic Growth For Asia In 2010 (Posted: 7 May 2010 )

NEW DELHI, May 6 (Bernama) -- A key United Nations (UN) regional agency Thursday forecast that Asia and Pacific economies would rebound sharply in 2010, but cautioned of pitfalls that could stifle future growth.

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in its recent survey said, Asia-Pacific developing economies are expected to grow by seven per cent, compared to the four per cent during the financial crisis-hit 2009.

"But the road ahead has a number of potential pitfalls," said ESCAP's report released in Delhi.

"One concern is protectionism. Many developed countries, facing anaemic growth coupled with high unemployment, may restrict trade," it said.

"This has led to prominent trade disputes that pit developed countries against the large exporters in this region," added the report.

According to ESCAP, the self-sustaining motors of China and India growing at 9.5 per ent and 8.3 per cent respectively, would propel the region's growth story in 2010 while smaller regional economies would also be on a positive growth trajectory.

ESCAP, the regional development arm of the United Nations, urged governments to formulate a regional financial architecture to counter future economic woes.

It noted that the economic crisis had revealed the lack of regional responses, leaving national governments to take responsibility.

"So far, the cooperation has been largely limited to the Chiang Mai Initiative that has now been multilateralised with a reserve pool of US$120 billion (RM420 billion), for meeting the temporary liquidity needs of the Asean + 3 countries (China, Japan and South Korea).

"The region now needs to further develop its financial architecture, which would include systems of intermediation between its large savings and unmet investment needs," stated the report.


Government Urged To Start FTA Talks With EU (Posted: 7 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian business community hopes the government can speed up the decision to start free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union (EU), Malaysia-China Business Council Joint Secretary-General Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh said.

He said the business community in Malaysia would welcome any FTA negotiations with the EU as it would send the right signal to the world that the country was open for business.

"Any FTA deal concluded will prove that we are open to trade and investment, and prepared to have some of the best practices adopted," he told reporters after a media luncheon with 17 ambassadors from EU countries here Thursday.

Present was Vincent Piket, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia.

Yeoh said Malaysia had missed the opportunity for an FTA with the United States (US) which could have been concluded.

"Last year, the business community, particularly the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, wanted Malaysia to conclude quickly the Malaysia-US FTA.

"Unfortunately, it was not done and we could not move ahead anymore as the new US administration gives more focus on Trans-Pacific Partnership," he said.

Yeoh said an FTA could also enable Malaysian institutions and organisations to share and adopt some of the best practices in the EU, like sustainable forestry management, urban transportation and environmental management.

"People in Malaysia can learn from the EU experiences as many in the European countries had developed over the last four decades. They have substantial progress in many areas," he added.

Meanwhile, Piket said EU trade officials would visit Malaysia next month to further explore the possibility to start FTA negotiations with Malaysia.

"I expect the exploration will have a positive outcome," he said, adding that the EU had started bilateral negotiations with Singapore and Vietnam.

The EU seeks bilateral negotiations with Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam after failing to forge an FTA with Asean as a whole.

"We are not giving up on Asean. Asean is a priority. So, we are looking at alternative ways of moving forward.

"We propose to a number of Asean countries to first start negotiating bilateral FTAs that later on could be built into a regional framework and put together under the Asean umbrella," Piket said.

He said the EU was keen to move ahead with Malaysia and ready to open FTA negotiations as the country was its second largest trade partner in Asean.

"We are busy exploring and hoping that before too long we can go ahead because it is supporting trade.

"In the current economic climate we cannot sit still, we have to do something for the economy, companies and traders. We feel that constructing a long-term stable trade arrangement between Malaysia and EU will benefit them," he said.

Piket said Malaysia's economy would have an additional boost of eight per cent by 2020 if an FTA with the EU was in place. Malaysia was the Asean member that stood to gain the most, he added.

Meanwhile, the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute and the EU delegation to Malaysia will jointly organise "EU Debate: Asean, The New EU?" here to mark the 53th anniversary of the foundation of the EU and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the EC-Asean Cooperation Agreement on May 18.


Bank Negara Seeking Public Feedback On Basic Motor Insurance (Posted: 5 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 (Bernama) -- Bank Negara Malaysia is seeking public feedback on the new basic motor insurance coverage for third-party bodily injury and death. The central bank placed advertisements in several newspapers Monday, urging readers to download a copy of the consultation paper on the proposed policy at its website at

The central bank is working with relevant authorities to formulate the scheme following the government's announcement in Budget 2010 on the need to provide adequate access to reasonably priced basic motor insurance coverage. Bank Negara said in the advertisement that it was also in consultations with consumer and transport associations, Bar Council and the insurance industry to obtain first round feedback on the guiding principles, objectives and proposed features under consideration. The move by the central bank to seek public feedback is reflective of the government's 1Malaysia concept with the "People First Performance Now" principle.

The issue had even caught the attention of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who last month directed Bank Negara to take into consideration the people's plight when proposing the new basic motor insurance coverage for third-party bodily injury and death (TPBID) just like enacting any other policy. It is understood that insurance players have become increasingly selective in providing the TPBID coverage as premiums have not changed for the past 30 years, resulting in the industry losing RM1 billion since 2008. Therefore, the central bank had late last month put in a proposal to restructure the country's motor insurance policy to allow adequate protection for all motorists and public at reasonable prices including a TPBID and a third-party property damage.

In the proposal, a basic cover will be made available through insurance companies and takaful operators, their agents and other existing intermediaries, and no motorist will be denied purchase of the basic cover. Thus, the proposed scheme will be able to reduce cost and address leakages, and the government will remain committed to provide a social safety net for exceptional cases.


Khazanah Clarifies Pos Malaysia Issue (Posted: 5 May 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 (Bernama) -- Khazanah Nasional Bhd is unable to reasonably ascertain what exactly Tan Sri Adam Kadir, president of Umno's Ex-Elected Representatives Association, was alluding to regarding the RM546 million losses of Pos Malaysia Bhd. In a statement here Tuesday, Khazanah said any check on Pos Malaysia's audited accounts would show that there no such losses were recorded. "We can only presume that Adam was referring to the potential opportunity loss in investment value with respect to Pos Malaysia's 15 per cent direct shareholding in Transmile Group Bhd," it said.

Khazanah said the allegations were factually wrong, misleading and potentially malicious and defamatory. "In this regard, we categorically deny the allegation that Khazanah 'muzzled' Pos Malaysia and issued a 'stop sale order' with respect to Pos Malaysia's interest in Transmile," it said. Adam's allegation appeared in the May 2, 2010 issue of the Sunday Star, entitled, "Khazanah urged to provide true picture of Pos Malaysia's loss". The article quoted Adam as saying Khazanah has not given the true picture of Pos Malaysia's losses. He had said the proposed strategic sale of Khazanah's interest in Pos Malaysia was to "cover up" certain weaknesses.


Ready Meals Market to exceed US$81 billion (Posted: 7 April 2010 )

A new global report on Ready Meals markets projects the market will exceed US$81 billion by the year 2015.

ising employment of women, increase in disposable income, and increasing westernization of food habits across major countries are leading factors driving demand for convenient meal options, especially ready meals.
According to the new report from Global Industry Analysts, the trend for ready meals, primarily owing to convenience, has been growing over the years, and currently most leading markets are nearing maturity.
While "convenience" and "microwaveable" have been popular claims in the market, "health" and "natural/organic" are new claims that are now being widely used to draw consumer appeal. In fact, "Health" and "Organic" have emerged as the most popular claims over the past couple of years. Ready meals manufacturers also continue to embark on novel approaches in their offerings to attract customers. Children's meals segment, despite being smaller in size, is one of the fastest growing segments.
Europe dominates the world ready meals market as stated by the new market research report on ready meals market. Since 1990s, customers' attitude towards food has transformed significantly in Europe. One of the key factors that have driven this shift includes improvement in living standards, and need for convenience. Not surprisingly, ready meals witnessed rapid surge in demand, as consumers became more time-constrained. In markets such as France, where consumers are more particular about quality and taste, demand for ready meals witnessed dramatic growth. The most popular ready meals option among Europeans is frozen ready meals.
Asia-Pacific represents the fastest growing market for ready meals. Though most countries in this region traditionally prefer home cooked meals, rising income levels, increasing ownership of refrigerators and microwave ovens, rapid penetration of western-format retail chains and growing popularity of convenience food is driving demand for ready meals. However, preference for local diets and religious restrictions on beef and pork consumption are factors hampering the growth of meat-based ready meals. Another major growth inhibitor is the lack of adequate cold storage infrastructure for frozen and chilled ready meals.

BNM: Monetary, fiscal policies to focus on sustainability, private sector (Posted: 25 March 2010 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Promoting economic sustainability will be the focus of monetary policy in 2010 for Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

In its 2009 annual report, it said the recovery process appeared to be uneven across countries, which implies that the timing and magnitude of the exit stimulus policies implemented during the recent crisis may vary across countries. Monetary policy involves the central bank's decisions on interest rates.

"The Government has announced plans for a gradual consolidation in its fiscal position in 2010. Nevertheless, the overall fiscal policy remains expansionary and will continue to lend support to the recovery process," said BNM.

The raising of the key overnight policy rate by 25 basis points in this month, was move towards "normalising monetary conditions", it said.

"A very high degree of monetary stimulus was considered no longer warranted following the robust recovery and improved economic outlook. The concern was that maintaining interest rates at too low a level over an extended period could encourage excessive risk taking behaviour, and the unhealthy build up of leverage," it said.

However, given the lingering uncertainties surrounding the future growth path of the global economy, the central bank said that "an accommodative monetary policy stance will be maintained", to support and strengthen private investment and consumption demand and thus overall economic growth.

On fiscal policy, also known as government expenditure, BNM said as the economy continues to recover in 2010, fiscal policy will remain geared towards preparing the foundation for a stronger recovery of private sector demand.

Government efforts to strengthen private investment and increase the participation of the private sector in the economy were reflected in the measures announced in the 2010 Budget.

BNM's annual report said these include privatization initiatives, and measures that provide a more conducive business environment, adding, "Moreover, to encourage private sector involvement in the economy, the Government is also providing incentives to several high growth sectors."

Among the sectors identified are tourism, information TECHNOLOGY [] and communication (ICT), finance and Islamic banking, halal products and green technologies.


To further support growth of private consumption, the Government has reduced the personal income tax, and raised individual tax relief to increase the disposable income of consumers, said the central bank's report.

With the emphasis placed in the 2010 Budget on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the government's expenditure and revenue, Bank Negara said the measures that will be implemented and prioritised include the restructuring of the fuel subsidy system which accounts for a significant portion of the government's annual outlays as well as a review of the whole system of subsidies and price controls.

"To maintain a sustainable fiscal position without compromising the overall growth and development objectives, the Government will also intensify its public-private partnership programme for several high impact projects. Some of these projects include the high speed broadband, regional development corridors and public transportation infrastructure projects," it said.

On the revenue gathering side, Bank Negara said that goods and services tax (GST) would broaden the revenue base and be "thus better insulated from the adverse cyclical swing in oil prices."

In addition the Government has also announced plans to review the tax assessment system, especially for petroleum related activities, which are currently assessed with a lag of up to a year.

With the implementation of these measures, the Federal Government fiscal deficit is expected to narrow to 5.6% of GDP in 2010, and operating expenditure will be lower by 12% from RM157 billion in 2009 to RM138 billion, Bank Negara said.

Development expenditure will remain high at RM51.2 billion. "Most of the development expenditure will be channeled towards the economic services and education services sectors," it said.

"Going forward, apart from raising funds through the issuance of government securities, the Government will also issue an RM3 billion retail bond known as 1Malaysia Sukuk, said BNM adding, "The issuance will also serve as an alternative investment avenue for Malaysians to receive better returns in an environment of low domestic interest rates."

Sweeter prospects for Malaysian cocoa (Posted: 22 March 2010 )

Barry Callebaut AG, the world's largest chocolate maker, plans to produce up to 5,000 tonnes of superior grade cocoa beans in Malaysia within three years.

For a start, Barry Callebaut wants to produce 1,000-1,500 tonnes of such beans in the first 12 months using an in-house technique known as controlled fermentation.

The technique will allow it to match the taste of Malaysian cocoa with that of West African cocoa, Barry Callebaut chief executive officer Juergen Steinemann said.

Many consumers in the traditional chocolate consuming countries of Europe and North America are used to the flavour of West African cocoa, he added.

Cocoa fermentation is a process to develop the bean's characteristic taste and flavour, Barry Callebaut Malaysia senior vice-president Ng Boon Yeap said.

While bean fermentation normally happens spontaneously in the bush or the cocoa plantation, Barry Callebaut has developed a controlled fermentation with defined micro-organisms. This provides consistent, predictable and superior cocoa bean quality, Ng added.

"Due to the current growth limitations in cocoa supply from Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producing country - and our growing demand for cocoa, we have strategic need to diversify our cocoa origins," Steinemann said.

He was speaking after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) for joint research on the use of microbial cultures in cocoa bean fermentation yesterday.

Malaysia and its neighbouring countries produce about 15 per cent of the global cocoa harvest annually, Steinemann noted.

In terms of grinding, Malaysia is the largest cocoa grinder in Asia.

Under the memorandum, MCB experts will undertake the research at its R&D centres nationwide as well as help Barry Callebaut identify sites for field tests.

Selbourne Estate's cocoa plantations in Pahang, owned by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), will be one of the test sites for Barry Callebaut's controlled fermentation.

At least 20 other sites have been identified for the first phase of implementation.

Barry Callebaut's factory in Port Klang will process the resultant beans from the process into premium chocolate and cocoa products. They will then be commercialised in Asia Pacific under the well-known Selbourne brand and KLK cocoa brand respectively.

ADB highly praises Vietnam's economic potential and prospects (Posted: 18 March 2010 )

"Vietnam Today" is the theme of a talk on Vietnam's economic development held by the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW) and Asian Development Bank in Berlin on March 17.

The talk was presided over by Alexander Fischer, DIW vice president and managing director and Antonia Andrea Monari, ADB general director in Europe with Ayumi Konishi, ADB director in Vietnam as the main speaker. Also at the talks were experts and scholars from German institutes, universities, businesses and representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy.

Mr Konishi briefed attendees on the overall economic situation in Vietnam, emphasising its potential and development orientations in the 2006-2010 period with a vision for 2020, the impact of the global economic crisis on Vietnam and lessons drawn from it, and opportunities and challenges in the country's economic development in the next few years, as well as for foreign investors in Vietnam.

Mr Konishi said it is estimated that the country's population will reach 100 million in 2020, of which 60 percent being working age, a rate that will hold steady for the next 30 years, giving Vietnam great potential for economic development. However, a shortage of qualified human resources, poor infrastructure, and transport, the low efficiency of intermediate financial activities and objective difficulties in becoming an middle income nation will be challenges for the country in the coming years.

Mr Konishi also provided information about ADB activities in Vietnam and Europe as well as relations between ADB and German organisations in Vietnam and around the world.

ADB is one of Vietnam's biggest donors. At the Consultative Group Meeting in Vietnam late 2009, ADB committed to providing US$2 billion to Vietnam.

MITI Okays Grants, Loans Worth RM1.06 Billion For SMEs (Posted: 9 November 2009 )

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 6 (Bernama) -- Grants and loans worth RM1.06 billion have been approved to 25,549 entrepreneurs engaged in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as of Sept 30.

Of the approved applications, 450 requests for grants and loans worth RM88.3 million were received from SME operators in Sabah, said Deputy Minister of international Trade and Industry Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan.

He said SME Corp Malaysia was handling applications for financial aid in the form of equalisation grants and soft loans.

Jacob also said the Government was committed in boosting awareness among the people on the global halal industry and would ensure the industry's continued growth.

"Malaysia has an advantage in the halal industry as it is the first country in the world to develop the standards for production, preparation, handling and storage of halal food under MS1500:2009 procedures.

Standard Halal Malaysia stipulates mandatory compliance to international standard such as Best Manufacturing Practices and Best Sanctity Practices, he said when opening a seminar on Bumiputera Entrepreneurs in the Halal Industry.

As of Oct 15, Jacob said 2,913 applications from companies for halal certification were approved by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

He said SME Corp also provides training in technical, management and marketing aspects and courses related to halal initiatives in efforts to upgrade skills and efficiency of SME workers.

" Up to end of September, 23,444 SME employees from throughout Malaysia have undergone training under the programme. Of the total, 439 workers are from SME companies in this state," he said.

In this regard, Jacob urged Bumiputera entrepreneurs not to miss the chance to develop human capital by improving workers' skills and expertise in their companies.

On halal trade, Jacob said it has bright future, with the global market value touching RM9.7 trillion a year.

"In 2003, the world Muslim population was 1.6 billion and the figure is expected to swell to three billion by next year," he added.


More Open Services Sector Will Bring In Foreign Capital (Posted: 6 November 2009 )

MALAYSIA'S move to open up its economy through liberalisation of its sub-services sector will ensure a strong flow of foreign investments into the country, said British Trade and Investments Minister Lord Mervyn Davies.

"We draw a parallel to the UK which has been criticised for being too open a market in the past. But because of this we are number one in FDIs and attracted investments and at least 150 major international corporations with the European HQs in the UK," he said at a luncheon roundtable organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute yesterday.

Malaysia further liberalised its services sector in April to attract more foreign investments, professionals and technology as well as strengthen competitiveness of the sector.

The 27 services sub sectors include health and social services, tourism services, transport services, business services and computer and related services.
Britain also replaced some of its industries such as shipbuilding, mining coal with new industries and today it is considered a leader in mobile telephony, advanced engineering and life sciences and research.

Davies said despite the country having to face the challenges of having to stabilise its banking industry which had been badly affected by the US financial crisis last year, London still remains the number one financial centre in the world.

"In the same way Malaysia's liberalisation move and restructuring during the crisis, in Britain we also realise the need to invest more in education to produce the right skills - more scientists, engineers and apprentices," he said.

He expects the education sector for both countries to set the tone for a major partnership between both Malaysia and the UK.

He was, however, disappointed with the current investment level of Malaysians in Britain, saying it could be better and expressed keenness to help Malaysian companies keen on tapping the halal market.

Responding to an appeal by the Malaysian palm oil industry to the British government to address the scathing attacks by its non-government organisations, Davies said the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is the fundamental organisation to address the issue.

Pakistan, Malaysia To Form Joint Business Council To Promote Trade (Posted: 6 November 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 (APP): Pakistan and Malaysia on Wednesday agreed to form joint ministerial committee, a Business Council and working groups to review and carry forward the implementation on decisions reached between the two countries for bilateral trade and investment.

The decision was taken in a meeting held between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister for International Trade and Industry Dato Mustapa Bin Mohamed of Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said although Pakistan and Malaysia are engaged in trade and investment since long, but the volume and base of trade and investment was very small as against the potential, says a message issued by Pakistan's High Commission in Malaysia.

He said that FTA signed between Malaysia and Pakistan in November 2007 was highly underutilized and there was a pressing need for it's review.

The Article 8 of the FTA necessitates holding of meeting of Joint Committee of Pakistan and Malaysia to review the implementation on FTA, identify snags and suggests ways and means to improve the relevant provisions of FTA.

The Foreign Minister also suggested formation of a Joint Ministerial Committee to follow-up the implementation on the decision made at the highest level to translate them into a meaningful cooperation in trade and investment.

He also suggested the formation of a Joint Business Council comprising representatives from Chamber of Commerce and Industries for both the countries to promote bilateral trade.

Qureshi said Malaysia can benefit from investment  and trade with Pakistan, as Pakistan has a large consumer market of 170 million people, needing 6,50,0000 low cost houses every year.

The Minister said Pakistan has also set up an exclusive economic zone for Malaysia in the province of Sindh wherein Malaysia can setup its manufacturing base and can supply its finished industrial products to Pakistan and markets of Central Asia and South West Asia.

He said the government of Pakistan will extend all out help and assistance to Malaysia in setting up its industry in the exclusive Economic Zone.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan is also holding Expo Pakistan from December 3-5. He invited the Malaysian businessman and entrepreneurs to participate in Expo Pakistan and showcase their products for the benefits of buyers who are attending the expo from around the world.

The Minister of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia welcomed the proposals made by the Foreign Minister and assured Malaysia's all out support and cooperation in promoting trade and investment between the two countries.

He also agreed to the formation of Joint Ministerial Commission and Joint Business Council and working groups to review and monitor implementation the decisions taken at the highest level between the two countries.

In the meeting, Foreign Minister of Pakistan was assisted by six business delegates from Pakistan including Asad Sajjad, Halal Development Project, Karachi, Anjum Saleem, Shakargang Food Products, Muneer Shah Nawaz, Shezan Ltd Lahore, Asif Ghias, Director Zenith Associate, Lahore, Abdul Aziz Tumbi, Senior Executive Al Shaheer Corporation, Karachi, Kamran Ahmed Khili, CEO, Al Shaheer Corporation, Karachi.

Pakistan Safe For Foreign Investment, Assures Minister (Posted: 3 November 2009 )

By R. Ravichandran

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 (Bernama) -- Pakistan is a safe country for foreign investment.

The assurance was given by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a written interview with Bernama in conjunction with his visit to attend the Foreign Minister's meeting of The Group of Eight Developing Islamic Countries (D-8) on Monday.

He was responding to questions on whether with the ongoing security-related problems, Pakistan remained a safe place for foreign investment from Malaysia, and also about potential areas for investment and trade.

Qureshi said Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad have excellent relations, and Malaysia is the largest foreign investor with US$656 million in Pakistan in the first half of 2008.

"The time to invest in Pakistan is now given the low asset prices and the country's growth potential, large population, low costs, English-speaking middle classes and similarities between both countries' land codes as part of the lure," he said.

Last year, Malaysia's exports to Pakistan totalled RM5.95 billion while imports amounted to RM363.3 million, which Qureshi said was an indication of better trade for both countries.

The bilateral trade turnover between the two countries has also picked up significantly.

The total annual trade for 2008 stood close to US$1.9 billion, with Pakistan's exports at US$128 million and imports at US$1.7 billion.

"While both sides are committed to further enhance the trade relations. it is imperative to also give attention to the vast trade gap," Qureshi said.

"It is hoped that the FTA (free trade agreement) signed between the two countries would help forge substantive economic partnership," he said.

According to Qureshi, there is huge scope and potential for joint ventures and investments, specially in areas such as Islamic finance, halal industries, energy, housing and infrastructure development, telecommunications and media as well as education, health, agriculture and human resource development.

"Both our countries continue to work together. We look forward to translate the tremendous goodwill, on both sides, into increased engagement in economic, trade and developmental linkages and joint ventures," Qureshi said.

Malaysia and Pakistan have achieved a bilateral FTA which was the first among the Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries.

"We are confident that business leader on both sides will utilise the benefits flowing out of the FTA to achieve manifold increase in our trade, investment and economic cooperation," the minister said.

Calling on the Malaysian business community to continue doing business in Pakistan and potential investors to venture there, Qureshi said there were several reasons which made Pakistan an ideal destination for investment.

Among them is Pakistan's geo-strategic location, with it being the gateway to the energy-rich central Asian countries, and fast-developing western and central China.

"This strategic advantage alone makes Pakistan a marketplace teeming with possibilities," he said.

Qureshi said a large part of the country's trained workforce is proficient in English language and also hardworking and intelligent.

"Pakistan possesses a large pool of trained and experienced engineers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, IT (information technology) and other professionals with many having substantial international experience," he said.

Another reason, Qureshi said, is that Pakistan has been one of the fastest growing economies, having touched a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 8.4 per cent in 2005.

"Today Pakistan has over 170 million consumers with an ever growing middle class. Foreign direct investment has risen sharply from an average of US$300 million in the 1990s to over US$3.7 billion in the 2008-2009 period," he said.

"Despite the global financial downturn, we are expecting a growth rate of about 3.5 to 4.0 per cent this year," he added.

On investment policies, Qureshi said the current policies have been tailored made to suit investors' needs.

"Pakistan's policy trends have been consistent, with liberalisation, deregulation, privatization, and facilitation being its foremost cornerstones," he said.

Qureshi said for the financial markets, Pakistan's Securities and Exchange Commission has improved the regulatory environment of the stock exchanges, corporate bond market and leasing sector.

"Whilst the Federal Board of Revenue has facilitated structural reforms in tax and tariffs, the State Bank of Pakistan has invigorated the banking sector into high returns on investment," he said.


Miti Ready To Expand Mandatory Standards To Other Imports (Posted: 30 October 2009 )

MIRI: The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) is prepared to impose mandatory standards on other products other than imported iron and steel to avoid the inflow of low-quality goods into the country.

Its Deputy Minister, Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan, said the ministry would monitor the inflow of other imports which were expected to increase following the implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area next year.

"We cannot allow our country to be a dumping ground for low quality imports," he told a media briefing after opening a workshop on Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Halal Industry organised by SME Corp Malaysia here.

Sagan said the enforcement of mandatory standards for iron and steel was undertaken by Sirim Bhd since Oct 13 this year after being delayed for about two months.

Under the ruling, only imported steel products bearing the Sirim Certificate of Approval would be allowed into the country.

However, screws, bolts and nuts made of iron or steel, as well as scrap iron, iron ore and articles that had iron and steel products would be exempted from the tests. He said Sirim's fees of between RM1,850 and RM2,000 for testing and verification were accepted by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers and Malaysia Iron and Steel Industry Federation.

Sagan said he would propose that Miti set up another office in Sarawak to facilitate SMEs to seek business development assistance from its agencies.

"Logistic constraint is one of the reasons for the poor response from SMEs in the state towards the ministry's business assistance.

Earlier, Sagan said between January and Sept 30 this year, only 26 applications from Sarawak were approved for assistance under the halal product development and promotion worth about RM970,000.

"Nationwide, a total of 289 applications involving assistance worth RM16.76 million were approved during the period," he said. - BERNAMA

Travel Agents Report Huge Contraction (Posted: 30 October 2009 )

The Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) projects international tourist arrivals to Thailand through its members will decrease by 38% to 1.5 million this year due to the persistence of global economic problems and local political instability.

Surapol Sritrakul, the association's president, said advance bookings for the high season had been meagre. ATTA expects the number of tourists the last two months of the year will be lower than in 2007, which totalled 470,000.

In the first 10 months of this year, ATTA reported tourist arrivals through its members dropped by 30% year-on-year to 1.257 million. The lowest point was October with only 89,388.

"Initially, we expected October arrivals of 140,000, slightly lower than last year's 143,746, but the strike by railway workers caused many rail-based tour groups, especially those from Malaysia and Singapore, to cancel their trips," he said.

The incident also affected European visitors who bought rail packages, as they simply moved to other countries.

Mr Surapol added that the greatest plunge in visitors came from South Korea, whose arrivals dropped by 56.5% to 70,526, followed by Japan, off by 38.4% to 135,202, and Finland, down by 37.9% to 8,095.

Arrivals from the Nordic market, an important target for tourism operators, dropped by 13% to 14,280. However, arrivals from the Middle East grew by 5.64% to 44,436. He acknowledged the Middle East is a burgeoning market.

"The challenges for this market are language and facilities in hotels, such as halal restaurants and prayer rooms. We will educate our members to focus on Muslim tourists and teach them how to penetrate this market," he said.

There are 2 billion Muslims worldwide and 658 million of them travel, he said. More than 80,000 UAE visitors come to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok for medical treatment and checkups per year. These visitors are affluent and love shopping. If Thailand can offer them proper facilities and understand their culture, it will benefit local tourism.

Thailand has only 59 restaurants with halal standards and 26 hotels with halal restaurants and prayer rooms for Muslim guests.

India sees trade as key to prosperity - minister (Posted: 10 September 2009 )

NEW DELHI, Sept 4 - India sees increased trade with the rest of the world as the key to prosperity and wants to at least double its share of global trade flows, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said on Friday.

Sharma dismissed the idea of blocking imports to protect Indian industries, saying that would run counter to its ambitions to expand on the global market.

"Trade is a two-way process. You can't do one-way trade," he told a news conference. "If you want to go into other markets you cannot put barriers into your markets."

Sharma was speaking after a meeting of trade ministers hosted by India agreed to resume and intensify the World Trade Organisation's stalled Doha round to open up world trade.

The Doha round was launched in late 2001 to help developing countries prosper through more trade, not least by removing imbalances in the global trading system that favour rich countries.

But the talks have stumbled repeatedly over differences between rich and poor countries about how much they should open up their respective markets.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk repeated on Friday Washington's view that big emerging countries like India, Brazil and China should do more to open their markets.

The emerging countries have long argued that such calls run counter to the Doha round's development mandate and say they should be allowed to shelter fledgling industries from the full force of competition to allow them to grow.

A round of talks in July last year collapsed partly over the insistence of India and other countries on tough conditions for a proposed safeguard allowing developing countries to block food imports to shield poor farmers from a flood of imports.

Sharma, who took office earlier this year, has argued that a Doha deal must respect the needs of developing countries including India.

But he also said on Friday that India must become a major player in global commerce, calling on Indian industries and exporters to take up the challenge.

"India's share of global trade is less than 2 percent. We would like to double it and beyond," he said. "That would create prosperity that would strengthen our industry, that would create employment."

Sharma launched a new trade policy last week that aims to boost exports to $200 billion in the next two years by cutting transaction costs for exporters and improving the availability of dollar trade finance.

18th Urumqi Trade Fair off to strong start (Posted: 10 September 2009 )

Sep. 2, 2009 (China Knowledge) - The 18th Urumqi Trade Fair, China's only business event targeting central, west and south Asia, opened yesterday, the official Xinhua News reported.

The trade fair, which takes place in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, attracted more than 500 overseas businessmen from 29 countries and regions, including Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It also attracted many domestic businessmen from 21 inland provinces and municipalities.

The trade fair will hold a project promotion fair for members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a border trade development seminar and a signing ceremony for trade projects.

The trade fair, which covers an area of 35,000 square meters, has more than 2,000 exhibition booths divided by sector and region.

The exhibition booths were sold out before the fair began, said Nur Bekri, the regional government chairman, adding that the trade fair will further promote economic communication and cooperation between Xinjiang and neighboring provinces and cities.

The annual trade fair was first held in 1992. The total combined value of foreign contracts signed at the fair in the past 17 years is US$31.7 billion.

Geely-branded vehicles to be assembled in Russia (Posted: 1 September 2009 )

Chinese private automaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. agrees to stop exporting complete vehicles to Russia soon, and instead, the Geely-branded vehicles will be assembled there.

The company will possibly reach accord with the Circassian plant Derways after the termination of its contract with a Russian agent that is exclusively responsible for Geely products exported to Russia, they added.

For the moment, the agent and Derways are in talks, and they are expected to enter into an agreement soon. According to the talks, the Geely MK, also known as Geely KingKong, will firstly be assembled at Derways from October.

Currently, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd., parent of Geely Automobile Holdings, is making preparations for the welding production line in China. In the future, it can share an assembly line at Derways with another Chinese automaker Lifan Group.

For the moment, the Lifan Breez, also known as Lifan 520, is being assembled on the line.


Russia, China Vow to Block 'Gray Customs' Channels (Posted: 1 September 2009 )

"Gray customs" is the name given to the illegal practice of getting items across the border without official customs approval
China said Monday it will work with Russia to restrict the so-called "gray customs clearance" system in a bid to reverse a decline in bilateral trade.

Sun Yongfu, director of the department of European affairs under the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), made the announcement Monday at a press briefing.

"Gray customs" is the name given to the illegal practice of getting items across the border without official customs approval.

For years, Chinese exporters have turned to well-connected sources to process goods at the Russian border. Exporters who refuse to pay for such services have seen their goods held up, even when they had all the correct documentation.

The Russian government deemed the practice illegal, and, on June 29, raided the Cherkizovsky market in Moscow looking for goods brought into Russia that way. Many Chinese import-export companies were affected.

Sun also said Monday that China and Russia were conducting trials on ways to swap their currencies at border cities. He said the nations want to bring in a currency swapping policy to strengthen bi-lateral trade as soon as possible. The system may be in place later this year.

He said the initiatives will not erase the trade deficit between China and Russia (China imports more from Russia than it exports to the country), but the efforts will help ease the imbalance and the Chinese Government will push hard to close the gap completely.

The closure of the Cherkizovsky market, Russia's largest daily wholesale market where 80,000 Chinese businessmen earned a living, led to the Russian authorities confiscating goods allegedly "smuggled" by Chinese sellers via the gray customs system.

According to MOFCOM, more than 10,000 vending stands, owned by 60,000 Chinese, were affected and goods valued at $5 billion, packed into 15,000 shipping containers, were temporarily seized.

After lengthy talks between China and Russia, the issue has been "preliminarily resolved", Sun said.

About 95 percent of the seized goods have been returned to the Chinese owners.

But Sun said it will be important going forward for the "root of problem" - gray customs clearance - to be dealt with.

"The practice has negatively affected bilateral trade," Sun said.

Ling Ji, deputy director of the department of European affairs with the commerce ministry, said the closure of the market hurt Chinese exports.

China is Russia's second- largest trading partner.

China-Russia trade reached $55 billion last year, according to Russian Customs. But during the first five months of this year, China-Russia trade saw its first drop since 1999, plunging 39 percent from a year earlier, according to the commerce ministry.

China ran a trade deficit with Russia of $1.37 billion -- meaning it imported $1.37 billion-worth of goods more than it exported - thanks to China's voracious importing of electrical and mechanical goods and energy-related products.

Shoemaker's troubles signal a rough road ahead for footwear industry (Posted: 13 August 2009 )

The export-oriented footwear industry may have some tough times ahead, according to a report yesterday in National Business Daily (NBD).

The report concluded that since one of China's largest shoe producers experienced a drop in net income, other companies might face similar problems, or even a crisis.
Yue Yuen, the largest original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of shoes for Nike and adidas, recorded a year-on-year decline of 1.58 percent in net income in the first seven months, according to NBD.

Wang Zhentao, president of Aokang Group, one of China's largest footwear manufacturers, told Chinese Businessman magazine in early August that prices went up all around.

The price of raw materials rose along with the cost of labor. Both combined to increase production costs by 20 percent since 2008, Wang said.

Shoe exports in the first seven months of 2009 declined 5.2 percent year-on-year to $15.7 billion, China's General Administration of Customs said Monday.

In addition, Nike closed its last self-owned shoe factory in March and was expected to transfer its production base to Vietnam and Indonesia, where the labor force and materials are cheaper. Competitive advantage of price in China's major rivals like Indonesia, since the late half of 2008, while renminbi stayed relatively stable,making things even harder for Chinese firms, Wang said.

Sun Zhe contributed to this story

Business cheers trade policy measures (Posted: 28 July 2009 )

KARACHI: Non-textile sectors such as leather and leather garments, engineering goods, seafood, furniture, cutlery, etc., on Monday welcomed the three-year Trade Policy 2009-10, which focuses on export diversification and set realistic export growth target.

It is for the first time that the trade policy, which was announced by Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, has focussed on non-textile sectors only because a separate policy for the textile sector will be announced shortly.

The new trade policy has projected a six per cent growth in exports during the current fiscal year at $18.8 billion. For FY11 and FY12, the exports are seen to grow at 10 and 13 per cent, respectively.

Business leaders said in view of prevailing global economic recession owing to financial meltdown, the six per cent export growth target was realistic and achievable.

They said that it was encouraging that the new policy had focused on those non-textile sectors which had massive export potential, but were not getting due attention from the economic planners in the past.

The trade and industry were of the view that the three-year trade policy would allow exporters to chalk out business plan on long term basis. In the past, half of the fiscal year was wasted in assessing implications of trade measures and the other half to count benefits, if any.

Pakistan Leather Garments Exporters and Manufacturers Association (Plgmea) Chairman Fawad Ijaz Khan told Dawn that it was quite encouraging that out of seven demands of the association four had been accepted in the new trade policy.

He further said that the Strategic Trade Policy Framework was an attempt to improve the country's export competitiveness and also overcome global economic shocks.

As leather apparel industry constantly faces challenges in changing trends and improvement in quality, the government will give matching grant to establish design studios or centres in their units. Beside, hiring of foreign experts would also be facilitated by the government.

The Plgmea chief said such measures would help the sector to overcome some of its basic difficulties and also save them from cost particularly on establishing research and development centres in Karachi and Sialkot.

He appreciated setting up of Export Investment Support Fund to be used for providing facilities to leather and leather garment sector.

The best step, he said, making available of funds to local governments for installing flaying machines in slaughter houses because presently around 25 per cent of hides and skins are rendered useless from butcher cuts. SITE Association of Industry (SAI) Chairman M. A. Jabbar welcomed the creation of a special fund of Rs2.5 billion for light engineering sector for product development and marketing.

He also appreciated a move to compensate exporters of cement, light engineering, leather garments, furniture, soda ash, sanitary wares etc., through a support on inland freight.

Faisal Hassan of Global Seafood Marketing said that it was highly encouraging that the new trade policy had given due importance to live seafood, which fetches higher price in the world market. The grant of freight subsidy up to 25 per cent, he said, would help boost exports.

He also commended the measures taken for boosting export of Halal products.

He said bearing of certification cost up to 50 per cent and of safety standards certification by underwriter laboratories would help promote Halal products, which have so far been neglected by Pakistani exporters.

Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) chairman Zahaid Hussain said exports of non-traditional goods would boost up on getting interim relief.

`Those sectors, which had been neglected by the economic managers in the past, are now given due importance in the new trade policy such as light engineering, pharmaceuticals, jewellery, handicrafts, auto parts, electric fans, cutlery, sports and footwear goods etc.,' he remarked.

By Parvaiz Ishfaq Rana


China launches trial yuan trade settlement scheme (Posted: 7 July 2009 )

SHANGHAI, July 6 (Reuters) - China on Monday officially launched a pilot programme to allow companies to settle imports and exports in the yuan in selected areas in a major step towards internationalising the Chinese currency eventually.

The launch in Shanghai also echoed Beijing's announcement earlier this year to make the Chinese financial hub a global international centre by 2020 in what the government said would reflect the rising status of China's economy and its currency.

The government had said the programme would initially be confined to certain areas, including Hong Kong and Macau, outside mainland China, and to Shanghai and China's key export province of Guangdong in the south.

The yuan settlement scheme will be trialled between the Association of South East Asian Nations and Yunnan and Guangxi regions in southern China before it is launched elsewhere. (Reporting by Lu Jianxin and Jacqueline Wong)

CONTINUE - PC shipments plunge 11.47% (Posted: 6 July 2009 )

What vendors say:


"The UAE is mainly a mobile market with a ratio of 4 to 1 (notebook versus desktop). Everything we've seen so far for the year suggests that we will see a seasonal second half, which is that the second half will be stronger than first half. Technology tends to lead economic cycles, it's a tool for productivity and this is why people buy computers and right now the consumer part of the market is what's driving it in the Gulf. I would expect the business part of the market, which has been very slow, will start to pick up later this year or early next year as businesses reset," Samir Al Schamma, Intel General Manager for the GCC, said.

He said we will continue using our leading manufacturing technology to extend Intel Architecture further into high-end computing as well as into smaller form factor devices requiring lower power. Silicon process, the ubiquity of IA platforms and scale are three strengths Intel possesses that will help Intel continue its leadership. Later in the second half of this year it will be launching the Nehalem family of processors for laptops.


"There are indications that the PC market is nearing the bottom. Overall for the year we should see a slight increase in year-on-year sales," Anil Kumar, General Manager, PSG, HP Middle East, said. "This year HP will launch a series of thin and ultra-light, full-featured notebooks at attractive prices below $1,000 (Dh3,678)," he said.


 "After a rather slow first quarter, outlook for the second half of the year appears to be encouraging," Dharmendra Lalai, Head of IT Marketing Division, Sony Gulf, said.

He said although the performance of netbooks may improve, and their demand might continue to increase, it isn't likely they will replace laptops immediately. The current economic situation has led many customers to be increasingly budget-conscious, but some customers are still willing to purchase premium products. Their purchasing decision is based not only on price but also on features and overall performance. "We will continue to develop new offerings which will either be in line with, or exceed, consumer expectations," he said.

LG Electronics

"We at LGE have seen tremendous growth for our product portfolio in the Gulf market and have penetrated very strongly in retail market presence for our whole range. This region is growing at a rapid speed and we are expecting double digit growth in the Gulf market for this year," Felix Baretto, Business Manager - Notebook PC, LG Electronics Gulf, said. Regarding Android software, he said LGE is known to provide the first-to-market concepts with technology and products. For the time being there is no shift in the direction of changing OS provided in their systems.

"Last year the mini-notebook sales were mere 15-20 per cent contributing to overall sales but this year these numbers can increase in doubling last year figures," he said.


"The first few months have been tough, but with the correct product in the right channels at the right time, we have managed to satisfy the demand there is in the market. Certainly some regions have been more robust than others and retail seems to be holding up quite nicely. Vendors and all channels are working to remain profitable in a global market that is under pressure and in an industry where ASP's continue to slide," Mark Prosser, Product Marketing Manager, Mobility Products, Acer Computer, said.

"The summer months will certainly be a challenge. Acer will continue to work hard with the product and the channels to attract what demand there is. Although no one has a crystal ball, the sentiment in the market is that as we get closer to Back to School and the winter months the outlook looks to be positive.

For Acer, it will be business as usual. We are a company that is able to adapt to market demand very quickly." He said netbooks have opened a new segment of Mobile user that is showing real good growth. "We remain positive on Mobility and expect to see growth in 2009." Acer has refreshed its netbook lineup with thinner and lighter designs. "This is just the start as we move into the second half of 2009, we will see more products that focus on battery life and form factor without sacrifice in performance."

At the beginning of June, Acer announced that it will launch in the third quarter of 2009 a 10" netbook that uses Android. As of today, they have no final specification, pricing or exact availability in the Gulf.

"The Gulf is experiencing a slowdown in PC sales, but it is getting stable and is forecast to be better later during the year.


Asus refers to 2009 as an optimistic year for laptop growth," said Eric J.C., Country Product Manager - UAE & GCC, Asus Middle East FZCO, said.

"This year we have phased in the Ultra light U-series Notebook and the Vx5, which is our next generation of Lamborghini notebook series. Apart from these, there have been regular upgrades on all our models of notebooks. As for the netbooks, we have the Sea Shell series of netbooks which have 10.5 hours of battery life meeting the all-day computing needs of the consumers." Regarding the Android platform, he said, "The important element to phase in Android is market demand instead of we need to do or not. "Once the market demand for Android growth, Asus will seriously consider to go into this market."


PC shipments plunge 11.47% (Posted: 6 July 2009 )

Dubai: Personal computer shipments across the Gulf fell in the first quarter of this year due to weaker-than-expected desktop sales caused by the global economic slowdown, according to industry experts.

PC shipments (desktops, laptops excluding netbooks) in the first quarter amounted to 874,447 units, an 11.47 per cent decline from 987,789 units during the same period last year. Out of 981,283 units shipped into the region in the first quarter, 199,835 units were desktops, 674,612 notebooks and 106,836 netbooks.

The total value of the sales was $869.63 million (Dh3.2 billion), a drop of 9.57 per cent compared to $961.64 million in the first quarter of last year.

"The positive side during the quarter was the growth in mini notebooks or netbooks. Netbooks contributed 15 per cent of the notebook sales. Some of the growth in the netbook PC market is a function of cannibalisation of entry-level notebook PCs, but the factors which helped propel the mini-note market initially - low ASPs and basic functionality - remain the key forces propelling growth," said Omar Shihab, Research Manager, PCs and Systems, IDC Middle East and Africa.

He said the Gulf has performed better than other regions. The hardware sector has been hit hardest in the IT industry.

The UAE market was the weakest, followed by Kuwait. Saudi Arabia and Egypt performed better than expected; consumer demand has not been affected much in these markets.

In the desktop sector, shipments into the region totalled 199,835 units in the first quarter this year, down 26.84 per cent compared to 273,149 units in the same period last year.

The total sales value of the desktop segment was $141.16 million, a fall of 27.25 per cent compared to $194.05 million in the first quarter of last year.

Kuwait was the worst hit in the desktop sector with a 52 per cent fall, followed by Qatar (43.42 per cent), Bahrain (42.50 per cent), Oman (38 per cent), the UAE (31.98 per cent), and Saudi Arabia (1.37 per cent).

"Before the crisis, desktops sales were coming from enterprise replacements, demand from small- and medium-businesses [SMB] and small government projects. In the first quarter, enterprises delayed their replacements. They can delay it for sometime after that they have to do it. But the replacement period is going to be longer. SMBs are the ones who immediately stopped the purchase during the crisis. They are the ones immediately hit," Shihab said.

In the notebook sector, total shipments into the region were 674,612 units, a decrease of 5.60 per cent compared to 714,640 units during the same period last year.

Qatar was the worst hit with a 32.35 per cent fall, followed by the UAE (18.15 per cent), Oman (15.67 per cent), Kuwait (7.17 per cent) and Bahrain (2.77 per cent).

Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the only markets in this sector to register growth despite the crisis. Qatar registered a whopping 32.35 per cent growth and Saudi Arabia 3.69 per cent.

Oman is the only country in the Gulf where desktop shipments outpaced laptops.

"2008 was a bumper year for the Gulf PC market as netbooks were introduced in the region in August by Asus. Compared to 2007, 2009 will be a better year, but when compared to 2008 this year will be very bad," said Swapna Subramani, associate research analyst, MEA region, IDC.

In the netbook sector, 106,836 units were shipped in to the region. The UAE was the leader in this segment with 48,908 units, followed by Saudi Arabia with 47,650 units and Kuwait (4,584 units).

Continue...What vendors say:

Malaysia IOI says worst is over for planters (Posted: 3 July 2009 )

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia July 2 - IOI Corp <IOIB.KL>, Malaysia's No 2 planter, said on Thursday that the worst was over for the plantation sector as palm oil prices have recovered from last year's slump although M&A activity would be muted.

Earnings of Malaysian palm oil producers plunged in the first quarter as crude palm oil prices more than halved from a year ago.

IOI, valued at $8.37 billion, saw net profit nearly wiped out during January-March due to weak crude palm oil prices and large foreign translation losses on its U.S. dollar borrowings.

Sime Darby <SIME.KL>, Malaysia's top planter, reported a 85 percent drop in net profit while third-ranked Kuala Lumpur Kepong <KLKK.KL> saw net profit down 52 percent in the same period. "It's quite obvious it will be better. The industry including ourselves expects to see much better fourth quarter (April-June) operating results," IOI Executive Director Lee Yeow Chor told Reuters at the company's headquarters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.

Malaysia is the world's second-largest palm oil producer after Indonesia.

Crude palm oil prices hit a record 4,486 ringgit a tonne in March 2008 before collapsing at the height of the global financial meltdown and triggering speculation that distressed plantation firms starting out would sell.

But Lee said the opportunities for merger and acquisition in the sector are hard to find now as the palm oil price recovery helped smaller firms hold out for better deals.

"Because the sharp price drop has not really been for a long time, the pressures on them (smaller planters), in terms of cashflow or repayment of bank borrowings is not so great."


IOI, which owns oil palm estates in Malaysia and Indonesia, saw net profit for the third-quarter to March plunge 94 percent to 37.36 million ringgit from a year ago on an unrealised forex translation loss of 232.4 million ringgit. [ID:nKLR496786]

The sharp drop in third-quarter earnings was due mainly to "a lot of translation adjustments" on its U.S. dollar debt, said Lee, adding that IOI expects the forex losses to reverse in the upcoming quarterly results.

"For fourth quarter with the weakening of the U.S. dollar, from end-March of around 3.63 ringgit, we expect to have some gains in currency translation for U.S. dollar borrowings," said Lee.

"We borrow U.S. dollars, because it corresponds with our palm oil revenue, so that is a natural hedge between our borrowings and receipt of revenue," he added.


Palm oil prices <KPOc3> have now recovered more than 60 percent from a low of 1,331 ringgit ($378.8) per tonne in October on surging Asian demand as well as tight Malaysian palm oil stock levels in the first few months of 2009.

"We have always thought that the low price level in the first quarter of this year was not a sustainable level to begin with. We have always expected the price to move up," said Lee.

"The major consuming countries, China and India, their economies have not been that badly affected by the prevailing global downturn," he said.

Lee said Malaysian palm oil production should pick up in the second half of the year due to the seasonal uptick in output as yield stress fades. He pegged June palm oil stocks at 1.5 million tonnes, an increase of 9.5 percent from a month earlier.

China to ban imports of U.S. chicken (Posted: 3 July 2009 )

Jul. 2, 2009 (China Knowledge) - China has effectively banned chicken imports from the U.S. as of Jul. 1, a move likely to cause losses of millions of dollars, said James H. Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

China notified U.S. producers that it will not issue import permits for U.S. poultry but has not published any official statement, said Sumner.

China, which buys 70% of the chicken exported from the U.S., was expected to import 394,000 tons in the second half of 2009, said Sumner, adding that if China does not resume imports, the U.S. chicken exporters are likely to lose about US$370 million in the next six months, which would seriously hurt the U.S. chicken industry.

China's move is thought to be a reaction to a ban on U.S. imports of processed chicken. Lawmakers inserted a provision in the 2008 fiscal-year spending bill to prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from allowing chicken processed in China to be imported. The ban has been extended through to the 2010 fiscal year.

Representatives for the U.S. Agriculture Department and the Chinese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Gcc And Asean Joint Statement (Posted: 1 July 2009 )

Manama, June 30 (BNA) Foreign ministers of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) welcomed today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the secretariats of both the GCC and ASEAN.

On this occasion the foreign Ministers affirmed the desire to seek additional areas for cooperation and assigned to the two secretariats to develop a plan of action within two years in order to ensure effective cooperation and make concrete results.

The plan is to be then submitted during the second joint ministerial meeting to be reviewed.

The ministers adopted a common vision for the development of relations between them to achieve the benefits and common interests of the two regions.

In a statement issued at the end of the first joint meeting between the GCC and ASEAN, which was held earlier today in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the ministers agreed to hold the next joint meeting in 2010 in one of the ASEAN countries to be followed by the subsequent ministerial meetings every two years and alternating between the GCC member countries and the ASEAN, in addition to holding an annual meeting at the level of the Troika on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The ministers also assigned the secretariats of both the GCC and ASEAN to study and prepare recommendations on the Free trade agreement between the two sides, economic cooperation and development, education, culture and media.
The Ministers mandated the secretariats of the two sides to prepare a perception of these topics and present it to the next meeting of the Troika.

The ministers agreed in order to strengthen the partnership between the two sides approval of the appointment of ambassadors of the GCC in Jakarta at the Secretariat of the ASEAN ambassadors and likewise be adopted in by the ASEAN in Riyadh.

The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the two groups affirmed the importance of closer links between people at all levels and the importance of human development which contributes in narrowing the gap in the development and promotion of dialogue among civilizations and cultures, cooperation and linkages in the field of education through student exchange and academic as well as the dissemination of information among member states that have been reviewed in the meeting.

They also stressed the importance of strengthening communication between peoples, including the movement of citizens of the GCC and ASEAN, between the two regions, and within this context, the ministers agreed to enhance cooperation in the consular area.

The Foreign Ministers of the GCC and ASEAN at the end of their meeting indicated the importance of the fight against sea piracy, in accordance with international legitimacy.

They also agreed to pursue closer cooperation in the areas of trade and investment between the two, including an examination of the possibility of a framework for cooperation and trade agreement between the two sides.

In this regard, the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and GCC stressed on the importance of encouraging the private sector in the regions and work together to promote a forum for business owners of the GCC and ASEAN countries.

They stressed the importance of food security and joint development of agricultural production and food supply, food standards, including a valuable production of Halal food through a wider investment in these areas and improve the infrastructure and logistics as well as the development of research.

The Ministers noted the importance of cooperation in the energy sector, including the exchange of information on energy and hydrocarbon joint development of alternative and renewable energy.

Within this context the ministers congratulated the United Arab Emirates on choosing Abu Dhabi as location of the secretariat of the Renewable International Atomic Energy "Arena".

With regard to the financial crisis and the current economic situation, the ministers voiced their concern on this crisis and its impact.

They stressed the importance of increased cooperation between international financial, economic and trade organisations.

The ministers welcomed the outcome of the G20 summit which was held in London, as well as the UN conference on global financial and economic crisis and its impact on development.

The ministers noted the importance of cooperation in the field of tourism, including the services sector, medical treatment and agreed to work together toward the development and promotion and marketing of the sector through the establishment of formal networks and to promote tourism and activities involving the private sector as well as the development of investment in this area among member countries in both regions.

The ministers exchanged views on their overall views on international issues of common concern in a spirit of cooperation between the countries of the South, including the Doha round of the World Trade Organization and the global financial situation, where they stressed the positive role played by the two sides aimed at promoting peace, stability, prosperity and regional integration and sustainable development and building societies in their respective regions.

They also discussed mechanisms to support and strengthen cooperation in many areas of common interest.

The ministers expressed their gratitude to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and to the government and people of Bahrain for their hospitality and excellent organization of the meeting.

Top Food Scientist To Target Hidden Fish Allergens, Pork, With New Tests (Posted: 1 July 2009 )

The odds of contracting mad cow disease from banned or adulterated bovine protein lurking in raw or processed food for humans or meat-bone meal for livestock have declined over the past decade. So have the risks of purchasing fishy imposters billed as red snapper, ground beef that isn't all cow, or spoiled meat that doesn't look or smell bad . yet.

All that consumer protection is thanks in part to improved food-testing methods -- quicker, more reliable paper-strip field tests and simpler, more accurate laboratory assays -- developed since the 1990s by food scientist Yun-Hwa Peggy Hsieh of The Florida State University. Currently, four assays in commercial use worldwide feature her patented technology.

Now, with two recent grants totaling nearly $500,000, Hsieh will begin work on the development of two new immunoassays for commercial use on both raw and processed food products. With a three-year, $280,000 award from the United States Department of Agriculture, she'll design a test to detect fish allergens, which cause allergic reactions in more than 6 million people each year in the United States alone. And, with a two-year, $216,000 award from a division of the Tanaka Kikinzoku Group of Japan, Hsieh will devise a rapid test to detect traces of pork fat -- good news for more than a billion Muslims and millions of Jews who adhere to Halal and Kosher dietary laws, respectively, that forbid pork consumption.

"In 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCP) called for mandatory labeling of the eight major allergenic foods by January 2006, but while methods have been developed to detect the presence of shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, cow's milk and egg, currently there's still no way to test for fish proteins in food materials," Hsieh said.

"With the increase in the production and consumption of seafood in recent years, more consumers with fish allergies are at risk of serious reactions or even death than ever before due to mislabeled or undeclared fish byproducts," she said. "My USDA grant will enable me to develop a convenient and reliable tool to enforce FALCPA and protect those consumers."

Hsieh expects to publish one or two papers per year during the course of the grant period. She anticipates at least one patent application for the project once it is completed.

"A fast, effective fish allergen immunoassay has the potential for immediate commercialization," she said. "Currently, two domestic biotechnology companies, who already have licensed several of our species-specific tests for food and feed control in heat-processed products, are marketing immunoassay kits for detection of ingredients in all seven types of foods listed in the 'Big Eight' except for finfish. Since the FALCP labeling mandate took effect in 2006, these companies have been eagerly seeking assays for fish detection, and they have shown strong interest in my laboratory's research efforts to develop fish-specific ones."

Awarded on the heels of her USDA fish-allergens grant, Hsieh's two-year grant from Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K. of Japan will help to advance her earlier research on the detection of pork products in food and feed products.

"I previously developed a rapid pork immunoassay that can sensitively detect any pork muscle in food and feed mixtures regardless of their processing conditions," Hsieh said. "This assay was commercialized in 2000 and has been widely used internationally. However, detection of pork fat remains challenging due to the physiochemical nature of the fat. Currently available methods all require sophisticated instruments coupled with complex data analysis procedures for interpreting results. Rapid field tests of pork or any other fat are non-existent.

"With this grant, I hope to change that, because such tests are vital to practicing Muslim and Jewish populations," she said.

Hsieh's novel and commercially successful food-testing technology took off in the 1990s when her research first revealed that even the rigors of rendering didn't destroy certain marker proteins in animal muscle tissue. With that discovery, she developed immunoassays using specific antibodies that react to the presence of those thermostable proteins and identify which species they come from. Results from her immunoassays have trumped those of traditional analyses -- time-consuming food testing processes fraught with false positives and negatives because the high heat of rendering causes most animal proteins and DNA to degrade.

A distinguished professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University's College of Human Sciences, Hsieh holds 11 patented and patent-pending technologies. Learn more about her cutting-edge research at

Florida State University's College of Human Sciences

The rose is commonly called the "flower of love," representing romance and passion. Today, farmers i (Posted: 30 June 2009 )

The rose is commonly called the "flower of love," representing romance and passion. Today, farmers in Yongdeng County, in northwest China's Gansu Province, have a new reason to fall in love-a local variety of the blooming beauty has become the area's pot of gold.

Yongdeng County, situated in the central part of the province, is known as China's rose nursery. Local government data show that 2,000 hectares, or half of the county's lands, are dedicated to growing roses this year, which accounted for 70 percent of China's total.

What's in a name

Yongdeng has its own well-known brand of roses. Because the county's Kushui Township grows China's best roses, the name Kushui rose has become tied to all the flowers coming out of Yongdeng, said Yu Wancheng, head of the Kushui Rose Association.

The Kushui rose is the result of crossbreeding between two different species, according to Yu. It is resistant to cold and drought, cares little for the quality of its soil and grows well in both acidic and alkaline soils. Its resistance to alkaline environments is especially important in dry northwest China.

The town plants more than 460 hectares of roses and harvests about 2.8 million kg annually, said Zhang Tianquan, a township official.

Shi Maolin, a farmer in Kushui's Shangxingou Village, has grown roses for eight years. He said he invested 100,000 yuan ($14,600) in 2000 and planted 1.33 hectares of roses. "That was the beginning of my bond with roses," said Shi. Today, he farms the largest area of roses in Kushui.

May is the middle of the harvest season for roses, he said. This year the price for fresh flowers has reached 14 yuan ($2.05) per kg, increasing 200 percent from the previous year. The price of dried flower buds is 70 yuan ($10.25) per kg, which is the highest it has ever been.

"All families in our village are now growing roses and the total area being cultivated is about 27 hectares, which can produce more than 400,000 kg of wet flower buds," said Shi. "With the increase in prices, villagers can get more money this year."

This year's output in Kushui alone will be worth more than 10 million yuan ($1.46 million). That number comprises 15 percent of the total income for the township's farmers, said Zhang.

"Yongdeng is the biggest provider of roses in China and a major provider around the world," said Zhang. Every year, he said, many buyers come to purchase fresh flowers and wet and dried buds.

From one, many

The county has formed a mature rose industry, with many different processing operations going on, said Zhang.

He said fragrant roses can be preserved in sugar or honey, used to make wine, sauce, tea or various cakes and candies. "The Kushui rose is perfect for its sweet and enchanting aroma that is well known all over the world," he said.

Years ago, Shi registered Lanzhou Rose Maolin Processing Industry Corp., a company that makes all kinds of rose products.

"Our factory provides rose foods, beverages and teas," said Shi. Rose-containing products are rich in vitamin C and good for people's health. Products made from rose flowers and roots can also be used as herbal medicines because they relieve suppression of liver and invigorate blood circulation, he said.

In 2003, he bought three specialized machines and started processing rose extract.

According to Jiang Yumei, a College of Food Science and Engineering professor at Gansu Agricultural University, the Kushui rose is the best variety to produce the essence and attar of rose in China because of its high blooming rate and oil percentage. "In general, 10,000 kg of fresh rose petals are needed to produce 4 kg of oil. The oil percentage of the Kushui rose is more than that," Jiang said.

"In order to capture their unique Oriental aroma, the roses are always collected when they are just about to open and steam-distilled immediately," said Shi.

Brick by Brick (Posted: 30 June 2009 )

Chinese President Hu Jintao charted a future course for cooperation between Brazil, Russia, India and China, collectively known as the BRIC countries, at a recent summit.

Leaders of the four fast-growing developing economies met in the central Russia city of Yekaterinburg on June 16. It was the first formal meeting they have had since U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs came up with the BRIC concept in 2001.

"We should seize historic opportunities, strengthen unity and cooperation and jointly safeguard the overall interests of developing countries," Hu said in his speech.

At a time when the world is trying to cope with the international financial crisis and restore economic growth, BRIC countries should enhance mutual political trust by making use of current dialogue mechanisms, Hu said.

BRIC countries held their first foreign ministers' meeting in Yekaterinburg in May last year. Since then, they have held several finance ministers' meetings to address the global financial crisis. In May this year, their senior representatives on security issues met for the first time in Moscow.

BRIC countries complement each other with their respective advantages in resources, markets, labor force and science and technology, Hu said. They should work more closely together on the economic front, expand areas for economic cooperation and introduce new ways of cooperation to achieve better results, he added.

Since the four countries all have a long history and rich cultural heritage, they should strengthen exchanges in the fields of culture, education, public health, tourism and sports to lay a social foundation for their all-round cooperation, he said.

He also called on the four countries to learn from each other's experience. "We should respect the development paths chosen by different countries, exchange experiences related to development and learn from each other's development mode, and share experiences with other developing countries on a voluntary basis," he said.

BRIC countries are home to 42 percent of the world population. In 2008, they accounted for 14.6 percent of global gross domestic product and 12.8 percent of the world's total trade volume.

At the Yekaterinburg summit, leaders issued a joint statement clarifying BRIC countries' views on international issues as well as a statement on global food security. Brazil will host the next BRIC summit in 2010.

China's Proposals

Chinese President Hu Jintao put forward a four-point proposal for BRIC countries at the Yekaterinburg summit in an effort to deal with the ongoing global financial crisis:

Committed to promoting the early recovery of the world economy. We must strive to overcome difficulties and take the lead in recovery from the international financial crisis. We have to, in the course of tackling the international financial crisis, solve long-term structural problems that exist in our economic development, change our development modes, and strive to improve the quality and level of our economic development while promoting the recovery of world economic growth. We should adhere to open markets, give play to our complementary advantages and expand economic and trade cooperation.

Committed to promoting reform of the international financial system. We need to jointly push forward the development of plans regarding reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and effectively increase the say and representation of developing countries so as to objectively reflect changes in the world economy.

Committed to executing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. We need to continue to call upon the international community not to neglect development issues or reduce development investment just because of the international financial crisis. The international community should pay particular attention to the impact of the international financial crisis on developing countries, especially the least developed countries. We need to call on all parties to continue to execute the Millennium Development Goals and urge developed countries to fulfill their official development assistance commitments.

Committed to ensuring food security, energy and resource security, and public health security. We are all trying our best to cope with the international financial crisis, but at the same time, it is necessary to have a long-term perspective, focus on overall planning, and properly handle other outstanding issues that affect development, especially climate change, food security, energy and resource security, and public health security. These problems have a direct bearing on the well-being and overall interests of the people in the world.

(Source: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Japan's auto production, exports fall for 8th month (Posted: 30 June 2009 )

Japan's auto production and exports continued to plummet in May for the eighth month in a row, an industry body reported Monday.

According to a report by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Japan produced 542,282 vehicles in May, down 41.4 percent from a year earlier, and its auto exports fell 55.9 percent from a year earlier to 233,217 units, also for the eighth straight month of decline.

Sugar trade mulls impact of below-normal Indian monsoon (Posted: 25 June 2009 )

NEW YORK, June 24 - Dealers were pondering Wednesday if India, the world's biggest consumer of sugar, will need to import more of the sweetener because of faltering monsoon rains.

India's government said its annual monsoon rains, the lifeblood of its trillion dollar farm economy, were expected to be below normal in 2009. [ID:nISL48163]

"If they produce less (sugar), they would have to come to the market," a senior sugar broker said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department had estimated India's 2009/10 sugar imports would reach 2.5 million tonnes.

Trade house Sucden pegged India's 2009/10 sugar consumption at 23.5 million tonnes and production at 20 million tonnes, which meant the country would again "require substantial imports."

"The implication is that they would need to import more sugar because their production will take a hit. The question is if they can come up with the financing to do so," another dealer said.

The benchmark October raw sugar contract <SBV9> in New York surged to a three-year peak of 17.38 cents per lb Wednesday. And the March 2010 raw sugar contract <SBH0> hit a contract high of 18.24 cents. (Reporting by Rene Pastor; Editing by John Picinich) ([email protected]; +1 646 223 6047; Reuters Messaging: [email protected])

S. Korean imported scrap in the first half of June continued rising (Posted: 25 June 2009 )

Jun.23 MetalBiz--In the first half of June, S. Korean electric furnace companies to increase scrap imports. S. Korea Iron and Steel Association statistics show that S. Korea imported 390,000 tons of scrap from June 1 to 15, up 24.2% month on month. The scrap from U.S. had a marked increase in the volume, exceeding 120,000 tons, and the scrap from Japan is 237,000 tons, maintaining the level of last month.

UPDATE 1-US expected to start WTO case against China (Posted: 25 June 2009 )

WASHINGTON, June 22 - U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is expected to launch a WTO case against China on Tuesday when he holds what his office called a major news conference regarding U.S.-China trade.

Kirk's office gave no details in announcing the 9:15 a.m. EDT/1315 GMT session with reporters. But industry sources said they expected the United States and the European Union would both announce a World Trade Organization case against China over its export restrictions on raw materials.

The expected action by the United States and the EU follows their failure to persuade China to reduce its export tariffs and raise quotas on materials such as zinc, tin, tungsten and yellow phosphorous.

The first step, which industry sources expect to be announced on Tuesday, would be for Brussels and Washington to formally request consultations with Beijing. If these talks fail, the next step would be to request that a WTO panel hear the complaint, a step that can take years.

"If the US and the EU do indeed file a WTO case against China on raw material export restrictions, we welcome this action," said Tom Gibson, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

"US and NAFTA steel producers have long believed that this government of China policy is a WTO violation and that it is benefiting Chinese manufacturers artificially while disadvantaging manufacturers everywhere else," he said.

Bahrain's Al Salam, Charoen to invest in agcltr (Posted: 23 June 2009 )

MANAMA, June 21 (Reuters) - Bahrain-based Islamic bank Al Salam SALAM.BH said on Sunday it has signed an agreement with Thailand's agriculture and food company Charoen Pokphand Foods CPF.BK to jointly invest in agricultural businesses.

Gulf Arab countries are targeting investments in farm land and agricultural businesses in developing nations after rampant inflation last year highlighted their dependence on imports.

"Al Salam and Charoen Pokphand will jointly identify suitable agribusiness ventures that will generate attractive risk-adjusted returns while playing a proactive role in addressing food security in the region," the bank said in a statement.

The two companies will target agricultural sectors including livestock, staple food and fish farms and establish an integrated food firm, which will also invest in food packaging and distribution.

A number of Gulf states have expressed interest in livestock and rice farming in Thailand to secure food supplies, the consul of Thailand's commercial section in the United Arab Emirates said earlier this month.


Bahrain Bank, CP to form strategic alliance for agro-industrial (Posted: 23 June 2009 )

Published on June 23, 2009

Bahrain-based Al Salam Bank yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Charoen Pokphand Group to form a strategic alliance for agro-industrial investments.

As the bank diversifies into the agricultural sector it will support the CP Group to further expand its business interests in the Middle East and North Africa, which consists of 20 countries with a combined population of 300 million.

Both Al Salam and CP Group will jointly identify suitable ventures that will generate high returns on investment, while playing a proactive role in addressing food security in the region.

The alliance will carry out detailed feasibility studies to gauge the viability in various target agribusiness sectors, including livestock, staple foods, aquaculture and perishables.

The studies will cover technical, financial, markets and employ due diligence, to identify target markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

Yousif Abdulla Taqi, board member and chief executive officer of Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, said that forming a partnership with CP Group, a major agro-industrial conglomerate, would improve the bank's competitiveness through its technical expertise.

"This alliance is in line with Al Salam's mission to provide unique investment opportunities that meet investors' objectives and risk appetite. We are also proud to support the region in addressing the critical issue of food security," he said.

"Although Bahrain will be used as a hub, our target market will cover the Mena [Middle East and North Africa] region. The projects will play an important role in creating job opportunities for Bahrainis."

Mena comprises Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Group, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The region has a gross economic product of US$1.53 trillion (Bt52.4 trillion).

Eam Ngamdamronk, vice chairman of CP Group, said it was a flexible agreement in which investment could be made in Bahrain, Thailand and also in third countries.

Both sides will jointly set up working groups to study potential business opportunities.

"Investment in any project will be supplied by Bahrain, while CP Group will provide knowledge and expertise to support them," Eam said.

Eam added that the partnership with Al Salam Bank signified the intent to establish Bahrain as the "Halal Food Hub" of the Mena region.

This alliance represents CP Group's first joint venture with an Islamic bank as part of the Kingdom's vision to become "The Kitchen of the World".

Setting up an integrated halal food company that invests in farming, food processing, packaging and distribution is an example of CP Group's plans to establish a specialised management team with an extensive track record in the agricultural and food industries, said Eam.


Bahrain businessmen seek tie-ups (Posted: 17 June 2009 )

THE Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) yesterday invited Malaysian entrepreneurs to expand their businesses in the Gulf country.

To promote their growth, BCCI chairman Dr Esam Abdullah Fakhro said, the chamber planned to forge cooperation with its counterparts in Malaysia by setting up joint business councils.

He told reporters this after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Perak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Ipoh.

Esam, who is also president of the Federation of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Chambers of Commerce, said BCCI was also interested in the food industry and halal hub in Malaysia and was looking for business partners who could become major suppliers for his country.

Meanwhile, Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir told reporters after a dinner with the BCCI delegation on Saturday night that the state government would find opportunities to develop conventional economic sectors such as manufacturing with investments from BCCI members and GCC.

Zambry also said entrepreneurs from Bahrain had so far invested RM860 million in Perak and they planned to add up to RM600 million this year or next year. - Bernama

Source:Business Times

FEATURE-Water risks ripple through the beverage industry (Posted: 17 June 2009 )

NEW YORK, June 16 - At New York's Del Posto, diners can share a $130 entree of wild branzino fish with roasted fennel and peperonata concentrato and a $3,600 bottle of Dom Perignon. They cannot share a bottle of Perrier or San Pellegrino water.

The Italian restaurant backed by celebrities Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich is one of several shunning bottled water, along with the city of San Francisco and New York state.

"The argument for local water is compelling and obvious," said Bastianich, who is phasing out bottled water across his restaurant empire, which stretches to Los Angeles.

"It's about transportation, packaging, the absurdity of moving water all over the world," he said.

As environmental worries cut into sales from traditionally lucrative bottled water, beverage companies such as Coca-Cola , PepsiCo , Nestle and SABMiller are becoming more attuned to the risks of negative consumer environmental perceptions.

Water is becoming scarcer, raising a fear that so-far manageable price increases could spike and leading drink companies to take action to maintain access to water and fight their image as water hogs.

"Water is the new oil," said Steve Dixon, who manages the Global Beverage Fund at Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder, repeating what has become a mantra as climate change and population growth tax water supplies.

"As an investor, I'm not concerned about the reality," Dixon said, guessing there will always be enough water overall. "But I'm aware of the perceptions ... and you can't totally shrug it off because perceptions are important."

About a third of the world's people now live in areas of water stress, said Brooke Barton, manager of corporate accountability for Ceres, a network of environmental groups and investors seeking to address sustainability challenges. By 2025, she said it will be more like two-thirds.


Water is still cheap, but that is changing.

"(Water) is currently not a very big cost. The issue is where it will it go in the future," said Andy Wales, head of sustainable development for brewer SABMiller, which used 94.5 billion liters of water in its latest fiscal year. That works out to 4.5 liters for every liter of beer it made.

Water and energy combined only made up 5 percent of its costs, overshadowed by brewing ingredients, bottling materials and labor. Still the brewer said water costs at a Bogota, Colombia plant are rising some 12 percent a year from increased soil being washed into the river as cattle grazing upstream causes deforestation.

New water pricing schemes are emerging, such as the European Union's Water Framework Directive that will tax water from 2010 to encourage more sustainable use.

Some 70 percent of the water the world uses is for agriculture, while industry uses 20 percent. But any industry reliant on agriculture -- from meat to jeans -- has more to wade through than its own use.

SABMiller is one of a few companies, including Coke and Pepsi, calculating "water footprints." It found that water used throughout its supply chain, such as to grow barley and hops, can be 34 times more than its use alone.

With 139 breweries on six continents, the brewer's total water use can range from about 40 liters for a liter of beer in Central Europe to 155 liters in South Africa. Using the smaller ratio as a proxy, SABMiller's entire "water footprint" was roughly 8.4 trillion liters of water last year, more than double what the small nation of Iceland used in 2004.

"In the long term we do see it as a risk," Wales said.


As they face criticism, multinational drink companies are setting water conservation targets, building community wells and more efficient factories, working with locals on sustainable farming, water harvesting and reforestation and looking for new technologies to reduce their water consumption even as they make more drinks.

"For our type of business, or any that have a very direct link to water ... We've got to play that role," said Greg Koch, Coke's managing director of global water stewardship.

Within their own walls, nonalcoholic drink makers use one out of every 3,300 gallons, or 0.03 percent, of the groundwater used in the United States, according to the American Beverage Association. But its symbolism as a visible user puts the sector at the forefront of the fight over water resources, said Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestle Waters North America.

"Picking on our industry is like a gnat on the elephant," said Jeffery, whose 2003 contract to build a bottling plant in McCloud, California has been derailed by opposition from residents and groups concerned about the environmental impact and the threat of water privatization.

Nestle just began a 3-year study of the area's resources, but Jeffery said there is a good chance the project will never happen, due to changing economics and cold feet on both sides.

"At the end of the day, if they don't want us there, we won't be there," he said.

Tom Pirko, president of consulting firm Bevmark LLC, said it is key for companies to act in line with consumers' mindsets on such issues, since it is hard in such a crowded marketplace to regain support once it evaporates.

Coca-Cola learned that the hard way, after a drought in the Indian state of Kerala led to the closure of its bottling plant there amid criticism that it was sucking the water table dry.

Coke said its plant did not fuel the shortages, but an outcry still spread across the globe, with students in Britain and North America urging boycotts. Massachusetts' Smith College even severed a five-decade relationship with the company by refusing to let it bid for its soft drink contract.

"What we lost there was the social license to operate," Koch said. Environmental and community groups are still fighting to kick Coke out of other villages in India.

"When the consumer turns against you, you're dead," Pirko said.

Asian Market Power: The Next Step in Globalization (Posted: 16 June 2009 )

In early 2008, when U.S. markets began to slide but Asian markets held steady, analysts worldwide asserted that western economies were decoupled from those in emerging markets, namely China and India. The crisis, it seemed one year ago, was a problem created by and for those in the west. As 2008 ended and 2009 began, however, growth rates in China and India, while still impressive, did not meet expectations. Decoupling theorists, tails between their legs, rushed to offer different explanations of the economic conditions, and while, yes, Asia felt the pain of the recession caused by the west, they are now emergent again, reaping the benefits of their own stimulus plans, proving perhaps that the decouplists were on to something. And now, as China and India lead Asia -- and the world -- into recovery, it's fair to wonder if the next step in globalization will be governed by a new set of economic rules that are not Euro-centric but instead devised in Beijing and Bombay.

The economies of China and, to a slightly lesser degree, India account for the majority of Asian economic growth today. As their growth regains momentum in the east, western economies are headed for a slower and less-pronounced recovery. These dynamics will enable the Asian economies to amass more and more market power which, over time, they are likely to assert in creative, novel ways that could significantly impact the future arc of global business:

I. Currency market power: Western efforts to exert influence over currency valuations (mainly the Chinese RMB) will continue to fall on deaf ears, a condition which could have negative long-term effects on western manufacturing.

II. Energy market power: China and India are growing at paces that require vast, diverse supplies of energy; their race for resources will drive up world prices and create strong incentives for their indigenous global firms to scour the globe for the best deals.

III. Increased power of indigenous firms: Conglomerates born in China and India, such as Chinese state-owned enterprises and Tata Sons, for instance, are flush with cash and primed to deepen their existing roots in high-growth markets such as Africa, the Middle East, and Central Europe, and even the west through mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs. Western incumbents will have no choice but to factor these companies into their own competitive threat analyses.

IV. Government power: Many credit China's massive 2008 stimulus, which was twice as large as the United States' (as a percentage of GDP), to paving the way to its recovery. Both China and India have significant infrastructure needs, so it's safe to assume both governments will continue to allocate GDP for this development. Therefore, consumer demand will follow.

V. Consumer power: Buoyed by more government-sponsored stimulus, citizens in emerging markets will grow more comfortable with spending their savings, and this spending could perhaps be accelerated with the introduction of personal loan financing and state-sponsored retirement programs. The growing Chinese and Indian consumer markets will be the base source of this new Asian market power, where the majority of global firms, in order to survive, have no choice other than to create products and services these emergent players want.

Organized in such a framework, the potential for a new Asian economic order may alarm many, but none of these trends should strike anyone as surprising. While capitalism as our collective system of governance is here to stay, the luxury of writing the rules is bound to shift with the ownership of capital as it has over centuries, from Alexandria to Rome, from Florence to London, and now from New York to China and India. Western firms would be wise to acknowledge these slow yet tectonic shifts and adjust their long-term global strategies accordingly. Those failing to do so may not survive -- or they may become acquisition targets.

Semil Shah is a Principal at India Strategy Consulting, a boutique services firm that advises small and medium enterprises and global universities on how to approach India strategically. Semil is also a Principal at de Novo Labs, which takes equity positions in clients' start up ventures relating to India. Prior to founding these firms, Semil spent four years as a director of business development and project management for the National Center for Employee Ownership in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he consulted to employee-owned businesses, completed research for the National Bureau of Economic Research, and co-authored a book on nontraditional applications of employee ownership. You can follow Semil on Twitter at

As crisis bites elsewhere, Indian firms turn to China (Posted: 16 June 2009 )

MUMBAI, June 12 - When Tata Consultancy Services , India's top software services firm, set up a development centre in Hangzhou in China, one of the requests it had for the city's vice mayor was for vegetarian food.

Less than three months later, an Indian restaurant was fully functional in the eastern Chinese city for TCS's Indian workers, a signal of the high priority China has given to growing business ties with India.

"The Chinese government has always rolled out the red carpet for us," said Girija Pande, head of TCS in Asia Pacific.

Despite a long border dispute that saw the two nations go to war in 1962, China is India's biggest trading partner in Asia.

Some companies like TCS hope these ties could prove more resilient to the impact of the financial slowdown than business with the United States and Europe, a sign of shifting global economic sands as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries grow in wealth and clout.

"Entering China was part of our emerging markets strategy," Pande said. "And now we've seen that not only is growth faster, they've also fared better in the crisis."

Bilateral trade between China and India, old partners along the Silk Road, is valued at about $38 billion now, and India has the potential to export $157 billion in goods and services to China by 2020, Goldman Sachs has forecast.

From textiles and chemicals to IT, China has unseated Japan and is expected to soon replace the United States as India's top trade partner. That may happen sooner than expected as the financial crisis has slowed IT spending in developed markets.

"Let's admit it: China is a large opportunity," N. Chandrasekhar, chief operating officer at TCS, said recently.

"Yes, there will be conflicts and challenges, but the opportunity is so huge."


TCS, which gets more than half its revenue from North America, was the first Indian software firm in China in 2002.

China had a thriving hardware industry and a small software sector it was determined to develop along the lines of India's $60-billion a year world-class industry.

So, in 2005, the Chinese government invited Indian software firms to partner it in a joint venture. TCS won that bid and TCS China, in which the Indian firm owns two-thirds, was formed in 2006. Microsoft later took a near-9-percent stake in the venture.

"When we first went in, we only had two concerns: given we were an Indian firm, would we be able to recruit local people? And, who would our clients be?" Pande said.

As it turned out, the Chinese IT industry and IT students were well aware of TCS, and the Tata Group firm had no difficulty replicating its model of recruiting locals and training them.

Starting with multinational clients such as General Electric, Motorola and Cummins, TCS was profitable in China in 15 months, and is now targeting local firms.

"There are several large Chinese firms like Huawei and Haier that are going global. And everyone knows India and China are where the next multinationals will emerge," Pande said, referring to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Haier Electronics Group Co Ltd.

Business in auto manufacturing, textiles and chemicals has risen, but it is in IT the two are especially complementary, he said, with their focus on "cost-effective" hardware and software.

Indeed, PC maker Lenovo has found a ready market in India, and Indian software firms including Infosys Technologies, Wipro and Satyam Computer Services have followed in TCS's footsteps, after initial concerns about intellectual property rights.

Asia makes up 12 percent of TCS's revenues now, and will likely contribute about 15-17 percent of revenues in 5 years, Pande estimates, when they will be about 5,000-strong in China.

"The opportunity in China is for us to take," Pande said.

"We've grown steadily and slowly, following the old (Deng Xiaoping) saying that we have in all our offices there: 'You cross the river by feeling the stones'."

`Social franchising' eyed to sell farm goods (Posted: 15 June 2009 )

A pioneering program on "social franchising" is being pursued by the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. (PADCC) to expand markets of all-Filipino processed agricultural products.

A program that will bring superior but generally unknown processed agricultural products in the market, PADCC's franchising program may start in October as the company is now finalizing details of the business offer.

It will bring to the market highly in-demand products that are becoming popular in both the local and international markets like wellness goods such as malunggay tablets and Halal goat's milk used as soap, lotion, and moisturizers.

PADCC Agribusiness Exports Showroom Chief Minky M. Alba said that more than the profit, PADCC, an attached corporation of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the franchising is really to help make Filipino products more visible.

It will increase their markets and help plow back the revenue to farmers' production in the rural areas.

"This is not just franchising. It's social franchising. Our profit here is just two-three percent. But the vision of (DA) Sec.(Arthur) Yap here is to create presence for the products, not only for export but for the domestic market, so people will become aware of them," she said in an interview.

With the global financial crisis, the franchising system is apparently a timing intervention in helping market Filipino products and in livelihood creation.


Taiwan, Myanmar business groups forge cooperative relations (Posted: 15 June 2009 )

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) Taiwan has recently acted to strengthen its economic and trade cooperation with Myanmar as part of its efforts to seek closer ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an expanding regional economic bloc.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) on mutual cooperation between the quasi-official Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) was signed in Yangon last week, according to a TAITRA statement.

UMFCCI Vice Chairman Zaw Min Win said during the signing ceremony that he welcomed Taiwanese investment in his country of 57 million people, which he described as having a sizable domestic market.

He also said Myanmar was a key player in regional economic integration in the Mekong River Basin, Bay of Bengal and ASEAN.

According to the TAITRA statement, a TAITRA-organized trade promotion delegation visited Myanmar and Cambodia last week to study the local economic and investment climate.

The group was composed of representatives of manufacturers of textile materials, garments, shoes, machines, electronic appliances, plastic and rubber goods, automobile parts and components, and cosmetics, the statement said.

The UMFCCI arranged a trade presentation in Yangon for the delegation to attract local buyers, TAITRA said.

Taiwan exported US$93.7 million worth of goods to Myanmar in 2008, 33.6 percent higher than in 2007, according to TAITRA.

With Myanmar's manufacturing sector underdeveloped, it has relied heavily on imports to satisfy its citizens' daily needs, and TAITRA suggested it was an ideal place to open labor-intensive production lines because workers are paid only US$30 to US$50 a month on average.

In addition, TAITRA sees Myanmar as a place suitable for the development of the energy industry and of other businesses such as precious stone processing, farming and fish breeding due to its abundant natural resources.

Myanmar has one of the world's worst human rights records and the United States imposed economic sanctions on the country beginning in 2004.

The sanctions and the existing political environment have cast a shadow over local economic activity, but the TAITRA believes that change could be forthcoming after next year's general election, enabling the country to develop its economic potential.

It suggested that Taiwanese businesses develop a foothold there to be ready to take advantage of the changes when they occur.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)

Source: Taiwan News 

Press Metal's Mukah smelter to start production in August (Posted: 12 June 2009 )

KUCHING: Press Metal Bhd's RM700mil aluminium smelter in Mukah, central Sarawak, will start commercial production in August.

The first energy-intensive industry to start production in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), the plant would initially produce 50,000 tonnes of aluminium a year, said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Taib yesterday chaired the first meeting of the Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda) to assess the development plans and proposed investments in the corridor.

The meeting decided on the procedures for approval of projects within SCORE.

Recoda spearheads SCORE's development, management and promotions, and serves as a one-stop agency to facilitate all investment activities in SCORE.

Press Metal has an 80% stake in the joint-venture Mukah plant. Its group chief executive officer Datuk Koon Poh Keong said last year that the Mukah plant would help reduce the country's dependence on imports of aluminium when operational.

Malaysia now imports 200,000 tonnes of aluminium annually.

Taib said a site was being prepared for a second aluminium smelter in the proposed 6,000ha Samalaju Industrial Park in Bintulu, which is within SCORE.

Sarawak Aluminium Co is a joint venture between Rio Tinto Alcan and Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd.

It plans to build a bigger aluminium plant with an initial capacity of 720,000 tonnes a year when it comes onstream by 2013. The plant's capacity could be raised to 1.5 million tonnes annually.

Taib said investors had shown a strong interest in 24 major projects proposed within SCORE. These projects would involve investments of some RM80bil.

SCORE's projected total investment by 2030 is RM334bil, including RM200bil in industries and RM67bil in the power sector.

Source:thestar online | Business

Long-term LNG demand bright but headwinds in short-term (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Long-term demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is bright but suppliers face a demand crunch in the short-term due to the economic crisis.

However, speakers at the 14th Asia Oil & Gas Conference said to ensure future uninterrupted supply, there was a need to continue investing in infrastructure, a well-balance relationship between suppliers and consumers as well as a stable geopolitical environment.

ExxonMobil Corp's east region upstream ventures vice president Wayne Harms said the company's in-house projections saw oil demand grow 1% per year from now till 2030 while gas would have a growth of 1.8% and coal 0.6%.

"The long-term outlook for natural gas is strong although the current state of the economy will moderate our short-term outlook," he said.

Harms said Asia would lead the growth in demand for gas and the region would become the largest consumer by 2030. "Asia is also seeing rising production but demand is expected to outstrip supply by half-a-percentage (point) every year," he said.

Global demand for LNG currently stands at 180 million tonnes per annum.

Petroliam Nasional Bhd gas business vice president Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin said the general consensus was that demand for energy was expected to grow because of economic development, booming populations and urbanisation.

"The pace and timing of recovery is uncertain although gas demand is expected to recover next year, right now there is a wait-and-see attitude for some of the projects compared to last year where the focus was on the gas supply crunch," he said.

Wan Zulkiflee said the push for cleaner energy would mean greater demand for gas and that failure to invest in infrastructure will inevitably have adverse consequences on the economy.

He said the global economic slump has tested the relationship between suppliers and consumers as the latter were not able to commit to long-term contracts due to the slump in demand in their home markets. The average LNG contract is 25 to 30 years with Asian LNG contracts linked to crude oil prices.

"There is a need for a balanced relationship between the two and while suppliers should be as accommodating as possible, there are options of diverting to other markets or reducing production," Wan Zulkiflee said, adding that this was the first time suppliers were facing buyers who could not take cargo.

Chevron Corp global gas president John Gass said suppliers that were able to work with their customers in times like these "will have better success in the long-term".

Wan Zulkiflee later told reporters that the market was very fluid in the past few months and would continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

He said the possibility of lowering production has not been considered. "We're only shutting down plants for regular maintenance at the moment," Wan Zulkiflee said.

FACTS Global Energy Group chairman Dr Fereidun Fesharaki said the outlook for Asian LNG demand would be challenging at least till the first-half of 2010.

"There are 50 million to 60 million tonnes coming into the market by the end of this year while demand in the major consuming countries is expected to come down to between 15 million and 20 million tonnes," he said.

Fesharaki said suppliers would have to think of new ways to dispose of their extra LNG volume or cut production. "The market in this part of the world cannot take the volume," he said.

By Fintan Ng
Source:thestar online | Business

Asian LNG Supply To Surpass Demand By Year-end (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 (Bernama) -- Demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia-Pacific has dropped tremendously and is expected to be at between 15 and 20 million tonnes by year-end, an energy consultant said today.

Dr Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman/chief executive officer of the US-based FACTS Global Energy Group, said there would be an excess supply, which was estimated to be at between 50 and 60 million tonnes by year-end.

He said for the first half of next year, there would an oversupply of LNG as all the trains to process the LNG would be fully operational.

"At that time, I think the suppliers will have to think of new ways to sell their LNG including moving to markets like US and Europe, or stop producing it because the market in this part of the world cannot take the volume," he told reporters on the sidelines of the 14th Asia Oil & Gas Conference here today.

Fesharaki said this in response to a question on the LNG outlook this year as more buyers deferred LNG contracts due to the impact of global economic crisis.

FACTS Global Energy Group, an energy market consultant, services over 175 retainer clients worldwide and has the expertise to undertake substantive research studies and project evaluations.

According to Bank of America-Merrill Lynch reports, Asian LNG demand growth was now negative from seven percent year-on-year last year.

The drop was most pronounced in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which together made up 60 percent of the global LNG market.

Meanwhile, Petronas gas business vice president, Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, said reducing LNG production was among the options for oil and gas producers in terms of flexibility in dealing with the current market conditions.

"It was an option (cutting LNG production) because the market is so fluid for the past few months. We will see if there is a need to cut back. So far (what we do) is doing more maintenance work," he said.

Earlier, Wan Zulkiflee, who is one of the panelists at the session on "Natural Gas: Suppliers' perspective", said sellers must be flexible when dealing with their long-term customers, especially under the current market conditions.

"They should be accommodating as much as possible. Besides that, producers have other options such as diverting to other markets and lowering their production," he said.

Another panellist, ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures vice president (east region), Wayne A. Harms, concurred, saying that a stronger customer-supplier relationship would get through these economic challenges.

"The suppliers who can work with customers will be the ones who will be successful in the longer term," he said, adding that Asia would be an important market as it would be the largest natural gas market in the world by 2030, to be led by China and India.

Currently, Japan is the largest LNG importer in the world.


Banker Sees Recovery in Asia (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

BEIJING -- Asian economies are poised to recover earlier from the global downturn than others are, thanks to the region's stable financial systems and new efforts to boost domestic demand, Malaysia's central bank governor said Wednesday.

"I believe that the Asian region holds the greatest promise for generating growth earlier than other parts of the world," Zeti Akhtar Aziz, governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, said in an interview in Beijing where she was attending a conference. Asian countries are working more closely together than before to support each other, she said, which should contribute to a more balanced global economy.

"Of course we did not escape the economic contraction that occurs through the trade channel, but our financial systems remain sound and solid," she said. In April, bank lending grew 10.6% from a year earlier in Malaysia, and 29.7% in China, according to central bank figures. With credit expansion, "we have the opportunity when conditions stabilize to resume stronger growth," Ms. Zeti said.

Malaysia's economy shrank 6.2% in the first quarter of 2009 as exports collapsed, but those of China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam continued to grow. The International Monetary Fund forecasts Asia's emerging economies to grow 3.3% this year, compared to an expected contraction of 1.3% in the global economy.

Dr. Zeti said financial reforms made after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis helped improve banks' risk management and alleviate the impact of the current downturn. "It would have been very much worse if we had a fragmented and fragile financial system," she said.

Still, the downturn has exposed how many Asian countries have been heavily dependent on consumer spending in the U.S. and Europe for fast growth. Dr. Zeti said it's clear adjustments are needed in Asia's economies. "You cannot just focus on continued export-led growth," she said. "One of the new strategies of Asia is to promote domestic demand."

Malaysia has made some progress, Dr. Zeti said, noting that consumption now accounts for 53% of its economy, compared with 42% a decade ago. "We're reducing savings and increasing consumption," she said, arguing that Asian countries' stable financial systems will make it easier for them to lift consumer spending in coming years. "Of course these things cannot happen overnight, but the trend is there, and this trend will intensify," she said.

Write to Andrew Batson at [email protected]

Source:The Wall Sreet Journal | Economy

Glaxosmithkline Opens Largest Vaccine Plant In Asia (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

SINGAPORE, June 9 (Bernama) -- Glaxo SmithKline (GSK), the global pharmaceutical company, today officially opened its largest vaccine plant in Asia and the first of its kind in Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who officiated the plant opening, said the state-of-the-art facility that produced childhood vaccines could save three million lives worldwide every year.

"Singapore is proud to be part of this project," he said of the 85,000-square metre plant that employs 1,000 workers at the Tuas industrial area here.

Reminiscing GSK's history, Lee said the company and Singapore shared a longstanding and enduring relationship after it first set up a small sales office here in 1959, the year Singapore gained self-government.

In the half century since, GSK invested S$1.5 billion and expanded its activities in Singapore into manufacturing, drug discovery and clinical research, making the city-state one of the company's two global strategic manufacturing hubs and its regional headquarters for Asia Pacific.

Looking at Singapore's position beyond the current world economic malaise, Lee said the republic might explore the possibility of offering the city-state to be the corporate base for global companies, both big and small.

He said in the past, global companies operated with just one corporate headquarters, where all their key decision-makers were based.

"However, Asia is now the main growth story in the world," he said, adding that many companies were therefore looking to locate their key functions and decision makers closer to Asian markets.

The Prime Minister said with more and more manufacturing and research and development taking place in the region, companies were also establishing "control towers" to better manage and coordinate their activities.

"Singapore's stable and pro-business environment, excellent connectivity and competent workforce make us an ideal Asian base for these companies," Lee said.


By Zakaria Abdul Wahab

South American firm to build RM9bil iron ore centre in Perak, Malaysia (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

IPOH: A South American multinational corporation is investing a whopping RM9bil in an iron ore distribution centre for Asia in Manjung, Perak.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir said the project was already in its final stages of discussion and could possibly be one of the state's biggest investments to date.

"We estimate to sign the agreement some time next week," he said after meeting with the company's representatives in his office here yesterday.

He said the centre, where imported iron ore would be processed into pellets, would be the company's second largest distribution centre after its base in South America.

Dr Zambry said the company would inject a further RM5.6bil in the next two phases.

He said the company chose Perak because they saw it as the gateway to Asia and the state's ports and direct access to international waters.

A 526ha site in Manjung had been earmarked for the project, with the built-up portion occupying a third of the area and the rest acting as a buffer zone, he added.

He also gave his assurance that the project would not cause any negative impact to the environment.

On a separate matter, Dr Zambry said the state government has decided to improve its relationship with the people by picking Tuesday as its `Clients Day' and giving them greater access.

Source: thestar online

WRAPUP 1-Asia LNG buyers drive terms as long slowdown seen (Posted: 11 June 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 (Reuters) - With the global gas industry plagued by excess supply and waning demand in coming years even after economies recover, Asian buyers aim to revamp long-term contracts to secure lower prices, executives said on Tuesday.

Any improvement may come in the longer term, with growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) consumption driven by the emerging economies of China and India, while buyers' hesitance toward term contracts could affect LNG projects and supply, they said.

At the end of May, gas prices in Britain sank to their lowest since June 2007, and U.S. gas prices at benchmark Henry Hub NG-W-HH also plunged, as demand shrank in the wake of the global economic crisis.

"Demand destruction is a real and pressing challenge confronting the global gas industry right now," John Gass, Corporate Vice President of Chevron Global Gas, told the Asia Oil and Gas Conference.

Morgan Stanley estimates a global gas output of 110 trillion cubic feet (tcf) this year, while demand is projected to fall to 106-108 tcf, resulting in an oversupply of 2-4 tcf, said William Wicker, managing director of its Global Natural Resources Group.

"There's a ton of gas out there. The excess supply will remain for some years to come, even after the economies recover."

As a result, producers are looking for alternative markets to offload excess cargoes. Qatargas, one of two majority state-owned producers in the world's top LNG exporter, said it has tried to divert its cargoes to other markets such as Europe and the United States, Alaa Abujbara, the marketing director of its Commercial and Shipping Group, told conference delegates.

"We are working very hard with our core Japanese customers to help them manage these turbulent times," he added.

The United States is seen as the market of last resort for LNG, which is natural gas chilled to liquid form for shipment, largely because it has enough capacity to absorb the higher supply, rather than price fundamentals, analysts said.

"The current economic climate weighs very heavily," said Wayne Harms, the Vice President of ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures.


Buyers are deferring the take-up of cargoes using flexibility clauses in their long-term contracts, said Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, Vice President of Petronas' Gas Business.

Seokhyo Jang, Executive Vice President of state-run Korea Gas Corp's (KOGAS) (036460.KS) Resources Division, said the demand profile of LNG buyers was changing.

"Buyers are reluctant to make commitment to long-term contracts, which could affect the FIDs of LNG projects," he told the conference, referring to final investment decisions.

Jang said buyers wanted more pricing and volume flexibility in contracts, adjusting prices to prevailing market conditions unless project economics were undermined. 

Atsunori Takeuchi, Senior Vice President of Tokyo Gas Co Ltd's (9531.T) LNG Asia Pacific Gas Resources Department, said his firm was in the throes of negotiating for lower prices.

"We're negotiating the pricing. We're confident to get a deal, maybe later this year," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, but declined to say by how much.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T) said it plans to take 17-18 million tonnes of LNG under term contracts this year, but will not import additional cargoes after taking 2 million tonnes of spot parcels last year.

"In Japan, demand is down dramatically. With the decreasing consumption, we have no plans this year for spot cargoes," Takao Arai, executive officer of TEPCO's fuel department, told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference.

But the outlook brightens longer term, with the booming economies of China and India seen propping up the LNG market, as demand from traditional buyers -- South Korea and Japan -- ease due to rise in alternative energy sources like nuclear power and coal.

"China will be the next biggest buyer of LNG after Japan, and India is on the same scale as China. Spot LNG is looking very attractive to our customers in China right now," Abujbara said.

ExxonMobil estimates that Asia's gas demand will grow at 3.7 percent per year between 2005 and 2030, compared with 1 percent for North America and 0.9 percent for Europe. Asia will account for about one-third of global LNG demand by 2030. (Editing by Ramthan Hussain)

By Jennifer Tan


China relaxes rules to spur outbound investment (Posted: 10 June 2009 )

EIJING, June 9 (Reuters) - China's foreign exchange regulator on Tuesday announced new rules to support overseas investment by Chinese companies, which it said could translate into $30 billion in extra outflows.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said it would allow qualified Chinese companies to use their retained capital, either denominated in yuan or foreign currencies, to buy forex to fund overseas subsidiaries.

Chinese companies were already allowed to use their retained capital to lend to overseas ventures but with heavy restrictions.

Under previous rules, a loan from the parent company in China to its overseas subsidiary could be no less than $5 million, making it available to big companies only.

Under the new rules, however, any Chinese firm will be allowed to provide up to 30 percent of its equity base to its overseas subsidiaries.

"We had done a pressure test, and the maximum possible capital outflow from this new mechanism is $30 billion," Sun Lujun, a SAFE official, told a press conference.

The new rules, which take effect on August 1, will also simplify approval procedures for outbound investment.

China has ample cash on hand to support overseas investment, with $2.9 trillion in foreign financial assets, including both official forex reserves and private holdings, at the end of 2009.

China's outbound investment has been very tepid compared with inflows from foreign investors, but the pace has started to pick up, nearly doubling to $52.2 billion in 2008 from $26.5 billion in 2007.

The government's easing of outbound investment rules is only one part of the equation, as Chinese companies have run into obstacles on several major investment attempts. Just last week global miner Rio Tinto <RIO.AX> scrapped its proposed $19.5 billion tie up with Chinese metals group Chinalco. For a related analysis, see [ID:nPEK9428]

(Reporting by Zhou Xin, Aileen Wang and Simon Rabinovitch; Editing by Ken Wills)

Japan Machinery Orders Fall Again (Posted: 10 June 2009 )

TOKYO -- Japanese core machinery orders fell 5.4% in April from the previous month, the government said Wednesday, marking the second straight month of decline and suggesting that demand for equipment will remain sluggish for a while.

The fall was worse than the median forecast for a 0.8% rise of economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei.

Core orders exclude often-volatile orders for ships and orders from electronic power companies, and are seen as a reliable gauge of business investment in the future. They've recently shown signs of bottoming out amid mild improvements in exports and domestic output.

In March orders fell by a less-than-expected 1.3%, after posting a 0.6% gain in February, which ended their four-month run of decline.

Unadjusted, core orders fell 32.8% from a year earlier in April, the data showed.

Source:The Wall Street Journal | Economy

Write to Takashi Nakamichi at [email protected]

Russia eyes Asia Pacific grain market (Posted: 9 June 2009 )

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, June 6 (UPI) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says his country wants to increase grain exports to an expanding Asia Pacific market.

Speaking Saturday as the first World Grain Forum opened in St. Petersburg, Medvedev said the region is quickly turning into Russia's most promising market for grain and called for coordination among exporting nations to keep prices affordable, RIA Novosti reported.

"Taking into account the extent of our borders, considering the size of our state, the Asia Pacific region is extremely significant for us," he said. "We need to ensure that leading exporters coordinate their actions to maintain affordable prices on grain markets. The talk is actually about new policies in production and the international trade in grain."

St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko told RIA Novosti that the international forum participants would discuss the possibility of establishing a grain cartel.

Source:United Press International

China offers 9% export tax rebate on steel products (Posted: 9 June 2009 )

Jun.8 MetalBiz--China is offering a 9% value-added tax rebate on exports of several high-end steel products, the Ministry of Finance stated on June 8th, in what analysts saw as the latest move to support domestic steel mills.

The country, the world's biggest steel maker, will refund the tax on flat-rolled steel products and hot-rolled ferro-alloy products effective from June 1st, the ministry said.

The rebate cuts more than half off the value-added tax rate of 17%, giving producers a strong incentive to export the products covered by the rebate.

Chinese steel mills are facing losses this year, as exports have shrunk due to weary overseas demand and relatively high export costs, since the central government had capped rebates in the past few years to try to restrict production.

"I think many steel mills can take advantage of this. They can apply for rebates on products if minor metals were added during production," said an analyst at Macquarie Bank in Shanghai.

The China Iron and Steel Association, the industry group that monitors all China's major steel mills, has urged the government to adopt more generous export tax rebates for steel products to boost the industry.

China has already encountered friction with its trading partners over its steel export tax rebates, including an anti-dumping investigation over steel pipe imports in USA.

The collapse in export demand cut China's shipments of steel products to the rest of the world by 60% in the first four months of the year and left China in an unusual position -- as a net importer of steel products -- in March and April.

Losses in 72 large and mid-sized Chinese steelmakers in the first four months of this year stood at 5.18bln yuan ($758.2mln), compared to 63.40bln yuan in profit last year.

Airlines Predict $9 Billion Global Loss (Posted: 9 June 2009 )

The global airline industry on Monday nearly doubled its forecast for losses this year to $9 billion and warned that the economic problems would continue for some time.

The forecast by the International Air Transport Association, the industry's largest trade group, was slightly better than the loss last year. But it was significantly worse that the association's projections in March that estimated a loss of $4.7 billion for 2009.

The group also said it expected revenue across the industry to fall 15 percent, to $448 billion this year - a much steeper decline than after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.

"There is no modern precedent for today's economic meltdown. The ground has shifted," Giovanni Bisignani, the association's director general, said Monday in a speech at the association's annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "Our industry has been shaken. Our future depends on a drastic reshaping by partners, governments and industry."

Many airlines have grappled with declining passenger numbers and freight transport - often an important line of business for airlines, which were hurt by the global economic slowdown.

Sales of first- and business-class tickets, in particular, have slumped as passengers have switched to economy class, depriving many airlines of a major source of revenue that is unlikely to return soon.

"Whether this crisis is long or short, the world is changing," Mr. Bisignani said. "It will not be business as usual in the postcrisis world."

Airlines around the world responded recently with cost saving measures, including shelving investment plans, parking planes and reducing salaries and the number of flights.

For passengers, the industry's troubles have been a mixed blessing.

Many routes are being flown less frequently, and some airlines, especially those in the United States, have resorted to cutting in-flight services or adding fees for things like luggage or pillows.

Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to post the largest losses - $3.3 billion - as Japan remains mired in recession and the formerly thriving economies of China and India cool, the association said.

North American airlines are forecast to have a combined loss of $1 billion this year. That would be a significant improvement over the $5.1 billion loss in 2008, when soaring fuel prices hit many airlines there especially hard. European airlines are expected to lose $1.8 billion.

Unlike those in North America and Europe, Asian carriers generally have not reduced in-flight services. Analysts say they believe travelers in the Asia-Pacific region are unlikely to see their comfort impaired or face new costs for extras, despite the steep losses expected by airlines.

In Asia, most of the costs are in staff and fuel, said Gary Pinge, an analyst for Macquarie in Hong Kong.

"Cutting back on in-flight service saves very little, and these airlines have to be very careful about preserving their brand image," Mr. Pinge said. "They have to make sure that they remain the airline of choice for premium travelers once that part of the market revives."

On Monday, Japan Airlines, Asia's largest by revenue, said it planned to cut capacity on international routes by 10 percent this business year, and state-owned Air India said it was considering delaying planes on order from Boeing, Reuters reported from the association's meeting.

The Finnish carrier Finnair is increasing salary cuts in a move to rein in costs, it said last week.

By contrast, the Australian airline Qantas said it did not plan to add to its already-announced flight reductions, showing that some carriers now believe they have adjusted enough to the changed environment. There are also some signs that the decline in passenger and cargo volumes may have stabilized.

"Many airlines now have a pretty good handle on capacities: they have scaled back flights and volumes enough by now to have adjusted to the changed circumstances, and will probably not have to do much more now," Mr. Pinge said.

The transport association expects cargo demand to fall 17 percent this year and passenger demand to drop 8 percent, to 2.06 billion travelers.

The global industry's projected $9 billion loss is a slight improvement over the $10.4 billion loss in 2008, when fuel bills climbed to $165 billion as oil prices soared. This year, the association expects airline fuel bills to fall back to $106 billion, but Mr. Bisignani warned that oil prices could be pushed up again as the global economy began to recover.

Source:The New York Times

IMF says raises growth forecast for Indonesia (Posted: 8 June 2009 )

WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Friday it has raised its growth forecast for Indonesia to 3-4 percent amid signs that confidence is returning to its markets.

'Maintaining economic growth momentum in the second half of the year will require timely implementation of the fiscal stimulus measures as the impact of election-related spending fades,' the IMF said at the end of consultations with the authorities. 'The government should also consider maintaining the stimulus in 2010.'

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio) Keywords: IMF/INDONESIA


Mattel to Pay Penalty for Lead Toys (Posted: 8 June 2009 )

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said toy maker Mattel Inc. and its Fisher-Price unit will pay a $2.3 million civil penalty to settle allegations that they knowingly imported and sold up to two million children's toys that violated a federal lead-paint limit.

It is the agency's highest toy-related penalty ever. The agency said that as part of the settlement agreement, the companies deny the allegations.

The settlement stems from a string of Mattel and Fisher-Price product recalls in 2007.

The CPSC said before those recalls, Mattel imported up to 900,000 noncompliant toys between September 2006 and August 2007.

Fisher-Price imported up to 1.1 million noncompliant toys between July 2006 and August 2007, the CPSC said.

Mattel said the settlement "resolves Mattel's outstanding issues with the agency related to certain matters that arose in 2007." Mattel said it "promptly took a series of steps after discovering compliance issues with some of our toys at that time"...and "continues to be vigilant and rigorous in ensuring the quality and safety of our toys."

Toy makers recalled millions of toys in 2007, mostly because of lead-paint violations.

Source:The Wall Street Journal

Indonesia bans beef product imports from New Zealand (Posted: 5 June 2009 )

JAKARTA, June 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia has temporarily banned imports of beef products from New Zealand, citing failures to meet Islamic halal standards for food consumption, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said on Thursday.

The ban came into effect on May 25, he said.

Apriyantono said the ministry made the decision after the Ulema Council, known as MUI, declared that it did not recognise any of the halal certification agencies in New Zealand.

Unless MUI provides a guarantee that New Zealand beef imports are halal, then they will not be allowed to enter the world's most populous Muslim nation, he said.

At least 76 containers of beef from New Zealand have been held up at Indonesian ports since May 25 as their halal certification was not recognieed by MUI, said Hari Priyono, head of the animal quarantine agency at the ministry.

He said Indonesia imported about 70,000 tonnes of beef products from New Zealand and Australia a year.

Last year, Indonesia consumed a total of 396,500 tonnes of beef and beef products, and 30 percent was imported from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Indonesia requires imported beef products to pass Islamic halal standards for food consumption. Under the halal certification rules, suppliers must print halal labels in both English and Indonesian.

(Reporting by Yayat Supriatna; Writing by Aloysius Bhui; Editing by Sara Webb)

(([email protected]; +62 213846364 ext 913; [email protected])) Keywords: BEEF INDONESIA/

(If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to [email protected])


More French SMEs to set up R&D bases in M'sia (Posted: 5 June 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR: A rising number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in France are eyeing Malaysia as the destination to set up their regional base and research and development (R&D) centres, according to a senior economic official from the French embassy here.

Many SMEs from various sectors in France were shifting to Malaysia after learning that the China market is saturated, said Jean-Francois Bijon, the economic and commercial counsellor of the French Embassy.

"We've observed that there was an increasing number of SMEs setting up their businesses including manufacturing plants here early last year," he said at the Malaysian French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MFCCI) luncheon yesterday.

"We've witnessed a slowdown in French investments in this country in October due to the global financial crisis but they are starting to come back, this time to set up their regional base," he added.

Currently, SMEs make up 70% of over 250 French companies operating in Malaysia.

French SMEs who previously set up their regional base in Singapore and China were now considering Malaysia as an alternative, Bijon said.

The total bilateral trade between France and Malaysia stood at 3.4 billion euros last year.

Total exports from Malaysia to France was 1.8 billion euros while imports to Malaysia from France was 1.6 billion euros.

As about one third of the bilateral trade between France and Malaysia was in the electrical and electronics sectors, the economic slowdown had resulted in a sharp decline of about 30% in bilateral trade up to May this year.

"We hope to attract more Malaysian companies to invest in France especially in the sectors of agrofood, furniture, information technology and Islamic finance," Bijon said.

Also present at the event was Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who said Malaysian companies were well-positioned to explore the sizeable halal market in France considering about 10% of its population was Muslim.

The size of the global halal market was worth some RM7.6 trillion annually, with at least 20% growth each year.

Meanwhile, MFCCI has appointed Naza group of companies executive chairman and chief executive officer SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin chairman.

MFCCI was established in 1991 to promote the development of business relations between Malaysian and French companies and to assist its members in liaising with the authorities of both countries to enhance bilateral business.

To date, the total accumulated assets of French companies in Malaysia stood at US$10bil.

For reports from the Statistics Department click here

Source:thestar online

Norway sees vast potential in local O&G industry (Posted: 4 June 2009 )

PETALING JAYA: Norway sees vast potential in the local oil and gas (O&G) industry with Norwegian companies looking to set up operations in the country, said Norway's ambassador to Malaysia Arild Braastad.

"There are signs that Norwegian companies want to establish themselves, especially in the O&G support services industry in the country.

"In fact, there are four Norwegian companies - in the O&G and software business - looking for local partners to set up operations in the country," he told StarBiz in a recent interview.

Braastad said Norwegian O&G companies have the competence, products and services that would fit into the local O&G industry's development into deepwater exploration and production activities because most of the O&G activities in Norway took place offshore.

Nine Norwegian companies will take part in the 12th Asian Oil, Gas & Petrochemical Exhibition 2009 from June 10 to 12 as an opportunity to network and promote their products and services.

Today, there are about 60 companies in Malaysia that are linked to Norway either through direct investments or joint ventures including DiGi.Com Bhd, Jotun (M) Sdn Bhd and Framo Engineering Asia & Pacific Sdn Bhd.

About half of the companies are involved in the O&G support services business while the balance are in maritime, telecommunications and information and communications technology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and fertilisers, among others. Another 60 Norwegian companies are tapping the local market through local agents.

"Malaysia will be the top country in South East Asia in terms of business opportunities and investments for Norway," Braastad said.

According to Braastad, more than RM7bil in foreign direct investments from Norway has been poured into the country to-date, especially in the telecommunications industry.

"We also see business opportunities for Norwegian companies in the defence, aquaculture, maritime and energy intensive industries, among others.

"These are some of the areas where Norwegian companies can invest in. We are very strong in hydro power development and seafood production," he said.

Despite the economic crisis, Braastad said there have not been any serious complaints from Norwegian companies operating in the country.

He expects to see some increase in Norwegian exports to the country this year especially in the services sector, such as the O&G industry. Exports (including products and services) from Norway to Malaysia totalled about RM1bil in 2008.

Source:thestar online

Hong Kong Local SMEs most bearish (Posted: 4 June 2009 )

Hong Kong's small and medium- sized businesses community is the most bearish on prospects for business growth among seven surveyed by HSBC (0005). "Hong Kong is deeply entrenched in the global economy and therefore strongly impacted by the slowdown in global trade and overall uncertainty," HSBC global head of trade and supply chain Lawrence Webb said.

Forty-six percent of Hong Kong SMEs expect trade volumes to fall in the next three months. By contrast, 54 percent of trading firms in Vietnam, and 42 percent of mainland firms, expect business to expand, the survey showed.

Many local SMEs are worried about payment problems, with 31 percent expecting higher risk of default over the next three months. "Buyers are less likely to make payments before they are certain that all terms in a trade agreement are met," Webb said. "Suppliers are anxious about getting paid on time, or getting paid at all."

Seventeen percent of Hong Kong firms said they will ask for advance payment to deal with the risk of being bilked. Fifteen percent said they are doing less business with specific buyers, while 13 percent said they are tightening payment terms.

The international survey, conducted in April and May, covered 2,102 trade-focused businesses in Australia, India, Hong Kong, the mainland, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Volatile exchange rates were cited by 54 percent of local SMEs as the biggest growth hurdle.

Insufficient margins were cited by 42 percent as the biggest barrier to expand, while 35 percent saw lack of demand as the key issue.

BenjaminScent andDana Bruce
Thursday, June 04, 2009

Source:The Standard

ASEAN - South Korea trade booming (Posted: 4 June 2009 )

The economic and business relations between the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Korea opens up a lot of exciting new opportunities, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Geala Group Sofjan Wanandi says.

In a speech to business leaders during the ASEAN-South Korea CEO summit recently in Jeju Island, South Korea, Sofjan said relations could be further enhanced by the ASEAN single market planned to come into effect by 2015.

"We welcome South Korea's involvement in the building of the ASEAN economic community. Korea will definitely benefit from an ASEAN that continues to prosper. In a sense we are all in the same boat in our journey to improve the wellbeing of our people," said Sofjan, who is also chairman of the influential Indonesian Employers' Association.

Indeed, South Korea's trade with ASEAN has been increasing and has surpassed its trade with Japan and United States, according to Sofjan.

"I believe it will soon also surpass South Korea's trade with the entire European Union, making ASEAN the second largest trading partner of Korea after China," he said.

Last year, South Korea's trade with ASEAN countries stood at US$90.19 billion. It exported $49.28 billion worth of goods to the ASEAN countries and imported $40.91 billion goods from the regional bloc.

In 2008, South Korea invested some $5.85 billion in all ASEAN countries, except Brunei, according to South Korean authorities.

With bilateral trade topping $19.25 billion, Indonesia is South Korea's second biggest ASEAN trading partner after Singapore. Indonesia's exports to South Korea reached $11.32 billion, while Indonesian imports were $7.93 billion.

In order to boost trade expansion, Indonesia has opened up a trade promotion office in South Korea.

Indonesia's main exports to South Korea are mineral fuels, (mostly oil and liquefied natural gas), which constituted around 60 percent of export value in 2007.

Almost 40 percent of Indonesia's imports from South Korea in 2007 comprised of mineral fuels. Other imports included iron, steel, plastics, nuclear reactor parts, organic chemicals and electrical equipment.

Sofjan said aside from boosting trade, Indonesia should also actively attract more investment from South Korea by making use of the ASEAN and South Korean comprehensive cooperation agreement.

"This is expected to *help* alleviate investment shortages that has afflicted Indonesia since the 1997 Asian financial crisis."

South Korea invested $719.10 million in Indonesia in 2008.

With increasing trade and investment activities, South Koreans are now the largest expatriate population in Indonesia, outnumbering Japanese who were predominant before the Asian financial crisis.

According to the immigration office, there are more than 40,000 South Koreans residing in Indonesia, excluding their family members. Most of these expatriates are working in the manufacturing sector, including footwear.

Source:The Jakarta Post

South Korea To Actively Invest In Asean Resources - Minister (Posted: 4 June 2009 )

JEJU, SOUTH KOREA (Dow Jones)--South Korea will look into investing more actively in the field of resources, Korea's Minister of Knowledge Economy Lee Youn-ho said Sunday, as business leaders from Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, pledge to strengthen cooperation.

The state-run Korea National Oil Corp. will discuss cooperation in the development of oil fields during the two-day Asean-Korea CEO Summit, Lee said in a news briefing following the opening of the summit in Jeju.

The summit, attended by 400 businessmen from South Korea and 300 from Asean, is being held in conjunction with the two-day Asean-Korea Commemorative Summit, which starts Monday and is participated in by 11 leaders from the region.

Business executives from Asean take on a greater role in the region's coordinated initiatives to deal with the global financial crisis.

"The problems and challenges we face today require concerted regional efforts. Regional cooperation and integration are no longer a luxury, but a necessity," Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a keynote speech.

Asean - dominated by export-oriented economies - is currently suffering the impact of the crisis, and economic prospects remain broadly negative despite signs of improvement.

Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Asean is Korea's third-largest trading partner and the second-biggest overseas investment place.


-By Ditas Lopez and Kanga Kong, Dow Jones Newswires; 822-2198-2230; [email protected]

Source:The Wall Street Journal

BPOM Warns of Toxic Tableware (Posted: 3 June 2009 )

Health officials warned on Monday that tableware made with melamine resin may release formaldehyde, a potential health hazard, under certain conditions.

"After conducting tests on 62 samples, 30 of them were confirmed to release formaldehyde when used for anything hot, watery or acidic," Husniah Rubiana Thamrin, head of the National Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM), said during a press conference.

Husniah said such products, most of them imported from China, included plates, bowls, spoons and forks. She said the BPOM did not intend to issue a blanket recall of the melamine resin products because they were relatively safe to use for some foods.

"People don't need to throw away all their melamine tableware because of this announcement," she said.

"They simply need to use it for different kinds of food, for dry food - or cookies, perhaps," she said.

Melamine resin has long been used as a construction material and a component of fire-resistant plastics. The melamine chemical on its own has been added illegally to some food products to boost measurements of protein content. Nearly 300,000 children fell ill last year after drinking milk laced with the chemical. But the dangers of this practice are separate from the formaldehyde-leeching properties associated with some products made with the resin.

Roland Hutapea, the BPOM's director for hazardous substance control, said long-term exposure to formaldehyde could cause kidney failure, bladder damage and cancer, and could eventually lead to death.

He said many food-grade melamine tableware items were perfectly safe to use, but consumers would not know how to find safe products because Indonesia lacked a labeling system to indicate whether a product was safe to use with food.

"The safest way for now, as we still have no way to guarantee product safety, is to avoid using any melamine [resin] tableware with heat, acid or water," he said.

Husniah said that without a lab test, it was almost impossible to differentiate safe tableware from products that might release formaldehyde.

The BPOM, she said, could not stop the public from using these products because they were legally imported with permits issued by the Ministry of Trade.

Husniah said the BPOM would immediately send a recommendation to the ministry urging a halt to the import of products that posed potential health risks, including melamine resin tableware.

Husniah said the BPOM would also pass on its findings to related ministries and request a special label to certify tableware safety.


Netbook Phenomenon Will Not Last (Posted: 3 June 2009 )

After a surge in 2008, netbook shipments are forecast to grow dramatically in 2009, at a rate of around 140%, with a further strong performance predicted for 2010..  However, according to a new report on the World notebook PC market from IMS Research, this strong growth in netbook shipments is forecast to slow dramatically by 2012.

The strong growth in netbook shipments is primary attributed to their low price, coupled with some dramatic improvements in performance and increasing demand for internet access. There has also recently been much stronger promotion of netbooks by the leading brands and by some telecom operators. However, there are also some factors that restrain netbook market growth, including a small screen and keyboard, simple functionality, limited feature set, and, most importantly, competition from low-priced traditional notebook PCs.

Research Director, Richard Jun Li commented: "Netbooks are not a revolutionary product that can replace traditional notebook PCs. A netbook is really just a type of notebook PC that meets the needs of entry level computer users, such as students, budget conscious consumers, or those that need to be out of the office or home frequently and require fast and easy access to the internet. These factors all imply that this market sector will mature pretty fast after its early stellar growth".

Largest B2B Event of Thailand - TTM+ Starts (Posted: 3 June 2009 )

With cooperation between the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Thai tourism industry, Thailand has the honor to annually host the largest B2B event `Thailand Travel Mart Plus the Greater Mekong Sub region (TTM+).

For the year 2009, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus is scheduled to be held on 3-7 June. A briefing for buyers and sellers, together with on-site appointments between operators and patrons, will be arranged on the opening day at Central World's Bangkok Convention Centre. The last four days of the event will take place at the Challenger Hall, Muang Thong Thani Impact Arena Exhibition and Convention Centre. 4-5 June will be trade days, focusing on trade and business talks among operators and participants. 6-7 June will be consumer days for the general public, as well as post-tour days for buyers and media.

The event, first organized in 2001, has the uttermost objective to promote the tourism and service business in Thailand and its Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) counterparts. Small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) have also been supported on the international stage with their products on offer. The major markets include Europe, South East Asia, Eastern Asia, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as emerging ones; such as, the CIS countries, Eastern Europe, Middle East, South America, and South Africa.

In 2008, the Thailand Travel Mart Plus welcomed 440 delegate buyers from 60 countries including Thailand, an increase of 26.5% over the previous year. Participants were encouraged to meet 388 travel organisations and related service operators from Thailand and the GMS countries, featuring 67% from hotels and resorts, 12% from travel agents and tour operators, 10% from companies from the GMS, IMTGT, and NTOs, and 11% from other travel services; such as, airlines, ecotourism and adventure operators, golf courses, wellness and spa centres, as well as entertainment venues, theme parks, and culture shows.

Source:Travel News Gazette

Malaysia allow more foreign Islamic banks (Posted: 1 June 2009 )

Malaysia on Monday rolled out measures to boost the financial services industry and said it would grant licenses for two new foreign-owned Islamic banks.

However, measures expected by some economists to liberalise foreign ownership levels in commercial banks did not emerge in the press conference held on Monday by Prime Minister Najib Razak as an existing 30 percent cap was retained.

Mubadala to invest $1.8 bln in Malaysia property jv-paper (Posted: 1 June 2009 )

Mubadala Development Co, the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, will invest about $1.8 billion in a property development project in Malaysia, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.

The project involves the construction of hotels and villas on a 1,200-hectare site in Terengganu state on the east coast of the Southeast Asian country, the Edge Weekly reported, citing Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, CEO of the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

Mubadala will invest the amount over seven years while TIA will buy the land from the state government and inject it into the joint venture, said Shahrol.

TIA has been set up and labelled as Malaysia's first sovereign wealth fund and is modelled on similar concepts in the Gulf with the aim of investing oil revenues for the long term.

The Malaysian fund this week said it is to sell 5 billion ringgit ($1.43 billion) of bonds guaranteed by the federal government.

Shahrol of TIA said the fund aims to raise another 6 billion ringgit later this year by forward selling the oil royalty to be received by the oil-producing state over the next few years.

Mubadala, which manages over $10 billion in assets, is also developing a $600 million city in a planned economic zone in Malaysia's southern Johor state, near Singapore.

Air cargo market probably hit bottom (Posted: 29 May 2009 )

A decline in the air cargo freight market following the international financial crisis seems to have hit bottom, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Sunday.

Air cargo, a key barometer of world trade, has slumped amid the global economic downturn and shortage of financing. Global air freight volumes in January saw a record 23 percent year-on-year dive.

"I would say, looking at the numbers, that it has hit bottom," the global association's Director-General Giovanni Bisignani told Reuters.

Bisignani said the market had at least been stabilising at levels around 20 percent lower than a year ago.

"It's not yet enough to say that the situation is picking up because this is also linked with the level of inventories of the manufacturers. So we have to wait at least another 3 or 4 months in order to see if we start moving."

Bisignani was speaking on the sidelines of a business summit in Denmark on climate change ahead of a U.N. conference in December that aims to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Bisignani repeated an outlook made in March for airlines' carbon emissions to drop 8 percent this year. Most of that drop, around 6 percent, was coming from airlines cutting the number of flights amid a drop in cargo and passenger demand.

The business meeting in Denmark will try to unite behind a call for long-term climate policies on oil, power and technology. Many firms want clearer carbon emissions rules to plan investments and capitalise on green technology.

Bisignani said the aviation industry wanted a global approach to fighting climate change. "We need a global scheme," he said.

IATA said in a statement the global aviation industry would aim at improving fuel efficiency by 25 percent by 2020 compared with 2005, using 10 percent alternative fuels by 2017. It was targeting a 50 percent absolute reduction in emissions by 2050, it said.

The death of U.S. OEM sales (Posted: 29 May 2009 )

You are still making parts for OEM production in America? You should get a medal for bravery. And you may receive a place in history as a vanishing species. We all heard of the dismal sales of new cars in the U.S. You as a parts maker are only peripherally interested in new car sales. What interests you is new car production.
The new car production numbers coming from the U.S. are much more horrific than the sales numbers. Dealer's lots are still full with 2008 cars. The U.S. could stop making new cars altogether and still have lots of cars to sell.

"Stop making cars" is actually quite common these days in the U.S. All Chrysler factories are shut down because of bankruptcy restructuring. Six factories of General Motors are closed, three of Ford are shuttered. In a week, when General Motors will go into bankruptcy - as it looks at the moment - all GM factories in North America and many in the rest of the world (except China) will most likely be shut down also.

When that happens, the new car production situation will get much worse than it already is. A look at the latest production statistics makes you think North America has hit bottom and cannot fall further. Sadly, it can.

Take a stiff drink, or a stomach tablet, and have a look at the latest North American production statistics. From January 1 through May 17,, 2008, all of North America (Mexico, U.S.A., and Canada) had produced 5.4 million vehicles. This year for the same period, the number is down to 2.7 million vehicles - that's half of last year!

Imagine what happens when the GM factories go off-line. Until May 16, 2009, all GM factories in the U.S. still had produced 627,520 cars. The year before in the same period, it was 1,274,936 cars made by GM. Take the currently producing GM factories off-line, and U.S. production could fall another 23 percent from its current levels.

As far as sales go, people in the United States will most likely buy 9.5 million light vehicles (cars and trucks) this year, the forecasting firm HIS Global Insight predicts. This is the lowest sales total since the 1960s.

There will be no quick recovery, nothing like the snap-back China experienced in the first quarter of 2009.


Towel Market Development Trend (Posted: 28 May 2009 )

First trend: Franchised store will become the main channel for high-end towels

Apart from distribution channels including supermarkets, department stores, a new trend of selling towels through franchised stores is emerging especially in first or second line cities. This operating mode has become an inevitable trend.

Second trend: Demand for towel is increasingly diversified; the market calls for more innovation products

Consumers are no longer satisfied with a clean and simple towel, and have begun to pay more attention to fashion, environmental protection, decoration, health, and individuation needs. The industry is bound to set off a product innovation war that focus not only on technical content of the products, but also on consumers' specific needs and lifestyles.

Third trend: Intensified Competition

From price competition, product competition, and advertising competition, the towel market is facing a new round of deeper competitions, such as service competition, as well as business model competition. Enterprises need to focus on integration of resources, especially in the modern commercial retail resources and to effectively establish lasting depth communication with target consumer groups, in order to enhance their capacity to occupy a bigger market.

Fourth trend: A focus on women's towel market

Women remains the most important consumer sector as the needs of women on towels are far higher than that of men and other consumers and also, they are usually in charge of household products, thus becoming the major buyers. Producers that successfully win the hearts of women consumers easily become the market leader and have a role in deciding the future of their industry in China's towel market.

Analyzes LED Market Development (Posted: 28 May 2009 )

Amid uncertainties of economic recovery in the half-half of 2009, consumer demand was not strong, and demand of end-consumers for electronic products also remained still weak. However,'s analyst estimated that the LED industry in 2009 would sustain a positive growth driven by the growth in LED laptops market, as the penetration rate speeds up.

Facing uncertain market prospects, the analyst believes that LED industry, which has energy-saving advantages, will become a core industry this year; there is huge market potential for LED lamps, outdoor display screen and LED backlight modules fields.

LED can achieve high-light conversion efficiency, and with less power consumption, along with its small size, light weight, long life, non-mercury, non-radiation environmental protection advantages, coupled with a wide range of applications, including partial lighting, backlight panel, buildings (landscape) lighting, traffic lighting, medical and light source, such as agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry equipment, it becomes a manufacturers' favorite.

There is a vast market for LED street lamps in 2009, amounting to 2.5 million calixs, with an annual growth rate of 178%. However, for LED lighting to officially enter the mainstream, the cost is the biggest obstacle. Manufacturers need to lower the cost of LED lamps in the long run in order to stay competitive.

The growing popularity of LED lighting has become an irreversible trend, and LED manufacturers are starting to explore more features to develop niche markets. Import is an obvious choice and the focus will turn gradually to the general lighting applications market.

Auto Relay Market Demand (Posted: 28 May 2009 )

Relays are a major electronic automotive component, and their application volume in the automobile is inferior only to electronic sensors. Car comfort and safety's continuous improvement will inevitably lead to demand for automotive relays rising.

Relays are an important electronic automotive component; they are widely used to control vehicle starters, pre-heating, air conditioning, lighting, fuel pumps, anti-theft devices, audio, communications, navigation, electric fans, cooling fans, electric windows, airbags, ABS, various instrumentation and the fault diagnosis system. Their application in the automotive industry is second only to automotive electronic sensors. As people increase their requirements for car comfort in recent years, the usage for automotive relays has shown a rapid upward trend.

In recent years, as automotive electronics, electrical products and automotive relays have also been developing by leaps and bounds, the world's automobile production and sales of relays have seen an upward trend. It is expected over the next few years that automotive electronics will continue to enhance their level and the automotive industry's demand for automotive electronic and electrical appliances will also be increasing.

Automotive relays can be roughly divided into two categories: automotive relays and plug-in PCBs (printed circuit board). The plug-in vehicle assembly in the central control box with wiring harness is easy to install and replace. PCB relays do more for automotive electronics modules. Compared to plug-ins, it is smaller and has a lower cost. Market demand for automotive products, relays and developing miniaturization grows.

Industry analyst forecasts that the global demand for automotive relays in 2009 will reach around 2.3 billion pieces with the PCB automotive relay carrying about 55% of the share. As people gradually improve requirements for car comfort, the proportion will continue to increase. At the same time, automotive consumers will demand more safety, comfort, entertainment and other ever-increasing requirements that car designers will have to improve or redesign through the existing automotive electronics and electronic circuit modules, creating new performance requirements for PCB relays.

Tesco Invests RM300 Mln To Set Up Non-chilled Distribution Centre (Posted: 26 May 2009 )

Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd has invested over RM300 million to set up its non-chilled distribution centre in Bukit Beruntung, Selangor.

The centre is expected to be opened this September, its chief operating officer, David Hobbs said.

"We are very committed to the Malaysian market. The new distribution centre could be the most modern distribution centre in Malaysia," he told reporters on the sidelines of the "Tesco International Sourcing Programme" seminar here today.

Hobbs said Tesco Stores Malaysia is also planning to set up seven new stores this year.

Tesco Stores Malaysia was incepted on Nov 29, 2001, as a strategic alliance between Tesco Plc UK and local conglomerate, Sime Darby Bhd.

It commenced operations in February 2002 with the opening of its first hypermarket in Puchong, Selangor.

The hypermarket operator currently employs nearly 12,000 workers and operates 30 stores nationwide.

The "Tesco International Sourcing Programme" seminar was jointly organised by Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and Tesco Malaysia.

Matrade deputy chief executive officer (Trade Promotion) Dr Wong Lai Sum said the seminar was an on-going effort to promote Malaysian-made products internationally.

She said the seminar will provide an overview of sourcing requirements for Tesco stores worldwide, which includes customer preferences, packaging, regulations and logistical arrangements.

In conjunction with the seminar, Matrade is organising several one-to-one business meetings between Tesco officials and Malaysian companies from various industries.

Meanwhile, Hobbs said about seven Malaysian suppliers sell their products at the Tesco UK at the moment.


South Korea Seeks To Increase Trade With Malaysia (Posted: 25 May 2009 )

South Korea is targeting to increase its bilateral trade with Malaysia to RM100 billion in the next five years.

Its ambassador to Malaysia, Yang Bong Ryull, said South Korea is the sixth largest trading partner and the eighth largest investor to Malaysia.

"In the next five years, the bilateral trade volume between Malaysia and Korea will increase to RM100 billion if the growth pace continues," he told reporters after launching the "Korea, Closer Than You Imagine" programme here Thursday.

Yang said for the past 10 years, the bilateral trade volume has been expanding by over 10 percent annually on average and it exceeded RM50 billion last year.

He said joint ventures and strategic alliances between the two countries were diversifying from manufacturing to more value-added technologically advanced sectors such as information and communications technology, oil and gas, finance, and tourism.

He also said that governments and private sectors from both countries were currently discussing to develop a biomass technology for sustainable and renewable energy but he declined for elaborate on the discussions.

Earlier in his speech, Yang said for the past few years, South Korea and the Association of South East Asia Nations (Asean) have signed free trade agreements on goods and services.

He said the Asean-South Korea trade volume will increase from US$90 billion last year to US$150 billon by 2015.

Yang said in order to facilitate the cooperation in the region, South Korea has established the Asean-Korea Centre to provides business information as well as cultural information on every country in the region.

People-to-people exchange between the two countries has also been increasing steadily, he said.

"More than 260,000 Koreans visited Malaysia last year for leisure, business and education and Malaysian visits to Korea exceeded 80,000," he added.

Deputy Foreign Minister Senator Kohilan Pillay, who was present at the event, said Malaysia has benefited from the Look East policy with more than 2,700 Malaysians having received training in industrial and technical fields from Korea since the policy was introduced in 1983.

"Until last month, more than 3,800 Malaysian are currently studying in Korea in various fields and Malaysia has established a Malay study chair at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul in April last year", he said in his speech.

The "Korea, Closer Than You Imagine" programme is organised in conjunction with the Asean-Korea Commemorative Summit which will be held in Jeju Island, South Korea, on June 1 and 2.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to join other Asean leaders at the summit which will dicuss future directions and strengthen cooperative partnerships between Korea and Asean.



Malaysia to restart trade talks with US (Posted: 25 May 2009 )

RENEGOTIATIONS on the free trade agreements (FTAs) between Malaysia and three other countries - the US, Australia and New Zealand - will begin in the middle of next month.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamad said his ministry will hold separate meetings with the three countries to discuss the direction and actual picture to ensure that the process to realise the FTAs is achieved.

"I will look again at Malaysia's position and stand regarding the FTAs and will inform the Cabinet on the matter for discussion.

"I'm also waiting for the mandate from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak," he told reporters after a meeting with agencies under the ministry in Kota Baru yesterday.

Mustapa was commenting on the statement by US Ambassador to Malaysia, James R. Keith, last Thursday that Malaysia was now on the right track to proceeding with a new round of negotiations on the FTA with the US, after the implementation of the liberalisation policy announced by the Malaysian government.

Keith said that President Barack Obama's administration had been reviewing all aspects of the agreement and would speed up the new round of talks with Malaysia.

The last round on July 23 last year was stalled after the failure to reach a compromise on the rules for importing agricultural produce. - Bernama

Qualcomm says China to be its largest market (Posted: 21 May 2009 )

May. 21, 2009 (China Knowledge) - Qualcomm Inc, a global communication solutions provider, expects the Chinese market to be a major driving force of its growth and profits, said its CEO Paul Jacobs, the China Daily reported on Wednesday.

Jacobs said the company's revenues in the Chinese market are likely to overtake those from the Korean market. Boosted by strong demand from domestic telecom manufacturers, China contributed 21% of the company's total revenue in September last year whereas the South Koran market, the company's largest market in terms of revenue, accounted for 35% of the total.

The company's chip shipments are expected to recover from a historic low of 63 million pieces in the last three months of 2008 to around 87 to 92 million pieces in the second quarter of this year, as the demand from emerging markets including China will remain strong, said Jacobs.

Qualcomm said it sees great potential for growth in China. China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd have launched 3G services across the country and have planned huge investments in network construction and expansion for the next few years.

The country's telecom authority estimated that the number of 3G users will hit 70 million within the next two years.

Copyright c 2009

Singapore Q1 GDP slumps 14.6 pct (Posted: 21 May 2009 )

By Nopporn Wong-Anan and Saeed Azhar

SINGAPORE, May 21 (Reuters) - Singapore saw signs on Thursday that its worst-ever recession is bottoming out after its economy shrank less than expected in the first quarter, prompting the central bank to say it is comfortable with its policy stance.

Singapore's economy shrank at an annualised and seasonally adjusted rate of 14.6 percent in the quarter, less than a Reuters median forecast for a 17 percent fall and also lower than preliminary government estimates of a 19.7 percent drop, final data showed.

The trade-dependent economy has shrunk for four consecutive quarters, but the government said if it started recovering in the second half of the year, full-year GDP could shrink 6 percent, at the high end of its forecast for a 6 to 9 percent contraction.

"It's not a pretty picture despite the revision. It's just a less dark picture," said Song Seng Wun, economist at Malaysian bank CIMB in Singapore.

Singapore's non-oil exports slipped back in April from March following two months of growth, reinforcing the view that while the worst of the downturn may be over there is no clear sight of recovery.

The Singapore dollar, the central bank's main policy tool which it manages against a secret trade-weighted basket of currencies, was little changed at 1.4578/91 against the U.S. dollar by 0115 GMT, versus 1.458 before the data.

The central bank said on Thursday the behaviour of the Singapore dollar band was consistent with its policy stance. The currency has strengthened since the bank last month shifted the midpoint of the band lower to the then-weak level of the band, a move less aggressive than some analysts had expected.

The currency's strength should be seen in the context of the U.S. dollar's broad weakness against Asian currencies, the Monetary Authority of Singapore's deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee told a briefing.

GDP in the first three months of the year fell 10.1 percent from a year earlier, also less than expected and a smaller fall than 11.5 percent reported in the earlier April data, but still the worst ever.

Since the advance figures were released, manufacturing data for January and February has been revised up, although some analysts had pointed to weakness in services.

"In short, there are some positive signs of a bottoming out. But it is not clear that we have begun to rebound from the bottom," said Ravi Menon of the ministry of trade and industry at a briefing, pointing to a slide showing green shoots and brown weeds.

Like other exporters, Singapore's economy has been hit hard by the global downturn following the slump in the U.S. housing market and credit crunch.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim and Candida Ng; Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Kim Coghill)

SMIDEC Approved RM15.05 Mln To SMEs In Halal Business As Of March (Posted: 15 May 2009 )

The Small and Medium Industries Development Corporation (SMIDEC) approved RM15.05 million as of March 31 this year for the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the halal industry.

Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir said the funds, given through grants for the development and promotion of halal products, involved 253 applications.

Out of these, 165 were applications from Bumiputera entrepreneurs who received RM10.88 million.

"About 60 percent of the applications were for the promotion of halal products, 20 percent for the upgrading of premises in compliance with halal certification and another 20 percent for the development of halal products," Mukhriz said when launching a seminar here today for Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the halal industry.

Mukhriz said the government was very committed to developing the industry, adding that as of March 31, a total of 418 workers from the SME sector had gone through various trainings related to halal business. The programmes were carried out through the Development Skills Centre involving RM220,000 in expenditure.

He also urged Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the industry to be directly involved in the industry as the opportunities in the halal sector went beyond the domestic market.

The annual value of the global halal trade has amounted to RM7.4 trillion while the global Muslim population is 1.6 bilion, he said, adding that Bumiputera entrepreneurs should take up the challenge to develop the industry.

Mukhriz said that while his ministry had no fixed target for increasing the number of Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the halal industry, it should not be an excuse for them not to succeed in the industry.

"It is sad to see that the main producers of meat are countries like Brazil, US, Argentina and China, and indeed in South East Asia, Thailand has already built its name as a producer of halal food products," he said.

"In Malaysia, Bumiputera entrepreneurs are still lagging compared with the non-Bumiputeras...only 423 halal certification applications were received by the Halal Development Corporation (HDC) as of April 30 from a total applications of 1,686," he said.


Six Malaysian Firms To Resume Seafood Exports To Europe (Posted: 14 May 2009 )

Six Malaysian seafood companies will resume the export of seafood products to Europe after they have met the requirements set under the European Union (EU) health standard.

Malaysia's Ambassador to the EU, Datuk Hussein Haniff, said the companies concerned would be given the green light again after positive results from the visit of a team of inspectors from the EU Food and Veterinary Office to Malaysia last March.

The team carried out a review mission in collaboration with Malaysia's Health Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry and Malaysian Fisheries Development Board to implement measures to address the food safety management and hygiene issues in order to comply with the EU's requirements.

"The report has been tabled and then there have been certain clarifications sought, which we have provided. The last we heard it is positive and they (the EU) are happy with the clarifications," Hussein said.

"In fact, they (companies) have passed the test, meeting the EU requirements. We are still awaiting for the letter from the commission but we understand that we will able to get it by May 15," he told Bernama in Brussels recently.

Besides the six companies, there are several others exporting their seafood products to the EU and they have been feeling the pinch, Hussein said.

Seafood products generate billions of ringgit annually and are considered as the second largest edible item exported by Malaysia.

"We are now working hard to ensure that the others will come in quickly. In order for that to happen, I think it will essential for the other companies be tested so that they meet the EU requirements," he said.

Hussein said because of the problems that Malaysian exporters faced in the past, such as in not meeting requirements, the EU has placed special attention on them.

"That is the consequence. So now, with the extra attention, they are looking much harder than in the past and thus, the standards have become much higher," he said.

Hussein said the other companies should take measures to ensure that they could meet the EU requirements when the second mission goes to Malaysia.

"All of them should pass the test. If one or two fail, then it would have repercussions because it means we are still not meeting the EU standards," he said.

In June 2008, the Malaysian government voluntarily made a decision to temporarily freeze exports of aquaculture products to the EU.

This decision was taken following findings which revealed that there were shortcomings along the supply chain compromising food safety standards.

The government suspended seafood exports to the EU to avoid being banned for allegedly failing to meet European health standards.

"I also failed to understand why we can't because I am sure we can. Neigbouring countries like Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are able to meet the requirements, so surely Malaysia can," Hussein said.

He said that Malaysia, being the second largest economy in Asean, has the technology to ensure compliance.

"When I spoke to Malaysian businessmen recently, they were talking about sustainable business which is very important," Hussein said.

He said to be sure of sustainable business, Malaysian companies have to comply with new regulations coming out from the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission.

Among these are certification that the fish caught are not due to unregulated fishery and illegal fishing, Hussein said.

"The same with timber products which now require certification that it is from sustainable forest, not affecting the indigenous people or orang utan sanctuaries," he said.

"These are the issues being raised by non-governmental organisations and environmentalist groups to ensure that Europeans only buy products that are sustainable," he added.


Palm oil buyers face green scorecard, WWF says (Posted: 13 May 2009 )

Major palm oil buyers face being graded for their green credentials after figures showing they have bought only a fraction of the sustainable palm oil available, environmental group WWF said on Tuesday.

About 1.3 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil has been available since November last year, but only about 15,000 tonnes have been bought, WWF said.

Palm oil is used as a vegetable oil for cooking, in chocolate bars and margarine, as well as in soaps and cosmetics and in biofuels for transport. Buyers include Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, L'Oreal and Cadbury.

WWF, in a statement, said it would assess the world's major users of palm oil over the next six months and publish a "buyer's scorecard" that would show companies that support sustainable palm oil and those that have not fulfilled commitments to buy it.

"We don't have a lot of information about what's happening in the market yet," Carrie Svingen, forest conversion programme coordinator, WWF International, told Reuters from Bali, Indonesia.

"That's why we're doing this scorecard exercise so we can see what companies are doing and motivate some more activity in the market."

She said the issues appeared to be cost and uncertainty of supply.

"Buyers have a lot of excuses at this point we just need to drill down and figure what's actually happening."

WWF helped set up the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2002 for the industry to develop greener standards after criticism plantations were leading to large-scale deforestation and loss of habitat for endangered species.

Certified sustainable palm oil has been available since November 2008. It is meant to assure buyers that tropical forests have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during production.

But certification can add a premium of around $50 a tonne to palm oil in the wholesale market.

Benchmark palm oil prices closed on Monday at 2,660 ringgit ($758) a tonne.

RSPO president Jan Kees Vis said last month that uptake of certified palm oil had been slow because of the economic crisis.

"Companies are not really willing to pay the premium -- anything that increases cost is out of the question," said Vis.

WWF said the scorecard would rank the commitments and actions of major global retailers, manufacturers and traders that buy palm oil.

But the lack of demand for certified palm oil could undermine the RSPO, Rodney Taylor, director of WWF International's Forests Programme, said the statement.

"It threatens the remaining natural tropical forests of Southeast Asia, as well as other forests where oil palm is set to expand, such as the Amazon."

World software piracy grows, China improves--study (Posted: 13 May 2009 )

Software piracy grew last year, accounting for 41 percent of all PC software installed, with losses to companies estimated at $53 billion, the Business Software Alliance said on Tuesday.

Worldwide piracy rates rose from 38 percent of software in business and home computers in 2007 to 41 percent in 2008 despite successes in fighting piracy in China and Russia, according to the study done by market researcher IDC for the BSA.

Global PC software sales grew 14 percent last year to $88 billion.

While there was progress on piracy in some countries, with rates down in roughly half of the countries surveyed and flat in one-third, overall "the dollar figure is actually up," said Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the BSA.

Holleyman said that while U.S. piracy was about 20 percent of the total market, the lowest in the world, it was a major problem because more software was sold in the United States than anywhere else.

Holleyman said much of those losses came from small businesses that use unlicensed copies of popular software programs. They might have 50 PCs but only pay for rights to run the software on 25 of those machines. "The U.S. has the highest single dollar loss," he said.

China's piracy rate had dropped from 90 percent of all software in 2004 to 80 percent last year while Russia's piracy rate dropped five percentage points in the past year to 68 percent, the study found.

The progress in China came because the government decided to use only legitimate software, because Internet service providers cooperated in taking pirates off the Internet when asked, and because of other steps, said Holleyman.

The study found seven countries with piracy rates of 90 percent or higher: Georgia, Bangladesh, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Sri Landa, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Participating in the 6th International Halal Showcase (MIHAS 2009) (Posted: 5 May 2009 ) will be partipacting in Malaysia and world's largest Halal showcase scheduled to take place at the MATRADE Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 6th to 10th May 2009. exhibition booth is located on Hall E (E93 & E94). Visit exhibition booth to enquiry our special promotion merchant packages.

Visit exhibition booth to enquiry about our latest Merchant packages and special promotion deal onky during MIHAS 2009.

Swine influenza frequently asked questions_Part 1 (Posted: 4 May 2009 )

What is swine influenza?

Swine influenza, or "swine flu", is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Morbidity tends to be high and mortality low (1-4%). The virus is spread among pigs by aerosols, direct and indirect contact, and asymptomatic carrier pigs. Outbreaks in pigs occur year round, with an increased incidence in the fall and winter in temperate zones. Many countries routinely vaccinate swine populations against swine influenza.

Swine influenza viruses are most commonly of the H1N1 subtype, but o ther subtypes are also circulating in pigs (e.g., H1N2, H3N1, H3N2). Pigs can also be infected with avian influenza viruses and human seasonal influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. The H3N2 swine virus was thought to have been originally introduced into pigs by humans. Sometimes pigs can be infected with more than one virus type at a time, which can allow the genes from these viruses to mix. This can result in an influenza virus containing genes from a number of sources, called a "reassortant" virus.

Although swine influenza viruses are normally species specific and only infect pigs, they do sometimes cross the species barrier to cause disease in humans.

What are the implications for human health?

Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.

Since typical clinical presentation of swine influenza infection in humans resembles seasonal influenza and other acute upper respiratory tract infections, most of the cases have been detected by chance through seasonal influenza surveillance. Mild or asymptomatic cases may have escaped from recognition; therefore the true extent of this disease among humans is unknown.

Where have human cases occurred?

Since the implementation of IHR(2005)1 in 2007, WHO has been notified of swine influenza cases from the United States and Spain.

How do people become infected?

People usually get swine influenza from infected pigs, however, some human cases lack contact history with pigs or environments where pigs have been located. Human-to-human transmission has occurred in some instances but was limited to close contacts and closed groups of people.

Is it safe to eat pork meat and pork products?

Yes. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.

Swine influenza frequently asked questions_Part 2 (Posted: 4 May 2009 )

Which countries have been affected by outbreaks in pigs?

Swine influenza is not notifiable to international animal health authorities (OIE,, therefore its international distribution in animals is not well known. The disease is considered endemic in the United States. Outbreaks in pigs are also known to have occurred in North America, South America, Europe (including the UK, Sweden, and Italy), Africa (Kenya), and in parts of eastern Asia including China and Japan.

What about the pandemic risk?

It is likely that most of people, especially those who do not have regular contact with pigs, do not have immunity to swine influenza viruses that can prevent the virus infection. If a swine virus establishes efficient human-to human transmission, it can cause an influenza pandemic. The impact of a pandemic caused by such a virus is difficult to predict: it depends on virulence of the virus, existing immunity among people, cross protection by antibodies acquired from seasonal influenza infection and host factors.

Is there a human vaccine to protect from swine influenza?

There are no vaccines that contain the current swine influenza virus causing illness in humans. It is not known whether current human seasonal influenza vaccines can provide any protection. Influenza viruses change very quickly. It is important to develop a vaccine against the currently circulating virus strain for it to provide maximum protection to the vaccinated people. This is why WHO needs access to as many viruses as possible in order to select the most appropriate candidate vaccine virus.

What drugs are available for treatment?

Antiviral drugs for seasonal influenza are available in some countries and effectively prevent and treat the illness. There are two classes of such medicines, 1) adamantanes (amantadine and remantadine), and 2) inhibitors of influenza neuraminidase (oseltamivir and zanamivir). Most of the previously reported swine influenza cases recovered fully from the disease without requiring medical attention and without antiviral medicines.

Some influenza viruses develop resistance to the antiviral medicines, limiting the effectiveness of chemoprophylaxis and treatment. The viruses obtained from the recent human cases with swine influenza in the United States were sensitive to oselatmivir and zanamivir but resistant to amantadine and remantadine.

Information is insufficient to make recommendation on the use of the antivirals in prevention and treatment of swine influenza virus infection. Clinicians have to make decisions based on the clinical and epidemiological assessment and harms and benefit of the prophylaxis/treatment of the patient2. For the ongoing outbreak of the swine influenza infection in the United States and Mexico, the national and the local authorities are recommending to use oseltamivir or zanamivir for treatment and prevention of the disease based on the virus's susceptibility profile.

Malaysia Targets US$10 Billion In Trade With Pakistan (Posted: 29 April 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR: External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) of Malaysia has target US$10 billion in trade with Pakistan by 2015.

The Malaysian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ahmad Shahizan Abd Samad said in Kuala Lumpur that as of last year, Malaysia had registered US$1.8 billion in trade with Pakistan.

The High Commissioner said that after 52 years of bilateral relations, trade between both countries is however not significant. Despite the negative perception of Pakistan due to security issues, there are still specific sectors considered to being potentially lucrative for Malaysian businesses," Ahmad Shahizan added.

He said that potential areas for Malaysian businesses to source for opportunities are, palm oil, chemicals and chemical products, electrical and electronic products, machinery and parts, processed food,textiles and clothing, natural rubber, wood products, iron, steel and metal products.

Mr. Samad Shahizan said that in 2008, Malaysia's total exports to Pakistan stood at US$ 1.8 billion, an increase of 33.04 percent from the US$ 1.3 billion the previous year.

He said that major products exported include palm oil, chemicals and chemical products, electrical and electronic products, machinery, appliances and parts, textiles and clothings, processed food and natural rubber.

From January to February this year, Malaysia's exports to Pakistan recorded an increase of 11.5 percent from the US$ 274.17 million during the same period in 2008.

Ahmad Shahizan said that Malaysia , will be organising a marketing mission to Pakistan in the cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore from May 23-30 to promote Malaysian products and services as well as explore market opportunities.

The objective of the mission is to cultivate direct business contacts between businessmen in the two countries and to take advantage of the Malaysia-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Malaysia-Iraq trade on the rise (Posted: 29 April 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) sees the value of total bilateral trade between Malaysia and Iraq growing about 20% this year from the US$211.04mil chalked up in 2008 as the war-torn country stabilises.

The bilateral trade value between the two countries for the first two months this year was US$47.33mil, compared with US$13.5mil in the same period last year, according to Matrade.

"The demand will be in products like furniture, medical items, food products, machinery, automobile parts, electrical items and household appliances," said Dzulkifli Mahmud, trade promotion section director at Matrade's West Asia/Africa division.

"Our major export items to Iraq are palm oil, processed food, electrical and electronics products, and chemicals and chemical products," he added.

Dzulkifli called on Malaysian companies to invest in Iraq as the situation in the country has stabilised and that countries like China and India have started to promote their products there.

He was speaking at a roundtable discussion between Iraq's Al-Muthanna Investment Commission and Iraqi and Malaysian companies here on Tuesday.

The discussion, organised by Matrade, is aimed at creating business opportunities between Malaysia and Iraq, particularly in the southern Iraqi state of Al-Muthanna.

Commission chairman Adil Dakhil Mohamed said the Iraqi government had been supportive and aggressive in attracting foreign investments by providing incentives, guidance and legal support.

"Tax exemption will be given for companies in building factories or plants in the country and 10 years' tax holiday will be provided once the factory starts production," he said.

He also urged Malaysian companies to be involved in the infrastructure, housing and construction sectors in Al-Muthanna as the state needed 30,000 houses in the next five years.

Japan's Imports, Exports Plunge (Posted: 22 April 2009 )

TOKYO -- Japan's trade with the rest of the world continued to sag in March, as a severe recession at home exacerbated the effects of the global downturn, the Japanese government said Wednesday.

Falling global trade has squeezed the world's second biggest economy, which shrank at an annualized 12.1% in the September-December period, and is expected to contract by a similar degree in the January-March period.

The trade balance for the fiscal year ended March 31 logged a deficit of ¥725.3 billion (7.34 billion). That was the first deficit since fiscal year 1980, the Ministry of Finance said.

With the country's recession-stricken businesses and consumers scaling back on foreign goods, imports fell 36.7% on year. Exports, meanwhile, plunged 45.6%. That gave Japan a trade surplus, at ¥11.00 billion, for the second straight month.

A surplus, meaning a country exports more than it imports, has traditionally signaled health for Japan's export-oriented economy. But March's surplus, like February's, highlighted distress, resulting from the drastic drop in imports outpacing the severe slide in exports.

While the surplus was slightly bigger than the ¥10.0 billion surplus expected on average by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and The Nikkei, it was still small by historical standards.

The data show that exports have now fallen for six straight months and imports for five. Analysts say the fall-offs are intertwined.

Weak overseas demand for Japanese cars, electronics and other high-end goods has forced companies like Toyota and Sony to cut production and jobs.

That has unsettled the broader economy, prompting job-wary consumers to curtail spending, slowing overall economic activity further. Imports of crude oil, semiconductors and food have fallen as a consequence.


Global textile trade has lucrative future despite recession (Posted: 21 April 2009 )

Textile trade plays an important role in determining the economic output of many countries. It is an efficient employment generator for 40 million people, and is one of the two dynamic sectors in the world. Analyzing the demand and supply curve during the past decade, economists predict that, by 210, global textile consumption will exceed 127 billion tons.

The post termination of ATC (Agreement in Textiles and Clothing) period witnessed a drastic shift of production to countries with competitive advantage. Countries like Asia which posses abundant availability of labor is expected to confine to a higher level of production. At the same time, countries that lack these skills are likely to import more from others.

The forthcoming years will see an increased demand for home textiles, and functional clothing. Eco friendly clothing will be in the spotlight. Organized retailing will become increasingly popular, where the fabric will be directly bought from the manufacturer eliminating the intermediaries. There would be drastic changes in the textile trade performance of countries like Asia, US, China and EU.


Best Countries For Business (Posted: 21 April 2009 )

The economic downturn that's swept the globe has crushed financial markets, exploded unemployment and shaken confidence in the banking system.

The disaster isn't shared equally, though. Some countries are in a much better position than others to rebound from the current malaise by attracting entrepreneurs, investors and workers.

Who are they? Our fourth annual Best Countries for Business ranking looks at business conditions in 127 economies. Topping the list for 2009: Denmark, for a second straight year, takes the No. 1 spot. The U.S. is up two spots to No. 2, Canada is up four spots to No. 3, Singapore is up four to No. 4 and New Zealand is up seven to No. 5.

Big movers included New Zealand (No. 5, up seven spots), followed by Jordan (No. 33, up 28), Australia (No. 8, up five), United Arab Emirates (No. 46, up 28) and Malaysia (No. 25, up 13).

This is not a tally of economies with high gross domestic product growth, or low unemployment. The goal is to quantify for entrepreneurs and investors the often-qualified information about dynamic economies and what they would consider desirable conditions for business.

Personal freedoms play a big part--it's hard to start a company or find talented employees under totalitarian regimes and military juntas. So we include measures of the right to participate in free and fair elections, freedom of expression and organization.

Taking care of investors, with laws assuring recourse for minority shareholders in cases of corporate misdeeds, is also important. As a barometer for corruption, Transparency International examines the number and frequency of incidents where corporate assets are misused for personal gain.

Amid the financial turmoil this year, we added stock market performance to reflect the extent of disrepair in countries' banking systems, as well as investor confidence in a recovery. Intellectual property rights, the promotion of free trade and low inflation, combined with low taxes on income and investment, give a snapshot of the conditions for business in each.

All was not lost in a tough year for believers in low taxes, free trade and limited bureaucracy. Despite swelling budget deficits, at least 50 countries recently cut or passed plans to cut taxes on individuals and businesses, including eight of the top 10, with individuals and investors in the U.S. and Norway left in the lurch.

The United Arab Emirates, in particular, has made strides in protecting intellectual property rights through initiatives like educational seminars for thousands of students, with support from corporations like Procter&Gamble (nyse: PG - news - people ), Estée Lauder (nyse: EL - news - people ) and General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ). New Zealand improved its free-trade ranking by pursuing talks with India, Korea and Hong Kong, while securing the first (for a developed nation) free-trade deal with China late last year. Infrastructure improvements to the Jordanian stock market are improving enforcement of investment laws and compliance by broker members.

Sliding the most this year was Ireland (No. 14, down 12), which even saw plans for a Guinness mega-brewery shelved by parent Diageo (nyse: DEO - news - people ) as exports slowed. Uruguay (No. 66, down 22), Armenia (No. 94, down 31), Paraguay (No. 99, down 29) and Latvia (No. 45, down 13) rounded out this year's losers.

Expertise, research and published reports--from the Heritage Foundation, World Economic Forum, World Bank, Transparency International, Freedom House, Deloitte Tax, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Central Intelligence Agency--all contributed vital analyses of various socioeconomic indicators on the countries included.

Malaysia To Boost Rubber Output By 2012 (Posted: 15 April 2009 )

Malaysia plans to increase rubber production by 2012 to 1.8 tonnes per hectare a year from 1.4 tonnes per hectare a year currently, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said today.

He said the ministry was currently working on better clones to boost yield, monitoring rubber tappers and smallholders to be better organised and looking at issues that need clarifications.

"With the limited acreage, we want to see whether we can boost production capacity so that the 1.24 million hectares of planted land can produce more than what it is at the moment," he told reporters after visiting the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia.

Malaysia is the world's third largest rubber producer after Thailand and Indonesia.

DagangAsia featured Plastic Injection Moulding Manufacturer

Dompok said there was no plan to set a floor price for rubber.

"We are now working with Indonesia and Thailand on a price stabilisation scheme," he added.


Copyright 2009 BERNAMA.


Raja Nazrin: Invest in brand promotion (Posted: 14 April 2009 )

Brand-building may be at an early stage in Malaysia, but small- and medium-sized enterprises must be prepared to invest towards promoting their company's brands, said the Regent of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah.

"The first thing that must happen is that SMEs must appreciate the exact role that branding has to play. They cannot afford to be just concerned about short-term profitability," he said in his keynote address at the Brand Entrepreneur Conference 2009 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

"They must be assisted to 'orchestrate' their purchasing, production and distribution networks in ways that are consistent with the building of sound brand equity," he added.

Apart from government assistance to give the much needed headstart, SMEs also need to have in place quality assurance and audit programmes.

"Many products have had their image wrecked by poor standards and performance leading the loss of the substantial investments made," he said.
Although the government can assist SMEs, brand-building is a private entrepreneurial activity and responsibility of the brand owner.

Brand-building, he added, is successful only when companies have a strong sense of purpose and a clear set of values established by their founders, citing successful brands like luxury goods Christian Dior and mass consumer offerings like McDonalds and Pizza Hut, all of which started out as SMEs.

The importance of branding, he said, has not diminished in light of the global economic crisis but has increased.

"With even blue-ribbon names having fallen victim to the crisis, there seems to be a clear need for companies to instil a sense of confidence and value in the products and services they offer.

"In the flatter and more competitive world that we now confront, brand development can be a major factor in almost every aspect of a company, from raising new capital to attracting the best brains," said Raja Nazrin.

India seeks Asian manufacturing foothold in Indonesia (Posted: 13 April 2009 )

BATAM, Indonesia - India and Japan are seeking special trade status in this government-sponsored industrial zone near Singapore that is dominated by electronics production, according to the head of the Batam Industrial Development Authority.

Ismeth Abdullah, who also serves as acting governor of Indonesia's Riau Islands province, said its Asian neighbors want to create separate industrial parks on the fast-growing island dotted with construction projects and housing developments.

Abdullah said in an interview with visiting U.S. reporters that India in particular would use a Batam-based industrial park as a means of establishing a regional technology presence. One likely focus for an Indian industrial park here would be automotive components manufacturing, Abdullah said.

The proposed industrial parks would also further the Indonesian government's goal of lessening its heavy reliance on manufacturing projects from neighboring Singapore, which lies about 40 minutes by ferry to the northeast across the Malacca Straits. "We don't want to depend heavily on Singapore-based companies," said Abdullah, who is currently campaigning to become Batam's full-time governor.

The Batam authority was created by the Indonesia government about 32 years ago to attract foreign investment to the island. With labor and production costs rising in Singapore and land there scarce, most of Batam's light manufacturing projects and financing have come from Singapore-based Asian companies.

Japan already has a strong presence on the island, manufacturing a range of electronics products. Electronics manufacturing accounts for about 40 percent of Batam's projects, according to the authority.

Electronics manufacturers with operations here include Infineon Technologies, Sony Corp., Philips, Thomson Multimedia and Advanced Interconnect Technologies, a chip test and assembly company.

While there is a heavy Japanese presence on the island, there are so far relatively few Indian companies here. Hence, India's request for its own industrial park is seen as an attempt by the Indian government to drive a stake in the ground as a regional manufacturer, Abdullah said.

Matta To Organise International Muslim Tourism Conference (Posted: 10 April 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, 8 April (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) will organise the 3rd International Conference on Muslim Tourism, Hajj and Umrah (InCoMTHU '09) on April 14.

The event is in support of the Malaysian Muslim tour and travel industry.

Matta's bumiputera representative, Jeffri Sulaiman said the theme of the conference is, "Moving Towards Borderless Muslim Tourism".

He added that the conference aims to encourage travel by Muslims by sharing experiences among the administrators and practitioners of Muslim tourism.

"We believe the conference can spread the benefits of Muslim tourism to non-Muslim countries, so that the goal of global peace and understanding through tourism can be achieved," he said at the InCoMTHU '09 news conference here today.

The conference will present the latest updates and challenges on managing the Haj and Umrah pilgrimage while exploring business opportunities in the development of Muslim tourism.

Meanwhile, Matta deputy president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun said the conference is also an effort to make Malaysia famous as the Islamic halal hub country in the tourism sector in Asia.

Jeffri also said that more than 200 participants from national and regional tourism organisations, Muslim tour operators as well as non-governmental organisation's (NGOs) along with key tourism players, are to attend the conference.

The conference is expected to be officiated by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here.

It is being organised in collaboration with the Department of Zakat, Wakaf and Hajj, Lembaga Tabung Haji (The Pilgrimage Fund Board), Tourism Malaysia, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and Bank Islam.

Those interested can visit the conference website,, or call the Matta secretariat (Azhan Hassan) at 03-92876881," he said.


Copyright c 2009 BERNAMA


RP, Kuwait, Brunei in talks on halal investments (Posted: 9 April 2009 )

Philippine officials have talked to representatives of Kuwait and Brunei for possible investments in the halal sector, particularly in Mindanao.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said the Philippine government presented Kuwait and Brunei with two possible investment opportunities in southern Philippines-the Halal Economic Zone in Davao City and the Halal Model Poultry Farm in Cagayan de Oro City, with combined investment value of P3.04 billion. Featured Halal Project & Investment-Arab International Cultural City

"Our exporters will be pleased to hear that initial talks have already been held with Kuwait and Brunei on possible investment opportunities in [the halal sector]," Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras said in a statement.

Halal is a widely used term that pertains to food that is permissible according to Islamic law.

Earlier, the DA said the proposed Halal Economic Zone, which will cost at least P2.2 billion to set up, will serve as the "centerpiece" of the halal investment portfolio Manila wants overseas investors to consider.

Paras said the economic zone could boost the country's export earnings by at least $200 million a year and generate 24,000 new jobs.

The DA also wants investors to look into the Halal Model Poultry Farm, which will cost P840 million.

Apart from Kuwait and Brunei, Paras said the government is also offering the investment opportunities in halal to other investors in the Middle East, Europe, Asia-Pacific and the United States.

The DA said Mindanao was chosen as the site for the proposed projects as the area remains free from the avian-influenza virus and the  foot-and-mouth disease. Mindanao also has a reliable supply of feed ingredients like corn, copra meal and fishmeal.

With the world's halal food market valued at $500 billion, the Philippines could earn at least $5 billion a year by tapping just 1 percent of this lucrative trade through exports, said Paras.

Good Outing For Malaysians At Xian Trade Show (Posted: 8 April 2009 )

XIAN, April 7 (Bernama) -- The ongoing annual trade fair in China's central Shaanxi province has several Malaysian entrepreneurs beaming as wide as from Kuala Lumpur to this ancient Silk Road city.

Offers of distributorship and sales have poured in for Malaysian-made snacks, juices beverages, among the products brought by a group of 28 companies taking part in the annual 13th Investment and Trade Forum for Cooperation between East and West China.

They are part of a delegation headed Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Mohd Hashim Abdullah to the trade show for the second year.

The brimming enthusiasm will likely lead to a pro-tem joint chamber of commerce between Malaysia and Shaanxi to be formed within the week here.

The suggestion was mooted by Mohd Hashim in his meeting with Shaanxi commerce director Li Xuemei on Sunday.

Paisley Global Marketing Sdn Bhd is already in talks with a Xian distributor and is targeting to ship its first batch of snacks. including curry puffs, cassava chips and roti canai, pickled fish and roselle juice by August.

"We are very happy with the response here, we brought six products here and the agent we shortlisted wants all six. We are talking of bringing in five million standing sachets of roselle juice a year to test the markets in northern Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia," said general manager Mohamed Shariff Abu Bakar.

He said the company would be looking at RM400,000 in sales a month for a start if the plan goes well.

Noni juice producer Ramli Yunus, however, is not toting up any figures yet because he has to return home to ramp up the supply of the fruit known locally as "mengkudu".

"But the trip is a complete success. The Chinese are very excited about our product, they told me it is cheaper than buying from the United States," said the chairman of Koperasi Pembangunan Ekonomi Kawasan Tumpat Bhd.

Ramli expects to hit the Chinese market in a year's time with the "2Park" brand of fruit juice, named similar in sound to the Kelantanese dialect for Tumpat.

His supply is limited by the shortage of mengkudu. It takes five kilograms to produce a litre of juice.

"Tumpat now has 700,000 mengkudu trees and by 2013, we hope to have 1.5 million by convincing the villagers of its economic value. We now buy 50 sen per kg of fruit," he said.

The cooperative currently produces 15,000 litres a month of which two-thirds are exported to South Korea.

Batu Caves-based Coffee Omega (M) Sdn Bhd handled more than 10 buyers in first two days of the fair and expects to send a 40-foot container in two months.

China will be the latest overseas market for the company after Lebanon, Bahrain and Brunei, said chief executive officer Muhamad Latifi Hashim.

"We are also exporting to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait soon. But China will be a different market because it is very large compared to the other countries and sales should be faster," he said.

"But we also have to sort out the language problems for us to communicate better," he added.

Coffe Omega makes four types of instant blend of Red Yeast Coffee, Fibre Coffee, Black Cumin Coffee and Tongkat Ali Cappucino.


c 2009 BERNAMA. All Rights Reserved.


China's Yuan Ambitions (Posted: 6 April 2009 )

By BEN SIMPFENDORFER | From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.

China is playing a growing role in discussions over solutions to current economic problems. Much of the talk has focused on money -- whether Premier Wen Jiabao's concerns about the value of China's U.S. treasury investments, or the People's Bank of China's paper floating the idea of a de-dollarized international monetary system. Up to now, one limit to China's ability to contribute to global monetary reform has been its own currency policy, particularly the fact that the yuan is not convertible. However, now there are tentative signs that's starting to change.

Beijing has signed currency swap agreements with six central banks: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Belarus and most recently Argentina. These swaps permit those central banks to sell yuan to local importers in those countries who want to buy Chinese goods. This is particularly useful for importers struggling to obtain trade finance as a result of the financial crisis. As such, it's consistent with China's desire to participate in the Group of 20's efforts to support trade financing.

China has long wanted its currency to play a more important role in the global financial system. These swap arrangements come in the context of that broader policy aim. The broader policy goal also has a more practical function in reducing currency exposure and transaction costs for Chinese exporters. The rise in the yuan's value relative to the dollar in early 2008 was a reason why some Chinese exporters went bankrupt. The ability to settle trade in yuan would reduce this risk in the future.

Certainly the swaps should not be mistaken for full yuan convertibility. Details are scarce, but it appears the yuan cannot be sold for other currencies, in particular, the dollar. Neither can they be used by the other countries as part of their reserves to defend their own currencies, unlike the recent swap agreements several countries have signed with the United States Federal Reserve. In large part this is because the yuan is not fully convertible. Hong Kong remains the only place where it is possible to open yuan deposit accounts, and even there daily deposits and withdrawals are capped.

Yet while the swap arrangements do not signal full convertibility, they are an important step in that direction. Even better, the Chinese authorities appear to have accelerated the reform schedule in recent months to suggest that the prospect of partial convertibility, especially between China and its major regional trading partners, may be closer than many believe.

China's State Council announced its intention in December to permit businesses in specific provinces to settle international trade-related transactions in yuan with specific trading partners. Guangdong province can settle in yuan with Hong Kong and Macau, while Guangxi and Yunnan provinces can settle in yuan with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

These are trial schemes that have yet to start, and it is still unclear how they will differ in practice from the swap agreements already in place. Hong Kong's experiments with yuan convertibility will be the most important to watch. China has a tendency to use the territory as a laboratory for financial reforms. So, the State Council's clarification on the yuan-settlement trial scheme in Hong Kong, expected soon, and the response of Hong Kong's business community, will be a good indicator of what the rest of the world can expect.

The transformation of the yuan into a global currency has begun. It will not be an overnight change, but the change may take place faster than expected. The economic crisis has provided China with a window of opportunity to leverage its relative stability and status as a trade surplus country to extend yuan credit to deficit countries globally.

Mr. Simpfendorfer is the chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Copyright c2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


M'sia-Spain bilateral trade set to fall on weak global economy (Posted: 3 April 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR: The total bilateral trade between Spain and Malaysia is expected to decline by 10% this year due to the weakening global economy, according to the Spain Embassy's economic and commercial counsellor, Antonio Garcia.

He said this year would also be challenging to new businesses and operation set-ups.

"Nonetheless, we believe that we will be here for the long term, supported by the opening of our first Asean business centre in the Asia-Pacific," he said after the launch of the Asean Business Centre yesterday.

The centre, which will provide Spanish companies with office space and secretarial services to start operations immediately, has three new office suites, four workstations and one meeting room.

"These are fully equipped with broadband Internet and video conference equipment.

Located at the economic and commercial office of the embassy, the rental for the office space ranges from 150 euros to 180 euros per month.

"Spanish companies could now get business advice, database and information from our 10 staff," Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade vice-president Angel Martin Acebes, who officiated the launch, said.

Although the World Bank had earlier estimated a 5% -10% fall in international trade, Acebes said he hoped the total bilateral trade between Spain and Malaysia could match last year's.

"We will also try to keep the same level of our direct investment in Malaysia," he said.

Last year, Spain was the fifth largest investor in Malaysia when Acerinox injected RM6.1bil in a stainless steel manufacturing plant in Iskandar Malaysia.

Total bilateral trade between Spain and Malaysia last year doubled to RM6.15bil from 2007. Malaysia's exports to Spain were valued at RM3.75bil, led by electronic and electrical products, palm oil, rubber and furniture.

To date, there are more than 30 Spanish companies with a presence in Malaysia through investments, or regional/representative offices.

"Previously, our main investment destination was Latin America, but now the focus is on Asia," he said, noting that there were more than 40 companies established in China.

Copyright c 1995-2009 Star Publications (M) Bhd


Malaysia faces risk of prolonged slowdown (Posted: 1 April 2009 )

Wednesday April 1, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's economy is not facing the risk of further downside in growth but rather the risk of a prolonged slowdown, said ANZ Banking Group Ltd chief economist for Asia Paul Gruenwald.

"We are not worrying about things getting worse, we worry about when the recovery will come," he said, pointing out that the Malaysian economy would recover only after the economies of advanced nations had revived.

He expected the US and European economies to recover in late 2009 or early 2010.

Speaking after his talk on The Economic Outlook For Malaysia and The Asian Region In 2009 yesterday, Gruenwald projected the country's gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 1% and 2.5%-3% this year and in 2010 respectively.

He said this year's slow growth would be supported by domestic consumption, as the manufacturing and export sectors would continue to be weak.

"However, we don't expect a growth trend, which will be 4% to 5%, until the end of 2010 or early 2011," he said.

On whether China's economy would be able to save Asian countries, Gruenwald said even if China could restore its growth to 8%-9% this year, the benefit to the rest of the region was likely to be limited.

"Exports from the rest of Asia to China appear equal to those to the US. However, if you factor in China's role in the processing trade, exports to China from the rest of the world look modest," he said.

He added that China comprised half of Asia's GDP and most of the country's economic growth came from investment, domestic consumption and exports.

With the collapse of demand from the US and Europe, the only pillar left supporting Asia's growth was consumption, he said.

Gruenwald said the US dollar would remain on an uptrend as the global economic crisis continued, but the momentum should slow down as uncertainty dissipated.

"We are going to see general Asian currencies weaken against the US dollar. When the crisis is resolved and recovery begins, we will see the US dollar start to depreciate.

"Until that time, (we expect) the peak of 3.8 for the ringgit in the third or fourth quarters of this year," he added.

Copyright c 1995-2009 Star Publications (M) Bhd


ADB cuts growth forecast for developing Asia (Posted: 31 March 2009 )

The Asian Development Bank said Tuesday that growth in Asia's developing economies this year would fall to 3.4 percent, citing the "bleak" short-term outlook for the region.

Growth will drop from 6.3 percent last year and 9.5 percent in 2007, the bank said, with 2010 expected to see a 6.0 percent expansion.

The slowdown will mean more than 60 million people in the region will remain mired in poverty, the bank said in its annual Asian Development Outlook report.

"The short-term outlook for the region is bleak as the full impact of the severe recession in industrialised economies is transmitted to emerging markets," said ADB acting chief economist Jong-Wha Lee.

The bank was predicting as recently as December that the region's developing economies would grow at 5.8 percent, highlighting how the crisis has rapidly spread across the region as demand for exports vanishes.

China , which has been the powerhouse behind the region's stellar performance in the last decade, will grow at 7.0 percent this year, it said.

The figure is below China's official growth target of 8.0 percent, seen as the minimum required to prevent mass joblessness that could lead to social unrest in the country of 1.3 billion.

The report looks at the prospects for 44 jurisdictions stretching from the former Soviet states of Central Asia to some of the tiny Pacific islands, excluding developed countries such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Several of the region's most export-dependent economies, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea , Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, will contract in 2009, the report said.

Lee told reporters in Hong Kong that he believed the region's economies were currently "close to the worst."

"Eventually Asian (economies) will bottom out in early 2010, and show signs of recovery," he said.

ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said the region had to fight any knee-jerk reactions that would place extra restrictions on global trade.

"Loud calls for protectionist policies are becoming worrisome," he said in his foreword to the report.

"As job losses in the major industrial countries continue, the protectionists' voices may only get louder."

The bank welcomed the various stimulus packages that have been unveiled to battle the downturn, but said there was a "dearth of information" about how they would be implemented.

Despite the gloom, the report said the region was in a much better position to tackle the slowdown than it was in the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which pummelled the region's currencies and economies.

Robert Prior-Wandesforde, a senior Asia economist at HSBC bank, said the current downturn was as severe as that in 1997 but that the region was expected to rebound more quickly.

"Being fundamentally in reasonably good shape when the region went in and with a lot of policy support to come, we expect (the region's economies) can bounce back sharply," he told AFP.

The ADB report stressed that Asia had to tackle its obsession with savings and shift to a more consumer-driven economic model.

"Strengthening domestic demand requires policies that develop social safety nets to encourage more private consumption," said Kuroda.

South Asia will also struggle in 2009, although it is less reliant on trade. Growth in India will fall to 5 percent this year, down from 7.1 percent in 2008, the report found.

Central Asia, where several countries derive much of their income from oil, will see growth drop to 3.9 percent in 2009, from 5.7 percent in 2008 and 12 percent in 2007.

The Pacific islands, buoyed in recent years by the commodities boom which has stoked growth in Papua New Guinea, will fall to 3.0 percent, the bank said.

Source:Agence France-Presse - 3/31/2009 7:31 AM GMT

World trade likely to fall 9% in 2009: WTO (Posted: 31 March 2009 )

Mar. 26, 2009 (China Knowledge) - The world trade volume will fall 9% year on year this year, the largest decline since World War II due to the global financial crisis, according to a recent forecast by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on its website.

Export volume in developed countries will probably drop 10% while the export volume in the developing nations, whose growth depend more on foreign trade, will fall 2% to 3%, the WTO forecasted.

In 2008, the world trade grew 2%, down from the 6% in 2007, with the world's largest exporter Germany seeing US$1.47 trillion in exports, and the second exporter China selling US$1.47 billion worthy of goods to overseas markets.

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy asked the G20 countries to join hands to avoid protectionism in any form since protectionism amid the worsening economic crisis will weaken the effects of the economic stimulus packages in those countries, and delay the recovery of global economy from the crisis.

Copyright c 2009

Source: China Knowledge

US biodiesel makers say EU fees will kill exports (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

NEW YORK, March 12 - U.S. biofuel producers said the EU's anti-dumping tariffs will kill their exports of the alternative motor fuel into Europe and force them to seek domestic and other global customers. "It's going to make sending our product largely uneconomical into the European Union," said John Fox, the president of New York-based Innovation Fuels, Inc, which exported its first cargo of biodiesel to Europe last August. Starting Friday U.S. exporters will have to pay additional anti-dumping tariffs of up to 29 percent, and anti-subsidy duties of up to 41 percent for an initial six months, the EU said on Thursday. It will consider whether to impose longer term duties for at least five years. The EU is imposing the fees onto its biggest supplier of biodiesel. U.S. producers increased their exports to more than 1.5 million tonnes last year from about 7,000 tonnes in 2005. At issue is a $1.00 credit that U.S. blenders get for mixing every gallon of the alternative fuel into conventional diesel. European biodiesel producers say the subsidy has crippled their production by making U.S. fuel unfairly cheap. Biofuels Corp, owned by Barclays Ventures, Britain's largest biodiesel plant, has been forced to run at well below capacity, the company has said. U.S. producers, who mostly make the fuel from soy, said the duties will hurt European customers because European producers make biodiesel from more expensive rapeseed oil. In addition, John Plaza, founder and CEO of Washington-state based Imperium Renewables, said the lack of cargoes from the U.S. would simply make the EU import more expensive biodiesel from Argentina and Southeast Asia. "This act of protectionism does nothing to help and only transfers the issues," Plaza said. Manning Feraci, a vice president at the Washington D.C.-based National Biodiesel Board, said the imposition of duties was "nothing more than a politically expedient effort to appease the protectionist whims of the European biodiesel industry." Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, said if the EU's investigation into whether it should impose longer term duties raises concerns under World Trade Organization rules, it will consider further action "at the appropriate time." The EU duties are the latest hurdle for the U.S. industry that has been hit by record costs for inputs like soybean oil greater competition from conventional diesel as crude oil prices tumbled. Innovation's Fox said new markets developing in the United States, the world's largest consumer of fuel, have been helping his company as it has slowed exports to Europe since late last year. The federal Renewable Fuels Standard requires the blending of 500 million gallons of biomass based diesel into conventional diesel by the end of this year. The number doubles by 2012. In addition, biodiesel has been blended at increasing rates into heating oil, which has provided some producers with new customers, Fox said. Markets are also building in Southeast Asia, U.S. producers said. Still, many U.S. biodiesel producers suffer as lower-cost producers turn back to domestic markets rather than European markets, Fox said. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)

Bamboo Handicrafts Have Become New Favorites for Modern Home Furnishing (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

Bamboo has always been very popular, mainly because of its natural and refreshing qualities. Modern homes often require products that help to protect the environment, so bamboo products become a natural choice. A variety of bamboo products, such as bamboo furniture, bamboo tableware), bamboo ornaments, bamboo flooring or bamboo lamps, appear in all areas of the modern home. Bamboo napkin boxes, in particular, with their use of high quality bamboo as raw material, their green environmental status and small unique designs, always show a special style, whether they are used in restaurants, tea-rooms, or home living rooms. Bamboo Tea Boxes, used to store tea, coffee and other beverages, are non-toxic, practical and beautiful! A Bamboo tea tray is natural, elegant and shows humility. Bamboo tea trays for tea ceremonies have always been held in high esteem by the Chinese literati. With the people concerned about the environment and the health of their homes, more consumers are beginning to favor bamboo household items. From floors to furniture, from kitchen utensils to furniture products, bamboo is entering into people's lives more and more. Bamboo household items not only retain their inherent wood density, toughness and excellent strength properties, but they also maintain their natural texture, which is simple and elegant, giving people a sense of returning to nature. Bamboo household items help people advocate for environmental protection and naturally bring a plain, classical feeling to modern people.

Breakthrough The Economic Downturn (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, February 20 (China Press) - Global economy downturn had hit hard on local companies, many SMIs & SMEs had suffered hard times and facing financial difficulties. Looking ahead, many Malaysian's SMIs & SMEs are now looking forward to join B2B trade portal to reach out overseas customers, reduce operation costs and increasing trade opportunities in order to the deteriorating global economy. B2B network specialist Mr. Calvert Wong, when interviewed by China Press, said in view of the deteriorating global economy, today's businesses have to seek better strategies in dealing with increasing costs, market competitions and difficulties, sales reduction and not engaged in price war which does not built capacity and value to the businesses. Mr. Calvert Wong, who is also the Managing Consultant of WEBSE, pointed out that B2B trade portal is now becoming one of the most important sales and marketing platform to counter deteriorating global economy. "B2B (Business-to-Business) is a term commonly used to describe commerce transactions between businesses like the one between a manufacturer and a wholesales or a wholesales and a retailer. A typical classic example would be like, a manufacturer who specialize in producing disposable table wares who wishes to supply its products to restaurants or food courts," he said. Despite last year gloomy retail market in the United States, e-commerce business has reached 200.4 billion U.S. dollars (about RM 721.4 billion), increase of 17% growth compare to year 2007, reflecting the growing maturity of e-commerce market. "Almost all between the ages of 8-19 year-old child, have use the computers and the Internet, 20 to 24 year-old college students widely use the internet to do topic research and work assignments, 80% of company purchasing executives browse the Internet to procure products and services." Mr. Calvert Wong while being optimistic about e-commerce prospects, said he was confident that supported by relevant research data, sales on e-commerce will grow over 20%. He further pointed out that global internet users are now reaching 1.4 billion people and firmly believes that by year 2010, Asia largest internet user country, China, online shopping will be reaching 100 million people. Based on the internet growth expectations, joining B2B trade portal will definitely help to increase global trade opportunity by increasing businesses potential trade leads," he said At present, Alibaba China is the world's largest B2B e-commerce website and had gone public listed in year 2007. Reaching One Million Hits (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

KUALA LUMPUR, February 20 (China Press) -, one of the world's leading B2B e-commerce portal, covering 3 billion Asia population market, registered one million clicks monthly. According to WEBSE Managing Consultant, Mr. Calvert Wong, DagangAsia was build and developed back in year 2003 and had successfully attracted more than 1000 local and overseas merchant members. "When we know that Malaysian government wanted to developed the local Halal industry and position Malaysia as a serious international Halal manufacturing and consumer market, back in year 2007, we started to develop and aspire to become one of the largest global Halal B2B trade portal. Up to date, had about 500,000 monthly hit rate and already signed up by 800 merchant member from local and overseas SMIs and SMEs," he said. Both and had been helping businesses by providing an integrated e-commerce system and infrastructure, including easy to use e-marketing, e-news publishing, e-catalogue for products and services, career opportunities and trade leads sourcing. " & B2B trade portal works by connecting all the Asian manufacturers, importers, exporters, merchant websites and maximizing our trade merchant business opportunities. Our trade merchant will also be providing a detailed analytic report about their B2B website performances, helping them to pin-point their potential customers base and number of visitors just to name of a few," he said. He added that an effective B2B e-commerce website must meet a number of conditions, such as, professionally designed, able to identify the company's brand name and image, easy to understand and use, publish up-to-date information i.e. promotions and corporate news, easy to find contact information, and last but not least, must be search engine friendly.

Malaysia urged to force big oil to produce biofuel (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

Malaysia must force major oil firms to produce biofuel if the once-vaunted biodiesel industry is to have any future, industry experts told a conference Thursday. When crude oil prices rocketed last year, Malaysia and Indonesia, which produce most of the world's palm oil, heavily promoted their version of biofuel -- a mixture of diesel with five percent processed palm oil. But the industry's fortunes waned when the price of crude oil tumbled, triggering a crash in the palm oil price which made supply uncertain and jeopardised the long-term contracts needed to develop the biofuel industry. Malaysia already requires government diesel vehicles to use biofuel, with privately owned diesel vehicles compelled to make the shift by next February. But M.R. Chandran, an adviser to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, told an industry conference this week that the measures did not go far enough. "The government has to get their own national corporations like Petronas and other oil companies here like Shell and Esso mandated and say, 'look chaps, here is the 5.0 percent blend and you have to do it and that is it and get it done,'" he said. "That's the only way to save the biofuel industry here." However, Plantations Minister Peter Chin told the conference that while Malaysia was unable to roll out its ambitious biodiesel programme because of logistical problems, oil companies were not ready to act, either. "Our car industry is not ready. Petronas is not 100 percent ready. Neither is Shell and Esso," he said. "We intend to do it but at the same time we have to get our logistics right. There are certain (geographical) constraints which we must acknowledge," he said, referring to problems in transporting biodiesel. Chandran said that out of the 92 government licences issued for palm oil plants in 2006, only 16 were built and most were not operating due to the low prices. "If Indonesia and Malaysia want to see a fair demand for palm oil and avoid all this fluctuation in prices, you have to create domestic demand," he said. Indonesia's state oil company Pertamina has been ordered to sell fuel with at least a one percent biofuel content and this is expected to rise to five percent by 2025. Crude palm oil prices plummeted from a peak of 4,312 ringgit (1,168 dollars) per tonne a year ago to a low of 1,390 ringgit in October last year. Prices have recovered to 2,047 ringgit per tonne currently. Chin said Malaysia was comfortable with current prices and did not expect a rally in the near future.

Malaysia's industrial output drops 20.2 percent (Posted: 18 March 2009 )

Malaysian industrial output plunged 20.2 percent year-on-year in January as manufacturing, mining and electricity sectors suffered a decline, according to official data released Thursday. The industrial production index also slipped 4.5 percent, the national statistics department said in a statement. Manufacturing tumbled 26.7 percent in January compared to a year ago, mining fell 6.1 percent as the prices of crude oil and gas declined, and electricity generation lost 12.4 percent. Industrial output sank 15.6 percent in December 2008, as the global recession began to bite, suppressing demand for exports of manufactured goods. Malaysia on Tuesday unveiled a stimulus package worth 16.2 billion dollars but warned the export-driven economy could still shrink by 1.0 percent this year despite the massive spending.

i-Fest 09 @ MidValley Exhibition Centre (Posted: 16 January 2009 )

Click here to view larger image

The Islamic Economic Development Festival 2009 or i-Fest 09, organized by Yayasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia (YaPEIM), will be held at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre (MVEC) from 22nd to 26th of January 2009. The 5 day event, is expected to be officially closed by Minister in the Prime Minister Office, Dato' Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. The objective of this Festival is to provide a platform for entrepreneurs to portray their products and services to the outside audience. It is also an excellent channel for Muslim entrepreneurs to be involved in business match making and to embark on a network of businesses. Numerous activities have been lined up in conjunction with the festival, which bears the tagline "Menggerak Potensi Memperkasa Ekonomi Ummah". One of the key activities which entrepreneurs could look forward to is the briefing on business matching and entrepreneurs clinic which will be carried out throughout the 5 day event. This festival will be largely participated by the ministry and agencies related to the development of small and medium entrepreneurs, consumers associations, the electronic and print media. On the small and medium entrepreneur front, those who will be participating will be the companies who are listed under the halal certification in Malaysia, ICT companies as well as SME's. On another note, will also be participating in this event. Our objectives are to inform prospective merchants on other avenue in promoting halal products or services i.e. via our portal at and to promote Malaysia as a global halal hub in general. Come and visit us at: Venue :- Level 3, Mid Valley Exhibition Centre (MVEC) Booth No. :- Hall 3 (3052) Date :- 22nd to 26th of January 2009 Time :- 10.00am to 10.00pm Reference: i-Fest 09 official webpage

2nd Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai, UAE (Posted: 30 October 2008 )

DagangAsia Net operated global halal business portal - will be partcipating the 2nd Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai. Exhibition Details: Booth No: A12 Date: November 24th - 26th, 2008 Time: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dubai, UAE Area: About Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai At this age, halal product is widely recognized to define safety and quality assurance. The halal consumers, which comprises of 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe, value the halal certification as a very important requirement. This figure included over 180 million Muslims in Indonesia, 140 million in India, 130 million in Pakistan, 200 million in the Middle East, 300 million in Africa, 14 million in Malaysia and over 8 million in North America. Not only Muslims live on halal product, demands are high even from people of diverse races and religions. 2nd HALAL EXPO 2008 brings you a host of quality buyers and sellers from the business community of the world. The organizing of an international halal exhibition will be the market place for traders, investors, agents, business community, importers, exporters, trade associations and governments to build networks and strengthen ties. 2nd HALAL EXPO 2008 aims to provide the international halal industry players information on the endless business opportunities available in the global halal market. 2nd HALAL EXPO 2008 is the best platform for the international buyers and sellers to explore the vast global range of halal products such as food & beverages, cosmetics, fashion, consumables, pharmaceuticals, publications, information technology and financial services will be participating in this events. We are located at booth A12. Please come over and visit our booth to find out about our new programs and our ready Halal suppliers in Malaysia. We are looking for potential Middle East buyers as well as sellers. International trade buyers are welcome to sent your buying and sourcing trade leads which will be broadcasted to all potential sellers and merchants.

One District One Industry Showcase (SDSI) 2008 (Posted: 29 October 2008 )

DagangAsia Net Sdn Bhd will be participating the One District One Industry Showcase (SDSI) in Melaka. All buyers and sellers are invited to come to our booth to get further information about our company and a new program that our company carried out. This showcase is organized by Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development to promote local industry and to expand the local products domestically and for international market. Hon. Deputy Prime Minister will officiate the showcase and a lot of activities and program waiting for the visitors. Showcase Details: Date : Nov. 7th - 9th, 2008 Time : 10.00 am to 10.00 pm Venue: Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC), Ayer Keroh, Melaka. to participate in 104th Canton Fair (Posted: 6 October 2008 ) will be partcipating the 104th China Import and Export Fair (Guangzhou, China), also known as Canton Fair. Exhibition Details: Booth No: G24 & G25 Date: Oct. 15th - 19th, 2008 Time: 9 am - 6.00 pm Venue: China Import and Export Fair Complex, Pazhou Area: International Pavilion, Area A (HALL 5.2) About Canton Fair China Import and Export Fair, also called Canton Fair, is held twice a year in Spring and Autumn since it was inaugurated in the Spring of 1957. It is China's largest trade fair of the highest level, of the most complete varieties and of the largest attendance and business turnover. Preserving its traditions, the Fair is a comprehensive and multi-functional event of international importance. Forty-eight Trading Delegations, being composed of thousands of China's best foreign trade corporations (enterprises) with good credibility and sound financial capabilities, take part in the Fair, including foreign trade companies, factories, scientific research institutions, foreign invested enterprises, wholly foreign-owned enterprises, private enterprises, etc. Besides traditional way of negotiating against samples, the Fair holds Canton Fair online. The Fair leans to export trade, though import business is also done here. Apart from the above-mentioned, various types of business activities such as economic and technical cooperations and exchanges, commodity inspection, insurance, transportation, advertising, consultation, etc. are also carried out in flexible ways. Business people from all over the world are gathering in Guangzhou, exchanging business information and developing friendship. Exhibiting Industry & Consumer Products: · Large Machinery and Equipment · Small Machinery · Bicycles · Motorcycles · Vehicle Spare Parts · Chemical Products · Hardware · Tools · Vehicles (Outdoor) · Construction Machinery (Outdoor) · Household Electrical Appliances · Consumer Electronics · Electronic and Electrical Products · Computer and Communication Products · Lighting Equipment · Building and Decoration Materials · Sanitary and Bathroom Equipment

SMIDEC Seminar Presentation With DagangAsia Net (Posted: 1 August 2008 )

DagangAsia Net and ICTWAY are jointly organising a seminar on "Programmes & Assistance Schemes For SMEs" The 1-day Seminar, which will be held on: Date: 8 August 2008 Time: 1.30pm to 5.00pm Venue: Hotel Crystal Crown, Johor Bahru. DagangAsia Net will also be inviting the Small And Medium Industries Development Corporation - Southern Regional Office (SMIDEC), Encik Tajul Ariffin Jamaluddin as guest speaker. The seminar aims to enhance the understanding of Initiatives and programmes by the Government are directed towards addressing constraints and enhancing capabilities of SMEs in areas such as financial accessibility, advisory services, marketing, technology and ICT. Incentives in the form of grants and soft loans are provided by the various Ministries and their agencies. Apart from the Government, funds are also channelled through commercial financial institutions. Due to limited seats available, to register and for more information, please contact 03-9057 6377 (Miss Siew) or 019-3357 145 (Mr. Simon Foo)., HIT (Thailand) MoU Signing To Promote Halal Industry (Posted: 18 July 2008 )

Monday, 14th July 2008, Thailand. and The Halal Standard Institute of Thailand had reccently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote DagangHalal directory listing & content network partnership. The MoU was signed by Tuan Haji Muhadzir B Mohd Isa, the Chairman of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and Prof. Dr. Somchai Virunhaphol, the Director of The Halal Standard Institute Of Thailand. On hand to witness the signing was Mr. Francis Chong Khek Ah, Managing Director of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and Mr. Khathawut Lohmud, Deputy Director of The Halal Standard Institute Of Thailand. "It is my pleasure to announce that we had achieved another significant milestones in DagangHalal directory lsiting & content network partnership," stated Mr. Francis Chong, the Managing Director of DagangAia Net Sdn. Bhd. during his MoU signing at The Halal Standard Institute of Thailand (HIT). "Benefiting from a ready-made global customer group of nearly two billion Muslim, the Thai Halal market is expanding rapidly in both production and retail. In co-operation with HIT, is the ideal B2B directory listing platform for the Thailand based manufacturers and exporters to reach out to overseas potential buyers and importers," said Mr. Francis Chong. The MoU also recognized and appointed DagangAsia Net as agent and coordinator for any companies in Malaysia and foreign to get Thailand Halal Certificate. Such appointment will enable Malaysia based local and foreign SMIs and SMEs to export their halal certified products to Thailand as the Muslim market in Thailand is growing every year, at a rate of 12.5% from 2000 - 06, generating revenue of 11.05 billion baht yearly. Furthermore, Thai halal food exports now account for only 0.18 percent of the global market share. The combined halal export value from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines stands at less than one percent. Great online mrketing and exposure opportunities are offered for Thailand based manufacturers and exporters to increase its halal exports competitiveness. DagangHalal Official Portal:
The Halal Standard Institute of Thailand Official Website:

2nd Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai (24 - 26th November) (Posted: 5 July 2008 )

Dear Prospective Businessman & Halal Industry Professional: Welcome to every one of you visiting this website for 2nd Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai. We take the opportunity and most cordially invite you and your esteemed organization to take part in this exhibition, scheduled to be held from 24-26 Nov, 2008 at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai, UAE. An exhibition particularly designed to provide international business community a gateway to the Middle East billion dollars Halal market. More than an exhibition, it is an ideal networking platform where Halal industry decision makers, halal associations, Halal certification authorities, Halal agenda promoters, suppliers and buyers come together to explore and discuss new business opportunities and trends in Halal product manufacturing and marketing and to look at future challenges, source new products and services and forge partnerships with local & International business community. If you are looking for high quality event fit to your business, you have reached the right place. We are unique in our approach and are dedicated to giving you everything you require to promote your business then make 2nd Halal Expo 2008 - Dubai your destination. Explore this website to find out more details. For online registration as exhibitor please click
We look forward to welcoming you at 2nd Halal Expo 2008 in Dubai. Best regards,

Appoinment Of Official Online Partner - 2nd Halal Expo 2008, Dubai (Posted: 5 July 2008 ) and Khaaz International formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate online partnership for the coming 2nd Halal Expo 2008, Dubai - November 24th to 26th. The signing ceremony was held at Khaaz International Sdn. Bhd. office premisses at Glomac Business Centre, Malaysia The MoU was signed by Mr. Yap Yun Sin, the Chief Operation Officer of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and Encik Kabur Ibrahim, the Chief Executive Officer of Khaaz International Sdn. bhd.. On hand to witness the signing was Encik Kharil Ismahafiz, Chief Marketing Officer of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. The MoU, will make 2nd Halal Expo -2008 Dubai, participating exhibitors to enhance their online exposure and visibility and at the same time strengthen their regional and global reach by promoting their halal certified products/services to global halal industry buyers and importers", said Encik Kharil Ismahafiz, the CMO of DagangAsia Net.

The 2nd Indonesia International Halal Exhibition 2008 (July 3 - 6, 2008) (Posted: 20 June 2008 ) will be exhibiting at booth P21 at Halal Indonesia 2008 (The 2nd Indonesia International Halal Exhibition, the exhibition will start on July 3 till 6, 2008 in Kartika Expo Center, Balai Kartini - Jakarta, Indonesia. Halal Indonesia 2008 The 2nd Indonesia International Halal Exhibition The 2nd Halal Indonesia 2008 brings you a host of quality buyers and sellers from the muslim business community of the world. The organizing of international halal trade exhibition will be the market place for Muslim trades, investors, agents, business community, importers-exporters, trade associations and government to build networks and strengthen ties. The 2nd Halal Indonesia 2008 aims to provide the international halal industry players information and communications among stakeholder in the global halal trade. The 2nd Halal Indonesia 2008 is the best platform for the international buyers and seller to arrange and to deal with all stakeholder with global halal trade. The results at his event, hopefully, there are a cooperation and a synergy among halal producers, halal traders, and Islamic bankers. Global market At this age, halal product is widely recognized to define safety and quality assurance. The halal consumers, which comprise of 1.5 billion Muslim around the globe, value the halal certification as very important requirement. This figure includes over 180 million Muslim in Indonesia, 140 million in India, 130 million in Pakistan, 200 million in Middle East, 300 million in Africa, 14 million in Malaysia and over 8 million in North America. Not only Muslim live on halal products, demands are high even from people diverse race religion. Exhibitor Profile :: Beverages & bottled juice :: Food processing :: Baby food :: Meat products :: Frozen food :: Health products :: Cosmetic :: Dairy products, Canned food :: Preserves, jam & spreads :: Dried fruit & vegetables :: Chocolate & candies :: Confectioneries & biscuits :: Coffee, Tea, Bakery :: Pastry & snack :: Seasoning, Cooking oil :: Rice products :: Halal Certifier body over the world :: Etc

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) Signing Ceremony between and Sunlit Advertising (Posted: 13 June 2008 )

Monday, 9th June 2008, 10.00 am, Brunei Darussalam. and Sunlit Advertising today signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to facilitate online partnership for the coming IHPExpo 2008 (International Halal Product Expo 2008 - August 14th to 17th ). The signing ceremony was held at Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Pahlawan Hall. The MoA was signed by Mr. Yap Yun Sin, the Chief Operation Officer of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and Yang Mulia Dato Haji Danial Bin Haji Hanafiah, the Executive Director of Sunlit Advertising Sdn. bhd.. On hand to witness the signing was Encik Kharil Ismahafiz, Chief Marketing Officer of DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and Mr. Jackson Ting, Managing Director of Sunlit Advertising. The MoA signing ceremony also being witnessed by Guest of Honor, Yang Mulia Pengiran Hajah Mariana binti Pengiran Dipa Negara Laila Di-Raja Pengiran Haji Momin, Acting Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources(MIPR). Such MoA, will make IHPExpo 2008 participating exhibitors to enhance their online exposure and visibility and at the same time strengthen their regional and global reach by promoting their halal certified products/services to global halal industry buyers and importers", said Encik Kharil Ismahafiz, the CMO of DagangAsia Net. "With positioning as the regional and global halal trade portal to the B2B halal industry, I am delighted and confident that this agreement will benefit IHPExpo 2008 participating exhibitors to advertise and market their halal products and services", said Mr. Yap Yun Sin, COO of DagangAsia Net. is also delighted to announce that the B2B halal trade portal will be officially launch by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on 14th Agust 2008 at IHPExpo 2008. Visiting trade buyers are welcome to visit exhibition booth located on C1-C3 & C8-C10 at the International Convention Centre, Brunei Darussalam. DagangHalal Official Portal:
Sunlit Advertising Official Website: MOU Signing With Ning Xia, China (Posted: 16 May 2008 )

May 8, 2008 morning, Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. is proud to announce the official MoU singing with Ning Xia Islamic Friendly Council Promotion Of International Economy And Culture (NXICPEC), China. is now the official appointed overseas online media partner to promote "China Ning Xia Arabic International Cultural City" which is the flagship development project of NXICPEC. Under the MoU agreement, will extend its online collaboration to fully promote NXICPEC official portals, namely the "China-Islam Economic Trade" (, "China Ning Xia Arabic International Cultural City" ( DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. and NXICPEC strongly believe the MoU signing will strengthen and to promote China-Malaysia B2B trade, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges and had agreed on specific means of implementations. DagangAsia Net Sdn. Bhd. is honoured to have the pressence of Malaysian Prime Minister's Office Deputy Minister, YB Dato' Mohd Johari Bin Baharum attended and witnessed the MoU signing ceremony. The MoU signing ceremony is being represented by DagangAsia Net Sdn Bhd Managing Director, Mr. Francis Chong Khek Ah and The Honourable NXICPEC Chairman, Mohammed Younus Heiliangjie. DagangAsia Official Portal:
NXICPEC Official Portal:
China-Islam Economic Trade Official Portal:
China Ning Xia Arabic International Cultural City Official Portal:>

Malaysia Flour Mills Berhad Joined DagangAsia Directory Listing (Posted: 18 April 2008 ) is proud to announce Malaysia Flour Mills Berhad (MFM) is now a DagangAsia Directory Listing member. The company listing can be found on manufacturing of Food & Beverage section, and Food Precessing sub-category. [] Malaysia Flour Mills Berhad Overview: Malayan Flour Mills Berhad (MFM) is the pioneer wheat flour milling company in Malaysia, with operations located at Lumut and Pasir Gudang with a total milling capacity of 1,250 ton of wheat per day. Besides Malaysia, MFM also have similar operations in both the Northern and Southern Vietnam. Poultry Malayan Flour Mills Bhd (MFM) has evolved its integrated poultry operations to be one of the leaders in the industry. It is unique, having production facilities from direct grain import to a diverse range of poultry products. The entire supply and production chain can deliver strict quality assurance, value for money and ensure customer satisfaction. Feeds In 1993, the MFM group expanded coverage of the Malaysian poultry feed market with the commencement of commercial operation of MFM Feedmill Sdn Bhd (MFMF). A market leader in the southern region, MFMF is strategically located within the Johor Port industrial complex. Like DSM in the northern region, MFMF shares common infrastructure with flour milling to enhance operational efficiency. MFM Berhad Corporate Website: Contact Us At: 22nd Floor, Wisma MCA 163, Jalan Ampang 50450 Kuala Lumpur Tel: 03-21700999 Fax: 03-21700888 Email: [email protected]

501 Millenium Sdn. Bhd. Live Interview on RADIO 24 93.9 FM (Posted: 15 April 2008 )

Tuesday, 15th April 2008, Kuala Lumpur. is proud to announce that, RADIO 24 93.9 FM will be having a scheduled live interview with 501 Millenium Sdn. Bhd. an establish Malaysia company that involves in the apparal & garnment industry(soon to join Directory Listing). Listeners are welcome to tune in to RADIO 24 93.9 FM(9 P.M. - 10 P.M.) on the "Hello...!" programe slot. 501 Millenium Sdn. Bhd. Managing Director will be interviewed by Radio 24 anchor/host Encik Kamal Affindi to talk about their corporate, products and services. The company also believes that throught the live radio interview, the company can reached out their potential customers and create better corporate image and exposure. Live Interview on RADIO 24 93.9 FM Tuesday, April 8th 2008 (Posted: 14 April 2008 )

DagangAsia Net Sdn. Head of Marketing, Encik Khairil Ismahafiz appeared live on Wisma Bernama Studio, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur, at 10.15 p.m. on the "Alaf SME" radio program. Encik Khairil Ismahafiz spoke about the introduction of Asia eMarketPlace Directory Listing Portal - overall visions and missions. During the live interview, Encik Khairil Ismahafiz talked about role as a cost-efefctive eMarketPlace platform to assist local Malaysian based small-medium industries & enterprises (SMIs & SMEs)to leverage on the strength and potential of Information & Communication Technology(ICT) to promote their products and services into international sourcing buyers. In the future, hopes to bring this kind of live interview to its registered merchants by working a long-term program arrangment with Radio 24.

SMIDEX 2008 & EAST ASIA SME CONVENTION (Posted: 9 April 2008 )

SMIDEX 2008 & EAST ASIA SME CONVENTION "Strategic Partnership: Regional Link, Global Reach" Date: 4 - 6 June 2008 Time: 10.00 am - 6.00 pm Venue : Hall 1-5, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre EAST ASIA SME Convention Date: 5 - 6 June 2008 Time: 8.30 am - 5.30 pm Venue : Conference Hall 1-3, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre SMIDEX 2008 is the 11th Annual Exhibition organised by SMIDEC aims at providing an avenue for Malaysian SMEs to network and market their parts and components to SMEs, large companies and MNCs. SMEs can explore new market opportunities and technologies that are made available to them under one roof. In conjunction with SMIDEX 2008, the EAST ASIA SME Convention will take place concurrently to provide an avenue for local SMEs to acquire updates on Government policies and assistance, market information, technologies, new product innovation through placement of speakers locally and internationally. Interested to participate? For registration please call 03-6207 6288/6289 (Ms Noor Isnawati), or fax to 03-6207 6290 or email to [email protected]/ [email protected] For online registration, please log on to

Come see us at booth B20 & 21 at MIHAS 2008 (Posted: 4 April 2008 ) will be exhibiting at booth B20 & 21 at MIHAS 2008 (The 5th Malaysia International Halal Showcase, the exhibition will stars on 7 May till 11 May 2008 in MATRADE Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Bridging The Global Halal Market A visit to MIHAS 2008 will prove eye-opening for local and international traders and buyers, opening a world of business opportunities for business visitors and entrepreneurs who wish to embark on the halal trade as halal products appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Being a world-class halal exhibition, over 75% of our exhibitors represent the food and beverage industry. They are halal producers who are committed to quality, hygiene and safety while conscientiously maintaining high halal production standards. If you work in retail, catering, wholesale or manufacturing and are responsible for purchasing and outsourcing quality halal products for your establishment, MIHAS 2008 from 7-11 MAY 2008 should be an essential date in your diary. MIHAS 2008 & invites you to share the excitement and come forward in being part of this halal billion-dollar market. For more information about MIHAS 2008, please refer to

Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS 2008) (Posted: 3 April 2008 )

MIHAS, the World's Largest Halal Trade Fair and Malaysia's Largest Food and Beverage Exhibition will soon make its comeback in 2008 which promises to be even bigger and even better. Themed, `Bridging The Global Halal Market' the exhibition will be held from the 7-11th May at MECC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. MIHAS intends to grow in terms of strengthening ties between existing communities and fostering new ones with halal organisations around the world. Always halal, always MIHAS, be sure to expect an abundance of business opportunities, new products and fresh ideas at this international event. For more info, please log on to, email us at [email protected] or call +603 6203 4433. Highlights: Special Activities: Trade dialogues by foreign countries, Stage Activities & Demonstration, Business Matching & Trade Facilitation Program. Visitor's Profile: Manufacturers, Importers, Distributors, Wholesales, Exporters, Trade Associations, Trade Consultants, Hoteliers & Restaurateurs, Departmental Stores, Investors, Fund Managers, Retailers, Traders, Ministries, Government Institutions, Embassies, Trade Consulates, Agents, Business Captains, Medias, Corporate Presidents, Muslims & Publics are the target visitors. Exhibitor's Profile: Profile for exhibit include Aromatherapy & Perfumery, Cosmetic & Pharmaceutical Products, Toiletries & Body Care, Food Research & Development Technologies, Franchise Ideas, Islamic Arts & Crafts, Islamic Fashions, Travel & Tour Services, Banking, Financial Services, Securities & Islamic Bonds, Stock Exchange Market, Agricultural Products, Beverages, Chemicals, Confectionery, Dairy Products, Fresh & Dried Fruits, Frozen Food, Healthcare Products, Hotels, Cafe & Restaurants. Venue: Matrade Exhibition and Convention Center (MECC), Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Organizer: Malaysian External Trade Development Council Menara Matrade, Jalan Khidmat Usaha, Off Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Tel: +(60)-(3)-62077077 Fax: +(60)-(3)-62037037/62037033 Email: [email protected] Website: ::