Ailing MAS medicine for: losses RM2bil, 6,000 job cuts, RM6bil capital injection a bailout?


MAS Planes

Malaysia Airlines to cut 6,000 staff, new company to be formed – CCTV News – CCTV.com English http://t.cn/RhZECT7

New medicine for ailing MAS

FOR the first time ever, a government-linked company (GLC) will lay off workers and renegotiate contracts with suppliers and employees – a move that will obliterate the view that companies owned by the Government provide steady employment and are safe paymasters.

In its strongest action to rehabilitate the ailing Malaysia Airlines (MAS), the Government has given its undertaking to its investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, with the necessary legislation to bring the employees and suppliers to the negotiation table.

This is among the highlights of a 12-point plan unveiled by Khazanah yesterday to resuscitate MAS.

To recap, Khazanah, in a bid to save MAS, has proposed to take it private and delist it by year-end. It has a 69% equity in MAS and has offered to buy the remaining 31% in the airline at 27 sen a share.

A new Bill called the MAS Act will be tabled in Parliament before July next year to facilitate the migration of MAS’ existing operations into a new company (Newco), which will take over MAS’ operations on July 1 next year.

“The MAS Act is to facilitate the migration of the existing operations to a Newco. It is something that was proposed by the Government so that a new airline can take over. It will have a finite life,” Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar told the media yesterday.

“The Government will allow the transfer of the AOC (air operator’s certificate) and tax losses to the Newco.”

Apart from the establishment of a Newco to carry on the business of the existing airline, the plan calls for the conversion of some debt into equity and Khazanah injecting RM6bil more into the airline. Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) agreed to swap its RM750mil existing perpetual sukuk with ordinary equity, meaning that it will eventually become shareholder in MAS.

Azman: ‘The MAS Act is to facilitate the migration of the existing operations to a Newco’.

Of the RM6bil, a sum of RM1.4bil is for the privatisation of MAS, RM1.6bil for cost incurred in shutting down the existing company and a voluntary separation scheme to reduce the workforce by 6,000 and penalties for early termination of contracts with suppliers, and RM3bil for working capital for the Newco to take over the operations.

Since taking over MAS in 2001 from Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli, Khazanah has injected more than RM7bil into MAS, which Azman does not think would be recoverable.

However, he is confident that the RM6bil capital that will be pumped in can be recovered.

“We have done the financial modelling and are confident that the money can be recovered,” he said.

“Also, it is a conditional injection of funds, meaning that the money will only be available subject to the MAS management fulfilling the conditions set out in the recovery plan.”

Azman admits that renegotiating contracts with suppliers, leasing agents and converting debt to equity could have some effect on the credit ratings of MAS and other companies within the stable of the strategic investment fund.

However, he opines that the shedding of the workforce and the renegotiations of contracts is only to bring about a significant change in work practices and supply contracts.

“It would not be done arbitrarily. There is some bench-marking on the pricing of the contracts. The suppliers will be given an option to migrate to the Newco on new terms,” he said.

Azman is also confident that the new MAS will achieve profitability by the end of 2017. The new plan will also see net gearing reduced from 290% now to about 100% -125% eventually.

But not many share Azman’s sentiments, as MAS has undertaken half a dozen restructuring exercises over the past 13 years and yet remains in dire straits.

“I obviously do not share the same sentiments as Azman and am not as optimistic about seeing a profit in 2017. I don’t think the new plan goes far enough to resolve the structural problems within the airline. You can call it downsizing or rightsizing, and the plan may appear bold and courageous by slashing 6,000 jobs, but the question is: how much can you actually save from that?” Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, asks.

He says, “The real issue in MAS the past decade is an ill-conceived strategy and financial mismanagement. That’s the key contributors to the losses, shareholder value destruction and the mess built up over the years. While I do agree that MAS is overstaffed, resulting in low productivity levels compared to Singapore Airlines (SIA) or Cathay Pacific, it is not a critical aspect of the overall picture. The losses registered over the years by the airline are not because the airline is overstaffed, but because it had a management which, unfortunately, had little understanding of the airline industry and was slow to adapt to the dynamics of the landscape of the industry,” Shukor says.

Route rationalisation 

MAS has been loss-making for the past 10 quarters, and the amount has ballooned since the two tragedies hit the airline within a space of four months since March this year. The first was on March 8 when a plane, MH370 en route to Beijing, disappeared.

The second was on July 17 when MH17, which was on the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down while flying over Ukraine.

Even before the first airline tragedy on March 8, the airline was already losing close to RM1bil a year due to competition from low-cost carriers and Middle-Eastern full-service carriers (FSCs).

However, the losses exacerbated to RM2bil following the airline tragedies.

For the second quarter of 2014, MAS announced on Thursday an RM307mil net loss, bringing its first-half losses to RM750mil.

 

A lack of demand and the massive cancellations of flights has become a norm after the two incidents, and the policy to refund passengers after the MH17 mishap has further seen flight bookings going down. The airline’s strategy of pushing for loads at the expense of yields has also backfired. However, it has embarked on a new plan to drop fares to win back customers, a strategy which, however, does not guarantee high yields, which MAS needs.

MAS’ current yield of 20 sen per seat kilometre is lower than Cathay Pacific’s 24 sen and SIA’s 22.9 sen.

Azman says there are several conditions for the money to be injected into MAS.

Among them is route rationalisation, whereby the emphasis is on destinations that are within eight hours of flying time. The plan is also to bring short-haul cost within the 15% of the low-cost carrier competition, at parity with Middle-Eastern FSCs and below those of the regional FSC competition. The Newco will only focus on profitable routes and secure global connectivity via oneworld and other alliances, says Khazanah, adding that MAS will come up with a business plan and fleet requirements.

Maybank Investment Bank senior analyst Mohshin Aziz says that with one-third of the jobs going, the route network also needs to be reduced by one-third.

“We were hoping to get the details of the route cuts, but they were not forthcoming. We really believe MAS should terminate its long-haul routes, such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, Istanbul and even Dubai as soon as possible.

“They need to reduce frequencies on their Australian routes to twice daily from thrice daily now, and terminate the Brisbane and Adelaide routes,” Mohshin says.

Since the network will be reconfigured, MAS will also have to reduce the number of aircraft it flies from its current fleet of 127 to bring down cost.

Khazanah says MAS needs to renew its focus on revenue management to increase unit revenue by 10% to 15%, and among other things, it needs to also unbundle ancillary products and services and revamp its loyalty programme.

Staff buy-in

A major part of the success of Khazanah’s new plan for MAS hinges on the support of the airline’s employees and their unions. Yesterday, Azman met representatives of the unions to tell them of the new plan, but will the unions support the plan?

A major part of the success of Khazanah’s new plan for MAS hinges on the support of the airline’s employees and their unions.

“It was a good and frank discussion. I think we were at pains to try and explain what would be happening. And explain that the vessel of the Newco will not be able to carry everybody,” Azman says.

Throughout the day, Khazanah officials and MAS senior team members had various briefing sessions with its employees.

For now, the ties are somewhat strained between the senior team and many of the unions and their members, with many worried about the selection process of who would be axed.

Under the new plan, MAS will undertake a voluntary separation scheme to reduce its workforce to 14,000, with the plan also involving reskilling, redeployment and job creation.

“There seems to be a renewed effort to harmonise now so that Khazanah’s vision of rebuilding a national icon will succeed. But at a glance, the plan is wishy-washy and they are not able to give us details. We are worried as to who will decide on who stays and who leaves. We also do not want the existing team to decide, as there would be no professionalism, only partiality,’’ said a source.

Khazanah says the process of transfer migration and separation will be conducted with “utmost care, fairness and due process”.

A Khazanah official added that “the decision on who stays and who leaves will be done by the Newco”.

“The search for a new chief executive officer (CEO) for the Newco has begun and we are looking at both Malaysian leadership talent and global aviation specialists, basically for the CEO (post),” Azman says.

“Hopefully they will hire the best in the industry and not just anyone for the hot seat. It should be someone with entrepreneurial spirit and expertise to drive profits,’’ says an expert.

The current group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will leave MAS in June next year.

The plan to set up a Newco is also seen as a way to weaken MAS’ vociferous unions, although an expert says that the Newco could also set up new unions, provided there are no conditions attached to the Newco’s staff appointment letters.

Would minority shareholders sell out?

The biggest challenge Khazanah will face is whether it can get enough minority shareholders and institutional funds to vote in favour of its plan to privatise MAS at an EGM to be called in the coming weeks.

It needs 100% acceptance to take MAS private, and then there will be grounds for the Act to be established.

Khazanah cannot vote at the EGM, given the fact that it is an interested party and institutional shareholders only hold less than a 4% equity in MAS.

Now that there is a serious plan to resuscitate MAS, it is possible that some minorities may want to hold back and not sell their shares. Not only will MAS be profitable by 2017, but there is also a plan to relist the Newco in 2018-2020.

“There will be some minorities who will give up their shares, as holding MAS has been one painful episode. But there are yet others who may see that there is going to be creation of value in the future. So, why sell and miss out on future growth?” opined a source.

However, if Khazanah fails to get 100% equity in MAS, then the entire revival plan will be off.

By B.K. Sidhu The Star/Asia News Network

Radical plan to revive MAS

Khazanah Nasional Bhd has unveiled a radical plan to revive the ailing Malaysia Airlines that calls for job cuts, a capital injection of up to RM6bil and creation of a new company (Newco) to carry the airline business.

To facilitate the migration of the existing business to Newco, the Government will table a new law in Parliament called the MAS Act.

Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said that the new legislation would have a finite life and was needed to facilitate the migration of the existing business to Newco.

In a move to ensure that Newco has a leaner workforce and cleaner balance sheet to compete effectively in a tough operating environment, Khazanah wants to see job cuts of 30% from the existing MAS workforce of 20,000 employees.

It is one of the many conditions Khazanah has imposed on the management of MAS if it were to inject more funds into the ailing airline.

“In our opinion, we think that Newco with its business model will require a workforce of about 14,000. A net reduction of 30% is an across-the-board number,” said Azman at a media briefing yesterday.

The job cuts also affect the top leadership of MAS, which comprises a team of 500 staff called the Extended Leadership Team (ELT). Most of them were holding senior positions with long service.

Azman said the current chief executive officer (CEO) of MAS, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, has indicated his wish to leave.

In commending the MAS CEO for having led the airline during its toughest period, Azman said Ahmad Jauhari would remain in place until the transition.

“We have embarked on a global search for a new CEO and have engaged an international firm to undertake the task,” he said.

Some of the other conditions of the 12-point plan mapped by Khazanah for the recovery of MAS include the relocation of the airline’s existing headquarters in Subang to the KL International Airport and Khazanah owning 100% of MAS.

Towards this end, Khazanah is undertaking a privatisation of MAS at 27 sen per share.

Azman clarified that Khazanah had engaged a consultancy to undertake a review of MAS on Feb 26 this year, before the first airline tragedy on March 8.

“The review came about after the Government was concerned about the financial and general state of affairs in MAS,” he said.

On March 8, a MAS aircraft en route to Beijing went missing and further exacerbated the airline’s losses.

The Cabinet approved MAS’ proposal on Wednesday and yesterday the various stakeholders, which are mainly the unions, existing airline management and some key directors, were summoned for a briefing.

The management and union have been told to work together to decide the shedding of the workforce, he said.

The MAS Act is expected to arm Khazanah with the necessary bite to carry out the radical measures, especially in negotiating the new contracts and collective agreements of the unions.

“The Act would allow for the Air Operators Certificate (AOC) to be transferred from the existing MAS to Newco and the assets and liabilities,” said Azman.

By July 1 next year, Newco is expected to take off.

Azman said that employees who were not absorbed into Newco would be offered a retrenchment scheme or given an option to be absorbed into a scheme for re-training.

Towards this end, Khazanah is working with three business process outsourcing firms that have vacancies for 3,500.

Azman said Khazanah explored several options in coming up with the plan.

“Putting in more money into MAS would not save MAS. So we felt that enabling MAS to start on a clean slate and putting in new money into Newco provided it met the conditions stated was the best option,” he said. – The Star

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What the hack were they up to, MH370?


HackingHackers target information on MH370 probe

The computers of high-ranking officials in agencies involved in the MH370 investigation were hacked and classified information was stolen.

The stolen information was allegedly being sent to a computer in China before CyberSecurity Malaysia – a Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation agency – had the transmissions blocked and the infected machines shut down.

The national cyber security specialist agency revealed that sophisticated malicious software (malware), disguised as a news article reporting that the missing Boeing 777 had been found, was emailed to the officials on March 9, a day after the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane vanished during its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Attached to the email was an executable file that was made to look like a PDF document, which released the malware when a user clicked on it.

A source told The Star that officials in the Department of Civil Aviation, the National Security Council and MAS were among those targeted by the hackers.

“We received reports from the administration of the agencies telling us that their network was congested with email going out of their servers,” said CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab.

“Those email contained confidential data from the officials’ computers including the minutes of meetings and classified documents. Some of these were related to the MH370 investigation.”

About 30 computers were infected by the malware, CyberSecurity Malaysia said. It discovered that the malware was sending the information to an IP address in China and asked the Internet service provider in that region to block it.

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique numerical label assigned to each device on a computer network.

“This was well-crafted malware that antivirus programs couldn’t detect. It was a very sophisticated attack,” Amirudin said.

The agency and police are working with Interpol on the incident.

CyberSecurity Malaysia suspects the motivation for the hacking was the MH370 investigations.

“At that time, there were some people accusing the Government of not releasing crucial information,” Amirudin said. “But everything on the investigation had been disclosed.”

Flight MH370 with 239 on board went missing on March 8 about 45 minutes after take-off.

Expert: Spearphishing needs a lot of planning and work

Hacker Anatomy of Spearphishing attack

Spearphishing attacks such as the ones that targeted the Civil Aviation Department and the National Security Council require a lot of planning and work, said a cyber security expert.

These point to either a very skilled attacker or group of hackers who have the know-how to spoof an email address to make it appear as if the message is coming from a familiar sender, said Dhillon Kannabhiran.

He is chief executive of Hack In The Box which organises the annual HITBSecConf series of network security conferences.

He said that sensitive and confidential documents should always be encrypted as an added layer of security against hackers.

How sophisticated an attack was, Kannabhiran said, depended on which version of the Microsoft Windows operating system was on the victim’s computer and how up to date the system security was.

By Nicholas Cheng, The Star/Asia News Network

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USA Today: US print newspapers break-ups without financial support


Gannett, publisher of USA Today and dozens of other newspapers, became the latest to unveil its plan, splitting its print and broadcast operations into two separate units in a move to ‘sharpen’ the focus of each. – AFP

Washington (AFP) – Following an unprecedented series of spinoffs by major US media companies, the print news industry now faces a rocky future without financial support from deep-pocketed parent firms.

The wave of corporate breakups comes with newspapers and magazines struggling in a transition to digital news, and shareholders of media conglomerates increasingly intolerant of the lagging print segment.

Gannett, publisher of USA Today and dozens of other newspapers, became the latest to unveil its plan, splitting its print and broadcast operations into two separate units in a move to “sharpen” the focus of each.

This follows the recently completed spinoff by Tribune Co. of its newspaper group, which includes the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and Time Warner’s separation of its magazine publishing group Time Inc.

Two other newspaper groups, EW Scripps and Journal Communications, announced last month they would merge and then spin off their combined newspaper operations while creating a separate entity focused on broadcasting and digital media.

The trend arguably took hold last year with Rupert Murdoch’s split of his empire into separate firms focused on media-entertainment and publishing — 21st Century Fox and the newly structured News Corp.

- ‘Cast out of house’ -

The wave of spinoffs “certainly plays into the perception that these are children being cast out of the house by their parents,” said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project.

Newspapers were snapped up by media groups in an era when print was hugely profitable, but other segments of the media conglomerates are now driving profits, such as local television.

“The market doesn’t think much of the newspaper industry’s future,” Jurkowitz said.

Industry consultant Alan Mutter argues that publicly traded newspaper firms still produce an average profit margin of 16 percent, higher than that of Walmart and Amazon.

But Mutter said on his blog that profits and newsroom staffing have taken a huge hit in recent years, and that newspapers have failed to do enough in the digital arena.

“Rather than reliably ‘owning’ their audiences as they once did in print, the internal metrics at every newspaper show an increasing dependence on the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter to generate the traffic that is the lifeblood of any media enterprise,” he said.

Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, said newspapers are recovering from the negative impact of earlier corporate tie-ups.

“It’s really corporate debt and the expectations of Wall Street that have done as much to damage the newspapers business as Craigslist,” Kennedy told AFP.

“Newspaper margins are still pretty good. And when you have newspapers owned by private companies without debt, some of them are doing pretty well.”

Some analysts say that the breakup of big media firms may force publishers to create ways to connect with readers online. “The real problem with newspaper industry has not been with the dead tree part, it is the failure to monetize the digital eyeballs,” Jurkowitz said.

“Unless there is an increase in digital revenue streams it’s hard to imaging them getting out of the situation they are in.”

The industry is closely watching the efforts of newspapers like the New York Times, which is experimenting with new digital access plans, and the Washington Post, which under new owner Jeff Bezos has boosted online readership to record highs.

- ‘Not the death phase’ -

Kennedy said that while newspapers may be profitable and an important part of the community, they may not be able to meet Wall Street’s expectations for growth.

“It’s not a growing business,” Kennedy said.

Private owners can still keep the business in the black, said Kennedy, citing the record of Boston Globe’s new owner, sports magnate John Henry.

But he said that newspapers need to make considerable investments “to make a smart transition to digital” in the coming years.

Peter Copeland, a former Scripps Howard News Service editor and general manager who now is a media consultant, said the breakups are logical and generally positive for newspapers.

“It’s better for the newspapers and TV to be separate,” Copeland said. “They were never a match. They are very different businesses.”

Now, he said the owners “will be able to focus 100 percent on the newspapers.”

Copeland said newspapers may end up severing their corporate ties and going back to their roots of local and private ownership.

“Newspapers always had difficulty” being part of corporate empires, said Copeland.

“I think newspapers are entering another phase. It’s not the death phase, it’s just another phase in the life cycle.” – AFP

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Let the sunshine & natural light in for better health, quality life, more sleep at night


Sunshine_windowsA study has concluded that windows in the workplace could mean up to 173% more white light exposure during the day and an average of 46 minutes more sleep at night. – AFP

A STUDY from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that all-day exposure to natural light, even by means of a window, leads to longer sleep duration at night, as well as increased physical activity and quality of life.

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism,” says senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist.

The study was conducted on office workers, and windows in the workplace could mean up to 173% more white light exposure during the day and an average of 46 minutes more sleep at night, researchers concluded.

They also noted a trend of workers with more light exposure being more physically active than their counterparts.

In the study, researchers surveyed 49 day-shift office workers, of which 27 worked in windowless offices and 22 had windows in their offices.

Quality of life and everything health-related was self-reported, whereas sleep was assessed by means of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

A subset of 21 participants was surveyed for light exposure, activity and sleep by means of actigraphy. Ten of these participants worked in windowless environments and 11 hailed from workplaces with windows.

Actigraphy logs ambulatory physiological data, in this case motion and light illuminance, by means of a scientific wearable device.

“Light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body,” says Ivy Cheung, co-lead author and Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience in Zee’s lab at Northwestern. “Proper synchronization of your internal biological rhythms with the earth’s daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health.”

Sunlight is an important source of vitamin D and a CDC report indicates sun exposure is important even for breast-fed babies, despite the high quantities of vitamin D in breast milk.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. – AFP Relaxnews

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China’s Internet giants, Tencent to undercut Alibaba with billion chat app users


CHINA's Internet giants


Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700) faces the prospect of losing its position as Asia’s most-valuable Internet company this year after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) goes public. The Shenzhen-based company isn’t going to concede quietly.

Tencent is taking on Alibaba in almost every business related to the Web, from games to security to search. In the latest escalation of the battle, Tencent is expanding in messaging services and using the technology to drive customers to its e-commerce partners — in a direct challenge to its rival.

The fight exposes a rare vulnerability for Alibaba, which is planning an initial public offering that may be the largest in U.S. history.

Tencent has an enormous lead in messaging, with about a billion users for its QQ and WeChat products, compared with Alibaba’s last target of 100 million for its offerings.

Tencent is projected to report a 52 percent surge in profit when it announces second-quarter results today, bolstered by messaging.

“Tencent is using Mobile QQ and WeChat to take traffic away from Alibaba and direct people to e-commerce platforms backed by itself,” said Bill Fan, a Hong Kong-based analyst at China Securities Co. “Instant messaging hasn’t been Alibaba’s strong point, but it sees the viral effect that Tencent’s app is having so it’s trying to develop similar services.”

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., 24 percent owned by Yahoo! Inc., is competing with Tencent… Read More

Tencent’s two technologies let people trade messages over mobile phones and tablets, akin to the WhatsApp service that Facebook Inc. (FB) agreed to acquire this year for $19 billion.

QQ, which began as an instant-messaging service on desktop computers and was repurposed for use on mobile devices, has about 848 million monthly active users. WeChat, known as Weixin in China, has 396 million. (WhatsApp has more than half a billion active users.)

Most Valuable

The success of the messaging services has helped boost Tencent’s market value to about $161 billion, making it the most valuable Internet company in Asia.

Alibaba will compete for that title after it goes public. The latest estimate is that after the IPO the company could be valued at $187 billion, according to a survey of 11 analysts by Bloomberg. Tencent shares declined 0.2 percent as of 9:52 a.m. in Hong Kong trading, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index was unchanged.

Alibaba is trying to close the gap in messaging. In September, it started offering a service called Laiwang. Still, Tencent has continued to expand the features available through its apps to maintain its lead

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
QQ and WeChat helped triple Tencent’s mobile-game revenue to 1.8 billion yuan in the… Read More

“In the latest version of QQ, we have upgraded it to a platform for food, drinking and entertainment, and the number of cities we cover is also expanding,” said Dowson Tong, president of the company’s social network group that oversees QQ, in a recent interview.

Revenue Boost

Tencent has integrated games more tightly into its messaging services to capitalize on the China online gaming market, which IResearch projects will expand to 225 billion yuan by 2017.

QQ and WeChat helped triple Tencent’s mobile-game revenue to 1.8 billion yuan in the first quarter from the previous three months.

That trend likely continued in the second quarter. Tencent’s profit rose to 5.59 billion yuan in the three months ended June, according to the average of 11 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

That would make the second successive quarter with profit growth of more than 50 percent. Earnings climbed 61 percent in the three months ended March 2011.

QQ was the first iconic product billionaire Ma Huateng created at Tencent in 1999, two years after AOL Inc. (AOL)’s messaging service took off.

As more Chinese accessed the Internet, instant messaging became the most popular online app. Ma restructured QQ’s divisions in 2012 to take it mobile and the effort paid off.

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
QQ was the first iconic product billionaire Ma Huateng created at Tencent in 1999, two… Read More

Last year, 83 percent of China’s Internet users subscribed to Mobile QQ and 80 percent to WeChat, compared with Laiwang’s 23 percent, according to a survey among almost 4,000 people by Shanghai-based IResearch in June.

Stake Purchases

Tencent is now leveraging its vast user base to go after a bigger share of the China e-commerce market, which IResearch estimates will more than double from last year to 21.6 trillion yuan ($3.5 trillion) in 2017.

The company in March took a 15 percent stake in JD.com Inc., a direct competitor to Alibaba, and folded its own e-commerce assets into the venture. This year, Tencent has also agreed to buy 19.9 percent of Craigslist-like 58.com Inc. and take a 20 percent stake in Dianping.com, a website similar to Yelp Inc. that users review restaurants in China.

Single Click

Tencent has been working closely with JD.com and Dianping, directing traffic from Mobile QQ and WeChat to the websites, said Tong.

Those steps are beginning to yield results. A new single-click link to JD.com from Weixin produced an eightfold increase in daily transaction volumes compared with an earlier access that took two clicks, JD.com said in June. This month a similar integration with JD.com was provided to users of Mobile QQ.

Still, Tencent and its partners are far behind in e-commerce. Alibaba, which operates platforms including Taobao Marketplace and Tmall.com that connect retail brands with consumers, accounted for 76.4 percent of total mobile retail transactions in China, according to its IPO filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The fact that Tencent wrapped its e-commerce assets into JD.com shows it wants to limit its investment in the segment, said Yao Yue, a Shenzhen-based analyst with Morningstar Inc.

“Even if Tencent’s instant messaging apps can direct a lot of traffic to JD.com, at the end of the day it still depends on who has the better shopping service, and Alibaba’s Taobao is dominant,” said Yao.

Alibaba hasn’t been able to achieve the same success in mobile messaging so far. The company in 2004 started Aliwangwang, a PC-based instant messenger for buyers and sellers, that is now used for negotiating prices, customer services and delivery notifications on its Taobao marketplace. It also has a mobile version called Wangxin.

Lagging Behind

Laiwang was started by Alibaba to broaden its reach, after billionaire founder Jack Ma alluded to Tencent being ahead in the messaging race at a Credit Suisse conference in March 2013.

“We also invested heavily, but we are not that lucky and not creative, so creative like Tencent, which has WeChat, such a powerful thing,” Ma said at the conference.

Ma has vigorously tried to promote Laiwang and said the company wouldn’t pay bonuses to staff who didn’t get 100 clients for the app before Nov. 30 last year, according to a post on the company’s microblog.

In an attempt to generate revenue from Laiwang, Alibaba said in January it would offer games on the app. A month later Alibaba’s Ma said the company’s achievement on mobile applications wasn’t satisfactory.

Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih declined to comment on the company’s mobile strategies, citing pre-IPO restrictions.

Jin Yuan, a Shenzhen mobile phone user, underscores the lead that Tencent has in messaging. Jin has been a QQ subscriber for the past 13 years and says Tencent does a better job of making messaging apps that are easy to use.

“I use QQ to keep in touch with friends I’ve known since the PC age and I use it for a lot of group chats,” Jin said. “I like to use WeChat a lot for sharing information about good places for food.”

By Lulu Yilun Chen Bloomberg

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  Showtime for Alibaba world-wide

Showtime for China’s E-commerce giant, Alibaba world-wide


Alibaba_Chinese_logoAlibaba, China’s eCommerce giant, has quickly come onto everyone’s radar as it presents the possibility of being the largest tech IPO ever. According to the New York Times, the company is expected to go on the market at a value of roughly $200 billion – larger than US tech companies Amazon, eBay or Facebook. This week, we bring you articles to explain who Alibaba is and what you can expect from them in the future.

Two weeks, three continents, and 100 meetings. That — and founder Jack Ma celebrating his 50th birthday on the road — is what it will take for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to pull off the largest initial public offering in U.S. history.

The Chinese e-commerce company is weighing a plan to start marketing the share sale to investors on Sept. 3, with management traveling across Asia, Europe and the U.S. before an initial public offering in the middle of the month, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The schedule, put forth by banks managing the IPO, would have meetings begin in Hong Kong and Singapore before executives travel to London and eventually host their first U.S. event in New York on Sept. 8, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information. The timeline has Alibaba targeting a Sept. 16 trading debut, the people said.

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The investor meetings — called a roadshow — will give Alibaba the opportunity to answer questions from the world’s biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. With Alibaba and selling shareholders expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest in the U.S. The company’s official price range is expected to be revealed on Sept. 2.


Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., speaks at SoftBank World 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

 

Monday Pricing

For trading to start on Sept. 16, Alibaba would have to set a final price the day before — a Monday. It is uncommon for companies in the U.S. to price IPOs on a Monday, in case news over the weekend negatively impacts market sentiment in the final day of the deal.

The plan is tentative and could change, although Alibaba wants to avoid debuting near the Jewish holiday the following week, one of the people said.

With six financial advisers already managing the sale, Alibaba plans to name additional banks that will have smaller roles on the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. The company will also update investors with earnings from the quarter through June, those people said.

Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. are the most senior banks on the IPO. Alibaba may end up using more than 20 financial advisers in total, one person said.

Shares of Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. (9984), Alibaba’s largest shareholder, rose 2.4 percent at the close in Tokyo. Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment.

Birthday Celebration

At $20 billion, Alibaba’s sale would edge past Visa Inc.’s $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the largest in U.S. history, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Alibaba plans to divide executives into two separate teams, which will lead to about 100 meetings in total, according to the people. The teams will mostly be together for the larger group meetings, while separating to meet with individual investors, they said. The company hasn’t yet determined who from management will be attending each meeting, the people said.

In the U.S., Alibaba will also visit with investors in Boston, the Mid-Atlantic region, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the people said.

On Sept. 10, when Ma celebrates his birthday, investor meetings will be held in New York, they said.

Alibaba is waiting until September to begin marketing the share sale as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. The company, which originally targeted an early August trading debut, is holding off to avoid rushing the deal as it continues discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the person.

Discounted Valuation

The Chinese e-commerce operator may set its set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, in a move that could avoid repeating Facebook Inc. (FB)’s listing flop, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last month. The same analysts give Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion, the survey shows.

Alibaba said yesterday it will sell its small-business lending arm to the company that already controls payments affiliate Alipay, separating itself from the last of its major financial units ahead of the IPO.

The sale takes financial and regulatory risk relating to the operations off of Alibaba’s balance sheet, while increasing the pool of profits the company can generate from them, the filing shows. The agreement also lifts a $6 billion cap, under certain conditions, on funds that Alibaba could receive if Alipay or its parent company go public, the filing shows.

By Zijing Wu and Leslie Picker Bloomberg

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Tech-Dome Penang project to be ready by 2015; Skilled Staff in Demand in Penang


Penang Tech-Dome_artist

About Tech-Dome Penang

Tech-Dome Penang is an initiative by the Penang Science Cluster to create a hub for technology learning and exchange of ideas. It will be a vehicle for improving scientific literacy and technology ability in Malaysia.

Located at the geodesic dome of KOMTAR just adjacent to the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site in Penang, visitors will discover the exciting world of technology and how they work by exploring the world-class exhibits in its galleries. Regular programs will be conducted for schools, colleges and families that are specially designed to cultivate the spirit of inquiry and teach children and teenagers the skills required to thrive in a high-tech, knowledge-based future.

OUR MISSION

  • To inspire children and students to become future technologists and nurture the interest to use and invent technology.
  • To cultivate the spirit of inquiry and nurture the passion to thrive in the fields of science, engineering and technology.
  • To showcase the progress of the world’s technology and innovation.
  • To highlight the convergence of technology, industry and people.

Why Do We Need Tech-Dome Penang?

We believe that learning is a lifelong journey of discovery and is not just limited to school lessons. Families, young adults and entrepreneurs are always looking for new ideas and stimulating and meaningful ways to spend their time. By creating Tech-Dome Penang, we will offer visitors fun-filled learning and a place to share ideas and be inspired.

For Penang and Malaysia to remain competitive in the global economy, we must continue to nurture and develop our ability to use and even invent technology. However, the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed that the standard of mathematics and science among Malaysian students have been dropping since 2003, and compared to all other countries, Malaysia is the country with the biggest and most drastic drop in scores from 1999 to 2011.

According to the Ministry of Education, less and less students are taking up science at the STPM level. This shows that fewer students are interested in participating in the fields of science, engineering and technology. Tech-Dome Penang aims to reverse this trend and will strive to cultivate curiosity and nurture the passion to thrive in these fields.

Tech-Dome ready by 2015 

THERM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project, a private initiative with endorsement from the state and Federal Government, aims to beoperational by end of 2015.Penang Tech Centre Bhd chairman Datuk Wong Siew Hai said Tech-Dome, to be located on the fifth floor of Komtar with a 32,000sq ft built-up area, would showcase robotic, electronics and computing and lighting technologies.

“It will also exhibit the history of Penang’s industrialisation, spearheaded by the electronics and IT sectors.

“We have appointed Huettinger, a renowned company from Germany, as design consultant for the project.

“Huettinger is a technology-engineering company specialising in exhibition planning, providing consultation services, and manufacturing of exhibits,” he said in an interview yesterday.

American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce governor and Malaysian American Electronics Industry chairman Datuk Wong Siew Hai was a panelist at the Roundtable on Graduate Employability organised by KDU University College, held at the Damansara Jaya Campus at Petaling Jaya.(21/01/2014/S.S.KANESAN/The Star)
[ Wong says a fully programmable robot called Robo Thespian will be created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain visitors to the science centre. ]

Wong said Tech-Dome would serve as a science centre to inspire children and students to become future technologists and also to nurture their interest to use and invent technology.

“Instead of taking children to movies and shopping, parents will have the alternative to take them to visit Tech-Dome during weekends.

“A robot built by Huettinger will be employed for meeting, greeting, and interacting with the public.
“Known as Robo Thespian, the robot is a fully programmable humanoid robot created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain,” he said.

Wong said the Tech-Dome had so far collected RM3.65mil, of which RM1.15mil came from the state government with the remainder from the corporate sector.

He added that the private sector had also pledged to donate RM2.3mil for the project.

“We still need another RM17.35mil which we are confident of raising by the end of 2014.

“Those who sponsor now will be known as founding sponsors of the project,” he said.

Penang Centre director Yap Soo Huey said unlike other science centres, the Tech-Dome would not just exhibit products.

“It will be designed to link the exhibits to scientific principles and their applications,” she said.

By David Tan The Star/Asia News Network

Penang Tech Centre To Complete Tech-Dome By 2nd Half Of 2015

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 5 (Bernama) — Penang Tech Centre Bhd strives to complete the RM23 million Tech-Dome Penang project by the second half of 2015.

General manager Richard Chung Chok Yin said the renovation work to house the centre at the Tun Abdul Razak Complex’s (Komtar) Geodesic Dome would begin next month and take nine months to complete.

“We still need to raise about RM10 million from the private sector and the public to bring this project to fruition,” he told reporters here Tuesday.

Chung said donations could be made online via www.techdomepenang.org and tax-exempt receipts would be issued for contributions above RM50.

A private initiative with endorsement from the state and federal government, the Tech-Dome Penang is aimed at improving scientific literacy and technology acumen among Malaysians.

Earlier, Penang Tech Centre director Yap Soo Huey said a series of roadshows themed the ‘Magic of Science’ would be held in Gurney Plaza, Queensbay Mall, Gurney Paragon and First Avenue Mall from Aug to Dec to create public awareness on the Tech-Dome Penang.

“The roadshows will showcase science and technology-related activities on nature, math and science, life sciences, robotics and astronomy, mainly for children up to 15 years,” she said.

– BERNAMA

Financial hiccup – needs RM10mil boost

RM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project seeks public donation to help cover RM10mil shortfall. THE RM23mil Tech-Dome Penang project, a private initiative with endorsement from the state and Federal Government, is still short of RM10mil.Status update: (From left) Chung, PTC director Datuk Lim Kok Khong, Yap, PTC steering committee member Ang Lye Hin and representatives of sponsors at the press conference.

Penang Tech Centre Bhd (PTC) general manager Richard Chung said they needed the financial support from corporate sectors and the public to help turn the project into a reality.“We welcome any form of public donation. I am sure with such support, we should be able to make further headway in this project,” he said during a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

Tech-Dome Penang is a science and technology centre that aims to be a hub for technology learning and exchange of ideas.

The state government, besides granting the use of Komtar Geodesic Dome to house the centre, also provided seed-funding for the project. The centre is expected to be ready by second half next year.

PTC director Yap Soo Huey, who is also Pulau Tikus assemblyman, said the project would brand Penang as a hub for innovation and creativity.

She said cities that were known for being dynamic, progressive and innovative always boasted of having science and technology centres.

“Look at San Francisco and Amsterdam. That speaks volume of the city itself.

“Besides, wehave been hearing that our education syllabus is too rigid, employees either cannot think out of the box or lack ideas when seeking a solution.“The purpose of Tech-Dome is to address all this. We want to inspire our children to see how technology can be different and how knowledge can be applied to produce wonders. Education is not just about memorising,” she said.

As part of brand-building and public awareness, Tech-Dome Penang will organise nine roadshows scheduled to take place at the various shopping malls in Penang until the end of the year. Each roadshow will last for two days.

The first roadshow will be held at Gurney Plaza this weekend followed by Queensbay Mall (Aug 30/31), Gurney Paragon (Sept 13/14), Queensbay Mall (Sept 20/21), Gurney Paragon (Nov 29/30), Gurney Plaza (Dec 6/7), Queensbay Mall (Dec 13/14), 1st Avenue (Dec 20/21) and Gurney Plaza (Dec 27/28).

The roadshows, themed ‘Magic of Science’, will showcase various science and technology-related activities and games focusing on nature, mathematics and science, life sciences, robotics and astronomy for children aged up to 15.

The public will be able to participate in interesting hands-on activities from noon till 7pm during the event days.

More details on the roadshows can be obtained from http://www.techdomepenang.org or via Facebook /techdomepenang.

Donations can be made at the roadshows. Tax-exempted receipts will be issued for contributions above RM50 or via the website.

Skilled Staff in Demand – Jobs await seekers

Over 2,600 vacancies in various sectors are waiting to be filled and more investors are coming to Penang to offer greater employment opportunities abound including high-value positions over the next few years.

A new investor coming to Batu Kawan has about 300 positions to fill in 2016 and 1,000 in the following five years. — DATUK LEE KAH CHOON

AS of July 2014, there are 2,635 jobs available in Penang, of which 74% are for positions as junior executive and above.

Of the 2,635 jobs, some 475 are in engineering, 222 in marketing and business development, 185 in general and cost accounting, 185 in manufacturing, and 170 in IT-software, while the remaining 1,538 are for vacancies in other sectors.

InvestPenang executive director Datuk Lee Kah Choon said the openings were reported in a popular job portal.

Feedback received by investPenang and Penang Career Assistance and Talent (CAT) Centre, shows there are a number of multinational corporations (MNC) with various vacancies to be filled up.

Lee said a Japanese MNC in Seberang Prai was looking for technicians and engineers as part of its exercise to fill 1,500 vacancies.

“An American MNC in Bayan Lepas is also looking for 50 design engineers, while in the services sector, there are vacancies for 60 finance and accounting officers.

“A new investor coming to Batu Kawan has about 300 positions to fill in 2016 and 1,000 in the following five years.

“Another newMNC in BatuKawan requires 540 vacancies to be filled by the end of this year,” he said.Lee said the proposed Penang Business Process Outsourcing Prime project was expected to generate about 21,000 high-value jobs over the next five years.

“Penang is expanding from high-capital expenditure manufacturing and the state’s next growth wave hinges on investments in shared services outsourcing and other services that create higher value job opportunities for the people.

“However, the challenges of availability of right talents and well-trained workforce that meet demands of global investors have to be urgently addressed,” Lee stressed.

Lee said CAT was now working on setting up a fund to provide eligible students with scholarships and loans to pursue tertiary education.

“We are now talking with MNCs and philanthropists in Penang to set up such a fund for CAT to disburse to students, who will then work in MNCs during their vacation and upon graduation,” he said.

Lee also said investPenang was now arranging for foreign students to serve their internship in MNCs here.

“Students from New Zealand should be here next month for their internship in the local MNCs,” Lee said.

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