Startup opportunities abound


Band together: Entrepreneurs are urged to build strong communities to have a bigger voice that will enable them to affect policy that is beneficial to the industry.
Local startup sector gaining ground with stronger investor interest

THE past few years have seen an increase of entrepreneurs in the local tech startup sector. With better access to funding, there is ample opportunity for new business ideas to take off.

But while the number of startups in Malaysia has increased, industry observers say we are merely scratching the surface of where the industry could be.

According to Yusuf Jaffar, programme manager of Global Accelerator Programme from Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), there is an estimate of 3,000 startups in Malaysia. Compared to the over 1 million registered enterprises here, startups make up only 0.25% of total companies registered.

In contrast, Singapore has 42,000 startups, making up some 8.88% of companies in the island state.

In the region, South Korea has an estimated 30,000 startups, while Indonesia and India has over 4,700 and 7,700 respectively.

Although the numbers in Indonesia and India look low, Yusuf points out that they have a vibrant startup ecosystem.

“India has 1,200 new startups every year, and this does not include the ones that are failing. These are the ones that are surviving or thriving. This shows vibrancy of ecosystem.

Getting there: Hall says Malaysia’s startup ecosystem is rapidly maturing. 
Getting there: Hall says Malaysia’s startup ecosystem is rapidly maturing.

“For Malaysia’s ecosystem to grow, we need to rapidly increase our number of startups. We need more entrepreneurs here and we need more ideas,” he says.

He names four components that are needed for the industry to grow – more startups, capital, markets and talent.

In terms of capital, Yusuf notes that venture capital (VC) penetration in Malaysia is relatively high with 110 VC firms. Statistically, he says, there are a lot of funds available in Malaysia with US$1.75bil in VC funding for the local ecosystem, of which, only 50% has been spent to-date.

However, most of these funds go into funding Series A (US$1mil-US$3mil) and B (US$3mil-US$10mil) rounds, whereby the startups have grown sizably.

According to statistics, only 0.89% of VC capital went into early-stage investment, which amounted to about eight investments last year. In Singapore, 67% of VC funding goes to the early stage.

It is crucial to have adequate funding for early stage investment to ensure that entrepreneurs can tap these funds to grow their ideas.

“We are investing late,” says Yusuf.

In Malaysia, he estimates that the success rate for startups is 20%.

He adds that 90% of the current 242 unicorns – startup company valued at over US$1bil – in the world received VC funding from the get-go, underscoring the importance of VCs in making high-growth companies.

Additionally, the frequency of investments in the local market is low. In 2017, there were only 77 investments made by VCs, or only 2.57% of startups received VC investment. Considering that there are 110 VC firms here, it is small wonder that entrepreneurs feel that there is a lack of funding available in the local market.

Stacking up regionally

Malaysia has often been cited as a country with great potential. We have a fairly well-educated population, infrastructure and a strong economy.

However, the other countries in the region have somehow garnered more interest from investors. Singapore and Indonesia, in particular, have been receiving sizeable investments from VCs. The Indochina region has also been getting a lot of attention in recent times.

And not many from the industry will forget that Malaysia-founded Grab eventually moved to Singapore given the more vibrant ecosystem across the straits.

But Justin Hall, partner at Singapore-based Golden Gate Ventures, says that Malaysia’s startup ecosystem is rapidly maturing.

“As we’re starting to see in other regional countries, Malaysian entrepreneurs are actively seeking to build out platforms and products that appeal to the entire South-East Asia, and not simply the domestic Malaysian market.

“Regional funds are actively looking for and investing in Malaysian-born startups, and I see this trend accelerating as investors look out from Indonesia and Singapore,” says Hall.

Last November, Golden Gate launched its Malaysian office in Kuala Lumpur to solidify its presence here. The firm had already utilised a quarter of its Fund II to invest in early-stage tech companies that are based or operating in Malaysia. It is planning to invest a further RM75mil in Malaysia-based startups.

 Smart capital: Ganesh notes that VCs can now pick and choose their investments because there are more startups around. — Bernama
Smart capital: Ganesh notes that VCs can now pick and choose their investments because there are more startups around. — Bernama 

He notes that Malaysia also has a large digital consumer market.

“It bears some striking similarities to other South-East Asian countries in terms of consumptive behaviour such as regulatory bottlenecks in certain industries, and regulatory, infrastructure, and logistical constraints. This means that products and services that resonate with Malaysian consumers and businesses might be easier to localise into other regional markets than, say, companies that specifically appeal to Singaporeans,” he adds.

Hall opines that Malaysian companies are undervalued compared to Indonesia and Singapore, largely due to the sheer amount of capital being invested in the later markets. There were previously also some gaps in founder experience and capability between the markets, but that gap is rapidly closing.

According to Hall, logistics and supply-chain focused startups will come into focus in 2019 as the e-commerce boom starts sizing up in the region.

“We are really only scratching the surface of scalable, efficient, inter-country logistics and supply-chain platforms. We hope to continue finding and investing in the best, most talented entrepreneurs in South-East Asia this year,” he says.

However, Commerce DotAsia Ventures Sdn Bhd executive chairman Ganesh Kumar Bangah notes that the startup frenzy in the region seen a few years ago has cooled off.

“Valuations were very high three to four years ago. I think it has cooled off. There are still some startups who ask for crazy valuations, but they don’t get funded. VCs can now pick and choose because there are so many startups. They don’t compete with each other as much as before.

“It is not like three or four years ago, where a startup can say, ‘if you don’t give me this value, the next guy who comes in will offer me that’. Today, there’s realism in the game.

“There is still a lot of money in the region for the right companies. People are less willing to overpay for them,” he says.

Building the ecosystem

Governments play an important role in developing the startup ecosystem and in creating new markets for the ecosystem.

Yusuf says favourable policy can mobilise funds and help grow the industry.

He cites the example of Singapore, which has allocated S$5bil in matching grants for startups, effectively pouring in S$10bil for the sector. In the US, some US$84bil is invested into VCs annually, with the bulk of these funds coming from pension funds.

Obviously, the funding ecosystem in Malaysia has a long way to go. But developments in the local market such as equity crowdfunding and Leap Market have opened up more funding avenues for startups looking to tap new money. Additionally, more people have shown interest in becoming angel investors, which would help fill the gap in the early-stage financing.

“It is not that there is not enough money in the ecosystem. The case is, there’s not enough intelligent capital at the early stage here. Intelligent money means that these investors have the knowledge to value the startups, and have the ability to give them the add-ons to help them grow.

“We don’t lack capital, we lack intelligent capital at the early stage. We’ve got a lot of people with money and a lot of them want to invest in technology but don’t know how,” notes Ganesh.

Yusuf concurs. The Malaysian ecosystem lacks specialist talents who can run funds. Most of the local VCs are managed by generalists who may not be able to discern startup-specific issues and challenges.

 Paving the way: Governments can play an effective role in creating new markets for the ecosystem.
Paving the way: Governments can play an effective role in creating new markets for the ecosystem. 

Thus, there is a need to attract more foreign funding and talent to close the gap in the local market.

“Governments also play a big role in market creation. The government needs to put in real money into these specific markets.

“A good example is the “buy social” campaign in the UK where all government procurement contracts have to go to social enterprises. That has led to the UK becoming the epicentre of social enterprises in the world, because the government made that effort and made that pledge.

“So it’s not just about identifying a market, but creating real value in the market. There’s no way an entrepreneur can grow unless the market is created,” says Yusuf.

He notes that 5% of the UK’s GDP now comes from social enterprises.

Yusuf also urges entrepreneurs themselves to be part of the effort in building the local startup ecosystem by creating communities that will enable them to work outside their silos. By working within communities, entrepreneurs will be able to share ideas and collaborate to form better solutions and business models.

“We need to have clusters, where you can get matching of skillset and vision. And these clusters should be connected to other clusters to see how you can build the ecosystem and move the ecosystem forward.

“So build the community. And the importance of building a bigger community is so that you can affect policy in a way that will benefit the industry,” he says.

By joy lee Starbiz

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When Will the U.S. Dollar Collapse?


collapsing dominos with international currency symbols on them

A dollar collapse is when the value of the U.S. dollar plummets. Anyone who holds dollar-denominated assets will sell them at any cost. That includes foreign governments who own U.S. Treasurys. It also affects foreign exchange futures traders. Last but not least are individual investors.

When the crash occurs, these parties will demand assets denominated in anything other than dollars. The collapse of the dollar means that everyone is trying to sell their dollar-denominated assets, and no one wants to buy them. This will drive the value of the dollar down to near zero. It makes hyperinflation look like a day in the park.

 

Two Conditions That Could Lead to the Dollar Collapse
Two conditions must be in place before the dollar could collapse. First, there must be an underlying weakness. As of 2017, the U.S. currency was fundamentally weak despite its 25 percent increase since 2014. The dollar declined 54.7 percent against the euro between 2002 and 2012. Why? The U.S. debt almost tripled during that period, from $6 trillion to $15 trillion. The debt is even worse now, at $21 trillion, making the debt-to-GDP ratio more than 100 percent. That increases the chance the United States will let the dollar’s value slide as it would be easier to repay its debt with cheaper money.

Second, there must be a viable currency alternative for everyone to buy. The dollar’s strength is based on its use as the world’s reserve currency. The dollar became the reserve currency in 1973 when President Nixon abandoned the gold standard. As a global currency, the dollar is used for 43 percent of all cross-border transactions. That means central banks must hold the dollar in their reserves to pay for these transactions. As a result, 61 percent of these foreign currency reserves are in dollars.

Note: The next most popular currency after the dollar is the euro. But it comprises less than 30 percent of central bank reserves. The eurozone debt crisis weakened the euro as a viable global currency.

China and others argue that a new currency should be created and used as the global currency. China’s central banker Zhou Xiaochuan goes one step further. He claims that the yuan should replace the dollar to maintain China’s economic growth. China is right to be alarmed at the dollar’s drop in value. That’s because it is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury, so it just saw its investment deteriorate. The dollar’s weakness makes it more difficult for China to control the yuan’s value compared to the dollar.

Could bitcoin replace the dollar as the new world currency? It has many benefits. It’s not controlled by any one country’s central bank. It is created, managed, and spent online. It can also be used at brick-and-mortar stores that accept it. Its supply is finite. That appeals to those who would rather have a currency that’s backed by something concrete, such as gold.

But there are big obstacles. First, its value is highly volatile. That’s because there is no central bank to manage it. Second, it has become the coin of choice for illegal activities that lurk in the deep web. That makes it vulnerable to tampering by unknown forces.

Economic Event to Trigger the Collapse
These two situations make a collapse possible. But, it won’t occur without a third condition. That’s a huge economic triggering event that destroys confidence in the dollar.

Altogether, foreign countries own more than $5 trillion in U.S. debt. If China, Japan or other major holders started dumping these holdings of Treasury notes on the secondary market, this could cause a panic leading to collapse. China owns $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury. That’s because China pegs the yuan to the dollar. This keeps the prices of its exports to the United States relatively cheap. Japan also owns more than $1 trillion in Treasurys. It also wants to keep the yen low to stimulate exports to the United States.

Japan is trying to move out of a 15-year deflationary cycle. The 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster didn’t help.

Would China and Japan ever dump their dollars? Only if they saw their holdings declining in value too fast and they had another export market to replace the United States. The economies of Japan and China are dependent on U.S. consumers. They know that if they sell their dollars, that would further depress the value of the dollar. That means their products, still priced in yuan and yen, will cost relatively more in the United States. Their economies would suffer. Right now, it’s still in their best interest to hold onto their dollar reserves.

Note: China and Japan are aware of their vulnerability. They are selling more to other Asian countries that are gradually becoming wealthier. But the United States is still the best market (not now) in the world.

When Will the Dollar Collapse?
It’s unlikely that it will collapse at all. That’s because any of the countries who have the power to make that happen (China, Japan, and other foreign dollar holders) don’t want it to occur. It’s not in their best interest. Why bankrupt your best customer? Instead, the dollar will resume its gradual decline as these countries find other markets.

Effects of the Dollar Collapse
A sudden dollar collapse would create global economic turmoil. Investors would rush to other currencies, such as the euro, or other assets, such as gold and commodities. Demand for Treasurys would plummet, and interest rates would rise. U.S. import prices would skyrocket, causing inflation.

U.S. exports would be dirt cheap, given the economy a brief boost. In the long run, inflation, high interest rates, and volatility would strangle possible business growth. Unemployment would worsen, sending the United States back into recession or even a depression.

How to Protect Yourself

Protect yourself from a dollar collapse by first defending yourself from a gradual dollar decline.

Important:  Keep your assets well-diversified by holding foreign mutual funds, gold, and other commodities.

A dollar collapse would create global economic turmoil. To respond to this kind of uncertainty, you must be mobile. Keep your assets liquid, so you can shift them as needed. Make sure your job skills are transferable. Update your passport, in case things get so bad for so long that you need to move quickly to another country. These are just a few ways to protect yourself and survive a dollar collapse.

US Trade Deficit With China and Why It’s So High

The Real Reason American Jobs Are Going to China

The U.S. trade deficit with China was $375 billion in 2017. The trade deficit exists because U.S. exports to China were only $130 billion while imports from China were $506 billion.

The United States imported from China $77 billion in computers and accessories, $70 billion in cell phones, and $54 billion in apparel and footwear. A lot of these imports are from U.S. manufacturers that send raw materials to China for low-cost assembly. Once shipped back to the United States, they are considered imports.

In 2017, China imported from America $16 billion in commercial aircraft, $12 billion in soybeans, and $10 billion in autos. In 2018, China canceled its soybean imports after President Trump started a trade war. He imposed tariffs on Chinese steel exports and other goods. 

Current Trade Deficit

As of July 2018, the United States exported a total of $74.3 billion in goods to China. It imported $296.8 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As a result, the total trade deficit with China is $222.6 billion. A monthly breakdown is in the chart.

US$211.1
Jul 18
US$202
Jan 18
US$205
Feb 18
US$210
Mar 18
US$210
Apr 18
US$214
May 18
US$213
Jun 18
US$211
Jul 18

Causes
China can produce many consumer goods at lower costs than other countries can. Americans, of course, want these goods for the lowest prices. How does China keep prices so low? Most economists agree that China’s competitive pricing is a result of two factors:

A lower standard of living, which allows companies in China to pay lower wages to workers.
An exchange rate that is partially fixed to the dollar.

If the United States implemented trade protectionism, U.S. consumers would have to pay high prices for their “Made in America” goods. It’s unlikely that the trade deficit will change. Most people would rather pay as little as possible for computers, electronics, and clothing, even if it means other Americans lose their jobs.

China is the world’s largest economy. It also has the world’s biggest population. It must divide its production between almost 1.4 billion residents. A common way to measure standard of living is gross domestic product per capita. In 2017, China’s GDP per capita was $16,600. China’s leaders are desperately trying to get the economy to grow faster to raise the country’s living standards. They remember Mao’s Cultural Revolution all too well. They know that the Chinese people won’t accept a lower standard of living forever.

China sets the value of its currency, the yuan, to equal the value of a basket of currencies that includes the dollar. In other words, China pegs its currency to the dollar using a modified fixed exchange rate. When the dollar loses value, China buys dollars through U.S. Treasurys to support it. In 2016, China began relaxing its peg. It wants market forces to have a greater impact on the yuan’s value. As a result, the dollar to yuan conversion has been more volatile since then. China’s influence on the dollar remains substantial.

Effect
China must buy so many U.S. Treasury notes that it is the largest lender to the U.S. government. Japan is the second largest. As of September 2018, the U.S. debt to China was $1.15 trillion. That’s 18 percent of the total public debt owned by foreign countries.

Many are concerned that this gives China political leverage over U.S. fiscal policy. They worry about what would happen if China started selling its Treasury holdings. It would also be disastrous if China merely cut back on its Treasury purchases.

Why are they so worried? By buying Treasurys, China helped keep U.S. interest rates low. If China were to stop buying Treasurys, interest rates would rise. That could throw the United States into a recession. But this wouldn’t be in China’s best interests, as U.S. shoppers would buy fewer Chinese exports. In fact, China is buying almost as many Treasurys as ever.

U.S. companies that can’t compete with cheap Chinese goods must either lower their costs or go out of business. Many businesses reduce their costs by outsourcing jobs to China or India. Outsourcing adds to U.S. unemployment. Other industries have just dried up. U.S. manufacturing, as measured by the number of jobs, declined 34 percent between 1998 and 2010. As these industries declined, so has U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace
.
What’s Being Done
President Trump promised to lower the trade deficit with China. On March 1, 2018, he announced he would impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. On July 6, Trump’s tariffs went into effect for $34 billion of Chinese imports. China canceled all import contracts for soybeans.

Trump’s tariffs have raised the costs of imported steel, most of which is from China. Trump’s move comes a month after he imposed tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines. China has become a global leader in solar panel production. The tariffs depressed the stock market when they were announced.

The Trump administration is developing further anti-China protectionist measures, including more tariffs. It wants China to remove requirements that U.S. companies transfer technology to Chinese firms. China requires companies to do this to gain access to its market.

Trump also asked China to do more to raise its currency. He claims that China artificially undervalues the yuan by 15 percent to 40 percent. That was true in 2000. But former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson initiated the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in 2006. He convinced the People’s Bank of China to strengthen the yuan’s value against the dollar. It increased 2 to 3 percent annually between 2000 and 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew continued the dialogue during the Obama administration.

The Trump administration continued the talks until they stalled in July 2018.

The dollar strengthened 25 percent between 2013 and 2015. It took the Chinese yuan up with it. China had to lower costs even more to compete with Southeast Asian companies. The PBOC tried unpegging the yuan from the dollar in 2015. The yuan immediately plummeted. That indicated that the yuan was overvalued. If the yuan were undervalued, as Trump claims, it would have risen instead.

Source: The Balance

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Huawei Surprise goldfish in a bowl


Uncertain future: In this courtroom sketch, Meng sits beside a translator during a bail hearing in Vancouver. She
faces extradition to the US on charges of trying to evade US sanctions on Iran. – AP 
The arrest of Huawei ‘heiress’ has thrown a rare spotlight on the family of the reclusive smartphone giant founder, Ren Zhengfei.

WHEN Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou appeared on Wednesday in a Vancouver courtroom, clad in an unbranded green tracksuit, the moment was witnessed by a single reporter from the local Vancouver Sun newspaper who happened to notice her name on the hearings list that morning.

By the end of the day, Meng’s arrest in Canada at the request of Washington was the biggest story in the world.

And when her bail hearing resumed on Friday, Meng entered court to see about 100 reporters, craning to look at her through two layers of bulletproof glass.

Meng who faces extradition to the United States, was charged for helping Huawei allegedly cover up violations of US sanctions on Iran.

Like many top Chinese executives, Meng is a mysterious figure even in her home country, but the 46-year-old chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies had been widely tipped to one day take the helm of the tech giant her father founded.

That was until her shock arrest, a move that has entangled her in the protracted diplomatic tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Crucially, Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei – one of China’s leading businessmen, an ex-People’s Liberation Army officer and an elected member of the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

In other words, Meng is part of China’s elite.

Her father Ren moves in the highest government circles in China and founded Huawei in 1988, after he retired from the Chinese armed forces. Born into a rural family in a remote mountainous town in the southwestern province of Guizhou, Ren rose to the equivalent rank of a deputy regimental chief in the PLA and served until 1983, according to his official Huawei biography.

Officials in some governments, particularly the United States, have voiced concern that his company is close to the Chinese military and government. Huawei has repeatedly insisted Beijing has no influence over it.

Ren is one of the most watched entrepreneurs in China and was on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and again in 2013.

But like his elder daughter, Ren has largely kept a low profile.

Ren has married three times. His first wife was Meng Jun, daughter of a former senior official in Sichuan province, Meng Dongbuo; she bore Ren two children: Sabrina Meng Wanzhou and a son, Meng Ping.

Meng’s current wife is Yao Ling, who gave him a younger daughter, Annabel Yao, 20. In a rare move, the three posed last month for a family photoshoot for French lifestyle magazine Paris Match. Annabel, a Harvard computer science student, became a sensation at last month’s Le Bal des Debutantes (or Crillon Ball) in Paris.

Ren’s third wife is Su Wei who, according to Chinese media reports, is a millennial who was formerly his secretary.

Interestingly, all his children opted not to take on their father’s surname – Meng adopted her mother’s surname after her parents divorced. According to Chinese news websites, Meng’s brother Ping, who also works for Huawei, followed her in taking their mother’s surname to “avoid unnecessary attention” – though the son was also known as Ren Ping in the past.

(This practice is not uncommon among the families of China’s elite. The co-founder of Chinese auction house China Guardian, Wang Yannan, opted not to take her father’s surname – she is the daughter of late Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang.)

Born in 1972, Meng joined the company in 1993, obtained a master’s degree from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 1998, and rose up the ranks over the years, mostly holding financial roles.

In her first media appearance before the Chinese press in 2013, Meng said she had first joined the company as a secretary“whose job was just to take calls”.

In the interview with China’s 21st Century Business Herald, Meng said she began her first job at China Construction Bank after graduating with her first degree in 1992.

Arrested Meng: Like her father, the Huawei CFO had led a quiet life, out of the spotlight. – Reuters

Arrested Meng: Like her father, the Huawei CFO had led a quiet life, out of the spotlight. – Reuters

“I joined Huawei one year later because a branch closed its operations due to the business integration [of CCB],” said Meng, describing her early jobs in Huawei as “very trivial”.

Meng has served in various roles at the company since, until her latest role as the Hong Kong-based CFO of Huawei.

In 2003, Meng established Huawei’s globally unified finance organisation, with standardised structures, financial processes, financial systems, and IT platforms.

Since 2005, Meng has led the founding of five shared service centers around the world, and she was also the driver behind completion of a global payment center in Shenzhen, China. These centres have boosted Huawei’s accounting efficiency and monitoring quality, providing accounting services to sustain the company’s rapid overseas expansion.

Meng has also been in charge of the integrated financial services (IFS) transformation program, an eight-year partnership between Huawei and IBM since 2007. This has helped Huawei develop its data systems and rules for resource allocation, and improve operating efficiency and internal controls.

In recent years, Meng has focused on advancing detailed financial management at Huawei, working to align these efforts with the company’s long-term development plans.

Meng’s importance at Huawei became apparent in 2011, when she was first named as a board member. Company insiders describe her as capable and hardworking. Earlier this year, Huawei promoted Meng, to vice-chairwoman as part of a broader reshuffle. Meng is one of four executives who hold the vice-chair role, while retaining her CFO position. Despite assertions by Ren that none of his family members would succeed him in the top job, it is widely speculated that she was being groomed to take over the reins of the company eventually.

Married with a son and a daughter, Meng’s revelation that her husband did not work in the industry, dispelled the speculation she was married to a senior Huawei executive.

Meng did not conduct public interviews before 2013 and has seldom mentioned her personal life until recently, when she used her son to illustrate the importance of persistence.

“My son did not want to go swimming one day and he almost knelt on the ground and begged my husband so that he would not have to go. But he was rejected,” Meng said in a speech at Chongqing international school in 2016. “Now my son is proud to represent his school in swimming competitions.”

Meng recently made a speech at a Singapore academic conference in 2018, in which she talked of Huawei’s future role in technology development.

“Without universities, the world would be left in darkness. Without industry, science would be left in the ivory tower,” said Meng. “The fourth industrial revolution is on the horizon and artificial intelligence is one of its core enabling technologies. Huawei is lucky to be part of it.”

While her brother, Meng Ping, as well as her father’s younger brother and his current wife all work at Huawei and related companies, none has held such senior management roles.

“The other family members are in the back office, Sabrina is CFO and sits on the board,” a Huawei source said. “So she is viewed as the boss’s most likely successor.”

But her fate now is uncertain.

She faces up to 30 years’ jail for the alleged crime. Her lawyer in Canada, David Martin, had told the court that Meng posed no flight risk and should be granted bail. To flee would shame her in front of her father and all of China, said Martin.

“Her father would not recognise her. Her colleagues would hold her in contempt. She would be a pariah,” he said.

Meng leaned forward in her seat and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

When the hearing adjourned, she was led away with her head bowed, a goldfish in a bowl that is the biggest story in the world. – South China Morning Post

Younger Huawei daughter: ‘I’m just a normal girl’

Arresting Yao: ‘My daily life is actually pretty boring compared to this.’

JUST last month, the reclusive Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made headlines by appearing in French lifestyle magazine Paris Match with his younger daughter and current wife.The daughter, Annabel Yao, 20, posed with a smile in front of a grand piano with her mother, identified by the magazine as Yao Ling, and Ren, who wore a blue shirt with his hand resting on her shoulder.

Suddenly, the whole family are making headlines again – even if for quite different reasons.

Few outsiders had previously heard of the younger daughter, a Harvard computer science student and ballerina. But Yao recently made a high-profile appearance at the exclusive Le Bal Debutante ball in Paris.

While Le Bal des Debutantes in Paris each year is a nod to the tradition of young society ladies entering the elite social scene of Europe, these days it courts modern debutantes, aged 16 to 21, who are chosen for their looks, brains and famous parents – prominent in business, entertainment and politics.

They parade in glamorous couture gowns, waltz with their cavaliers – young men who accompany the “debs” for the evening – and take part in photo shoots and interviews.

The schedule at the event, organised by Ophélie Renouard, is full of young women such as Baroness Ludmilla von Oppenheim, from Germany; Julia McCaw, daughter of AT&T founder Craig McCaw; and Yao – one of three debutantes chosen for the opening waltz this year.

“I definitely treated this as a debut to the world,” said Yao after the ball. “From now on, I’ll no longer be this girl living in her own world, I’ll be stepping into the adult world where I have to watch my own actions and have my actions be watched by others.”

Today’s Le Bal, is a diverse affair, a microcosm of the shifting tides of the global elite. Of the 19 debutantes of 2018, there were young ladies from India and America, Europeans from Portugal, France, Belgium and Germany, as well as Hong Kong’s Angel Lee, Kayla Uytengsu from the Philippines and China’s Yao.

Yao – who has lived in Britain, Hong Kong and Shanghai – was one of several Chinese debutantes in recent years. Hollywood offspring, such as the daughters of actors Forest Whitaker, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, have also become Le Bal regulars.

“All the girls were down-to-earth, easygoing, helpful and outgoing. No one was pretentious,” said Yao.

“All of them attended top universities or high schools like Stanford, Brown and Columbia, so it’s a group of girls who are privileged, but also work really hard.”

 

Diverse affair: Today’s ‘Le Bal’ is a microcosm of the shifting tides of the global elite like Yao (far right, front row).

 

As they swapped their jeans for tiaras and couture gowns and trade teenage antics for waltzing, the girls got to play fairytale princesses for three days and make their grand debut in high society.

They all arrived in Paris two days before the ball to meet, socialise with other girls and their cavaliers (Yao’s cavalier was the young Count Gaspard de Limburg-Stirum), rehearse and take part in portrait sessions.

Girls are given questionnaires about the fashion styles they like, and then choose from a selection. Yao donned a champagne gold J Mendel gown.

“An American designer with a very French style I wanted something modern,” she said. “I’m not super girlie inside, so I prefer something more chic and not so princessy It’s very elegant, and I’m not a fan of very [strongly] pigmented hues. I also loved the tulle texture of the dress, as it reminds me of a ballerina.”

“I definitely feel very honoured to be included, as there are only 19 girls in the world this year,” Yao added. “It means I have to work harder, try to accomplish great things in my life and be a role model for other girls.”

She said: “As people who have more privilege than others, it’s more important for us to help those with less opportunity. I want to get involved in philanthropy and charity I still consider myself a normal girl; it’s important for me to work hard and better myself every day.

“My daily life is actually pretty boring compared to this. I usually live like a normal student.”

Computer science is a heavy subject with a high workload, so she studies a lot. Her spare time is often taken up at the Harvard Ballet company (she’s been dancing since childhood). “I try to dance as much as possible,” she said.

A quick glance at the Ivy League student’s social media shows her jetting around the world wearing Dior, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, but she’s quick to show her serious side. This summer, she did an internship at Microsoft “on a team focusing on machine learning and image recognition”.

However, she noted: “As much as I enjoy coding, I enjoy personal interactions a lot I have a passion for fashion, PR and entertainment.”

In the future, she sees herself working on the business side of technology. “I’ll try to integrate the tech knowledge I have,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be a software engineer but maybe I’ll be more on the management side. I enjoy building connections.” – South China Morning Post

Growing stronger, opening wider key to resolving Huawei crisis

Huawei is now facing its most severe test since it became the world-renowned innovative tech company.

With executive’s arrest, US wants to stifle Huawei

The Chinese government should seriously go behind the US tendency to abuse legal procedures to suppress China’s high-tech enterprises. It should increase interaction with the US and exert pressure when necessary. China has been exercising restraint, but the US cannot act recklessly. US President Donald Trump should rein in the hostile activities of some Americans who may imperil Sino-US relations.

 

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Are you overpaying your property maintenance fee?


A property, no matter how great-looking it is, is only as good as its management and maintenance. It will look clean and polished when it is new but the good news is, it can still look as good even as it ages.

According to the Strata Management Act 2013 (SMA 2013) which came into effect in June 2015, a strata owner or occupier needs to pay a monthly maintenance fee or service charge to the Joint Management Body (JMB) or Management Corporation (MC) which will be used to manage and maintain the common property of the development.

Other than the maintenance fee, strata owners are also required to contribute to the sinking fund which is normally at the rate of 10% of the total amount of charges.

“A sinking fund is a reserve fund collected from the strata owner for future expenditure which is typically less predictable and cost a lot more than the usual maintenance fee. The sinking fund is usually used for large scale repairs such as a painting job or refurbishment of the interiors of common facilities,” says Chur Associates managing director Chris Tan.

However, some owners may feel that the maintenance fee is too much. But how much is too much? How is the fee amount calculated or set? Is there a formula or a guideline?

Formula to derive the share units

Under the SMA 2013 and Strata Titles Act 1985 (STA), a residential or commercial unit is technically known as a parcel and each parcel has a share value that is expressed in whole numbers under the STA.

“Upon the approval of computation and allocation of share units prepared by the licensed land surveyor, the director of Land and Mines will issue the Certificate of Share Unit. To derive the share units in a strata scheme, there is a standard formula under the Fourth Schedule of the Strata Titles Rules 2015,” explains Burgess Rawson Malaysia managing director Wong Kok Soo.

The standard formula for maintenance fee:

Refer to Table A for an example of how the share unit is derived for an apartment parcel.

What does the maintenance fee cover?

The MC chairman of Sri Penaga, one of Bangsar’s oldest condominiums, Khaw Chay Tee shares with EdgeProp.my that one of the biggest components in the operations expenditure of a residential condominium is security, followed by the property management staffing and cleaning.

“Normally these components make up 50% of your service charge. So at the end of the day, it really boils down to how well-managed that property is. If you are able to manage the property well, then you can keep the cost reasonable. There are some condominiums where the MC likes to carry out projects which incur costs, but that is a separate matter. As each condominium differs in its number of facilities and the density of the development, it is not so easy to compare and ask why this condominium in Bangsar is different from that condominium in Bangsar,” says Khaw.

Knight Frank senior executive director Kuruvilla Abraham concurs that the service charge will vary depending on the service level the JMB or MC requires.

“One can find cheaper options for the various services required which no doubt will result in lower service charges. However, don’t expect good service levels. The right thing to do is to get value-for-money services that commensurate with the expected service levels,” he says.

It also depends on the design of the development, he adds.

“The development with a reasonable number of facilities and a greater number of units will generally pay a lower proportion of service charge compared to one with similar facilities but with lower density.”

Furthermore, developments with more facilities such as fountains, gardens or swimming pools would naturally command a higher fee as more maintenance is needed.

When it comes to maintenance, the level of quality is subjective, reminds Chur Associates’ Tan. Hence, questions often arise on whether what they are paying is actually put to good use.

Kuruvilla points out that he has yet to come across a developer that has charged parcel owners more than what they are supposed to pay. (Photo by Knight Frank)

“What is the definition of “clean” to you? For some, clean means I don’t see any rubbish. For others, it means it has to be squeaky clean and sparkling. We cannot even come up with an industrial standard for door size and window size, how do we even budget the cleaning cost then? If I were the cleaning company, how would I charge you if your windows are bigger than others? Do I charge more? Or can I say the unit price is RM2 per window per cleaning [regardless of size]?” Tan questions.

He adds that the priorities of residents in different projects mean the maintenance fee charged for each development would be different.

“Some residents place a lot of emphasis on security, so they would rather [the JMB or MC] spend more money hiring guards from a prestigious company while there may be some who think that [the JMB or MC] should spend the money to clean the swimming pool daily because they use it often,” he explains.

Wong: To derive the share units in a strata scheme, there is a standard formula under the Fourth Schedule of the Strata Titles Rules 2015. (Photos by Low Yen Yeing/EdgeProp.my)

The problem with a low maintenance fee

The Malaysian Institute of Property and Facility Managers (MIPFM) president Sarkunan Subramaniam tells EdgeProp.my that problems often arise when the property developers set a lower-than-normal maintenance fee in the initial period to induce sales.

“During the first two years, the equipment is still under the defects and liability period, so if say, the swimming pool has an issue, you can just call the technician to come over for free. However, when the JMB or MC takes over when the warranty period has passed, cost will start to be incurred,” says Sarkunan.

Under the STA 2013, developers are not supposed to pass on any deficits or liabilities to the JMB and MC.

Chur Associate’s Tan says problems can also crop up later when a developer designs a very over-the-top facility or development but prices the property at a low selling price, hence attracting the wrong user/buyer profile to the project.

Sarkunan: Problems often arise when the property developers set a lower than normal maintenance fee in the initial period to induce sales.

“If I ask you what you want in your development, you will surely say you want everything. But nobody tells you that in order to have everything, moving forward, the monthly contribution will be higher. When the entry point is low, everybody wants to buy but nobody thinks about the maintenance fee in future.

“On many occasions, it is not about who gives the best facility but who is paying for it. Are you going to use it? How often do you go to your condo’s gym or would you rather go to a gym outside? Why? Maybe because you have your own personal trainer or you don’t want to be seen by your neighbour. So are we overdesigning and overproviding?” Tan questions.

In accordance with the Strata Management Act 2013 (Act 757) (SMA), developers shall hand over the maintenance and management of the strata development (common property) to the JMB not later than 12 months of vacant possession or the MC, should the strata titles be issued and transferred to the purchasers, whichever is earlier.

The items developers are required to hand over include the list of assets, fixtures and fittings, as-built plans, operation manuals as well as the audited accounts of the service charges, deposits and sinking fund as prescribed under the SMA via Form 4 (for JMB) and Form 13 (for MC).

The JMB and MC can then decide by votes or by appointing a registered property management company to suggest an amount for the maintenance fee.

“The owner has the right to request to see the accounts during the Annual General Meeting related to expenditure and raise the matter during the meeting,” says Knight Frank’s Kuruvilla.

However, he points out that he has yet to come across a developer that has charged the parcel owners more than what they are supposed to pay. In fact, the chances are higher that due to non-payment, the management account is likely to be in deficit resulting in there being insufficient funds to carry out proper maintenance and management of the development.

The problem with strata living is, everybody wants to have a well-maintained place to live but not everyone is prepared to pay for it.

“This is why the government passed the Strata Management Act 2013 (and Acts before this) so that after one year post development, it will give the parcel purchasers/proprietors the opportunity to manage the property and thereby giving them an understanding by getting first-hand knowledge in what it takes to maintain and manage a development well. Until one is directly involved, one will not be able to appreciate why service charges have to be paid on time to ensure there is sufficient funds to pay for the maintenance and management of the development.”

This story first appeared in the EdgeProp.my pullout on Nov 30, 2018. You can access back issues here..
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Politicising education hurts the Chinese


As Malaysia tackles a RM1 trillion national debt, it may be wise for Lim Guan Eng to focus on revitalising the economy than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant

WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community.

The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC. The fuming Chinese community is now taking up the issue as TAR UC, along with Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), another institution of higher learning linked to MCA, has provided affordable education to many Chinese students over the past 50 years.

The removal of the matching grant to TAR UC – an annual amount given by the Barisan Nasional government to the university college previously to match the funds it raised – will negatively impact its continued survival.

Hence, emotive comments against Lim have been dominating the vernacular media since the grant issue emerged.

A petition against the Finance Ministry has also been launched.

Notably, though they are two non-profit institutions set up by MCA – TAR UC in 1969 and UTAR in 2001 – they are now seen as part and parcel of the Chinese community, which has been supporting their operation and expansion with billions in cash donations and land.

The late philanthropist of Penang, Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, told me in an interview in 1991 that he had contributed land and cash to TAR UC. Other Chinese tycoons, too, have privately shared such information with me.

Together with the matching grants from the government totalling RM1.353bil over the last 50 years, MCA was able to expand the reach of the university college, from Setapak to Penang, Sabah and Pahang.

In the last 17 years, MCA also built UTAR campuses in Sungai Long (Selangor) and Kampar (Perak).

In the five decades since TAR UC started, children from poor Chinese families and other ethnic groups, regardless of political leanings, have benefitted from the education offered by it due to its affordable fees.

In fact, TAR UC and UTAR are two of MCA’s best non-political projects which have contributed tremendously to the Chinese society, to compensate for its past failure to safeguard Chinese rights in the Umno-dominated Barisan regime.

Putting into historical context, TAR UC – which started as TAR College before being upgraded to university college status in 2013 – was a product of political compromise when non-­bumiputra student intake into the five public universities then was limited by the introduction of the bumiputra quota. The one-to-one matching grant enabled TAR UC to provide an avenue for higher education for those from the lower-income group as well as performing students denied entry into public universities by the quota system.

Hence on Sept 15, 1972, Datuk Hussein Onn, the then-Education Minister, handed over the Instrument of Government to the institution.

A 77ha plot in Setapak was allocated for the construction of TAR College’s main campus.

Later, UTAR was set up and officially launched on Aug 13, 2002, by then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad after higher education in the private sector was liberalised.

According to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, some 200,000 students have graduated from TAR UC/UTAR over the past 50 years.

Currently, the student population in the two institutions totals 28,000. Employees stand at 1,500 (60% Chinese, 40% non-Chinese).

These figures show that not just the Chinese have benefitted from the existence of UTAR and TAR UC but the Malays and Indians as well. Among the Pakatan Harapan leaders who were beneficiaries of the TAR affordable education are Cabinet ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as well as Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and exco member Chong Eng.

As these two institutions have become integral to the Chinese community, it is natural that vernacular newspapers are following closely the developments in this issue.

From the writing in the Chinese media, it can be seen that this issue is threatening to become a “Chinese community vs LGE/DAP” confrontation. This may not augur well for Lim.

While there are people who agree with Lim’s argument to separate education from politics, and that MCA must cut its links with these institutions, they form a miserable minority.

In a strongly worded comment piece “Play-killing UTAR”, Sin Chew Daily deputy editor-in-chief Tay Tian Yan points out that in speaking up on the grant issue, it is not meant to support MCA, but to show concern for the future generations of the Chinese community, particularly those from the poorer classes.

In response to Lim’s warning to MCA that the two institutions cannot raise tuition fees, Tay concludes: “UTAR will die an eventual death if it cannot raise fees and is not given a grant. What will be the future of our Chinese youth?”

Generally, Lim is seen as abusing his power to punish his political rivals and in the process undermine the interest of his very own community. Such political gimmicks should be stopped when dealing with taxpayers’ money, given that 80% of the country’s revenue is contributed by Chinese businesses and individuals in the form of taxes.

For many people, it is particularly repugnant when Lim threatened to “take action” against MCA if the institutions raise tuition fees.

In a China Press editorial yesterday, Lim was reminded that last year when he was Penang Chief Minister, he had said education allocations to schools should be given regardless of political backgrounds. And he acted fairly.

“But after LGE became Finance Minister, his statement last year on equality dissipated. Shouldn’t the former Penang CM give a big scolding to the current Finance Minister?” asks the writer mockingly.

The Pakatan government has also been reminded that 95% of Chinese voted them in to oust the previous administration in the May 9 general election. Their support should not be taken for granted and forgotten.

In short, TAR UC and UTAR should not be penalised just because of their parental link with MCA.

Looking at national development, these two institutions have nurtured much talent to serve the country, particularly in the field of accountancy.

File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
File photo of UTAR’s Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.

In fact, from my own observations, these institutions are more professionally run than many other private colleges and universities.

For this reason, and for their affordable fees, my husband and I sent our daughter to study in UTAR. She graduated last June.

As the country is confronted with a slowing economy and has to tackle a national debt of over RM1 trillion, it may be wiser for Lim to focus on revitalising the economy and other bigger national issues than to whip up a confrontation with his own community over a RM30mil grant.

By  Ho Wah Foon, The Star

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Ministers and leaders who benefited from UTAR UC & UTAR, removed matching grants to varsity


Varsity grads: Chew says he is disappointed with Lim for removing the matching grants when some leaders like (from left) Kok, Salahuddin and Saifuddin were products of the MCA-linked
institut
ions.

KUALA LUMPUR: MCA has pointed out that several Pakatan Harapan leaders were beneficiaries of MCA-linked institutions of higher learning.

MCA central committee member Datuk Chew Kok Woh named ministers Teresa Kok, Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the beneficiaries.

He said even Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and state executive councillor Chong Eng were products of Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, then known as KTAR, and now TAR UC.

Chew expressed disappointment that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had removed matching grants to TAR UC.

He said although TAR UC and Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman were set up by MCA, they were never used for political reasons, saying all the graduates could verify TAR UC and UTAR were apolitical.

He said these institutions were professionally run, adding Lim’s decision spoke volumes about his “politics of vindictiveness”.

In fact, he said, the decision was a timely reminder that DAP had done nothing for education except to criticise.

“What has DAP done for Chinese education? Name us one,” he said in a statement.

He said DAP should not punish parents and students by depriving them of affordable education because of political reasons.

Chew feared that Lim’s action would lead to higher tuition fees at these institutions.

He said many parents, who could not afford private colleges and universities, depended on TAR UC and UTAR.

Chew said the two institutions had produced more than 180,000 graduates of high calibre since its inception in 1969, while UTAR has 56,000 graduates since 2005.

“We need to put aside politics to help Malaysians, especially those from the lower-income background,” he said.

Chew said TAR UC and UTAR graduates, including these Pakatan leaders, could vouch that these two institutions were not “MCA indoctrination centres”.

It was recently announced by Lim that the government would only allocate a RM5.5mil development fund for UTAR and TAR UC, instead of a RM30mil matching grant for TAR UC.

Lim insisted that both education institutes break off ties with MCA before the government provides more allocation for the two institutions.

In the Dewan Rakyat, Ayer Hitam MP and MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong debated with Lim, stating that the matching grants were vital to help ensure lower student fees for the two institutions.

On Facebook, Dr Wee expressed his disappointment in the Finance Minister’s reply, adding that TAR UC was wholly owned by the TARC Education Foundation and should not be seen as part of MCA’s assets, and that the university college also submitted audited accounts to the Education Ministry every year.

Dr Wee also told reporters in Parliament House that TAR UC might have to increase its fees to cover operational costs.

Founded in February 1969 as KTAR, the institute was upgraded to university college status in May 2013 and renamed TAR UC.- The Star

Related News

 

Politicising education hurts the Chinese

 WHEN Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in his Budget 2019 presented early this month, removed the RM30mil matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), it hurt not just the MCA but also the Chinese community. The government will provide a mere RM5.5mil as development fund to TAR UC.
File photo of UTAR's Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.
UTAR’s Faculty of Business and Finance in Kampar, Perak.

 

Environmental impact of cryptocurrency


Ten years ago, an anonymous cryptographer laid out the principles of an online currency that would operate beyond
the reach of governments and central banks. — dpa

BITCOIN was supposed to solve the problems of analogue currencies. Instead, it created a new one: an enormous amount of global energy consumption that rivals the power usage of an entire country like Ireland.

According to findings of a new study, the implementation of this cryptocurrency could lead to enough emissions being produced so that global temperatures rise 2°C by 2033.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that the hardware and electricity needs of Bitcoin alone could significantly impact climate change for the worse.

“Currently, the emissions from transportation, housing and food are considered the main contributors to ongoing climate change. This research illustrates that Bitcoin should be added to this list,” said Katie Taladay, one of the paper’s co-authors from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The technical design of how transactions are processed causes Bitcoin and many of the growing numbers of rival cryptocurrencies to consume an enormous amount of energy in so-called Bitcoin mining centres around the world.

And yet the digital currency Bitcoin is still enjoying hype as one of the greatest financial phenomenons of our time.

The foundation for Bitcoin was laid out 10 years ago when an anonymous cryptographer using the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a paper laying out the principles for autonomous digital money.

The ideas it contained were revolutionary: No control by central banks, no national borders.

Instead, a mechanism called blockchain would provide trust and security in the system. In broad strokes, blockchain is a publicly viewable ledger of transactions, each saved one after the other.

But as the cryptocurrency’s wild fluctuations and electricity needs have attracted a lot of media attention, the ramifications of the latter have only recently been brought to light.

In a different article published in May by financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries, the electricity consumption of Bitcoin was estimated to be around the same as the electricity use of the Republic of Ireland.

De Vries also predicted that Bitcoin could be using as much as half of a percent of the world’s total electricity consumption by the end of this year.

“To me, half a percent is already quite shocking. It’s an extreme difference compared to the regular financial system, and this increasing electricity demand is definitely not going to help us reach our climate goals,” de Vries said.

“With the ever-growing devastation created by hazardous climate conditions, humanity is coming to terms with the fact that climate change is as real and personal as it can be,” said Camilo Mora, associate professor of geography in the College of Social Sciences at UH Manoa, Hawaii.

“Clearly, any further development of cryptocurrencies should critically aim to reduce electricity demand,” Mora, the lead author of the new study warns.

So as Bitcoin celebrates 10 years since its creation and it gains more and more supporters each year, we should probably take a moment and give this energy-sucking technology a re-think. – dpa By AMY WALKER

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