Recession fears hit Asian region including Singapore


Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs. The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter.

TALK of recession has hit the region, and near home, Maybank Kim Eng Research is flagging that possibility for Singapore in the next quarter.

Export-reliant economies are hard hit by slowing growth and supply chain disruptions caused by the prolonged US-China trade and tech war.

There may be a ceasefire now in the fight between the US and China following talks between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Osaka last Saturday.

Existing US tariffs on Chinese imports still remain; additional tariffs on the remaining US$300 bil worth of Chinese imports, as threatened, will not be imposed for now

However, the new timeline for truce remains elusive; the suspicion is that of a “creeping” imposition of tariffs, as “each truce is followed by new tariffs and then, another truce.”

In December last year, Trump and Xi had struck a truce following which talks broke down in May this year, and tariffs on US$200bil of Chinese imports leaped from 10% to 25%.

Will there be light out of this tunnel, with harder issues involving tech and supremacy not tackled? Smaller economies with the fiscal and monetary space may be able to cushion their economies somewhat from the downdraft on growth.

Malaysia may, to a certain extent, be less vulnerable with the revival of major construction projects which in view of the country’s strained finances, have been shrunk to cut costs.

The Bandar Malaysia and East Coast Rail Link projects to be revived, are now downsized to RM144bil and RM44bil respectively.

Works for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) 3, from Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya to Johan Setia in Klang, will resume in the second half of the year, at a reduced cost of RM16.63bil.

Talks are said to be ongoing to revive the Mass Rapid Transit Line (MRT) 3, or MRT Circle Line round the city centre, at possibly RM22.5bil which is half the original cost.

“The timing (of the revival of these projects) has been very good for Malaysia,’’ said Pong Teng Siew, the head of research at Inter-Pacific Securities. “These projects will go on for several years and positively impact the economy over that period.’’

Domestic spending and activities will provide ‘some comfort’ to the local economy but we should ensure that any further monetary easing actually goes into the real economy to support these activities, according to Anthony Dass, head of AmBank Research.

Malaysia’s private consumption was at a record 59.5% of its nominal (calculated at current market prices) Gross Domestic Product, which hit US$88.5 bil in March, 2019, according to CEIC Data.

Benefits from trade diversion from China, the current US tariff hotspot, are offset by downward pressure on global trade where volume was flat in the first quarter, the weakest since the financial crisis.

Global semiconductor sales also declined in February and March, the first back-to-back double digit contraction since the financial crisis.

In view of this decline, the volatile global trade environment and rising geopolitical tensions, open economies “should be prepared for the unexpected,’’ said Nor Zahidi Alias, the associate director of economic research of Malaysian Rating Corp.

The Singapore economy may undergo a “shallow, technical recession” in the third quarter, said Maybank Kim Eng, pointing to possible intensification of supply chain disruptions and US export controls on more Chinese tech firms.

Following the Trump-Xi talks, the US has reversed its equipment sales ban on Huawei but will that ease fears of other similar bans down the road? Defined as two consecutive quarters of negative quarter-on-quarter growth, a recession will prompt further easing of monetary policy in Singapore.

Manufacturing in Singapore, which accounts for a fifth of the economy, fell 2.4%, with electronics dropping 10.8% in May from a year ago; output is expected to decline again in June.

Hong Kong has also been issued warnings of recession, as its economy experienced the largest contraction since 2011, declining by 0.4% in the first quarter against the previous quarter.

Thailand’s economy grew at its slowest pace in four years, in the first quarter, hitting 2.8% from 3.6% in the same period last year; exports remain weak.

Taiwan’s economy avoided contraction in the first quarter but private consumption and gross capital formation slowed significantly while government consumption declined.

In the US, a mis-calibration in interest rate policy by the Federal Reserve can cause a sharper slowdown than expected or bring on a recession.“Monetary policy affects the economy with unpredictable lags, it could be hard for the Fed to time its policy (rate cut) that can prevent a downturn this and next year,’’ said Lee Heng Guie, the executive director of Socio Economic Research Center.

Columnist Yap Leng Kuen notes the reminder to ‘expect the unexpected.’

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Singapore seen set to suffer more than other regional nations due to Trade War

Commodity, equity markets may see ‘huge rally’ – Business News

 

Fearing stock market rout, investors seek shelter in dependable Devidends

Boon Siew group in mega land deal – Business News

 

 

 

US anti-China hawks may yet scupper trade deal

Even though there are signs of China-US trade frictions turning around, as the US political system will not fundamentally change in the short term, China must remain vigilant and prepare for a long-term trade war, in case the hawks gain the upper hand.

 

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Uncertainty over the future of US-China economic relations has derailed the once high-flying global equity market, which rose almost 15 per .

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Panic In Washington, US currency traders on the frontlines as Trump’s 2-year stock honeymoon ends with hunt for betrayer and govt shutdown


Panic In Washington – Treasury Secretary Calls Top Bankers To Check Liquidity, While On Vacation

 

  Jerome Powell Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Currency Traders on Front Line as Markets Stay Wary of U.S. Risk

The final week of 2018 could prove tumultuous for investors as holiday-thinned trading combines with a growing array of pressures on markets.

Traders in the $5.1 trillion-a-day currency market were among the first to respond to a partial U.S. government shutdown and a report that President Donald Trump has discussed firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The dollar slipped against its Group-of-10 peers, while the yen, seen by many as a haven, gained for a seventh day.

Treasury futures climbed in early Asian hours before paring their advance. Cash bonds trading was shut in Asia due to a holiday in Japan, the first in a week that will see a number of closures across major markets.

Sentiment in global financial markets has already taken a beating with the S&P 500 Index just recording its worst week in seven years. Increased uncertainty over the leadership of the Fed could add to turmoil along with a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, although assurances from U.S. Treasury Steven Mnuchin about liquidity and the future of the central bank chief may ease some concerns.

The Treasuries yield curve last week moved closer than ever to its first post-crisis inversion and the rally in safer assets dragged the 10-year yield below 2.75 percent for the first time since April. However, given that much of the upheaval is emanating from the U.S., it is not entirely clear whether Treasuries, and also the U.S. dollar, will act as reliable havens should Powell’s leadership face a genuine threat.

Societe Generale SA’s head of U.S. rates strategy Subadra Rajappa said she thinks a change in Fed leadership is “extremely unlikely,” though she’s not ruling out the possibility of the president persuading Powell to “resign.”

“If it comes to that, given the backdrop of the recent government shutdown, investors might be less inclined to treat Treasuries as safe haven assets,” she said by email. “A change in Fed leadership will likely rattle the already-fragile financial markets and further tighten financial conditions.”

Market participants are generally of the view that Powell will not be fired, and senior administration officials say Trump recognizes he doesn’t have that authority. But even continued exploration of the possibility could make for a volatile week.

The market response to a material threat to the Fed’s independence would be complicated, according to Steve Englander, head of global G-10 FX research and North America macro strategy for Standard Chartered Bank. He said near-term uncertainty over the process and politics in a fluid situation would weigh on equity prices and bond yields. The dollar, he said, would likely face multiple opposing forces, but the “near-term response is likely negative on the risk that U.S. economic policy becomes more erratic.”

Kitchen Sink

The Bloomberg Dollar Index was up more than 4 percent in 2018 at the end of last week and is close to its highest level in a year and a half, while the Japanese yen surged around 2 percent last week versus the greenback.

Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, is among the few eyeing the strained relations between the president and the Fed chair with equanimity.

The stock market “has discounted everything but the kitchen sink, including the loss of a Fed Chair who hasn’t been in office for even a year yet,” he said by email.

Given that the Fed is already close to the end of its hiking cycle, the markets won’t melt down if Powell leaves office, according to Rupkey. “They already did,” he said.

Those on the front lines of this week’s opening trade say markets are on a knife edge.

Mind the Machines

“If equity markets fall further, they’re going to set off machine-based selling,” said Saed Abukarsh, the co-founder of Dubai-based hedge fund Ark Capital Management. “The other risk is that experienced traders are on holiday, so the ones left will be trigger happy with every new headline.”

“I can’t see buyers stepping into this market to stem off any selling pressure until January,” said Abukarsh. “So if you need to adjust your books for the year-end with any meaningful size, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

Trump’s two-year stock honeymoon ends with hunt for betrayer

Nobody was happier to take credit for surging stocks than Donald Trump, who touted and tweeted each leg up. Now the bull is on life support and the search for its killer is on.

And while many on Wall Street share the president’s frustration with the man atop his markets enemies list, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, they say Trump himself risks making things worse with too much aggression when equities are one bad session away from a bear market.

“You would think that after coming off of the worst week for the markets since the financial crisis in 2008, he would look to create some stability,” said Chuck Cumello, CEO of Essex Financial Services. “Instead we get the opposite, with this headline and more self-induced uncertainty. This coming from a president who when the market goes up views it as a barometer of his success.”

U.S. stock futures whipsawed Monday and were little changed after swinging from a 0.9 percent gain to a loss of the same magnitude. The equity market closes at 1 p.m. in New York ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Click here to see all of Trump’s tweets on the economy and markets.

Attempts by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reassure markets that Powell wouldn’t be ousted appeared to have largely removed that as an immediate concern for traders, but the secretary’s tweet Sunday that he called top executives from the six largest U.S. banks to check on their liquidity and lending infrastructure added to anxiety.

To be sure, equities remain solidly higher since Trump took office. Even with its 17 percent drop over the last three months, the S&P 500 has risen 18 percent since Election Day. The Nasdaq Composite Index is up 25 percent with dividends. True, volatility has jumped to a 10-month high, but market turbulence was significantly worse for three long stretches under Barack Obama.

The S&P 500 slumped 7.1 percent last week and the Nasdaq Composite Index spiraled into a bear market. As of 2:31 p.m. in Hong Kong, futures on the S&P 500 were up 0.6 percent while Nasdaq 100 contracts added 0.5 percent.

While Trump seems to have found his villain in Powell, blame is a dubious concept in financial markets, as anyone who has tried to explain the current rout can attest.

Along with the Fed chairman, everything from rising bond yields, trade tariffs, falling bond yields, Brexit, tech valuations and Italian finances have been implicated in the downdraft that has erased $5 trillion from American equity values in three months.

Whatever’s behind it, nothing has been able to stop it. And while many on Wall Street credit the president for helping jump-start the market after taking office, they say he should look in the mirror to see another person creating stress for it right now.

“Trump was gloating how much good he had done for the economy and the market. Now he’s blaming Powell for the decline instead of himself,” said Rick Bensignor, founder of Bensignor Group and a former strategist for Morgan Stanley. “Half his key staff has been fired or quit. The markets are off for a variety of reasons, but most of them have Trump behind them.”

If Trump is bent on getting rid of Powell, there may be ways of doing it that don’t risk kicking a volatile market into hysteria, said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, a senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It doesn’t have to be firing, it could be someone else taking Powell’s job. That could be a net positive for the markets,” Hellwig said. “A friendly change in the head of the Fed may cause some turbulence short-term but it may be offset with the markets repricing the risk associated with two rate hikes in 2019.”

For now, the turmoil shows no signs of letting up. In the Nasdaq 100, home to tech giants like Apple Inc. and Amazon.com, there have been 17 sessions with losses greater than 1.5 percent this quarter, the most since 2009. Small caps are down 26 percent from a record, while the Nasdaq Biotech Index has dropped at least 1 percent on seven straight days, the longest streak since its inception in 1993.

It’s been a long time since anyone in the U.S. has lived through this protracted a decline. Including Trump.

”It’s impossible to tease out what the proximate causes are,” said Kevin Caron, a senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors. “The normal ebb and flow of financial markets are all part of the mix. It’s impossible just to point to the chairman as the only input.”

Credit: Bloomberg

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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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In custody: A profile of Meng is displayed on a computer at a Huawei store in Beijing. The Chinese government, speaking
through its embassy in Canada, strenuously objected to the arrest, and  demanded Meng’s immediate release.  
AP

Goldman Sachs staring at ‘significant penalties’, its system of accounting controls could be easily circumvented


Goldman Sachs (U.S. Financial Institution #1) – “knowingly and willfully conspired to circumvent and cause to be circumvented a system of international accounting controls at [Goldman Sachs], contrary to the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act]

From left: Leissner, Ng and Low.

Goldman Sachs Group has acknowledged that it may receive “significant penalties” resulting from its deals with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

It also recognised that it had weaknesses in its compliance controls, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

In its third-quarter earnings filing to regulators, the investment management firm made citations about the indictment against its former employees for bribery and money laundering involving 1MDB, WSJ said.

Although it had acknowledged that it could face “significant penalties resulting from 1MDB”, Goldman Sachs said it was also cooperating with investigators, the report on Monday said.

According to WSJ, Goldman Sachs wrote in the filing that the indictment alleged the firm’s “system of internal accounting controls could be easily circumvented and that the firm’s business culture, particularly in South-East Asia, at times prioritised consummation of deals ahead of the proper operation of its compliance functions”.

The filing also mentioned that former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng had “circumvented the firm’s internal accounting controls in part by intentionally deceiving control personnel and internal committees”.

Goldman Sachs is said to have received nearly RM2.5bil (US$600mil) in fees from the 1MDB deal.

Previously, the Financial Times reported that Goldman Sachs had helped 1MDB sell about RM27bil (US$6.5bil) of bonds between 2012 and 2013, two years before the authorities raided 1MDB’s offices to investigate allegations of massive fraud.

In a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Goldman Sachs estimated that possible losses related to litigation proceedings could run as high as US$1.8bil (RM7.49bil) above its total reserves for such matters.

Previously, Goldman Sachs estimated litigation losses to be in excess of US$1.5bil (RM6.24 bil).

The Financial Times also reported that almost 30 people from Goldman Sachs had reviewed 1MDB deal’s approval process.

Meanwhile, in a 2016 indictment, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) alleged that most of the money raised with Goldman Sachs’ help was siphoned off by Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low.

The fugitive businessman together with bankers Ng and Leissner were indicted by the DoJ on Thursday for conspiring to launder money and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in relation to 1MDB.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violating anti-bribery laws. He has been ordered to forfeit US$43.7mil (RM182.27mil) as a result of his crimes.

The criminal charges relating to 1MDB are the first by DoJ.

In 2016, the DOJ reportedly recovered over US$1bil (RM4.17bil being the current conversion rate) that was allegedly stolen, and sought the forfeiture of property, including a Bombardier private jet, Manhattan penthouse, Beverly Hills mansion and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Low is currently wanted in Malaysia and Singa­pore and other countries over investigations into 1MDB.

In a separate report by the Associated Press, PKR incoming president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that Low would be given a fair trial.

Anwar said he was “quite pleased” with developments in the case so far and that investigations in the United States, Malaysia and Singapore and other places were “progressing very well”.

The report also said Anwar had hinted that more former officials could be tried on corruption charges.

Malaysia has applied for a Red Notice to seek assistance from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong via Interpol, and Taiwan via diplomatic channels to arrest Low. – The Star

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Goldman Sachs CEO: I feel horrible ex-bankers broke law in 1MDB case

https://content.jwplatform.com/players/r3OlEq4I-d74adXtC.html

SINGAPORE (Reuters): Goldman Sachs chief executive officer David Solomon said on Wednesday he felt “horrible” that two former employees “blatantly broke the law” in their dealings with 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

US prosecutors filed criminal charges against the two former Goldman bankers and a Malaysian financier linked to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the fund.

An investigation into where 1MDB’s money went became the largest carried out by the Department of Justice under its anti-kleptocracy programme, and the scandal was a major reason why Malaysian voters rejected Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, their prime minister for nearly a decade, in the May 9 general election.

“It is obviously very distressing to see two former Goldman Sachs employees went so blatantly around our policies and so blatantly broke the law,” Solomon said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Singapore.

“I feel horrible about the fact that people who worked at Goldman Sachs, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a partner or it’s an entry level employee, would go around our policies and break the law,” Solomon said.

US prosecutors announced last week that Tim Leissner, former partner for Goldman Sachs in Asia, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit US$43.7mil (RM181.8mil).

Roger Ng, the other charged former Goldman banker, was arrested in Malaysia and is expected to be extradited.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact Ng’s lawyer on Wednesday. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment after US prosecutors unveiled the charges last Thursday.

Goldman has also placed its former co-head of Asia investment banking, Andrea Vella, on leave over his role in the firm’s involvement with the case, pending a review of allegations, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The Wall Street bank said in a securities filing on Friday that it may also face penalties from dealings with 1MDB.

Asked if he could provide assurances that neither he, former CEO Lloyd Blankfein or any of the senior management team suspected illegality or compliance breaches in dealings with 1MDB, Solomon said:

“We take compliance and control in our firm extremely seriously, we always have…We are going to continue to cooperate with the authorities and there’s a process in place and that process will proceed.” According to prosecutors, the investment bank generated about US$600mil (RM2.49bil) in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised US$6.5bil (RM23.29bil). Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told Reuters in June that the government will be looking at the possibility of seeking claims from Goldman Sachs.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia will look into why Goldman was paid around US$600mil in fees, an amount that critics say exceeds normal levels.

Goldman has maintained that the outsized fees related to the additional risks it took on after it bought the un-rated bonds while it sought investors and, in the case of the 2013 deal which raised US$2.7bil (RM11.24bil), 1MDB wanted the funds in a hurry for a planned investment.

The new Malaysian government has barred Najib and his wife from leaving the country, and the former premier faces multiple charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power, though he has consistently denied any wrongdoing related to 1MDB.

In another interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said it would be “inexcusable” if Goldman Sachs was complicit in the scandal. – Reuters

Guan Eng: Goldman Sachs should return RM2.4bil fees – Nation

American investment bank Goldman Sachs should return the US$588mil (RM2.4bil) in it was paid for 1MDB-related matters, says Lim Guan Eng.

The Finance Minister said the fees were for raising bonds totalling US$6.5 billion (RM23.29 billion) for the Malaysian state investment firm back in 2012 and 2013.

“They must pay us back this money, not only the US$588mil but much more than that,” he said during a briefing on Budget 2019 at Hotel Equatorial Penang on Wednesday (Nov 7).

He said there were consequential losses due to the fees paid as it had cost Malaysia big losses.

This was in respond to Goldman Sachs chief executive officer David Solomon, who admitted that their employees had broken the law over 1MDB matters.

Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/11/08/guan-eng-goldman-sachs-should-return-rm2_4bil-fees/#wqMtc2F6O1jC35UJ.99

 

Goldman Lunch at Taste Paradise Sets Table for 1MDB Money Probe

 

Goldman Sachs banker’s obscene commissions netted 11% from 1MDB believed to be most compelling evidence of rogue behaviour

 

Here is how 1MDB money was used to buy Equanimity

 

1MDB scandalous Bombardier Global 500 Jet parking fees of RM3.5mil to be paid if govt wants it back

Goldman Sachs banker’s obscene commissions netted 11% from 1MDB believed to be most compelling evidence of rogue behaviour


Jho Low Has Offered A Deal To The DOJ

 

Settling the civil action would free up prosecutors to pursue the Goldman bond issued on behalf of 1MDB, which netted the bank suspiciously obsence commissions of up to 11% –  Sarawak Report

Sarawak Report has learnt that Jho Low’s new legal team, headed by the well-connected former federal prosecutor and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, has already obtained a high-level meeting with officials of the DOJ and that at that meeting they offered to come to a settlement on behalf of the fugitive Malaysian advisor to 1MDB.

This would represent an effective acknowledgement by Low, who is currently believed to be holed up in China, that he is unlikely to be able to persuade the US courts to return some $1.2 billion in assets seized from him alone, which investigators have traced to money stolen from Malaysia’s development fund.

However, by cutting a deal the billionaire, who is facing criminal charges in Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland and elsewhere, including the United States, will be hoping to retain some of the value of the assets.
Malaysia Kept On Sidelines?

Malaysian entities have expressed concern that the United States authorities may be tempted to negotiate with Jho Low’s new, high-powered legal team, in order to close a case that could otherwise carry on for years. Notably, the US recently refused to grant a Malaysian official request for a guarantee it would return all the money back from the assets seized.

“It doesn’t mean that the United States will not return the money to Malaysia, but it does mean the US is insisting on keeping control over the process and that might include settling the case for less than the entire amount”

one person who is well versed in the matter explained to Sarawak Report. It is further understood that the approach from Jho Low’s team has not yet been formally discussed with the Malaysian authorities, who may very well react with dismay at the prospect of any settlement of this nature.

Particularly galling to Malaysians is the likelihood that Low’s new and well-connected legal advisors are being generously paid by money that was itself stolen from 1MDB. US investigators have been reported as concluding that the origin of the cash received by Christie and one of President Donald Trump’s go-to law firms, Kasowitz Benson Torres, is indeed 1MDB.

Likewise, the money sent to pay the libel lawyers Schillings in the UK, which has been doing its best to disrupt the publising othe the book The Sarawak Report as well as the Wall Street Journal’s own book in Britain, is also thought to trace back to 1MDB.
Going For Goldman Sachs

The apparent willingness of US prosecutors to discuss such matters with Low’s new team and the news that they may indeed be tempted to reach a deal, may indicate that the DOJ sleuths are already focusing on other aspects of the case, informed observers have told Sarawak Report: namely the pursuit of the banking giant Goldman Sachs. Settling the civil action would free up prosecutors to pursue the Goldman bond issues on behalf of 1MDB, which netted the bank suspiciously obscene commissions of up to 11%.

The bank has earned the anger and ill-feeling of countless Americans as a result of its pivotal role in causing the crash of 2008 and yet none of its bankers have been brought to book so far. The apparent negligence and huge sums earned through 1MDB have provided US investigators their most compelling evidence yet against what many believe to be rogue behaviour by the major bank.

It was Sarawak Report that first exposed the huge commissions being earned by Goldman Sachs from 1MDB in 2013, by publishing the terms of two so-called power purchase bonds, which together with a later third offering netted commissions totalling just under $600 million for the bank. The market price for such services was a fraction of that amount.

The former South East Asia boss, Tim Leissner has already been picked up in the United States and is understood to be cooperating with the DOJ enquiries. A new case against the global bank is where 1MDB now seems headed as it gains even more international significance.
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Report: Jho Low Seeking Deal with DoJ — The True Net

 

Jho Low planning to negotiate deal with DOJ – Nation | The Star Online

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Wising up to a whale of a tale   Once upon a time,  Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had…

Wising up to a Billion Dollar Whale of a tale


 

Wising up to a whale of a tale

Once upon a time, Malaysians were enchanted with Jho Lows champagne lifestyle and proud that he had friends in high places. We now know better.

IF a poll was conducted to ask Malaysians to name their 10 most hated people, Low Taek Jho – also known as Jho Low – would surely be in the top five, if not three.

There has been a quick succession of books on the 1Malaysia Dev­elopment Bhd (1MDB) saga and in the one by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Billion Dollar Whale, Low is the central villainous character.

Yet for a brief shining moment, this man was the pride of his home state and the nation.

Then Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng was reported as saying that he was proud to note the accomplishments of overseas Pen­angites, including this particularly “well-connected” fellow.

That was back in July 2010 when a mysterious Malaysian man of means started hitting the headlines for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, and counted actors Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Usher as his good friends.

When Hilton – the glamour party girl before the Kardashians overtook her – was detained by drug enforcement officers in Paris in 2010, she was reportedly travelling with “personalities close to power in Malay­sia”, Low being identified as one of them.

In just three months, his champagne-infused big spending ways – US$50,000 (RM206,800) or US$60,000 (RM248,190) a pop – set New York’s nightlife scene on fire and caught the attention of the US media. And that was how Low became famous.

Oh wait! He’s Malaysian, not some little emperor from Shanghai or Shen­zhen, so we puffed up with pride at the success of one of our own.

Somehow, the ability to party with the rich and famous became a yardstick for success. The assumption was that Low must have done something great to be so filthy rich and make such “friends”.

Low, then 28, became a subject of intense curiosity that Malaysian and foreign media wanted to know.

Then The Star landed an exclusive interview with him. The two hours with him provided enough fodder for stories spread over two days on July 29 and 30, 2010.

The interview covered topics like his Arab childhood friends and investors whom he said were the real big spenders, how he made his first million when he was just 20 and his expertise in setting up sovereign wealth funds.

Yes, we were pretty pleased with ourselves for beating the competition in getting Low to speak.

The interview was picked up by other newspapers and portals locally, regionally and internationally.

The Star took efforts to provide Low’s personal details like his age, birthplace, education and languages spoken.

What I also found amusing was that we also gave his height (1.7m) and his weight (88kg), which is not common for such interviews. That was probably our nice way of indicating how chubby he was.

The stories were positive pieces, painting Low as a successful role model. Of course, at that time, no one suspected that he was the mastermind behind the world’s biggest kleptocracy.

We were simply dazzled by his partying playboy high life and accepted in good faith all his claims on why he was successful: he went to the right schools, from Chung Ling to Wharton School of Business, made well-connected, influential friends (especially Arab royals) and got a great financial start.

As The Star reported: “At the age of 20, (he) started an investment company called The Wynton Group with US$25mil (RM103.4mil) from family and South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The investment company in which he owns a stake is now worth in excess of US$1bil (RM4.1bil).”

Penang businessman Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping, a close family friend, described Low as a very bright person who respected his elders.

He was also “an active person, has a corporate brain and his public relations skills are equally good. He’s also quite a fast eater.

“I watched him grow up since he was a kid and I knew he was brilliant, but I never thought he would be so successful,” said Tan.

A reader who was so impressed by the Star exclusive blogged about his son having studied in Harrow in Bangkok and opined: “He (the son) is certainly no Jho Low, but I hope he can learn the positives from Jho’s life and work hard and be successful.”

Well, we now know better how Low operated and whose money he was spending on his celebrity friends and more.

From the man with the Midas touch, he has become the embarrassment no famous person wants to touch. I doubt Hilton or Usher takes his calls anymore. He is a fugitive on the lam, hunted by governments around the globe.

Much as he is furiously claiming innocence, he is indeed our billion-dollar whale. The whale is a metaphor in business, meaning to land large accounts that can transform a small company into a major player.

A whale can also mean a businessman who is close to a country’s regime, is protected by the state and receives government contracts and large bank loans without any collateral, as explained in the book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty.

The maddening fact is this portly plunderer is hard to find. He apparently has multiple passports, including one from St Kitts and Nevis.

It’s very possible he is no longer 88kg. He could be thinner or fatter – depending on whether stress makes him eat even more and faster – or had plastic surgery, grown or lost his hair, but he should still be 1.7m tall, unless he wears hidden heels in his shoes.

Our government has said it is not sure where he’s hiding, but with Malaysians in just about every corner of the world, can we not somehow tap into this vast network? Even a whale must surface for air somehow, somewhere.

What really got my goat was what he glibly said in the Star interview: “Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country and I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But when you build the trust of investors, you need to deliver what you promised.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.”

And this: “I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

No, not in alcohol but his name is now synonymous with excessiveness in luxury acquisitions.

Oh, where’s Capt Ahab when we need him?

Aunty wants to remind all of us that truly, all that glitters is not gold. Feedback to aunty@thestar.com.my

Credit:  June H. L Wong, So aunty, so what?

 

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