2017 – expect a bumpy year ahead worldwide


This will be a year like no other, as there will be a thunderous clash of policies, economies and politics worldwide. We should prepare for the challenges ahead and not be only spectators.

THE new year has dawned. Everyone agrees 2017 will be very interesting.

It will also be most problematic. From politics to economics and finance, we’ll be on a roller-coaster ride.

With his extreme views and bulldozing style, President-elect Donald Trump is set to create an upheaval, if not revolution, in the United States and the world.

He is installing an oil company chief as the Secretary of State, investment bankers in key finance positions, climate sceptics and anti-environmentalists in environmental and energy agencies and an extreme rightwing internet media mogul as his chief strategist.

US-China relations, the most im­­por­­tant for global stability, could change from big-power co-existen­ce, with a careful combination of competition and cooperation, to outright crisis.

Trump, through his phone call with the Taiwanese president and after, signalled he could withdraw the longstanding US adherence to the One China policy and instead use Taiwan as a negotiating card in overall relations with China. The Chinese perceive this as an extreme provocation.

He has appointed as head of the new National Trade Council an economist known for his many books demonising China, including Death by China: Confronting the Dragon.

Trump seems intent on doing an about-turn on US trade policies. Measures being considered include a 45% duty on Chinese products, extra duties and taxes on American companies located abroad, and even a 10% tariff on all imports.

Thus 2017 will see protectionism rise in the United States, the extent still unknown. That is bad news for many developing countries whose economies have grown on the back of exports and international investments.

Europe in 2017 will also be pre­occupied with its own regional problems. The Brexit shock of 2016 will continue to reverberate and other countries facing elections will be less open to the world and become more inward-looking.

As protectionism, xenophobia and narrow nationalism grow in Western societies, Asian countries should devise development strategies based more on domestic and regional demand and investments.

2017 may be the year when resource-rich China, with its deve­lopment banks and its Belt and Road Initiative, fills in the economic void created by Western trade and investment protectionism.

But this may not be sufficient to prevent a finance shock in many developing countries now beginning to suffer a reversal of capital flowing back to the United States, attracted by the prospect of higher interest rates and economic growth.

In 2017 Malaysia will be among the countries most vulnerable to this, due to the large foreign ownership of local bonds and shares.

As capital flows out and the currency depreciates further, the affected countries’ companies will have to pay more for servicing loans contracted in foreign currencies and imported machinery and parts, while consumers grumble about the rising cost of living.

On the positive side, exporters will earn more in local currency terms and tourism will increase, but this may not be enough to offset the negative effects.

Thus 2017 will not be kind to the economy, business and the pockets of the common man and woman. It might even spark a new financial crisis.

The old year ended with mixed blessings for Palestinians. On one hand, they won a significant victory when the outgoing President Barack Obama allowed the adoption of a United Nations Security Council re­solution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories by not exercising a veto.

The resolution will spur international actions against the expansion of settlements which have become a big obstacle to peace talks.

On the other hand, the Israeli lea­dership, which responded defiantly with plans for more settlements, will find in Trump a much more sympathetic president. He is appointing a pro-Israel hawk as the US ambassador to Israel.

With Trump also indicating he will tear up the nuclear power deal with Iran, the Middle East will have an even more tumultuous time in 2017.

The commencement of floods in some parts of Malaysia during the holiday season, ironically following days of the taps going dry for millions in the Klang Valley, is a pre­lude to the environment continuing to be a critical issue in 2017.

Unfortunately, low priority is given to the environment. Hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated for highways, railways and urban buildings but only a trickle for conservation and rehabilitation of hills, watersheds, forests, mangroves, coastal areas, biodiversity or for serious climate change actions.

2017 should be the year when priorities change, that when people talk about infrastructure or deve­lopment, they put actions to protect and promote the environment as the first items for allocation of funds.

This new year will also be make-or-break for climate change. The momentum for action painfully built up in recent years will find a roadblock in the United States as the new president dismantles Oba­ma-initiated policies and measures.

But Trump and his team will face resistance domestically, including from state governments and muni­cipalities that have their own climate plans, and from other countries determined to carry on without the United States on board.

Indeed, if 2017 will bring big changes initiated by the new US administration, it will also generate many counter-actions to fill in the void left in the world by a withdrawing United States or to counter its new unsettling actions.

There are opportunities to think through and alternatives and re­forms that are needed on global and national economies, on the environment and on geo-­politics.

Most of the main levers of power and decision-making are still in the hands of a few countries and a few people, but there has also been the emergence of many new centres of economic, environmental and intellectual capabilities and community-based organising.

2017 will be a year in which ideas, policies, economies and politics will clash, thunderously, and we should be prepared for the challenges ahead, not just be spectators.

Global Trends By Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

Related posts:

Trump and China’s bumpy ride begins. Trump’s diplomacy. Hot button: Trump’s unpredictability is making him a big topic in China.— AFP.
Oct 12, 2016 Global Trends By Martin Khor Global Trend The Star/ANN. Martin Khor (director @southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre.
US president-elect Donald Trump gives a speech during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on Nov 8, 2016. PHOTO: AF…
Successful leader: Lee Kuan Yew has made Singapore economically
successful as a result of the purely utilitarian benefit of the rule of
t…


Year in review 2016 – MACC makes record haul in 49 years from top officers of Sabah Water dept

https://youtu.be/BL7sTmRnARk Azam Baki (L4) and other MACC officials with the cash and jewelry seized, at a press conference on Oct 5..
United against corruption for development, peace and security Aerial group photo of staff in Geneva simulating the Sustainable Developme…


Hopelessness among public after rampant fraud & corruption cases, says Auditor-General

RM2bil recovered from audits The Government seldom receives
dividends and whenever loans are given to these GLCs, they keep piling
up&…


Structural defects to blame, stop history repeating itself !
https://youtu.be/7FRTMX53TLc Sniffing out signs of life: The K-9 unit of the City Fire and Rescue operations looking for possible vict…

 
“First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are d…

Trump and China’s bumpy ride begins


Trump’s diplomacy
Hot button: Trump’s unpredictability is making him a big topic in China.— AFP

THE rest of the world will have to fasten its seat belts while the current worrying clash of superpowers China and the United States plays itself out. Although the saga of the underwater drone ended peaceably earlier this week, the drama signalled that the competition between the two has entered a new era. With help from the ubiquitous social media, their diplomatic engagement is taking place in real time swiftly, unpredictably and amid considerable tension.

The inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan 20 is expected to see US-China ties transformed into a guarded quasi-friendship requiring day-to-day reassessment. The stability that prevailed during the eight years of the Obama administration is unlikely to survive. Trump is given to knee-jerk reactions and ill-considered grandstanding for the sake of quick gain and publicity, as well as for his brash pursuit of the art of the deal, none of which bodes well for US’ relations with Beijing.

Still a month from taking office, Trump has already endangered his country’s long-standing recognition of the One China Policy by accepting a phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wan, a breach of protocol adopted after Washington formally recognised communist China in the early 1970s.

President Barack Obama immediately warned that any shift from this policy would have a serious impact on American dealings with Beijing, an important trading partner and backer of the US economy. Aiming to renegotiate extant overseas deals, Trump does not appear to care, and seems ready to test Chinese mettle on every issue.

China’s regional neighbours are aware that the nature of its relationship with the US increasingly depends on Beijing’s dealings with other countries, including the 10 nations of South-East Asia.

The attitude in the Philippines has radically changed. Whereas Manila traditionally regarded the US as the region’s military guardian, current President Rodrigo Duterte- taking umbrage at perceived American slights-has welcomed Chinese overtures. Thanks to Washington’s tendency to overreach in its authority, perceptions elsewhere are not so different.

Thus, its chief justification for wielding influence here to serve as a stopgap against China assertiveness is on the wane.

The Philippines’ abrupt refusal to be a pawn in either of the major powers games is admirable, even if it comes with risks. With sovereign territory in the South China Sea at stake, Duterte is taking a gamble in realigning with Beijing, but if those two countries can settle their differences amicably and equitably, it will have been worthwhile. The other South-East Asian claimants to maritime territories in dispute are sure to follow suit.

During the Trump presidency, more than at any time before, China has a golden opportunity to show the region and the world that it is rational and responsible in its overseas dealings. With goodwill and a commitment to peace and stability, it can take advantage of America’s loss of credibility over the election of a man who is ignorant of foreign affairs and absent in the spirit of international diplomacy. Patriotism and profit alone guide Trump, and nearly half the American electorate stands by him.

Also to be expected is a cautious realignment among the more developed Asian powers particularly Japan, India and South Korea which might pursue greater mutual cooperation as a safeguard against potential American error and affront under Trump.

No one will be surprised, meanwhile, if President Trump cosies up to Russia. While he and Vladimir Putin deny there is any special bond between them, evidence to the contrary has mounted. But using Russia as a foil against China would be detrimental to American financial and geopolitical interests. And, for Asia, while Russian investment is welcome and valued, Moscow has only a modicum of Beijing’s economic clout.

Sources: The Nation/Asia News Network

Related:

Trump’s advisers may ignite trade war

The high interdependence of bilateral trade indicates
that any form of trade war provoked by the US will ultimately hurt itself. It is probably difficult for the Trump team to figure out how much self-damage their country is able to withstand.

Related posts:

Dec 8, 2016 In a world facing challenges and uncertainties, embrace opportunities for success through innovation. “I went looking for my dreams outside of …

Xi, Trump discuss China-US cooperation 

What Trump means for Asian investors? 

Disruptive Donald J.Trump, US president-elect policies 

Donald Trump Wins US Presidential Election 

Philippine President calls Obama the “son of a bitch”, reveals cracks in ties as he refuses to be lectured on human rights 

US electoral democracy is failing, enter the China model? 21st century belongs to strivers

Childcare centre fees set to go up


Child care centre fees will likely increase by 10 per cent next year. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

Operators expect 10% hike next year

SUNGAI BULOH: The fees for childcare centres across the country are expected to increase by at least 10% next year, says the Association of Childcare Centres Selangor.

This was due to the revised minimum wage, said association president Mahanom Basri.

“The increase depends on the management of the centre. If the rent, salaries and other expenditures have gone up, it will increase by between 5% and 10%.

“It won’t be a lot, but there will definitely be an increase,” she said here yesterday.

For example, Mahanom said a 10% increase from the RM300 fee per child would result in a new fee of RM330.

Besides the minimum wage, she said childcare centre operators also had to install CCTVs for extra security.

“Quality facilities require money so I hope parents are ready to pay for them,” she added.

The Government introduced the minimum wage policy in 2013.

On July 1, the monthly minimum wage was increased from RM900 to RM1,000 for peninsular Malaysia and from RM800 to RM920 for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

Mahanom, together with more than 300 childcare centre operators, attended a dialogue session with Deputy Women, Family and Community Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun yesterday.

One of the issues raised during the two-hour closed-door dialogue was the licensing fees charged by local councils.

“We have proposed to the local councils that they could treat childcare centres as community service instead of commercial business.

“By doing so, they can reduce the licensing fees,” Chew said.

She said the ministry was also looking into easing some regulations.

“We will be looking at the ratio; such as how many children should be cared by one minder without compromising on safety.

“Childcare service is important and the demand is big. Many families have both parents working so we need to have a strong childcare service,” she added.

By Nurbaiti Hamdan The Star/Asia News Network

Related posts:

 May 24, 2016 “After all, parents are looking for a safe and good daycare centre … That is a chunk of money that could be used for education or even holidays.

Malaysian Minimum Wage Order forcing establishments to close due to unsustainable fees

Sep 11, 2016 A childcare centre in a single storey terrace corner lot is allowed to house a …themselves to ensure our children get quality care and education.

My home, my school  

Goodbye 2016, a strange and difficult year


The year will be remembered for the West ending its romance with globalisation, and its impact on the rest of the world.

JUST a few days before Christmas, it is time again to look back on the year that is about to pass.

What a strange year it has been, and not one we can celebrate!

The top event was Donald Trump’s unexpected victory. It became the biggest sign that the basic framework and values underpinning Western societies since the second world war have undergone a seismic change.

The established order represented by Hillary Clinton was defeated by the tumultuous wave Trump generated with his promise to stop the United States from pandering to other countries so that it could become “great again”.

Early in the year came the Brexit vote shock, taking Britain out of the European Union. It was the initial signal that the liberal order created by the West is now being quite effectively challenged by their own masses.

Openness to immigrants and foreigners is now opposed by citizens in Europe and the US who see them as threats to jobs, national culture and security rather than beneficial additions to the economy and society.

The long-held thesis that openness to trade and foreign investments is best for the economy and underpins political stability is crumbling under the weight of a sceptical public that blames job losses and the shift of industries abroad on ultra-liberal trade and investment agreements and policies.

Thus, 2016 which started with mega trade agreements completed (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or in the pipeline (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and Europe) ended with both being dumped by the President Elect, a stunning reversal of the decades-old US position advocating the benefits of the open economy.

2016 will be remembered as the year when the romance in the West with “globalisation” was killed by a public disillusioned and outraged by the inequalities of an economic system tilted in favour of a rich minority, while a sizeable majority feel marginalised and discarded.

In Asia, the dismantling of the globalisation ideal in the Western world was greeted with a mixture of regret, alarm and a sense of opportunity.

Many in this region believe that trade and investment have served several of their countries well. There is fear that the anti-globalisation rebellion in the West will lead to a rapid rise of protectionism that will hit the exports and industries of Asia.

As Trump announced he would pull the US out of the TPP, China stepped into the vacuum vacated by the US and pledged to be among the torchbearers of trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region and possibly the world.

The change of direction in the US and to some extent Europe poses an imminent threat to Asian exports, investors and economic growth. But it is also an opportunity for Asian countries to review their development strategies, rely more on themselves and the region, and take on a more active leadership role.

China made use of 2016 to prepare for this, with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank taking off and the immense Belt and Road Initiative gathering steam.

Many companies and governments are now latching on to the latter as the most promising source of future growth.

The closing months of 2016 also saw a surprising and remarkable shift in position by the Philippines, whose new President took big steps to reconcile with China over conflicting claims in the South China Sea, thus defusing the situation – at least for now.

Unfortunately, the year also saw heart-rending reports on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and the deaths of thousands of Syrians including those who perished or were injured in the end-game in Aleppo.

On the environmental front, it is likely 2016 will be the hottest year on record, overtaking 2015. This makes the coming into force in October of the Paris Agreement on climate change all the more meaningful.

But there are two big problems. First, the pledges in the agreement are grossly insufficient to meet the level of emissions cuts needed to keep the world safe from global warming, and there is also insufficient financing to support the developing countries’ climate actions, whether on mitigation or adaptation.

And secondly, there is a big question mark on the future of the Paris agreement as Trump had vowed to take the US out of it.

The biggest effect of 2016 could be that a climate skeptic was elected US President.

In the area of health, the dangers of antibiotic resistance went up on the global agenda with a declaration and day-long event involving political leaders at the United Nations in September.

There was growing evidence and stark warnings in 2016 that we are entering a post-antibiotic era where medicines will no longer work and millions will die from infection and ailments that could once be easily treated by antibiotics.

The world will also be closing in a mood of great economic uncertainty. In 2016 the world economy overall didn’t do well but also not too badly, with growth rates projected at 2.4 to 3%.

But for developing economies like Malaysia, the year ended with worries that the high capital inflows of recent years are reversing as money flows back to the US.

The first in an expected series of interest rate increases came last week.

All in all, there was not much to rejoice about in 2016, and worse still it built the foundation for more difficulties to come in 2017.

So we should enjoy the Christmas/New Year season while we can. Merry Christmas to all readers!

Global Trends By Martin Khor

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
Related posts:

 Global Reset 2016~2017

Singaporeans on buying sprees for Penang prewar houses; Residents see red


Singapore sweep continues

 Republic’s real estate hunters snapping up houses outside Penang’s heritage enclave.

GEORGE TOWN: Singaporean real estate hunters with a taste for prewar properties in Penang are still on buying sprees, says an NGO.

They are snapping up houses that are located just outside the state’s heritage enclave as these properties are not accorded heritage protection by Unesco, according to George Town Heritage Action.

The biggest buyer appears to be World Class Land (WCL), which is building the tallest residential skyscraper in the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Called Australia 108 because of its 108 storeys, the Melbourne development is expected to be completed in 2019.

WCL has since December 2013 reportedly snapped up 236 prewar houses in Penang, totalling more than 250,000sq ft – the equivalent of 26 football fields.

Recently, it applied to build a 46-storey condominium tower in Gurdwara Road, just 200m from Komtar after buying 37 prewar properties in that area.

Its latest block buy appears to be 26 prewar houses on Penang Road and Bertam Lane, also across from Komtar.

The properties were owned by six descendants of Tunku Kudin (1835- 1909), the great grand uncle of the late first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, for nearly 100 years.

The offer from WCL was about RM980 per sq ft, totalling RM21mil.

Tengku Abdullah Tengku Mahadi, 61, who collected the monthly rent from the tenants on behalf of his 92-year-old father, said the deal was sealed in Thailand through one of the six heirs who spoke for all of them.

“All the heirs are in their late 80s and 90s. It will cost too much to develop the land ourselves.

“We didn’t really feel like selling. We know the new owner will change the whole place but we are all old and don’t want to stand in the way of development,” he told The Star.

He said the heirs only earned about RM50 per month from each unit when the Rent Control Act was in force.

After it was repealed in 1997, they raised the rent to about RM600 and it had stayed the same since.

WCL lawyers have sent eviction notices to the 60-odd tenants who have until end November to move out.

A subsidiary of Aspial Corporation Ltd, WCL has completed many projects in the island republic and Australia.

Aspial chief executive officer Koh Wee Seng is listed by Forbes this year as the 43rd richest man in Singapore.

George Town Heritage Action has been vociferously against the state government’s apparent lack of control over the alleged WCL buying sprees.

“This company’s business model is to buy the properties, evict the tenants, renovate or rebuild, and then drastically increase rentals,” said its co-founder Mark Lay.

At a press conference yesterday, he showed a list of 236 properties purportedly bought by WCL through several subsidiaries.

Totalling more than 250,000 sq ft, these include rows of old houses along 19 roads, including Dato Keramat, Macalister, Transfer and much of the Seven Streets precinct (known locally as Chit Tiau Lor) near Komtar.

Lay warned that if the state government allowed “one company to accumulate more than 230 prewar houses, it will kill diversity and people’s moral rights to the city”.

“Our concern is also socio-cultural. Any company can damage the fabric of George Town when they have a monopoly,” he added.

In June, The Star reported that Singaporean companies typically raise rentals by 400% to 500% after sprucing up the old houses.

In response, Penang Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo had said that the state cannot interfere with free enterprise.

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

Penang residents see red over Singaporeans snapping up properties

 

GEORGE TOWN: Public anger in the state is on the rise as Singaporeans continue to buy up pre-war houses here by the blocks.

NGOs and netizens are reacting negatively following The Star Online’s Facebook posting of the news yesterday.

Many are calling for stricter measures to limit foreign buying, but Penang Citizens Chant Group legal adviser Yan Lee warned that it would be useless as foreigners could sidestep such restrictions by simply forming Malaysian shell companies with local directors who are proxies or trustees.

“The corporate veil will shield them from these simple stop-gap measures. Instead, these measures end up keeping out individual foreigners who earnestly want to own property here because they just want to live in Penang.

“The Penang government is more concerned about collecting development charges. The more it allows development, the more money it collects,” he lamented.

Yan Lee was commenting on cooling measures here since 2012 that prevent foreigners from buying landed property of less than RM2mil on the island and RM1mil on the mainland.

For stratified property, the cap is not less than RM1mil both on the island and the mainland.

There is also a state approval fee of 3% over the purchase price.

State Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said in a statement yesterday that statistics had shown that these measures had reduced foreign buying of Penang property by about 50% since 2013.

George Town Heritage Action held a press conference on Thursday to reveal that Singapore developer World Class Land (WCL) had acquired 236 pre-war houses in and around the heritage zone totalling about 250,000sq ft, equal to 26 football fields.

According to the annual report of WCL’s parent company, Aspial Corporation Ltd, the properties are held by six Malaysian companies – WCL (George Town) Holdings, WCL (Magazine), WCL (Macallum), WCL (Noordin), WCL (Bertam R) and WCL (Bertam L).

In the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s online portal, there are also company records of WCL (Malaysia) and WCL (Penang).

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

Related posts:

Rejuvenating George Town, Penang

 Oct 30, 2010 When I first set eyes on Penang, my first impression was green … Thus, if the
Northern Corridor can escape the middle income trap, then, …
 Feb 29, 2016 GEORGE TOWN: Penang has now overtaken the Klang Valley as the most
attractive place for property investment. In its Malaysia Commercial …

 Jun 5, 2016 WHILE the property market in Malaysia may be subdued, Penang is still
generating ….. Penang is best for property investment in Malaysia .

Aug 18, 2016 KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is no longer stuck in the middleincome trap, as its
gross national income (GNI) is now progressively growing …
 Jun 28, 2016 While young adults all over the world are renting homes, Malaysians prefer to own homes as soon as they get their first pay cheque. Instead of …

Debt problems remain in oil & gas industry, cast a large shadow on its Malaysian peers, Alam Maritim


Some oil companies that piled on too much debt won’t make it in today’s world of $40-$50 oil.

THE near-demise of Singapore-listed oilfield services company Swiber Holdings Ltd has cast a large shadow on its Malaysian peers who are facing similar mounting debts, a lack of new tenders and a depleting cash pile.

With oil prices still in a bear market for the second year running, smaller offshore services firms may continue to underperform as high debt obligations will continue to eat up existing cash reserves, say analysts.

Swiber had initially filed for liquidation on July 29 but had subsequently sought judicial management in an attempt to restructure the company’s existing businesses. The firm, which has 51 vessels in its fleet, has a prominent presence in Southeast Asian waters in a variety of jobs.

The effects of the two-year slump in oil prices were clearly seen in Swiber. Its capitalisation had fallen by 90% from its 2013 peak prior to the stock’s suspension last week.

Over the same period, its cash pile has been depleted by a series of debt repayments, which is a recurring theme for companies in the industry that tend to be highly leveraged.

The company’s predicament has put the spotlight on its Malaysian peers. Alam Maritim Resources Bhd, which has two joint ventures with Swiber, will now have to proceed without its partner.

As the joint ventures are vital cash generators for Alam, it is unlikely that the firm will dissolve them following Swiber’s exit. But it is now faced with the choice of buying out Swiber’s stake or finding a new partner, said Maybank IB Research in a note.

“The two JVs, which comprise a pipelay barge and a ship operator, are doing fine. The ventures could generate a combined net profit of RM8-RM10mil, of which Alam’s share is RM4-5mil,” said the research house, which nonetheless remained bearish on Alam with a ‘sell’ call and a target price of just 11 sen.

At the moment, the need to preserve cash flow continuity is of utmost importance in order to service existing debts. According to AllianceDBS Research, domestic contract flow in the oil and gas industry hit its lowest point in nearly four years during the second half of this year (2Q16).

“With utilisation rates at and charter rates at multi-year lows, there are few immediate bullish catalysts in the industry at present. To give just one example, talks of the possible mergers or consolidation in the oil and gas industry have largely fizzled out as there is no extra cash to be spent.” explains one oil and gas sector analyst.

To illustrate the debt load situation, a check on Bloomberg data reveals at least seven companies listed on Bursa Malaysia whose net debts currently exceed their entire market capitalisations.

The companies include SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd (SapKen), Bumi Armada Bhd, Wah Seong Corp Bhd, and Icon Offshore Bhd, among others.

Meanwhile, at least twelve oil and gas companies have net debt-to-earnings ratios of at least three times, which far exceeds the benchmark FBM KLCI’s ratio of 1.17 times currently.

This financial metric is typically used to measure a company’s ability to service existing debts relative to its earnings performance.

UMW Oil and Gas Corp and Barakah Offshore Petroleum Bhd are among the highest with ratios of 13.71 times and 12.52 times respectively, according to Bloomberg data.

While large cap companies such as SapKen has successfully refinanced a large part of their debt load, the oil and gas industry as a whole remains highly leveraged even now.

Some 20% of Bursa Malaysia listed corporates showed below average debt coverage levels while another 8% were aggressively leveraged, said RAM Ratings in a commentary on Aug 2.

Oil and gas companies are among those with weaker credit indicators and will be most vulnerable to economic stress, it added.

The current abundance of crude oil supply and inventory means that the occasional rallies in the market were short-lived this year.

After hitting a year-to-date high of US$52 per barrel in early June, Brent crude prices have declined by 15% in a month to US$44 on Aug 4.

Supply from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) also rose to a record high of 33.41 million barrels per Aday (bps) in July, which could further dampen any upside potential in the commodity’s price, Reuters reported. – by Afiq Isa The Star/Asian News Network

Alam Maritim on Swiber impact

 

Azmi says contribution from JV with company not substantial

PETALING JAYA: Alam Maritim Resources Bhd will not feel the heat from financial troubles of its partner, the Singapore-listed Swiber Holdings Ltd.

In fact, Alam Maritim is considering taking over the stake of the troubled-oil and gas (O&G) firm in a project that the companies are working on.

“There is only one project directly contracted with Swiber which is almost fully-completed namely engineering, procurement, construction, installation, commissioning of SK316 development job worth US$76mil,” Alam Maritim group managing director and group chief executive officer Datuk Azmi Ahmad told StarBiz.

The SK316 project is the development of a huge gas field located offshore Sarawak.

The other option for Alam Maritim is to find a new partner to take over Swiber’s role.

He said Alam Maritim had two JV companies with Swiber,

The first is Alam Swiber Offshore (M) Sdn Bhd which is equally owned by Alam Maritim (M) Sdn Bhd and Swiber Offshore Construction.

The second is Alam Swiber DLB 1 (L) Inc, which is 51% owned by Alam Maritim (L) Inc and 49% by Swiber Engineering Ltd.

“The impact is minimal to us as the contribution from the Alam-Swiber JV is not substantial to the Alam Maritim group,” he said.

Swiber, the Singapore-based oilfield services firm was reported to be in talks with its creditors for a possible debt restructuring exercise.

The stock had slumped by nearly 90% since mid-2014, taking its market value to just S$50mil, while the company had flagged delays in orders, raising concerns and sparking demands for cash.

From just 10 vessels in 2006 when it was listed, Swiber had expanded to own and operate a fleet of 51 vessels with more than 2,700 employees across South-East Asia and other countries, according to its website.

Its shares surged after listing, pushing its valuation to S$1.5bil in late-2007, but the stock fell sharply in recent years.

Smaller firm Technics Oil & Gas Ltd was placed under judicial management this month, and analysts said other firms could face difficulties.

Energy and offshore marine companies in Singapore have bonds totalling nearly S$1.2bil due to mature over the next year-and-a-half, with S$615mil due over the next five months, according to IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.

Alam Maritim, too is facing a challenging period.

On the O&G support services industry, Azmi said the impact of Brexit on the fragile global economy might slow down the recovery of the crude oil prices affecting overall demand and pushing out the rebalancing of the oil market.

“During this challenging period, we are aggressively and continuously embarking on various cost and asset optimisation initiatives to weather the storm,” he said.

Azmi added that Alam Maritim’s vessel utilisation rate was 56%.

“As at June, our order book stood at RM470mil, tender book at RM2.6bil,” he said.

Alam Maritim fell into the red with a net loss of RM19.2mil in the first quarter ended March 31 compared with a net profit of RM8.6mil a year ago.

Its revenue for the quarter shrank to RM48.6mil from RM73.7mil in the corresponding quarter last year.

According to Maybank Kim Eng, the low oil price has resulted in a swift response to cost reduction or renegotiating of contracts, cash conservation due to delayed projects and debts refinancing as well as strategic collaboration exercises.

“It also opened a window of opportunities to exploring mergers and acquisition options.

“About 69 North American exploration and production companies were declared bankrupt between January 2015 and April this year. “Uncertainties and differences in valuation expectations between buyers and sellers are the greatest hurdles. There is currently a buyer-seller mismatch in terms of expectations,” said Maybank Kim Eng in a June report on the sector.

Related posts:

Swiber Holdings SINGAPORE – Singapore oil field services firm Swiber Holdings Ltd filed an application to wind up the company and said a…
DBS, OCBC and UOB exposed to downturn in energy sector The plunge in oil prices is catching up with Singapore’s three largest
banks…
      Some think it will be years before oil returns to $90 or $100 a barrel, a price that was pretty much the norm over the last decade….

Slippery Oil prices plunging create bad-loan pain for S’pore banks, Swiber to restructure


DBS, OCBC and UOB exposed to downturn in energy sector

The plunge in oil prices is catching up with Singapore’s three largest banks.

Last week, Swiber Holdings Ltd., a small Singapore company that provides construction services for international oil and gas projects, filed a petition to liquidate its operations, after facing payment demands from creditors at a time when its business was under pressure. DBS Group Holdings Ltd., one of Swiber’s largest lenders, said it only expects to recover about half of the S$700 million ($522 million) it loaned to the firm and its units. Swiber subsequently said it’s dropping the liquidation in favor of a restructure plan.

DBS and Singapore’s two other large banks, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. and United Overseas Bank Ltd., are exposed to the downturn in the energy sector as a result of their lending to local companies which provide construction, shipping and maintenance services to the oil and gas industry. Many of those companies are suffering as the plunge in crude prices since 2014 curtailed exploration and other activity by oil and gas producers.

The financial health of the energy-services companies is the “key concern” for UOB over the next one or two years, Chief Executive Officer Wee Ee Cheong said at a media briefing Thursday on the bank’s second-quarter results. The bank’s exposure to Swiber is “manageable,” Wee said, though he noted that the wider difficulties in the oil and gas services industry were a factor behind the 17 percent climb in UOB’s nonperforming assets for the second quarter.

Debt Restructuring

Swiber said it will drop its liquidation application in a statement on Friday. Instead, the company plans to operate under a judicial management, which would allow it to continue operating under court supervision while it attempts to turn its business around. Some of its lenders had sought judicial management to recover more of their loans, according to people familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

“I presume it helps them buy time but it’s uncertain how viable these oil-services companies are if oil prices remain low for an extended period of time,” said Alan Richardson, a Hong Kong-based fund manager at Samsung Asset Management, which owns DBS shares. “The indirect victims of these bankruptcies are the banks who are lending money to them.”

Shares of DBS were little changed at S$15.40 as of 11:02 a.m. local time on Monday, paring this year’s loss to 7.7 percent. OCBC gained 0.8 percent and UOB rose 0.6 percent.

Oil has slipped about 19 percent from its recent peak in early June, ending a recovery that saw prices almost double from a 12-year low in February. Prices are falling again as U.S. producers increased drilling amid a glut of crude and fuel supplies that are at the highest seasonal level in at least two decades.

Moody’s Downgrade

The recent recovery in oil prices from their lows has provided only modest relief, OCBC Chief Executive Officer Samuel Tsien indicated Thursday in a media briefing on the bank’s second-quarter results, which included a 61 percent jump in nonperforming assets.

“We cannot say it’s going to be the bottom yet. We may have two more quarters to go,” Tsien said in response to a question on the rise in delinquent energy sector loans.

Oil and gas-related loans made up 5.3 percent of gross lending by Singapore banks as of December, a higher proportion than at banks in Korea, Thailand and the European Union, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The deteriorating quality of the Singapore banks’ loans to energy firms, as well as weaker regional economies, prompted Moody’s to downgrade its outlook for the three largest lenders on June 30.

UOB and OCBC’s exposures to offshore marine services companies amounted to 13 percent to 18 percent of their common equity Tier 1 capital and loan-loss reserves at the end of June, Moody’s said in a statement Monday.

DBS is due to report its second-quarter results on Aug. 8.

In a sign of how fast the bad-loan problems are worsening, OCBC said new nonperforming assets jumped 91 percent to S$924 million in the second quarter, mainly because of companies linked to the oil and gas support services sector. Newly soured assets at UOB more than doubled to S$802 million, from S$372 million a year ago.

“New nonperforming-loan generation was the highest seen in this NPL cycle so far,” Aakash Rawat, a bank analyst at UBS Group AG in Singapore, said in a report last week. “While this was cushioned somewhat by recoveries and upgrades this quarter, it is debatable whether this will continue to be the case in future.”

The SGX Oil & Gas Index, which tracks 25 locally listed firms, fell to a record low last week after news of Swiber’s problems surfaced on Thursday. Among the biggest decliners on the index was Ezra Holdings Ltd., which provides engineering and construction services to the offshore oil and gas sector. Ezra shares plunged 17 percent last week.

Another indicator of the woes among Singapore oil and gas service firms comes from the bond markets. A total of 10 Singapore-listed firms in the sector, including Swiber, have asked bondholders to loosen their covenants so far this year, versus eight in all of 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That includes efforts to extend the maturity of debt and loosen covenants requiring companies to maintain certain leverage levels.

Oil-related firms have S$1.4 billion of Singapore-dollar securities maturing through 2018, with S$325 million due by the end of this year, according to Bloomberg-compiled data on July 18.

Among the three large Singapore banks, only DBS has disclosed its exposure to Swiber. OCBC isn’t listed among the oil and gas services firm’s main bankers in its 2015 annual report. UOB’s Wee didn’t quantify the bank’s lending to Swiber at the Thursday media briefing. – Bloomberg

Swiber Holdings to restructure its business

 

Big exposure: People queue up to withdraw money from DBS automated teller machines at a mall in Singapore. DBS Group Holdings Ltd, South-East Asia’s biggest lender, said it has about S700mil (US523mil) in total exposure to Swiber. – Reuters

SINGAPORE: Swiber Holdings Ltd, the Singapore-based offshore oil and gas services group, said it was dropping liquidation plans and intends to restructure its business following talks with the company’s major financial creditor.

Swiber plans to operate under so-called judicial management, according to a statement to the Singapore exchange last Friday. The arrangement would allow the company to continue operating under court supervision while attempting to turn around the business.

Some of its lenders had sought judicial management to recover more of their loans, according to people familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

Swiber filed a petition last Wednesday to wind up and liquidate itself after facing US$25.9mil of demands from creditors.

The company had US$1.43bil in liabilities and US$1.99bil in assets at the end of March, according to its financial statements.

News of Swiber’s liquidation plans dragged down the SGX Oil & Gas Index to a new low. Local companies that rely on contracts within the offshore oil and gas market are reeling from a collapse in oil prices.

Last year, a measure of the country’s bad-loan ratio reached the highest level since 2009, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The Singapore bourse said last Thursday it will be undertaking a “thorough investigation” into developments at Swiber after the company made key disclosures only after queries from the regulator.

Swiber on July 11 said it failed to get a US$200mil equity injection from AMTC Ltd, which had agreed to subscribe to preference shares.

DBS Group Holdings Ltd, South-East Asia’s biggest lender, said last Thursday it has about S$700mil (US$523mil) in total exposure to Swiber. The bank said it expects to recover half of that amount.

Swiber in June redeemed S$130mil of 5.125% notes and in July redeemed S$75mil of 7% securities.

It has four more Singapore dollar bonds worth a total of S$460mil outstanding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. – Bloomberg

Slippery slope for oil

 

Prices unlikely to go up too high for the rest of the year

PETALING JAYA: The continued oil supply glut in the market could mean a sustained low oil price environment, especially in the short to medium term.

The oil supply glut does not seem to be abating, with oil majors preferring to pump and store oil at the moment instead of cutting production.

According to unconfirmed reports, India is mulling over the idea of setting up a strategic petroleum reserve to store oil, similar to the ones that have been established in the United States and China.

As it is now, the ample amount of oil that has been extracted from underground is making its way to even more storage above ground. For instance, very large crude carriers (VLCCs) are increasingly being used for the storage of excess oil, with the tankers lying idle offshore in places such as the coasts of the United Kingdom.

According to the Financial Times, the supertankers have become the temporary centre to store excess oil and the ships are found off the coast of Scotland, where sea conditions are rough.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) in its latest Oil Market Report said that non-Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) production remains on course to fall by 0.9 million barrels per day (mmbd) this year, before staging a modest recovery in 2017.

However, the IEA said production from Opec countries has seen steady growth in recent years, with notable increases contributed by Iraq in 2015 and Iran in 2016.

“Our chart shows that, in fact, the oil output from the region rose to a record high in June, with production above 31 mmbd for the third month running. As such, the Middle East market share of global oil supplies rose to 35%, the highest since the late 1970s,” the IEA said in its report.

According to analysts, these concerns may return to haunt oil prices and US$40 could be the new normal for the time being.

Oil prices have staged a strong recovery since their January 2016 lows, gaining some 56% to their seven-month high of US$52.31 last month. The commodity, however, has since lost almost half of its gains.

It had gained on expectations by oil companies and Opec producers that the worst was over after hitting its January 2016 lows. However, Bloomberg reported that oil declined again in its biggest monthly drop in a year, as US producers increased drilling for a fifth week.

The increase in drilling by US producers came amid a glut of crude and fuel supplies that are at the highest seasonal level in at least two decades.

Oil prices have lost some 20% from their June 2016 seven-month highs and were last traded at US$41.63 per barrel.

Analysts said that oil could keep trending lower in the immediate term and that if it breaks the US$40 level, could challenge the next key psychological price mark of US$35.

Interpacific Research’s head of research Pong Teng Siew told StarBiz that he was “quite sure” that oil would be lower as short bets have piled up due to fundamentals.

“Many traders have reversed their long positions and have taken up shorts instead which will drive the oil market lower. My thinking is that the oil market today has got a tendency of being lower than what anyone expects, especially if momentum carries it through,” Pong said.

“I think it will drop below US$40 per barrel, and there is a likelihood that it will keep surprising people at this point in time. It also does not seem that the worst is truly over, and my worry is that the number of US rigs, especially in shale oil, appear to be on the upswing and there is no telling how much more is to come,” he added.

Pong noted that the demand side has picked up since January 2016, but that the take-up pace has been slower than before with the growth in supply.

“Demand was (then) tethered to China’s oil purchases for its strategic petroleum reserves, but that is now at full (capacity) and has seen demand tapering off, resulting in lower oil prices,” he said.

The IEA said that while market balance was seen in mid-summer 2016, the existence of very high oil stocks is a threat to the recent stability of oil prices, noting that in the first quarter of this year, refinery runs growth was 60% higher than refined product demand growth.

“Despite the regular upward revisions to demand that we have seen in recent reports, there are signs that momentum is easing, and although stocks are close to topping out, they are at such elevated levels, especially for products for which demand growth is slackening, that they remain a major dampener on oil prices,” the IEA said.

Social Economic Research Centre’s executive director and independent economist Lee Heng Guie said that fundamentals today may cause oil prices to continue to remain weak.

Lee said at this point in time, there may be a slight challenge when the next budget is tabled or planned, but that there is comfort that the oil revenue to the Government’s coffers is now at a low level of about 19%.

“The goods and services tax (GST) will make up for the shortfall, but this also depends largely on the health of the local consumer. If household spending remains cautious, then there will be an impact to the GST collections,” he added. – By
daniel Khoo The Star/Asian News Network

Related:

Bears crowd Ezra as Swiber’s woes signal oil risks

Singapore’s Ezra to seek fresh capital to weather slump

Refiners start slowing from summer peak

Alam Maritim on Swiber impact

Related posts:

Swiber to wind up, biggest Singapore casulty of oil slump; banks hit with crushing debtsSwiber Holdings SINGAPORE – Singapore oil field services firm Swiber Holdings Ltd filed an application to wind up the company and said a…

Oil Prices: What’s Behind the Drop? Simple Economics

 Apr 6, 2016 Dropping oil prices in the 1980s did help bring down the Soviet Union, after …
What are the economic risks of falling crude oil prices for India?
%d bloggers like this: