Govt-linked companies (GLCs) shake-up as they sing a different tune


EPF Building in Kuala Lumpur.- Art Chen / The Star..
On the rise: A man walks past the Employees
Provident Fund headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Remuneration of GLC chiefs,
senior management and directors have been on the uptrend following a
transformation initiative to make them more competitive commercially. 

 

Overpaid CEOs and social duties of GLCs set for review

The new government has clearly said that there is a need to review the role of GLCs and the remuneration paid out to their top executives

A GLANCE at one of the annual reports of the country’s government-linked companies (GLCs) reveals that its chief human resource officer earned close to a million ringgit or about RM80,000 per month, last year.

Other senior personnel were also compensated with generous remuneration, with its chief executive taking home over one and the half million ringgit in financial year 2017.

More importantly, this was at a company that had courted much controversy in recent times over allegations of mismanagement and under-performance.

Such a scenario, however, is not uncommon at GLCs, where remuneration of key executives tend to run in the millions but performances sometimes leave much to be desired.

By definition, GLCs are companies where the government has a direct majority stake via their entities such as Khazanah Nasional, Employees Provident Fund, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), the Armed Forces Fund (Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera) and the Pilgrims Fund (Lembaga Tabung Haji).

In recent years, remuneration of GLC chiefs, senior management and its directors have been on the uptrend following a transformation initiative to make them more competitive commercially.

The thinking behind this is that in order to attract talent – subjective as the definition of that may be – top dollar should be paid.

Some, however, argue that GLCs should in fact prioritise national service a little more.

Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Economics and Administration professor of political economy Edmund Terence Gomez says GLCs have social obligations.

“What this essentially means is that GLCs cannot operate in a purely commercial manner as they also have to look at the social dimension,” he says. “The GLC professionals have many times articulated that they are doing national service. Going on that alone, one can argue that they shouldn’t be paid private sector salaries,” Terence adds.

And so it is now, there is a disquiet building up among GLCs following the change in government.

The new government has clearly said that there is a need to review the role of GLCs and the remuneration paid out to their top executives and senior management.

In this regard, the Pakatan Harapan government is understood to be mulling over making drastic changes in the appointment and remuneration of key directors at GLCs which include government agencies.

It was reported recently that the Council of Eminent Persons, headed by Tun Daim Zainuddin, who was Finance Minister in the 1980s, has requested details of the salaries of some of the top executives at GLCs as part of the review.

Already, there have been a couple of GLC chief executives who have left and more of this is expected to materialise over the coming weeks.

“It appears to be a purge of Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop’s boys,” quips an industry observer, referring to the veteran politician who was instrumental in the revamp and transformation of Khazanah which started in 2005 and subsequently, driving the GLC transformation initiative.

UM’s Terence says if the new government is to appoint new individuals, it must ensure that the process is transparent.

“If you are removing these people, who are you replacing them with? More importantly how are you selecting these people?

He adds there needs to be a transparent mechanism in the appointment of this new breed of professionals that will be brought in and what must also be looked into is the kind of check and balances being put in place to ensure governance.

“There should be a debate on these things,” he says.

Economist Yeah Kim Leng believes that a review is timely and appropriate as part of a deeper institutional and structural reform.

“The broad aims are firstly, to reduce excessive payoffs which don’t commensurate with performance and secondly, to address the widening wage and benefits gap between the top and bottom rungs of the organisation,” he says.

Such rationalisation will result in a more equitable salary structure as well as raise the generally depressed wages of middle management and support staff which form the largest number of most organisations, Yeah adds.

Unfair advantage

The role of a head honcho, be it at a GLC or non-GLC, is seldom a walk in the park.

CEOs make critical operational decisions that affect everything from future business directions to the health of a company’s balance sheet and employee morale.

The job generally entails long hours and tremendous pressure to meet expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.

But again, while local GLCs have been key drivers of the economy, one key feature is that they are ultimately owned by the government.

This, some argue, give GLCs unfair advantages such as access to cheap funding and political patronage over their private counterparts.

So, is running a GLC more of a stewardship role as opposed to an entrepreneurship role?

Therein lies the issue that in turn will have a bearing on the remuneration levels of GLC heads.

Minority Shareholders Watch Group (MSWG) chief executive office Devanesan Evanson puts it this way.

“Entrepreneurs have their skin in the game in that there are often the major or substantial shareholder in a company.

“It is in their direct interest to perform as this will be translated into share price appreciation which will impact the value of their shareholdings – this is motivation to grow the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.

On the other hand, GLC heads do not have their skin in the game save for their limited shareholding through ESOS or share grant schemes.

“If a GLC loses money, the impact on them is limited. They may be prepared to take perverse risks as the eventual loser is the government-linked investment companies or GLICs (and the minority shareholders of the GLC), which eventually are the people who are the members or subscribers of the GLICs.

“In that way, we are not comparing apple to apple and yet, we need talent to run GLCs.

“So we can conclude that, we need to pay for talent at GLCs but it should not be as much compared to what one would pay the CEO of a firm which he started,” Devanesan says, noting that remuneration of some of the GLC heads have risen too fast in recent years.

Rising remuneration is a given, others say, as the government had recruited top talent from the private sector to helm these companies.

A case in point is  Axiata Group Bhd , which has done relatively well with the infusion of the “entrepreneurial spirit” under the helm of president and group CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, who has helmed the Khazanah-owned telco since 2008, they point out.

Prior to that, Jamaludin was with rival Maxis Communications Bhd, a private company controlled by tycoon Ananda Krishnan.

Other GLCs which have performed consistently over recent years include banks like Malayan Banking Bhd
and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd which have expanded their operations out of Malaysia, carving a brand name for themselves regionally.

Under a 10-year transformation programme for GLCs initiated in 2005, companies were given quantitative and qualitative targets to meet as measured by key performance indicators.

Now, the 20 biggest GLCs currently make up about 40% of the local stock market’s market capitalisation.

One of the principles under the programme was also the national development agenda, which emphasised the principle of equal growth and development of the bumiputra community with the non-bumiputras.

Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) Centre of Public Policy Studies chairperson Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam says the purpose of establishing GLCs to encourage bumiputras to participate in business has largely been fulfilled.

“Now that the bumiputras are on a strong footing in the corporate sector with able leaders who have wide experience, it (GLCs) could be seen as an erosion to the welfare and progress of the smaller and medium-sized industries, particularly those where other bumiputras are involved,” Ramon says.

Having said that, he says although many GLCs are doing well, they have performed well “mainly because of protective policies and monopolistic practices”.

“The time has come in this new Malaysian era for more competition and less protection.”

Benchmarking

Still, if simplistic comparisons are to be made, the CEOs of the country’s two largest GLC banks, Maybank and CIMB for instance, took home less than the CEO of the country’s third largest bank, the non-GLC Public Bank Bhd
last year.

In 2017, Public Bank’s managing director Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek took home some RM27.8mil in total remuneration while Maybank’s Datuk Abdul Farid Alias earned RM10.11mil and CIMB’s Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz made RM9.86mil.

Across the causeway, a survey of CEO remuneration of Singapore-listed companies by one financial portal shows that Singaporean GLC CEOs earned 31% more than their non-GLC counterparts in 2017.

Singapore’s Temasek Holdings-owned DBS Bank, which is Singapore’s largest bank, paid out S$10.3mil (RM30.36mil) to its head honcho, while in the telecommunication sector, SingTel’s remuneration to its top executive was some S$6.56mil (RM19.34mil) for the most recently concluded financial year.

By definition, Singapore GLCs are those which are 15% or more owned by the city-state’s investment arm Temasek Holdings.

UM’s Terence does not think Singapore should be a benchmark for Malaysian companies.

“Singapore is a much smaller country and the manner in which they operate in is also different … their GLCs are deeply conditioned by their holding company, which is the Minister of Finance Incorporated,” he says.

MSWG’s Devanesan notes that determining remuneration is “not exactly science” as there are many parameters to be considered.

Some of the factors to note include whether the companies are in a monopolistic or near monopolistic position and the performance of the GLC heads over the years.

“Based on these parameters, we can instinctively know if a GLC head is over-remunerated,” he says. Over in China, state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country’s largest lender by assets, paid out about 63.43 yuan or about RM39mil in total remuneration before tax for the year 2017 to its top executive.

Notably, the Beijing-based ICBC’s net profit’s was at a whopping US$45.6bil (RM182bil) in 2017.

Sources: Gurmeet Kaur and Yvonne Tan The Star

GLC singers sing a different tune

Some officials singing ‘Hebat Negaraku’.

 Swan song for some after ‘Hebat Negaraku’ post-GE14 – CEO think video to showcase musical talents

 

 Several heads of government-linked companies (GLCs) have come together bin a heartwarming music video titled “Hebat Negaraku” (my country is great).

 GLC chiefs show off musical talent in ‘Hebat Negaraku’ music video …

The heads of government linked companies (GLC) who sang a song that later became the theme song for the Barisan Nasional’s election campaign have distanced themselves from the controversial music video.

Those who sang and played musical instruments in the music video titled “Hebat Negaraku” (my country is great) said they did not know the video or the song was going to be a political theme song.

There have been repercussions on the CEOs who appeared in the music video. They have come under scrutiny for making a song that was used as propaganda by Barisan in the last general election.

Three of the GLC bosses in the video have either retired or resigned since the new government took over.

Several more have been speculated to leave in the coming weeks or months but nothing is cast in stone. Sources said this is because most of the CEOs are not known to have campaigned openly for either Barisan or Pakatan Harapan.

“None of the CEOs had a clue it would become a political song. Do you really think the CEOs would have done it if they knew it would become political?” asked one of the CEOs who appeared in the video but declined to be named.

“We have said no to so many things, and we could have easily have said no to this if it was political.’’

Another CEO said he was approached and felt it was “more of a patriotic song and nothing more.”

“At that point in time, we did not think much (of the repercussions). Hebat Negaraku was announced as Barisan’s campaign theme long after the recording was made. We did not know that.’’

Another CEO added: “We thought it was a casual thing when we were approached as some of the CEOs have their own band.’’

It all started when several CEOs were called to be part of a music video and they thought it was to showcase the musical talents of 14 GLCs heads, plus staff members of the 20 key GLCs.

The song is about the greatness, advancement and inspiration of Malaysia. It was released on YouTube on March 22 but has since been taken down.

But fingers have been pointed at the GLCs bosses who made the music video because it became a political video.

Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly has been said to be the main orchestrator for the group in terms of making the music video. He was also said to be the branding chief for Barisan’s elections campaign.

Barisan lost the elections held on May 9 to Pakatan, which has since formed a new government and is scrutinising all the performance, processes, remuneration and procurement of the government and GLCs.

Shazalli quit his job as group CEO of  Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) on June 6. Malaysian Resources Corp
Bhd (MRCB) group managing director Tan Sri Mohamad Salim Fateh Din has retired as group MD last week and it was something he had planned to do.  Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd
Datuk Badlisham Ghazali did not get his contract renewed. All three were in the music video.

There is a GLC secretariat that now comes under the purview of TM, which was earlier parked under Khazanah Nasional Bhd. The secretariat organised the making of the music video, according to sources. The CEOs were called to attend a session and within a few hours it was all done with no prior rehearsals.

“When you are called, it could be difficult not to comply since it is the secretariat that called you. We have to oblige but we really did not know it was going to be a campaign slogan. This is really unfortunate that it has turned out like this.

“We were surprised when we found out it was a party slogan but it had already been done and what can we do, we are in the picture,’’ said another CEO.

Not all CEOs who were invited took part in the video. Prior engagements were the reason used for declining to appear. – By b.k. Sidhu The Star

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US Federal Reserve rate rise, Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red


 

Fed’s big balance-sheet unwind could be coming to an early end

NEW YORK: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet may not have that much further to shrink.

An unexpected rise in overnight interest rates is pulling forward a key debate among US central bankers over how much liquidity they should keep in the financial system. The outcome will determine the ultimate size of the balance sheet, which they are slowly winding down, with key implications for US monetary policy.

One consequence was visible on Wednesday. The Fed raised the target range for its benchmark rate by a quarter point to 1.75% to 2%, but only increased the rate it pays banks on cash held with it overnight to 1.95%. The step was designed to keep the federal funds rate from rising above the target range. Previously, the Fed set the rate of interest on reserves at the top of the target range.

Shrinking the balance sheet effectively constitutes a form of policy tightening by putting upward pressure on long-term borrowing costs, just as expanding it via bond purchases during the financial crisis made financial conditions easier. Since beginning the shrinking process in October, the Fed has trimmed its bond portfolio by around US$150bil to US$4.3 trillion, while remaining vague on how small it could become.

This reticence is partly because the Fed doesn’t know how much cash banks will want to hold at the central bank, which they need to do in order to satisfy post-crisis regulatory requirements.

Officials have said that, as they drain cash from the system by shrinking the balance sheet, a rise in the federal funds rate within their target range would be an important sign that liquidity is becoming scarce.

Now that the benchmark rate is rising, there is some skepticism. The increase appears to be mainly driven by another factor: the US Treasury ramped up issuance of short-term US government bills, which drove up yields on those and other competing assets, including in the overnight market.

“We are looking carefully at that, and the truth is, we don’t know with any precision,” Fed chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the increase. “Really, no one does. You can’t run experiments with one effect and not the other.”

“We’re just going to have to be watching and learning. And, frankly, we don’t have to know today,” he added.

But many also see increasingly scarce cash balances as at least a partial explanation for the upward drift of the funds rate, and as a result, several analysts are pulling forward their estimates of when the balance sheet shrinkage will end.

Mark Cabana, a Bank of America rates strategist, said in a report published June 5 that Fed officials may stop draining liquidity from the system in late 2019 or early 2020, leaving US$1 trillion of cash on bank balance sheets. That compares with an average of around US$2.1 trillion held in reserves at the Fed so far this year.

Cabana, who from 2007 to 2015 worked in the New York Fed’s markets group responsible for managing the balance sheet, even sees a risk that the unwind ends this year.

One reason why people may have underestimated bank demand for cash to meet the new rules is that Fed supervisors have been quietly telling banks they need more of it, according to William Nelson, chief economist at The Clearing House Association, a banking industry group.

The requirement, known as the Liquidity Coverage Ratio, says banks must hold a certain percentage of their assets either in the form of cash deposited at the Fed or in US Treasury securities, to ensure they have enough liquidity to deal with deposit outflows.

The Fed flooded the banking system with reserves as a byproduct of its crisis-era bond-buying programs, known as quantitative easing, to stimulate the economy. The money it paid investors to buy their bonds was deposited in banks, which the banks in turn hold as cash in reserve accounts at the Fed.

In theory, the unwind of the bond portfolio, which involves the reverse swap of assets between the Fed and investors, shouldn’t affect the total amount of Treasuries and reserves available to meet the requirement. The Fed destroys reserves by unwinding the portfolio, but releases an equivalent amount of Treasuries to the market in the process.

But if Fed supervisors are telling banks to prioritise reserves, that logic no longer applies. Nelson asked Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice-chairman for supervision, if this was the Fed’s new policy. Quarles, who was taking part in a May 4 conference at Stanford University, said he knew that message had been communicated and is “being rethought”.

If Fed officials do opt for a bigger balance sheet and decide to continue telling banks to prioritise cash over Treasuries, it may mean lower long-term interest rates, according to Seth Carpenter, the New York-based chief US economist at UBS Securities.

“If reserves are scarce right now, and if the Fed does stop unwinding its balance sheet, the market is going to react to that, a lot,” said Carpenter, a former Fed economist. “Everyone anticipates a certain amount of extra Treasury supply coming to the market, and this would tell people, ‘Nope, it’s going to be less than you thought’.” — Bloomberg

Malaysia and regional equity markets in the red

 

In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow
stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

PETALING JAYA: It was a sea of red for equity markets across the region after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to a range of 1.75% to 2% on Wednesday, and funds continued to move their money back to the US. This is the second time the Fed has raised interest rates this year.

In general, markets weren’t down by much, probably because the rate hike had mostly been anticipated. Furthermore for Asia, the withdrawal of funds has been taking place over the last 11 weeks, hence, the pace of selling was slowing.

The Nikkei 225 was down 0.99% to 22,738, the Hang Seng Index was down 0.93% to 30,440, the Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.08% to 3,047.34 while the Singapore Straits Times Index was down 1.05% to 3,356.73.

In Malaysia, the selling streak has been ongoing for almost a month. As of June 8, the year to date outflow stands at RM3.02bil, which is still one of the lowest among its Asean peers. The FBM KLCI was down 1.79 points yesterday to 1,761.

Meanwhile, the Fed is nine months into its plan to shrink its balance sheet which consists some US$4.5 trillion of bonds. The Fed has begun unwinding its balance sheet slowly by selling off US$10bil in assets a month. Eventually, it plans to increase sales to US$50bil per month.

With the economy of the United States showing it was strong enough to grow with higher borrowing costs, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday and signalled that two additional increases would be made this year.

Fed chairman Jerome H. Powell in a news conference on Wednesday said the economy had strengthened significantly since the 2008 financial crisis and was approaching a “normal” level that could allow the Fed to soon step back and play less of a hands-on role in encouraging economic activity.

Rate hikes basically mean higher borrowing costs for cars, home mortgages and credit cards over the years to come.

Wednesday’s rate increase was the second this year and the seventh since the end of the Great Recession and brings the Fed’s benchmark rate to a range of 1.75% to 2%. The last time the rate reached 2% was in late 2008, when the economy was contracting.

“With a slightly more aggressive plan to tighten monetary policy this year than had previously been projected by the Fed, it will narrow our closely watched gap between the yield rates of two-year and 10-year Treasury notes, which has recently been one of a strong predictor of recessions,” said Anthony Dass, chief economist in AmBank.

Dass expects the policy rate to normalise at 2.75% to 3%.

“Thus, we should potentially see the yield curve invert in the first half of 2019,” he said.

So what does higher interest rates mean for emerging markets?

It means a flight of capital back to the US, and many Asian countries will be forced to increase interest rates to defend their respective currencies.

Certainly, capital has been exiting emerging market economies. Data from the Institute of International Finance for May showed that emerging markets experienced a combined US$12.3bil of outflows from bonds and stocks last month.

With that sort of global capital outflow, countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey, have hiked their domestic rates recently.

Data from Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters, shows that for the week ending June 6, US-based money market funds saw inflows of nearly US$34.9bil.

It makes sense for investors to be drawn to the US, where the economy is increasingly solid, coupled with higher yields and lower perceived risks.

Hong Kong for example is fighting an intense battle to fend off currency traders. Since April, Hong Kong has spent at least US$9bil defending its peg to the US dollar. Judging by the fact that two more rate hikes are on the way this year, more ammunition is going to be needed.

Hong Kong has the world’s largest per capita foreign exchange reserves – US$434bil more in firepower.

By right, the Hong Kong dollar should be surging. Nonetheless, the currency is sliding because of a massive “carry trade.”

Investors are borrowing cheaply in Hong Kong to buy higher-yielding assets in the US, where 10-year Treasury yields are near 3%.

From a contrarian’s perspective, global funds are now massively under-weighted Asia.

With Asian markets currently trading at 12.3 times forward price earnings ratio, this is a reasonable valuation at this matured stage of the market.

By Tee Lin Say StarBiz

Related:

 

PBOC Seen Mirroring Fed With Hike While Keeping Other Taps Open  Bloomberg

  

Foreign investors more willing to hold yuan assets: FX regulator

Reuters ·

 

 Faster Indian Inflation Puts Analysts on Watch for Rate Hike – Bloomberg

Abenomics’ impact fading at sensitive moment for Japanese economy –
Business News

 

Bank Negara governor a short but memorable stint – Business News | The Star Online

Malaysia should first check yen loan terms, advises economist – The Star

 

 

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The rail economics of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


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Rail link seen as game changer but cost is a concern.

TOK Bali, a fishing village in Kelantan with its beautiful sandy beaches and pristine blue waters has long been a hidden gem among well-travelled backpackers. But that may soon change. The idyllic town is one that is touted to potentially become a tourist hotspot, as it sits along the alignment of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multi-billion infrastructure project that promises many economic spin-offs.

After almost a decade in planning, ECRL was launched with great pomp this week.

Touted as a key game-changer for the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the interstate ECRL is expected to help the economy of the four states that it covers by an additional 1.5% per year over the next 50 years.

On a micro level, more employment opportunities, particularly skilled jobs, will be made available to Malaysians. Domestic industry players especially in the construction sector, can now anticipate construction contracts to the tune of RM16bil, at least.

   
Another milstone:Najib checking out a train model at the ground-breaking ceremony this week.He called ECRL ‘another milestore in the country’s land public transport history”.

The ECRL is expected to benefit freight transport because it would link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

Despite the much highlighted economic benefits from the rail network, the venture is attracting its own share of controversies from the way the contract was awarded to the price of contract.

For one, China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of ECRL via a direct negotiation method.

Detractors have labelled ECRL – at a cost of RM80mil per kilometre – as the world’s costliest rail project. Note that, the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking stretch costs RM45mil per km.

ECRL, however, will go over hilly terrain and has several tunnels to be built.

There are questions on whether the 688km rail venture, at RM55bil, will be financially feasible.

Sources say the price tag is unlikely to have included land acquisition costs.

They indicate that close to half of the land plots required for the rail link sit on private land and would require land acquisition. At this point, the total land acquisition cost is unknown.

No money in rail

The concerns of the critics are understandable, given the fact that public infrastructure projects, namely rail projects are usually not commercially viable.

A quick check on the finances of Malaysia’s very own Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) and a number of major rail operators abroad, affirms the fact that rail projects do not promise easy money.

The loss-making KTMB which was corporatised in 1992, has not been able to financially sustain itself, resulting in the deterioration of its level of service despite attempts to turn around the company.

According to the railway service operator’s latest publicly available audited report for financial year 2013, the group registered a total net loss of RM128.2mil. However, note that, the net loss had narrowed by 46% from RM238.5mil in the previous year.

Had it not been for the government’s subsidy which kept it afloat, KTMB would find it difficult to continue its operations without a further raise of its fare.

In India, where railway is a favoured mode of transportation, the Indian Railways has been incurring losses on passenger operations every year. Earlier this year, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament was told that the state-owned rail operator recorded a loss of Rs359.18bil (RM24.04bil) in the period of 2015 to 2016.

This was slightly higher than its loss of Rs334.91bil (RM22.42bil) in the period of 2014-2015.

On the other hand, China’s state-owned rail operator, China Railway Corp, was reported to have recorded a 58% increase in earnings last year despite huge losses in the first nine months. However, a zoom into its finances reveals that the high profit made was only possible due to a significant annual government subsidy.

Similarly, Singapore’s SMRT Corp which manages the city-state’s rail operations posted a profit of S$7.4mil (RM23.33mil) in its financial year of 2016. This was on the back of a revenue of S$681mil (RM2.15bil), which rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

While the rail operations saw higher ridership in that year, SMRT Corp would have registered a loss of S$9.6mil (RM30.26mil) for its rail business, if not for the net property tax refund of S$17.1mil (RM53.9mil).

Considering the lack of commercial viability in such rail projects, ECRL would ultimately require assistance from the government in ensuring smooth operations, while maintaining an affordable service for its users. This is akin a crucial trade-off, to complement the government’s move to provide an integrated transportation system in Malaysia, which is long overdue.

AmBank Group’s chief economist Anthony Dass tells StarBizWeek that for every ringgit spent on capital projects such as transportation, it generates a return or multiplier effect of around 5% to 20%.

In his estimation, he says the ECRL should create around RM50-55bil in terms of gross domestic product.

“The impact of this project to the economy will be multilevel. Impact on the respective states’ GDP and national GDP will be evident, though the magnitude of the impact on the respective states is poised to vary.

“On a longer term, once the entire project is completed, we expect strong benefits seeping into services related activities. Properties in the major towns is likely to enjoy more especially the port-connected towns, driven by logistics- and trade-related businesses.

“Other areas would benefit from the movement of tourism. As for the smaller towns, they are more likely to enjoy from the spillovers of this connectivity through movement of people commuting to work and new areas of business growth especially in areas like the small and medium businesses,” says Anthony.

High cargo projections

By the year 2040, an estimated 8 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo are expected to use the ECRL service annually as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

By 2040, ECRL is projected to support a freight density of 19 million tonnes.

The freight cargo projections of the rail network stands in stark contrast to the total cargo volume running through the entire Malaysian railways today.

As of 2015, the entire Malaysian railways operations handled a sum of 6.21 million tons of cargo, according to a study related to the ECRL.

To note, the revenue from the operation of the venture is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.

If the projections of ECRL are anything to go by, the planners are anticipating a ballistic growth in volume of cargo being moved along the tracks.

Is this realistic?

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie remains concerned on the details of the project financing, albeit the expected trickle-down benefits of ECRL.

“While ECRL has been identified as a high impact public transport project that will connect east coast states with the west coast, especially Greater KL and Klang Valley, the high cost of RM55bil requires further justification. More clarity on the cost structure and terms and conditions of the loan is needed to ease public genuine concerns.

“It must be noted that the high costs, low profits and long gestation periods of transportation projects do not always make them financially viable. The financial viability of the ECRL would depend on the revenue generated to cover operating cash flow, including interest expenses.

“As the loan will have a seven year moratorium, the bunching of loan repayment together with interest payment will be substantial in the remaining 13 years,” he says.

Lowering cost the key

In terms of funding, 85% of the total project value of RM55bil would be to be funded by Exim Bank of China’s through a soft loan at a 3.25% interest.

The balance 15% would be financed through a sukuk programme by local banks.

There is no payment for the first seven years, and the government starts paying after the seventh year over a 13-year period.

At 3.25% interest per annum, the interest servicing bill for the project is huge.

“Hence the main challenge to this project will be to bring down cost as low as possible. The lower the cost, the lesser it would be the burden on the government’s balance sheet,” says an industry player.

Echoing a similar view, Lee noted the ERCL project loan is expected to be treated as “contingent liability” as it will be taken by Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance.

This is also to ensure that the Federal Government will not breach the self-imposed debt to GDP ratio of 55%.

As at end-March 2017, the Federal Government’s debt stood at RM664.5bil or 50.2% of GDP.

At the end of the day, despite the concerns on the possible cost overrun in the ECRL project, proper management and efficiency in project delivery could lead to cost savings and ultimately lower overall expenditure for ECRL.

History has shown that Malaysian companies can lower the cost, especially on rail projects compared to foreign players.

In the late 1990s, a consortium of India and China state-owned companies were awarded the contract to build a double track electrified railway system from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The cost was estimated at RM44bil and paid through crude palm oil.

However, an MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd joint venture managed to win the job in 2003 with a RM14.3bil proposal. However this project was shelved and subsequently continued after a lull of few years.

ECRL is a seven year project to be built in stages. Many factors can come into play in that period like delay in construction and rise in material costs.

However in the bigger picture, the infrastructure venture should not merely be seen from a commercial-viable lens alone. The trickle-down benefits on the economy and the Malaysian population should also be factored into the calculations.

The lower the cost, the higher the multiplier effect.

Source: The Star by ganeshwaran kanaandgurmeet kaur

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Fake news, piracy and digital duopoly of Google and Facebook


“FAKE NEWS” has seemingly, suddenly, become fashionable. In reality, the fake has proliferated for a decade or more, but the faux, the flawed and the fraudulent are now pressing issues because the full scale of the changes wrought upon the integrity of news and advertising by the digital duopoly — Google and Facebook — has become far more obvious.

Google’s commodification of content knowingly, wilfully undermined provenance for profit. That was followed by the Facebook stream, with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam. Together, the two most powerful news publishers in human history have created an ecosystem that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.

Both companies could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but instead they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat-earth philosophy that doesn’t distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both.

Depending on which source you believe, they have close to two-thirds of the digital advertising market — and let me be clear that we compete with them for that share. The Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates they accounted for more than 90% of the incremental increase in digital advertising over the past year. The only cost of content for these companies has been lucrative contracts for lobbyists and lawyers, but the social cost of that strategy is far more profound.

It is beyond risible that Google and its subsidiary YouTube, which have earned many billions of dollars from other people’s content, should now be lamenting that they can’t possibly be held responsible for monitoring that content. Monetising yes, monitoring no — but it turns out that free money does come at a price.

We all have to work with these companies, and we are hoping, mostly against hope, that they will finally take meaningful action, not only to allow premium content models that fund premium journalism, but also to purge their sites of the rampant piracy that undermines creativity. Your business model can’t be simultaneously based on both intimate, granular details about users and no clue whatsoever about rather obvious pirate sites.

Another area that urgently needs much attention is the algorithms that Silicon Valley companies, and Amazon, routinely cite as a supposedly objective source of wisdom and insight. These algorithms are obviously set, tuned and repeatedly adjusted to suit their commercial needs. Yet they also blame autonomous, anarchic algorithms and not themselves when neofascist content surfaces or when a search leads to obviously biased results in favour of their own products.

Look at how Google games searches. A study reported in The Wall Street Journal found that in 25,000 random Google searches ads for Google products appeared in the most prominent slot 91% of the time. How is that not the unfair leveraging of search dominance and the abuse of algorithm? All 1,000 searches for “laptops” started with an ad for Google’s Chromebook — 100% of the time. Kim Jong Un would be envious of results like that at election time.

And then there are the recently launched Google snippets, which stylistically highlight search results as if they were written on stone tablets and carried down from the mountain. Their sheer visual physicality gives them apparent moral force. The word Orwellian is flagrantly abused, but when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, Orwellian is underused.

As for news, institutional neglect has left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship. There is no Silicon Valley tradition, as there is at great newspapers, of each day arguing over rights and wrongs, of fretful, thoughtful agonising over social responsibility and freedom of speech.

What we now have is a backlash with which these omnipotent companies are uniquely ill-equipped to cope. Their responses tend to be political and politically correct. Regardless of your own views, you should be concerned that we are entering an era in which these immensely influential publishers will routinely and selectively “unpublish” certain views and news.

We stumble into this egregious era at a moment when the political volume in many countries is turned to 10. The echo chamber has never been larger and the reverb room rarely more cacophonous. This is not an entirely new trend, but it has a compounding effect with the combination of “holier than thou” and “louder than thou.”

Curiously, this outcome is, in part, a result of the idealism of the Silicon Valley set, and there’s no doubt about the self-proclaimed ideals. They devoutly believe they are connecting people and informing them, which is true, even though some of the connections become conspiracies and much of the information is skimmed without concern to intellectual property rights.

Ideas aside, we were supposed to be in a magic age of metrics and data. Yet instead of perfect precision we have the cynical arbitraging of ambiguity — particularly in the world of audiences. Some advertising agencies are also clearly at fault because they, too, have been arbitraging and prospering from digital ambiguity as money in the ad business has shifted from actually making ads to aggregating digital audiences and ad tech, better known as fad tech.

And so, as the Times of London has reported, socially aware, image-conscious advertisers find themselves in extremely disreputable places — hardcore porn sites, neofascist sites, Islamist sites. The embarrassment for these advertisers juxtaposed with jaundice is understandable, but the situation is far more serious than mere loss of face.

If these sites are getting a cut of the commission, the advertisers are technically funding these nefarious activities. Depending on the type of advertising, it is estimated by the ad industry that a YouTube partner could earn about 55% of the revenue from a video. In recent years, how many millions of dollars have been channelled to organisations or individuals that are an existential threat to our societies?

Provenance is profound, and in this age of augmented reality and virtual reality, actual reality will surely make a comeback. Authenticated authenticity is an asset of increasing value in an age of the artificial — understanding the ebb and flow of humanity will not be based on fake news or ersatz empathy, but on real insight.

BY ROBERT THOMSON

Robert Thomson is the chief executive of News Corp, which owns The Australian and The Wall Street Journal. This is adapted from a speech he delivered on March 29 to the Asia Society in Hong Kong.

PETALING JAYA: The proliferation of fake news on social media has benefited publishers like Google and Facebook in terms of digital advertising market share at the expense of other media companies. News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson recently in his speech noted that Google and Facebook, for example, have close to two-thirds of the digital advertising market.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates they accounted for more than 90% of the incremental increase in digital advertising over the past year, he said.

The only cost of content for these companies has been lucrative contracts for lobbyists and lawyers, he added, noting that the social cost of that strategy is far more profound.

Thomson said this during his speech to the Asia Society in Hong Kong on March 29.

News Corp is also the owner of The Australian and The Wall Street Journal. “Google’s commodification of content knowingly, wilfully undermined provenance for profit. That was followed by the Facebook stream, with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam.

Together, the two most powerful news publishers in human history have created an ecosystem that is dysfunctional and socially destructive,’’ he said.

Both companies, he said could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but instead they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat-earth philosophy that doesn’t distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both.

“It is beyond risible that Google and its subsidiary YouTube, which have earned many billions of dollars from other people’s content, should now be lamenting that they can’t possibly be held responsible for monitoring that content. Monetising yes, monitoring no – but it turns out that free money does come at a price.

“We all have to work with these companies, and we are hoping, mostly against hope, that they will finally take meaningful action, not only to allow premium content models that fund premium journalism, but also to purge their sites of the rampant piracy that undermines creativity,” Thomson said.

In his speech, he also said although “fake news” has seemingly, suddenly, become fashionable but in reality, the fake has proliferated for a decade or more.

But the faux, the flawed and the fraudulent are now pressing issues because the full scale of the changes wrought upon the integrity of news and advertising by the digital duopoly — Google and Facebook — has become far more obvious, he said.

Thomson also highlighted on the urgency of algorithms. Another area, he said that urgently needs much attention is the algorithms that Silicon Valley companies, and Amazon, routinely cite as a supposedly objective source of wisdom and insight.

“These algorithms are obviously set, tuned and repeatedly adjusted to suit their commercial needs.

“Yet they also blame autonomous, anarchic algorithms and not themselves when neofascist content surfaces or when a search leads to obviously biased results in favour of their own products,’’ he said.

A study reported in The Wall Street Journal found that in 25,000 random Google searches ads for Google products appeared in the most prominent slot 91% of the time.

“How is that not the unfair leveraging of search dominance and the abuse of algorithm?” he asked. All 1,000 searches for “laptops” started with an ad for Google’s Chromebook – 100% of the time.

And then there are the recently launched Google snippets, which stylistically highlight search results as if they were written on stone tablets and carried down from the mountain. Their sheer visual physicality gives them apparent moral force, he said.

“The word Orwellian is flagrantly abused, but when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, Orwellian is underused,’’ he said.

Thomson said: “What we now have is a backlash with which these omnipotent companies are uniquely ill-equipped to cope. Their responses tend to be political and politically correct.

Regardless of your own views, you should be concerned that we are entering an era in which these immensely influential publishers will routinely and selectively “unpublish” certain views and news.

He also faulted ad agencies as they have been arbitraging and prospering from digital ambiguity as money in the ad business has shifted from actually making ads to aggregating digital audiences and ad tech, better known as fad tech.

“Provenance is profound, and in this age of augmented reality and virtual reality, actual reality will surely make a comeback. Authenticated authenticity is an asset of increasing value in an age of the artificial – understanding the ebb and flow of humanity will not be based on fake news or ersatz empathy, but on real insight,’’ he added.

Sources: Starbiz

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Landed residential properties much sought after with resilent demand, Market insights


CBRE|WTW managing director Foo Gee Jen (pic) said that in spite of confidence issues among property buyers, there was still good demand for “the right products,” especially for landed units.

PETALING JAYA: Demand for landed residential units is still promising despite the current property glut, said an official from a local real estate services provider.

CBRE|WTW managing director Foo Gee Jen (pic) said that in spite of confidence issues among property buyers, there was still good demand for “the right products,” especially for landed units.

“Despite the issue with the confidence levels, some developers are still registering good sales for landed and affordable homes. High rise developers meanwhile are having to offer a lot more freebies, with some even offering their own financing.

“But you don’t see that for landed property as the demand is still there,” he said at a press conference announcing the joint venture (JV) between real estate agencies CH Williams Talhar & Wong Sdn Bhd (WTW) and CBRE last week.

He emphasised that one of the biggest issues facing the current property sector is not oversupply, but instead a mismatch of supply and demand.

“Developers are putting the wrong products in the market and this is not what the masses want. The demand is there but it’s not the correct product. So the question is, how long will the market take to absorb (these products)?”

As an example of a mismatch between demand and supply, Foo cited low-cost housing in areas that were not accessible to the proper target audience.

“For instance, there are low-cost properties built in Bukit Beruntung. But the daily toll and fuel cost of travelling to Kuala Lumpur for work is heavy for the type of people living in such homes.

“Also, there are so many high-end shoebox units now and Malaysia is unlike Singapore or Hong Kong. We still have plenty of land. If you’re putting the right property in the right location – you’ll still see a long queue of people attending the launches.”

CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm and a Fortune 500 company, announced yesterday that it had acquired a significant interest in Malaysia’s largest real estate service provider, WTW, WTW Real Estate Sdn Bhd and WTW Property Services Sdn Bhd.

The business will rebrand as CBRE|WTW effective immediately, with WTW holding a 51% stake in the JV. WTW network of 13 offices in Peninsula Malaysia.

CBRE Asia Pacific chief executive officer Steve Swerdlow said the collaboration was consistent with the firm’s strategy to grow in South-East Asia.

“At a time when planning is underway to link Malaysia and Singapore via high speed rail and with the Asean Economic Community and the Trans Pacific Partnership facilitating greater collaboration for both countries and their wider partner countries, this offers many opportunities for cross border activities when they arise.”

With CBRE as a strategic partner, Foo said the firm can now help its clients expand their activities beyond Malaysia, providing them with more options through a diverse means of expertise. “Conversely we can be a party to help bring greater meaningful inbound investments into the Malaysian market via the CBRE global network.”

By Eugene Mahalingam The Star

Top Story -market insights
An outlook on Malaysia’s property market

May 26, 2016
According to PropertyGuru’s Malaysia Property Market Sentiment
Survey Report H1 2016, things are expected to improve in 2016 as people
are warming up to the idea of purchasing properties.  

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Malaysia’s ringgit has done a stunning about-face as China starts buying Malaysian bonds


The market is saying that this recovery in oil prices will be pretty positive for the Malaysian economy,” said Kelvin Tay, chief investment officer for southern Asia Pacific at UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s ringgit has done a stunning about-face this year, with surging capital inflows turning it into Asia’s best-performing currency from the region’s worst in 2015.

Still, few expect the ringgit to regain all the ground lost last year, as inflows may have peaked as Malaysian risk assets are starting to look pricey to investors and analysts.

The ringgit strengthened 10 percent against the U.S. dollar in January-March, its largest quarterly gain since 1973, Thomson Reuters data shows.

In 2015, the ringgit had its worst year since 1997, shedding 18.5 percent on the back on plunging oil prices, anticipated higher U.S. interest rates and a financial scandal at state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Driving the currency’s U-turn is the return of foreign investors, who have poured into Malaysian stocks and bonds on better crude oil prices, a surprisingly resilient economy and easier monetary policies from major central banks.

“The market is saying that this recovery in oil prices will be pretty positive for the Malaysian economy,” said Kelvin Tay, chief investment officer for southern Asia Pacific at UBS Wealth Management in Singapore.

In February, exports rose faster than expected. Sales of electrical and electronic products, the biggest item, increased 8.9 percent from a year earlier.

JACKED-UP HOLDINGS

Through the week ended April 1, foreign investors bought a net 5.5 billion ringgit ($1.4 billion) of Kuala Lumpur stocks this year, data from the research arm of Malaysian Industrial Development Finance showed. Last year had total outflows of 19.5 billion ringgit, it said.

Offshore investors have raised their local bond holdings by 11.8 billion ringgit in January-March, central bank data shows, with increased interest in longer-tenor debt. For all of last year, foreigners slashed holdings by 11.1 billion ringgit.

The cautious stance of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on U.S. rate hikes has caused investors to seek higher yields in Asia, aiding flows into Malaysia.

“This combination of an attractive currency valuation and higher yields in a world of low or negative interest rates is drawing foreign investors back to the local Malaysian market,” said Eric Delomier, Asia fixed income investment specialist for Capital Group of the U.S.

Analysts and investors have concerns, including valuations of Malaysian assets and leadership of the central bank as its internationally-respected governor, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, retires at the end of April, and her successor has not been named.

Malaysian bonds seem “a bit rich,” said Maybank Investment Bank’s fixed income analyst Winson Phoon in Kuala Lumpur. Earlier this month, the 10-year yield fell to 3.77 percent, the lowest since February 2015.

SMALL INFLOWS AHEAD?

“I don’t expect to see a repeat large inflows in months ahead, although the direction should remain slightly positive,” Phoon said.

On share valuations, “Malaysia is actually not particularly cheap or attractive, compared to other markets,” Tay of UBS said. “We don’t think earnings growth has actually improved among Malaysian corporates.”

Local stocks were trading at about 17.3 times the past 12 months’ earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data. That compared with 11.8 times for Indonesian stocks, according to exchange data.

Zeti has led Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) since 2000, and investors are hoping for a successor with her credibility to help Malaysia’s standing at a time of political crisis for Prime Minister Najib Razak, chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board.

“Given the near-term challenges to a new BNM governor, oil prices and festering political risk from 1MDB, among other things, the ringgit’s upside is limited,” said Andy Ji, Asian currency strategist for Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Singapore.

His year-end target for the ringgit is 3.70 per dollar, 16 percent appreciation from its 2015 closing. Late Friday, the ringgit was at 3.90.- Reuters

China starts buying Malaysian bonds

Ong: ‘The Chinese government is keen to buy more Malaysian bonds

KUALA LUMPUR: China’s government has started buying more Malaysian government securities (MGS) and this inflow of new foreign money could rise to 50 billion yuan (RM30bil) in total, according to International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan.

In an exclusive interview with The Star, Ong said a senior representative of the Bank of China told him about this development recently when he met with the bank on issues pertaining to the use of yuan and ringgit in Malaysia-China direct trade.

“This could be one of the key factors contributing to the strength of the ringgit lately. China’s purchase of our MGS, which I am under the impression could rise to 50 billion yuan, will be very positive for our currency as it shows China’s confidence in our economy,” Ong said.

Other factors that had contributed to the strength of the ringgit in recent weeks included the recovery of crude oil prices, softer US dollar and the successful debt rationalisation of 1MDB, he added.

If China were to buy RM30bil worth of MGS, it would mean supporting 8.5% of Malaysia’s debts in the current MGS market. According to Bank Negara’s website, the value of outstanding MGS stood at RM352.06bil as at April 5, 2016.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s debt markets saw inflows of RM11.5bil, versus RM1.4bil of outflows in February. The March foreign inflow was the largest monthly inflow since May 2014, according to a Nomura research note on April 7.

The inflows pushed foreign holdings of MGS to a historical high of RM171.5bil, the Japanese research house said. As a result, foreign ownership in outstanding MGS has risen to 48.7%.

Ong noted that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had pledged to support the Malaysian economy – which was hit by a slowdown, local political problems, heavy outflow of funds and consequent plunge of the ringgit – when he visited Kuala Lumpur last November.

On Nov 23, the Chinese leader announced at a local forum that China would buy more MGS, issue yuan bonds in Kuala Lumpur and grant local institutional funds a quota of 50 billion yuan under the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor programme to invest directly in Chinese equities in the mainland.

The following day, the ringgit reacted positively gaining about 1% and the currency stabilised at around 4.25 to a US dollar in early December. MGS also gained.

“I was told China would use its reserves to buy our bonds. Its international reserves are high, at US$3.21 trillion (RM12.5 trillion) in March. With this development, I don’t think our ringgit will fall to 4.46 again,” said Ong.

Last month, Bank Negara said there were now more foreign governments and central banks holding MGS. A total of 29% was held by these two groups and 13% by pension funds.

The presence of these long-term investors is seen as reducing the risk of Malaysia facing sudden and massive outflows of capital in the event of unfavourable conditions, just like what had occurred last September, which saw the ringgit weakening to a multi-year low of 4.46.

Foreign inflow into the local stock market might be another factor that has boosted the ringgit. According to a Credit Suisse report, Malaysia saw a record net foreign equity inflow of RM6.1bil in March, which contributed to the ringgit’s 10.3% rise against the dollar in January-March 2016. At late trades on Friday, the ringgit stood at 3.9096.

Due to the recent new inflows, Bank Negara’s foreign exchange reserves had risen to RM412.3bil (US$96.1bil) as at March 15 from RM408.5bil (US$95.1bil) as at Jan 15.

This reserves figure is an important buffer against capital flows and has an impact on the ringgit and the sovereign credit rating of the country. Moody’s recently noted this buffer has improved.

Ong also said China would like to see Malaysia conducting roadshows in the mainland so that there is better understanding of Malaysia’s fundamentals and its bonds.

“The representative of Bank of China also told me the Chinese government is keen to buy more MGS, but they also hope our central bank could go there to market our MGS. I have conveyed this to Bank Negara. It is up to them to act,” says Ong.

Ong, who is also MCA secretary-general, noted that China’s huge direct investments had also boosted the ringgit’s sentiment.

The ringgit rose sharply in March partly due to the conclusion of the sale of 1MDB’s energy assets to China’s state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp for RM9.83bil, as the absorption of all the debts of Edra Global Energy Bhd has reduced the systemic risk to pubic finance, banking system and economy.

Ong is confident that Kuala Lumpur is able to attract more major Chinese investments into the country this year due to Malaysia’s strong bilateral ties with China as well as the many free trade agreements – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – Malaysia has signed with various countries and groupings.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star

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Malaysian home prices may go up 5~8%; heart-warming CNY family ties with EcoWorld 全家福


From Left :- Director of Valuation Services Chee Kok Thim , Rahim & Co Executive Chairman Senator Tan Sri Dato’ Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman, DIrector Real Estate Agency Robert Ang and Director of Research & Strategic Planning Sulaiman Saheh after Press conference and Q&A session – Review on Malaysian Property Market and the prospects of 2016 – on Thursday Feb 4 2016.

KUALA LUMPUR: The property market is expected to remain challenging, with the hike in house prices slowing to between 5% and 8% this year, compared with 7% to 10% last year.

Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd director Sulaiman Akhmady Mohd Saheh expects prices to rise but sees only marginal price gains for the residential sector.

“Depending on location and type of property, some may see price consolidation as the gap between sellers’ asking prices is closing towards the buyers’ expected prices,” he said during the firm’s property market review.

He said that there were concerns that the number of transactions may drop this year, as new property launches could face more challenges and slower take-up.

He said that based on average annual household incomes to the price of average terraced homes, housing affordability could have slightly improved last year compared with 2014 although house prices in general continued to increase.

“Nevertheless, housing affordability is still a big concern especially in urban centres and major towns throughout the country.

“The ratio improved from 3.6 in 2014 to 3.4 last year, which indicates that an average terraced house would cost an average household or family in Malaysia 3.4 times its annual gross income,” said executive chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman.

Note that the least affordable terraced house in Malaysia last year was in Sabah, with a 5.7 times ratio, Penang, 5.3 times, Kuala Lumpur, 5.2 times and Sarawak, at 4.5 times.

He said that home ownership continued to be beyond the reach of many Malaysians, especially the younger generation.

“The ratio indicate that generally our houses are still moderately unaffordable. For Sabah, Penang and Kuala Lumpur, average prices of terraced houses are even categorised as severely unaffordable,” he said.

He added that the pace of construction and completion for affordable housing needed to be improved in order to address the issue of affordability.

“It is progressing but there should be more effort, for example in PR1MA. Among these, PR1MA is to provide 175,000 units where 74,399 units are currently in various stages of construction. “At present, only 10,000 units is due to be completed by the end of the year.

“That 74,399 units under construction should be intensified instead of completing 10,000 units by the end of the year,” he noted.

For the commercial sector, particularly the office sector, it will still remain challenging as absorption of new supply coming into the market is expected to slow down.

More office buildings are expected to undergo refurbishment to prevent tenants from relocating to newer office buildings.

However, there are concerns on whether the retail property sector might be heading into a glut in supply as a number of malls are being launched within Klang Valley.

Last year, retail sales were affected by the goods and services tax, which was implemented from April as well as a weakening ringgit, driving up costs and lowering consumer spending.

By Nadya Ngui The Star/Asia News Network

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Heartwarning CNY video on family ties goes viral

//players.brightcove.net/4405352765001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4735800122001

Building strong ties: A video grab from EcoWorld’s ‘Family Portraits’ on its official YouTube page captures the essence of maintaining family values.

PETALING JAYA: A heart-warming Chinese New Year video showing a man’s life as seen through his family photographs has been released by EcoWorld Development Group Bhd.

The three-minute video titled Family Portraits, which can be seen on YouTube, has been viewed more than 78,000 times so far yesterday. It is meant to educate the viewer on maintaining strong family values. The video shows glimpses of the man’s life-long journey from early childhood until adulthood.

All throughout, viewers will notice that family plays a huge role in the main character’s life as he encounters the pivotal moments in life that are familiar to many of us. The loving embrace of his family is never too far away even as he grows up and leaves his parents to pursue a career and start a family of his own.

Family Portraits successfully conveys its message through very little dialogue, relying mostly on visual images that reflect the mood and spirit of the central theme of the video.

The touching video, while light hearted and filled with funny moments, sends a strong message that clearly emphasises the importance of family ties and the togetherness that is an integral part of the Chinese New Year festival.

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing. This Chinese New Year, capture the warmth and happiness with a family portrait and start a collection of beautiful memories to look back on for generations to come,” posted the company on its YouTube page.

Those who wish to view the video may do so at EcoWorld’s official YouTube page.

Earlier this week, the company announced that it was offering a special Chinese New Year treat for buyers of the few remaining units of EcoWorld’s Eco Meadow Phase 1 homes by giving rebates of RM22,888 on top of an additional 5% early bird rebate from now until Feb 22.

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EcoWorld – Creating Tomorrow & Beyond

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