Goodbye, Silicon Valley


Greener pastures: Wang at his company’s headquarters in Shanghai. The successful Silicon Valley alumni was lured
back to China by the promise of a brighter future.

Chinese-born talents are abandoning California for riches back home with the rise of China’s new titans.

A FEW years ago, Wang Yi was living the American dream. He had graduated from Princeton, landed a job at Google and bought a spacious condo in Silicon Valley.

But one day in 2011, he sat his wife down at the kitchen table and told her he wanted to move back to China. He was bored working as a product manager for the search giant and felt the pull of starting his own company in their homeland.

It wasn’t easy persuading her to abandon balmy California for smog-choked Shanghai.

“We’d just discovered she was pregnant,” said Wang, now 37, recalling hours spent pacing their apartment. “It was a very uneasy few weeks before we made our decision, but in the end she came around.”

His bet paid off: his popular English teaching app Liulishuo or LingoChamp raised US$100mil (RM397mil) in July, putting him in the growing ranks of successful Silicon Valley alumni lured back to China by the promise of a brighter future. His decision is emblematic of an unprecedented trend with disquieting implications for Valley stalwarts from Facebook Inc to Alphabet Inc’s Google.

US-trained Chinese-born talent is becoming a key force in driving Chinese companies’ global expansion and the country’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Where college graduates once coveted a prestigious overseas job and foreign citizenship, many today gravitate towards career opportunities at home, where venture capital is now plentiful and the government dangles financial incentives for cutting-edge research.

“More and more talent is moving over because China is really getting momentum in the innovation area,” said Ken Qi, a headhunter for Spencer Stuart and leader of its technology practice.

“This is only the beginning.” Chinese have worked or studied abroad and then returned home long enough that there’s a term for them – “sea turtles”. But while a job at a US tech giant once conferred near-unparalleled status, homegrown companies – from giants like Tencent Holdings Ltd to up-and-comers like news giant Toutiao – are now often just as prestigious. Baidu Inc – a search giant little-known outside of China – convinced ex-Microsoft standout Qi Lu to helm its efforts in AI, making him one of the highest-profile returnees of recent years.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s coming-out party was a catalyst. The e-commerce giant pulled off the world’s largest initial public offering in 2014 – a record that stands – to drive home the scale and inventiveness of the country’s corporations.

Alibaba and Tencent now count among the 10 most valuable companies in the world, in the ranks of Amazon.com Inc and Facebook.

Chinese venture capital rivals the United States: three of the world’s five most valuable startups are based in Beijing, not California.

Tech has supplanted finance as the biggest draw for overseas Chinese returnees, accounting for 15.5% of all who go home, according to a 2017 survey of 1,821 people conducted by think-tank Centre for China & Globalisation and jobs site Zhaopin.com. That’s up 10% from their last poll, in 2015.

Not all choose to abandon the Valley. Of the more than 850,000 AI engineers across America, 7.9% are Chinese, according to a 2017 report from LinkedIn.

That naturally includes plenty of ethnic Chinese without strong ties to the mainland or any interest in working there. However, there are more AI engineers of Chinese descent in the United States than there are in China, even though they make up less than 1.6% of the American population.

Yet the search for returnees has spurred a thriving cottage industry.

In WeChat and Facebook cliques, headhunters and engineers from the diaspora exchange banter and animated gifs.

Qi watches for certain markers: if you’ve scored permanent residency, are childless or the kids are prepping for college, expect a knock on your digital door.

Jay Wu has poached over 100 engineers for Chinese companies over the past three years. The co-founder of Global Career Path ran online communities for students before turning it into a career. The San Francisco resident now trawls more than a dozen WeChat groups for leads.

“WeChat is a good channel to keep tabs on what’s going on in the circle and also broadcast our offline events,” he said.

Ditching Cupertino or Mountain View for Beijing can be a tough sell when China’s undergoing its harshest Internet crackdown in history. But its tech giants hold three drawcards: faster growth in salaries, opportunity and a sense of home.

China’s Internet space is enjoying bubbly times, with compensation sometimes exceeding American peers’. One startup was said to have hired an AI engineer for cash and shares worth as much as US$30mil (RM119mil) over four years.

For engineers reluctant to relinquish American comforts, Chinese companies are going to them. Alibaba, Tencent, Uber-slayer Didi Chuxing and Baidu are among those who have built or are expanding labs in Silicon Valley.

Career opportunities, however, are regarded as more abundant back home. While Chinese engineers are well represented in the Valley, the perception is that comparatively fewer advance to the top rungs, a phenomenon labelled the “Bamboo Ceiling”.

“More and more Chinese engineers who have worked in Silicon Valley for an extended period of time end up finding it’s much more lucrative for them career-wise to join a fast-rising Chinese company,”

says Hans Tung, a managing partner at venture firm GGV who’s organised events to poach talent.

“At Google, at LinkedIn, at Uber, at AirBnB, they all have Chinese engineers who are trying to figure out ‘should I stay, or should I go back’.”

More interesting than prospects for some may be the sheer volume of intimate data available and leeway to experiment in China.

Tencent’s WeChat, built by a small team in months, has become a poster-child for in-house creative licence.

Modern computing is driven by crunching enormous amounts of data, and generations of state surveillance has conditioned the public to be less concerned about sharing information than Westerners.

Local startup SenseTime for instance has teamed with dozens of police departments to track everything from visages to races, helping the country develop one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance machines.

China’s 751 million Internet users have thus become a massive petri dish.

Big money and bigger data can be irresistible to those itching to turn theory into reality.

Xu Wanhong left Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science PhD programme in 2010 to work on Facebook’s news feed.

A chance meeting with a visiting team from Chinese startup UCAR Technology led to online friendships and in 2015, an offer to jump ship. Today he works at Kuaishou, a video service said to be valued at more than US$3bil (RM12bil), and commutes from 20km outside Beijing. It’s a far cry from the breakfast bar and lush spaces of Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“I didn’t go to the US for a big house. I went for the interesting problems,” he said.

Then there are those for whom it’s about human connection: no amount of tech can erase the fact that Shanghai and San Francisco are separated by an 11-hour flight and an even wider cultural chasm.

Chongqing native Yang Shuishi grew up deifying the West, adopting the name Seth and landing a dream job as a software engineer on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

But suburban America didn’t suit a single man whose hometown has about 40 times Seattle’s population.

While he climbed the ranks during subsequent stints at Google and Facebook, life in America remained a lonely experience and he landed back in China.

“You’re just working as a cog in the huge machine and you never get to see the big picture.

“My friends back in China were thinking about the economy and vast social trends,” he said.

“Even if I get killed by the air and live shorter for 10 years, it’ll still be better.” – Bloomberg

Related Link:

Next Crisis Will Start in Silicon Valley – Bloomberg

Chinese workers abandon Silicon Valley for riches back home …

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Only the brave teach


Show of solidarity: Fellow teachers and
unionists gathering at the Seremban magistrate court last month in
support of Cikgu Azizan (centre in white).

 

ONE tight slap – I still vividly remember that hard, stinging smack across my cheek as my teacher flew into a fit of rage after I did something naughty as a primary school pupil at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

I can’t recall which teacher hit me, but there must have been more than one. They pinched my stomach and even my nipples. Many of my classmates can attest to that, even 40 years on.

There was also the occasional caning, which I felt was an act of gross injustice and, perhaps, even one of perversion on the part of our disciplinary teacher. To me, back then, he was an unfair individual, and my opinion still stands. To this day, I have no idea why I was caned and not given the chance to defend myself.

But, bless his soul, because he has passed on. Most students from back then would have forgiven him by now, for he probably knew not what he was doing.

However, one thing is certain – as far as I know, none of us returned home and complained about this disciplinary action to our parents.

Comedian Harith Iskandar always reminds his audience that if one complained to their parents, they can expect to get another tight slap that “would burn your face and send an electrifying chilling effect to all parts of your body,” and consequently, leave a lifetime’s reminder.

So, the smartest thing to do, as most older Malaysians can testify, was to keep quiet. Of course, we also warned our classmates, some of whom were our neighbors, to swear to keep things under wraps and not tell their parents about the drama at school.

The caning and slaps, by disciplinary standards, were the “final” punishments. We surely remember the use of rulers, feather dusters, belts, black board dusters and in my case, even a shoe that flew in my direction.

And I wasn’t even in the naughty boys’ category. I didn’t get into fights or was caught loitering with the bad hats after school.

As one writer, Adrian Lee Yuen Beng, wrote in Aliran: “The teachers were our ad hoc parents who taught with joy and passion, and like their predecessors, never demanded any recognition. They customarily stood at the back of the class, silently rejoicing as the students celebrated their exam success.

“We received an education steeped in tradition as mission schoolteachers took teaching seriously; it was not a mere job, but a vocation, nay, a calling.

“Our teachers were proud of their lessons and believed in their form of education. They shaped us into intellectuals, sportspersons, politicians, educators, religionists, physicians and other important societal figures.”

Fast forward to today – and it’s the total reverse. The guilty party – the student – runs home to complain to his parents.

Now, the father and mother fly into a rage and decide to confront the teacher at school the following day. What unnecessary drama!

Adding insult to injury, the parents then seek the help of a politician, who has likely been deprived of the media’s glare for a while. Then, all three confront the teacher.

Lodging a police report is, of course, the next thing they do, and to embarrass the teacher and school further, they call for a press conference.

This is modern Malaysia. Perhaps, today’s family is smaller. There are only one or two children in a family, and they are, invariably, pampered.

During my time, there were at least four or five siblings and even so, we were still regarded a small family. Dad was always too busy earning a living, trying to put food on the table, so, he was thankful that the teacher played surrogate father, at least during school hours. The lesser-educated father would have been equally respectful of teachers. After all, it’s accepted that teachers mould the character, calibre and prospects of their students.

However, the modern-day father thinks he’s smarter and earns more than the teacher, his condescending and confrontational attitude not boding well for the situation.

He probably thinks the teacher has a dead-end job or is too busy distributing business cards to pupils for after-school tuition.

But, for an old-school type like me, I find it difficult to accept news of teachers being hauled to court for purportedly hurting their students.

Honestly, don’t the police and prosecutors have better things to do than to charge these teachers who were merely trying to discipline the children – responsibilities which may have been neglected by their caregivers?

In December, a teacher facing the charge of hurting his student, was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the magistrate’s court.

Magistrate Mohd Zaki Abdul Rahim delivered judgement after the prosecution told the court that they wished to withdraw the case.

Azizan Manap, also known as Cikgu Azizan, claimed trial to the charge of slapping an 11-year-old male student on the left cheek in April for indiscipline, the misdemeanour including sniffing glue, bullying and playing truant.

He was charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt and was left facing a jail term of up to a year, a fine of RM,2000, or both, upon conviction.

Leading up to his discharge, several hundred people, including fellow teachers, gathered at the court in a show of solidarity for Cikgu Azizan.

By all means, go ahead and Google it: there are numerous reports of teachers threatened or roughed up in schools, and surprisingly, we seldom hear of offensive parents charged in court for criminal intimidation or causing bodily harm.

We have now been made to understand that the old ways don’t work anymore. The children need counselling and their hair needs to be stroked to motivate them. Have these methods worked better? That remains to be conclusively proven.

One thing’s for sure, though, the tight slap was unbeatable in my time in instilling discipline. Now, when I enter a lift, the millennials are too busy looking at their handphones, so don’t expect them to address you as “sir” or even greet you.

You’d be lucky if they called you “bro” and gave you an enthusiastic high-five, instead.

Would the proverbial one tight slap work today in curing disciplinary ills? Hardly likely.

By Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

New Year 2018 high for Malaysia


FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

In a synchronised fashion, the ringgit, stock market and exports are all glowing for Malaysia. Add this to the rising price of crude oil, economists are expecting the good start to the year to continue leading up to GE14. Experts foresee these translating to lower import costs and more affordable overseas education.

 

Busa and ringgit on a high

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

US$ vs ringgit at 3.9965 

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

FBM KLCI up 14.52pts to 1,817.97

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Exports in November rise to RM83.50bil

Exports hit record high of RM83.5bil in November – Business News …

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

By leong hung yee The Staronline

Bursa and ringgit on a high

 

FBM KLCI moves higher past 1,800 mark while ringgit breaches RM4 level

PETALING JAYA: In a rare occurrence, the local capital markets got off to a roaring start in the first week of the new year.

Sentiments on the stock market picked up as it sailed through the 1,800 mark, the ringgit breached the RM4 level against the US dollar and the latest trade numbers released showed that exports have hit record levels.

The FBM KLCI, a key benchmark for the local stock market, closed at 1,817.97, up 14.52 points yesterday – the highest since April 2015. Analysts and fund managers expect the upward momentum to continue, leading to the 14th General Election (GE14).

“The local stock market is set to continue its upward momentum, with investors in optimistic mood, lingering upon expectations of the GE14,” an analyst said.

The Malaysian stock market is now playing catch-up with key regional markets in other countries that have been moving up.

For instance, in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at fresh record highs above 25,000. Trading volume on Bursa has risen sharply to a high of nearly six billion shares valued at RM3.94bil. This is the highest since 2014.

“The increasing volume is an indicator of more investors joining the fray,” said the analyst.

The ringgit also perked up against the US dollar and strengthened to 3.9945 yesterday, the strongest level since August 2016.

Crude oil prices continue to climb with the Brent Crude rising above US$67 per barrel. Apart from a brief spike in May 2015, this is the highest price levels it has reached since December 2014, when the oil price started its slide down.

Adding to the optimism, the country’s latest trade data for November showed that exports exceeded expectations and rose to a monthly high of RM83.5bil. This is an increase of 14.4% from last year.

The head of UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research, Vincent Khoo, expects global and local conditions to be favourable for the local stock market as sentiment builds up for the GE14.

“Malaysia has been a laggard and now it is reversing its underperformance. Liquidity is strong locally and internationally as there is more foreign funds participation.

“Economic numbers are strong and export momentum continues to be solid,” Khoo said.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie said there were continued optimism and positive sentiments on the global economy and markets.

He said the tax reforms in the US would beef up corporate earnings while central banks around the world were raising rates.

The impending GE14, he added, spurred investors’ interest in the stock market and the recovery in oil prices continued to lift the demand for ringgit.

He said the ringgit had a good rally since the last Bank Negara meeting and the upcoming meeting on Jan 29 might see the central bank review its overnight policy rates (OPR) upwards.

The OPR now is 3.25% and many are expecting it to increase, a move that would spur banks to raise their interest rates.

Additionally, Lee said trade data was better than expected and as long as the macro numbers and earnings deliver, it would lift sentiments on market.

Nonetheless, he said investors might be a bit cautious when the dissolution of Parliament was announced.

Meanwhile, Oanda head of trading Asia-Pacific Stephen Innes said Bursa Malaysia was playing catchup as the ringgit remained undervalued in a lot of fund managers’ portfolio.

“But I think the current run will take us to 3.90 (against the US dollar) but at this stage, I think the market is starting to factor in the Bank Negara rate hike in January.

“So we may see a slower appreciation of the ringgit and we should expect profit taking ahead of the rate decision (by BNM) later in the month,” he added.

On the external front, Inness said the global equity market rally was benefiting from higher commodity prices in general and specifically oil prices.

“The recent supply disruptions are having a much more significant impact on prices given Opec’s (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) recent production cut and the market is certainly much tighter than it has been in the past.

“Rising oil prices bode well for the FBM KLCI given that oil and gas constituents play a big role in the KLCI make-up. However, I don’t think this is strictly an isolated oil play but it is also rallying on the global growth narrative which is supporting export-oriented firms,” Innes said.

Experts see good tidings in firmer currency

Back in favour:People queuing to change the ringgit for US Dollar at a money exchange outlet in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: Lower import costs and more affordable overseas education are among the benefits brought about by a firmer ringgit and bullish stockmarket.

National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) president Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap said the rise in the ringgit is a sign of growing confidence in the nation’s economy.

“These are good signs which have set a feel-good mood for the market. What is most important is for the ringgit to remain stable as business needs this rather than having to hedge on the foreign exchange,” he said.

However, a stronger ringgit could act as a “double-edged sword”, Ter added, as exports would now cost higher.

“Exporters may not make the windfall profit as before but they had adjusted to this,” said Ter, who is also Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) president.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Datuk Garry Chua said a stronger ringgit bodes well for retailers that rely heavily on imports.

“In the end, the shoppers will benefit as cost of products would be lower due to the exchange rate,” he said.

Chua said the positive stock run was also good news for retailers and consumers.

“People tend to spend more due to easy earnings from the market and this is good for business,” he said.

Malaysia Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) president Tan Sri Kenneth Eswaran said the positive developments showed that the nation’s economic transformation is on the right track.

“The ringgit breaking the RM4 barrier and the stock market climb are signs showing the Government’s economic transformation plans are bearing fruit. Traders and consumers will now enjoy lower import costs,” he said.

Taylor’s University deputy vice chancellor Prof Dr Pradeep Nair said the ringgit’s rally is expected to continue and strengthen below the RM4 region.

“For the education sector, this will be beneficial for parents who wish to send their children abroad to do part or whole of their studies to countries like the US, UK and Australia, should the trend continue,” he said.

He said a firmer ringgit would not have a major impact on incoming foreign students.

“We are still relatively cheaper than other countries that use English as the medium of teaching and we will remain one of the preferred destinations for foreign students looking for affordable, quality education,” he said.

Sunway Education Group senior executive director Dr Elizabeth Lee said some parents would be more willing to send their children abroad for further studies.

“I sense that enthusiasm in parents who enrolled their children with us. They are more confident of supporting their higher education throughout,” she said.

By martin carvalho The Staronline

Ringgit boost for investors, importers 

Companies which lost out during a low ringgit recouping fast

Ringgit on uptrend: People queuing up to change money at a money changer. The ringgit has broken past the crucial 4.00 level.

THE New Year is in, tides are changing and the ringgit is recovering from the past two year’s extreme blues.

The long-awaited reprieve has finally come for certain consumer companies that import intermediary goods for their production cycle.

Foreigners who have taken advantage by accumulating and buying into the equity and/or bond market when the ringgit was at a weaker level last year, would be firmly in the money now.

Analysts see the local currency as now being on a cruise control climb mode moving to new highs in the past week and possibly in the near future.

They note that the foreign buyers would see two-way gains and would be able to realise their gains if they choose to.

“If they liquidate and take the money out they will realise the gains and benefit. Last year the ringgit strengthened by almost 10.4%. Ringgit already broke the crucial 4.00 level, assuming that they make money from the market and take it out, they will also pay less to convert to US dollar,” Socio Economic Research Centre’s executive director Lee Heng Guie tells StarBiz Week.

The ringgit had seen a gain of 0.64% after we entered the New Year, adding to its gains that was achieved in the past two months of 5.63%.<

Currency strategists agree that the next crucial psychological mark would be the 3.80 level that is the infamous currency peg level some years after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

The recovering oil prices with the lifting of equity markets due to strong global sentiment aided gains in the ringgit, Lee says.

The FBM KLCI saw a strong upward move as investors celebrated Christmas and ushered in the New Year thereafter.

The benchmark index had gained some 4.6% since Dec 19 to yesterday’s close at 1,817.97.

Meanwhile, the other companies that will stand to gain are consumer-driven companies especially those that have imported intermediary goods to manufacture or complete end products.

Lee says the strengthening ringgit, if it is sustained, would eventually help to boost the consumer sentiment index (CSI).

In the latest reported third quarter of 2017, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier) said the CSI continued to remain weak with the index having retreated further to 77.1.

“Anxieties over higher prices grow and (there are) burly spending plans amid waning incomes and jobs,” the Mier said at the release of third quarter CSI figures then.

Any CSI level below the 100 indicates weakness on the consumer front.

Lee says he is hopeful the stronger ringgit would help eventually translate to additional cost savings to the consumer in the form of lower prices.

Meanwhile, MIDF Research’s consumer stocks analyst Nabil Fithri says not all consumer companies would automatically gain from the strengthening ringgit.

He notes that the gainers among the consumer companies would mainly be those which derive their sales from the local market and have imported intermediary goods in the supply chain.

“On average, the companies that import their raw materials lock in the prices through forward contracts for the upcoming six months. So, if there are any gains to their profit margins, it would be seen in the second half of the year,” he says.

Among the companies that stand to gain from this trend are the major consumer food companies such as Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N), Nestle (M) Bhd and Dutch Lady Milk Industries Bhd.

Strong gains: The Dutch Lady Milk Industries
factory in Petaling Jaya. The company’s stocks had been making strong
gains since last year.
Better profit: Nestle Malaysia is one of the companies gaining from a strong ringgit.

All three stocks have been making strong gains in their share prices last year despite their high base.

Observers note that a common theme today that belies these stocks are that they derive their sales from the local market, with minimal or zero exports. Hence they will benefit from strong gains should the local currency appreciate further.

“Their raw materials that form a big part of their production are ingredients such as milk, coffee and sugar which are not readily available locally. They need to be imported and these are denominated in US dollar,” an analyst with a local research outfit says.

Two of those stocks that were mentioned above topped the gainers list on Friday: Nestle rising by RM1.20 to a new historical high of RM103.80 and F&N hitting an alltime high of RM27.82.

Investors may also want to train their sights on the smaller-capitalised consumer stocks some of which had been at a disadvantage earlier due to the weakened ringgit.

The stocks in this space include Apollo Food Holdings Bhd, Hup Seng Industries and Berjaya Food Bhd.

Apollo Food, the maker of packaged confectionery products see a big part of their sales being derived locally and their food is usually stocked in the school canteens.

The stock is trading at a current price to earnings ratio (PER) of 23.6 times and forward financial year 2018 ending April 30 (FY18) PER of 18.96 times.

The company’s second quarter profit had dropped by 11.1% to RM3.82mil primarily due to the lower ringgit then compared to the same quarter a year ago.

When the ringgit was trading above the 4.00 level then, the company had said in its prospectus that its operating environment was more challenging due to the increase in costs of raw materials.

Meanwhile, Berjaya Food Bhd could see further gains ahead as the ringgit continues its ascent.

The company owns half of the popular Starbucks franchise in Malaysia beside owning the worldwide Kenny Rogers Roasters franchise after acquiring KRR International Corp of the US in April 2008.

AmInvestment Bank Research said last month that it believed the worst is over for Berjaya Food with KRR’s robust same store sales growth following the disposal of KRR Indonesia.

The research house had highlighted that Berjaya Food would benefit from a stronger ringgit.

AmInvestment Research maintained its buy recommendation on Berjaya Food with fair value of RM1.91 per share.

“Valuations are pegged to a PER of 25 times FY19 forward, reflecting a 20% premium to its historical valuations. We think that it is justified as Berjaya Food has significantly enhanced earnings visibility following the disposal of KRR Indonesia, attractive growth off a low base and a stellar Starbucks brand,” it says.

By daniel khoo TheStaronline

Malaysia must retool education, skills to adapt to knowledge economy


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to reinvent its education system to adapt to the knowledge economy, which has led to a sharp reduction in unskilled jobs and spike in demand for data analysts.

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng, Distinguished Fellow of Asia Global Institute, University of Hong Kong, said Malaysia needs to retool its education and skills, and experiment across the spectrum, in positioning itself in the new economy.

“Formal education is outdated because of the speed of new knowledge. Companies do not spend on ‘on the job’ training, because of cost cuts and staff turnover,” he said during his presentation at the NCCIM Economic Forum 2017 yesterday.

Between 2007 and 2015, the loss of unskilled jobs was 55% relative to other jobs while demand for data analysts over the last five years has increased 372%.

In the global supply chain, old economy companies are quickly losing their edge as digitisation moves faster than physical goods while unskilled jobs will be quickly replaced by robotics due to the fast adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).

“Moving up the global value chain is about moving up knowledge intensity. If you don’t get smarter you won’t get the business.

“We are already plugged into the global value chain. We are very successful in that area but we cannot stay where we are. Remaining still is no longer an option. We need to move from tasks to value added growth to high value added production. In order to do that, we need to learn to learn.”

Sheng said the Malaysian economy is doing well but faces many challenges, including subdued energy prices, growing trade protectionism, geopolitical tensions and is still very reliant on foreign labour.

“Are we ready for the new economy? The way trade is growing is phenomenal but the new economy’s challenges are great and very complicated politically because technology is great for us as it gives us whatever we want but at the cost of our jobs,” he said.

When education fails to keep pace with technology, the result is inequality, populism and major political upheaval.

“What the new economy tells us is that robotics or AI (artificial intelligence) calls for Education 4.0, which means that we have to learn for life,” he said.

Sheng noted that Malaysia has successfully moved quietly into education services, medical tourism, higher quality foods, all through upgrading skills, branding and marketing.

“But formal education has become bureaucratised, whereas we are not spending enough on upgrading our labour force, prefering to hire imported labour,” he said.

Although Malaysia cannot compete in terms of scale and speed, especially against giants such as China, it can compete in terms of scope with strength in diversity, soft skills and adaptability.

“We are winners … but have we got the mindset?” Sheng questioned.

He said Malaysia must upgrade its physical technology through research and development, harness its unique social technology and digitise its business model in order to create wealth.

While the government can help, he added, true success comes from community self-help irrespective of race or creed, and retired baby boomers who have wealth of experience must mentor the youth to start thinking about the new economy.

Eva Yeong, sunbiz@thesundaily.com
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Andrew Sheng
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Money game scourge


Easier option: Poor experience with regulated investment product providers may be the reason for investors to go for ‘alternative’

Poor wealth management experiences fuel money games

OVER the past 2 months, it was virtually impossible to pick up any newspaper and not read reports about the money game phenomenon that has taken the media by storm.

It is as if the Pandora’s Box had been suddenly flung open by the exposé of JJPTR, leading to other similar schemes coming to light.

The victim profile ranges from white-collared professionals and savvy businessmen to senior citizens and housewives. It would appear as if just about anyone from different walks of life could be susceptible to these money schemes.

It is easy for observers and bystanders to pin the blame on the investors for getting themselves in a sticky situation. After all, if we apply the caveat emptor (buyer beware) principle to other types of goods and services, the investors should have clearly known the risks of subscribing to these money games and therefore should have been aware of the possibility of losing their investments.

So, what caused groups of people to lose their common sense when it comes to money games?

Scams come in many shapes, sizes and forms but look closely and you will see that they all have many things in common in terms of the modus operandi and the people they seem to attract. From JJPTR and MBI International right at our doorstep to China’s Nanning investment scheme and the most notorious Ponzi scheme of all times – the Madoff scandal, all these scams preyed on innate human weaknesses and appealed to investors’ desire to grow their wealth.

Many would be quick to label these investors as greedy or gullible, but I beg to differ. I see nothing wrong with wanting to achieve financial freedom and get higher investment returns. The people who invested and lost in these scams are not multi-millionaires with ample financial resources. They are average Malaysians who have worked hard and saved their money for a rainy day, only to see their nest egg disappear into thin air. What drove them to place the precious results of their blood, sweat and tears into unregulated investment schemes?

I am convinced that the reason stems from the investors’ poor experience with regulated investment product providers.

The so-called ‘push’ factor

There is a mismatch of what consumers need and what financial institutions are trying to sell. Consumers want guidance on how to use regulated investments as a means to grow their wealth with high certainty and achieve financial freedom.

The general public sees banks as an easy, accessible channel to obtain advice on personal finance and investment matters via wealth management services. There is no issue with legitimacy as the array of financial products and services available through banks are duly approved by the regulatory authorities.

The problem arises when investors are not getting what they need, which is advisory support, from their current wealth management providers. More often than not, investors feel overwhelmed by the choices available in the market. Worse still, investors do not know what action to take when their investments lose money. It is not uncommon to find that the wealth management providers are very attentive and proactive in recommending options; but once the sales is concluded, the investor is basically left to his or her own devices.

As a result of the lack of hand-holding or after-sales service, some investors may find that rather than growing money, they end up losing 20%-30% of their capital. The sheer irony of it is that because of the experience of losing money, they now perceive regulated investments as highly volatile and uncertain, and ultimately lose faith. I have personally encountered clients who harbour such misgivings about unit trusts, that they would bluntly tell me right from the initial meeting, not to propose such options to them.

I realised then the extent to which poor experiences with wealth management providers can lead to misplaced biases against certain investment vehicles even though investors could benefit from the right ones. When disillusioned investors turn their heads elsewhere, this is when they discover “alternative” investment options. And many end up falling for money games because they are sold on the idea of fixed return investments perceived to be low risk, coupled with the promise of better returns.

In this instance, the “push” factor, i.e. the unmet financial needs of consumers, which contributed to investors subscribing to shady schemes, has equal bearing to the “pull” factor (attraction) of these money scams.

“I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand.” – Al Capone, American mobster

As with most goods and services that are detrimental to our well-being (e.g. junk food, cigarettes, gambling, etc), it is consumers’ demand for them that drives their industry and makes them thrive. Without customers, these shady businesses would naturally die off.

The ability of the money games to proliferate boils down to the “smart” business acumen of the operators to “fill the gap” so to speak. By offering an alternative investment scheme at a time when the market is slow and when many investors are experiencing losses, these money games are seen as a sudden golden ticket towards becoming rich. However, as we have seen, the golden ticket eventually loses its shine and the investors are left holding nothing but a worthless scrap of paper.

Therefore, there would be fewer victims of money games if the wealth management industry as a whole were to step up and reinvent themselves into a genuine one-stop financial centre to help their clients address all financial and investment issues at various points of their lives.

When the grass on one side is always greener, the rest will not matter

In order to ensure that they are seen by clients as the “go-to” person for all financial and investment related concerns, wealth management providers will need to exceed expectations and to a certain degree, over-deliver on their current role.

Wealth managers could assist clients to evaluate various investment proposals to determine its suitability and guide clients to use regulated investment vehicles to invest in various asset classes such as equities, bonds, REITs and foreign investments to grow their money effectively. They could also play the role of a financial bodyguard to help investors fend off scams and illegitimate investments.

In an ideal world, wealth managers will set aside sufficient time and effort to understand the client’s financial position in a holistic manner. They will prepare a tailored and dynamic plan with milestones and checkpoints to help monitor and review progress.

To my peers in the wealth management industry, I would say, cut the lip service and let’s get serious about managing and growing wealth for our clients.

When more and more investors realise that they are able to count on their wealth management providers for all the required support they need to achieve their financial end game, then money games will no longer have room to take root.

Money & You Yap Ming Hui

Yap Ming Hui (ymh@whitman.com.my) is a bestselling author, TV personality, columnist, coach and host of Yap’s Money Live Show online. He feels that the financial world is getting too complicated for everyone, and initiated a weekly online show to address the issues.For more information, please visit his website at www.whitman.com.my
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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

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My home, my school  

Tech Dome Penang Official Opening


https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/NhYGqyW9Ke8

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Imaf7Ibb5nQ

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/RH-IHut4S88

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/E_XrNA4KS54

The official opening of TECH DOME PENANG on July 16 marks the culmination of an arduous and challenging 5-year journey to set up the state’s very first Science Discovery Centre..TECH DOME PENANG has been modelled after the San Jose Tech Centre whereby the government provided the building and funds are raised from the corporate sector and the public. The Penang State Government has, however, taken this a step further by not only providing the use of the iconic Komtar Geodesic Dome to house the facility but also provided funding of RM5.15 million (through the Penang Development Corporation) to kick-start the project.

When the present State Government assumed office in 2008, it realizes the paramount need to not only maintain Penang’s position and status as a globally-renowned centre of technological excellence but with a mission to take it to the next level and beyond through innovation, research and development.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was instrumental in providing the impetus and the push as he realized that the mission cannot be achieved merely through just the vision and support of the State Government and industry players but would require a very essential component which is a highly skilled and knowledgeable human capital. After all, human talent is the new oil of the 21st century and building human talent requires a PPP model of Public Private Partnership.

There has been increasing concerns about the declining interests in the pursuit of studies and also the continuous decline in standards of English, Mathematics and Science among students below 15 years of age as evidenced through studies conducted under the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In their latest ranking released for 2015, Malaysia was ranked a lowly 52 out of 76 countries assessed, well below regional powerhouses like Singapore (1st), Hong Kong (2nd), South Korea (3rd), Taiwan and Japan (joint 4th). What was alarming was that even a comparatively new player like Vietnam was ranked 12th. If Malaysia cannot even surpass Vietnam, how then can we be a manufacturing powerhouse. The urgency to return Penang’s position as the Centre of Excellence (COE) for Science and Technology became critical.

Tech Dome Penang will showcase more than 120 international-standard exhibits targeted at sparking the interests of the younger generation to the exciting world of Science and Technology and providing the catalyst to inspire them to pursue studies and careers in these fields. The exhibits are laid out in 6 main galleries, namely Robotics, Information Technology, Forces & Motion, Electromagnetism, Life Tech and Optics. In addition, there is a Children’s Exploration Zone for pre-schoolers and also an Observatory housing the largest telescope in Penang.

The majority of the exhibits were designed and supplied by exhibits design fabricators from New Zealand, Germany and USA. The centre will also showcase exhibits from local manufacturing corporations and other locally-based Multi-National Corporations.

Besides showcasing exhibits, Tech Dome Penang will also house classrooms and a laboratory to conduct science classes, workshops and school holiday camps for students.

Industry players may also find Tech Dome Penang a suitable venue for carrying out their team-building programmes as a number of the exhibits are suitable for such purposes. There is also additional floor space in the annex for companies to hold public exhibitions to showcase their technology and products or to even hold simultaneous walk-in interviews.

There are also CSR opportunities for companies to sponsor visits by children from rural-based schools and also the under-privileged.

Entry charges for those with MyKad are RM12 for children from 5 years to below 12 years, RM16 for children with student cards, and RM20 for adults. Children below 5 years enter free while senior citizens pay RM12.

Tech Dome will be open daily from 10am – 6pm except for Tuesdays (unless Public Holidays) when it will be closed.

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