Bitcoin must not in your retirement financial planning portfolio


Bitcoin investments have undeniably become a trend among savvy investors in search of the golden goose, but one financial planner is against the use of it as part of the financial planning portfolio for retirement.

Max Growth Wealth Education Sdn Bhd managing director Nicholas Chu said one should not use bitcoin as part of the retirement portfolio and the public must be well aware of the risk in bitcoin trading before getting in.

“It is not asset-backed, it is very unsecure. It is, basically, you want to participate in the future changes. It’s not a proper financial planning way. It is just an experimental thing that you want to go through in this era, but it is not a proper investment product,” he told SunBiz.

“I definitely don’t agree if they use this for their financial planning. But for those who are able to try new ventures, they can go ahead provided they have extra money. If this doesn’t affect their existing financial planning, then I’ll leave it to them. We need to tell them the pros and cons of this investment. It’s up to the clients to do the final decision,” he said.

Chu cautioned on the uncertainties of bitcoin trading, which is driven by market forces.
“It is beyond anybody’s control, all the participants contribute to the bitcoin value. From that, I can say that there are a lot of uncertainties in the future,” he said.

Nonetheless, with the setting up of a few bitcoin exchanges, Chu noted that there will be demand and supply with tradeable markets available.

Bitcoin was the best-performing currency in 2015 and 2016, with a rise of 35.8% and 126.2% respectively.

Year to date, bitcoin prices have leaped more than three times. It stood at US$2,840 (RM12,140) as at 5pm last Friday.

Bitcoins are by the far the most popular cryptocurrency, which exists almost wholly in the digital realm and has no asset backing it. Bitcoin generation, known as mining, while open to anyone with a “mining application” on their computer, needs a great deal of computing power to solve complex algorithms which are later verified with the entire bitcoin network.

Colbert Low, founder of bitcoinmalaysia.com, said the recent spike in bitcoin prices could be partly due to the legalisation of bitcoin by the Japanese government.

He is unsure if the sharp rise in bitcoin prices will create a price bubble, but stressed that one cannot judge its price movement based on the “old economic theory”.

“This is a new economy based on a different model. It’s very hard to say,” Low opined, noting that there has been a growing number of retail outlets that accept bitcoin.

He foresees the usage of bitcoin propagating, especially in different types of payment methods.

However, Low opined that there will not be any “big movement” in the local market if the regulators do not regulate bitcoin.

“Our new Bank Negara governor is forward thinking and he is very much into fintech, technology and innovation. So there would definitely be improvement,” Low said.

The positive development of blockchain will be a catalyst for the growth of bitcoin, he added.

“Blockchain is a real thing that will change the way the IP system is architectured. We need to go down to a deeper level to see how blockchain can change the current problem and solve it.

“There are a lot of projects right now, over 500 companies are looking at this (blockchain) right now. Even IBM, HP and Microsoft are looking at it.”

Blockchain refers to distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, secure from tampering and revision. Bitcoin is just an application or software that runs on blockchain technology.

“If you look at blockchain technology, government agencies like the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are looking at it. This is the best way to secure your data,” Low said, noting that the usage of bitcoin will help reduce operating cost.

Currently, there are about 16 million bitcoins in the market and the number is capped at 21 million.

Bank Negara has said that it does not regulate the cryptocurrency and advised the public to be cautious of the risks associated with the usage of such digital currency.

Source: By Lee Weng Khuen sunbiz@thesundaily.com

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Never-ending money games – from fixed return to split schemes


The allure of money game schemes (or money games) seems not to have diminished despite the collapse of many recently.

Instead, there has been a switch in investors’ focus from fixed-return games to split games, which are deemed “more sustainable”.

Fixed-return schemes generally refer to those that give a consistent percentage of return every month or week. However, most of them have collapsed lately.

Investors’ attention is now centred on split games, even though this means they have to wait for a longer period in order to get back their capital.

Mcoin, which is undertaken through MBI International Sdn Bhd and MFace International Sdn Bhd, is an example of a split game based on units of which the value keeps increasing and then split after a certain time.

However, with the raid of MBI’s flagship mall – M Mall in Penang – by the regulators recently, its days look to be numbered, and the sustainability of such schemes is now a big question.

Another prominent split game – Mama Captain, which has a similar business model to that of Mcoin – has also been red-flagged by Bank Negara last Thursday under the Financial Consumer Alert List. An additional 14 companies have been added to the list, bringing the total number of unapproved and unlicensed companies/schemes to 334 as at June 29.

Besides the local ones, there are several foreign schemes in the market, which investors expect to have more staying power than the fixed-return schemes. Two such schemes from China – Smart Traders Ltd and Centennial Coin of Prosperity – have been in operation in Malaysia since last year. However, it is understood that they have stopped distributing returns to their investors.

This, however, appears not to have deterred those who are lured by the promise of fast money. This is evidenced by the huge crowd seen at an event organised by a split game company a few weeks ago in Shah Alam. It was estimated that over 2,000 participants were present and most of them were Chinese investors.

A number of booths were set up at the venue, and investors were able to redeem a variety of stuff, including vouchers, health products, apparels and many more.

An investor whom SunBiz spoke to at the event said he is unfazed by the collapse of money games and is optimistic about the prospects of the split game that he is involved in.

The investor said he has been in the scheme for more than nine months and now it has started to bear fruit.

“Generally, it takes about two months to split once and we can start generating money after it splits for four times. Now I start to get money from the scheme. While you’ve to wait for some time before getting any return, I think it is still worth to join,” he opined.

It is understood that the scheme has tied up with a few product operators to increase its attractiveness.

Another investor, Alan Mu, said he was amazed by the event. “The gala dinner is so grand and there are so many products that I can redeem by participating in this scheme,” he said.

Another scheme that has caught the market’s attention is SV International (SVI), a company that Yong Tai Bhd has denied having links to. Yong Tai alleged that SVI circulated photos taken during a signing ceremony on SVI’s website as well as the social media, for which there was no official agreement entered into between the two parties thereafter.

Yong Tai also refuted speculation that SVI has a stake in its Impression City and Impression Melaka projects.

By Lee Weng Khuen sunbiz@thesundaily.com

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Millennials Will Destroy Bitcoin


Irrational exuberance is alive and well.

A textbook bubble in Bitcoin prices is developing right now.
And it has everything to do with Bitcoin’s investors.
Bitcoin Bubble
I’m probably not going to gain any friends with this perspective. But there are inarguable factors that suggest Bitcoin’s own buyers are irrationally driving up prices. And their
exuberance is setting the market up for a crash.
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Let me clear one thing up about Bitcoin before I explain why I think prices are eventually headed for a crash…
As I argued before, Bitcoin is a legitimate form of money. But for the time being, it’s being treated as a speculative investment.
Money is typically used in exchange. And while Bitcoin can be used in exchange, it’s largely not. Gary Schneider, Professor of Accounting at California State University, says only about 10% of Bitcoin is held by people who use it as currency. The large majority are
speculators hoping to sell at higher prices.
The fact that the market is dominated by speculators is not necessarily the problem for Bitcoin. And here’s where I’m sure to piss some people off… The problem for Bitcoin is its
buyers.
Who are they?
Well, according to a recent survey, approximately 60% of Bitcoin owners are under 35 years old.
Bitcoin User Age
In short, most Bitcoin buyers are millennials. And that’s all we need to know about them to make an inarguable point (told you I wouldn’t be making any friends here).
The fact is this: A 35-year-old speculator intrinsically has much less experience in risk management than a 60-year-old. And remember, most Bitcoin owners are mostly speculators, as opposed to users of the product.
AND remember they’re speculating on a currency, which is among the most volatile of financial instruments.
AND remember they’re speculating on what essentially amounts to a new, experimental currency.
All this considered, Bitcoin looks to me as one of the (if not the) most speculative financial instruments available…
Expect for Bitcoin’s derivatives, of course.
Yes, believe it or not, Bitcoin has a futures market. And there are products that offer even more risk. On its Perpetual Bitcoin/USD Swap Contracts, BitMEX offers up to 100x
leverage!
But to really understand why I think Bitcoin is eventually headed for a crash, let’s consider the most famous market bubble in history…
Dutch Tulip Mania
In the 17th century, formal futures markets developed in the Dutch Republic, providing the infrastructure for a massive bubble in the price of tulip bulbs.
The tulip first became fashionable in France, where early modern ladies of the aristocracy began sporting the flower on their dresses. From there, the tulip became the flower to show off social status and wealth. The demand for bulbs subsequently
skyrocketed, and prices immediately followed.
At the peak of Tulip Mania in 1637, a single tulip bulb could cost as much as 10,000 gilders, the price of a nice middle-class townhouse in Amsterdam. According to one author, 12 acres of land was once offered for one rare bulb. For a flower bulb!
Semper Augustus The Semper Augustus was the most coveted of all Dutch tulips.
Of course, the bubble eventually burst. The price of tulip bulbs collapsed, and fortunes in perceived value disappeared over night.
My team of researchers recently uncovered a key patent that exposes a major chink in Tesla’s armor…
This patent describes a groundbreaking
technology that could simply blow Elon Musk, and frankly the entire
solar industry, out of the water.
We’ve managed to uncover the tiny company
with exclusive rights to this technology. It trades at less than $0.15 a
share, but don’t expect it to stay there for long.
Over the next several years, I believe the value of this firm could absolutely explode… by my calculations, upwards of 4,600%.
I’ve included the patent filing and everything you need to know about this small company in this brief, free video presentation.
Here’s what I really want you to take away from this story…
If we consider whom the people were who took part in Dutch Tulip Mania and compare them to the majority of Bitcoin owners, it seems both groups share the same shortcomings.
First, we know both groups are speculators betting on the hot new product. But I think we can also make good assumptions to compare the investment sophistication of the Dutch tulip investors and today’s Bitcoin buyers.
Because formal futures markets were only recently developed, the Dutch tulip buyers were inherently unsophisticated investors. All of them. They simply didn’t have the
experience.
The majority of today’s Bitcoin buyers are generally younger, so they share the same inexperience. For many Bitcoin buyers, I imagine it represents their first real investment. They simply don’t have experience in risk management. And I think that’s pretty clear considering some are buying products with 100x leverage!
Bitcoin could be the tulip of the 21st century with the development of a textbook bubble. And I think could be setting itself up for an eventual crash.
Now, even though I’ve been talking about a crash in Bitcoin prices, there’s an epilogue to the Dutch tulip story that’s often overlooked… and that actually provides a bullish outlook for the technology.
Truth is, the Dutch tulip bubble never really ended… it evolved. The price of tulip bulbs collapsed in the 17th century. But the flower industry at large eventually recovered and
has never been bigger. Global floral production value is currently estimated at $55 billion.
People still pay thousands for rare flowers. In fact, an anonymous buyer paid over $200,000 for a rare orchid in 2005. And that’s not even considered the most expensive flower in the world. Rose breeder David Austin spent 15 years and $5 million to develop Juliet rose.
Juliet rose
My point is, the tulip as an individual product lost favor. But the collapse of the tulip  market didn’t completely kill the flower market. In the same way, I don’t expect a
collapse of Bitcoin prices to completely kill the blockchain-based currency market.
Bitcoin is simply one product of many blockchain-based currencies. A crash in Bitcoin would throw a wrench in the blockchain-based revolution. But there is little doubt that blockchain technologies are the future.
As we speak, every major central bank and large financial institution is researching how to implement blockchain into its own systems. It has already been proven to eliminate
verification redundancies and improve security, and new applications are
being tested every day.
So while I think Bitcoin itself could eventually be headed for a crash, the blockchain technologies that are supporting all these digital currencies seem set for unprecedented
growth.
Until next time,
luke signature
Luke Burgess
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Bitcoin, digital currencies rally, caution prevails; virtual currency in property


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Digital currencies rally, but caution prevails

While investing in the future is the way to go, it comes with risks and rewards. The best strategy would be to not be in a rush. Do your homework.

THIS week, the rally in crypto currencies is at its all-time high.

Bitcoin, the pioneer in digital currency, surged to over US$1,700 per coin in
anticipation of a reversal in United States financial regulators’ ruling to allow for an exchange-traded fund for Bitcoin and other factors.

Bitcoin was trading at US$935 on March 24. It rose 82%, pushing its market capitalisation to over US$28bil.

Ether, another such currency, surged from US$8 on Jan 1 to US$90 this week, gaining 1,125% in five months.

The market capitalisation of the 700-over currencies is over US$50bil. The promoters believe it is the currency of the future, hence the rise, but the naysayers believe it is entering a speculative bubble.

But there are some who are ditching gold to mine Bitcoins.

It is a fact that crypto currencies are gaining traction from their inception in 2009. Now, at least 150 organisations including Apple, Walmart, Sears, eBay, Overstock.com,  Microsoft, Steam, Expedia and even Subway accept them in exchange for goods.

So, what is Bitcoin then?

It is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically, not blocked by any nation or government, not printed like dollars and ringgit but produced by people. Crypto currencies are digital currencies that use encryption to secure transactions and control how new coins are made.

You and I can get Bitcoins by “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions using software to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. If you solve it first, you are rewarded with new Bitcoins.

Bitcoin is the mother of all crypto currencies – also known as virtual currencies, digital currencies and private currencies.

Other than Bitcoin and Ether, there is also Dogecoin, Augur, Chinacoin, Litecon, Dash, Waves and Zcash. There are over 40 exchanges globally to trade in Bitcoins.

All this came about because of fintech, the financial services technology that is  disrupting the financial services sector with faster, cheaper and so-called “reliable”
transactions for money transfers, bank exchange rates and other money-related transactions. The average clearance is a 12-hour period, which apparently the banks cannot match.

In Brazil, people use Zcash to pay for their taxes, electricity bills and purchases.

This week, Australia said there would be no double taxation for crypto currencies and to treat it just like other currencies from July 1, paving the way for greater usage.

Many are betting on crypto currencies because of the lure that they are the currency of the future. Would you?

Since 2009, there have been gainers and losers, so you decide.

All these digital currencies came about because of the Internet and data.  The value of data and digital services is becoming more apparent, and in the digital era, data is the new currency.

Amid all this is blockchain, which is simply a digital ledger that keeps track of Bitcoin transactions and transfers it globally. It boasts of instantaneous transactions, transparent and cheaper than the traditional ways. This is why banks are hurriedly getting their acts together in the area of fintech so as to not miss the boat.

There is a growing number of mergers and acquisitions and crowdfunding for blockchains. Last month, music-podcast-video streaming service Spotify  bought over blockchain technology company Mediachain Labs to help reward  online content owners with royalty payments.

Other telcos and IT firms are getting into blockchain because they don’t want to miss out on anything. Other payment companies are getting into the act too. There is just too much interest in this new wave of doing things.

The journey of crypto currencies, however, is not without hurdles, and there are plenty out there that cannot be ignored. Even blockchain’s growth cannot be ignored, especially since it is being positioned by those championing it as the de facto technology of the future.

But will it really be all that or will it just add another layer to the overall cost?

All these transfers do not need regulation as yet, something that central bankers don’t like. In fact, Bank Negara is already in the thick of things where fintech is concerned.

While investing in the future is the way to go, it comes with risks and rewards. The best
strategy would be to not be in a rush. Do your homework, as there is also the other side of Bitcoin – fake websites, fake online gaming sites, trading, etc.

I bet you would know of someone who has lost money mining Bitcoin or Ether. You honestly wouldn’t want to be put in a spot like those caught up in the recent forex scam and the earlier gold scam.

It would be good too to bear in mind that the sweet spot of crypto currencies has been linked to terrorism financing, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud.

Trust and transparency have been the bedrock of financial institutions all these years. Ensure your bedrock is solid, but at the same time, remember what the former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke had said in a letter to US senators about virtual currencies, that they “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure, and more efficient payment system”.

Do you think blockchain will bring trust and transparency to the world of crypto currency? Share your thoughts with me at bksidhu@thestar

Source: The Star by b.k. sidhu

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Property in a digital era

WITH digital technology all the rage and taking the world by storm, we look at how science and automation has managed to change and revolutionise the way we do things, in this section, property.

While the internet has changed the way we receive information and connect with others and the smart phone transformed the whole concept of a phone, we now look at the evolution of finance and how purchasing items, including a house, is going through reform with the introduction of bitcoin.

Introducing bitcoin

When people hear terms like “bitcoin” and “blockchain”, many are vague while some may not even be familiar with these words. But for the technology industry adept, bitcoin and blockchain is common as these new-age technology concepts and modus operandi have been around, perhaps less widely known in Southeast Asia as it is in the West and China.

For the uninformed and in the dark, bitcoin is a technology that has established a new electronic payment method using “digitised money” made with digital cryptography, otherwise known as cryptocurrency.

This system of payment is carried out when a user uses “bitcoin currency” (or cryptocurrency) to pay for goods by transferring the currency to another user (seller) within the bitcoin community.

Each transaction is recorded in a public data ledger known as “blockchain” and it is here where all the transactions that have taken place within the bitcoin community are stored.

The amazing thing about this system is that anyone in the bitcoin community is able to validate transactions that take place without the need of an intermediary.

Sound too good to be true and a little risky? Well, the reason there is no intermediate party necessary is due to the network bitcoin technology is regulated on.


Modus operandi and more

The bitcoin network is founded on a “peer-to-peer network system (P2P network)” which is explained as “a network of computers/ mobile configured to allow certain files and folders to be shared with everyone or with selected users”.

As a result, the “participants” are in control of their transactions, making everyone equal within the bitcoin community, which is also transparent.

It is said that bitcoin technology was first created in 2008 by a person or a group of persons under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” in a research paper. The research stated that there was need for a new electronic payment method, one using digitised money. The analysis also included the future of bitcoin, its benefits, capabilities and potential.

The system was implemented on Jan 3, 2009. And after just a few years, bitcoin grew to become a whopping US$12 billion (RM52.7 billion) globalised economy.

Bitcoin attributes

While not much has been said about bitcoin in this part of the region, the system has been around, slowly developing and growing. Like many things that are cloudy and not often talked about, people are weary hence, there will be sceptics who dissuade others about the system they themselves are unclear about.

With that, theSun’s Brian Chung shares what he learnt of this new method of transaction and currency when he attended a talk by renowned entrepreneur, author and expert on bitcoin Andreas M. Antonopoulos.

Below, Antonopolous shares important information on bitcoin.

1) Bitcoin is an open system of payment: It is a system that anyone can access, participate and innovate, and does not require permission. Bitcoin allows anyone to join in and use the system, validate the transaction and create different kinds of cryptocurrency.

2) Bitcoin is borderless: Like the internet, bitcoin is not restricted to a country’s rules and regulations as it has its own protocol with no distinction across countries.

3) Bitcoin is neutral: Bitcoin does not take the identity of the participant into any consideration. It only validates the transaction that takes place between participants. This attribute also allows participants to remain anonymous.

4) Bitcoin is censorship resistant: Every transaction in the bitcoin network cannot be frozen, censored or canceled. Like the internet, the bitcoin system is a global digital economy with one currency.

5) Bitcoin is a decentralised system: The bitcoin network has no central institution or centre point of control. This trait ensures that there is no one major target for hackers to concentrate their attacks on. Instead, hackers have to create attacks on every single participant’s software with different forms of virus and codes to hack into one computer.

6) Bitcoin is scarce and limited: Bitcoin is a system of value like gold but in digital form. This makes it a system that is not based on credit and debit. It also makes bitcoin a singular global currency with no exchange rate between countries.

7) Every bitcoin transaction is permanent and immutable: The transaction of everyone in the community is verified by everyone in the system. Once it is verified, the transaction will be permanently recorded in the blockchain.

8) Bitcoin is a constantly innovative technology: The open source nature of the bitcoin technology allows other people to further improve on it. There are many other cryptocurrencies based on the bitcoin technology. Moreover, the bitcoin technology is dependent on the internet, which makes improvement and innovation necessary.

Bitcoin transactions can be done via smart phones and computers by downloading the application and software. Users do not need to register themselves to be part of the bitcoin network as all “participants” are referred to by codes and “signature of one’s device”.

However, iPhone users need to remember their iTunes password to download the application. In addition, the device that one has downloaded the bitcoin software on must remain connected to the internet in order for one to use the bitcoin method of payment.

Follow our column next week on the application of bitcoin in property.

[Note: All charts courtesy of Bitcoin Malaysia.]

 

The application of bitcoin in property

 

WHILE last week, we introduced the term bitcoin to those oblivious of this new age cryptocurrency and system of payment, this week, we share bitcoin whiz Andreas M. Antonopoulus’ insights on how this technology is applied in property. Here is what he had to say:

Permanent records

“One very common application is the registration of assets or ownership of tangible and
non-tangible things like the registration of title over land and the ownership of assets
like homes.

When you record something on blockchain, it cannot be modified … it is immutable. Once recorded on the blockchain, the system of trust prevents anyone from reversing or overwriting it. That makes a record on blockchain permanent, an immutable record which is really important in real estate transaction as it allows one to pass the title of a piece of land from person to person independently with no one being able to falsify the record or steal land through paper,” Antonopoulos said.

Moreover, he mentioned that this technology can benefit the industry tremendously as it is able to resolve a huge problem in real estate and property transactions – the falsification of strata titles and property documents.

His view is further enhanced with the emergence of another bitcoin-based system, ethereum. Like bitcoin, ethereum has its own cryptocurrency known as ether. However, ethereum adopts a different technology that is based on the blockchain public ledger system known as Smart Contract.

According to Antonopoulos, a smart contract is an electronic contract with all the contractual obligations of the buyer and seller. The contract is written and coded into an application, which will ensure both parties fulfill their obligations.

Like blockchain technology that is built on trust and verification, these contracts are encoded in a public ledger in the ethereum community. If anyone tries to forge the contract, the ledger will reject it. As such, this smart contract cannot be rewritten and altered as it is a permanent and immutable contract.


Direct transactions

Besides the use of a contract, the technology will make transactions direct, fast and secure.

Antonopoulos also shared about the removal of third parties and its altered role. He said, “Another example relevant to real estate application is the function of escrow. In order to do make transactions for real estate today, people have to use a third party agent, an escrow agent. This escrow agent charges a significant amount of money in most countries. During the process, that agent holds custody of the entire fund, which is dangerous. This means that the escrow agent has to be carefully vetted and have foresight.

Bitcoin can replace all of this by using multi-signature, which allows the seller and buyer to transact escrow programmatically, with the third party acting as mediator only in the case of a dispute.

Buyer and seller will be able to execute a transaction on their own without the need of an escrow agent and without any of the parties having custody of the entire fund. Through bitcoin, you do not need to spend that additional one percent of the sale of the house – the escrow agent is no longer necessary.

It can also change the speed of escrow by doing it in hours instead of a month and changes the security because no one of the three parties can run away with the money. It is faster, cheaper and secure. It can be done in other industries related to real estates like purchasing assets, corporation, mergers and acquisitions.

International property purchase

With the use of decentralised digital currency, one can assume that purchasing items and properties is a little easier, and it is.

The chance of purchasing international property is further reinforced by the fact that bitcoin is not controlled by anyone, not even political and banking institutions. This attribute of bitcoin makes it easier for people buying property from another country. Although each country has its regulations, the use of bitcoin to purchase property abroad saves time and money as one does not need to change currency.

The Australia Real Estate website has stated that there are properties in the United States and Latin America being sold using bitcoin. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article in 2014 regarding a Lake Tahoe property, which was sold for US$1 million in bitcoin.

Follow our column next week for more interesting information on bitcoin, its challenges and how stable a cryptocurrency it is.

By rian Chung

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Penang’s lively market


Many estate agents and developers generating interests in primary and secondary markets

WHILE the property market in Malaysia may be subdued, Penang is still generating interests among buyers and potential investors.

Raine & Horne Malaysia senior partner Michael Geh says: “Although sentiment is generally cautious, both interest and transactions within the Penang property market is ‘still active’.”

“In the primary market, there are still a lot of estate agents and developers generating interests,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Geh says this is especially the case for affordable homes.

“For middle and upper-end properties, there are still a few projects that are generating interests from genuine buyers,” he says.

“The market is still active. There is activity but transactions have slowed down.”

In terms of the secondary market, Geh says properties in “good locations” are still popular.

“Within the secondary market, there are a lot of enquiries for properties in good locations. In the not-so-good locations, there’s stagnation in both price and activity.”

Geh says demand for landed properties in Penang is still strong.

“For the high-rise properties or those that are highly speculated on, there has been stagnation.”

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents Penang branch state chairman Mark Saw says the property market has been slowing over the past two years due to the cooling measures brought about by the Government.

“Until year-end, things should be slow – assuming that the global economy does not tank. But the market is still active in certain areas.”

He says landed residential properties and the hospitality segment in Penang are “still doing fine”.

“Hotel operators are still looking at Penang as a potential location to set up operations,” Saw says, adding that it is “business as usual” for players within the industrial sector.

“Within the industrial sector, there has been no real slowdown. I mean, we’ve not seen any factory closures.”

For residential properties in Penang, Saw says there had been a “swing towards affordable housing” in the past couple of years.

“In the top end of the market, developers have been more cautious as loans have not been as forthcoming. However, those developers with good stock are still able to continue launching new products.”

Looking ahead, Geh feels the market will “swing” in the final quarter of the year.

“The third quarter tends to be a little bit quiet. It’s in the fourth quarter that I think things will swing, and I believe it can go either way.

“This will depend on various factors, such as sentiment, or if Bank Negara comes out with an announcement that could affect the local property sector. But I think it will swing for the better.”

Saw meanwhile believes that the rental market will remain competitive for the rest of 2016.

“For those speculators and investors who purchased their properties some five years ago, looking to flip (for profit), those properties are coming into the market now and they might have problems selling, especially those having difficulties in servicing their loans.

“So instead, they will try to rent it out. But with a lot of these stocks coming in, it will be more of a tenant’s market than a landlord’s one.”

Penang in 2015

According to the National Property Information Centre, residential property transactions recorded a marked decline in market activity in 2015 by 16.9%.

The state saw a substantial decline in new launches by 47.5% or 2,348 units.

According to Rahim & Co in its Property Market Review 2015/2016, completion of Penang’s second bridge (Sultan Abdul Halim Muad-zam Shah Bridge) in 2013 has spurred growth in Batu Maung, Sg Ara, Teluk Kumbar and Batu Kawan areas.

“A new project to be launched in 2016 is the RM10bil Eco Marina project in Batu Kawan. Eco Marina, by Eco World Development Group Bhd, will include high-rise and landed properties on a 299.64 acres with a golf course adding prestige to the area.

“The development will be gated and guarded. Other projects by the same developer are Eco Terraces in Air Itam, Penang island and Eco Meadows, Bukit Tambun near Juru/Batu Kawan area.”

Other upcoming projects it cited are the Straits Garden Condominium, Platinum III (from RM428,000), D’Zone Condominium and three-storey detached houses in Baymont Residences (RM3.18mil) in Teluk Kumbar.

“There are also The Tamarind@Seri Tanjung Pinang, Raintree Park 2 comprise of two-storey terraced, two-storey semi-detached houses and Avenue Garden, a 17-storey serviced apartment by Tambun Indah and several others.

“An international school has recently been completed at Simpang Ampat within Pearl City development by Tambun Indah Land Bhd.”

According to CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW) in its Property Market Report 2016, 287 units of landed properties came into the market in 2015 in Penang Island alone.

<< Saw: ‘Hotel operators are still looking to set up operations in Penang.
It said prices of newly-launched houses continued to increase, reaching a new benchmark in their respective locations.

WTW added that terraced and semi-detached houses in established neighbourhoods such as Seri Tanjung Pinang in Tanjung Tokong and Island Park & Island Glades in Greenlane, still command strong demand in the secondary market despite the increasing prices.

“Transacted prices of 2½-storey terraced houses and three-storey semi-detached houses in Seri Tanjung Pinang have surpassed RM2mil and RM3mil per unit, respectively.

“However, the hike in prices is expected to taper off in the near future with more new houses entering into the market.”

On the mainland, WTW said demand of landed residential developments remained strong in 2015 underpinned by the improved infrastructure.

“A number of major property players venturing into Seberang Perai for the first time has excited the local market with new housing products. For instance, Ecoworld, positioned as a pioneer in sustainable and green developments launched its maiden residential project known as EcoMeadows in Bukit Tambun.

“With its lush green landscape, gated and guarded concept as well as proximity to the expressway, a typical terraced unit was priced at RM700,000 per unit, a new price benchmark to the market.”

As for high-rise residential properties, WTW said a number of projects were completed in first half of 2015. These included The Address at Bukit Jambul (124 units), Vertiq at Gelugor (318 units), Sierra Residences at Sungai Ara (300 units), Gardens Ville at Sungai Ara (476 units) and The Latitude at Tanjung Bungah (218 units).

Luxurious condos

“A newly completed luxury condominium development located at Batu Ferringhi, known as By The Sea, was developed by Selangor Dredging Bhd.

“It comprises 138 units with floor areas ranging from 1,037 sq ft to 3,012 sq ft.

For new projects launched in 2015, one luxury condominium project that was launched was Shorefront Residence by YTL Land.

“Situated along Lebuh Farquhar which is within the city of George Town, the luxurious condominiums offered 115 units with floor areas ranging from 1,400 sq ft to 3,400 sq ft.”

It said average transacted prices of condominiums in the sub-sale market increased marginally in 2015.

“Moving into 2016, the market is likely to experience slower growth with transaction activities expected to slow down.

“With more affordable flats and apartments being launched and under construction, a spike in the existing supply of high-rise residential units is expected within the next three to five years.”

WTW notes that high-rise residential developments make a strong inroad in Seberang Prai over recent years, with the majority being in the town area especially Butterworth in Seberang Prai Utara.

“Existing condominiums developments that are actively transacted in the secondary market in the past five years included Habour Place and Casia Condominiums.

“Bukit Mertajam is emerging as the next hotspot for high-rise residential developments with a majority of projects in the pipeline and due for completion.”

Condominiums developments remained as the main development trend in Seberang Prai, says WTW, with a number of serviced residences and Soho (small office home office) projects being proposed that are pending approval.

“Prices of a typical condominiums unit have increased around 9% since 2014 to RM370 per sq ft on average.

“The coming few years will see the mushrooming of skycrapers in Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam as several property players plan to develop integrated developments comprising condominiums, serviced residences or Soho together with shopoffices and hotel in these locations given their robust and established business sentiment.” – By Eugene Mahalinggam The Star

It says take-up rates of newly-launched projects are likely to taper off as the rental market in Seberang Prai is less demanding in comparison with the island.

KL firms bullish on Penang sales

 

Goh: ‘The City Residence and City Mall is expected to contribute RM40mil while The Wave will contribute RM90mil GDV.

Kuala Lumpur-based property development companies in Penang are expecting sales contributions from the state to increase significantly for their upcoming financial year amid a tough property market environment.

Eco World Development Group Bhd, Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O), IJM Land Bhd and Mah Sing Group Bhd are some of the Kuala Lumpur-based property companies expecting strong contributions from the state.

Mah Sing, for example, is projecting for Penang to contribute 9% of its revenue for the fiscal year ending Dec 31, 2016 compared to 1% for the previous financial year.

Says group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum: “With no project launches in 2015, our properties in Penang contributed 1% or RM26mil to our total sales of RM2.3bil last year, leveraging on the take-up for projects launched before 2015.

“The group has set a target of RM2.3bil for 2016 for all our properties (throughout the country) and Penang is expected to contribute 9% of the revenue for the (current financial) year.

“With the value of the ringgit at an attractive level, we foresee strong buyer interest, particularly from foreigners, who represent 30% of our purchasers in Penang, as well as locals,” says Leong, who is also the CEO of the group.

Ferringhi Residence in Batu Ferringhi and Southbay Plaza in Batu Maung, both on the island, performed well in 2015, says Leong, with take-up rates of 92% and 96%.

Mah Sing plans to launch Ferringhi Residence 2, a high-end condominium project in Batu Ferringhi, in the second half of 2016, while the Southbay Plaza, a mixed-development project, will be completed this year.

Toh: ‘The group is targeting RM240mil sales this year in Penang.>>

Eco World expects its projects in Penang to generate about RM600mil this financial year ending Oct 31, 2016, compared to RM200mil in the previous year.

Its general manager Khoo Teck Chong says the targeted revenue for the 2016 financial year is RM4bil, compared to RM3bil in 2015.

“The contribution in Penang would come from Eco Terraces in Paya Terubong, which is 40% sold, Eco Bloom, scheduled to be launched in June, and the first phase of Eco Marina, scheduled for launching in October 2016.

“The Eco Terraces and Eco Bloom are priced respectively at over RM850,000 and below RM400,000, which are still considered as affordable by the locals, given the strategic locations of the projects,” he says.

IJM Land is expecting its projects in Penang to generate RM240mil to the revenue for the current financial year ending March 2017, compared to RM168mil in the last financial year.

Its senior general manager Datuk Toh Chin Leong says the projects planned for launch this year are The Trehaus (with a gross development value or GDV of RM64.7mil) in Bukit Jambul, The Senjayu (RM69mil GDV) in Jawi, South Seberang Prai, and The Waterside Residence (RM260mil GDV) for the second phase of The Light Waterfront.

“These projects should help the group realise the targeted RM240mil sales,” Toh says.

E&O also expects the contribution from Penang to improve significantly this year compared to a year ago.

Its marketing and sales general manager (Penang) Christina Lau says that given the strong sales of the last financial year in excess of RM1bil, the group believes that there will be sustained interest in its Penang projects comprising existing launches such as 18 East at Andaman, The Tamarind, and its landed super-luxe terraces Amaris and Andorra, which collectively tally an estimated GDV of RM1bil.

“The sale of these properties coupled with upcoming launches on the remaining plots within Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase 1 (STP1) will keep us busy, as STP1 approaches its maturity, evolving since the maiden launch of the Ariza courtyard terrace homes in 2005. “Now in its eleventh year, STP1 has developed into one of Penang’s most preferred addresses with a vibrant community of more than 20 nationalities,” she adds.

Ivory Properties Group Bhd is carrying out RM1.8bil worth of projects on the island this year.

These are the first phase of Penang WorldCity called Tropicana Bay Residences with a GDV of RM933mil, The Wave with a GDV of RM494mil, and The City Residence and City Mall with a GDV of RM313mil.

Group chief operating officer Goh Chin Heng says The City Residence and City Mall and The Wave will be the main contributors to the group’s current fiscal year revenue ending next March 31.

“The City Residence and City Mall is expected to contribute RM40mil, while The Wave, RM90mil.

“Both projects have done very well and should enable the group to achieve better results for the current fiscal year.

“There are only a handful of units left for both projects,” he adds.

Ideal Property Development Sdn Bhd plans to undertake RM2.723bil worth of condominium projects on the island this year.

Of the amount, the group has already launched the RM378mil Summerskye Residences in Bayan Lepas in January 2016.

The upcoming projects, comprising 3,648 units to be launched between May and November 2016, are strategically located in Bayan Lepas in the south-west district, which is close to the Penang International Airport and the first and second bridges.

The projects are Forest Ville (RM495mil GDV) in May, Bukit Ayun Development (RM1bil GDV) in August, Queens Residences (RM550mil GDV) and Amarene (RM300mil GDV) in August.

Besides the Queens Residences and Bukit Ayun Development projects, which will be priced between RM600,000 and RM900,000, the rest of the schemes are priced between RM450,000 and RM600,000.

“Some of these projects are among those that will be injected into Ideal United Bintang Bhd (IdealUBB) this year,” says Ideal Property executive chairman Datuk Alex Ooi. Ideal Property is the parent company of IdealUBB.

Ooi said that while most developers were holding back launches, the group has decided to go ahead with a variety of property products priced between the RM450,000 and RM900,000 range.

According to Ooi, properties within such a price range are still the most marketable, especially if the location is very strategic. – By David Tan The Star

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Penang property in steady demand, will the housing market facing a glut?


Investment-friendly: A file picture shows visitors at the recent Star Property Fair in Penang. Affin Hwang believes that property developers with land bank and established presence in Penang will benefit from rising property demand.

PETALING JAYA: An increasing population in Penang coupled withlong-term property demand will be supported by major projects driven by public-private partnerships (PPPs), according to Affin Hwang Capital Research.

Among the PPP projects, the largest being the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), could be awarded by September. Singapore’s Temasek Holdings also has a proposed joint venture with Penang Development Corp (PDC) to develop an RM11.3bil business process outsourcing centre and an international technology park.

The research house said in a report that its top stock picks for infrastructure and property exposure to Penang were Gamuda Bhd, IJM Corp Bhd, and Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O).

It said the Penang government had pushed for the economy to move up the value chain by encouraging knowledge-intensive and innovation-led manufacturing and services.

“Property development companies such as E&O, Eco World Development Group Bhd and Ewein Bhd are embarking on new large-scale mixed development projects in the state with total gross development value (GDV) of RM60bil,” it added.

E&O has the highest exposure to Penang with property development projects in the state comprising 77% of GDV totalling RM34bil.

The multi-billion ringgit PTMP has seen keen interest, with six consortiums submitting bids to be the project delivery partner (PDP) while Affin Hwang Capital understands that discussions for the joint venture with PDC were in the final stages.

“The joint development agreement is expected to be inked in July or August. Work on the BPO Prime is expected to start in the first quarter of 2016.” The entry of Temasek would also attract more Singapore companies and other foreign investors to Penang.

“We believe Gamuda will likely be appointed the PDP for the project. Also, being one of the largest contractors in Penang, IJM Corp is expected to win a substantial portion of construction work for the PTMP,” it said.

“The Penang government also managed to convince Hewlett-Packard to choose Penang as the location to set up its new RM1bil manufacturing facility instead of Iskandar Malaysia.”

The plant would produce high-speed inkjet printer heads for the global market.

A ready pool of skilled workers out of a total workforce of 797,700, developed infrastructure, established information technology eco-system, and consistent and investment-friendly state government policies could be the reasons why Penang continue to be attractive compared with Iskandar Malaysia.

The island’s popularity with tourists, diverse culture, historical attractions, beautiful coasts and famous cuisine were added attractions.

“We believe property developers with land bank and established presence in Penang will benefit from rising property demand in the long run.

“Job creation from rising investments in industrial and service sectors should support population growth from organic expansion and inbound migration,” said Affin Hwang Capital Research.- The Star/Asian News Network

The housing market in Penang today

With an abundance of newly built high-rise condominiums, is Penang facing a property glut?

Malaysia’s population crossed the 30 million mark in February 2014. According to the Population and Housing Census 2010, about three in 10 people fall in the 20-40 years old age group – the one most likely to be firsttime home buyers. By 2020, that group is projected to grow to 11.3 million. In Penang, the current estimate for this age group is at 0.6 million, or 36% of the state population. The average property price in Penang currently stands at RM336,521. Even with the 50% stamp duty cut, middle-income earners with two dependents can only afford houses priced at RM300,000 and below [1], and looking at the current national average price for all types of properties, RM300,000 is well below the average (Figure 1).

Besides increasing prices, public concern is on whether or not the property market is overheated; many suspect that currently there is an oversupply of properties, especially in Penang. The current existing stock of residential properties can house more than six people per household (Table 1), and as smaller households are the global trend for developed and developing countries, statistics indicate that there is still a growing demand for housing.

Source: The Malaysian House Price Index Q1-Q2 2014, National Property Information Centre (NAPIC).

To meet market demands and expectations, a steady addition of incoming and planned supply to the existing property stock in Penang is still expected in the near future. Based on the population projection given by the Department of Statistics for Penang (1.75 million in year 2020), Malaysia Property Incorporated found that there is an oversupply of about 45,000 units this year and 22,000 units by 2020 [2], assuming that the average household size stays at 3.98 people and housing supply stops after 2015.

A growing demand for housing with a potential oversupply of properties sounds contradictory enough, begging the question: will the potential glut be for a certain type of residential property, and are the right kinds of properties being built in the right areas?

Whither the low-medium cost housing?

On Penang Island, the most densely populated district is in the north-east; the area encompassing George Town, Jelutong, Air Itam, Gelugor, Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah still remains one of the most sought-after places for property. Despite limited land spaces, incoming and planned unit supply to this district has seen no sign of abating.

However, in recent years, the south-west of the island, where the airport and the industrial area are located, has become the hottest investment spot for bigname developers. The highest growth of property supply on the island is expected to be in this area, with the likely addition of 17,518 incoming units (33.3%) and 17,058 planned units (32.4%).

Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation
Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation.

On the mainland, the more populated central Seberang Perai (SP) is expected to see more new housing units in coming years, compared to north and south SP. The opening of the Second Penang Bridge and the announcement of a series of development projects in Batu Kawan, including IKEA and branch campuses of University of Hull and KDU University College, certainly give south SP a huge appeal for future housing development. So far, the housing demand there has not
jumped markedly. However, as a prelude, following the announcement of the projects, land prices in south SP skyrocketed to between RM50 and RM60 per sqft, compared to previous prices of RM8 to RM9 per sqft
[3].

Within the high-rise category, there is a trend of developers preferring to build higher value condominiums (Table 3). In coming years, especially on Penang Island, a higher proportion of new highrise units will come from condominiums. Although the construction of low cost flats is emphasised by both the federal government and the Penang state government, the supply of such units is slow and short in coming – at just half the number of the future supply for condominiums. The future supply of medium cost flats also cannot catch up with the supply rate and units of condominium, indicating that
condominium sales seem more profitable for developers and that there may be an oversupply of higher value high-rise units in the near future.

Probably as the result of an influx of affluent local or foreign buyers, the supply for bungalows (detached) units has increased significantly. Service apartments have also become a new niche in the property market; the number of service apartment units is expected to double.

Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation
Source: Property Market Report First Half 2014, NAPIC and own calculation.

The island factor

Penang Island’s attractiveness as a place to invest or settle in can be seen from its property prices; one condominium unit on the island normally costs more than twice or thrice that on the mainland. The same goes for the price of landed properties (Table 3).

Although this tendency is likely to persist for some time, the number of residential property transactions slowed down on the island for the first three quarters of last year whereas property sales in SP were generally unaffected (Table 4). Due to market-cooling measures – i.e. the introduction of more stringent real property gains tax (RPGT) and maximum  loan-to-value ratio for individual and non-individual borrowers – laid by the federal government and Bank Negara to curb property speculating, the upward price index trend for both landed properties and high-rise units slowed down significantly for the first half of 2014. Given that the number of sales was also at a lower level in the third quarter compared to the previous year, property prices on the island for the latter half of 2014 were probably stagnant.

Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC
Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC.

With the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) on April 1, firsttime home buyers may rush to make property purchases in the first quarter of 2015 to avoid paying the incremental cost. Although residential properties fall under the “Exempt Rated” basket of goods, property prices look set to increase due to the inflation cost of construction materials. According to a market survey, developers are facing ever higher compliance costs. Therefore, it is unlikely that house prices will drop this year when higher inflation is expected. Meanwhile, the “Youth Housing Scheme” announced in Budget 2015 may encourage young families from lower and middle income groups to make their first home purchase. Under the scheme, those who qualify and are selected will be given RM200 monthly financial assistance by the federal government to pay the loan instalments, 50% stamp duty exemption on loan and transfer agreements as well as 100% loan financing.

Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC
Source: Residential Property Stock Table Q2 2014, NAPIC.

Old is gold

Interest from investors in George Town’s pre-war heritage properties has never been greater since the city was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008. Under the draft of the George Town Special Area Plan, there is a total of 4,665 buildings located within the core (50.2%) and buffer (49.8%) zones. Given the immense potential for capital appreciation or gain from investments, these heritage properties are in red-hot demand. With the booming tourism in George Town, many investors have transformed old, neglected heritage shop houses into boutique hotels or commercial premises.

Before the repeal of the Rent Control Act in 1999, there were very few transactions and the price index did not move much for properties situated within the conservation zones. Since then, the compound annual growth rate for such properties from 1999 to 2013 was at 12.7% [4]. For the first half of last year, the average price for pre-war properties in George Town registered a new highest record at RM1,300 per sqft.

Source: Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) and NAPIC
Source: Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) and NAPIC.

Similarly, the number of pre-war property transactions also soared especially after 2008 (Figure 2). However, despite the new highest record of average transaction price, there were fewer property transactions last year; the Penang Real Estate Market Research Report on pre-war properties published by Henry Butcher Malaysia (Penang) [5] suggests that the prewar heritage property market has more buyers than it has sellers due to a limited supply of good listings. Because of this, the pre-war property market price could be very much distorted. For example, in March 2012, a 2,000sqft shop house
along Lebuh Pantai (considered a prime heritage area) was sold at RM4mil (or RM2,000 per sqft) [6] – an isolated case but way above the average market price nonetheless.

Since the number of pre-war heritage buildings in the historic George Town is fixed and more than a thousand of such properties were transacted since 2008, the proportion of “sellable” properties in the market will shrink by year while market demand for such properties remains high. Hence, it is reasonably expected to see even steeper transaction prices and fewer transacted pre-war property units in years to come.

 By Lim Chee Han
Lim Chee Han received his PhD in Infection Biology from Hannover Medical School, Germany. He is a senior analyst in the economics section of Penang Institute.

Will shale oil survive the price fall?


American shale oil enterprise WBH Energy filed for bankruptcy ro January 4, 2015. This could be the beginning of a shakeout of shale oil enterprises. Since 2010, the debt of America’s energy enterprises has increased 55 percent; meanwhile, the energy sector of S&P 1500 index has dropped rapidly. The shale oil revolution has not only been stricken by the low oil price, but also “abandoned” by investors. As liquidity runs short, small and medium-sized shale oil enterprises will either go bankrupt or be taken over if they survive the oil price crisis.

American shale oil

The reason for the oil price slump is becoming clearer: oversupply. However, since oil producers will not reduce output, the downward trend continues. Canadian heavy crude has dropped below 35 USD, a new low since February 2009. In the past six months, the price has fallen by 60 percent. We can say that the shale oil revolution is being blocked by the low oil price – in other words, it is being hindered by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), principally represented by Saudi Arabia. When the oil price dropped below 50 USD, OPEC had a meeting seeking consensus on maintaining oil output. The average production cost of OPEC is about 40 USD, while the cost of shale oil is above 60 USD. As long as the price is above 40 USD, OPEC can still make profit, but the shale oil enterprises will be squeezed out. At the end of 2014, in order to exploit the market for US oil producers, the US Department of Commerce lifted the ban on the export of condensate oil. The US has ended its 40-year oil export ban to join in competition with the other oil producers, which means that on the one hand the US has become an international oil producer, while on the other hand shale oil has had a huge impact on the world energy structure, and the world oil market has excess production capacity. For the US, shale oil has provided a new economic growth point and provided additional chips when competing with other oil producing countries. Therefore, the US government will offer necessary supports to shale oil enterprises. However, the market cannot be easily manipulated by one or two countries. The US wanted a moderate drop in the oil price, which would stimulate its economy as well as “fix” those insubordinate oil producing countries. But the downward trend of the oil price has been irresistible, and now threatens the survival of the American shale oil industry. Faced with the falling oil price, shale oil enterprises, with their relatively high production costs, have entered a crucial phase of life and death. Unless all the oil producing countries join hands to limit production and achieve a rebalancing of supply and demand, the oil price will not rebound in the short term. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries blame the oil price crisis on the irresponsible behavior of non-OPEC oil producing countries, which in fact targets the shale oil producers. The new energy industry is suffering under the impact of the falling oil price too. The stock price of electric vehicle producer Tesla is also in a slump. But for the shale oil enterprises, this is an issue of life or death. – (People’s Daily Online) Related posts:

Oil Enters New Era as OPEC Faces Off Against Shale; Who Blinks as Price Slides Toward $70? How Oil’s Price Plunge Impacts Wall S…
PETALING JAYA: With the oil and gas (O&G) sector being the hardest hit in the current market rout, tycoons who own significant stake…
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