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


Singapore sweep continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After it was repealed in 1997, they raised the rent to about RM600 and it had stayed the same since.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

Penang residents see red over Singaporeans snapping up properties

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Arnold Loh The Star/ANN

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The Zika virus spreading to Malaysia and Singapore


Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys by researchers monitoring yellow fever. The virus got its name from the Zika Forest in Uganda where it was first discovered. It is classified as a flavivirus, which puts it in the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis viruses and dengue. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, Brazil saw 20 times more microcephaly cases in 2015 than usual, following the outbreak of Zika in the country that year.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/H5IbCDebdBM

The Zika virus, explained 

 https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/OILBAbva6QA


First Zika patient getting better

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Video: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/02/first-zika-patient-getting-better-doc-womans-last-blood-test-turned-out-negative-but-we-will-retest/

The first Zika patient in the country is recuperating well at the Sungai Buloh Hospital.

The hospital’s infectious disease head Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the symptoms that the 58-year-old woman suffered from, including rashes, had also cleared up.

“We will be doing a blood test on her today and if it turns out to be negative, we can let her go home in a few days’ time,” he said yesterday.

He said her mild rashes cleared up in two or three days and the last blood test was negative but the hospital decided to keep her for a little longer just to ensure there would be no transmission to other people.

The blood test today was to reconfirm that she was free of Zika, he said.

The woman and her husband had visited their daughter in Singapore on Aug 19 and returned on Aug 21.

A week later, the woman developed rashes and fever, and sought medical attention at a private clinic in Klang.

She was referred to the Sungai Buloh Hospital, and on Aug 31, her urine sample tested positive for the Zika virus.

Her daughter, who works and lives in Paya Lebar, Singapore, has also been infected.

The woman’s husband and other family members who lived in the same house in Ambang Botanic have yet to show any symptoms of the infection.

Dr Lee said the most common symptoms of Zika were fever, body aches, rashes and red eyes which would normally clear up within a few days.

He said that if a woman was infected by Zika, the vaginal fluids might contain the virus for up to two months after she had recovered.

“So, if she has sex with a man within the two months, the man can be infected with Zika.

“The virus can also stay in a man’s semen for up to six months after he has recovered.”

Infected pregnant women face the risk of delivering a child with microcephaly, while others might suffer from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition.

According to the American National Institute of Neurological Disorder’s fact sheet, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralysed.

Dr Lee recommended that pregnant women who have travelled to affected countries like Brazil and Singapore go for check-ups at nearby hospitals.

By Loh foon fong, wani muthiah, joseph kaos, tho xin yi, shazni ong, christopher tan, neville spykerman, dina murad, victoria brown, mohd farhaan shah, norbaiti phaharoradzi, nabila ahmad, rebecca rajaendram, edward rajendra The Star/ANN

Take precautions when in Singapore 

 

Personal measure: Bus passenger Naizatul Takiah Ali, 21, spraying mosquito repellent on herself at the Larkin bus terminal in Johor Baru.

It is unrealistic to stop Malaysians from travelling to Singapore, but people must take precautions against mosquito bites, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

There are about 200,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, with some travelling to and fro on a daily basis, so it would be difficult to block people from going to the republic, he said.

“We have to be realistic. The more practical way to prevent the spread of the Zika virus is to take precautions against mosquito bites.

“Apply an adequate amount of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid being bitten.

“If you can avoid visiting Singapore, then avoid.

“But this is only voluntary and not an instruction from Malaysia. Malaysians visiting the republic should take preventive measures against mosquito bites,” he said at a press conference here yesterday.

He said Malaysians who have visited Singapore and have symptoms of the virus such as fever and rashes should seek immediate attention.

Dr Subramaniam also said vehicles coming into Malaysia from Singapore, especially buses, would be sprayed with insecticide as an additional measure.

“We know this does not prevent the spread of the virus 100%, but is an additional precautionary measure on top of other methods that we have carried out throughout the country,” he added.

The minister also said pregnant women or those planning to have a child should seek advice from their doctors, as there has been a reported link between the Zika virus with microcephaly, which causes deformity in babies.

Those who are infected should abstain from having sex, or use protection, as the virus can be spread through sexual activities.

“The virus can stay in an infected man’s body for six months and for two months inside a woman’s body,” he said.

Singapore battling outbreak of Zika virus

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/WR4Fh3GanhI

Foreigners account for half of Singapore cases

SINGAPORE: Half of the Zika cases in Singapore are foreigners who live or work here, and six of them are Malaysians.

According to a report in TODAYonline.com which quoted the Singapore Ministry of Health, the news portal said that out of 115 cases, 57 are foreigners.

The largest group is 23 people from China, followed by 15 from India and 10 from Bangladesh.

Six cases are Malaysians, and one case each from Indonesia, Myanmar and Taiwan.

“All had mild illnesses. Most have recovered while the rest are recovering well,” a ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, it was reported that a Malaysian woman is believed to be the first patient infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus in Singapore.

As the 47-year-old had not travelled to Zika-affected areas recently, she was likely to have been infected in the republic. She resides at Block 102, Aljunied Crescent and works in Singapore. — Bernama

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Money, culture and the chase for Olympic gold


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Although some countries offer financial incentives to its athletes, a genuine sporting culture may be the best guarantee of success at the Games.

SHOCK and awe just about sums up the stunning achievement of young Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling at the Rio Olympics.

His victory is classic David beating Goliath; he was the underdog from a tiny country that had never won an Olympic gold.

What made it all the sweeter and remarkable is that Schooling beat the mightiest, most decorated Olympian in history – American Michael Phelps who has won 23 gold medals – and set an impressive new record of 50.39 secs for the 100m butterfly event.

When news of Singapore’s first gold medal broke, it quickly overtook other stories emanating from Rio and became the talk of the world.

It eclipsed its Asean neighbours’ own Olympic gold successes: Vietnam’s shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh in the 10m air pistol competition and Thailand’s weightlifters Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat in their individual weight classes and certainly overshadowed Malaysian diving duo Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong’s silver in the women’s synchronised 10m platform diving.

All are no small feats but there is a total of 28 sports in the Games, not counting those with multiple disciplines, and the most popular ones for a global audience are gymnastics, track and field and swimming, according to topendsports.com.

Among Asian nations competing in the Games, China and Japan are traditionally strong contenders in gymnastics and swimming although the Chinese gymnasts seem to be doing poorly this time around.

For most other Asian competitors, the sports they excel in tend to be the ones with less mass appeal like archery, shooting, judo, badminton and for some strange reason, women’s weightlifting.

Apart from the Thais, Taiwanese, Filipina and Indonesian female weightlifters have also won medals for their countries.

China remains the sporting powerhouse of Asia, sending its largest delegation of 416 athletes to Rio this year, but they have failed to defend their gold medals in sports they used to dominate like badminton and diving.

As for the glamorous track and field events, there doesn’t seem to be any Asian athlete who can challenge the likes of Usain Bolt.

Meanwhile, the other Asian powerhouse, India, with the second largest population in the world, has never done well at the Olympics, which has been the subject of intense debate among Indian and foreign sports pundits.

India also sent its biggest ever contingent of 118 sportsmen and women, and has so far won only a bronze medal in wrestling.

Winning an Olympic gold medal is the Holy Grail of sports.

The pomp that surrounds the Games gives the gold medallists unparalleled honour and prestige. And the nations they represent go into collective convulsions of ecstasy and nationalistic joy, which make their governments equally happy.

That’s why many nations pour millions into sports programmes to nurture and train promising talents and offer great financial rewards to successful Olympians.

Schooling will get S$1mil (RM3mil) from the Singapore government for his gold medal. Vietnam’s Hoang reportedly will receive US$100,000 (RM400,000), a figure, according to AFP, that is nearly 50 times greater than the country’s average national income, of around US$2,100 (RM8,400).

Malaysia, which is seeing its best ever performance in Rio, thanks to its badminton players and divers, rewards its successful athletes handsomely under its National Sports Council incentive scheme.

An Olympic gold medal winner will receive RM1mil and a monthly pension of RM5,000; a silver medallist, RM600,000 and a RM3,000 pension while a bronze winner gets RM100,000 and a RM2,000 pension.

Taiwan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand have similar monetary reward schemes. North Korea uses a carrot and stick scheme: huge rewards for medal winners and hard labour for the failed ones.

Several western countries have the same financial bait, including the United States, France, Russia and Germany, but at a lower rate.

Does it work?

The Technology Policy Institute looked for a correlation and was mindful of variables like country size and income, “since those are surely the biggest predictor of how many medals a country will win: more populous countries are more likely to have that rare human who is physically built and mentally able to become an Olympic athlete, while richer countries are more likely to be able to invest in training those people.”

The researchers found no correlation between monetary payments and medals and said it was not surprising in some countries. In the United States, for example, a US$25,000 (RM100,000) cash award would be dwarfed by million-dollar endorsements the athlete could get.

The researchers also set out to see if the results were different for countries with lower opportunities for endorsements. Their conclusion: “overall the evidence suggests that these payments don’t increase the medal count” either.

Rather, countries that do well are those with a longstanding sporting culture that values and nurtures their athletes long before they qualify for the Olympics.

That is evident in Western societies where sportsmen, even at the college level, are feted and idolised. In Asia, however, the emphasis is more on book-learning and earning prestigious degrees.

The BBC quotes Indian Olympic Association head Narayana Ramachandran as saying India’s sorry performance is more than just a shortage of cash or organisation.

“Sport has always taken a back seat vis-á-vis education. Most Indian families would prefer their children became dentists or accountants than Olympians,” he says.

But that attitude is surely changing as more Asian sportsmen and women go professional and are able to make a good living.

In Malaysia, its most popular sportsman, badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei, is highly successful with a number of endorsements under his belt.

For now, it is still the Western countries that dominate the Olympic medal tally table. But it’s only a matter of time before more Asian nations, once no-hopers at the Games, rise up the charts.

It’s already started. The Rio Games will go down in history as a watershed for Asean, with two member states – Singapore and Vietnam – winning their first gold medals. May it be so for Malaysia, too.

By June H.L Wong Chief Operating Officer (Content Development) The Star, Malaysia.

The writer was the former group chief editor of The Star Media Group Malaysia. This is the eighth article in a series of columns on global affairs written by top editors from members of the Asia News Network and published in newspapers across the region.

Heartbreak again for Chong Wei, Chen Long takes gold

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RIO DE JANEIRO: Lee Chong Wei, the king of Malaysian badminton, will leave the Rio de Janeiro Olympics without the crown – and so will Malaysia without the coveted gold.

The 33-year-old lost his third Olympic final after going down 18-21, 18-21 to Chen Long at the Riocentro Pavilion 4 on Saturday.

It was indeed a painful end for Malaysia as it was the third false dawn. Earlier, Malaysia had also lost in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles finals.

Malaysia thus will return home with a total of four silvers and one bronze.

The other three silvers came from Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles), Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (men’s doubles) and divers Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong (women’s 10m platform synchro). Cyclist Azizulhasni Awang contributed the sole bronze through the men’s keirin.

Both Chong Wei, playing in probably his last Olympics, and Chen Long went onto the court to loud cheers from their countries’ supporters.

Chong Wei, who lost to Lin Dan at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London finals, looked tentative in the beginning to allow Chen Long to open up a 4-0 lead. But he recovered his composure to lead 5-4.

After that, they traded point until it was 7-7 before Chong Wei pulled away for an 11-7 and then 14-10 lead.

But Chen Long refused to go away and managed to level at 14-14.

Twice Chong Wei surged in front but Chen Long capitalised on the Malaysian’s mistakes at the net to lead 20-17. Although world No. 1 Chong Wei managed to save one match point, his failure to return a smash gave Chen Long a 21-18 win in 35 minutes.

Oozing confidence, Chen Long was always in front in the second game – leading 4-1 and 5-2.

But Chong Wei fought back to go 8-5 up. Chen Long then went on a smashing spree, winning six points for an 11-8 advantage.

The 27-year-old world No. 2 never looked back after that as he always had at least a three-point lead.

Everything looked lost for Chong Wei as Chen Long reached 20-16. The Malaysian saved two match points but then sent the shuttle out to lose 18-21 in 38 minutes.

For Chen Long, it was his first Olympic gold to add to his two All-England and World Championships crowns.

Chong Wei can only look in envy as he’s still without a world or Olympic crown. He also lost in three World Championships finals.

Chen Long’s gold was only China’s second at these Games after Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan triumphed in the men’s doubles.

Earlier, two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan fell from grace in probably his last Olympic outing after losing 21-15, 10-21, 17-21 to Dane Viktor Axelson in the 70-minute bronze medal playoff.

Medals By Countries – Rio 2016

London 2012 Olympics – Medal Table

Rio 2016 Asia Regional Aug 21 Medal by Countries

 

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Wira Dani, son of former Finance Minister Daim, declared a bankrupt


PETALING JAYA: Datuk Md Wira Dani Abdul Daim, who just recently got appointed as Reliance Pacific Bhd executive director, has been declared a bankrupt by the high court of Singapore.

According to reports, the son of former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin failed to settle some S$1.65mil (RM4.9mil) in debts that he owed Maybank Kim Eng Securities.

Following the court order, Wira Dani stepped down as non-independent and non-executive director of Singapore-based gold company LionGold Corp Ltd.

He had also ceased to be the executive chairman of investment and investment advisory firm ISR Capital Ltd since Monday.

In a statement filed with the Singapore Exchange, Wira Dani indicated that he intended to settle personal affairs following the court bankruptcy order, which he intends to resolve within the next 30 days.

Maybank secured a high court judgment against Wira Dani in March to reclaim a debt of $2.459mil (RM7.3mil) that he owed.

This was said to have been borrowed by him to buy LionGold shares on a leveraged account.

Wira Dani, together with Daim’s wife Toh Puan Mahani Idris, emerged as substantial shareholders of Reliance Pacific, which operates the famous Avillion Hotel in Port Dickson, at end-July 2016 through their private vehicle Ibu Kota Developments Sdn Bhd.

Ibu Kota owns a 30.96% stake in the company that has extensive interest in the tourism, property development and hospitality sectors.

Wira Dani was named the executive director of Reliance Pacific on July 27.

At present, he is also a non-executive director of GCM Resources PLC, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange and chairman of Astute Capital Ltd, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

LionGold was among the three companies whose drastic decline in share prices in October 2013 wiped out some S$6.9bil of their market capitalisation in three days.

The event led to an official probe on suspected irregularities, and lawsuits were filed by various parties.

LionGold and the other two companies, namely Blumont Group and Asiasons Capital, claimed they were unaware of the reasons for the plunge of their shares.

LionGold’s market cap stood at S$26.9mil as of June 2015, compared with S$1.59bil at its peak in August 2013.

Wira Dani had reportedly agreed to pay the bank via instalments. However, by August 2014, he had repaid only S$100,000.

Maybank in April accepted the offer from his lawyer, Woo Tchi Chu, to settle the debt, with S$1mil to be paid in two tranches within the month and the rest by end-June.

Maybank’s Allen & Gledhill lawyer Vincent Leow had made clear that bankruptcy was an option in the event of a default by Wira Dani.

In the event, Maybank received only about S$835,950, leaving a shortfall of S$1.65mil and triggering the bankruptcy move.

Wira Dani is said to have property in Singapore, according to court documents filed.

Maybank refused to comment when contacted last night, citing client confidentiality.

– The Star/Asia News Network

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Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal, dreams do come true !


Video: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/-JTwPEutLdY

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Joseph Schooling won the men’s 100 metres butterfly final on Friday to secure Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal and deny Michael Phelps a 23rd in the last individual race of the American’s extraordinary career.

Phelps, the defending champion and world record holder who is heading into retirement — again — after Rio, finished second in a three-way dead heat with two of his greatest rivals — South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh.

Astonishingly, all three touched out in 51.14 seconds, behind Schooling’s Olympic record 50.39 in the second dead-heat in a final in two days.

“I’m just ecstatic. I don’t think it has set in yet. It’s just crazy,” said Schooling.

Straight after his historic golden feat, Schooling told Singapore media: “This swim wasn’t for me. It’s for my country.

“Some people believe that Singapore has a lot of talent. I believe that. It doesn’t matter where you’re from really. I hope this opens new doors for sports in our country and I hope I’ve set a precedent for the young in our country.

“It’s been a hard road, I’ve done something that no one in our country has done before. I’ve received a lot of support and that’s phenomenal, that’s great. I can’t really describe what that means.

“But it’s been a tough road, I’m not going to lie, the first guy through the wall is always bloody. I had to take that blow.

“I’m thankful and I’m blessed that I have the ability to accomplish this. This moment is not about me, it’s really for my country, it’s all about my coaches, my family, my friends who believed from when I was a six-year-old kid, that I could do it.”

In Singapore, cheers broke out across housing estates and social media erupted in celebration as Schooling won in Brazil.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan, who was in Rio to cheer Team Singapore, led an outpouring of congratulations for Schooling.”

“It is an incredible feat, to compete among the world’s best, stay focused, and emerge victorious,” Mr Lee said in a Facebook post.”

Schooling will receive S$1 million for his gold medal as part of a programme aimed at encouraging studious Singaporeans to excel in sport.”

“Schooling winning shows that even homegrown athletes can win an Olympic medal and I think it’s a good example for our youth that sporting greatness is possible,” said real estate agent Michael Tan, 35, who cheered on Schooling at a coffee shop in a residential estate.

“It’s amazing that Singapore finally has a gold medal at the Olympics, I don’t think anyone thought this was possible,” Madeleine Lim, 62, told AFP.”

Video: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/0C6XrjKPvCE

Dreams Do Come True

 

It was back in 2008, a 13-year-old teenager Joseph Schooling got to meet his hero, one of the all-time greatest Olympians, Michael Phelps, who had visited Singapore before the start of the Beijing Olympics. Eight years later, Schooling, now 21, creates history by beating Phelps to bag the gold in the 100m Butterfly finals. The specialty of the occasion is double great as this is for the first time a Singaporean wins an Olympic gold.

It was a dream come true for Schooling when he got an opportunity to swim in the same race with Phelps at London Olympics 2012. That was the year Joseph first qualified for the Olympics in London, but then disaster struck when he was told his goggles weren’t Olympics standard just before the race. He rushed to get replacements, but ended up getting a poor time in his heats and didn’t get through to the semi-finals.

He pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Rio, interrupting the 31-year-old Phelps’ quest for what would have been his fifth gold in Brazil and 23rd Olympic gold of his career.

Schooling’s father Colin, who hosted a viewing party at his home in Singapore, wept when his son won.

“If I cry in front of all of you all, it’s because I have nothing to be ashamed of,” he told reporters.

“My love for my son is nothing I can describe to you all.”

Related stories: 

Left: A young Schooling posing with Phelps, whom he idolised, during a training camp in Singapore in 2008. Below left: Phelps congratulating Schooling as they leave the podium after the 100m butterfly victory ceremony. Gold medallist Joseph SchoolingOlympics: Joseph Schooling’s win is shaking up everyone’s world 

 

 Mr Poon, 70, remembers Schooling's insatiable quest to win even while attending his swimming classes as a child.Schooling learnt to be fearless from first coach Vincent Poon

 Medals By Countries – Rio 2016

 Rank by: Gold TOTAL

TOTAL

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alam Maritim on Swiber impact

 

Azmi says contribution from JV with company not substantial

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

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

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

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

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

He said Alam Maritim had two JV companies with Swiber,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alam Maritim, too is facing a challenging period.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DBS, OCBC and UOB exposed to downturn in energy sector

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

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

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

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

Debt Restructuring

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

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

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

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

Moody’s Downgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swiber Holdings to restructure its business

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slippery slope for oil

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Bears crowd Ezra as Swiber’s woes signal oil risks

Singapore’s Ezra to seek fresh capital to weather slump

Refiners start slowing from summer peak

Alam Maritim on Swiber impact

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