Monday, January 28, 2013

Mandarin oranges more expensive this year

Mandarin oranges more expensive this yearSIBU: Price of Mandarin oranges from China is higher by more than 10% this year compared to the price last year.

Chairman of Sarawak China Trades Importers and Exporters Association, Hong Wing Huong, said the surge in the price was due to two factors.

“The increase in the wages of workers in China is one of the reasons. The other reason is the cold snap and drought in the country, which affected the planting of the crop,” Hong said after the presentation of ang pau to Sibu Benevolent Society yesterday.

The bad weather, he said, had resulted in fewer oranges.

“For this coming Chinese New Year, we are importing according to the demand,” he said.

A box of Mandarin oranges costs between RM26 and RM28, depending on their sizes.

The prices of other goods from China, he said, were also on an upward trend but not as much as Mandarin oranges. At the ceremony, the home administrator Alexander Lau received the ang pau from Hong.
 -the star online

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A new Swede beginning in Malaysia

WELCOME BACK: Sweden, which closed its embassy here in 2011, is busy playing catch-up

 "WE are on track again. It's business as usual," says new Swedish ambassador to Malaysia Bengt Carlsson, who has spent the past five months repairing the damage done by the closure of the mission in 2011.
To be sure, it was a financial problem over budget allocations that spilt over into diplomacy.
But it has been left to diplomats like Carlsson, and the handful of others sent to reopen closed missions, to build relations from scratch.
They also have to convince the host countries and the local Swedish communities that all is well despite having sold the ambassadors' residences and tying up all loose ends before leaving not too long ago.
Despite Carlsson's efforts to downplay the effect of the closure, it must surely have been difficult for the Swedish business community here to liaise with their embassy in Jakarta over urgent matters.
"The damage caused by the closure of the embassy here was limited. We are happy to be back," he tells me as we sit in the small conference room of the mission on the 16th floor of G-Tower in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian-Swedish Business Association (Masba) president Hans Bjonered, who had lamented two years ago on learning of the closure, must surely be smiling now.
He had said that business would be more difficult to conduct here for Swedish companies without a mission in Kuala Lumpur.
Embassy staff, sharing premises with Business Sweden (formerly the Swedish Trade Council), headed by Carl Malmqvist, can be expected to be looking forward for the move to Hampshire Place nearby on April 1.
The date is no laughing matter, really, for Carlsson who probably may see the physical move as a new beginning in Malaysia to a bilateral relationship going back decades that was temporarily inconvenienced in a moment of bureaucratic madness.
There are many things on his plate that the former deputy head of mission in Thailand needs to attend to, starting with trying to bring in more small Swedish businesses here.
"The big Swedish multinationals like Ikea, Volvo and Eriba know the country well. We are looking more into small businesses now employing between 20 and 40 people," he says, adding that the accent this year would be on, among others, green technology and recycling.
Other areas that he will look into include innovation projects among Malaysians, life sciences and healthcare, traffic safety and academic cooperation between Swedish and Malaysian institutions of higher learning.
Carlsson says Masba, of which he is an honorary council member, will play a crucial role in trying to ensure greater bilateral trade this year.
I ask about defence cooperation and Carlsson is all smiles as he talks about ongoing independent discussions between Saab, Bofors and the Malaysian government on possible purchases.
"This is a very exciting area with a history of the Malaysian navy buying equipment from our side. There is quite a bit of scope in this," he says, adding that Defence Attache Lt-Col Johan Tornqvist is based in Stockholm and visits almost monthly.
Tornqvist cannot be based here for good reason: he is also the aide-de-camp to the King of Sweden, which obviously is a very heavy responsibility.
Moments later, Tornqvist pops in, exchanges business cards, and prepares for the trip back home but not before promising to be back for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima).
At this juncture, Malmqvist comes in to brief me for a few minutes on what Business Sweden is all about in a pre-arranged schedule that smacks of efficient Swedish time management.
He explains that the new entity came into effect on Jan 1 this year with the merging of the Swedish Trade Council and Invest Sweden.
"I am part trade commissioner, too, besides my role as market manager of Malaysia for Business Sweden. I want to attract new Swedish companies to Malaysia," he says, adding that he wants to create a local talent pool for Swedish companies here.
Swedish exports to Malaysia generally consist of telecommunication equipment, motor vehicles, chemical products, power generating machinery and equipment, machines, paper, as well as iron ore and steel.
Swedish imports from Malaysia comprise electronics and electrical components, machinery and apparatus, textiles, palm oil and rubber - New strait Time

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vehicle sales surge to record high

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 – Sales of passenger and commercial vehicles in Malaysia soared last year to achieve a record high of 627,753 units, said the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) today.
The sales exceed the previous record of 605,156 units in 2010, and outperformed an industry forecast of 615,000 units.

MAA today forecasted a further increase to 640,000 units in 2013 owing to the introduction of a large number of 200 new models and aggressive promotional campaigns by car companies.

“2012 had indeed been a very challenging year for the local automotive industry,” said MAA president Datuk Aishah Ahmad here.

“Despite these challenges, the local automotive industry had performed very well.”

Aishah highlighted the massive Thai floods in 2011 and implementation of Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) responsible financing practices guidelines as having a major impact on the industry last year.

Total registration of passenger vehicles such as cars, multi-purpose vehicles (MPV) and sports utility vehicles (SUV) in 2012 was 552,189 units or 88 per cent of the total industry volume (TIV).

Commercial vehicles like pick-ups, trucks and buses reached a total of 75,564 units, or 12 per cent of the TIV.

Compared to 2011, sales in 2012 shot up 4.6 per cent from 600,123 units. Passenger vehicles sales grew by 3.2 per cent, while commercial vehicles sales grew by 16.2 per cent.

MAA attributed the record performance in 2012 to a strong economic growth, especially thanks to a number of projects under the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which increased consumer and business confidence.

There was also the introduction of several new models at competitive prices, and Aishah agreed that the buying trend for cars in the middle price range will continue in the next few years.

“What we find is ... consumers are more at the middle income level,” Aishah said, pointing out to increasing market share of Toyota and Nissan.

The association will also lobby for continued incentives for hybrid and electric cars, considering an increase of sales around 84 per cent last year.

MAA also expressed concern over the low quality diesel supplied in Malaysia, which is stopping new models to be introduced in the country.

Malaysia has been granting import and excise duty exemption for hybrid and electric vehicles starting from Budget 2011.

The government subsidises diesel and petrol fuel sale in Malaysia as part of its RM42 billion annual subsidy.
- The Malaysian Insider

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thai billionaire Charoen builds empire with F&N takeover

(Reuters) - For self-made Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the takeover of Singapore's Fraser and Neave Ltd (F&N) (FRNM.SI) will add legions of assets to his drinks and real estate empire that already stretches from Southeast Asia to the United States.

Charoen, the son of a Bangkok street vendor whom Forbes ranks as Thailand's third-richest person with a net worth of $6.2 billion, is no stranger to a challenge.

He lost to Heineken NV (HEIN.AS) last year in a battle for F&N's stake in Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd (APBB.SI), the maker of Tiger beer, but forced the Dutch giant into a higher offer that made him a tidy gain on shares his group had amassed.

This week, Charoen emerged victorious when a consortium led by Indonesian tycoon Stephen Riady pulled out of the bidding for F&N's soft drinks, dairy and publishing businesses plus a real estate portfolio worth more than S$8 billion ($6.5 billion).

"He was ecstatic," said a person involved in the takeover who met Charoen just after his rival withdrew.

The $11.2 billion deal, Southeast Asia's biggest takeover, adds popular brands and distribution networks to Charoen's Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI) that brews Chang (Elephant) beer and makes spirits, energy drinks and instant coffee.

F&N is the leader in Singapore and Malaysia's soft drinks markets, according to Euromonitor, and it has a 55 percent stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd, a joint venture that produces the rapidly emerging country's best-selling beer.

Charoen, 69, is also heavily into property. His privately held TCC Land owns shopping malls and hotels, including the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York, and he has substantial assets in Singapore's booming real estate market.

In 2007, the Straits Times newspaper reported he bought 47 of the 48 units in a luxury Singapore condominium a day before a private preview sale. He would have bought the whole thing, it said, if local laws did not prevent a foreigner from owning all of the units in a single development.

The F&N acquisition fits the pattern of expanding Charoen's drinks business and is also a chance for his son, who heads Thai Beverage, to cut his teeth with a big international deal.

Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, the third of the billionaire's five children, was named president and chief executive of Thailand's top beer and spirits group in 2008.

As patriarch, Charoen has kept the business in the family in other ways. He is chairman of venerable Thai trading firm Berli Jucker BJC.BK, but son-in-law Aswin Techajaroenvikul leads it as it embarks on major expansion plans in the region.


Starting in the trading business, Charoen and his family expanded aggressively in the liquor, sugar milling, banking and insurance fields during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Charoen entered the Thai beer market in 1995 by setting up a joint venture with Danish brewer Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) to produce Chang. He later formed Beer Thai Co to manage marketing and distribution.

Asia's financial crisis of 1997/98, which led to the closure of financial institutions owned by his family, forced Charoen to leave Thailand and stay overseas for a while.

His fortunes changed after the firm intensified a battle for Chang's market share in 1999 by cutting its wholesale prices and gained ground on rival Singha Corp, which has been selling Thailand's best-known beer Singha (Lion) since 1933.

Beer Thai was later restructured and became part of Thai Beverage before listing in Singapore in 2006 as it faced opposition from monks and anti-alcohol activists at home. Since 2009, the beer business has made losses due to tax burdens and Chang's loss of market share.

Thai Beverage bought nearly 65 percent of Serm Suk PCL SSC.BK, the local bottler of Pepsi, in 2011 to expand its soft drinks business. In 2008, it took over Thai green tea and sushi maker Oishi Group OISH.BK for $214 million.

Charoen has also ventured beyond drinks and real estate.

In 2004, he expressed interest in buying a stake in English soccer giants Liverpool FC with then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a potential partner in a 25 percent share.

The agreement fell through but Charoen stayed close to English soccer by winning a deal to advertise Chang on the shirts of Everton, Liverpool's biggest rivals.- (Reuters)

BASF, Petronas call off Malaysia joint venture

German chemical maker BASF has announced it will stop plans to form a joint venture in the chemicals sector with Malaysia oil giant Petronas. Instead, the world's biggest chemicals company landed a big fish in Norway.
Plans for the joint venture have been shelved because the two companies were unable to agree on the terms and conditions, the world's biggest chemicals maker, BASF, said Monday.
The proposed joint venture was called off on the basis of mutual understanding, BASF said in the statement, adding that both companies would remain committed to continuing their existing long-term partnership.
In March 2012, BASF and Petronas signed a letter of intent to construct and operate a joint production facility for specialty chemicals in Pengerang, Malaysia. The project was estimated to cost about 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion), and meant to enlarge already existing cooperation at the site.
The two companies didn't specify what exactly had caused the joint venture to be called off.
Branching out into nutrition
Also on Monday, BASF said it had acquired Norwegian fish oil producer Pronova in a bid to expand into the growing nutrition market.
"The acquisition is going to strengthen the positions of both BASF and Pronova as leading producers of Omega 3 fatty acid," BASF Chief Executive Michael Heinz said.
BASF has been able to buy out 97.7 percent of Pronova shares, offering 13.5 Norwegian kroner (1.8 euros) per share.
The buy-out, worth about 684 million euros, comes after BASF's 3.3-billion-euro takeover of German chemicals rival Cognis and Scottish firm Equateq, which are both active in the nutritional supplements market.
BASF said it expected the market of Omega 3 fatty acids, which prevent coronary and heart diseases, to grow by 8 percent annually until 2020 -

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Malaysian entrepreneurs now more confident of success than ever before

KUALA LUMPUR: The fear of failure rate among Malaysian entrepreneurs had fallen significantly over the last four years, from 65% in 2009 to 36% in 2012, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said.

“This trend was demonstrated from entrepreneurial pursuits that was shaped and focused on available opportunities, and signals an increasing rate of innovations, initiatives, and an improvement in the country's economic situation,” he said at the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 yesterday.He noted that Malaysia's early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity or TEA rate for 2012 has increased to 7% compared to 4.4% in 2009.

“This increase was mainly driven by improvement-driven opportunity entrepreneurship as compared with necessity-driven entrepreneurship,” he said.

Ahmad Husni wants Malaysia's business retention rate getting even better although it has showed siginificant improvement over the past four years.

In 2009, only 4.3% of new businesses survived beyond 42 months period and that has increased to 7% in 2012. “Our retention rate is higher than the advanced countries such as United Kingdom (6%) and Germany (5%), while South Korea and China have higher rate at 10% and 12% respectively,” he said.

In line with that, Ahmad Husni said the Government was giving more attension towards improving entrepreneurs's capabilities through advisory services, coaching, training and funding via government agencies including Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, SME Corp, Malaysian Biotechnology Corp and Multimedia Development Corp. He added that the agencies under his ministry and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry had augmented the status of local entrepreneurship andestablished a positive perception of entrepreneurship as a career.

“The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report in 2012 showed that Malaysia ranked 25th out of 144 countries, mainly in health and primary education as well as financial market development,” he said - the star online

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Iskandar and JB the investment zones to look out for in 2013, says consultant

KUALA LUMPUR - The Iskandar region and Johor Baru will be the hottest places to invest in this year, given the booming development in the area, said Swhengtee International Sdn Bhd president and founder Gavin Tee.

"There is a lot of action going on in Iskandar and we expect more after the general election," he said, adding that even Singaporeans are crossing the border to invest there.

"The Iskandar region and Johor Baru will take the lead this year while the southern part of the Klang Valley, although quieter this year, will still be buzzing due to the development of many new townships and mega projects, including the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)," he said at the sidelines of the Swhengtee Annual Property Forecast Talk here yesterday.

Tee also listed Cyberjaya as an upcoming hotspot as well as places in greater Kuala Lumpur which have been earmarked for big projects such as the Tun Razak Exchange and the re-development of the former Pudu jail and Sungei Besi airport.

Other hotspots include Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Kuching, Pangkor, Malacca and areas near the KL International Airport.

Tee added, however, that it was important to identify the best places within the hotspots to ensure proper investment returns.

The international property consultant and speaker also said that this year would likely see more Malay participation in the property market.

He attributed this trend to the increasing number of young Malay investors, especially those interested in buying property in urban areas as well as future development in Malay reserve lands, kampung areas or special economic zones.

Tee, who founded the SwhengTee International Real Estate Investors Club, advised those who wished to buy properties to do their research and speak to those in the know as well as the locals to help them make a better informed decision.

"When buying, try to avoid difficult financing areas as it will be quite hard to dispose of them when you eventually want to.

"As investors, I hope people recognise the changes and invest based on the facts and the future.

"Property is something very personal; you need to feel it," he said -

Export data to influence CPO futures prices

Crude palm oil (CPO) futures prices on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives next week are expected to be influenced by the export data to be released by cargo surveyors, dealers said.

Cargo surveyors, Societe General de Surveillance (SGS) and Intertek Testing Services (ITS), are scheduled to release export estimates for the first 20 days of January, which may provide a new impetus for the market.

A dealer said the CPO futures prices are expected to be traded in the range of between RM2,350 and RM2,450 per tonne next week.

Another dealer said the extended zero-tax on CPO for February announced by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok on Monday, will help to attract more buyers next week.

On concerns over high inventory, the implementation of the 10 per cent palm biodiesel blending (B10 programme) nationwide by the government will ease the current record high palm oil stock, Dompok said.

For the week just-ended, CPO prices were traded higher on most days, influenced by the minister's announcement as well as the movement in the soybean oil prices.

On a Friday-to-Friday basis, February 2013 improved RM25 to RM2,358 per tonne, March 2013 chalked up RM15 to RM2,383 per tonne and April 2013 added RM4 to RM2,400 per tonne.

January 2013 ended at RM2,330 per tonne on Tuesday while new contract month June 2013 debuted at RM2,419.

The weekly turnover fell to 203,175 lots from 233,651 lots last week while open interest on Friday was up at 217,050 contracts versus 213,783 contracts previously.

On the physical market, February South stood at RM2,280 per tonne.-- BERNAMA

Black gold strike

MIRI: Rich deposits of crude oil and gas have been discovered in underground reserves onshore in the vicinity of this city.

This is the first time in about 25 years that the “black gold” has been found in such sizeable volume inland in Malaysia. The discovery by Petronas and Nippon Oil is poised to open up new frontiers in oil and gas exploration inland, with the possibility of more such discoveries here and the rest of northern Sarawak, said a delighted Miri MP Datuk Seri Peter Chin yesterday.

Chin, who is Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, said he had been informed by Petronas executive vice president (Exploration and Production Business) Datuk Wee Yaw Hin yesterday that the national oil giant had announced the discovery of the oil and gas in Block SK 333 onshore of Sarawak, via the Adong Kecil West 1 well, some 20km northeast of the city.

“This is a discovery well drilled by Nippon Oil and it has yielded such a sizeable amount of oil and gas reserves. The drilling tests achieved a flow rate of 440 barrels of crude oil and 11.5 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.

“Actually, I have known for quite sometime that there will be such a find, because Miri still has a lot of untapped oil and gas underground.

“More than 20 years ago, the oil companies abandoned their onshore drilling operations and ventured offshore Sarawak because they found enormous amounts of oil and gas there,” he said.

Chin said the latest discovery showed that there might be still a huge amount of oil and gas inshore.

“This discovery is very exciting in that it will open up another frontier for oil and gas exploration on our shores.

“The potential of more of such inland discoveries is very high. It augurs well for future social and economic growth of Miri, of Sarawak and of the country because of the potential revenue that will come in to the national coffers. I was also informed by Petronas bosses that there are two other discoveries of oil and gas offshore Miri just recently,” he said.

He said sizeable reserves had been found offshore between Miri and Bintulu in the Guang North Gasfield, and another reserve in the SK307 Tukau Timur East field,” he said.

Chin said the new discoveries, es-pecially the one inland of Miri, showed that the Najib administration had been right in pushing for fresh drilling operations in areas that had not been given much attention before.

He said that under the Economic Transformation Programme, one of the key areas of focus was to try to tap for oil and gas in marginal areas.

“The focus was to carry out intensive drilling in oil fields that were considered marginal or that which had been abandoned long ago.

“This included drilling inland in places like Miri, which has the country’s first inland oil well on top of Canada Hill. The decision to drill again inland is starting to bear handsome results,” he said.

Chin said Petronas bosses had informed him that there would be more intensive drilling in more areas here, and they would open up more wells to get a more accurate picture of the quantity of oil and gas on land.

State leaders are also delighted with the news of the discovery.

Communications Assistant Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the Nippon Oil top brass had informed him that the new discoveries would spur another socio-economic boom in northern Miri.

“They confirmed that they had discovered hydrocarbon reserves during a discovery drilling. They want to drill another discovery well to ascertain the exact volume of oil and gas inside and they will also carry out another seismic survey.

“Nippon Oil has not decided when the drilling for commercial production will start, but this discovery is a very good sign that there are better days ahead for the oil and gas industry in northern Sarawak,” he said.

Lee said any oil and gas boom would trigger a boom in food-retail, housing, air transportation, banking and other fronts, including the creation of more jobs in the supporting industries.

Petronas, in a press statement issued from the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, said the last time such an onshore discovery was made was in 1989, in the Asam Paya Oilfield, also in Sarawak.
- star online

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bright Packaging questions move

 PETALING JAYA: The board of Bright Packaging Industry Bhd is still questioning the move by four of its shareholders that who collectively own 31.19% in the aluminium foil packager to replace some of its experienced directors as it has not received any comments from the requisitionists since they announced the date for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

The company announced an EGM to be held on Feb 21 to remove managing director Wong See Yaw, executive director Yap Kok Eng, non-independent non-executive director Wong Siew Yoong and independent non-executive director Yeap Cheng Chuan as well as any new directors who might be appointed from the date of the requisition to the date of the EGM.

Among the questions raised by the board in a statement yesterday were the reasons for the removal of these directors, is the proposal to remove them in the best interest of the company and who will helm the company if the proposed motion was passed at the forthcoming EGM.

“At the meeting held with the Minority Shareholders Watchdog Group (MSWG) this week, it was understood that MSWG was also interested to reasons behind the proposed motion.

“The board is appealing to all shareholders to vote against the proposed resolutions to ensure there is continuity in the present management who has been delivering sterling results,” said the statement.

On another matter, Bright Packaging has decided to pay out all of its distributable profits as dividend made for the next five financial years to reward shareholders.

It also announced its net profit for the first quarter ended Nov 30 climbed to RM1.7mil from RM663,000 a year ago despite a lower turnover

It registered a lower revenue of RM11.4mil compared with RM13.7mil in the same quarter of the last financial year due to reduced orders from a local tobacco manufacturer currently undergoing a major restructuring and relocation of operation exercise while the higher margin was attributed to lower costs of material and improved operational efficiency.

“Barring unforeseen circumstances and in light of the on-going boardroom tussle or a potential change of entire board, the directors are unable to comment on the future performance,” it said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday. - the star online

Thursday, January 3, 2013

GW Plastics to maintain listing

KUALA LUMPUR: GW Plastics Holdings Bhd will maintain its listing status on Bursa Malaysia after the disposals of Great Wall Plastic Industries Bhd and GW Packaging Sdn Bhd to Scientex Packaging Film Sdn Bhdfor RM283.2mil.
GW Plastics chief executive officer Lim Kok Boon said: “We will be looking for new opportunities to make sure we stay listed. The company will only pick potentially viable activities in order to continue benefitting the shareholders.” Speaking after the company’s EGM here yesterday, he said this would take time as numerous discussions were involved. – Bernama

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