Sunday, February 25th, 2018


Libya oil field halt slows exports, sending crude prices rising

CAIRO, Feb 25 — Libya’s oil exports from the Mellitah terminal will be “modified” after protests disrupted production at the key El-Feel deposit for the first time in two months, putting the Opec nation’s crude production at risk of a…

BAIC and Daimler to build US$1.9b China production plant

HONG KONG, Feb 25 — BAIC Motor Corp and Daimler AG plan to build a new factory in China for Mercedes-Benz vehicles to meet growing demand as the German automaker deepens its ties with the country. The automakers will co-invest more than 11.9…

Govt contribution to SP1M will be credited into accounts, EPF assures members

PETALING JAYA: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has assured eiligible members that the government's contribution under the 1Malaysia Retirement Scheme (SP1M) will be credited into their accounts.

“We usually receive the government contribution sometime in March. We advise members to check their account from time to time,” EPF told SunBiz.

EPF said it will routinely make government contribution claims based on accumulated contribution for the first (January to June) and second (July to December) half of the year. The amount will be credited into members’ Akaun 1 (Retirement Account) after receiving the contribution payment from the government.

A SP1M member had claimed that the 10% government contribution for SP1M in 2017 was not credited into his account.

According to EPF, the contribution amount from members to SP1M stood at RM525.31 million as at Dec 31, 2017. There were 90,599 members under the SP1M as at Dec 31, 2017.

In Budget 2018, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced that the government’s contribution to SP1M will increase to 15% subject to a maximum of RM250 per person per year for a period of five years from 2018 to 2022.

Introduced in 2010, SP1M is a government initiative to ensure that those who are self-employed and do not earn a regular income achieve a certain level of savings upon reaching the retirement age. It aims to encourage those who are self-employed and do not earn a regular income to voluntarily contribute to the savings scheme within their means.

Those who fall under the self-employed category include farmers/fishermen/taxi drivers, small business owners/hawkers/night market traders, babysitters, commission-receiving agents (insurance agents, real estate agents), freelancers (including deejays, singers, actors, fitness instructors, consultants), business owners (sole proprietors/partners) involved in the trading of goods and services, online business owners, professionals with their own practice (accountants, doctors, lawyers), housewives and pensionable employees.

Members' contribution to the scheme may vary but is subject to a minimum of RM50, and can be made anytime. The government contribution is limited to SP1M members who are under age 55. Savings under the scheme will receive an annual dividend payment until the member reaches age 100.

Felda Global Ventures to dispose of more non-core assets

KUALA LUMPUR: Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) plans to divest two or three non-core and non-performing assets or investments this year, which are valued at “a few hundred million ringgit” and add income to FGV this year.

Group president and CEO Datuk Zakaria Arshad (pix) said one or two deals have been concluded and it needs to sign the sale and purchase agreements.

“We have minority shares in these companies, we just want to get some cash from the investments,” he told a press conference after announcing its financial results for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2017 (Q417) here last Friday.

Zakaria said FGV is in the preliminary stage of looking at 20,000ha of greenfield landbank in Malaysia, Indonesia and Africa.

“We will go through a due diligence of looking at every angle, especially RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil),” said Zakaria, explaining that RSPO is a prerequisite for its plantation acquisition.

He said the European Union’s (EU) potential ban of palm oil from the EU biofuel programme will not impact FGV, as its business in the eurozone is only 2%. Even without the EU’s ban, he said, FGV is unable to sell or export much because of price and hence concentrates only on the local market.

“I worry about the perception of other consumer countries because they think that EU will ban palm oil in totality, whereas they only ban (palm oil in) biodiesel usage, which is small for Malaysia,” Zakaria said.

He maintained the view that crude palm oil (CPO) prices will hover at RM2,400-RM2,600 per tonne in 2018, weaker than the average of RM2,792 per tonne in 2017, on the expectation of good crops and a strengthening ringgit against the US dollar.

Meanwhile, Zakaria said FGV is undertaking an internal investigation into the company’s acquisition of Asian Plantations Ltd (APL), partly due to its steep price, and may take the matter to court should there be a case, without the involvement of the government.
FGV purchased APL for £120 million (equivalent to RM628 million) in 2014.

On another note, FGV and subsidiary MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd still welcome former MSM group president/ CEO Datuk Mohamad Amri Sahari @ Khuzari, who left the group last month claiming “constructive dismissal” 20 months into the job.

“I’m persuading him as a friend (to return to MSM) but it’s up to him. The window is still open,” Zakaria said.

FGV’s Q417 net profit fell 31.9% to RM76.57 million for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2017, from RM112.46 million in the previous corresponding quarter, mainly due to the land lease agreement adjustments. Revenue for the quarter decreased 17% to RM4.28 billion, compared with RM5.15 billion in the same period in 2016.

For the full year, FGV’s net profit jumped more than fourfold to RM143.7 million, from RM31.5 million a year ago, attributed to a strong performance from plantation and logistics and others (LO) sectors. Revenue dropped marginally by 1.5% to RM16.97 billion, against RM17.2 billion previously.

FGV is confident the momentum will continue this year supported by sustainable growth in LO sector and improvement by sugar sector.

On Bursa Malaysia last Friday, FGV fell 5 sen or 2.4% to RM1.99 with 13.5 million shares traded.

Penang Port to expand container handling capacity, cruise operations

PENANG: Penang Port Sdn Bhd has allocated RM180 million capital expenditure (capex) this year, mainly for operations at the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT). 

Container operations – the core business of the country’s oldest port – bring in about 68% of its total revenue.

Penang Port CEO Sasedharan Vasudevan said the container terminal would be expanded to increase its handling capacity to 2.8 million to 2.9 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually, from the current two million.

“We have not filled up the two million TEUs capacity (yet), but we have to start the works now in order to meet future demand. And the 2.8 million TEUs (capacity) is basically to cater for the future,” he told reporters during a media familiarisation trip to Penang Port recently.

Sasedharan said the port recently received approval for its capacity expansion plans and expects to begin construction by the third quarter of this year. The project is expected to be completed within 18 months to 20 months.

Last year, Sasedharan said, the port spent between RM30 million and RM40 million capex, mainly for the purchase of yard equipment.

This year, the port aims to hit 1.6 million TEUs, or 5% growth, compared with 2017. The port’s container volume increased by 6% to 1.52 million TEUs last year from 1.4 million TEUs in 2016.

Sasedharansaid the port believes that if the growth trend continues, it will hit 2.2 million or 2.3 million TEUs by the next four to five years.

Additionally, the port is planning to expand its cruise operations at Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT), under its joint venture with American cruise company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, to support the port’s future growth.

Sasedharan said the port will invest about RM155 million to expand the berth and increase the size of the cruise terminal to handle up to 12,000 passengers at one time from 8,000 currently.

Sasedharan said although cruise operations constitute only about 5% of the port’s business, the sector recorded 20% growth last year.

He added that SPCT’s total cruise passengers grew 20% last year to 1.22 million passengers, from 1.02 million in 2016.

Penang Port, which is managed by MMC Port Holdings Sdn Bhd, contributed 20% to 30% revenue to the MMC group in 2017. MMC operates three other major ports in Peninsular Malaysia – Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Johor Port and Northport in Port Klang.

Geely makes US$9b Daimler bet against tech ‘invaders’

BEIJING/FRANKFURT: Chinese carmaker Geely has built up an almost 10% stake in Daimler in a US$9 billion (RM35 billion) bet by its chairman that he can access the Mercedes-Benz owner’s technology in the growing battle for the future of automotives.

The purchase by Li Shufu (pix), Geely’s founder and main owner, means China’s largest privately owned automaker is now the biggest shareholder in Germany’s Daimler.

Geely said on Saturday there were no plans “for the time being” to raise the stake further. Instead, it will seek to forge an alliance with Daimler, which is developing electric and self-driving vehicles, to respond to the challenge from new competitors such as Tesla, Google and Uber.
“No current car industry player is likely to win this battle against the invaders from outside without friends. To achieve and assert technological leadership, one has to adapt a new way of thinking in terms of sharing and combining strength. My investment in Daimler reflects this vision,” Li said.

“Daimler is pleased to announce that with Li Shufu it could win another long-term orientated shareholder, which is convinced by Daimler’s innovation strength, strategy and future potential,” the German company said in a statement.

Geely officials plan to travel to Stuttgart to meet Daimler executives early this week and also hope to meet top German government officials in Berlin, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Chinese firm plans to use the meetings to underline that it intends to be a supportive long-term investor, they said.

Daimler had no immediate comment on any meetings. Geely and the German economy ministry declined to comment.

Chinese investors in German technology companies have tended to take a consensual approach, buying incremental stakes in companies such as robotics firms Kuka and Kion, typically after long consultation with management and other stakeholders.

In November, Geely asked Daimler to issue new shares so it could buy a stake, as a way to access Mercedes-Benz technology for electric cars and trucks, including battery technology, to help Geely comply with a Chinese crackdown on pollution.

But the German company turned down the offer saying it did not want to dilute existing shareholders, sources at the time told Reuters.

Li changed tactics, and quietly amassed a stake of 9.69% worth US$9 billion at Daimler’s current share price.

The sources said former Morgan Stanley Germany CEO Dirk Notheis was the architect of amassing the Daimler stake, working with former Morgan Stanley China executive Yi Bao.
Notheis declined to comment, while Bao was not reachable.

German state secretary at the economy ministry, Matthias Machnig, said separately that EU trade ministers meeting this week in Sofia would discuss how better to protect strategically important European companies from unwanted investors.

“It is important that Europe keeps a close eye on which key European technologies foreign strategic investors are setting their sights on,” he said.

Machnig did not comment specifically on Daimler.

Only two or three auto manufacturers will likely survive, a source familiar with Li’s thinking told Reuters, prompting Geely to seek access to carmakers with a technological edge.

Daimler is also the only one of Germany’s three carmakers not to be controlled by a family. Volkswagen is majority-owned by the Porsche-Piech clan, while BMW is 47% owned by Susanne Klatten, Germany’s richest woman, and her brother Stefan Quandt.

Geely’s move poses a challenge to the German carmaker, since Mercedes-Benz already has an industrial alliance to develop cars and trucks with Renault-Nissan, which owns a 3.1% stake in Daimler, and has announced plans to build electric cars with existing Chinese joint-venture partner BAIC Motor Corporation.

Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton said: “It’s not clear what Geely wants and how it’s going to work, but we view this move as part of a broader Chinese move to gain involvement in the European automotive industry.”

“China wants a payback after spending a decade gifting the European auto industry super-normal growth and profits. Now it wants more direct access to technology, brands and profits,” he wrote in a note shortly after the stake was disclosed.

Zhejiang Geely Holding owns Volvo Cars, LEVC, the maker of London’s black cabs, and last year took a majority stake in sports car maker Lotus, a 49.9% stake in Malaysian automaker Proton, a US$3.3 billion stake in Volvo Trucks and control of flying car start-up Terrafugia.

Geely sees potential in Daimler because it is developing high-speed connectivity for autonomous cars at a time when Li believes satellite-based internet connections could become more important, the source familiar with his thinking said.

The source said Daimler and Geely had not held concrete talks about how to structure a potential joint venture, adding: “You know we have to become a stakeholder in order to engage.”

Swedish truck maker AB Volvo, one of Geely’s other investments, has objected to the Chinese firm’s stake-building in Daimler, citing anti-trust concerns, the source added.
“We will protect interests of both companies by abiding laws in the country and the company’s governance structure. We are not seeking to have a controlling power in Daimler,” the source added. – Reuters

Saudis see oil output cuts easing in 2019 without hurting market

NEW DELHI, Feb 25 — Opec and its allies including Russia may next year ease the crude-output curbs that have helped prices recover from the worst crash in a generation, according to Saudi Arabia’s oil minister. With the market moving toward…

Bank of America takes aim at gun-making clients

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 — Bank of America Corp yesterday became the latest financial heavyweight to take aim at gunmakers, saying it would ask clients who make assault rifles how they can help end mass shootings like last week’s massacre at a…

New US tax law brings Buffett’s firm US$29 billion

NEW YORK, Feb 25 — Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of US billionaire investor Warren Buffett, received a stunning US$29 billion (RM114 billion) last year from the US government, thanks to a new tax law that massively lowered corporate…

EIB investigates loans to Daimler in light of diesel questions, reports media

FRANKFURT, Feb 25 — The European Investment Bank may ask Daimler to pay back loans extended for research and development in light of a report linking the Mercedes maker to diesel emission-test cheating, Welt am Sonntag reported. The company…