Monday, March 12th, 2018


Goldman Sachs’ Schwartz retires, paves way for Solomon as next CEO

NEW YORK, March 12 — Goldman Sachs Group Inc said today that Harvey Schwartz will retire from the bank, leaving David Solomon as sole president and chief operating officer and the most obvious successor to Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein. The…

US stocks rise ahead of inflation, retail sales data

NEW YORK, March 12 — Wall Street stocks advanced early today, keeping positive momentum from last week’s strong jobs report ahead of key data releases on US inflation and retail sales. About 25 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial…

Dropbox IPO aiming to raise US$748m

SAN FRANCISCO, March 12 — Cloud data service Dropbox aims to raise as much as US$748 million through its initial public offering and a private sale of stock, according to an updated securities registration filed today. The company plans to…

Cryptocurrency traders await Bank Negara guidelines on digital coin ATMs

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia may have seen its first digital coin auto teller machine in 2016, before the global cryptocurrency craze peaked at end-2017, but the number has not grown beyond one because, as one operator sees it, the operation of such a facility currently falls under a grey area of the country’s existing laws.

There was no mention of the regulation of digital coin auto teller machines – more commonly known as bitcoin ATMs or BTMs – in Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) policy document on cryptocurrencies released about two weeks ago.

Earlier, XBit Asia co-founder Yuwarajan K told SunBiz that the company will wait for a comprehensive framework on digital currencies before bringing in any bitcoin ATM.
“We don’t have a bitcoin ATM yet because BNM has to come out with all these things (the framework) first.

“It’s very simple. With an ATM, you will know who’s withdrawing and depositing. There is a mechanism for knowing this. We’re in talks with them (the central bank), but the framework has to be out,” he said.

Yuwarajan said XBit Asia, as a digital currency exchange which has been operating since September 2016, can operate BTMs which are connected to the platform, but they have chosen to hold off doing so while awaiting guidelines from BNM.

PinkExc, another digital currency exchanger, brought in the country’s first BTM in 2016.
Besides bitcoin, the machine, which is in Ipoh, also trades dash and litecoin. It allows trading of coins up to RM300 with a 10% processing fee per transaction.

PinkExc founder Fitry Daud said the company is still in talks with Bank Negara on the operation of BTMs. “We didn’t receive any letter from BNM on the matter.”

The company has said that it plans to set up 100 BTMs in Southeast Asia within the next three to five years.

Digital currency exchangers operating in Malaysia are to be designated as reporting institutions under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, and have to update the central bank on all transaction details, but this is yet to come into practice.

The value of Bitcoin – the world’s best-known cryptocurrency – has plummeted by almost US$2,000 (RM7,800) in the last week, a testament to its volatility. Bitcoin is currently selling for about US$9,500. It touched a high of nearly US$20,000 late last year.

Japan, the only country which boasts regulation of cryptocurrency trading, suspended operations of two exchanges, FSHO and BitStation, from March 8. It also cautioned seven other exchanges to review and improve the security measures for their platforms and submit the steps taken by them in this regard to the regulator by March 22. The action was taken after Coincheck fell victim to a heist of US$530 million worth of digital coins, fuelling concerns over the regulators’ purview of the intangible assets.

Meanwhile, Yuwarajan lauded Securities Commission Malaysia’s (SC) ban on Singapore-based company CopyCash, which had intended to launch an initial coin offering (ICO) here.
“I believe that if you have a valid project, then you don’t really need an ICO. Only a few ICOs are really valid in the market,” he opined.

“Everyone is into the trend of fundraising, they raise funds and do nothing. Actually, I haven’t seen a proper ICO until now and all the great tokens are not raised via ICOs,” he added.

In January, the SC ordered CopyCash Coin to suspend its marketing activity in Malaysia after it found that certain representations made by the company could fall foul of securities laws. The regulator also advised investors to be cautious of the risks of fraud and to exercise due diligence before participating in ICOs.

Ho Hup, Kosma team up for RM180m Kuantan project

PETALING JAYA: Ho Hup Construction Co Bhd, its wholly owned subsidiary Ho Hup Ventures (Kuantan) Sdn Bhd and Koperasi Serbausaha Makmur Bhd (Kosma) have entered into a joint venture agreement for the proposed development of a parcel of freehold commercial land in Kuantan, Pahang, with an estimated gross development value of RM180 million.

Kosma is a cooperative society and the legal proprietor and beneficial owner of the land.
Ho Hup Ventures is principally involved in property development, construction and investment holding.

The site will be developed into a mixed project consisting of a podium floor, car parks, hotel lobby and retail shops; a seven-storey, three-star-rated hotel; three commercial office floors; and a 23-storey block of serviced apartments.

The board of Ho Hup is of the view that the land is situated in the prime hotel/commercial locality in Kuantan with a riverfront view (Sungai Pahang) and sea view (South China Sea). It is a prime grade A commercial land with a surrounding existing development enclave of hotels like Seri Malaysia Hotel, Vistana Hotel, MS Garden Hotel and prime commercial office and shopping malls such as Berjaya Megamall and East Coast Mall.

The proposed joint venture and the development on the land will enhance the group’s future earnings and the reputation and track record of Ho Hup as a construction and property development company in Malaysia.

Ho Hup proposes to use internally generated funds and/or external borrowings for the proposed JV.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the project is expected to be completed within 48 months from the date the approval of building plans is obtained from the relevant authorities.

On Bursa Malaysia today, Ho Hup closed unchanged at 49 sen with 117,400 shares done.

Prada shares soar as China demand spurs return to sales growth (VIDEO)

HONG KONG, March 12 — Shares in Prada surged 14 per cent today after the Italian luxury goods maker said it had stemmed a slide in sales in the second half of 2017 and expected to see growth continue this year. Criticised as slow to respond to…

Singapore-based Broadcom to redomicile to US by April 3

SINGAPORE, March 12 — Singapore-based Broadcom Ltd said today it expects to redomicile to the United States by April 3, two days before the chipmaker’s acquisition target Qualcomm Inc holds its annual shareholder meeting. Broadcom’s US$117…

Pro-France Brexit advert banned on London metro

LONDON, March 12 — An advert aimed at attracting London’s business community to France after Brexit has been banned from the city’s metro over its controversial message, the capital’s transport authority said today. “The Normandy…

It takes two to start a trade war

PETALING JAYA: With US President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric of inward-looking trade policies now coming into play in the form of import tariffs, it raises the question of whether these are telling signs of a brewing trade war.

RHB Banking Group chief economist and head of research Dr Arup Raha told SunBiz that there has not been a trade war since the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act in the 1930s and any answers at this point will be pure speculation.

“Any answers right now will be pure speculation. The truth is we haven’t had a trade war since the 1930s. And with organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation, who are meant to resolve trade disputes, an all out war seems unlikely. There may be token retaliatory tariffs but hopefully there will be a resolution before it gets very serious,” he noted.

“Moreover, Trump has a tendency to go back on policy announcements, so one can’t be sure how aggressively he will follow a protectionist regime.

“That said, the one consistent message from Trump since the 1980s is that he is not really a free trader. So, we may be in uncharted waters,” he added.

On how Malaysia will be affected, in the event of a trade war, especially with the US being one of its major trading partners, Arup said Malaysia will be undoubtedly affected should a trade war which shrinks global trade growth unfolds, as trade forms an important component of the Malaysian economy.

On whether more trade tarriff’s are on the horizon, Arup said it is hard to tell at this juncture.

“Hard to tell. EU has threatened tariffs on jeans, bourbon, etc which are more symbolic than anything. China has been relatively calm so far.There are no winners if this escalates into a full blown trade war so cooler heads should prevail,” he explained.

Meanwhile, in light of the recent US action, OCBC Bank economist Barnabas Gan noted in his report that, while a trade war is not totally off the cards, market reaction to Trump’s action has been unsurprisingly positive.

“Market reaction was unsurprisingly positive, with Wall Street rallying modestly as the details of the watered-down tariffs meant that initial risks over trade wars can likely be avoided,” he added.

Gan said tariffs without exemption could do more harm than good and likely to impede the US economy as well as global growth and trade activities.

And should exemptions fail to materialise, retaliation fears could once again be at the forefront of worries. Retaliatory trade deals by US’ trade partners wars could spell cascading woes into other US industries and its key exports, and likely inhibit Trump’s agenda of “Putting America First”,” he added.

S&P Global Ratings also flagged concerns of the US’ impending tariffs increasing the risk of a retaliatory action from the affected countries, which could in turn trigger a trade war.

The ratings agency said most of US trading partners have signaled their concern on the announcement and stated that they are prepared to retaliate with their own tariffs on goods imported from the US.

It said while the direct or first-round macroeconomic impact of these tariffs is likely to be negligible, the overall impact is less certain.

It also noted that more important are the potential second-round effects on consumer and business confidence and spending, which would ultimately drag down gross domestic product.

“Although we don’t expect a full-scale trade war, such an outcome is not assured. The initial US tariffs could lead to an escalation of punitive, retaliatory tariffs by trading partners despite the known welfare damaging effects,” it added.

Nevertheless, it said the overall economic impact of the tariffs on the US over the near term is likely to be minimal, with a mixed impact on corporate sectors.

S&P said US domestic steel and aluminium producers are likely to benefit from the tariffs, while certain other corporate sectors would suffer from higher input costs.

US steel imports represent just 2% of global production, while aluminium’s proportion is 6%. However, the tariff for aluminium is lower, it added.

Hartalega: Little impact from US protectionism expected

KUALA LUMPUR: Hartalega Holdings Bhd, which plans to submit its US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) application for anti-microbial gloves in April, does not see any pressing concerns impacting its business in the advent of a trade war sparked by US President Donald Trump.

Hartalega is currently the largest producer of nitrile gloves in the world and exports to over 60 countries across five continents namely Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia and Africa. Its export to the US stood at over 50%.

“For glove makers, we don’t think they will levy a tax on glove that much, not like 25%. We’re currently paying a small amount of tax or marginal tax for the industrial sector,” chairman Kuan Kam Hon told a press conference after its EGM yesterday. Gloves for medical use is tax-free worldwide.

Managing director Kam Mun Leong said it needs to study the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that was signed by Malaysia and 10 other countries last Friday to comment on the implications of it to the industry.

Speaking on its export markets, he said China is a difficult market for Hartalega, because there is no central purchasing system there, but maintained that operations there are not loss-making.

In May, the group will be launching its anti-microbial gloves in Europe. The approval process for its US FDA application is expected to take six to nine months.

“The FDA submission is a milestone because it gives credibility to the product. Once we get FDA certification, it’s a good testimony for the product,” said Mun Leong.

Meanwhile, he said the group’s Next Generation Integrated Glove Manufacturing Complex (NGC) will now have seven plants instead of six planned initially, requiring an additional RM250 million capital expenditure, on top of the RM2.2 billion for the construction of the six NGC plants.

Mun Leong explained that four plants are already operational while the construction of Plant 5 and 6 is underway, whereas plant 7 is expected to start construction in June/July 2018.

Upon completion, the NGC will boost Hartalega’s production capacity to 44.6 billion pieces per year from the current 29 billion pieces.

The group is focusing on organic growth and growing its distribution, and not on merger and acquisition.

“There’s plenty of opportunity in glove manufacturing and glove distribution. We just want to capitalise on the opportunity that is available to us at this moment,” said Kam Hon.

Earlier at the EGM, Hartalega obtained approval from shareholders for its bonus issue of up to 1.71 billion new shares, which is on the basis of one bonus share for every one existing share held by shareholders. The bonus issue will enable the company to enhance liquidity and provide shareholders with the opportunity to participate in Hartalega’s ongoing success.