Sunday, April 15th, 2018


EPF exiting healthcare provider Columbia Asia

PETALING JAYA: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is selling its close to 30% interest in Columbia Asia Sdn Bhd (CASB) for an undisclosed sum, according to its annual report released on Friday.

The fund has reclassified the cost of investment in CASB of RM203.21 million as assets held-for-sale, with the sale to be completed this month.

It said the decision to sell was approved by its investment panel on Nov 7, 2017. The identity of the buyer could not be immediately ascertained.

EPF currently owns a 12.65% stake in KPJ Healthcare Bhd and an 8.7% interest in IHH Healthcare Bhd.

According to the 2017 annual report other assets held for sale are 38 units of investment properties of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and one unit of land at Petra Jaya, Sarawak. These assets are in the process of disposal and are expected to be sold completely this year.

CASB is an international private healthcare company incorporated in Malaysia in 1996.

According to its latest filing with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, EPF owns a 29.7% interest in CASB and Columbia Asia Healthcare Sdn Bhd, previously known as Columbia Pacific Healthcare Sdn Bhd has 69.4%. The remainder is held by eight individuals. Columbia Asia Healthcare is fully owned by US-based fund International Columbia US LLC.

According to its last audited financial results, CASB made a net profit of RM31.3 million on revenue of RM506.0 million for the financial year ended March 31, 2017. It has RM1.2 billion in assets and RM539.7 million in liabilities.

Columbia Asia Group is owned by more than 150 private equity companies, fund management organisations and individual investors.

While it is not clear which operations are parked under CASB today, Columbia Asia as a group currently has 12 medical facilities in Malaysia, 12 in India, three in Vietnam, three in Indonesia and one in Kenya.

The hospitals of Columbia Asia provide an array of specialised services including general surgery, paediatrics, obstetrics & gynaecology, orthopaedics, internal medicine, oncology, cardiology, neuro surgery, bariatric surgery and more.

Columbia Asia Group received additional equity investment of US$210 million (RM820 million) from existing shareholders to build new hospitals and deepen the level of specialty care in existing facilities. A majority of the funds were invested by Tokyo-based Mitsui & Co Ltd.

As of March this year, the group has added 342 beds across facilities in Malaysia, India and Indonesia. It aims to have more than 4,000 beds in Asia by 2025.

Bank Negara: Foreign insurers can’t choose alternative initiatives for divestment

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign insurers, who have repatriated about RM16.5 billion between 2008 and 2017 in the form of dividends but didn’t contribute as much as expected for the development of the domestic industry, cannot choose alternative initiatives with their promise to divest stakes, said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

The contributions of the foreign insurers to the overall development of the domestic insurance industry, despite a long presence in Malaysia, have not been at the level expected.

For example, there has been minimal improvement in insurance penetration, compounded by the lack of breadth in products (especially for lower income segments) and concentration of high-cost distribution models, BNM said in a statement today.

“The bank welcomes any initiative by insurers that would benefit the Malaysian economy and the general public, as expected of any ordinary responsible corporate citizen that operates in the country,” it said in reply to report that foreign insurance companies would set up healthcare trust as an alternative to fulfilling their commitment to pare down their shareholding by 30% before the June 30 deadline.

BNM also noted that the bank had not received such a proposal.

The bank stressed that the agreed foreign shareholding level was a commitment provided by the foreign shareholders in being granted a licence to operate in the country.

The foreign insurers were given the licence to operate in the domestic market on the basis of the specific commitments and assurances given.

“A licence would not have been given if the commitments were not made,” it said
Over the years, ample opportunities and flexibilities have already been conceded to accommodate actions that should have been taken by shareholders to deliver on their commitments.

The bank therefore fully expects shareholders to honour an explicit promise made, and to operate in Malaysia in a manner that benefits the development of the domestic insurance market and the economy generally. This should be commensurate with the significant returns accruing to foreign insurers from the Malaysian market.

Shareholders of foreign insurers have benefited enormously from their presence in the Malaysian market.

BNM estimates that a total of RM16.5 billion, or 70%, of total profits attributable to foreign shareholders of insurers were repatriated over the period of 2008 to 2017 in the form of dividends.

In addition, foreign insurers repatriated an estimated RM1.3 billion in management fees and outsourcing arrangements to foreign affiliates between 2014 and 2016. – Bernama

Trade ‘remedies’ – the US barks, but where’s the bite?

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s administration claims it has doubled America’s efforts to fight unfair trade, compared to Barack Obama’s presidency.

But a closer look at data from US trade officials’ efforts to counter the dumping and illegitimate subsidies accused of hurting US companies shows Team Trump’s efforts appear to be lagging.
The president so far has not carried out his most dire warnings on trade.

Trump has retreated from threats to scrap major trade agreements and on Thursday said he might even re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which he withdrew from after taking office last year.

He has also temporarily exempted America’s largest trading partners from punishing tariffs on steel and aluminium, while his heaviest tariffs on Chinese goods have yet to take effect.

But since last year, the administration has touted a blitz of one-off efforts to slap tariffs on a series of manufactured items, industrial supplies and agricultural goods. The aim is to protect American producers from the alleged dumping of products on the US market at below fair value and under purportedly unfair subsidies by foreign governments.

Goods as varied as Spanish olives, Argentine biodiesel and woven sacks from Vietnam. Various forms of steel and aluminium from Europe, Asia and Africa. Strange-sounding industrial chemicals little known to the general public like polyethylene terephthalate resin from Pakistan and ammonium sulfate from China.

All of these figure among imports the Trump administration says should face added duties to protect American suppliers.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Congress last month he was vastly outpacing the Obama administration’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases.

“We have been running 70%, 80% more cases initiated than had been true in the prior administration,” Ross said during testimony on the budget. “We have also completed far more cases than any administration ever has completed. We had over 100 cases.”

These efforts can hit snags, however, at the bipartisan US International Trade Commission (ITC), which is independent and has the power to block the administration’s anti-dumping and “countervailing duty” tariffs when it sees no harm to US industry.

To the dismay of US aircraft giant Boeing, the ITC in February blocked the administration from putting duties on a US$5 billion (RM19.4 billion) order of C Series mid-range jets from Canada’s Bombardier. The commission has also swatted away tariffs on imports of titanium sponge from Japan and Kazakhstan (with annual imports valued together at US$145.2 million), sodium gluconate and gluconic acid from France (US$6.4 million) and rubber bands from Sri Lanka (US$2 million).

When these denials are taken into account, Trump’s first year in fact looks slower than Barack Obama’s last.

The combined annual value of imports in trade-remedy cases begun in Trump's first year amounts to just over US$6 billion, involving imports from 29 countries.

But in 2016, the US issued final anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders on US$6.6 billion worth of imports from just 18 countries – almost US$600 million more. The amounts in question may seem small, given the US$566 billion US trade deficit last year. – AFP

VW Truck chief gears up for ‘next level’ after step toward IPO

FRANKFURT, April 15 — Volkswagen AG’s trucks chief wants to take his division to “the next level,” with the German manufacturer considering a stock listing that would catapult the US$37-billion (RM143.5 billion) unit into the blue chip…

Australia: No appetite for new TPP talks to accommodate US

SYDNEY: There is “no appetite” among the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) signatories for major renegotiations to accommodate the US, Australia said yesterday after President Donald Trump indicated he was considering rejoining the trade pact.

Trump said on Thursday the US could re-enter the TPP if it could get a “better” deal, a major U-turn after leaving the Pacific trade pact last year and calling it a jobs killer.

But Australia’s Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said he “can’t see any appetite for any kind of wholesale renegotiations of the TPP deal to accommodate the United States”.

“Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not saying we don’t want the Americans back in, we do,” Ciobo told Sky News Australia.

“But what I am saying is I can’t see us unpicking all the stitching that brought this deal together to accommodate the US at this point.”

Eleven Asia-Pacific nations signed a slimmed-down version of the trade pact, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, in March.

Apart from Australia, the pact includes Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. – AFP

Tax cuts seen halting a three-month retreat in US retail sales

WASHINGTON, April 15 — Tax cuts have given a boost to Americans’ take-home pay this year. The question hanging over the US economy is whether they are putting the extra cash toward savings and debt, or using it to go shopping. Retail-sales…

Japan ‘rare earth’ haul sparks hopes of cutting China reliance

TOKYO, April 15 — The discovery of potentially millions of tons of valuable “rare earth” elements in sea sludge off Japan has raised hopes that Asia’s number-two economy can reduce its dependence on Chinese supply. But experts warn that…

Canada’s Trudeau squeezed in pipeline crisis

MONTREAL, April 15 — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is caught in a political crisis over the expansion of an oil pipeline that has shaken investor confidence in the country’s crucial energy sector. The dispute pits the country’s…

‘No appetite’ for major TPP changes to accommodate US, says Australia

SYDNEY, April 15 — There is “no appetite” among the Trans-Pacific Partnership signatories for major renegotiations to accommodate the US, Australia said today after President Donald Trump indicated he was considering rejoining the pact….

Nafta agreement could come in weeks, say Pence and Trudeau

TORONTO, April 15 — The Nafta trade agreement could be renegotiated in the next few weeks, US Vice President Mike Pence and Canada’s Prime Minister said yesterday in Peru, avoiding new political opposition that could emerge during…