Sunday, April 29th, 2018


Qatar to scrap controversial exit system for workers, say experts

DOHA, April 29 — Qatar could agree a deal within a fortnight to abolish its controversial exit visa system which requires workers to obtain their employers’ permission to leave the country, labour experts said today. The possibility of a…

Top Sainsbury’s shareholder QIA backs Asda takeover talks, says source

DUBAI, April 29 —  Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the biggest shareholder in J Sainsbury Plc, is supportive of merger talks between the British supermarket chain and rival Walmart Inc’s Asda, a source familiar with the matter told…

Property sector stands to benefit post-GE14: MIDF Research

PETALING JAYA: Property stocks are expected to benefit from the spillover effect post 14th General Election (GE14) if the outcome turns out to be favourable to the market, according to MIDF Research.
“We have examined the past performances of KL Property Index against KLCI for the period one month prior and one month after GE 13 in 2013 and GE12 in 2008. KL Property Index has been historically more sensitive to broader market movement due to its high beta nature,” it said in a note last Friday.
MIDF said KL Property Index chalked up gains of 22.8% in one month after GE13 against KLCI’s gain of 4.8%. Meanwhile, KL Property Index recorded steeper decrease of 10.1% in one month after GE12 against KLCI’s loss of 5.8%.
Nevertheless, the research house said it believes that upside momentum would be slightly weaker due to the present higher interest rate environment.
Furthermore, MIDF said it is maintaining its positive view on the sector as it see values emerged for some property stocks after the recent sell-down.

Note that the performance of Kuala Lumpur Property Index (KLPRP) lacked lustre in Q1 2018, losing by 11.6% against 3.7% gain in KLCI. MIDF said the sell-down could be partly attributed to the concern over further overnight policy rate (OPR) hike.

The decline in KLPRP was mainly led by big caps namely Mah Sing Group and Eco World Development Group, while performance of KLPRP remains muted in April, dropping 1.6% against 0.9% gain in KLCI.

Nevertheless, MIDF said it believes that key risk for the sector would be the potential weaker house price index (HPI) on sequential basis in Q4 2017 which would dent the recovery of the sector.

It said the HPI showed sign of weakening in Q4 2017 as preliminary HPI figures of 190.0 represents a slight decrease from HPI of 190.1 in Q3 2017.

“Note that this will be the first sequential decrease in HPI since 2009 if actual HPI for 4Q2017 turns out to be lower quarter-on-quarter. This may change our current view of stable property prices outlook,” it noted.

MIDF recommended “buy” calls on the three property stocks that are trading steeply below book value, namely EcoWorld Development, Mah Sing and UEM Sunrise.

“We are also rating “buy” for UOA Development for its attractive dividend yield 6.2%, SP Setia for its higher sales target and decent dividend yield of 5.4% and E&O for deep value in STP2A project,” it added.

AmBank committed to driving business forward

KUALA LUMPUR: AMMB Holdings Bhd remains fully committed to driving its banking business (AmBank Group) forward despite its major shareholders looking set to exit the group.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) is the most substantial shareholder in AmBank Group, holding a 23.78% stake, and provides support in board and senior management representations, risk and financial governance, product offerings and new business developments.

However, ANZ has been restructuring its businesses and is retreating from Asia with a slew of divestments in the region.

Most recently, ANZ said in February that it would close its Laos retail products and services to shift attention to its institutional banking business in the country, after selling its retail businesses in the Philippines and Vietnam.

Last year, it divested its 20% interest in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank and its life insurance business.

In 2016, ANZ sold its retail and wealth management businesses in five markets in Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia, to Singapore’s DBS Bank Ltd.

ANZ has been trying to sell its stake in AMMB since 2016 and talk that ANZ is close to divesting its stake – including to Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) – has been reported many times, but to no avail after AMMB and RHB Bank Bhd scrapped plans for a merger last year.

AMMB group CEO Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir (pix) said exiting does not mean that the major shareholder (ANZ) is just going to “throw away the business and lose money as a result”, but it wants to sell to a partner who is able to provide it the value that it wants.

“There is the question of finding a new partner. In Malaysia, it is also not so easy to simply dispose of it to anybody that you want out there, because you got to have regulatory approval, consents and requirements,” he told SunBiz in an interview.

He added that so long as ANZ continues to be a shareholder, it remains active in the participation of AmBank as it also wants the bank to do well.

“They (ANZ) were much involved in my top four strategy in terms of driving the business. Even when we were reviewing the strategy, looking at performance, they (ANZ) were very much involved. We still have two representatives from ANZ on various boards,” said Sulaiman.

Meanwhile, AMMB chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim will be retiring from six entities in the AmBank group in stages over a two-year period announced last year and he has reiterated that he will eventually sell his stake in AMMB. Azman’s indirect interest in AMMB stands at 12.97%.

Sulaiman said Azman built the bank and spent 30-40 years running the business,and he has every intention to make it the best.

“Of course, age catches with him. My intention is he continues to grow the business until one day the business has done so well and you’re ready to leave and of course you’d like to leave it in good hands.

“This is a valuable franchise for him (Azman). And for ANZ, they won’t just walk out at any price. So long as they’re still here, the intention is to continue to drive the business the best it can be.”

Sulaiman said AmBank is growing in all forms, and with the right segments and products, while its digital journey is part of ensuring that it invests in the right kind of businesses.

“They (ANZ and Azman) remain fully committed to driving the business, because no one wants to leave the organisation that you have built for so long and to see it go down the drain. The involvement of Azman and ANZ is as good as it could ever been.

“They also recruited me to make sure I drive the business because they have a view on where and how it should be, what it can possibly be and my job is to make sure I deliver that,” said Sulaiman.

Moving forward, Sulaiman said AmBank will continue to work towards achieving its aspiration to be among the top four banks in the country by 2020. The key growth segments identified are the mass affluent, affluent, small and medium enterprises and mid-corporate, which are on a growth trend.

Saudi Aramco appoints first woman to board of directors

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s top oil company which is preparing to go public, said today it has appointed new members to its board including a female executive, a milestone for Saudi Arabia and the oil industry where there are few women executives.

The appointments, which bring in more international experience, come as the Saudi government plans to float around 5% of Aramco in an initial public offering – the world’s largest – later this year or in early 2019.

Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan and Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed al-Tuwaijri were appointed as members of the board of directors, Aramco said in a statement.

They are joined by Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, the chairwoman, president and CEO of US oil refiner Sunoco Inc from 2008 to 2012.

Other new members include Peter Cella, former president & CEO of Chevron Philips Chemical Co LP, and Andrew Liveris, director of DowDuPont Inc, and CEO of the Dow Chemical Co. Liveris’ appointment is effective as of July 1, Aramco said.

The five new members of Aramco’s board will join six returning members including Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, and Amin Nasser, Aramco’s CEO. Minister of State Ibrahim al-Assaf and managing director of the government-owned Public Investment Fund Yasir al-Rumayyan also remain on the board.

The outgoing board members are Majid Al-Moneef, adviser to the Saudi Royal Court; Khaled al-Sultan, rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals; and Peter Woicke, former managing director of the World Bank and former vice-president of the International Finance Corporation.

Appointment decisions to the new 11-member board of directors are made by the Saudi government.

Elsenhans was named by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women in 2008. Prior to her role at Sunoco, Elsenhans was the executive vice-president of global manufacturing for Royal Dutch Shell, where she worked for more than 28 years. She also served on Baker Hughes’ board of directors from 2012 to July 2017 and sits on the board of GlaxoSmithKline. – Reuters