Thursday, September 20th, 2018


Dollar weakens across the board as trade war concerns ebb

NEW YORK, Sept 20 — The dollar fell across the board today as a resurgence in global risk appetite on relief that new US and Chinese tariffs on reciprocal imports were less harsh than feared hurt safe-haven demand for the greenback. The dollar has…

Dow, S&P 500 in record turf despite lingering trade tensions

NEW YORK, Sept 20 — The Dow and S&P 500 touched fresh records today as investors brushed aside lingering trade conflicts amid signs of solid US economic growth. About 20 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 26,602,35,…

IMF warns tariffs could come at ‘significant economic cost’

WASHINGTON, Sept 20 — Worsening trade tensions and exchange of tariffs could cause “significant economic cost” to the global economy, an International Monetary Fund spokesman warned today. The global lender is still assessing the impact of the…

French ‘rogue trader’ Kerviel loses bid for retrial

PARIS, Sept 20 — Jerome Kerviel, the former French investment banker whose trades cost his employer Societe Generale €4.9 billion (RM23.8 billion), lost a legal bid today to force a retrial following his 2010 conviction, lawyers said. A French…

Indonesia halts new palm oil plantation development

JAKARTA, Sept 20 — Indonesia’s president has signed a moratorium on all new palm oil plantation development, an official said today, in a move hailed by environmentalists. The moratorium effectively halts any new land being made available for…

In U-turn, Exxon, Chevron to join rivals in climate initiative, say sources

LONDON, Sept 20 — Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum are joining a group of international oil and gas giants in an initiative aimed at curbing carbon emissions in the sector, they said in a statement today. The move marks a U-turn for…

Aston Martin races ahead with up to US$6.7b flotation

LONDON, Sept 20 — Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin is seeking a valuation of up to £5.07 billion (RM27.7 billion) from its stock market flotation next month and said it is prepared for any outcome from the Brexit talks. The company, famed for…

Oil steady as Trump tweet slows surge upwards

LONDON, Sept 20 — Oil prices steadied today after US President Donald Trump called on Opec to “get prices down now!”, slowing an upward surge that has pushed the market towards four-year highs. Brent crude oil was down 20 cents at US$79.20…

Felda to sell assets, restructure loans and boost cash flow to reduce debts

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's state oil palm plantation agency said yesterday it will sell assets, including property in London, restructure some loans and try to boost cash flow in a bid to trim debts.

Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor, who took over as chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) in July, said he aimed to reduce debt by nearly 20% from RM8.03 billion at mid-2018 to RM6.5 billion by year-end.

Felda was set up to settle oil palm farmers, who work for the agency, and also has a one-third stake in Felda Global Ventures Bhd, the world's largest crude palm oil producer.

In recent years it has diversified into property, including hotels, both locally and overseas, but has been plagued by issues of poor management and allegations of corruption.

Megat Zaharuddin said the property assets to be sold had cost RM2.1 billion-RM2.2 billion, but declined to put an estimate on their current value.

Felda flagged the property sales last year when it trimmed its stake in Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), Malaysia's biggest lender by assets, to raise about RM280 million.

“One thing to tackle is Felda's cash flow. Due to the lack of cash flow, we could not pay what we should have to the settlers,” said Megat Zaharuddin, adding that a loan restructuring would improve short-term cash flow and offer “a bit of a lifeline.”

Megat Zaharuddin, a former Maybank chairman, said Felda was studying how best to resolve its problems, without elaborating.

“I've been in many turnaround situations before, big and small. This is big. The turnaround of Felda will need a minimum of two years,” he said.

Felda also needed to improve its oil palm productivity to increase earnings, said Megat Zaharuddin.

“Our fresh fruit bunch productivity at Felda is above the national average of 20 tonnes per hectare, but we are not yet best in class,” he said, citing 24 tonnes per hectare as the target.

Megat Zaharuddin took over as chairman of Felda after his predecessor Tan Sri Shahrir Samad resigned in in the wake of the shock outcome of the 14th general election in May. – Reuters

Brem Holding bidding for projects worth up to RM2 billion

PETALING JAYA: Brem Holding Bhd, which is involved in civil engineering and construction, property development and water supply services, is tendering for up to RM2 billion worth of projects.

“We hope that we can secure about 20% of our (overall) tender bids,” managing director Tan Sri Khoo Chai Kaa told reporters after the group's 37th AGM here today.

He said Brem's order book stands at RM600 million, and this will keep the group busy for the next two to three years.

On its existing water supply system project in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Brem's only one abroad, Khoo said the group is still waiting for the authorities' approval for the second phase of the RM1.2 billion project.

“We are still waiting for good news for the PNG water works. We have spent a lot of time on the presentation for the second phase … (so far) it sounds good from the authorities.

Khoo said Brem is also looking for new overseas opportunities.
In 1997, the group secured a 22-year concession agreement to build, operate and transfer a water plant in PNG through its indirect subsidiary company, PNG Water Ltd. The concession period will end in June 2019.

As the PNG government is expected to upgrade the country's water pumping distribution system, Brem aims to secure a new contract there for water supply and services as its current concession will be expiring next year.

Brem's current water plant project contributed about 17% to its revenue for its financial year ended March 31, 2018 (FY18).

On the property segment, the group is expecting to increase property sales, boosted by aggressive marketing plans, through its subsidiary company, Harmony Property Sdn Bhd. It is currently developing residential properties in Prima Pelangi, Segambut Dalam, Kuala Lumpur.

Nevertheless, Brem expects the short-term prospect of the property industry will remain challenging.

“Hard times (right now). We expect our margin to remain in a range of 5% to 10%,” Khoo said.

For the first quarter ended June 30, 2018, the group's net profit jumped 36.6% to RM4.97 million, compared with RM3.64 million in the previous corresponding quarter.