Thursday, December 13th, 2018


US stocks rise as ECB cuts growth forecasts

NEW YORK, Dec 13 — Wall Street opened higher today, moving hesitantly after the European Central Bank trimmed growth forecasts and announced the end of a multi-trillion-euro stimulus programme. The gains by US stocks added to yesterday’s…

Renault board maintains Ghosn as CEO, says pay was legal

PARIS, Dec 13 — The board of the French automaker Renault said today that it was keeping Carlos Ghosn as its chief executive, after an internal review of his pay package found that it had conformed with French law. Ghosn has been held under arrest…

US weekly jobless claims near 49-year low; import prices fall

WASHINGTON, Dec 13 — The number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits tumbled to near 49-year lows last week, which could ease concerns about a slowdown in the labour market and economy. Other data today showed import prices…

FT: Qualcomm to file suits in Chinese courts to ban sales of iPhone XS and XR

BEIJING, Dec 13 — Qualcomm Inc is asking courts in China to ban sales of Apple Inc’s latest iPhone models XS and XR after winning a preliminary injunction against older models, the Financial Times reported today. On Monday, a Chinese court had…

Malaysia Vision Valley 2.0 officially launched, nine years on

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Vision Valley 2.0 (MVV 2.0) project was officially launched today, after being shelved, reintroduced and restructured over the past nine years.

In a statement issued today, master developer Sime Darby Property Bhd said it is planning for the development of a high-tech and industrial park, which is the first “heartbeat project” among the six identified within the first phase of development to be activated.

“Sime Darby Property will be under-taking this project as the master developer, which allows us to extract and enhance the value of our land bank within the MVV 2.0 development area,” said Sime Darby Property chairman Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

“We will take on key projects that will become among the principal drivers of the country’s future economic growth and social development. The company’s significant role in MVV 2.0 is a continuation of our commitment towards the develop-ment of Negri Sembilan,” she said.

The state-led private sector-driven development is envisioned to be a world-class metropolis that is competitive, inclusive and clean, and aims to attract international and local investors, creating job and business opportunities. The overall development spans 379,087 acres covering the districts of Seremban and Port Dickson.

Sime Darby Property currently owns 2,838 acres within the MVV 2.0 and has the option to acquire another 8,796 acres from Sime Darby Bhd within five years from the date of its listing. The first phase of MVV 2.0 spans over a 30-year development period covering 27,000 acres.

MVV 2.0 is part of the National Physical Plan, where it has been identified as one of the 17 promoted development zones to be given priority at national level. It is also part of the State Structure Plan, aimed at positioning the Seremban and Port Dickson districts as extensions of Greater Kuala Lumpur.

Officiated by Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Aminuddin Harun, the launch also saw the unveiling of the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for MVV 2.0 and the publicity for its local plan.

The CDP defines the growth develop-ment plan for MVV 2.0, along with its catalytic development focus, economic and social benefits, and sustainability and environmental aspirations. It also prioritises various aspects of economy, environment and social development within MVV 2.0.

Also launched yesterday was the publicity for the MVV 2045 Local Plan, which sets out land use zoning and development initiatives to take MVV 2.0 forward. It includes action plans for the en-hancement of the environment, accessibility, infrastructure, liveability and in-dustries within the MVV 2.0 development region.

“The preparation for MVV 2.0 is inclusive as it provides an opportunity for the surrounding communities to give their views and ideas for the overall planning of MVV 2.0. The development plans have also been restructured to enhance some of the major project development clusters to promote high-tech investments which are aligned with our national aspirations.

“The projects undertaken will serve as catalysts to the development of MVV 2.0. It is also aligned with the 11th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review where emphasis will be given to the high-tech industry segments which also covers the aerospace industry,” said Aminuddin.

Previously known as Sime Darby Vision Valley, the project originally had an estimated gross development value of RM25 billion to RM30 billion. Under the master plan unveiled back in 2009, the project originally took up over 32,000ha to be developed over 20 years. The project was revived when the previous government announced in Budget 2016 that it would develop Malaysia Vision Valley with an initial investment of RM5 billion.

Vertice to sell 60% stake in Kumpulan Voir for RM32.62m

PETALING JAYA: Vertice Bhd is divesting its 60% equity interest in fashion retail business Kumpulan Voir Sdn Bhd to its executive deputy chairman Seow Khim Soon for RM32.62 million cash.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, Vertice said it has entered into a conditional sale and purchase agreement (SPA) with Seow for the proposed divestment. Vertice currently holds 100% stake in Kumpulan Voir.

Upon completion of the proposed disposal, Kumpulan Voir will become Vertice’s 40% associated company. Kumpulan Voir has an issued share capital of RM3.06 million, comprising 3.065 million ordinary shares as at the latest practicable date of the announcement.

Incorporated on April 14, 1988, the retail outfit is primarily involved in property, investment holdings, designing, branding, ladies’ apparels, footwear and accessories.

Vertice said the divestment is line with its strategic move to reallocate its financial resources, of which proceeds from the disposal will be utilised to fund the expansion of its construction division.

“Additionally, stiff competition from international and locally established brands in the market, higher operating costs, as well as consumers’ ever-evolving taste and preference had impacted the retail business further.

“This initiated Vertice to streamline and rationalise its retail division that involved the closure of seven non-profitable outlets and counters that were not performing well last year,” it said in a statement today.

Seow has indicated plans to relinquish his position as executive deputy chairman of Vertice upon completion of the proposed disposal, to focus on managing the fashion retail business.

According to Vertice, his resignation from Vertice is also to discharge him from any potential conflicts of interest, arising from his existing directorships in both Vertice and Kumpulan Voir.

The RM32.62 million consideration was arrived at after taking into consideration the consolidated net assets of Kumpulan Voir of RM54.36 million as at Sept 30, 2018. The group said there will not be any material gain or loss on disposal to be recognised.

The proposed disposal, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019, is subject to approvals from the shareholders at an EGM to be convened and any other relevant authorities if required.

Moving forward, Vertice will focus on the construction division which it believes has huge potential and better prospects.

“Since we diversified into the construction business, we have grown by leaps and bounds, and have bagged several major infrastructure projects, notably the Penang Mega Infrastructure Package 2 project worth RM815 million.

“With a strong order book in hand and net cash position status, we are optimistic of the growth prospects in the future and are well poised to bid for valuable projects that will provide more earnings visibility in the coming years,” it added.

Vertice’s share price closed unchanged at 90 sen today with 15,400 shares done.

Can-One launches MGO for Kian Joo at RM3.10 a share

PETALING JAYA: Can-One Bhd is launching a mandatory general offer (MGO) for Kian Joo Factory Bhd for RM3.10 per share or RM912.15 million for shares it does not own in Kian Joo.

This comes after Can-One’s proposed acquisition of a 0.49% stake in Kian Joo from shareholder Tan Kim Seng for RM6.71 million or RM3.10 per share, raising its shareholding in Kian Joo to 33.39% from 32.9%.

The offer price represents a whopping 51.28% premium to Kian Joo’s five-day volume weighted average price of RM2.0492. It is also 52.7% higher than its closing price of RM2.03 on Tuesday prior to the share suspension. Can-One was last traded at RM1.93.

Can-One and Kian Joo are both involved in the can manufacturing business, mainly serving the food and beverage industry. Currently, Can-One, via CISB, holds 32.90% equity interest in Kian Joo.

Can-One said the corporate exercise is part of the group’s expansion strategy to consolidate the can manufacturing business under Kian Joo in a bid to grow its sales and customer base.

It will also create enhanced scale and synergies for the enlarged Can-One group through, among others, streamlined procure-ment from suppliers to negotiate for bulk discount and improved operational efficiencies, resulting from economies of scale and integration.

“The proposals will allow Can-One Group to increase its range of products, namely the manufacturing of two-piece aluminum cans business as well as the manufacturing of corrugated box packaging business undertaken by Kian Joo to meet its customers’ requirement of being a total service provider of cans and packaging products.

“With the larger combined asset base of the enlarged Can-One group, the group will also be able to gain better access to both debt and equity capital markets to fund its current and future business activities and expansion,” said Can One.

In a related development, the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) has repri-manded Can-One director and major shareholder Yeoh Jin Hoe and parties acting in concert (PACs) – including Can-One International Sdn Bhd (CISB) – for failure to undertake a mandatory offer for the remaining shares in Kian Joo after their shareholdings triggered the 33% MGO threshold.

This is breach of Section 218(2) of the Capital Markets & Services Act, 2007 and Paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Take-Overs Code.

The SC imposed a penalty of RM455,000 to be settled within 14 days against Yeoh and PACs as well as a restriction on the aggregate number of voting rights that may be exercised by the PAC in Kian Joo to not more than 33%.

If the proposed corporate exercise for which consultation with the SC was held on Dec 21, 2017 is not carried out within six months from the date of the commission’s letter, the PACs are required to reduce their collective holdings in Kian Joo to 33% and below.

Sources: Carlsberg, United Breweries plead leniency in India beer cartel probe

NEW DELHI, Dec 13 — Denmark’s Carlsberg and India’s United Breweries have filed pleas with Indian authorities, seeking leniency in a probe into alleged collusion to fix beer prices, five sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The…

AirAsia: Castlelake is one of 13 potential buyers

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia Group Bhd said it has received at least 13 expressions of interest and offers to purchase from prospective buyers, including Castlelake LP, but no deals have been made yet.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the group confirmed Castlelake’s interest alongside other parties, for its aircraft leasing unit and/or a number of its remaining aircraft assets.

“The company has not entered into any legally binding contract with any of the parties involving the sale of the leasing unit or a significant number of aircraft with values over and above the prescribed thresholds under the Main Market Listing Requirements of Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd,” it said.

The group said it will make the necessary announcements when its board of directors has reached a decision.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that US private investment firm Castlelake has struck a deal to buy about 30 narrowbody planes from the group for an estimated US$800 million (RM3.35 billion), after edging out US lessors, funds and leasing units of major Chinese banks.

It was reported that Castlelake would purchase older aircraft that are under lease to AirAsia’s affiliated airlines.

Fiscal deficit to narrow to 3.3% of GDP next year: RAM

PETALING JAYA: RAM Ratings expects Malaysia’s fiscal deficit to narrow to 3.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) next year from an estimated 3.6% this year, on the back of the still-resilient domestic demand growth, implementation of fiscal measures and ongoing institutional reforms.

The 3.3% fiscal deficit estimate is slightly lower than the government forecast of 3.4%.

“Significant one-off events next year, including a RM30 billion special dividend from Petronas and RM37 billion of tax refunds, are not envisaged to meaningfully affect Malaysia’s medium-term fiscal trajectory per se.

“Meanwhile, the government’s Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, which targets an average budgetary shortfall of 3.1% of GDP throughout 2019-2021, is considered achievable and highlights its commitment to fiscal consolidation,” it said in a statement today.

Excluding the Petronas special dividend, fiscal revenue is expected to rise only 1.4% to RM236.9 billion or 15.5% of GDP in 2019, compared with the 3.8% growth in 2017. Oil and gas (O&G) related revenue, which is expected to make up 30.8% of revenue next year, will be a significant stop-gap revenue source as new fiscal measures are implemented.

In the long run, Malaysia will be less reliant on O&G related earnings with the introduction of new revenue sources and ongoing institutional reforms, which will be complemented in the medium term by a likely increase in returns from its investments and by tapping other non-conventional sources of revenue.

Excluding tax refunds, government expenditure is expected to rise 1.5% to RM277.6 billion in 2019, below the 2012-2017 average growth of 4%. The deceleration in fiscal spending is due to better targeting of bonuses for civil servants, restructuring of subsidies and social assistance programmes and better managed spending on supplies and services.

“While these are commendable efforts vis-à-vis curtailing government outlays, we expect some loss in efficiency that may reduce the anticipated overall fiscal savings during the early implementation phases of these measures. Nonetheless, fiscal expenditure is envisioned to slow down following the recent downscaling, postponement and/or cancellation of big-scale development projects,” said RAM.

Government debt is projected to remain at 51.4% of GDP in 2019, albeit lower than the estimated 51.6% this year. The rating agency said this ratio is significant as Malaysia’s debt-servicing cost of 14.2% of total revenue is elevated and trending upwards compared with regional peers.

“Moreover, these ratios are not fully reflective of the sovereign’s indebtedness as various off-balance-sheet debts, which had been taken up to meet development objectives in the past, are being serviced by the government under different expenditure items,” it added.