Thursday, July 4th, 2019


UK betting group William Hill plans 4,500 job cuts

LONDON, July 4 — British betting company William Hill today said it planned to shut 700 shops with a loss of 4,500 jobs, blaming the UK government’s crackdown on problem-gambling. Explaining its decision, William Hill said that since the start…

Africa gathering looks to ‘historic’ free-trade deal

NIAMEY (Niger), July 4 — Ministers from across Africa began work today ahead of a weekend summit to formally launch a free-trade agreement hailed by the continent’s 55-nation bloc as “historic.” Opening the meeting in the Niger capital…

Bonfire of the Brexit cash: UK leader candidates’ spending promises

LONDON, July 4 — Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are competing to bolster their bids to become Britain’s next prime minister by proposing higher public spending and tax cuts which would represent a sudden relaxation of the country’s tight grip…

France’s Mersen investigated by India’s antitrust body, say sources

NEW DELHI, July 4 — India’s antitrust body today raided the local unit of French firm Mersen SA and an Indian company over allegations they colluded on prices of equipment supplied to Indian Railways, two sources told Reuters. The Competition…

Brace for strong headwinds in 2020, says economist

KUALA LUMPUR: Next year will be a challenging year for global and Malaysian gross domestic product (GDP) growth, with headwinds coming from a possible escalation of trade tensions between the US and China.

Affin Hwang Investment Bank head of research/chief economist Alan Tan said 2020 will be a challenging year unless there is positive news from the trade tensions, such as a possible trade compromise, around the third or fourth quarters of this year.

Based on Bank Negara Malaysia’s simulation of a full blown trade war, which includes possible retaliation from China, the headwinds could result in a 1.3-1.5% drag on Malaysia’s GDP growth.

Tan, who was speaking at the Malaysian Economic Summit 2019 today, said domestic demand is important for Malaysia and the upcoming Budget 2020 is expected to include further development expenditure.

“In the coming budget for year 2020, we expect some fiscal stimulus measures to be announced to provide some support to the country’s domestic demand, to help cushion the slowdown in exports,” he said.

Besides accelerating development expenditure, he said, the implementation of the renegotiated mega infrastructure projects will also provide support to domestic demand.

“Another stimulus or strategy by the government is the RM37 billion unrefunded tax earlier. So far, RM17.1 billion has been refunded to individuals and businesses. The question now is whether these businesses getting these tax refunds, will they use the money for future expansion?

“We think that if the current economic environment improves, a lot of the money refunded will be used to stimulate the economy,” he added.

Tan noted that Malaysia’s unemployment rate is still low while income growth remains steady, and these factors will continue to support private consumption, which contributes about 55% to GDP.

“As long as Malaysia’s domestic demand is supported by private consumption, the GDP growth for Malaysia this year of 4.5% is highly achievable. I think the risk is really going into 2020,” he said.

Having said that, he also noted that Malaysia’s fundamentals are a lot stronger today and despite the challenges that await in 2020, he said Malaysia can cushion the slow down and handle it better than in the past, during the Asian Financial Crisis and the crisis in 2008.

Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services Sdn Bhd partner Patrick Tay said Malaysia needs to focus and be more aggressive at doing the necessary things to improve productivity and consequently economic performance.

In addition, there needs to be an inside-out or demand-led capability-driven approach to investing in and developing new sources of growth as well as equitable sharing of gains through joint effort and alignment of outcomes.

He urged businesses that are expanding out of Malaysia to look more deeply into it, as the rewards are huge if the expansions are successful, despite the more intense competition in unfamiliar territory.

In terms of sharing gains, he said capital owners need to think about how to push more money to workers and link it to higher productivity.

China says pork production recovering as swine fever cases decline

BEIJING, July 4 — New cases of African swine fever have declined and pork production is returning to normal, Chinese officials said today, after millions of pigs were culled because of the deadly disease. The virus — fatal to wild boar and pigs…

Despite threats, Italy’s 5-Star ready to compromise with Atlantia, say sources

ROME, July 4 — Italy’s ruling 5-Star Movement is noisily threatening to rip up Atlantia’s motorway concession over last year’s deadly bridge collapse in Genoa, but sources have told Reuters the party is prepared to settle for revisions to…

South Korea may retaliate against Japan over high-tech curbs

SEOUL: South Korea may retaliate against Japan’s latest export limits on high-tech materials, it said today, as a row over forced wartime labour threatened to disrupt global supplies of memory chips and smartphones.

Samsung Electronics Co and SK Hynix Inc – the world’s top memory chipmakers and suppliers to Apple and China’s Huawei Technologies – could face delays if the measures that took effect yesterday drag on.

“Implementing corresponding measures against Japan cannot be ruled out,” said Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, adding it would take a long time for a World Trade Organization ruling on the dispute.

Hong told South Korea radio the trade row could cause “unfortunate damage to both Korean and Japanese economies”.

The dispute is the latest flashpoint in a quarrel over South Korean efforts to seek compensation for Japan’s use of forced wartime labour, which got fresh impetus from South Korean court rulings last year.

The curbs on exports of three materials used in South Korean chips and smart-phone displays, which Japan had announced on Monday, will disrupt the global supply chain, South Korea’s trade minister said.

Japan accounts for 70%-90% of the production of the three materials, Japanese media have said, making it difficult for South Korean chipmakers to find alternative sources of supply.

“It will pose a huge uncertainty and threat to the global economy by shaking up the global supply chain,” Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee told a meeting of industry groups today.

The row exploded late last year when South Korean court rulings ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to South Korean plaintiffs.

Japan denounced the court verdicts as “unthinkable”.

Both sides showed no signs of backing down in the trade dispute.

Kyodo News Agency reported on Tuesday that Japan was considering expanding its export controls to more items bound for South Korea.

The leader of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, Lee Hae-chan, said: “This fight is just in the beginning, not the end”.

The items affected by Japan’s curbs include photoresists and hydrogen fluoride, both essential materials in the chipmaking process at Samsung and SK Hynix.

Samsung was reviewing measures to minimize the impact on its production, the company told Reuters.

SK Hynix declined to comment. The company sent a letter to its clients on Tuesday saying it could handle the current situation in the short term, but there would be problems if the curbs dragged on, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

“Without these materials, which South Korean chipmakers rely on mostly from Japan, the whole process of semiconductor manufacturing can be in trouble,” the source said, asking for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

MDEC to establish AI unit comprising local, international experts

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is establishing an artificial intelligence (AI) unit to support the setting up of the National AI Framework, which is now more than 50% ready.

Chief executive officer Surina Shukri (pix) said the unit would comprise a mix of local and international experts to ensure Malaysia is on the right track to develop an AI ecosystem in the country.

She said the international experts have been identified and are ready to help Malaysia develop the industry.

Citing an example, she said the UK has a similar AI unit with all the related agencies coming together and focusing more on AI.

“We are still in the process of getting feedback. The topic is important and we need to make sure we think of the right aspects,“ she told a press conference on Beyond Paradigm Summit 2019, which is organised by Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd.

“AI is a new topic for Malaysia. We need to understand and we would share on how to participate for either the industry, government or academia. So we would outline all that,“ she said.

Surina noted that various initiatives and workshops have been done since early this year in setting up the national AI framework, which is slated to be launched at the end of the year.

She said it is important to transform the nation to become an AI hub and lay foundation frameworks and policies related to the main pillar of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) by continuously engaging and encouraging the private sector and related agencies to play a vital role in this digital transformation.

She expressed hope that the summit, to be held at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre on July 17 and 18, would be among the platforms to meet with multiple stakeholders to gather inputs on AI to best serve the businesses, consumers and citizens.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) is a co-organiser of Beyond Paradigm Summit 2019, while MDEC and Microsoft are the official partners. TM one is the technology partner of the summit.

The summit will also be organised in Kuching, Sarawak, on July 20-21 at Pullman Hotel to showcase the opportunities being offered by the IR 4.0 technologies.

BHIC’s helicopter service contract extended for one year

PETALING JAYA: Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd’s (BHIC) joint venture company BHIC Aeroservices Sdn Bhd (BHICAS) has received a one-year extension from the Malaysian Home Ministry for the maintenance and support services for three helicopters.

BHIC said in a filing with the stock exchange that the contract is for three Dauphin AS365N3 helicopters attached with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

“The existing contract was for a period of two years and nine months effective October 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019 at a contract value of RM62.58 million.”

“Apart from the extension of the contract period, there are no significant differences between the substance of the contract and the extended letter of acceptance.”

BHICAS is a joint venture between BHIC Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (51%), Prestige Pillar Sdn Bhd (30%) and Airbus Helicopters Malaysia Sdn Bhd (19%).

The extension is expected to contribute positively to BHIC’s earnings for the financial year ending December 31, 2019 and 2020.