Daimler downplays report on rigged US emission-test software

MUNICH, Feb 19 — Daimler AG sought to play down a newspaper report that its own engineers questioned the legality of software used to control diesel equipment in its vehicles, saying US authorities knew about the allegations and haven’t taken…


Brexit ‘challenging’ for EU budget, says Merkel

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Feb 19 — Net contributor Britain’s planned departure from the EU leaves the bloc’s remaining 27 members with a “very challenging” budget hole to plug, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today. Policymakers will…


Israel announces ‘historic’ gas contract with Egypt

TEL AVIV, Feb 19 — An Egyptian company will buy US$15 billion of Israeli natural gas in two 10-year agreements announced today, marking a major export deal that Israel hopes will strengthen diplomatic ties. The partners in Israel’s Tamar…


Oil hits two-week high on share market recovery, Middle East tensions

LONDON, Feb 19 — Oil prices hit their highest level in nearly two weeks today, lifted by a global equity market recovery and tensions in the Middle East, although concerns of rising US production tempered gains. European shares rose for a…


Singapore: GST hike ‘sometime’ in between 2021 and 2025

SINGAPORE: Singapore said its Goods & Services Tax (GST) will rise to 9% from 7%, but the change will only come “sometime” between 2021 and 2025, making it likely that the increase would kick in after the city-state’s next general election, due to be held by January 2021.

Instead of getting a GST increase soon, Singaporeans aged 21 and above will get a hong bao, or Lunar New Year red packet, as Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “one-off” bonus in 2018 of up to S$300 (RM891), depending on their income.

The bonus comes after Singapore’s trade-reliant economy grew 3.6% in 2017, its best pace in three years.

Song Seng Wun, an economist for CIMB private banking, said the one-off hong bao bonus was a product of Singapore’s economy having a “better than expected outcome” in the last year.

Global economic growth, plus comments by policymakers on the importance of raising revenue to meet future spending needs for Singapore’s ageing population, led many analysts to expect that the GST, kept at 7% since 2007, would increase as early as the coming fiscal year.

“The surprise for us was that the planned increase was for a much later period,” said Jeff Ng, chief economist Asia for Continuum Economics.
“This eases the need for a future government or administration to announce the GST,” he added.

After announcing the planned GST increase, the finance minister said “the exact timing will depend on the state of the economy, how much our expenditures grow, and how buoyant our existing taxes are. But I expect that we will need to do so earlier rather than later in the period.”

Singapore introduced a GST in 1994, at 3%. This was raised to 4% in 2003 and 5% in 2004, then to 7% in 2007.

Besides the plan for raising GST, Heng unveiled other tax measures.

These include increasing the top marginal buyer’s stamp duty on residential property worth more than S$1 million effective tomorrow, raising the excise duty on tobacco products and introducing GST on imported services from 2020.

Coming in 2019 is a carbon tax, which will be S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions until 2023. The plan is to increase it to between S$10 and S$15 per tonne by 2030.

The government expects an overall budget deficit of 0.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the coming fiscal year, Heng said.

The overall budget deficit for the 2018/19 fiscal year starting on April 1 is expected to be S$600 million, Heng said.

For the 2017/18 fiscal year, the government expects an overall budget surplus of S$9.6 billion or 2.1% of GDP, larger than the forecast made a year earlier. – Reuters


Singapore GST hike ‘sometime’ between 2021 and 2025

SINGAPORE: Singapore said its Goods & Services Tax (GST) will rise to 9% from 7%, but the change will only come “sometime” between 2021 and 2025, making it likely that the increase would kick in after the city-state’s next general election, due to be held by January 2021.

Instead of getting a GST increase soon, Singaporeans aged 21 and above will get a hong bao, or Lunar New Year red packet, as Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a “one-off” bonus in 2018 of up to S$300 (RM891), depending on their income.

The bonus comes after Singapore’s trade-reliant economy grew 3.6% in 2017, its best pace in three years.

Song Seng Wun, an economist for CIMB private banking, said the one-off hong bao bonus was a product of Singapore’s economy having a “better than expected outcome” in the last year.

Global economic growth, plus comments by policymakers on the importance of raising revenue to meet future spending needs for Singapore’s ageing population, led many analysts to expect that the GST, kept at 7% since 2007, would increase as early as the coming fiscal year.

“The surprise for us was that the planned increase was for a much later period,” said Jeff Ng, chief economist Asia for Continuum Economics.
“This eases the need for a future government or administration to announce the GST,” he added.

After announcing the planned GST increase, the finance minister said “the exact timing will depend on the state of the economy, how much our expenditures grow, and how buoyant our existing taxes are. But I expect that we will need to do so earlier rather than later in the period.”

Singapore introduced a GST in 1994, at 3%. This was raised to 4% in 2003 and 5% in 2004, then to 7% in 2007.

Besides the plan for raising GST, Heng unveiled other tax measures.

These include increasing the top marginal buyer’s stamp duty on residential property worth more than S$1 million effective tomorrow, raising the excise duty on tobacco products and introducing GST on imported services from 2020.

Coming in 2019 is a carbon tax, which will be S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions until 2023. The plan is to increase it to between S$10 and S$15 per tonne by 2030.

The government expects an overall budget deficit of 0.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the coming fiscal year, Heng said.

The overall budget deficit for the 2018/19 fiscal year starting on April 1 is expected to be S$600 million, Heng said.

For the 2017/18 fiscal year, the government expects an overall budget surplus of S$9.6 billion or 2.1% of GDP, larger than the forecast made a year earlier. – Reuters


Jaks seeks to stop Star Media from claiming RM50m bank guarantee

PETALING JAYA: Jaks Resources Bhd’s (JRB) sub-subsidiary Jaks Island Circle Sdn Bhd (JIC) has instructed its solicitors to file with the High Court an injunction to stop Star Media Group from claiming a bank guarantee of RM50 million provided for under a joint development project in Section 13, Petaling Jaya.

In August 2011, JIC, which is 51% owned by Jaks Sdn Bhd a wholly owned subsidiary of JRB, acquired land in Section 13, Petaling Jaya, from Star Media for RM135 million.

As security for the performance of JIC’s obligations under the sale and purchase agreement, JIC provided inter-alia, an irrevocable and on demand bank guarantee in favour of Star Media for the sum of RM50 million guaranteeing the completion and delivery of vacant possession by the purchaser of Tower A within three years from the vacant possession date or three years from the date of approval of the agreed plans for Tower A, whichever is later.

“The board of directors of JIC are of the view that the call on the bank guarantee is baseless and JIC has valid grounds for the High Court to grant the injunction as Star has in the course of JIC’s execution of Tower A prevented the completion and thus JIC should have been given extension of time to complete Tower A,” JRB said.

The bank guarantee of RM50 million that has been made available to Star Media is from two financial institutions, each for RM25 million, which are expiring on Feb 15, 2018 and April 15, 2018 unless an extension is granted by Star.

“Star Media has not granted an extension for the bank guarantee and has given notification to the two issuing financial institutions on Feb 15, 2018 to call on the bank guarantee. JIC was notified on Feb 19, 2018 of such call. In accordance with the terms of the facilities, JIC will have to pay the financial institutions, the sum of RM50 million,” JRB said in a stock exchange filing yesterday.

JIC seeks to restrain the issuing financial institutions of releasing, and Star Media from receiving, the proceeds.

It added that the injunction does not affect the ongoing business operations of JIC or JRB Group.


Microlink to seek legal advice after Bank Rakyat cancels letter of intent

PETALING JAYA: Microlink Solutions Bhd said today it intends to seek legal advice after Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd cancelled a non-binding letter of intent (LoI) in relation to its existing Core Banking System.

The LoI, which was issued to Microlink on July 14, 2016, invited the company to participate in detailed discussions relating to the improvement and enhancement of Bank Rakyat’s existing Core Banking System and to finalise the project cost, scope of work and timeline.

The LoI received did not specify the project value and period. In addition, the LOI also stated that the LoI is non-binding in nature and not construed as an offer made by or from Bank Rakyat.

Microlink said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia it received a cancellation letter dated Jan 5, 2018 from Bank Rakyat on the cancellation.

The letter thanked the company for attending the discussions and for providing its proposals on the project but advised that it will not be pursuing the discussions further with the company due to a change of project requirements and specifications.

“The company intends to seek all advice, including but not limited to legal advice, on this matter,” Microlink said.

On Bursa Malaysia today, Microlink fell 2.86% to close at 68 sen with 15,000 shares done.


Malaysia’s timber exports to rise 5% this year: MTIB chief

JITRA: Malaysia’s timber exports are expected to increase 5% this year from RM23.22 billion in 2017, Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) director-general Datuk Dr Jalaluddin Harun said
.
He attributed this to high demand for the country’s timber products from developed countries such as Japan, the United States, European Union members and Australia, as well as India due to their high quality which meets market specifications.

“We are currently exporting our products to more than 160 countries, but after this we will focus on countries that we have free-trade agreements with, like New Zealand, Turkey and Pakistan,” he said after opening MRSZ Two Enterprise Sdn Bhd's showroom here today.

Jalaluddin said, however, in striving to achieve the export target of RM28 billion by 2020, Malaysia will face shortages of raw materials and skilled workers, thus making it difficult to meet export demand.

“Eighty per cent of our furniture is made up of rubber woods besides other tropical timbers. As demand from developed countries is high, sometimes we have to ban the exports (of rubber furniture) due to shortages of rubber materials,” he said.

On the involvement of bumiputra companies in the national timber industry, he said it is still very low and lagging as it made up only 0.7% or RM161 million of total exports last year.

In fact, currently only 341 bumiputra companies are active in the industry, of which 46% are micro-status companies with total revenue of RM500,000 and below each year and only one medium-sized company with income ranging from RM15 million and RM50 million a year, he added.

“This is a sorry state of affairs as most of them are bogged down by low technology, manual work, lack of promotion and imprudent financial management,” he said, adding that the situation will not change if entrepreneurs are still not progressive in expanding their business.

MRSZ Two Enterprise, a bumiputra timber-based company which received an MTIB raw material grant of RM20,000 in 2010, earned RM1.09 million in revenue last year. – Bernama


Minda Global makes disappointing debut

KUALA LUMPUR: Educational services provider Minda Global Bhd, which was listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd (Bursa Securities) yesterday through the takeover of Asiamet Education Group Bhd’s (AEGB) slot, closed its first trading day 6.82% lower at 20.5 sen with 1.4 million shares traded.

The company took over the listed status of AEGB through a one-for-one share exchange arrangement with existing AEGB shareholders, which saw Minda’s entire issued share capital of RM247.98 million comprising 1.24 billion shares being admitted this morning to the official list of Bursa Securities in place of AEGB.

Minda Global currently owns Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS), Asia Metropolitan University that operates campuses in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru as well as Asia Metropolitan Colleges in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Kota Baru. The group also has a presence in the international school sector through its ownership of Asia Metropolitan International School in Ipoh.

The group has over 5,000 students. Minda Global’s international school is fully licensed by the Ministry of Education and provides primary and secondary education along the UK Cambridge Pathway curriculum while its higher education institutions deliver diploma, degree and postgraduate programmes accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency in the areas of medicine, pharmacy, psychology, nursing, occupational safety & health, allied health sciences and business administration. Over a 13-year history, the various institutions in the group have produced over 20,000 graduates.

The composition of the board indicates that a re-energised business strategy and prudent financial management will be a key focus in the next 12-18 months as Minda Global seeks to achieve a high level of synergy between its various holdings.

Minda Global director Tan Sri Dr R. Palan shared his optimism that a larger group, strong institutional synergy, new board members with strong reputation and a new senior management team will help it face the challenges of the industry.”

With the acquisition of Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences in 2017, Minda Global believes it has the right mix to successfully achieve its business objectives.

Minda Global is expected to develop new programmes within the group to expand its study disciplines and improve growth in student intake. CUCMS on the other hand, plans to move to a new purpose-built campus by mid-2018 which will double the university’s current capacity while providing world class student experiences and enhancing Minda Global’s teaching and learning infrastructure.