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Etiqa posts double-digit revenue growth in FY18 but profit falls

KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 — Etiqa Group Insurance and Takaful achieved a double-digit gross premium growth of 17 per cent to RM7.2 billion for the financial year (FY) ended December 31, 2018, although its profit before tax (PBT) was lower at RM825…


China’s island cities: Treasure or trouble for Asia?

COLOMBO, April 25 — A high-rise city the size of central London rising out of the ocean next to Sri Lanka’s capital is laying down another marker for China’s global infrastructure ambitions whose epic scope is sounding alarm bells in Asia and…


Heineken cheers bubbly profits despite late Easter

THE HAGUE, April 24 — Dutch brewer Heineken, the world’s second largest beer-maker, said today its profits rose 15 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 despite Easter being late in the year. The Amsterdam-based brewer reported net earnings of…


Emerging-market currencies hit by strong dollar; stocks fall

NEW YORK, April 24 — Emerging-market currencies fell today against a dollar strengthened by US economic data. Stocks fell, with South Korean shares falling on worries that chip demand would weaken. Data yesterday showed sales of new single-family…


Iranians brace for harder times as US oil sanctions close in

TEHRAN, April 24 — Iranians, already hard hit by punishing US economic sanctions, are bracing for more pain after Washington abolished waivers for some countries which had allowed them to buy oil from Iran. “In the end the pressure (America) is…


China to recalibrate Belt and Road, defend scheme against criticism

BEIJING: China is expected to promote a recalibrated version of its Belt and Road initiative at a summit of heads of state this week in Beijing, seeking to allay criticism that its flagship infrastructure policy fuels indebtedness and lacks transparency.

The policy championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping (pix) has become mired in controversy, with some partner nations bemoaning the high cost of projects. Western governments have tended to view it as a means to spread Chinese influence abroad, saddling poor countries with unsustainable debt.

While most of the initiative’s projects are ongoing, some have been caught up by changes in government in countries such as Malaysia and the Maldives. Projects that have been shelved for financial reasons include a power plant in Pakistan and an airport in Sierra Leone, and Beijing has in recent months had to rebuff critics by saying that not one country has been burdened with so-called “debt traps”.

Xi launched the Belt and Road initiative in 2013, and according to data from Refinitiv https://apac1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/Apps/BRI, the total value of projects in the scheme is at $3.67 trillion, spanning countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and South America.

A draft communique seen by Reuters said that 37 world leaders attending the April 25-27 summit will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth.

Visiting leaders will be headlined by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, a close China ally and among the biggest recipients of Belt and Road investment, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, which recently became the first G7 country to sign on to the initiative.

The United States, which has not joined the Belt and Road, is expected to send only a lower-level delegation, and nobody from Washington.

Some Belt and Road projects “are going through a period of rationalisation and evaluation,” said Li Lifan, deputy director general of the Centre for Belt and Road Initiative Studies at the government-backed Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

The summit “will be a time for reflection and to talk about the hopes for the future,” he told Reuters.

RHETORIC SHIFT

Industry insiders and diplomats say that there has been a shift in the way Beijing has been pushing Belt and Road overseas since the first such summit two years ago.

“The political part is handled by the foreign ministry now, not the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC),” said a senior Western diplomat in China, referring to the country’s state planner which drafted the initiative’s official outline in 2015. That shift occurred last year, he said.

Other analysts said there was a noticeable change in China’s overseas efforts to market the policy in the second half of 2018. In an unusual move, at least 10 of China’s ambassadors and diplomats in countries such as Mexico and Kenya published letters in local media outlets to defend the initiative.

Wu Ken, China’s new ambassador in Germany, acknowledged in his first speech on the job that there were “deep doubts” about Belt and Road.

“I hope relevant people can overcome the ‘allergies’ they have towards the Belt and Road as soon as possible so China and Germany can cooperate to jointly tap the benefits from it,” he said earlier this month.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, will attend the summit.

William Klein, minister counsellor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, told a forum earlier this month that the United States continued to have concerns about the Belt and Road.

“These concerns, for example, are opaque financing practices, poor governance and a failure to adhere to internationally accepted norms and standards.”

Andrew Davenport, chief operating officer at Washington-based consultancy RWR Advisory, which has been tracking Belt and Road investment, said China has become more reactive in its positioning of the initiative since the last forum.

“It’s relatively clear that the Belt and Road narrative being put forward by Beijing over the past several months is designed to counter the criticism and push back,” he said.

SUBDUED

While the number of foreign leaders due at the summit is up from 29 last time, the run-up to the event has been subdued compared with the 2017 meeting.

Two years ago, the weeks before the summit’s opening day were marked by a series of music and explanatory videos published by state media to advertise the Belt and Road initiative while the government announced the dates publicly roughly a month before.

There has been no such media blitz this year besides a handful of documentaries and advertisements, and Beijing only confirmed the dates last Friday, less than a week before the opening.

In events held to talk about Belt and Road before the summit, Chinese officials stressed that the initiative remained a “win-win” and an attractive opportunity for countries willing to become partners.

On Monday, NDRC official Xiao Weiming told a media briefing that Chinese companies had invested $90 billion in countries benefiting from Belt and Road and handed out between $200 billion-300 billion worth of loans between 2013 and 2018.

“The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive idea,” he said. “As long as any country is willing to work with China, we will all have gardens along the Belt and Road.”


US labour opposes USMCA in current form, says union chief

WASHINGTON, April 24 — The head of the largest US labour union said yesterday he opposes ratification of the new North American free trade pact, because he doubts Mexico will enforce labour reforms required by the deal. Richard Trumka, president…


TMC Life Sciences profit surges 30.4% in second quarter

PETALING JAYA: TMC Life Sciences Bhd, which posted a 30.38% jump in its net profit for the second quarter (Q2) ended Feb 28, expects its FY19 financial performance to surpass FY18’s, driven by increased hospital occupancy rate, higher patient load and the offering of more tertiary medical services.

Group CEO Nadiah Wan said in the past year, it has added a range of tertiary medical services including haematology, rheumatology, acute stroke team with neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology, cardiothoracic surgery, intensive care and bariatric surgery, among others.

“In the past, perhaps we had more deliveries, more ENT (ears, nose & throat) cases, but now we’re doing more stroke, cardiac cases, some haemotology and rheumatology cases, so those are higher revenue patients which are driving the growth,” she told a media briefing today after releasing its Q2 financial results.

Group CFO Jimmy Wong said there is a consistent growth in its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) margin, with its 1H19 results showing double-digit growth.

“We remain positive on our outlook for 2H. Based on our track record, normally 1H is softer and 2H will be stronger,” said Wong.

Nadiah said it remains a women and children’s-based hospital, which are its core strength, but is also looking at the areas of male’s health, women’s oncology and women’s cardiology.

Last month, its parent Thomson Medical Group Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with US-based Brigham Health International, LLC and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Inc to promote the advancement of healthcare delivery, education and research with a focus on women’s health and oncology.

Meanwhile, the ongoing construction of its flagship hospital Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara is on track and expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The Thomson Iskandar Medical Hub in Johor Baru has commenced piling work and is on track for completion in Q1 2024. These two projects will add 900 beds to the current 205 beds that the group operates in Kota Damansara.

On merger and acquisition deals, Nadiah said it is working with its parent in Singapore and efforts are still underway. She emphasised that it is looking at both organic and inorganic growth.

For the second quarter ended Feb 28, the group’s net profit rose 30.38% to RM6.21 million from RM4.76 million a year ago mainly driven by resource optimisation.

Revenue soared 13.72% to RM45.16 million RM39.71 million thanks to higher patient load and complexity of cases handled.

For the six-month period, the group’s net profit grew 19.72% to RM13.28 million from RM11.09 million in the same period a year ago, while revenue increased 13.37% to RM92.32 million from RM81.44 million.


TMC Life Sciences profit surges 30.4% in first quarter

PETALING JAYA: TMC Life Sciences Bhd, which posted a 30.38% jump in its net profit for the second quarter (Q2) ended Feb 28, expects its FY19 financial performance to surpass FY18’s, driven by increased hospital occupancy rate, higher patient load and the offering of more tertiary medical services.

Group CEO Nadiah Wan said in the past year, it has added a range of tertiary medical services including haematology, rheumatology, acute stroke team with neurology, neurosurgery and neuroradiology, cardiothoracic surgery, intensive care and bariatric surgery, among others.

“In the past, perhaps we had more deliveries, more ENT (ears, nose & throat) cases, but now we’re doing more stroke, cardiac cases, some haemotology and rheumatology cases, so those are higher revenue patients which are driving the growth,” she told a media briefing today after releasing its Q2 financial results.

Group CFO Jimmy Wong said there is a consistent growth in its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) margin, with its 1H19 results showing double-digit growth.

“We remain positive on our outlook for 2H. Based on our track record, normally 1H is softer and 2H will be stronger,” said Wong.

Nadiah said it remains a women and children’s-based hospital, which are its core strength, but is also looking at the areas of male’s health, women’s oncology and women’s cardiology.

Last month, its parent Thomson Medical Group Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding with US-based Brigham Health International, LLC and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Inc to promote the advancement of healthcare delivery, education and research with a focus on women’s health and oncology.

Meanwhile, the ongoing construction of its flagship hospital Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara is on track and expected to be completed by the end of 2020. The Thomson Iskandar Medical Hub in Johor Baru has commenced piling work and is on track for completion in Q1 2024. These two projects will add 900 beds to the current 205 beds that the group operates in Kota Damansara.

On merger and acquisition deals, Nadiah said it is working with its parent in Singapore and efforts are still underway. She emphasised that it is looking at both organic and inorganic growth.

For the second quarter ended Feb 28, the group’s net profit rose 30.38% to RM6.21 million from RM4.76 million a year ago mainly driven by resource optimisation.

Revenue soared 13.72% to RM45.16 million RM39.71 million thanks to higher patient load and complexity of cases handled.

For the six-month period, the group’s net profit grew 19.72% to RM13.28 million from RM11.09 million in the same period a year ago, while revenue increased 13.37% to RM92.32 million from RM81.44 million.


Penang electrical and electronics sector remains competitive despite global uncertainties, says InvestPenang

GEORGE TOWN, April 23 — Penang has managed to keep its competitive edge in the electrical and electronics (E&E), and services sectors despite uncertainties in the first half of 2019, said Invest Penang executive director Datuk Seri Lee Kah…