Public Bank proposes 37 sen dividend for Q4

PETALING JAYA: Public Bank Bhd has proposed to declare a second interim dividend of 37 sen for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2018 despite its net profit declining 5.4% to RM1.41 billion against RM1.49 billion in the previous corresponding period.

Revenue for the quarter, however, grew 5.3% to RM5.63 billion from RM5.35 billion.

Together with the first interim dividend of 32 sen per share, the bank’s full-year dividend for 2018 amounts to 69 sen or a total dividend payout of RM2.7 billion, representing 47.9% of its net profit for 2018.

Public Bank’s full-year net profit rose 2.2% to RM5.59 billion from RM5.47 billion a year ago on the back of a 5.7% increase in revenue to RM22.04 billion from RM20.86 billion.

“2018 was marked by a more moderate economic growth, with increased head-winds on both global and domestic fronts and banks were faced with a more challenging business climate. Against this backdrop, the Public Bank group was able to sustain stable profitability due to its continuous efforts to drive its loans and deposits business, coupled with the group’s strong asset quality and prudent cost management,” said Public Bank founder Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow (pix).

The bank achieved 4.2% loan growth in 2018 and its lending strategy remained focused on consumer financing for the purchase of residential properties and passenger vehicles, as well as extension of credit to small and medium enterprises for purchase of commercial properties and working capital.

Its total customer deposits achieved growth of 6.2% to RM339.2 billion in 2018. The deposit growth contributed to the group’s strong funding position, as reflected in its gross loan to fund and equity ratio of 79.0% as at the end of 2018.

Public Bank continued to maintain a low gross impaired loans ratio of 0.5%, well below the domestic banking system’s gross impaired loans ratio of 1.5%.

“Further, the Public Bank group’s loan loss coverage ratio stood high at 126.0% as at the end of 2018. Including the RM1.8 billion regulatory reserves that the group had set aside, the group’s loan loss coverage ratio would be 237.5%. This has provided the group a strong buffer to weather any uncertainties ahead,” said Teh.

After the payment of the second interim dividend, the group’s common equity Tier 1 capital ratio, Tier 1 capital ratio and total capital ratio will stand at 13.1%, 13.7% and 16.3% respectively.

In 2018, Public Bank’s overseas operations contributed 9.7% to the group’s overall pre-tax profit, largely contributed by Public Financial Holdings td Group in Hong Kong and Cambodian Public Bank Plc.

Looking ahead, Public Bank expects the overall outlook for the domestic banking sector to remain stable underpinned by resilient private sector activity.

“There will be continued growth opportunities for the domestic banking industry underscored by ongoing demand for affordable housing and the growing small and medium enterprises,” said Teh.

Public Bank’s share price gained 6 sen or 0.24% to close at RM25.06 today on 4,402,500 shares done.

Air France-KLM more than doubles profits in 2018 despite strikes

PARIS: Air France-KLM, which was badly hit last year by strikes and management upheaval, reported on Wednesday that its annual net profits rose by 150% to 409 million euros (US$463 million).

“The strong performance of our front-line teams and continued cost control helped partly offset the impact of strikes at Air France in the first half of the year, as well as significant fuel headwinds,“ Benjamin Smith, the company’s new chief executive, said in a statement.

The Canadian businessman took over in September following Jean-Marc Janaillac’s sudden exit in a bitter dispute over salaries in the group’s French wing.

Fifteen days of strike cost the company 335 million euros, Air France said.

On Tuesday, Air France pilots voted by 85% in favour of a new pay deal, concluding a series of long employee-management negotiations.

Revenue growth last year was up in all business segments, with operating earnings coming in at of 1.3 billion euros, the Franco-Dutch airline group reported.

The group said it had carried more than 100 million passengers last year, making it the leading European airline for long-haul traffic.

Transavia, a low-coast subsidiary, carried 15.8 million passengers last year, an increase of 7.1% on 2017.

Full year 2018 capacity increased by 2.1%, mainly driven by the South American, North Atlantic and Asian networks, with respective growth of 8.6%, 3.0% and 2.1%, Air France-KLM said.

In 2019, the group will concentrate on “operational efficiency”, financial director Frederic Gagey told reporters.

“We can make a lot more money compared to last year,“ he said, adding that Air France-KLM would also be looking to renewing its fleet to replace some of its more fuel-guzzling planes. — AFP

Back to black: Cathay says it has ended two years of losses

HONG KONG: Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific said on Wednesday it is expected to have swung back to profit in 2018, ending two successive losses as it embarks on a massive overhaul.

The recovery also came in a year that saw it suffer an embarrassing data breach that dented its reputation and could could prove costly.

The airline said it expects to record a consolidated profit of around US$293 million (RM 1.2 billion) for 2018, compared with US$160 million (RM651 million) losses the year before, according to a preliminary profit alert.

The company’s share price jumped more than seven percent after the announcement as investors took comfort in the turnaround after two grim years for Asia’s largest carrier.

“In 2018, the passenger business benefited from capacity growth, a focus on customer service and improved revenue management,“ the company said in a statement, adding its cargo sector was also “strong”.

Cathay has been overhauling its business after posting its first losses in eight years in 2016, firing more than 600 workers and paring overseas offices and crew stations as it faced stiff competition from budget rivals on the mainland.

It also added international routes and better services on board its flights in a bid to compete with well-heeled Middle Eastern long-distance carriers.

The profit alert suggests those moves have paid off.

The airline narrowed its losses to US$33.5 million for the first half of 2018 – a tenth of what their losses were for the same period in 2017. But the second half of the year appears to have brought Cathay squarely back into the black.

Dickie Wong, an analyst with Kingston Securities, said Cathay is expected to further benefit from the end this year of costly fuel-hedging contracts.

“I would say the unfavorable impact to Cathay would continue to reduce,“ he told AFP.

Wong said the introduction of premium economy had attracted new customers while ticket discounts helped it compete against budget carriers. But he said the company still had “much room to improve in their luxury classes” if it wants to take on Middle Eastern rivals.

Cathay will announce its full-year result next month.

But the year was not without trouble.

In October it sparked outrage when it admitted to a massive breach five months after hackers made off with the data of 9.4 million customers, including some passport numbers and credit card details.

The airline faces potentially steep payouts in Europe, which boasts strong protection laws and financial penalties for companies that do not swiftly own up to data breaches.

British-based law firm SPG Law has already launched a group action against the carrier over the breach to help customers seek compensation.

This year Cathay’s website mistakenly offered first and business class flights for a fraction of their value in two high-profile and costly blunders. — AFP

AirAsia Group meets EPF, says open to meeting MAHB

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — AirAsia Group Bhd (AAGB) held a meeting with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) today over its ongoing spat with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB). Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the group had…

AirAsia-MAHB spat could affect EPF’s investment income: Fund CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: The intensifying airport tax dispute between AirAsia Group Bhd and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) could affect the Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) investment income if it causes a negative reaction in the stock market, EPF CEO Tunku Alizakri Alias (pix) warned.

EPF, a substantial shareholder of both AirAsia and MAHB, owns about 10% and 5% shareholdings in the two groups, respectively.

“Our dividend payments are always derived from our investment income, (which is) driven from the market performance. So if the spat has impacted the market, then of course it will have an impact (on us) in terms of income,” Alizakri said at a media briefing on the EPF’s 2018 financial performance today.

“We are not directly impacted (from the spat) but we are impacted by the market performance of the stock counters,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alizakri confirmed that EPF has written to both parties expressing its concern over the dispute, saying that it is acting “just like a typical concerned investor”.

He disclosed that AirAsia has responded to EPF’s letter, without ela-borating on the details of the airline’s reply. However, EPF has yet to receive a response from MAHB.

“One of the parties will be meeting with us very soon. We are very happy with that … to explain the situation. We are looking forward to meeting with them,” he added.

Alizakri stressed that the retirement savings fund is concerned about the spat being brought up to the public, saying that it is not only bad for the two organisations but also bad for Malaysia as a whole.

“Because when you think about it, these are (two of) the biggest counters (in the local stock market), and also the face of Malaysia. AirAsia is an airline, the company that brings in tourists and business people. And MAHB, which is KLIA (operator), the first point of contact for foreigners that come into Malaysia.

“So we are naturally concerned that this disagreement has been brought into the public,” he said, adding that the letters were just to voice EPF’s concern.

“We are not in the position to go and arbitrate between these two. We are acting just like a typical concerned investor and we are hoping that they will be able to resolve this soon,” Alizakri said.

Last December, MAHB sued both AirAsia and AirAsia X for a total of RM36.1 million for refusing to collect the additional RM23 passenger service charges per passenger at klia2.

While MAHB stayed firm on its stance that the same rates should apply to both klia2 and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), AirAsia argued that klia2 is a low-cost terminal and the charges levied should commensurate with the level of services provided.

The spat between the two seems to be far from over after MAHB turned down AirAsia’s offer of mediation, an attempt to resolve the airport tax dispute.

PSC spat: EPF to meet with AirAsia soon, MAHB yet to respond

KUALA LUMPUR: The Employees Provident Fund (EPF), a substantial shareholder of both AirAsia Group Bhd and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), hopes the lawsuit between the two over passenger service charges (PSC) will be resolved soon, following a meeting with the retirement savings fund.

“AirAsia has actually responded (to EPF’s letter) and we are waiting for response from MAHB. We are looking forward to meeting up with them,” EPF CEO Tunku Alizakri Alias (pix) told reporters at a briefing here today.

“One of the parties will be meeting up with us very soon. We are very happy with that… to explain the situation,” he added.

Recently, it was reported that EPF had written to both parties expressing its concern about the dispute and suggested that it can be settled through negotiations.

Asked on the details of the letter, Alizakri said it is acting “just like a typical concerned investor”.

“We are concerned that the spat has been brought up to the public and it’s becoming a very public-spat. This is not only bad for the two organisations but also bad for Malaysia as a whole as these are the two biggest counters (in the local stock market),” he added.

UK airline flybmi collapses under fuel costs, Brexit pressures

LONDON, Feb 17 ― British regional airline flybmi announced yesterday it had ceased operations and was filing for administration, blaming spikes in fuel and carbon costs and uncertainty over Brexit. Parent company British Midland Regional Limited…

Lyft to woo investors with fast US growth in IPO race with Uber

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK: Lyft Inc will pitch investors on its fast growth in the United States as it seeks to beat out Uber Technologies Inc to become the first publicly listed ride-hailing company, according to people familiar with the matter. Lyft plans to tell investors its US market share is approaching 40 per cent, up […]

Volkswagen launches one-stop Kota Bumi 3S Centre in Sabah

KUCHING: Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) and Kota Bumi Sdn Bhd yesterday launched the Volkswagen Kota Bumi 3S centre. The 3S centre is located at Inanam, one of the automotive hubs in the area, and aims to cater and serve Volkswagen owners in the region such as Inanam, Menggatal, Lintas, Kolombong, Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran and […]

China’s Didi to restructure following passenger murders

SHANGHAI, Feb 15 — Chinese ride-hailing leader Didi Chuxing will streamline operations and make cuts to non-core business units as it doubles down on safety after the murders of two passengers clobbered its image, a source familiar with the plans…