Fox keeps open ‘no deal’ Brexit option as business balks

LONDON, June 23 — International Trade Secretary Liam Fox kept open the possibility of Britain exiting the European Union without striking a deal on its future relationship with the bloc, even as UK businesses ratcheted up their warnings against…

New BNM governor appointment lifts Bursa Malaysia at close

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Bursa Malaysia closed higher today as investors reacted positively to the appointment of the new Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor, Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus. A dealer said with Nor Shamsiah’s vast experience in the…

Telekom Malaysia supports affordable broadband prices, details to be announced in Q3

KUALA LUMPUR: Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) has reiterated its support of the government's aspiration regarding affordable broadband services at higher speed for the nation to increase its competitiveness.

“TM has had several engagements in an ongoing dialogue with the Ministry of Communications & Multimedia Malaysia and the Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Further details on the initiatives will be announced by TM within the next quarter,” TM said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said fixed broadband prices in Malaysia are expected to drop by at least 25% by year end.

This follows the implementation of the Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing (MSAP) that was enforced beginning June 8.

He said the relevant parties are now in discussions on setting the wholesale price and processes, which are expected to be rolled out in July or August, during which cheaper broadband packages will be offered to consumers.

At midday break, TM shares rebounded 9 sen or 2.9% to RM3.23 on 16.36 million shares done.

Persistent selling drags Bursa Malaysia lower

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Bursa Malaysia extended its downtrend today but closed off its intra-day low, primarily hit by continued foreign selling from the emerging markets. Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd Head of Research Pong Teng Siew said the…

Positive on CMS receiving Sarawak road maintenance concession

KUCHING: The announcement of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd’s (CMS) state road maintenance concession being extended by the Sarawak state government for another year should lift the sentiment on the stock, which has been under selling pressure since the 14th General Election. To note, the extension is for up to June 30, 2019 based on the […]

Lapses at many levels of bank led to India’s huge PNB fraud — Probe

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: A US$2 billion fraud at India’s Punjab National Bank (PNB) may have been orchestrated by a few rogue employees, but it escaped detection because of widespread risk-control and monitoring lapses in many areas of the bank, the bank’s own internal probe has found. PNB, India’s second-biggest state-controlled lender, has previously alleged that a […]

Bursa Malaysia ends at over 15-month low

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — Bursa Malaysia gave up earlier gains to slip into the red in late trade, closing at over 15-month low on last-minute selling. A dealer said the market benchmark ended at its intra-day low for the second consecutive day…

A Maxis-Astro merger makes sense, says analyst

PETALING JAYA: A merger between Maxis Bhd and Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd is a rational option in view of intense market competition, according to AmInvestment Bank.

Should it materialise, it would create a merged entity with a market capitalisation of RM53 billion against RM44 billion for Maxis. The combined net profit meanwhile, stands at RM2.6 billion.

A local daily reported that tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan is contemplating consolidation of Maxis and Astro in line with the global trend of amalgamation of content and connection providers.

Astro has been in the news recently with the resignation of current CEO Datuk Rohana Rozhan, to take effect on Jan 31, 2019 and prior to that, a resurgence of news that Ananda is moving to privatise the group which was re-listed in 2012 after taking a break from the stock exchange in 2010.

In a research note today, AmInvestment Bank said it expects merger synergies to come from the convergence of Maxis and Astro’s services.

“For example, Maxis mobile and Home Fibre plans could be repackaged with Astro IPTV offerings, which could also be streamed to mobile devices.”

The research house opined the merger would be merely a rear guard manoeuvre to prevent revenue erosion from declining average revenue per user and subscriber attrition.

“As such, we maintain Maxis’ forecasts pending further official announcement.” It reiterated a “hold” call on Maxis with a fair value of RM5.76.

AmInvestment Bank said while Maxis currently endures increasingly competitive plans from rivals, over-the-top players like iflix and Netflix and other pay TV options such as unifi’s HyppTV have driven down Astro’s ARPU and erode its subscription base, and consequently, advertising revenues.

In Q1 FY18, Maxis’ postpaid ARPU fell RM4/month to RM92/month with active postpaid base declining 59,000 to 2.9 million.

Maxis is also planning to arrest the declining prepaid base and improve its blended ARPU of RM51/month with the new Hotlink plans.

However, the research house sees a likelihood of an acceleration of prepaid migration to the new more affordable flexi plans due to their similar price points with the group’s prepaid ARPU of RM35/month currently.

Maxis shares closed 8 sen or 1.4% lower at RM5.57 today, while Astro gained 7 sen or 4.4% to RM1.67.

Philippine central bank chief builds case for another rate hike

MANILA, June 20 — Philippine central bank Governor Nestor Espenilla laid out the case for another interest rate increase, citing broadening price pressures, tighter US monetary policy and a currency slump. While Espenilla stopped short of saying…

AirAsia strongly refutes India CBI allegations

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia Group Bhd (AAGB) lambasted the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) first information report (FIR) lodged against the low-cost airline, based on information from an unnamed “reliable source.”

“We question the motives of the unnamed person, persons or organisation that lodged this FIR but we will cooperate fully with the Indian authorities in accordance with due process provided in law,” it said in a filing with the stock exchange.

AAGB refuted strongly all the allegations made in the FIR as baseless, unsupported and unjustified and will vigorously challenge these allegations.

The FIR claimed that unknown public servants have engaged in a criminal conspiracy involving AAGB, AirAsia India, group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, deputy CEO Bo Lingam, four other named parties and unknown public servants and unknown private persons, to expedite the approval process and change in aviation policies to suit AirAsia India, by lobbying with stakeholders in the Indian government through non-transparent means.

AAGB explained that its move, together with other aviation players, to lobby the Indian government to remove the 5/20 rule was done in compliance with the law and without any unlawful payments. The 5/20 rule inhibits competition and the development of a healthy aviation sector that endures for the benefit of the Indian consumer.

“Further, AAGB has had an internal review and concluded that there has been no wrongdoing by either Fernandes or Lingam.”

AAGB said the joint venture with Tata Sons Ltd to set up its low cost carrier in India carrying the AirAsia brand, was primarily due to the sterling reputation and integrity of Tata Sons in India.

“All required approvals were obtained through normal channels and it took more than a year to get these approvals. Given Tata’s more than 100 years track record and that of AirAsia’s reputation, we refute any inference of impropriety in obtaining these approvals.”

AirAsia Investments Ltd holds 49% equity in AirAsia India, while the remaining 51% is owned by Tata Sons (49%) and two individuals on the board (2%) who are Indian nationals.

AAGB reiterated that all the allegations in the FIR are unfounded and are without any rational basis and are wholly inconceivable in the context of corporate governance norms in Malaysia.

“Accordingly AAGB denies all allegations of wrongdoing and will pursue all legal remedies available to address these allegations.”

Meanwhile, AAGB said AirAsia India lodged an FIR against former CEO Mittu Chandilya last year over the contract with HNR Trading Pte Ltd which was unauthorised by the company.

It also submitted a forensic audit report by an accounting firm in India to show that funds were illegally siphoned out of the company through that unauthorised contract.

“We believe that the Bangalore police are still investigating although much time has lapsed.”