Friday, July 31, 2009

Senai-Desaru Expressway Bhd awaits nod for rates

Friday July 31
The Star

ULU TIRAM: Senai-Desaru Expressway Bhd (SDEB), the concessionaire of Senai-Pasir Gudang-Desaru Expressway, recently submitted to the Government its proposal on the toll rates for the highway. Chief executive officer Mustaza Salim hoped the Government would approve the proposed rates as soon as possible, as it planned to open the expressway before the start of the fasting month on Aug 22.

SDEB’s majority shareholder is Ranhill Bhd with an investment of RM430mil, or 65.6% stake. Islamic Development Bank Bhd holds 29% stake or RM190mil investment while Rancak Bistari Sdn Bhd and YPJ Holdings Sdn Bhd with RM24.5mil and RM10.5mil respectively.

“We assure motorists that our toll rates are much lower than the current rates at the North-South Expressway,’’ he told reporters during a media familiarisation tour yesterday.

The RM1.4bil expressway links Senai to Desaru in the eastern part of Johor and connects users to Pasir Gudang at the Tanjung Langsat industrial area via the Pasir Gudang interchange. The 77km stretch will have six interchanges, four toll plazas and two rest and service areas. Mustaza said next month’s opening would involve the 50km stretch from Senai to Cahaya Baru with a connection to Pasir Gudang. He said the partial opening would reduce travel time from Senai to Pasir Gudang from one hour to only 23 minutes.

“We are looking at some 30,000 vehicles using the 50km stretch daily,’’ he said.
Mustaza said the remaining 27km of the expressway from Cahaya Baru to Desaru would be opened early next year. This include the 1.7km single-plane cable-stayed bridge across Sungai Johor which is one of the longest single-plane cable-styled bridges in the world with 500m span.

He said when fully opened, the expressway would boost tourism activities in Desaru, a popular holiday spot for locals and Singaporeans in early 1970s and mid-1980s.The popularity of Desaru dwindled as it took over two hours to get to the 27km white sandy beaches from Johor Baru. The new highway will cut the journey to 45 minutes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Refinery may be linked to Yan-Songkhla pipeline

By Kamarul Yunus BT
Published: 2009/07/28
MERAPOH Resources Corp Sdn Bhd says its refinery in Kedah may be linked to a pipeline that will run from Yan in the state to Songkhla in Thailand, an idea that's being floated by its Chinese backers."The Chinese have proposed the idea of the pipeline connecting Yan and Songkhla. They (the Chinese) have already conducted a study and spoken to China, Thailand and Malaysia about it," Merapoh executive chairman Md Nazri Ramli told Business Times in an interview.Chinese investors are also keen to fund the pipeline's construction which will cut across the peninsula, he said.

This means that there are now about three separate proposals to build such a pipeline, which has been touted as a faster way to transport crude oil or its refined products from the Middle East to the Far East.

Prior to this, an oil pipeline running from Kota Perdana in Bukit Kayu Hitam to Songkhla has been proposed by SKS Development, a company owned by businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.SKS has also proposed to build its own refinery.This proposal was brought up during a meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Thailand counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva during the latter's official visit to Malaysia last month.

There is also another US$7 billion (RM24.6 billion) oil pipeline project known as the Trans-Peninsular Pipe-line, connecting Yan to Bachok in Kelantan. How-ever, its progress is unclear.

Md Nazri is confident that this Yan-Songkhla pipeline would become a reality as the Chinese will do anything to meet its energy demand."It is projected that China needs 3 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) by 2015 from the current consumption of 7 million bpd. Currently, their disparity of energy consumption against its population is very low compared to the US, which consumes about 24 million bpd," he said.Merapoh chose Yan because it will create another petroleum hub for the country."Yan will be the first entry point for crude oil from the Middle East. Yan is not a busy route, and a wide span, which is easy for vessels to manouvre. It is a good point to catch the crude and go back," he said.

Apart from the pipeline, he said the Chinese investors are also looking at transporting the refined petroleum products using the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link."This is another mode of transportation that will cut short transporting time to China. It would just take about 72 hours to transport the products using this rail services to China."All these developments of turning Malaysia, especially the northern states, as the petroleum hub of the region are the vision of our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad," he said.

Refinery to break even in 8 years: Merapoh

By Kamarul Yunus, BT
Published: 2009/07/28

Merapoh Resources Corp Sdn Bhd, which will develop a US$10 billion (RM35 billion) refinery in Kedah, expects to break even in as early as eight years after production starts, helped by demand and a 10-year tax holiday.

To be located in Sungai Limau, Yan, the 350,000 barrels a day refinery is due to start production by 2013 or early 2014.Merapoh founder and executive chairman Md Nazri Ramli said the company will make money from fees for processing the crude oil."Clients will pay a fee that is controlled per barrel to make sure there is enough money to pay to the bank or the investment, and enough to pay to operators and profit margin or dividends to the shareholders."We are also blessed with tax relief for 10 years by the federal government whereby the profit that we make will not be taxed until we recover our cost. This will enable us to pay dividends. It is a good incentive," he told Business Times in an interview in Kuala Lumpur last week.

Md Nazri explained that the gross profit margin for a refinery is normally about 20 per cent of the current price of crude oil."Anything below US$25 (RM88) per barrel of crude oil, then we will not make money. But our consultants have made a forecast that the price of crude oil will be in a stable range between US$75 and US$100 per barrel (RM265 and RM353)," he said.

On July 15, Merapoh signed a memorandum of agreement with the Kedah state government for the site, including an area to be reclaimed, and with South Korea's SK Group of Companies to build the plant.It has lined up China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) to buy the refined crude, while Saudi Aramco will be the crude supplier.Two other Chinese companies, the Hong Kong-listed Hong Kong Beijing Star Ltd and Winson Investment Ltd, will put up US$5 billion (RM18 billion) each to help fund the project.Beijing Star and Winson will hold 40 per cent each of the project, while Merapoh will have 20 per cent.

However, Md Nazri stressed that Merapoh will not be exposed to the swings in crude oil price as CNPC will buy the crude oil from Saudi Aramco. It will also ferry the oil to Kedah and ship the refined oil back to China.Md Nazri also did not rule out the possibility of floating the company, either on Bursa Malaysia or other exchanges in the region, but said it would only do so when the refinery was fully operational."But we cannot rule out if our financiers and partners want to do the IPO (initial public offering) early. We never know. But at this point in time, they said not yet."Merapoh, formed on September 9 2005, was set up as a special purpose vehicle for the refinery. Md Nazri owns 84.2 per cent of the company, while executive director Mohd Hassan Mansor holds 5 per cent. The remaining 10.8 per cent is held by Saiful Aswad Abu Bakar.

Friday, July 24, 2009

RM4.77b GDV for Taman Sari waterfront city project

By Zuraimi Abdullah, BT Published: 2009/07/24

The first phase of an ambitious Taman Sari waterfront city project at the former Pekeliling flats area in Kuala Lumpur is expected to generate RM4.77 billion in gross development value (GDV), its owner said.

The owner, Asie Sdn Bhd, expects to spend nearly RM1.5 billion to develop the phase, which will include a centrepiece 60-storey revolving tower costing RM1.1 billion.Asie chairman Datuk Khalil Akasah said works on the first four parcels sprawling 3.24ha should start in early September, with the entire first phase expected to be completed in 48 months.The whole project itself, encompassing 24 parcels on 23.08ha at the intersection of Jalan Pahang and Jalan Tun Razak, should be fully developed in seven to 10 years.

"We will work on parcel K first. After six months, parcels X and L will be simultaneously launched. The following six months, we will launch parcel M, which will boast the 60-storey revolving tower.

"Each parcel should take about 36 months to complete," Khalil told reporters after signing an agreement with Thailand's CH Prosper Co Ltd in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.Prior to this, Asie has tied up with another Thai firm, Saha Regal Best Co Ltd, to provide some funds for the project.The latter will also own a 20 per cent share in the joint-venture company, Taman Sari Development Corp, which was set up to develop the project.Other Thai investors in the project include Virginia Corp and Islamic Bank of Thailand. A RM417 million loan has been secured from Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd, while some other fundings came from the sale of condominium units under parcel K, Khalil said."We have sold 30 per cent of the 178 units of condominiums under parcel K," he added.Asie won a 99-year concession about 10 years ago to redevelop the one-room Pekeliling flats area built in the 1970s. In return, it will provide new houses for the affected owners at new locations.The company had so far built about 3,000 units, or 40 per cent of the total houses required, costing RM150 million.Parcel M with the unique tower, will be built on the banks of the Gombak River. Other parcels within the Taman Sari project will include hotels, condominiums, office and commercial blocks, government and public housing and a medical centre.Asie is controlled by Khalil, who was an aide to the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia's second prime minister.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Terengganu Investment Authority to be federal body

The Star 22/7/09

KUALA LUMPUR: The Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) is being expanded to a federal entity called 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) with the aim of investing billions of ringgit in energy, real estate and hospitality sectors in the country, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

It was earlier proposed that the TIA would raise RM11bil for investments, of which RM5bil were to be government-guaranteed bonds while RM6bil were bonds to be collateralised by oil royalty payments to the state of Terengganu.

The King, who is also the Sultan of Terengganu, has consented to the arrangement. The new entity will be wholly-owned by Ministry of Finance Inc and will report directly to the Prime Minister. The Cabinet has also given its approval in principle.

The statement said more details would be released in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, 1MDB will invest in collaboration with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co, which has expressed interest in investing US$1bil in those sectors.

According to the statement, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he had fruitful talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohamed Zayed Al-Nahyan during his one-day private visit to Abu Dhabi. In the meeting, Sheikh Mohamed Zayed, who is also chairman of Mubadala Development, a sovereign wealth fund wholly-owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi, expressed interest to invest US$1bil in energy, real estate and hospitality sectors across Malaysia via Mubadala, in partnership with a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

“To advance further and make this investment work, the Government has decided for TIA to be expanded into a federal-based sovereign wealth fund to be known as 1Malaysia Development Bhd for its benefits to be felt across Malaysia,’’ Najib said in the statement.

“1MDB is to drive sustainable, long-term economic development for Malaysia by forging strategic global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment (FDI) for Malaysia to further enhance the multiplier effects for the Malaysian economy.”

1MDB, which will be run on the concept of matching FDIs, will be a fund that in essence looks to invest in companies that have equity value on a stock exchange but have a high mulitiplier effect on growth.

By becoming a sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB will have Malaysia as its priority instead of just one state, according to a source. It puts all states on equal footing at a time when there are a couple of states that are tinkering with the idea of establishing their own state-based investment funds. Establishing the 1MDB will also do away with the Government to provide further guarantees for other state-based funds. 1MDB would take over the cash already raised by TIA and allow Terengganu to continue using its oil royalities in its traditional manner, the source added.

Although 1MDB reports directly to the Prime Minister, the sovereign fund will still have an eight-member board of advisors and a five-member board of directors.

The directors would be from established statutory bodies and would allow those funds to participate in investments made by 1MDB if they chose to do so, the source said.

Mengkuang Dam expansion reinstated in Ninth Malaysia Plan

The Star 21/07/09

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penangites can heave a sigh of relief as the shelved RM1.2bil Mengkuang Dam expansion project has been reinstated in the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said the project was expected to begin as early as this October and be completed by 2013.

“It will proceed once all necessary tender and documentation processes are sorted out in the next three months,” he said after visiting the dam here yesterday.

Chin said the project, which would be carried out in two phases, was vital to increase the state’s water capacity, which was approaching a critical stage.
He added that the expansion would increase the dam’s capacity from 23 million cubic metres now to 78 million cubic metres, which would be able to meet the state’s water needs until 2020.

“The Federal Government felt it was necessary to carry out this project with the co-operation of the state, especially the Penang Water Supply Corporation Sdn Bhd,” he said.

Chin said the
first phase would cover the principal work to widen and increase the dam’s height, while the
second phase involved the construction of a 13km-long dual-flow steel pipe between the dam and the Sungai Dua water treatment plant.

He said raw water from the Muda River would be pumped into the dam for storage via the pipe, at about 440 million litres a day, during the rainy season between April and December. Chin added that raw water from the dam would be pumped through the pipe at a maximum capacity of 1.114bil litres a day, back to the Sungai Dua treatment plant during the drought from January to March to make up for the low water supply from the Muda River. He said an additional 9km-long perimeter road would be built around the dam, similar to the one at the Air Itam Dam, for public recreation.

Last August, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had said the state would face a water crisis by 2012 if the Mengkuang Dam expansion project did not start by this year.
The dam’s expansion was among three mega projects in Penang worth a total of RM4.7bil shelved during the mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan in June last year because of the global economic slowdown. The other two projects were the RM1.5bil Penang Outer Ring Road and the RM2bil Penang monorail.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Batavia Air plans Jakarta-Penang direct flights

BT 22/7/2009

JAKARTA-based airline, Batavia Air, plans to introduce direct flights between the Indonesian capital and Penang this September.Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said details have yet to be finalised and the company was still in talks with Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) (5014). "Once realised, the move is set to benefit Penang's tourism landscape in particular, and Malaysia in general," he told reporters after a briefing session with MAHB at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, Penang, yesterday. Batavia Air is set to be the third low-cost carrier to have direct flights to Penang this year.Two other carriers, Jetstar and Tiger Airways, have separately introduced direct flights between Singapore and Penang respectively. So far, at least 15 airlines are operating at the airport here.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahim said the first phase of the airport expansion, at a cost of RM250 million and expected to be completed by 2010, would be able to accommodate more passengers.The airport aims to handle at least 15 million passengers a year from 2016 when the second phase of the airport expansion is done.The expansion works include upgrading the passenger terminal, constructing a new multi-storey carpark and the upgrading of security system.

Last year, the airport handled 3.4 million passengers, 193,000 metric tonnes of cargoes and 39,798 flights.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Abu Dhabi mulls US$1b spending in Malaysia

Bernama 21/7/09
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced a major initiative by the Abu Dhabi government whereby a sovereign wealth fund it wholly owns is set to make a US$1 billion investment in Malaysia in the energy, real estate and hospitality sectors.

Najib said the proposed investment would be carried out in partnership with a new Malaysian sovereign wealth fund to be known as "1Malaysia Development Berhad" (1MDB), which is the result of the government's decision to expand the Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA).

Najib was speaking to Bernama Monday night after talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, during a brief stopover in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi en route to Kuala Lumpur after visiting Egypt and Saudi Arabia earlier.

"I had a very productive meeting with the Crown Prince. He has agreed that Abu Dhabi, through its sovereign wealth fund, increase its investments in Malaysia starting with a fund of US$1 billion," said Najib, who is also Finance Minister.

Sheikh Mohammed is chairman of the Mubadala Development Company which, since its establishment in 2002, represents the main investment vehicle for the government of Abu Dhabi to achieve sustainable social and economic benefits for the emirate.

Abu Dhabi's proposed investment ties in neatly with Najib's recent announcement to liberalise conditions for foreign investors and woo investments to help the economy recover faster from the global and regional slowdown.

Najib said: "We're going to identify sectors that they can co-invest with our sovereign wealth fund, especially in areas like energy, real estate and hospitality."

Elaborating, the Malaysian leader said 1MDB would be a fund created on the basis of transforming the TIA into a federal-based sovereign wealth fund instead of a state-based entity.

"I've had discussions with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (DYMM Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin). His Majesty has consented for the TIA to be restructured and federalised to become 1MDB which will be wholly-owned by the Ministry of Finance, reporting directly to the Prime Minister," said Najib.

The prime minister said the Malaysian Cabinet had also given its approval in principle for the TIA to be federalised.

"We'll be issuing further details in the coming weeks," said Najib who was joined by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor at a private dinner with Sheikh Mohammed, who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates' Armed Forces, at the Emirates Palace hotel.

In a statement obtained by Bernama, the Prime Minister's Office said 1MDB would drive sustainable, long-term economic development for Malaysia by forging strategic global partnerships and promoting foreign direct investment for Malaysia to further enhance the multiplier effects for the Malaysian economy.

To a question, Najib said 1MDB was in the process of being finalised and he expected it to be up and running "very soon".

The prime minister had earlier presided over a dialogue session with representatives from Malaysian companies operating in the United Arab Emirates which was also attended by Malaysian ambassador to the UAE Datuk Yahaya Abdul Jabar and consul-general in Dubai Syed Mohamad Hasrin Tengku Hussin.

Najib told Bernama that he was pleased with the companies' achievements thus far.

"And I mentioned this to the Crown Prince, that the Malaysian companies have a level of comfort being present here.

"All they want is an opportunity to participate in bidding on a level playing field, and they're looking at new opportunities in Abu Dhabi," he said.

He said Sheikh Mohammed had mentioned that Malaysian companies had done well in Abu Dhabi, singling out the Malaysian firm involved in the construction of the Formula One circuit in Abu Dhabi -- WCT Engineering.

"I'm confident that they will continue to do well in this country," added Najib.

Monday, July 13, 2009

KUB revamp gathering steam

Group focusing on 3 core businesses for better growth and margins

Monday July 13, 2009
PETALING JAYA: The transformation process at KUB Bhd, which was once a highly-politicised and loss-making company, is gathering steam.

“Prominent players are approaching us for joint ventures in two of our core businesses – information and communications technology (ICT) and power, engineering and construction (PEC),’’ managing director Datuk Nazar Samad told StarBiz.

In fact, starting from last year, the company was able to attract new talent and people with expertise as contracts came in for the ICT and PEC divisions while a major rebranding and refurbishment of its A&W chain of restaurants had commenced.

“We are building businesses with recurring income and strengthening our cashflow,’’ Nazar said, pointing out that businesses purely based on projects would not ensure sustainable income.

KUB has an ongoing RM300mil schools construction project for which 32 additional blocks and four new schools in Selangor, the Federal Territory and Negri Sembilan will be built by April next year. “Awarded in October last year, this is the first industrialised building system (IBS) project under KUB,’’ Nazar said. “We hope to bid for more such projects in line with our aim to be on the government supply panel for IBS.’’ KUB has targeted the IBS business, relating not just to construction but also supply of pre-fabricated components, to be a pillar for the group as the bulk of government projects are based on this modern and cost-saving technology.

Within the PEC division, which has RM500mil worth of contracts in hand, facilities management is another area that KUB intends to target aggressively. After 12 consecutive years of losses, KUB reported its first net profit of RM36.9mil for the financial year ended Dec 31 (FY08) and declared a 6% dividend to the delight and disbelief of many of its long-time shareholders.

“At our recent AGM, we were bombarded with questions from frustrated shareholders, and even a few had come in wheelchairs and from as far as Kedah and Johor,’’ said Nazar. About 970 shareholders had turned up.

Within the ICT sector, the new focus is on building inherent skills based on a recurring income model for managed services and system integration in the long term. It will no longer be based just on trading and supply of equipment. KUB, which has RM120mil worth of ICT contracts in hand, is bidding for projects worth RM150mil to RM200mil.

KUB Telekomunikasi Sdn Bhd completed the RTM digital pilot project in March last year after being overdue for two years. As a result, it managed to secure a new project – RTM’s digital migration – last year which was completed in March. The company is aiming for more projects with the Government’s latest aim for a national rollout.

When Nazar joined KUB in 2007, he saw that A&W with its 32 outlets could be a stable business for the group. “I convinced the board not to sell the food business and we have been slowly investing in assets,’’ he said. Another five outlets are coming up and the target is for 100 each in Malaysia and Thailand by 2015. “The A&W brand, which has been around for 45 years in Malaysia, can be good brand-building platform for KUB. It took us a year to convince the franchise holder Yum! Brands that KUB was the right partner and, last year, it agreed to our 10-year plan,’’ said Nazar.The food division under the A&W chain of restaurants recorded RM42mil in revenue in FY08. Up to June 30, it had seen a 20% growth in revenue compared with last year. KUB is targeting for A&W, which was incurring losses when KUB took over in 2001, to break even this year.

Nazar also convinced the board to keep the plantation business which gave good returns last year and represents a source of stable income for the group. KUB owns 2,655ha in Johor and 4,680ha in Sarawak. (tot=5,335ha)

So far, only the food-related business has been retained and represents one of the three core areas that include the ICT and PEC divisions. “When we joined KUB in 2007, it had a lot of businesses all over and management was spread very thin,’’ he said. KUB sold its non-core businesses that were mostly housed under 70 companies and landed with cash and cash equivalents of RM215mil as at end-2008.
Nazar’s focus is to strengthen the operations of these three core areas so as to reap the growth and margins, while seriously tackling costs. “We have moved into a much simpler office in Petaling Jaya and our senior management staff drive their own cars to work,’’ he said. In April last year, the company had sold its building in Kuala Lumpur to Park Residence Sdn Bhd for RM86.5mil as part of its efforts to unlock the value of its assets and use the proceeds to repay borrowings.

To retain talent, an employee performance share scheme was introduced last year, while bonus payments were also based on performance.To ensure staff support for the turnaround plan, Nazar, who was previously running a public-listed building materials and manufacturing company in Johannesburg, implemented a fully hands-on approach to personally inspect work progress and other facilities on the ground. He meets up with staff to listen to their grouses and organises motivation monthly sessions for them.

“We hope to build more credibility,’’ he said, noting the completion of two projects – Institut Latihan Memperkasa Umno in March at Janda Baik, which was overdue for two years, and the RTM digital pilot project.

Nazar aims to make KUB an attractive company that counts non-bumiputras and funds such as Citigroup and HSBC Nominees among its top shareholders.

On the non-reelection of audit committee chairman Omar Ahmad at the recent AGM, he said: “That is a shareholder issue and we, as professional managers, do not get involved. Following that, Bursa Malaysia had come and looked at our processes as part of its surveillance work.’’

Bursa’s corporate surveillance activity covers resignation or non-reelection of audit committee chairman, audit committee member or independent director.
KUB chairman Datuk Nordin Baharuddin had said that Umno-linked Gaya Edisi Sdn Bhd, which owns 29.6%, had asked for a ballot counted by the number of shares. “When a major shareholder did not vote for him, he lost. There is nothing wrong,’’ he had said.

About Me

A seeker of success (whatever that means) treading on a path, searching, to return to the wholesomeness that was him when he was launched into this big school called Earth.