Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ BBC Eye investigation: Catching the men who sell subway groping videos
PG to dissolve state assembly on 28 June. Pharmaniaga Logistics - delivered broken ventilators, awarded new 10-year concession. Blackstone's EUR5 bil gain - one of the best real estate trades ever.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
2.7% of candidates who sat for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) in 2022 obtained straight As — let’s congratulate 10,109 of them! During the announcement of the 2022 SPM examination results on 8 June, the Education director-general Pkharuddin Ghazali revealed that this year's National Average Grade (GPN) score improved to 4.74, compared to the previous year's score of 4.86 (the lower, the better). This indicates an overall improvement in the academic performance of the students who participated in the examination. We hope this improvement was achieved not by lowering the standard of the exam, but due to better quality of education and candidates.
Maybe retail investors should just buy Chanel bags instead of investing in unit trusts. According to Chief Financial Officer Philippe Blondiaux, Chanel conducts biannual reviews of handbag prices, typically in March and September. In the most recent March review, the company implemented an average 8% price hike on bags globally. For instance, a classic medium-sized flap bag now carries a price tag of EUR9,700 (~RM47,510) in France, representing an increase of approximately EUR1,900 or 24.3% compared to 18 months ago.
Despite efforts by anti-piracy authorities to combat the illegal streaming of films and TV shows, data indicates that such activities are thriving. According to MUSO, a UK-based organisation with extensive data on piracy websites, there were a staggering 215 bil visits to illegal streaming sites in 2022. This figure represents an 18% increase compared to the previous year, encompassing a vast library of 480,000 films and TV shows. The data suggests that the problem of online piracy continues to persist and grow despite attempts to curtail it.
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Putrajaya to sue the Sulu heirs
The Government has decided to go out guns blazing against the Sulu heirs for initiating this whole ludicrous claim. After successfully countering the RM68.8 bil claims by the Sulu heirs at the Paris Court of Appeal, Putrajaya decided to sue the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate and their backers for damages, including the RM492,000 award by the French court against the Sulu heirs, which covers the costs incurred by the Malaysian Government to fight the legal battle.
Healthcare in the spotlight
Putrajaya renewed the Health Ministry’s 10-year supply chain and medical product logistics management contract with Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd (PLSB), the subsidiary of PN17 designated Pharmaniaga Bhd. Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa justified her ministry's decision to renew the contract based on the excellent performance of PLSB, which fulfilled 98% of its KPI. Apart from having a mother company that has rubbish financial performance, PLSB also is embroiled in a scandal after the Auditor-General's Report 2021 revealed that 108 out of 136 ventilators supplied by PLSB to the Government was faulty which led to the financial loss of RM13 mil incurred by Putrajaya. The governments have changed, but the tolerance for mediocrity remained the same.
In other news, the White Paper on Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement Management stated that as of April 30, 2023, the Government spent RM4.482 bil of the RM4.651 bil allocated for vaccine procurement and logistics. The fund for these purposes was sourced from the National Trust Fund and the Covid-19 Fund.
Unfortunately, the white paper also uncovered that Pharmaniaga Bhd charged six states more in vaccine procurements than it did to the Federal Government. The states that needed to fork out extra money for life-saving vaccines were Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Sabah and Negeri Sembilan. Puchong MP Yeo Bee Yin accused Pharmaniaga Bhd of profiteering in times of crisis.
MB Sanusi caught in 4K in the Penang saga
Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi denied that he asked for the Federal Constitution to be amended so that Penang could be returned to Kedah. Sanusi stated he was misquoted by a news portal, and that was the reason why it transpired into this whole fiasco. The said news portal responded and released a screenshot of a Whatsapp conversation between Kedah Menteri Besar and the news portal’s reporter.
On another note, the Penang State Government plans to dissolve the state legislative assembly on June 28 to make way for the state election. According to the law, the state election must be held within 60 days. Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu are also expected to dissolve their respective state legislative assemblies around the same time. The Election Commission has recommended all six states to hold the elections concurrently, which could bring down the cost to RM450 mil. As for GE15, RM725 mil was spent. In total, it would cost taxpayers about RM1.18 bil to elect our representatives into power.
The neverending LCS saga
Deputy Defence Minister Adly Zahari told the Parliament that the increased construction period and Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) required specification changes are the reasons why the littoral combat ship (LCS) project ballooned up to RM11.2 bil. After the signing of the supplementary contract for the LCS project, the construction time for the project is extended by 83 months, and the first LCS ship is expected to be commissioned in 2026.
Apart from that, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will start its duty to monitor the construction progress of the LCS project with a site visit to the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN)’s naval base in Lumut, which also houses the LCS’s construction site. The PAC will submit an LCS progress report every three months to Dewan Rakyat.
Still, no heads have rolled except a minion.
Brian Ng Shih Chiow, former director and co-founder of digital payment solution provider Revenue Group Bhd, was charged with 12 counts of forgery in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court. The charges stem from allegations that Shih Chiow forged invoices and purchase orders with the intention of deceiving the company. The total value of the forged documents amounts to RM13.829 mil and involves multiple companies. Shih Chiow claimed trial to all charges under Section 468 of the Penal Code before Sessions Court judge Rozina Ayob.
While it is still waiting for its white knight, Sapura Energy Bhd has successfully secured 10 contracts in the Asia Pacific and Atlantic regions since December. With a collective worth of RM1.4 bil, these contracts represent a significant boost for the company. The contracts were awarded to its engineering and construction (E&C), drilling, and operations and maintenance business segments through the group's wholly-owned subsidiaries.
On Carsome again — after yesterday’s analysis of its financials on fire by automotive site DSF.my, Tech in Asia reported that Carsome wrote a letter to Deputy Finance Minister Steven Sim, imploring the minister to recommend the firm as an investment to Malaysian government-linked investment companies, with names including Khazanah Nasional, EPF, LTAT, KWAP, among others mentioned in the letter. These entities fall under the purview of the Finance Ministry.
Carsome responded to TIA’s report, denying it and said the letter is a response to an engagement session with the Finance Ministry to encourage and welcome the participation of Malaysian institutional investors in the company’s growth journey. The company also said it has USD150 mil, giving it sufficient runway until it breaks even. The Thais would say same same, but different. Read Carsome’s statement here.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Mega housing project in Africa to build 123 cities
Singapore’s Temasek, through its unit and the African Union, are considering joining hands to back a plan to build as many as 123 new cities across Africa to address the continent-wide housing deficit. The World Bank predicts 216 mil people will live in shanty towns in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2063.
The plan, developed by Cape Town-based private initiative Africa123, plans to construct these cities across 20 years at the cost of as much as USD150 bil. Africa123 will build better-planned cities to provide housing and amenities, beginning with three settlements in Ghana, where land has been secured and will build 800,000 residential units to house three mil people.
Russia’s Google granted permission to retain its US listing
Yandex, often dubbed the Google of Russia, had been granted permission to maintain its listing on Nasdaq. This is subject to the divestment of ownership and control of its core, Russia-based businesses by the end of 2023. The major bidders of Yandex’s assets, including Russian billionaires, valued them around USD14 bil. However, Kremlin has imposed measures on companies leaving Russia to sell at a 50% discount. Yandex, whose holding company is Dutch-registered and whose shareholders are comprised mainly of Western investment funds, could ultimately make back USD7 bil from this divestment.
Read: What is Yandex? Not just a Russian search engine
US is at the beginning of a debt crisis - Ray Dalio
BIllionaire investor Ray Dalio said the US is at the “beginning of a very classic, late, big cycle debt crisis” and warned of tough times ahead for the head economy. Dalio said this comes down to the supply-demand issue for the debt — the US is producing too much debt and have a shortage of buyers. If this is a bit confusing, governments take on debt by selling bonds to investors.
Why Dalio’s opinion matters? Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world with assets under management (AUM) of USD123.5 bil as of 31 Jan 2023. Dalio is an avid student of history and has written a whole book on how civilisations, empires and countries rise and fall, which often followed a similar pattern. He must have picked up some signals the US is on its downward path. The book is called “Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail” — check out its review and buy it here. If you prefer a visual format, the book is summarised in a video below and narrated by the man himself.
First case of a crocodile self-impregnating
A crocodile in a zoo in Costa Rica kept in solo captivity for the past 16 years has been found to asexually produce (without mating) 14 eggs, in a phenomenon called “virgin-birth”. Though none of the eggs hatched, one egg in particular contained “a fully formed non-viable foetus” that was 99.9% genetically identical to herself. This was discovered in Jan 2018 and was just published in the Biology Letters journal (read it here).
Asexual reproduction is known as parthenogenesis and frequently occurs in the animal kingdom, observed in sharks, birds, snakes and lizards and other reptiles. A theory of why parthenogenesis happens is due to self-preservation when the number of its species dwindles and at the verge of extinction. Why was it not observed in crocodiles earlier if it’s common? A reason given was the “average reptile keeper doesn’t keep a crocodile”.
The upcoming “Barbie” movie featuring Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie used up so much of the doll’s iconic pink colour when constructing the movie set that it apparently caused an international shortage. The movie is produced with a budget of USD100 mil, according to Variety, making the movie’s director Greta Gerwig one of the few women to direct a film with a 9-figure budget. Watch the trailer here.
Private equity giant Blackstone made a killing of EUR5 bil after paying off debt over a span of 5 years, said to be one of the best real estate trades ever, Bloomberg reported. Blackstone may have doubled its money as it invested in a less sexy area of the real estate market, buying up warehouses across Europe since 2017 in a wave of dealmaking that saw 220 deals done, with the smallest deal at EUR1 mil. The pandemic came, boosting online shopping and hence the demand for warehouse properties.
Read: A Wall Street titan scores one of the best real estate traders ever.
Chow Tai Fook, one of the world’s largest jewellery retailers by market value, is planning to add 600-800 new stores in mainland China in the coming fiscal year ending Mar 2024, its core market that accounts for 86% of its revenue. The company expanded rapidly in mainland China during the pandemic as economic uncertainty fuelled demand for gold as a safe haven investment. Since Mar 2020, it has almost doubled its outlets to more than 7,500 stores. The company recorded HKD94.7 bil (RM55.8 bil) in revenue and a net profit of HKD5.4 bil (RM3.18 bil) in its Mar 2023 fiscal year. Its market cap stands at HKD138 bil (RM81 bil).
Weekend Read: Catching the men who sell subway groping videos
BBC’s investigative unit, BBC Eye, went on a year-long investigation to uncover the masterminds behind websites that sell sexual assault videos, especially women getting groped in subways in East Asia. These videos could be purchased for less than a dollar. The mastermind revealed that he makes around USD700-1,400 per day selling such videos at the expense of women’s safety, security and dignity. In Japan, “Chikan” is a term used to describe sexual assault in public, especially groping in public transport. Twisted world.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
This is not Dune, not Blade Runner 2049. This is New York City. Wilfire in Canada’s Quebec has spewed intense smoke to the east coast of the US. The wildfire provided a perfect backdrop for Diablo 4’s release - see it here. And it got a funny response from the game creator, Activision Blizzard - see it here.
Sushi for this weekend’s dining?
17-year-old Putri Ariani from Indonesia got Simon Cowell’s golden buzzer in America’s Got Talent. Her blindness did not stop her aspiration to be a musician. Her voice — unbelievable. If you enjoyed her singing and the first song (which starts at 2:37), watch until 10:05, when she revealed an amazing fact. Here’s her Youtube page, with 517k followers. Her Spotify artist account here.