☕️ Busy weekend for politics - PKR, UMNO and Tun M
Petronas' ~RM3 bil expansion of its VC, green energy investment. PMX: Govt to reconsider TnG's toll collection system monopoly. Chinese company appointed AI as CEO, share price outperformed.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
With over 9 million paying organisations, Google Workspace has become a popular platform for remote work, offering various tools such as email, video conferencing, and document collaboration. Workspace's biggest competitor is Microsoft Office, whose Office 365 product had 345 million paid commercial seats as of last year and has a stronghold among large enterprise customers. With Google’s recent announcement of incorporating AI into Workspace, Google may be able to carve out a significant market share in the future.
3.4 million viewers watched the season 1 finale of “The Last of Us,” making it the most-watched episode of the show on HBO and HBO Max — beating “House of the Dragon”. The show, which is based on the popular video game of the same name, has been well-received by critics and fans alike. The finale's ratings were a 27% increase from the previous week's episode, indicating a growing audience for the series. "The Last of Us" has already been renewed for a second season, with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey set to star as Joel and Ellie, respectively.
2.55 million or just 17% of the country’s 15 million workforce are taxpayers — meaning 83% of the workforce still earns less than RM34,000 per year. The higher individual tax rates in the re-tabled Budget 2023 would affect fewer than 150,000 taxpayers (that have a chargeable annual income of RM230,000) while benefitting 2.4 million in the lower tax brackets. It’s a matter of chicken and egg here — do Malaysians need more skilled workers or do employers have to remunerate better?
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
The circus of politics
Reports surfaced last Thursday that former PM Mahathir Mohamad was supposed to be a guest speaker yesterday at an event called the ‘Malay Proclamation’ organised by Sekretariat Tanah Air (which was cancelled at the 11th hour after the organiser couldn’t find a replacement venue, and at the time of writing, the third venue has been cancelled). The event was meant to discuss matters surrounding the plight of the Malays. The event’s cancellation led to Mahathir calling PM Anwar Ibrahim’s government a dictatorship — that’s really rich coming from him, whose administration had detained political opponents using the Internal Security Act (ISA).
How did PM Anwar Ibrahim respond? Amping up the security forces to be on the alert for extremists who may try to fan the flames of racial and religious hatred in the country. Weirdly, the PM added that the poor will also be hired to cause chaos — uh, uncalled for?
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) held a Special National Congress to address the upcoming six state elections. It was the party president Anwar Ibrahim’s first address to the supporters since he became the PM. The team at Malay Mail summarised the congress in three points:
PKR is in transition. The old “Reformasi” no longer applies.
Vice president Rafizi Ramli asked the party not to fall into Perikatan Nasional’s tactic of incendiary racial and religious baiting.
PKR wants to regain Kedah. Kelantan and Terengganu are not the party’s main focus in the upcoming state elections.
UMNO gets three new vice presidents for the 2023/2026 term — Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, Mohamed Khaled Nordin and Johari Abdul Ghani. UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi definitely had a good weekend as more than two-thirds of the new UMNO supreme council comprise people aligned with him.
Wee Ka Siong is better off as an MP than a minister
Wee criticised the Local Government Development Ministry’s decision to terminate 70 New Village Development Officers (NVDO) without prior discussion. According to Wee, the termination of the NVDOs was an unfair move and was not in line with the spirit of the unity government. Wee has called on the government to reconsider the decision and involve all relevant parties in the decision-making process.
A journalist asked Wee why he seemed to be unfriendly to the Unity Government despite being in it. His answer: Check and balance.
AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) has been asked to explain the sharp rise in its share price and trading volume following Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd’s issuance of unusual market activity (UMA) query on the company. Last Friday, the counter surged as much as 26.24% to hit its intraday high of RM1.78 before closing at RM1.68, an increase of 19.15% over its opening price. AAX responded that it is not aware of any other corporate development, rumour or report other than the ongoing development of its proposed regularisation plan.
What to do when a company have earned a bumper profit of RM101.6 bil? Invest. Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas plans to expand its corporate venture capital arm by as much as USD200 million as early as April. Yes, Petronas has a venture capital arm called Petronas Corporate Venture Capital (renamed to Petronas Ventures) that was set up in 2019. On the other hand, Petronas is said to have offered 38 billion rupees (USD460mil) to buy a 20% stake in the green energy arm of India's largest power producer, NTPC. Green energy is expensive — the offer price was higher than the 30 billion rupees NTPC had expected.
PM Anwar Ibrahim announced the Government will bear the cost of a Haj pilgrimage for low-income Malaysians after the Saudi Arabian government raised the pilgrimage fees. The government will allocate RM1,000 per person from the B40 income group to cover the cost increase. This move aims to reduce the financial burden on low-income Malaysians who wish to perform the pilgrimage.
NationalShuttler Lee Zii Jia’s All England champion chase ended as he lost to world No. 12 Shi Yuqi of China in the tournament’s semi-final last Saturday.
Hisham Teh Poh Teik will be the lead counsel for Sam Ke Ting in her appeal against her six years’ jail and a RM6,000 fine conviction at the High Court last year. Teh is replacing the late former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram. Lawyer Harvinderjit Singh will be co-counsel in Sam’s appeal.
Any reader working in Touch’n Go? The PM may be looking for you. During a youth dialogue session (Temu Anwar) at the Youth Empowerment Fair at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Sunday yesterday, PM Anwar Ibrahim said the Government will reconsider the Touch’N Go monopoly of the highway toll collection system after an audience member asked if the government will look into the monopoly.
Watch: Dialog Anak Muda: Temu Anwar
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine involving the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. The Hague-based court said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility”.
Will Putin actually face trial? Highly unlikely for two main reasons. Firstly, Russia does not recognise the jurisdiction of ICC, which was established in 2002 by a treaty known as the Rome Statute, as Russia is not a party to it. Secondly, the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia. Hence the court needs Putin to be in the dock. In other words, he needs to be arrested first.
China’s President Xi Jinping will be making his first visit to Russia since the war with Ukraine broke out next week to meet Putin. This comes after China made a 12-point peace proposal between Russia and Ukraine, but yet to have yielded any positive progress.
Read: All you need to know about the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin
Mini-banking crisis: Dear
customers banks, the banks have your back covered
11 banks placing USD30 bil deposit in First Republic Bank
First Republic Bank, what seems to be the next domino to fall, will receive USD30 bil deposits from a consortium of 11 US private banks in an unusual move - not just financial support but also lending their strength and confidence towards the bank. The banks will leave the funds there for a period of 120 days. First Republic is the 14th largest US bank by assets, with USD212 bil at the end of 2022 and USD176.4 bil in deposits.
Study: 186 banks facing similar risk as Silicon Valley Bank
The rapid rise in interest rates has reduced asset value held by these banks, invested through customers’ deposits, worrying customers and leading to bank runs. A new study by economists published in the Social Science Research Network estimated that 186 US banks face the risk of a bank run should half its uninsured depositors quickly withdraw their funds. It added a caveat in its study: it did not consider hedging this interest rate risk by the banks, therefore, it could be an overestimation in its calculation.
UBS offers to acquire Credit Suisse, pressured by regulators
The Swiss National Bank (central bank) and financial regulator Finma have pressured UBS Group to acquire embattled Credit Suisse. UBS has agreed to buy its competitor for more USD3 bil — that is less than half of Credit Suisse’s last traded market value on Friday. The Swiss government planning to change the country’s law to bypass shareholder vote on the deal (sounds really desperate). UBS has insisted on a ‘material adverse change’, and the Swiss government is offering a guarantee against the risks involved. The Swiss National Bank also provided more than USD100 billion of liquidity to UBS to help facilitate the deal.
The US banking system’s white knight
The American banking sector’s white knight can be found in 92-year-old Warren Buffett. The investment legend has been in touch with senior officials of President Biden’s administration in recent days, revolving around Buffett possibly investing in the US regional banking sector. Details are sparse at the moment as the discussion is private. Buffett is no stranger to backing banks in crisis — he provided a USD5 bil lifeline to Goldman Sachs during the 2007/08 global financial crisis and a USD3 bil to General Electric. In 2011, he invested USD5 bil in Bank of America during the US debt-ceiling crisis.
MindGeek, owner of world’s largest adult entertainment site Pornhub acquired by ECP
You can’t make this up — Ethical Capital Partners (ECP), a Canadian private equity firm, has acquired MindGeek, which owns, amongst others, Brazzers and Redtube. The PE, which was formed last year, did not disclose the deal’s terms. According to Financial Times, MindGeek generated USD460 mil in revenue in 2018, USD38.3 mil in pre-tax profit and attracted more than 115 mil visitors daily to its website. ECP says it won’t disclose its management team just yet due to “unfortunate stigma”.
Netflix last week released a documentary on Pornhub, Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, exploring the history of the explicit-video platform and delving into the moral contradictions involved in user-uploaded pornography. Watch the trailer here.
Read: ECP’s announcement on the acquisition of MindGeek and the basis for the investment
The biggest decentralised financed (DeFi) hack in 2023 so far has just happened. DeFi lending protocol Euler Finance has suffered a hack, losing USD196 mil in a flash loan attack. This is despite having conducted 10 audits on its smart contracts in the past two years, achieving an “overall satisfactory result” as recent as Dec 2022. Based on the flow of the hack coins, it is suspected the exploit was carried out by groups linked to North Korea.
Read: What is a flash loan attack and how to prevent it?
In Aug 2022, Chinese game maker NetDragon Websoft with USD2.1 bil in revenue had, appointed Ms. Tang Yu as the CEO to its flagship subsidiary. Since then, the company, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has outperformed the Hang Seng Index by 20%. Her secret? Worked 24/7, no sleep and no pay. There was a catch — Tang Yu wasn’t a human but a virtual robot powered by AI.
When short-form videos become a national security threat - TikTok’s rapid rise has sparked growing concerns over data security as its Chinese parent ByteDance could be forced into giving the Chinese government its data. Here’s the growing list of countries that have partially or totally banned the app.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
How the USD64.5 billion secondhand phone market works
Silicon Valley Bank’s shortfall explained in one infographic.