Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Defence Minister: Well-connected persons attempted to buy Pharmaniaga on the cheap through the "highest leadership"
Elon Musk launches new company xAI, just virtual meeting with PM AI. Zimbabwe's 800% stock market rally in 2023. Bankrupt crypto lender Celsius Network fined USD4.7 bil, CEO reportedly arrested.
1. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Zimbabwe's stock market experienced a remarkable rally in 2023, with an increase of over 800%. However, this surge is driven by local investors seeking to safeguard their cash from soaring inflation of 176% in June. The central bank’s primary lending rate is now hovering at 150%, the world’s highest. Zimbabwe’s stock market is relatively small, with a total market capitalisation of approximately USD1.8 bil. It consists of 55 stocks available for trading, with a daily turnover of around USD650,000 (~RM2.9 mil), according to Bloomberg data. Bursa Malaysia’s daily turnover in May ‘23 was approximately RM1.98 bil.
Football star Neymar has been fined 16 mil reais (~RM15.5 mil) by Brazilian authorities for violating environmental rules during the construction of his coastal mansion. The luxury project allegedly breached regulations related to freshwater sources, rock, and sand usage, leading to the imposed fine. Neymar gets paid EUR36 (RM185 mil) per season.
Counterfeit luxury watches pose a growing challenge in the secondary watch market, estimated to be worth EUR25 bil (RM128.5 bil) annually, as fake or replica versions become increasingly sophisticated, occasionally even deceiving experienced experts in the field. Rolex is the most replicated due to the brand’s aspirational stature., accounting for about half of the knockoffs. According to Arjen van de Vall, the CEO of Watchfinder, counterfeit watches are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. Previously, Watchfinder was able to visually identify around 80% of fake timepieces, but now that number has decreased to just 20%.
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
IGP: 1MDB and 3Rs
More details on the arrest of Jho Low’s associate Jasmine Loo
According to IGP Razarudin Husain, Jho Low associate and former 1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo surrendered herself to the Malaysian authorities and still remains in custody. He remained mum on the details of her arrest, adding that it may put her in danger. When asked about Jho Low’s whereabouts and whether he is in Macau, as previously stated by MACC in May, he declined to disclose his location, fearing he may run away but reiterated that Jho Low and associates are on the police radar.
Loo’s lawyers said she will reveal the facts and circumstances surrounding her years away from Malaysia “when appropriate”.
On another note, the IGP and deputy IGP were recently appointed middle of June. Coincidence?
Sanusi in hot soup over insulting Sultan Selangor
Razaruddin said the police have launched an investigation against PN election director and Kedah caretaker menteri besar Sanusi Md Nor over his recent remarks that allegedly insulted Sultan Selangor in choosing Selangor’s menteri besar (watch here). Sanusi, as always, wouldn’t go down without a fight. He fired back, defending his remarks that he did not insult the Sultan. This is a good test to see how serious PM Anwar is with his “final warning” against all parties not to exploit the 3Rs (race, religion, royalty).
MUDA announces first batch of candidates for Selangor
The first batch of the party’s candidates will be led by founding member and MUDA sec-gen Amir Abd Hadi, who will contest in Sri Serdang. MUDA is expected to announce two more groups of candidates by the end of next week. Party president Syed Saddiq previously announced the party would go solo in all 6 state elections after having made little progress in its alliance with Pakatan Harapan.
Pharmaniga nearly got acquired on the cheap, LTAT strategic revamp
Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) launched its multi-year strategic revamp called LTAT Strategic Plan 2023-2025 with the primary aim of increasing its assets under management from RM9.3 bil as of May 2023 to RM15 bil by 2025 and achieving a sustained return of 5%. See our tweet below as we elaborate on the plan further.
During the launch, Defence Minister Mohamad Hassan said the Boustead group of companies (Boustead Holdings was privatised recently by LTAT) is no longer viewed as a “premium product” after being marred by several controversies in recent years.
He also made an interesting revelation that LTAT almost lost control of Pharmaniaga after some well-connected persons attempted to acquire the company at a significantly discounted valuation through the “highest leadership”. Pharmaniaga is 60%-owned by LTAT directly and through Boustead Holdings. The stock halved in February following a massive loss, pushing the company into Practice Note 17.
What he didn’t reveal — what was the lowballed offer price, who at the highest leadership was approached, and of course, who these individuals were.
Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd is committed to investing RM300 mil in local content for its financial year (FY) end 31 Jan 2024 (FY2024). In FY2023, the company invested RM308 mil in local content, producing and commissioning 10,300 hours of local content such as ‘Projek: High Council’, ‘One Cent Thief’ and ‘Kudeta’. For comparison, streaming giant Netflix will be investing USD2.5 bil (RM11.47 bil) over the next 4 years in creating Korean content alone.
Bird’s nest processor MYMBN Bhd’s IPO saw its public issuance oversubscribed by 30.77x. The company is raising RM20.58 mil in its IPO, valuing it at RM81 mil upon listing and is set to list on the ACE Market on 25 July 2023. The company reported revenue of RM68.9 mil and net profit of RM5 mil in FY2022. China’s market accounts for 98.6% of its revenue — learn more about its business here. With this kind of oversubscription, its stock might literally fly on IPO day.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Musk allegedly owes almost USD500 mil in severance pay, even as he launches xAI to take on OpenAI
A former HR boss at Twitter is accusing the company of failing to honour severance paychecks to the tune of USD500 mil in a class-action lawsuit. Twitter owner Elon Musk had promised staff affected by layoffs three months’ worth of pay, “50% more than legally required”. The claimant stated that Musk made the promise to prevent mass resignations, misleading employees into staying with the firm longer than they would have otherwise. This follows Musk’s sacking of around 6,000 people late last year.
Meanwhile, Musk launched xAI, a new startup meant to take on OpenAI and Google. The startup also includes several engineers that have worked at OpenAI and Google as part of its staff. Does that mean they can sue Musk like Musk wants to sue Meta for launching Threads? Funnily enough, Musk had signed an open letter calling for a pause to AI experiments, not to mention worrying for “over a decade” about AI safety.
On that note, Musk is also having a meeting with our prime minister today - a virtual one that is. What a busy week for the guy.
Artificial Intelligence: The good, the ugly
The outsourcing provider aims to train its 250,000 employees to integrate the technology into its product offerings and will be spent over the next three years. The move also includes bringing together 30,000 staff from cloud, data analytics, consulting, and engineering teams together to embed the technology into the firm’s solutions and internal processes.
While computer intelligence is used to answer the queries made to Bard, Google’s AI chatbot, the accuracy and reliability of those answers are the work of thousands of outside contractors with minimal training and working under frenzied deadlines, with pay as low as USD14 an hour. They are the ones to review the answers, provide feedback on mistakes, and weed out biases.
Four US agencies charge crypto-lender Celsius, arresting former CEO
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have all filed charges against bankrupt crypto-lender Celsius and its former CEO Alex Mashinsky, with the former fined USD4.7 bil by the FTC. However, the judgement will be suspended to allow Celsius to return its remaining assets to consumers in bankruptcy proceedings. The FTC also alleged that Celsius co-founders Mashinsky, Shlomi Leon, and Hanoch Goldstein misappropriated over USD4 bil in consumer assets. Mashinsky was arrested and charged with fraud and intention to manipulate the market. The enforcement actions all happened on the same day - it seems coordinated. In ghetto lingo, Celsius got g*ngb*nged.
Microsoft report accuses China of hacking US government emails
The tech giant reported that a group of China-based hackers called Storm-0558 have gained access to the email accounts of 25 organisations, including government agencies. They gained access by forging digital authentication tokens required by Microsoft’s Office 365 system. Microsoft stated the group primarily targets government agencies in Western Europe and focuses on espionage, data theft, and credential access. Beijing responded, calling Microsoft’s report “highly unprofessional”.
Election winner fails to win over Thai parliament
Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the Move Forward party that won the recent elections, failed in his initial bid to become Thailand’s next prime minister due to a parliamentary vote that saw no-shows and almost 200 abstentions. Pita needed the support of more than half of the 749-member bicameral parliament and successfully secured a lower house majority, but failed despite an eight-party alliance and an unopposed win by the Move Forward party during the elections, seen as the people rejecting a military-backed government. Of note, however, is that 249 members of that parliament are the conservative-leaning upper house Senate appointed by the military after a 2014 coup. Pita also faced last-minute legal challenges alleging that he broke election rules, which led to demonstrations warning of moves to keep Move Forward from power. Another vote is expected to be held next week.
Bali to impose tourist tax of USD10 to preserve culture – The tax will be implemented in 2024 and has to be paid electronically, and will apply only to foreign tourists. The funds will go towards the environment and better infrastructure.
New Shopify tool cuts down on needless meetings – The tool is integrated into the calendars of Shopify employees and shows them a rough price tag for their time when a meeting with three or more people is scheduled. COO Kaz Nejatian, who built the program, said that while no one at the company would expense a dinner that costs USD500, many people were willing to spend way more in meetings without ever making a decision.
Jay Chou's mother stands to gain USD54 mil from coffee company IPO – The King of Mandopop’s mother, Yeh Hui-Mei, is a co-founder of Star Plus Legend Holdings, a company that sells products promoted using Chou’s intellectual property, including Modong, one of China’s top-selling bulletproof coffee (aka butter coffee) brands. The company is undertaking its IPO in Hong Kong, with Yeh poised to pocket USD54 mil from the shares she is putting up for sale. Not bad for a former elementary school teacher.
Weekend Read: The risks of AI are real but manageable by Bill Gates
The billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder published a new blog post on AI. Gates shares his thoughts on the downside of AI - such as the disruptive impacts on workers and the classroom - but also proposes how those effects can be mitigated.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Soren Iverson creates UI (user interface) parodies of popular digital services we use. Some of the hilarious ones: if a person actually clicked on the link you sent, IQ requirement for a Netflix show, Apple health fart rate monitor, polygraph/lie detector in an iPhone.
POV of a crane operator getting off the crane. A job not for the faint of heart.