Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Election court nullifies PN's victory in Kemaman over bribes, another by-election potentially
Malaysia plans National Anti-Scam Task Force in BNM. Over RM300 mil in fines paid by traffic offenders in 2023 thus far. Alibaba's deconsolidation plan begins. Amazon's ad rev > Youtube's ad rev.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Traffic offenders in Malaysia have taken significant steps towards settling their summonses this year, with over RM300 mil in fines being paid. According to Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department director Comm Mat Kasim Karim, from January to August 2023, a total of 3,820,526 summonses amounting to RM302.43 mil have been cleared (an average of RM79 per summon). Impressively, over half of this sum, RM169.2 mil from 2,436,732 summonses, was paid through the convenient MyBayar Saman application.
Singapore has emerged as the largest investor in Japan's real estate sector this year. Several factors, including the yen’s weakness and increasing demand in the logistics and hospitality industries, have driven this trend. According to a report by Knight Frank LLP, investments from Singapore in Japan's real estate have reached nearly USD3 bil in 2023, surpassing investments from the US, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates. It’s how Singapore builds their wealth — through sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte — you can watch the video here to see how many international properties Singapore owns.
The US’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS — our LHDN equivalent) is using artificial intelligence to get money. The IRS has unveiled plans to take robust action against 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships with substantial outstanding tax debts. IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel emphasised that increased federal funding and advanced artificial intelligence tools enable the agency to more effectively target affluent individuals who have evaded their tax obligations by taking shortcuts. The AI recognises patterns and trends that the IRS has missed. These millionaires owe at least USD250,000 — that’s USD400 mil of opportunity.
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Malaysia plans National Anti-Scam Task Force in BNM
Malaysia is taking steps to address the growing threat of online scams. The Ministry of Communications and Digital, in collaboration with the Prime Minister's department, has proposed the establishment of a dedicated National Anti-Scam Task Force within Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). The government is concerned about the rise in online fraud and has taken measures such as blocking over two billion suspicious calls and 500 million suspicious text messages to protect citizens.
SPNB Aspirasi pursues legal action over alleged fraud in land deal
SPNB Aspirasi, a subsidiary of Malaysia's national housing development company, is taking legal action against its former CEO, Ahmad Azizi Ali, property developer Tunas Manja Development & Construction (TMDC), and 10 others. The claims revolve around fraudulent practices related to affordable housing projects involving 469 terrace units in Kuantan, Pahang, from 2014 to 2019. SPNB Aspirasi claims it was deceived into entering a development agreement worth RM108 mil with TMDC (KL), falsely represented as a subsidiary of TMDC through fake documents, which Azizi approved. The entity is also seeking damages worth at least RM141 mil for land costs, loss of commercial opportunities, and other relief.
Election court nullifies PN's victory in Kemaman
The election court in Kuala Terengganu has invalidated Perikatan Nasional's (PN) victory in the Kemaman parliamentary seat during the 15th general election. The court ruled in favour of petitioner Wan Hisham Wan Abdul Jalil, who accused Che Alias Hamid of PAS of bribery. Specifically, the court found that payments of i-Belia and i-Siswa aid to voters during the campaign constituted bribery. Che Alias has been ordered to pay RM30,000 in costs to Hisham.
In the 15th general election, Che Alias secured a substantial majority of 27,179 votes, defeating candidates from Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, and Pejuang in a four-cornered contest. The Federal Court reinstated Hisham's election petition, directing that it be heard by a different judge. Che Alias will be appealing the decision to the Federal Court. If the decision is upheld, this will pave the way for another by-election. The coming by-election will tell whether the inducement made any difference for the voters in the previous election. With such a huge majority, PN will likely retain the seat, perhaps with a lower margin.
Malaysia seeks to annul USD14.9 bil award by Spanish arbitrator in Sulu case
Malaysia is taking legal steps to overturn a massive USD14.9 bil award issued by Spanish arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa in the Sulu case, which involves alleged heirs of the Sulu sultanate. This move aims to end Malaysia's ongoing dispute once and for all against the Sulu claims, whereby the purported heirs to the Sultan of Sulu attempted to extort Malaysia of USD14.9 bil (approximately RM62.59 bil) with the support of third-party litigation funder Therium. Malaysia had previously secured significant victories in Paris and The Hague in relation to the case.
The property market in Malaysia is looking better as fewer homes remain unsold. MIDF has upgraded the outlook for this sector to "positive" from "neutral." MIDF reported that the number of unsold homes, which had been steadily decreasing for six quarters, is now at its lowest point since mid-2018. This positive change is due to more people showing interest in buying property, especially after Malaysia reopened its borders. Additionally, the interest rates that affect home loans are expected to remain the same for the rest of the year, which is good news for the property market.
Senheng New Retail Bhd is looking to acquire a central distribution centre (CDC) for RM75.8 mil in cash. The company's subsidiary, Senheng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd, entered into a sale and purchase agreement with SDM Assets III Sdn Bhd for the proposed acquisition. This purchase is expected to save Senheng RM4.2 mil every year. It will be financed using bank loans and reallocated funds from their initial public offering. The acquisition is set to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Gardenia, a leading bread producer, has announced a price increase for selected products, including Twiggies, starting on October 1. The prices of their Original Classic white bread, wholemeal bread, and Toast 'Em bread series will remain unchanged to lessen the impact on consumers. The price adjustment, ranging from RM0.10 to RM0.40, follows last year’s increase due to rising raw material costs driven by inflation. Gardenia is a joint venture between OAF, a listed Singapore food group and our dearest Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), controlled by tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.
FGV Holdings Bhd has appointed Rastam Mohd Isa as the new chairman of the group. Rastam brings significant experience, having previously served as the secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia from 2006 to 2010. This change in leadership follows the previous interim chairman, Shahrol Anuwar Sarman, who has been reassigned as a non-independent non-executive director.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Sea ice hits record low at the Antarctic
Antarctic sea ice reached a record low level this winter, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The extent of Antarctic sea ice peaked on September 10, covering 16.96 mil square kilometres, the lowest winter maximum since satellite records began in 1979. The scientists are worried that the impact of climate change on the region may be ramping up. It is a vicious cycle as it could hasten global warming by reducing how much sunlight is reflected by white ice back into space.
Saudi Arabia gets closer to its nuclear reactor goal
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced that Saudi Arabia will terminate its basic oversight agreement with the United Nations atomic agency and adopt a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. This move will grant inspectors greater authority to examine nuclear activities in the country.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in negotiations regarding a potential agreement. In this deal, Saudi Arabia would recognise Israel, and in exchange, the United States would assist in developing a civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia, which includes allowing uranium enrichment within the kingdom's borders, among other concessions. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia was considering a Chinese bid to build a nuclear power plant in the kingdom.
Alibaba’s deconsolidation plan begins
The logistics arm of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd, has filed its Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO). It is among the first of the Chinese e-commerce leader’s units to go public. Despite the IPO, Alibaba, which holds a 69.54% stake in Cainiao, will continue to hold more than 50% of shares in Cainiao and remain a subsidiary of the company after the spin-off. Reuters previously reported that Cainiao aimed to raise between USD1 billion and USD2 billion. You can read the proposed filing here.
Separately, Alibaba has postponed the Hong Kong IPO of its Freshippo grocery chain due to subdued investor sentiment for consumer stocks in China. The delay reflects concerns about the challenging environment for Chinese consumer-focused companies in the current market.
How to stop drug deaths: Drug consumption room
Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, is set to become the first city in the UK to host a pilot drug consumption room (DCR) pending approval from city officials. Scotland, which has had its own devolved parliament since 1999, has faced a severe drug crisis, with the highest drug death rate in Europe. In 2022, 1,051 people died due to drug misuse in the country.
20 fatalities from an explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh
It is unclear what caused the explosion that claimed 20 lives and hospitalised nearly 300. After Azerbaijan seized control of the breakaway territory in a military offensive, the Armenian government claimed 19,000 refugees had crossed into the country. Nagorno-Karabakh — a mountainous region in the South Caucasus — is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan. However, it has been controlled by ethnic Armenians for three decades.
Spotify’s new party pooper feature — Jam
Spotify introduced its latest social feature — Jam, which allows up to 32 people to blend their music into a combined playlist. The feature allows anyone to contribute to a shared queue of songs to play next. The feature can only be created by premium users but can be contributed by any Spotify users. 32 people to contribute to a playlist is probably 30 people too many. Great idea, great for road trips, though!
Binance wants to launch stablecoins in Japan
Binance Japan Inc. wants to introduce the three stablecoins — in dollar, euro and yen — and potentially more in 2024 through its partnership with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s trust banking arm. Why Japan? Japan legalised stablecoin issuance by licensed firms in June. According to MUFG, Japan’s stablecoin market has the potential to grow to as large as 5 trillion yen (USD34 billion).
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Crazy how one e-commerce giant has so many income streams — from selling on its platforms, home devices, cloud services and now advertising. Amazon is putting X to shame. Amazon brought in close to USD40 bil in ad revenue last year, making it the third largest digital ads player behind Alphabet and Meta.
Not all politicians are made equal. Some are just… not so bright. When one compares eating instant noodles at home and outside, one can instantly become a meme. Too easy. This is the politician in question.
Why is SGD so strong? Its reserves. In fact, SG was one of the few, if not the only, nations that did not borrow money to combat the pandemic. There are two parts to this documentary. You can watch the Part 2 here. Insightful documentary. But it is also disappointing if you are a Malaysian — it makes you think about how our government-linked investment companies (GLIC) perform relative to their peers in Singapore.