☕️ Jho Low sentenced 10 years in prison in absentia by Kuwaiti court, charged as "organised criminal group"
Highlights of BNM 2022 Annual Report. >1.1k open letter signatories calling for AI labs to pause AI training systems for 6 months. How many words Keanu Reeves said in John Wick 4?
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
To date, tech firms have announced a total of 118,000 sackings, adding to the 140,000 job cuts last year. Which brings two questions — First, who is getting the chop? And second, where are the laid-off workers going? According to Tim Herbert of the Computing Technology Industry Association (Comptia), sales and recruitment are the ones receiving the axe. As a headhunting rule of thumb, one recruiter can hire 25 new employees a year. However, specialists shouldn’t be complacent as they are not immune.
380 — the number of words said by John Wick in the fourth and latest instalment of the John Wick franchise. The main character, played by Keanu Reeves, utters an average of four words per line. Of the 103 lines he has, 27% of them are a single word. “John Wick: Chapter 4” was No. 1 at the box office over the weekend, taking in about USD73.5 million at theatres in the US. Watch the trailer here.
123,243 heads of households have been identified as hardcore poor under the e-Kasih database. PM Anwar Ibrahim has set his eyes on this group to ensure they are fully assisted this year through initiatives such as Peoples Income Initiative (IPR) and the Rahmah Cash Aid (STR) programme.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Criminal mastermind Jho Low sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in Kuwait
A Kuwaiti court sentenced the fugitive in absentia on money laundering charges. A son of Kuwaiti’s former prime minister, his partner and a foreigner were handed 10-year prison sentences, too, whilst a lawyer was sentenced to 7 years in jail. Jho Low & Co. were charged as an “organised criminal group” which laundered USD1.1 bil (RM4.9 bil), knowing that it was embezzled from 1MDB. The group is ordered to return USD1 bil (RM4.4 bil) and fined RM2 bil.
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Politics: Party hopping court trial, Malacca CM resigns
PKR sec-gen Saifuddin Nasution Ismail told the court that serial party hopper Zuraida Kamaruddin did not object and signed an RM10 mil bond with the party on her own free will, which she has to pay the party this amount in the event she leaves the party under specific terms and conditions. Zuraida and ten other PKR MPs jump shipped, which led to Langkah Sheraton. PKR, back in 2020, said it would issue a similar letter of demand to 19 other MPs and assemblymembers (list here).
UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed that he has received Malacca Chief Minister Sulaiman Md Ali’s resignation letter. He will be meeting Malacca governor Ali Rustam to propose a new candidate. Sulaiman was appointed the CM following Langkah Sheraton in 2020 and retained it when BN won the Malacca state election in 2021. Rumours have been swirling since 2021 that Sulaiman would be replaced by Malacca UMNO chief Ab Rauf Yusoh.
Slowly, but hopefully surely, life made easier for Rakyat
BNM has introduced a standardised housing loan and home financing agreement for retail customers for better understanding and comparing key terms and conditions more easily, according to the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM). Financial institutions are required to stop imposing fees on housing loan and home financing documents to lawyers from 1 Feb this year as part of the standardisation process.
Loke at work again - the Transport Minister said those who take their motorcycle and driving licenses separately would only need to take one theory examination, instead of the two separately. According to him, this single test for both licenses was practised last time - who stood to benefit from motorists taking the theory test multiple times? On license validity, Loke said an announcement will be made soon after hearing feedback to extend it from the current five years to 10 years.
Majority of Datasonic Group Bhd’s contracts with Home Ministry obtained through direct nego
In a parliamentary reply to Lim Guan Eng, Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said Bursa-listed Datasonic Group Bhd has nine contracts worth a total of RM1.1 bil, with only 2 of it that was won through an open tender. See the list of contracts and their value here. One question that Saifuddin did not provide an answer — LGE asked how many of these contracts involved family members of a top government leader.
Bank Negara Malaysia 2022 Annual Report, Economic & Monetary Review and Financial Stability Review for H2 2022
Some key highlights from these reports:
The central bank generated a total income of RM8.52 bil n 2022, down 41.8% vs RM14.65 bil in 2021. Correspondingly, net profit fell to RM6.99 bil in 2022 vs RM12.8 bil in 2021. It attributed the weaker performance in 2022 to significant challenges and volatilities in the international financial market and is not unique to Malaysia but experienced by other central banks too. BNM will pay a dividend of RM2.75 bil (2021: RM5 bil) to the government.
The banking system remained well-capitalised in H2 2022, bolstering the bank’s capacity to support lending activity and absorb unexpected losses. The banking system total capital ratio remained strong at 18.8% in Dec 2022, with capital buffers of RM134.8 bil above the regulatory minimum.
Market valuations of listed banks in Malaysia rose in H2 2022 but have not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. The average price-to-book (P/B) ratio increased to 0.9x from 0.8x in June 2022, and the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio went up from 11x to 12.2x. However, these valuations are lower than the average P/B of 1.1x and PE of 11.5x between 2015 to 2019.
The more well-managed a bank is, the higher its P/B ratio. For example, Public Bank’s P/B stands at 1.53x, Affin Bank (controlled by Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera) at 0.42x.
Household debt to GDP has fallen to 81.2% (June 2022: 84.5%) due to nominal GDP growth. In other words, outstanding debt remains more or less the same, so there is nothing much to cheer about.
Special mention for Buy Now Cannot Pay Later (which we believe is rather toxic). 80% of BNPL users earn less than RM3,000 per month and overdue payments have been on an increasing trend. 17% of users had overdue payments in Q4 2022, up from 14% in Q2 2022, and doubled from Q4 2021 (7% of users). As for now, BNPL exposures amount to 0.05% of total household debt — best to nip this in the bud.
All three BNM reports are available here.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
AI Ups and Downs
Perplexity AI secures USD25.6 mil funding round offering new rival to Google Search
San Francisco-based startup Perplexity AI raised USD25.6 million in a funding round led by New Enterprise Associates, with a conversational search engine that generates short answers to simple queries. The startup is touted as part of a “growing wave of startups” using AI to contest Google’s hold on online search. Interestingly, its backers include at least six current and former AI researchers at Google. Check out its search engine here.
Over 1,100 signatories for open letter calling for AI labs to pause for six months
However, the funding round of Perplexity AI comes at a time when an open letter has collected over 1,100 signatures, including big names like Twitter owner Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, calling for all AI labs to “immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4”. This is due to concerns that AI labs are in a wild race to build more powerful digital minds that could have unseen effects in future. The letter even goes so far as to call for governments to set up a moratorium if a pause “cannot be enacted quickly”.
Read the letter: Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter
Goldman Sachs: AI could replace 300 million jobs
One of the concerns is that AI could very well replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, according to a report by investment bank Goldman Sachs. However, AI could also trigger new jobs and a productivity boom, with a chance to increase the global total annual value of goods and services by 7%. Still, AI will impact the varying sectors differently, with an estimated 45% of tasks in administrative and legal professions able to be automated, compared to only 6% in construction and 4% in maintenance. Risk towards newsletter writers was not mentioned.
US to stop exchanging detailed data on nuke stockpiles with Russia under START Treaty
The move by the US is a response to Putin’s declaration of Russia’s suspension of participation in the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads countries deploy. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby made clear that data will be shared again when Russia is ready to comply and share its own data. The treaty, signed in 2010 and expiring in 2026, limits Moscow and Washington to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads and 700 land– and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver those warheads.
Sweden calls on the Russian ambassador to explain “legitimate target” statement
The Swedish foreign ministry will be summoning Russia’s ambassador to Stockholm, who must answer a complaint for an “attempt at interference” with Sweden’s NATO application process. The ambassador had stated on the embassy website that joining NATO made the Nordic countries “a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature”. Sweden and Finland sought NATO membership in 2022 in hopes of completing the process this year. With comments like this, no wonder the 4 Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark) combined their 250 advanced jet fleet into a single force in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russians disagree on posthumous honouring of penal troops
Some voices among the Russian populace have spoken up against honouring penal troops who traded prison for war in Ukraine and raised concerns that pardoned prisoners that returned home alive “may still be violent”. This has made the honouring of fallen soldiers a controversial topic, with local officials caught between extending public honours to convicts and residents who want the fallen soldiers to be treated with respect.
City of St. Louis latest to sue Hyundai, Kia – The lawsuit against Hyundai and Kia calls for the South Korean carmakers to be held accountable for failing to install anti-theft technology in millions of their vehicles, with increased Hyundai and Kia thefts happening in several US cities through a method popularised on TikTok.
No more League for SBF – The lawyers of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried have reached an agreement with New York prosecutors for SBF to be banned from most electronic devices while awaiting his October 2 trial. He is only allowed a phone not connected to the internet and a laptop that can only access a small list of websites. SBF will no longer be able to indulge in his League of Legends addiction. This also follows his newest criminal charge that he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he “authorised and directed a bribe of at least USD40 million to one or more Chinese government officials”.
Giant meatball of cultivated woolly mammoth meat unveiled in the Netherlands – The meatball was created by Australian cultured meat company Vow, which wants people to see cultured meat as a more sustainable alternative to real meat. The meatball was made with sheep cells inserted with a singular mammoth gene, with the mammoth’s DNA sequence supplemented by that of African elephant DNA. Most mammoths went extinct 3,900 years ago.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Netflix’s 2019 comedy movie Murder Mystery, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston had the biggest opening weekend of any Netflix movie, drawing more than 30.8 mil views in the first three days. The movie is now back - Murder Mystery 2 — this 31 March.
Amazing time-lapse of all SpaceX launches from 2010 to 2023.