Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Malaysian film 'Tiger Stripes' makes history winning Grand Prize at the 62nd International Cannes’ Critics’ Week
Ekuinas set to IPO Al-Ikhsan Sports, MY's largest sports retailer. Noodle seller in Vietnam jailed over Salt Bae parody. First high-speed rail in Southeast Asia linking Jakarta and Bandung.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
The allure of public service in Malaysia — the Public Service Commission (SPA) received 1,960,261 applications for public service vacancies throughout 2022 until May 11 for 26,436 vacancies. SPA’s chairman Zainal Rahim Seman said SPA has developed a digitalisation system for the recruitment process to eliminate the perception of favouritism often associated with the commission.
USD38 million — the price of a 1,100-year-old Hebrew Bible, sold by Sotheby’s. It is one of the highest prices for a manuscript sold at auction. The Codex Sassoon was purchased by Alfred H Moses, a former United States ambassador to Romania. The manuscript will be placed at the Museum of Jewish People in Tel Aviv.
While unveiling its new Echo devices last week, Amazon Inc. announced it has sold over half a billion Alexa-enabled devices. In 2022, Alexa’s use increased by 35%, according to Rohit Prasad, Alexa's head scientist. The vision for these new devices, and Alexa at large, is that Amazon can offer Alexa as an approachable, “personal AI.” A lot of shopping happens through Alexa, with Prasad saying that more than 50% of Amazon’s customers have used Alexa for a shopping attraction.
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Hannah Yeoh is sticking to her ‘political instability’ remarks for the SEA Games blunder
In the lower house of Parliament, Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh stood behind her justification that the country’s failure to achieve the SEA Games gold medals target was mainly due to political instability for the past few years. She cited one example: in 2022, there was no allocation for the Podium Program, which consequently led the Malaysian Sports Council (MSC) to fork up its own funds to pay for training allowances and coaches’ salaries.
When Muar MP and former Sports Minister Syed Saddiq asked what happened to the RM30 mil annually received from the collection of the sugar tax, Yeoh stated that the portion of the sugar tax revenue allocated for the Sports Ministry was a one-off and was last received in 2019.
Back in 2019, then PM Tun Dr Mahathir agreed to put aside some of the revenue collected from the sugar tax for the use of the Sports Ministry. If this is the trend when it comes to new-tax-related promises, we think that the Health Ministry should be ready for future disappointment. In April this year, PM Anwar Ibrahim promised to divert half of the vape tax collection to the Health Ministry.
MACC cases update
Prominent businessman Halim Saad denied the speculation that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had summoned him for questioning over the RM2.3bil deal involving the purchase of Renong Bhd’s 32.6% stake by United Engineers (M) Bhd (UEM). The deal that took place in 1997 allegedly led to the slumping of the KL Composite Index by 20%.
Businessman Hussein Nasir or a.k.a ‘Datuk Roy’, and a MACC officer were jointly accused of squeezing RM400,000 from a Siti Dalena Berhan so that the MACC will not remand an individual named Fakhri Yassin Mahiaddin in a corruption investigation. The duo also are also facing other charges, which are all related to the Jana Wibawa program.’
Fakhri is the son of former PM Muhyiddin Yassin, where the latter's actual name is 'Mahiaddin' and not 'Muhyiddin'.
Boleh-land made film makes history during the 62nd International Cannes’ Critics’ Week
Amanda Nell Eu’s debut horror film ‘Tiger Stripes’ snatched the Grand Prize during the 62nd International Cannes’ Critics’ Week. Eu bagged EUR10,000 (RM49,602) in cash prize. Quoting the jury president Audrey Diwan, ‘Irreverent and uncompromising, Tiger Stripes does not try to please, it is content to fully assume its seductive singularity’. Tiger Stripes tells the story of a 12-year-old girl struggling to understand the changes she is experiencing with her body as she goes through puberty. You can watch the trailer below.
The Defence Ministry has inked 43 deals worth a mouth-watering RM10.13 bil during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2023 (LIMA). The golden nugget of the deals is the RM3.84bil agreement to purchase 18 Korea Aerospace Industry FA-50 jets to be used as both flight lead-in trainers (FLIT) and light combat aircraft (LCA). Malaysia is expected to receive the first FA-50 jet in 2026. Currently, the FLIT/LCA role is being undertaken by BAE Systems Hawk 108 & 208 aircraft. Malaysia has been using the Hawk aircraft since the 1990s.
The purchase of the FA-50 jets is part of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF)’s modernisation plan dubbed Capability 55, which aims to reduce the types of assets the air force is operating to optimise the budget in bringing the maximum impact.
Transport Ministry is also doing not too bad at LIMA as the ministry hosted the signing of RM7.5 bil worth of commercial deals. Notably, the youngest local airline MYAirlines Sdn Bhd brought in the largest investment, to the tune of RM2.7 bil, which includes expanding its inventory technical management services.
Ekuiti Nasional Bhd (Ekuinas) is in the mood to cash in its RM68.6mil initial investment made into Al-Ikhsan Sports. The state-owned private equity firm is open to exiting the investment either via an initial public offering (IPO) or trade sale. At the moment, Ekuinas is holding a 35% stake in Al-Ikhsan Sports, which recorded a 72.4% revenue growth in 2022 to RM485.4mil. We wrote a thread on Al-ikhsan - check it out below.
Putrajaya is allowing two sugar refiners, MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd (MSM) and Central Sugar Refinery Sdn Bhd (CSR), to sell a new type of fine sugar at a market price effective immediately. However, Domestic Trade Minister Salahuddin Ayub stated that this announcement will not disrupt the existing supply of coarse and refined sugar, which are still being sold at the ceiling price of RM2.85/kg and RM2.95/kg, respectively.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Noodle seller in Vietnam jailed over Salt Bae parody
Bui Tuan Lam shot to fame after he posted a video in 2021 mimicking Salt Bae’s signature move to parody one of the country’s most powerful ministers after he was filmed eating a USD2,000 gold-leaf covered steak in Salt Bae’s restaurant, causing uproar online. Instead of salt, Bui spread green onions on his noodle soup. Bui is sentenced to a five-and-a-half years jail term for anti-state propaganda.
Bui was arrested last September and detained until now, and his noodle stall was forced to shut down. He was a political activist for nearly 10 years, which cost him his job and forced to sell noodles. He had already run into trouble with authorities and had his passport confiscated in 2014, but this is the first time authorities have prosecuted him. Whilst his indictment accused him of posting his Facebook and Youtube videos and not mentioning the Salt Bae incident, it’s widely presumed this incident embarrassed the government, leading to his arrest.
Southeast Asia’s first high-speed train up and running in Indonesia
A trial run at 180 kmh has been completed on the 142 km-long railway linking the capital Jakarta and Bandung and will see rail speeds gradually rise to 385 kmh. In comparison, Japan’s maglev train can go up to speeds of 603 kmh. The initial trial has already more than halved the typical 2.5-hour car journey between the two cities, and wil be further reduced to about 40 mins, making travel by train nearly 4x faster. Commercial operations are slated for August.
This project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and developed as a joint venture between Indonesian state companies, controlling 60%, with China Railway Engineering Corporation and various other Chinese companies. The total projected cost was estimated at USD6 bil, but an additional USD1.2 bil to meet the commercial launch deadline in 2023. This works out to USD50.7 mil per km. Malaysia could have our own high-speed rail connecting us to Singapore, but after years of planning, we have nothing to show and on top of it, Malaysia had to pay Singapore RM320 mil as compensation for costs incurred
Aviation x Climate
A law approved in 2021 has gone into effect in France this week banning air travel between certain cities that meet certain criteria, in the country’s fight again decarbonising lifestyles, according to France’s transportation minister Clement Beaute. For the ban to take effect, the two cities have to be connected via a 2.5-hour high-speed rail, direct connection, affordable and frequent enough so that a traveller can make a trip back and forth on the same day and spend 8 hours in the city. This ban has been criticised as largely “symbolic”, and critics said lawmakers should focus on “real and significant solutions” instead. Beaute acknowledged the measure as a “symbol” but added it’s a strong one, the first of its kind and in the right direction.
Japan is to make it mandatory from 2030 for 10% of aviation fuel for international flights using Japanese airports to be sustainable, using what is called sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made of waste oil and from plants.
The global aviation industry in 2021 emitted 700 mil tonnes of CO2, 2% of all CO2 emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN body, has set a zero emissions goal for international flights by 2050.
A paralyzed man, who was unable to use his legs due to a spinal cord injury, is now able to walk all on his own thanks to a novel brain-to-spine stimulation technology which also allows for more natural and fluid movements. This “brain-to-computer interface”, or BCI is a cutting-edge technology used just by a few dozen people. Small implants in his back and brain serve as a “digital bridge” to bypass the damaged spine between his mind and legs - he thinks of walking, stimulates his own spine to move and trains himself to walk again by reinforcing the nerves.
Nvidia, the semiconductor giant, jumped 27% on Thursday, adding more than USD200 bil to its market cap. Currently valued at USD953 bil and the sixth most valuable company, it is inching closer to joining USD1 tril club alongside Apple, Amazon, Saudi Aramco and Microsoft. This came after Nvidia released its second-quarter revenue forecasts that were 50% higher than Wall Street’s expectations due to soaring demand for AI chips.
Weekend read: Bloomberg is contemplating life without its founder
You might have seen the below image somewhere, or perhaps in the movies. It’s a Bloomberg terminal, the go-to place for financial information. There are about 365,000 units around the world and costs USD2,500 per month (USD30,000 per year) to rent (only rental, not sale). It doesn’t sound like a lot of units relatively, but it generates at least USD9.7 bil or 81% of Bloomberg LP’s revenue of USD12 bil and enough to make its founder, Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the world. Super lucrative business yet so hard to disrupt by competitors. This is the story of 81-year-old Michael Bloomberg — how he built this financial information services business and the company’s path ahead without its founder.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
I’ve been binging Mat Armstrong on YouTube. Enthusiastic chap who fixes damaged cars.
Despite talks about Airbnb disrupting the hotel business, 15 years on after its founding, the big hotel players are still happily making their money (apart from during the pandemic). Here’s why.