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☕️ MAS parent MAG posts first annual net profit in 10 years

Citizenship law: PN may be government's saviour after all. The cost to abolish all tolls - RM450 bil. This 1 benefit to get workers to forgo remote working, fewer hols, pay raise.


Information as of 0730 UTC+8 on Mar 22, 2024


The Dewan Rakyat was informed that the government has settled RM48.06 bil in debts accumulated by 1MDB. Second Finance Minister Amir Hamzah Azizan stated that this amount includes the payment of USD3 billion (RM14.2 bil) made last March using funds from the 2023 budget. He further mentioned that the outstanding debt to be settled is a RM5 bil sukuk, which is set to mature in 2039. Hadi Azmi, a Malaysian journalist for the South China Morning Post, gave context to what could have been built with RM48 bil — 94 hospitals and 558 schools.

Thailand ranks third, and the Philippines tops the list of countries with the highest number of senior female business executives, according to a Grant Thornton survey. The survey reveals that 41% of top executive positions in Thailand are held by women. In the Philippines, 43.1% of top executive positions are held by women. Malaysia isn’t too bad — ranking 7th, with 39.6% of top executives being female. The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2023. Interviews were conducted with 4,891 medium-sized companies, 90% of which had 50 to 2,500 employees.
Read: Pathways to Parity: 20 Years of Women in Business Insights

The United Nations agency released its latest report covering forced labour statistics, revealing a concerning trend. It highlights that illegal profits from forced labour have surged by 37% over the past decade, reaching USD236 bil per year. Shockingly, sexual exploitation constitutes nearly three-quarters of this total. The increase in illicit gains stems from both a rise in the number of individuals coerced into labour and an escalation in the profit extracted from each victim. According to the report, traffickers and criminals now make nearly USD10,000 per victim, compared to USD8,269 a decade ago.
Read: Profits and Poverty: The economics of forced labour


In the court

The King is now the honorary police commissioner-in-chief
After the Lower House of Parliament passed the Police (Amendment) Bill 2024, the King is now officially the honorary commissioner-in-chief of the police force. According to the official answer by Putrajaya, ‘the amendment was made to provide services to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the police’s ceremonial matters besides recognising his position as the head of the religion of Islam under Article 32 of the Federal Constitution’.

According to PKR MP Hassan Abdul Karim, the King could be hypothetically liable for any major misconduct by the police if the current or future Government decided to ratify the Rome Statute. Rome Statute sets out the crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC, the rules of procedure and the mechanisms for States to cooperate with the ICC. The countries which have accepted these rules are known as States Parties. Malaysia is not one of them.

PN may be Putrajaya's saviour after all
Regarding the controversial amendments to the citizenship law that we already covered earlier this week, Putrajaya may have Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs to support the proposed bill after the Government backbenchers threatened to reject the bill. According to PAS Deputy President Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, PN lawmakers are convinced that the amendments are necessary after they were briefed by Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail. However, Tuan Ibrahim stated that they will still wait for the details of the amendments. The proposed amendments to the citizenship law, which will lead to changes in the Federal Constitution, would require a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat to pass. At the moment, the government has 147 MPs, just one short of a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

Obviously, the proposed amendments have been openly rejected by certain parties, including the PKR’s student wing. Mahasiswa Keadilan Malaysia said that they will join a rally together with NGOs and several East Malaysian civil society groups to protest the new citizenship law. The student wing’s spokesperson told the media that the amendments will make the already difficult situation a little bit harder for rural communities in Sabah and Sarawak to complete citizenship registration. One of the amendments required foundlings to register their citizenship before the age of one. However, awareness of the importance of registering their children as citizens is still low among rural communities in East Malaysia.

Spotlight on MAS parent MAG
Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the mother company of Malaysia Airlines, recorded its first-ever net profit in 10 years. MAG recorded RM766 mil net profit in 2023, compared to a net loss of RM344 mil in 2022. MAG attributed the positive performance to strong passenger traffic in premium segments, enhanced international network connectivity, effective capacity management, collaborative partnerships, and improved passenger yield. However, it did not come at a cheap price tag. Previously, its sole shareholder, Khazanah Nasional Bhd has injected a total of RM28 bil into the company up until 2021. From 2021 until 2025, Khazanah still has to inject another RM3.6 bil into MAG as part of the company’s financial restructuring exercise, but only utilised less than half of that amount or RM1.3 bil. As much as the turnaround is successful, we aren’t sure whether value creation or value destruction took place. 

Moving forward, MAG group managing director Captain Izham Ismail said that the company foresee that 30% of its revenue will be contributed by its non-airline business by 2027. MAG's non-airline business consists of loyalty and travel services, which include the group's tour operating arm MHHolidays, as well as aviation services such as its cargo arm MASkargo, its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business led by MAB Engineering, and MAB Academy, which offers education and service training in hospitality and aviation.


  • Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh said that Putrajaya will meet today in a Cabinet meeting to decide on the offer to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Previously, Australia withdrew from hosting the Games due to a huge increase in cost from RM8.09 bil to RM21.78 bil. The last time Malaysia hosted the Games was in 1998 and we incurred a loss of RM11.6 mil. This feels like value destruction is incoming. Hopefully, we have good news instead to share next week.

  • Deputy Works Minister Ahmad Maslan said that the cost of abolishing tolls in the country would set the government back by RM450 bil in compensation to concession companies. In comparison, the national budget is around RM388 bil annually. Thus, Ahmad said that it is unlikely for Putrajaya to abolish tolls entirely. However, he did hint that free toll charges would be given in lieu of the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration.


This 1 benefit to get workers to forgo remote working and RTO
Life is about trading. To give up something, we have to be given something. A study of 1,020 employers and workers about office perks, conducted by the bonding and insurance company JW Surety Bonds in the US found that 47% of respondents are willing to return to the office (RTO) in exchange for housing benefits

In fact, housing benefits are such a huge motivation and a stronger perk than various other traditional benefits:

  • 69% of respondents would be willing to change their job or career for employer-based housing benefits. 

  • 43% say they would take less vacation time in exchange for help with housing costs.

  • 30% said they would prefer housing assistance over a pay raise.

This is understandable as housing costs make up one of the largest expenditures for an average person — an inflationary environment and ever-rising property prices make housing affordability a challenge. 

For companies, the benefits extend beyond getting more bodies back into the office to improving employee morale. The study found that 77% of those already receiving employer-based housing benefits reported high job satisfaction. 
Read: The Impact of Employer-Based Housing Benefits

Selena Gomez to join Rihanna, Kim K in the tres commas club
There are currently at least 40 celebrity beauty brands in the market, all experiencing varying levels of success. The likes of Rihanna with Fenty Beauty (co-own with luxury conglomerate LVMH) and Kim Kardashian with SKKN by Kim and KKW Beauty turned these celebrities into billionaires. Next to join them could be Selena Gomez with her vegan and cruelty-free cosmetic brand Rare Beauty. Bloomberg reported that she’s enlisted advisors to evaluate incoming investor interest that could potentially value her company at USD2 bil. Rare Beauty is estimated to generate about USD300-350 mil in revenue last year. 

In today’s market, where seemingly every celebrity is launching a product, Rare Beauty is one of the few celeb brands to have earned continuous praise since it launched in 2020. Selena’s star power is clearly Rare Beauty’s best asset. She’s amongst the most followed people on Instagram (view her IG here) with about 429 mil followers. 

Medical tech in focus

  • Mia — the AI that detects tiny cancers that doctors missed
    An AI programme called Mia was tested by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and was able to identify tiny signs of breast cancer in 11 women, which had been missed by human doctors. Mia, alongside doctors, analysed mammograms of over 10,000 women and successfully flagged all those with symptoms, as well as the additional 11 cases the doctors failed to identify. 

    These cases that were missed were said to be practically invisible to the human eye, BBC reported. One of the 11 patients that was missed by the doctors and experienced no noticeable symptoms had a 6mm tumour and because it was identified early, her treatment was less intensive. Breast cancer patients with tumours which are smaller than 15mm when discovered have a 90% survival rate over the following five years. Kheiron, the developer of the tool said Mia could reduce the waiting time for results from 14 days down to 3. 

  • Neuralink giving a new lease of life to paralysed man
    Neuralink, Elon Musk’s neural technology company, revealed on livestream that its first human patient to receive a brain-chip implant was a 29-year-old quadriplegic who is paralysed from below the shoulders following a freak accident. Seated in a specialised chair, the man appeared to be controlling a game of chess on a laptop. He added that the chip was “not perfect” but had already improved many aspects of his life, like allowing him to play games for hours without having to rely on his family members.

(Meta + Microsoft + X + Match) + DOJ vs Apple
This group of tech giants and the DOJ are going after Apple for the same reason - over anti-competition issues. The former (Match owns Tinder) joined Fortnite maker Epic Games to file a protest against Apple, accusing it of being in “clear violation” of the Sep 2021 injunction by making it difficult to steer consumers to cheaper means of payment. The injunction required Apple to let developers provide links and buttons to direct consumers to alternative payment options, which Apple did. Still, it added new rules and a new 27% fee on developers, making it effectively useless.

Separately, the US Department of Justice and 15 US states sued Apple yesterday, accusing it of abusing its dominant position to get more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishes, small business and merchants - pretty much the whole Apple ecosystem it seems. This is the DOJ’s third attempt to sue Apple over allegations of anti-competitive behaviour.


  1. Ray Dalio, the founder the world’s largest hedge fund Bridgewater Associates wrote a book, distilling the common trajectory major empires followed in their path from dominance to collapse.

  1. How you doin’? — Joey Tribbiani. IYKYK.

  1. For car noobs (including some of us) and for your own safety, learn what your car’s light indicators are telling you.