Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Monopolies (slowly) be-gone - PM Anwar instructed all ministries to review existing monopolies
MACC: former Astro CEO has returned USD10 mil of 1MDB-linked assets. Death of industry titans: Intel co-founder, Din Tai Fung founder. 4 Nordic countries combined jets into 1 unit due to Russia.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
With a relatively wet first quarter of 2023, Aedes mosquitoes have infected over 23,000 people with dengue, and the disease killed 16 in the first 11 weeks of the year. A new technology — sugar bait technology — could be the key to reducing dengue cases. The technology is a mimic of flower nectar laced with toxins that will end the Aedes mosquito’s life cycle at every stage. Please stay safe, clear stagnant water.
The upcoming SEA Games’ youngest participant is — 11 years old and a Malaysian. Zara Aleesya Mohamad Suadi will be racing alongside adult athletes in the finswimming event at the 2023 SEA Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from May-17. All the best, Zara!
Canada’s population grew by over a million people for the first time ever — from 38,516,138 to 39,566,248 people, Statistics Canada said. Canada has experienced its highest annual population growth rate since 1957, which stood at 2.7%. How did they do it? Recruiting migrants to ease the country’s labour shortages. International migration accounted for nearly 96% of the population growth!
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar praised the unity government
Sultan Ibrahim said the state government’s relationship with the federal government has improved under PM Anwar Ibrahim and even went on to say, “it’s better than any other previous prime ministers.” (Ouch Bera and Pagoh). Sultan Ibrahim also expressed gratitude to the federal government for the substantial allocation given to Johor in the 2023 Budget. His Majesty’s proposals to develop Johor had also received the required consideration from the federal government. Sultan Ibrahim will be the next in line to be Agong.
Moreover, the ruler also emphasised that Johor is out of bounds for politicians and bigoted religious leaders that are out to break the bonds of unity and solidarity among the different races in the state.
Read: How is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong elected?
Monopolies (slowly) be-gone
Did you know Pusat Pemeriksaan Kenderaan Berkomputer (Puspakom), the sole provider of periodic motor vehicle inspection service, is not a government agency but privately owned? Take a guess who the owner is.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said that the Cabinet decided that other qualified companies (other than Puspakom) would be allowed to provide the service on behalf of the Road Transport Department (JPJ) from Sept 1, 2024, onwards. Loke said the decision aligns with the government’s desire to create a competitive service environment. It’s not the end of the line for
Syed Mokhtar as Puspakom’s concession agreement, when it expires on Aug 31, 2024, would be extended by 15 years with improved terms.
PM Anwar also explained the government is reviewing all monopolies currently existing in the system to ensure that the public enjoys fair and better service. The PM was quite brilliant in addressing the Bumiputera narrative by saying that there should be fair competition among Bumiputera firms. Not only one bumiputera company should be enjoying the rights.
Wan Fayhsal chasing his tail
Machang MP cum Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Youth chief Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal lodged a police report against PM Anwar Ibrahim and former finance minister Lim Guan Eng over Yayasan Albukhary’s (YAB) tax exemption status. Wan Fayhsal alleged that the PM colluded with Lim to save Lim from being accountable.
Wan Fayhsal is trying to contend that Section 44 (6B) of the Tax Act 1967 states that an appeal over a decision by the IRB director-general can be lodged with the finance minister. That’s fair — but to say that Lim revoked Yayasan Al-Bukhary’s tax-exempt status is a lie, as a former finance minister does not have the authority to do so. The PM even explained to the August House that under Sub-Section 44(6) of the Income Tax Act, it was the Inland Revenue Board director-general’s prerogative to revoke tax exemptions.
The not-so-mysterious case of the USD10 mil worth of assets linked to 1MDB
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said last Thursday that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) was unaware if former Astro chief executive officer Datuk Rohana Rozhan had returned assets linked to the controversial 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund, in response to a query raised by Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng.
The very next day (March 24), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed that former Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd group chief executive officer Rohana Rozhan had indeed returned the assets in question. Is there a Chinese Wall between the AGC and MACC?
No political appointees in GLCs
After news of several political appointments for several agencies, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke did some damage control by clarifying that the government critics shouldn’t confuse government-linked companies (GLCs) with statutory bodies. Loke stressed that the unity government is keeping its promise of no political appointees to key GLCs and companies listed on Bursa Malaysia. However, flexibility is given when it comes to statutory and regulatory bodies.
Eligible civil servants and government pensioners will get RM700 and RM350, respectively, as part of the special 2023 Aidilfitri assistance on April 17, according to a circular released by the Public Service Department.
RFID users get additional 12 lanes on the North-South (PLUS) Expressway as announced by Works Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi. The project was delivered ahead of schedule! The additional lanes are at Setia Alam, Subang, Jalan Duta, Putra Mahkota, Kajang, Kubang Semang, Sungai Besi, Shah Alam, Sungai Buloh, Rawang Selatan and Penang Bridge.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
OpenAI: Less about ChatGPT, more about the company
In a highly unusual move, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman decided against taking any equity in the company when the company became for-profit. To begin with, he was reportedly already wealthy from his investments in successful startups. He co-founded OpenAI together with Elon Musk in 2015 as a non-profit with a mission to ensure AI would “benefit humanity as a whole”. He told people close to the matter that not having any equity would keep him aligned with the company’s mission. He left a lot, a lot, a lot of money on the table — OpenAI recently raised USD10 bil from Microsoft, valuing the company around USD29 bil.
Elon Musk resigned from the board of OpenAI in 2018 with the stated reason of avoiding any potential conflict of interest with Tesla. A new report surfaced that his departure occurred after a failed takeover from Musk, who offered to take charge of OpenAI to lead it himself but was voted against by Altman and other co-founders. Elon Musk couldn’t resist the FOMO and spotlight OpenAI is getting - it was reported last month the he’s recruiting a team to develop a ChatGPT rival.
In Musk-related news, Twitter is reportedly worth less than half of the USD44 bil price tag Musk paid back in Nov 2022. Musk, as CEO of Twitter, has offered stock options in Twitter to employees at a valuation of nearly USD20 bil — that’s down about 55% from what he paid.
Death of industry titans
"Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers - or at least terminals connected to a central computer - automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment."
Gordon Moore, circa 1965
Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel
A pioneer in the microprocessor industry and the co-founder of Intel died at the age of 94. Though not a household name, he was more famously known for his “Moore’s Law”, following a prediction he made in an article he wrote in 1965 that the number of transistors on microchips had roughly doubled every year since integrated circuits were invented, He was an active philanthropist, having donated more than USD5.1 bil to charitable causes through the foundation he set up with his wife of 72 years, Betty.
Read: What is the significance of Moore’s Law and is it still true today?
Yang Bing-yi, founder of Din Tai Fung
The founder of the global restaurant chain Din Tai Fung (DTF), known for its steam dumplings or xiao long bao, died at 96. Together with his wife, DTF (if you are thinking of something else, it is not what you think it is) started out as a cooking oil business which evolved into the restaurant chain it is today. Today, DTF has 170 locations in 13 countries around the world. In Malaysia, DIN is the halal arm of DTF.
Dictionary: DTF (NSFW)
Once popular but now struggling British fashion brand Superdry Plc has sealed a deal to sell its brand in Asia Pacific for USD50 mil to shore up its balance sheet. The company has been trying to turn around its business for the past few years with no luck. For the first half of its financial year 2023, the company achieved revenue of GBP287.2 mil (+3.6% yoy) and a net loss of GBP17.7 mil (a reverse from a profit of GBP4 mil in H1 FY2022).
View: H1 FY2023 Results Presentation
Kredivo Holdings, the operator of a buy now, pay later service in Indonesia, has raised USD270 mil in its Series D round led by Mizuho Bank, a subsidiary of Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group, with participation from existing investors. Its CEO Akshay Garg declined to disclose its valuation but said that it has increased by 4-5x “in every round historically”. The company has more than 6 mil customers and drives 3-4% of total GMV for its top e-commerce merchants, compared to 15-20% from credit cards.
Character.AI, which lets people create their own chatbots that can assume different characters (e.g. President Joe Biden), has raised USD150 mil in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, making it a unicorn with a USD1 bil valuation. Check out their tech here.
4 Nordic countries - Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, have agreed to combine forces to operate their fleets of around 250 fighter jets as a single unit to establish a unified Nordic air defence. Commander of the Danish air force, Major General Jan Dam, said the combined fleet is comparable to a large European country, and this move is in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Germany’s Deutsche Bank becomes the next on the firing line by investors as its shares plunged as much as 15% after credit default swaps (CDS) on the bank’s bonds spiked from 142 basis points to 173 basis points. CDS is the insurance on a bond to protect investors against default in response to this sell-off. At 173 bps, it means it costs USD17.3k to insure against USD1 mil worth of bonds. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there’s no reason for concern as the bank is “very profitable” and banking oversight in Europe is “robust and stable”. Let’s see if his comments age well.
On Saturday, an asteroid the size of Parthenon in Greece zoomed between Earth and the Moon. It came within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. The asteroid was detected earlier with no Armageddon concerns. But, should it hit Earth, it is enough to wipe out a large city.
Fugitive Do Kwon, the creator of TerraUSD and Luna cryptocurrencies that saw USD60 bil in value wiped out, has been charged by US prosecutors hours after he was arrested in Montenegro as he tried to flee to Dubai using falsified documents. A popular man he is - the US, Singapore and South Korea are all seeking his extradition.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
A Japanese tailor, Nobutaka Sada, has gone viral online for climbing to the summit of Mt Kinabalu in a 3-piece suit and leather shoes. He has been pulling off similar stunts (e.g. scuba diving, skiing) to promote his brand SADA. See his other adventures here.
Just for laughs - to those who are fasting, make sure puasa betul2. As for Chindians, we wish you the strength to persevere with your annual struggle of mistaken identities during Ramadhan.