- The Coffee Break
- ☕️ Najib Razak's royal pardon bid to be decided W3 January
☕️ Najib Razak's royal pardon bid to be decided W3 January
The Malaysia Scandal Series: Urine-tampering scandal in Johor. Beruas MP house set on fire. Chaos in Ecuador: Govt vs Gangsters.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
Information as of 0700 UTC+8 on Jan 11, 2024.
The long-awaited cryptocurrency breakthrough is finally here. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has approved exchange-traded funds that invest in Bitcoin, marking a significant change in the SEC’s stance after years of opposition.
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
What happens when students are in a hyper-competitive environment? They take their government to court. Why? Because a bell rang too early — 90 seconds too early, to be exact. A group of South Korean students are asking for KRW20 mil (USD15,400) each — the cost of a year’s studying to retake the exam — because their college admission examination, known as Suneung, ended 90 seconds earlier than scheduled. The Suneung is one of the hardest exams in the world, an eight-hour marathon with back-to-back papers in multiple subjects. The stakes are high because the exams will determine university placements, jobs and future relationships!
5% — the average salary increment to be expected in 2024 for executives, management and professional employees, and support staff, according to HR consulting firm WTW. It’s slightly lower than the 5.6% increase seen last year. The survey was conducted on 600 companies that employ 323,837 employees in Malaysia. If your boss needs some evidence when you ask for a raise, remember The Coffee Break. You’re welcome.
If you did receive a 5.6% increase in salary last year, it was barely enough to cover the rental increment in 2023. The Malaysia Home Rental Index by real estate agent network IQI shared that rents across Malaysia in 2023 increased by 5.5%. The index highlighted that the average residential rent in Malaysia was RM1,975 per month. Kuala Lumpur’s average residential rent was RM3,192. 👀
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Beruas MP’s house was set ablaze
Ngeh Koo Ham (Beruas MP), who recently courted controversy for his suggestion to include non-Muslim experts in the special committee to review the jurisdiction of the Syariah court, was unscathed after his house was set on fire early yesterday morning by molotov cocktail. Perak police chief Yusri Hassan Basri said the fire is suspected to be an act of arson. The investigation is being carried out from multiple aspects. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but three cars on the porch were affected, including a Mercedes Benz E300, which was completely burnt. Ngeh and his wife were awoken by a passerby who rang the house well and alerted them of the fire. The couple was grateful to the passerby. Scene of the incident here (warning — graphic).
Ngeh said he forgives the alleged arsonists but blamed Perikatan Nasional (PN) components PAS and Bersatu for fanning tensions that led to the incident. Politicians from PN condemned the attacks as well. Whilst Ngeh has touched on comments on the Syariah court, this is taking it to another level. We need to instil political maturity in the country — i.e. acceptance of political differences. We can do better.
Will Najib Razak be pardoned?
Weirdly, it was a news outlet from a neighbour down south, Channel News Asia (CNA), that reported that the Pardons Board could be deciding Najib Abdul Razak’s application for a royal pardon in the third week of January. The six-member body had decided in December that it needed more time to deliberate the matter. This month’s crucial meeting will be among Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s final tasks before he is replaced by Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar. In an interview with The Straits Times last month, Sultan Ibrahim said he will hunt all the corrupt people. This may just be Najib Razak’s last straw.
CNA also reported that one of Najib’s inner circle members said they feel “some degree of positive vibes” from the Pardons Board. Malaysians definitely are not feeling positive about this because Najib barely served his 12-year sentence, as he only began serving his jail term in August 2022. Furthermore, Najib’s conviction also carries a fine of RM210 mil that has yet to be settled. No matter the decision, both sides of the camps will be pissed.
Should Najib Razak be pardoned?
The Malaysia Scandal Series: Urine-tampering scandal in Johor
If you’re here for pee jokes, urine luck (got it? You’re in luck). The Star uncovered a scathing scandal in the pathology department at Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA) in Johor. 10 pathologists have since been transferred out in a sweeping shakeup, according to Johor Health and Unity Committee chairman Ling Tian Soon. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is also involved because there is believed to be an extensive network involved in providing tampered urine samples in substance abuse cases for a fee between RM500 and RM1,500.
As many as 33 narcotics policemen of various ranks from almost all of Johor’s 13 police districts are believed to be involved in this scandal. Wait, but why is the MACC involved? Ho-ho corruption. According to sources, a government pathologist generates a substance abuse report based on a urine sample sent by the police. This report is used by a narcotics officer to conclude the investigation before the Attorney General’s Chambers decides on charges under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. The 33 policemen were arrested in stages from June to September last year and all of them have since been released under MACC bail.
Our whizdom speculates that it’s either people being framed for substance abuse or people trying to escape the substance abuse charges.
Bad start for prominent investor Dr Yu Kuan Chon
Three stocks linked to investor Datuk Dr Yu Kuan Chon, namely Rapid Synergy Bhd (-42.5% YTD), YNH Property Bhd (-13.7% YTD), and Imaspro Corp Bhd (-34.1% YTD), were among the top losers on Bursa Malaysia on Tuesday. These stocks have been experiencing continued losses since the end of last year.
While the exact reasons for the performance are unclear, Rapid Synergy and YNH Property Bhd were slapped by qualified opinions from their respective external auditors in the fourth quarter of last year. Rapid Synergy’s net profit has been on a downtrend over the past three years. YNH Property saw its net loss increase to RM10.2 mil in the latest reporting quarter, despite rising revenue. On the other hand, Imaspro’s earnings have been stable over the years. Who is Dr Yu? He was medical doctor turned corporate investor — read here.
Genting Malaysia pumps more money into Empire Resorts Inc.
Genting Malaysia Bhd has announced a further capital injection of USD100 mil (RM464.15 mil) into Empire Resorts Inc through an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary. This brings Genting Malaysia's total investment in Empire Resorts to about USD624.4 mil (RM2.89 bil).
The capital injection, which involves subscribing to 1,000 of Empire's Series M preferred stocks, will be used for working capital and to repay a USD58 mil bank facility. If all of Empire's preferred stocks held by Genting Malaysia are converted, the company would hold a 76.3% stake in Empire Resorts by December 31, 2030. Genting Malaysia plans to fund the equity injection using internal funds.
Court of Appeal: Unilateral conversion is unlawful if it does not get consent from both parents
Loh Siew Hong’s appeal over the 2020 conversion of her 15-year-old twin daughters and her 12-year-old boy was unanimously allowed by the Court of Appeal. The ruling has made it possible for the children to return to their original Hindu faith, which is stated on their birth certificates. Loh’s ex-husband, Muhammad Nagahswaran Muniandy, who converted to Islam, had changed the children's religion without her permission in 2020.
Daim’s wife Naimah Khalid claims her husband is being prosecuted for being succesful
Tun Daim Zainuddin’s wife Toh Puan Naimah Khalid said a “campaign of misinformation and misperception” is being spread just because her husband is wealthy and therefore corrupt. Lawyers representing the family also expressed dissatisfaction with the MACC for not disclosing the specific offence under investigation, claiming the questioning as “one giant fishing expedition.”
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Chaos in Ecuador: Govt vs Gangsters
Inmates across five prisons in the Latin American nation have taken over 130 prison guards hostage in response to a declaration of war by President Daniel Noboa on 22 local gangs, with reports on social media showing footage of the hostages. This comes after police stopped a gang of gunmen armed with explosives who stormed an Ecuadoran TV studio during a live broadcast (disturbing — watch here), said to be a response to Noboa’s plan to build a new high-security prison for gang leaders, with all 13 arrested. There were also social media reports of armed gangs storming the University of Guayaquil, but the university has responded, calling these reports false. Seven police officers have also been kidnapped, with explosions going off in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Los Rios.
This comes after a 60-day state of emergency was declared by Noboa, who took the presidency in November. The state of emergency was prompted by the prison escape of Jose Adolfo Macias, alias Fito, acknowledged as an “extremely dangerous” druglord and leader of the Los Choneros gang. A new decree, issued in response to the TV station attack, deployed the military to hunt down 22 local gangs, denouncing them as terrorist groups.
The ongoing conflicts
Ukrainians in uproar after Putin’s decree to grant citizenship to children taken to Russia
Ukraine has condemned a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which makes it possible to confer Russian citizenship on Ukrainian children moved to Russia. This follows Russia’s policy of forced child deportations, which saw the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for Putin.
The latest decree expedites Russian citizenship to foreigners and stateless people. However, the Ukrainian foreign ministry singled out a passage stating that orphaned Ukrainian children or those “deprived of parental guardianship” can be fast-tracked by way of a presidential decision. Ukraine sees this as Russia’s attempt to solve its demographic crisis and slammed the decree as a violation of Ukrainian and international laws and children’s rights. The Ukrainian authorities have identified over 19,000 Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia since February 2022, with only 387 children brought back so far.
UK, US naval forces repel “largest attack yet” by Houthi rebels
The combined naval forces repelled “at least 21 drones and missiles” overnight, with no injuries or damage reported. This is the latest in a series of attacks on ships in the Red Sea, conducted by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, said to be in response to the conflict in Gaza, with the Houthis claiming the ships they attack are linked to Israel. This marks the latest sign that the Gaza conflict is expanding into the wider region and that the conflict will intensify despite Israel’s pledge to scale down the fighting.
Share sale - Grab’s upcoming competitor, Samsung heirs
Vietnam’s Be Group secures USD30 mil to fund ride-hailing venture
The USD30 mil will be provided by local firm VPBank Securities, with Be Group looking to use the funds to expand its ride, delivery, and digital financial services while venturing into new markets (Malaysia pls) and segments of the consumer and transportation sectors. The Vietnamese firm aims to take on rivals Grab and GoTo, as competition intensifies in the country, to take advantage of the increase in demand for ride-hailing and delivery. Be Group aims to deliver one billion rides on its platform and to surpass USD200 mil in annual gross revenue by 2026, up from 120 mil rides last year. It also plans to double its active users to 20 mil by 2026.
Family of Samsung Electronics chairman looking to sell shares in USD1.6 bil block deal
Sources revealed that the mother and two sisters of Samsung Electronics Chairman Jay Y. Lee are planning to sell about 29.8 million shares in the company in a block deal worth about USD1.66 bil. These shares represent a 0.5% stake in the tech giant and will be at a 2% discount to the latest closing price of Samsung’s shares. This follows news that Samsung is likely to see profits for its fourth quarter of 2023 drop by “more than a third”, attributed to slower sales for devices as well as a build-up of large stocks of key electronic components. Samsung is due to release a detailed financial earnings report on January 31.
AI discovers new material that could lower lithium use in batteries
The new material, N2116, was discovered by Microsoft and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and could potentially reduce lithium use in batteries by up to 70%. The material was found by using AI and supercomputers to narrow down 32 million potential inorganic materials to a list of 18 promising candidates in less than a week, a process which would have taken more than two decades if performed via traditional lab research methods. The process from inception to developing a working battery prototype took less than nine months, and the prototype has successfully powered a lightbulb.
Meta’s Zuckerberg has a farm with beer-fed cows
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has turned to livestock as his latest venture. The goal is to “create some of the highest quality beef in the world”, according to his Instagram post, where he also stated the Wagyu and Angus cattle will “grow up eating macadamia meal and drinking beer that we grow and produce here on the ranch”.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Welcome to 2024, where we can now have a transparent MicroLED screen. CES is a massive annual trade show attended by more than 100,000 people and features transformative technology and innovation.
Samsung debuts the world's first transparent MicroLED screen at CES 2024
— Adrian Dittmann (@AdrianDittmann)
Jan 8, 2024
Are there any pasta lovers in the house? Not sure which brand of pasta to buy? Watch an Italian chef select between brands on supermarket shelves. It seems like he can speak Bahasa Malaysia too.