Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Pharmaniaga's auditor raised material uncertainty on the company's ability to continue operating
RM66.3 bil was spent on subsidies in 2022. 1,000 Grabbers lose their jobs. Netflix's updated password policy prompted an increase in new accounts.
Oops, sorry — instead of showing you a video of a golden halo on Mt Kinabalu yesterday, we showed you frying pans instead (which we believe you still could learn something about it). If you come across any errors or have any suggestions for improvement, hit us up by just easily replying directly to any of the published issues!
1. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
According to the Finance Ministry, a total of RM66.3 bil was spent on subsidies in 2022. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim highlighted that the largest expenditures were allocated to subsidies for petrol, diesel, liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as cooking oil, electricity, chicken, and eggs. Anwar Ibrahim mentioned that the government is actively considering measures to implement targeted subsidies in order to minimise leakages. T20 enjoyed 35% of RM50.8 bil the government spent on subsidies for petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) last year!
The total number of endangered species in the United States is 1,178, which comprises 43 mammals and 284 species of fish. According to a new report, the United States ranks second in terms of the number of endangered species in the world, with Indonesia holding the highest number. Within the United States, California, Florida, and Arizona have the highest concentration of endangered species. California leads with 18 endangered species, followed by Florida with 13, and Arizona with seven.
In a joint statement, Harry and Meghan’s company — Archewell Studio — and Spotify announced that they have mutually decided to end their partnership. As a result, Spotify confirmed that the Archetypes podcast will not be renewed for a second series. The initial contract for the podcast was estimated to be worth USD25 mil in late 2020 for just 12 episodes (USD2.1 mil per episode - paid to talk, what a job). When the partnership, Prince Harry expressed the intention of the podcast to amplify diverse perspectives and voices that may not have been widely heard before.
If you have some podcasts to recommend, leave us a comment below!
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
From the bench of politics
According to The Star, former Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin will not join any political party now after the longtime UMNO member was sacked from the party in January. However, it is speculated that Khairy will participate in Perikatan Nasional (PN)’s preparations for the upcoming state elections, similar to his UMNO comrade Noh Omar, who has been actively assisting PN to face the state elections.
On a separate matter, the man himself, Khairy Jamaluddin, stated that the current difficulties faced by the Unity Government to garner Malay support are due to the lack of direction regarding the country’s economic strategy rather than the so-called ‘green wave’ brought by PN. The frustration of Malays goes beyond the usual 3R (race, religion and royalty) issues and more towards fundamental economic matters that are affecting the ability of the rakyat to put food on the table.
MUDA Information Chief Luqman Long said that seat talks have yet to start between the party and Pakatan Harapan (PH). With weeks left before the state elections are expected to commence, MUDA’s participation is left hanging.
Responding to the matter, PH Communications Director Fahmi Fadzil stated that PH will prioritise the seat negotiations with Barisan Nasional (BN), its major ally in the Unity Government. Once both PH and BN agree on the seat allocation, PH will then allocate the distributed seats internally and with its electoral partners, including MUDA.
Improving ways of doing business, one step at a time
Treasury Instruction (AP) 182 exemptions to all ministries/executing agencies up to the state and district levels — With the AP182 exemptions, all Federal Government projects with a value not above the RM1 mil ceiling can be done directly by the relevant ministry and agencies, without having to go through technical departments. Putrajaya decided to grant these exemptions so that the projects could be completed in the current year.
RM500 mil seed fund towards People’s Facilities Initiative (IKR) — With an initial allocation of RM500 mil, Putrajaya is launching the IKR, an initiative where the public can request funding up to RM200,000 per project to buy, fix or maintain amenities. The project must be a short-term one (2 - 3 months) and the rakyat will dictate where the money should be spent. Just propose any suitable projects to the Government, and once approved, Putrajaya will provide the fund. Applications can be made through ikr.ekonomi.gov.my
Hopefully, with all these measures, on top of the ones announced yesterday to boost the domestic capital market, we hope these steps can improve our business competitiveness globally. In 2022, Malaysia ranked 32nd in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, while our neighbour, Singapore, ranked 3rd.
Police warn of new scam tactics that use fake arrest warrants
Perak Police Chief Mohd Yusri Hassan Basri said that scammers have figured out a new way to scare victims into revealing their bank details. Moving away from impersonating financial institutions, scammers now send fake arrest warrants bearing the police’s logo to swindle money away from victims. One university lecturer fell for this trick and lost RM98,000 in money transfers. Mohd Yusri stated that in 2022 alone, 358 phone scam cases were reported, which amounted to a loss of RM15.11 mil to victims.
In a related matter, Deputy Finance Minister I Ahmad Maslan revealed that as many as 22,000 government pensioners were sweet-talked by scammers off their savings to the tune of RM850,000,000 - RM850 freaking mil. That’s an average of RM38k per victim. These scammers targeted pensioners, particularly for their huge savings, including the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) savings.
Airbnb stated that there is no ban on short-term rental accommodation (STRA) on Penang Island. According to Airbnb Southeast Asia’s policy head Mich Goh, the guidelines announced by the Penang Island City Council were only meant to regulate STRAs on the island, namely restrict accommodations options for travellers and the period of their stay.
Boustead Holdings Bhd’s 52%-owned pharmaceutical arm is in another trouble as independent auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has raised material uncertainty on Pharmaniaga Bhd's ability to continue as a going concern. Related to Pharmaniga’s FY22 financial statements, PwC highlighted the company’s RM605.1mil net loss and RM227.4 mil capital deficiency as one of the few factors behind the auditor’s negative statement on the company.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
More layoffs at Grab
Grab Holdings Ltd is planning its largest round of layoffs since the pandemic. The company is facing intensified competition in the region, prompting the need for restructuring. According to insiders, the upcoming staff reductions, expected to be announced this week, are projected to exceed the 5% reduction (around 360 employees) implemented in 2020. The rumours are indeed true, as Anthony Tan, Group CEO and Co-Founder of Grab, released a statement on the layoffs — 1,000
”Grabbers” will be laid off.
Since its stock-market debut in late 2021, Grab's shares have experienced a significant decline of approximately 70%. The cuts suggest Grab is succumbing to investor pressure for faster cost reduction.
Do Kwon arrested in Montengro
Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon, who is facing charges of multibillion-dollar fraud in the United States, has been sentenced to four months in prison by a court in Montenegro. The court also convicted his associate, Han Chang-joon, Terraform Labs’ former chief financial officer, for using forged passports. Terraform Labs is a South Korea-based company responsible for the Luna token and stablecoin TerraUSD that saw USD60 bil wiped out in a short span of a week. The collapse of both crypto tokens in May 2022 caused significant turbulence in the cryptocurrency markets, leading to a domino effect that is still playing out today.
Read: Behind Terra’s USD60 bil implosion
Paris 2024 Olympics office raided
French police have conducted searches at the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee and its infrastructure partner as part of an investigation into potential embezzlement of public funds and favouritism. The raids were carried out after a preliminary investigation was initiated in 2017 to examine contracts made by the Summer Games organising committee. How did this investigation come about?
The budget for the games has experienced a significant increase, reaching EUR8.8 bil (USD9.62 bil), up from the initial estimate of EUR6.6 bil (USD7.2 bil) in 2017. Paris becomes the third straight Summer Games organiser implicated in investigations led by anti-corruption authorities.
Cough syrup scandal at a Taiwan kindergarten
Teachers at a kindergarten in New Taipei City have been accused of administering cough syrups containing drugs like phenobarbital and benzodiazepines to students, leading to allegations of sedation. Police have been conducting investigations into the matter for several weeks, but the motive behind the administration of these addictive syrups remains unclear. The scandal has triggered protests by families outside government buildings, demanding answers and justice. In response to the growing public concern, the Taipei City Hospital has taken the initiative to provide free blood tests for preschool children.
UBS acquired a costly ticking time bomb
UBS is expected to face significant financial penalties amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars due to Credit Suisse's mishandling of the Archegos Capital case. Regulatory investigations conducted by authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom have concluded, and the penalties are likely to be imposed as a result of their findings.
Credit Suisse, which recently completed its takeover by rival UBS, faced its largest trading loss ever when the family office of Bill Hwang, Archegos, collapsed in March 2021. This event resulted in significant financial losses for Credit Suisse, marking a challenging milestone in the bank's 167-year history.
The US Fed’s fine could be as much as USD300 mil, while the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority could impose a penalty of up to GBP100 mil. However, there is still plenty in the coffers as UBS is believed to have up to USD4 bil of provisions to cover regulatory and litigation costs from its takeover.
According to reports from Reuters news agency and US media, Hunter Biden, the son of US President Joe Biden, has reached a deal with the Justice Department in which he has agreed to plead guilty to two federal tax charges. Additionally, he will seek a separate agreement regarding a firearm charge. The deal is expected to end a years-long federal probe into the younger Biden’s personal and professional dealings. Will papa give him a presidential pardon one day?
Controversial influencer Andrew Tate, along with his brother Tristan and two associates, has been charged in Romania with serious offences, including rape, human trafficking, and forming an organised crime group for the purpose of sexually exploiting women.
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking over USD1 bil in damages. The lawsuit alleges that Nissan, along with two other companies and 12 individuals, committed crimes such as defamation, slander, libel, and the fabrication of material evidence. Ghosn, a former prominent figure in the global car industry, was arrested in Japan in late 2018 and faced charges related to financial misconduct. He ‘avoided’ these charges - read about his insane escape from Japan in a music equipment box in a plane.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
The global population of forcibly displaced people has now surpassed 110 million — and if they gathered to form a country, it would be the 14th most populated in the world. Click here to see the global flow of refugees (i.e. where they were from and where they settled), put together by Al Jazeera in conjunction with World Refugee Day.
Netflix’s new policy to charge for password sharing saw a massive spike in daily user acquisition — higher than at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Squid Game 2 - coming soon. Cast announcement: