- The Coffee Break
- ☕️ Sarawak gov't settles RM90.42 mil PTPTN loan, benefitting 25k Sarawakian students
☕️ Sarawak gov't settles RM90.42 mil PTPTN loan, benefitting 25k Sarawakian students
500+ cartel companies under investigation to manipulate gov't tender projects. Smartphone maker Xiaomi unveils its USD1.4 bil EV model - SU7. L'Oreal heiress - first woman to join the USD100 bil club.
Good morning Malaysia. This marks our last edition for the year and we hope you have found our newsletter value-adding to your knowledge and development, in some minor ways, at least. If you do, show us some love by sharing our newsletter with your friends and family and get them to subscribe!
On another note, we are migrating to a new newsletter service provider in 2023A. We hope there won't be any hiccups and you should be receiving our newsletter as usual. Should you notice that we are missing in your life and inbox, come back to this email and reply to it to inform us of your issue. See you next year. We will be back on Jan 2.
Happy New Year!
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Online scam cases have surged by 37.5% this year, surpassing RM1 bil in losses, according to Comm Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf, the director of Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID). Between January and November, there were 32,462 online scam cases, resulting in approximately RM1.3 bil in losses or an average of RM4.05k losses per case (so lucrative, understandable why this scam industry is flourishing in the absence of tough crackdown). Investment scams accounted for the highest losses, totalling RM421 mil.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia, compiled a list of the most viewed articles on Wikipedia from January 1 to November 28, 2023. ChatGPT claimed the top spot with 49,490,406 page views on the English Wikipedia. The article remained consistently popular throughout the year, with total views across all Wikipedia language sites exceeding 79 mil. For the English Wikipedia, the website saw over 84 bil views during the same period.
From a survey of 2,000 PC gamers, it was found that only 36% of them would purchase a new game at full price. About 32% prefer to wait for a sale or a bundle, such as the Humble Bundle, while another 32% acquire their games for free. The full retail price for AAA games can go up to USD70 (~RM322.52). AAA (Triple-A) is an informal classification used to classify video games produced and distributed by major publishers such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, which typically have higher development and marketing budgets than other tiers of games.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Sarawak government alleviates student debts: RM90.42 mil infusion to PTPTN loan repayment 🎓💰The Sarawak government has made a significant investment of RM90.42 mil into the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), fortifying higher education pursuits. Stemming from a Memorandum of Understanding inked with the Sarawak Foundation on March 5, 2021, this allocation is designated to settle at least 30% of the debts owed by Sarawakian students. PTPTN Chairman Norliza Abdul Rahim emphasises the positive impact of this ongoing initiative, which benefits over 25,000 PTPTN borrowers (RM3.62k per borrower on average) among Sarawakian students. An additional RM12.43 mil has recently been disbursed to approximately 3,000 eligible borrowers, showcasing the state’s dedicated support toward realising higher education dreams for future generations.
Tun Daim Zainuddin denies corruption allegations & calls investigation a political witch-hunt 🕵️Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin has denied allegations of corruption directed at him and his family, referring to the ongoing investigation as a "political witch-hunt." In response to statements by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki, Daim asserts that no corrupt acts or wrongdoing have been committed. He highlights the lack of information regarding the alleged offences. He accuses Anwar of viewing him as a political threat, emphasising the improper influence of public insinuations by the prime minister during an ongoing investigation. Daim expresses concern over the fairness and integrity of institutions, calling for respect for the rule of law and due process.
Alliance Bank & PM Anwar extend helping hands with flood financial aidsIn a collaborative effort to alleviate the aftermath of devastating floods in Kelantan, PM Anwar Ibrahim pledges a compassionate RM50 mil aid package. Families enduring the third wave of calamity since November will receive RM1,000 each, with additional support based on assessed losses.
Simultaneously, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd provides a comprehensive flood relief assistance programme to ease financial burdens on individuals and businesses affected by the floods nationwide. The aid includes a loan moratorium of up to six months, loan repayment adjustments, and waiving charges for conventional and Islamic financing facilities. Alliance Bank's CEO, Kellee Kam, expresses an understanding of the emotional and financial strain flood-affected families and businesses face, extending support to the bank's employees as well.
Both initiatives reflect a united commitment to providing immediate relief and assistance during these challenging times. 🤝
Saudi Aramco aims to transform Pengerang into Southeast Asia's energy hub
Saudi Aramco, a global energy giant, is poised for a significant downstream expansion in Malaysia, targeting the transformation of the Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC) in Johor into Southeast Asia's largest energy hub. Aramco's President (Downstream), Mohammed Y Al Qahtani, expressed enthusiasm for the Pengerang project, indicating not only a commitment to sustaining operations but also exploring future expansions. While considering global retail operations, Mohammed highlighted the evaluation of potential upgrades, expansions, and the conversion of liquids to chemicals. Aramco is committing USD7 bil (RM32.3 bil) towards this Pengerang project in a joint venture with Petronas.
Aramco's recent acquisition in South America aligns with its strategy to expand retail, lubricants, and trading businesses globally. The Pengerang facility, developed jointly with Petronas, is running at full potential, enhancing reliability and profitability, and positioning itself as a growth platform for the future. Aramco said it is eyeing retail operations in Southeast Asia, an initiative it is currently undertaking around the world. We may be able to pump (or charge) our cars at Stesen Minyak Aramco soon.
Malaysian Corruption Watch raises alarm over alleged cartels in government tendersThe Malaysian Corruption Watch (MCW) has expressed concern over reports that 500 companies in Malaysia are allegedly under investigation by the Malaysian Competition Commission (MyCC) for forming cartels to manipulate government tender projects. MCW President Jais Abdul Karim highlighted the deceptive strategy of company owners marrying multiple wives and using their names as proxies, posing a significant threat to fair competition.
Jais emphasised the importance of quality investigations, urging the reactivation of forensic teams at various agencies to address cartel and corruption issues effectively. He called for collaboration between forensic teams and law enforcement agencies, strengthened protection for informants, and increased public involvement to build positive pressure for transparency and accountability.
Got RM18 mil? Pom Pom Island in Sabah is up for grabs!🏝️Pom Pom Island, covering 7.3 acres (313.6k sq feet) in the Celebes Sea near Sipadan Island, is currently uninhabited and listed for sale on a Facebook page belonging to Sabah real estate negotiator Johnny Wong. The island boasts pristine blue waters, white sandy beaches, and a fringing coral reef. Despite its idyllic appearance, Pom Pom Island has a history, including the 2013 Abu Sayyaf kidnappings. Interested buyers should note its dark past and the reserve price set by the landowner, who is open to negotiation. View the island on the map here.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
The NYT vs OpenAI, MicrosoftThe New York Times is suing the ChatGPT creator and its close collaborator and investor Microsoft for allegedly violating copyright law by training generative AI models on Times’ content. The NYT contends that millions of its articles were used to train AI models powering ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot (formerly Bing Chat) and called for these companies to be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages”, though no number was thrown. In their defence, AI companies argue that the fair use doctrine provides blanket protection for their web-scraping practices. Whilst this isn’t the first time generative AI companies have been sued over alleged IP violations, it’s the largest publisher involved in filing for such action. Read: What is Fair Use?
Apart from IP violations, the NYT complaint cites “hallucinations”, or made-up facts from generative AI models that were said attributed to NYT, which could damage its brand. NYT’s fear is understandable - a recent research by The Atlantic found that if Google were to integrate AI into search, it would answer a user’s query 75% of the time without requiring click-through to its website, depriving these publishers of as much as 40% of their traffic. An interesting breakdown of this case by a lawyer in the thread below.
Meet Xiaomi - the smartphonecar maker Consumer electronics and smartphone giant Xiaomi unveiled its automotive ambition - the Xiaomi SU7 (pronounced Sue Qi) to enter China’s oversaturated electric vehicle (EV) market and compete with giants Tesla and Porsche. According to company founder and CEO Lei Jun, the car is in “trial production and will hit the domestic market in a few months”, though the price was not mentioned. SU7 took RMB10 bil (USD1.4 bil) to develop over more than three years. In 2021, Xiaomi announced it will invest USD10 bil in EV production.
SU7 beats Porsche’s Taycan and Tesla’s Model S on acceleration and other metrics and comes with an impressive driving range of between 628 km and 800 km. The SU7 is deeply integrated with Xiaomi’s smartphones and internet-connected home appliances as it strives to create a “Human x Car x Home” smart ecosystem. Xiaomi is the world’s third-most-popular phone maker globally, with a 14% market share. Lei Jun, with a net worth of USD13.5 bil, said this EV expansion is the “final major entrepreneurial project” of his life. Check out the SU7 review here.
The first woman to join the USD100 bil clubL’Oreal heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers becomes the first woman to amass a USD100 bil fortune, as her wealth jumped to USD100.2 bil on Thursday as the share price of L’Oreal SA rose to a record high, according to Bloomberg Billionaires index. The 70-year-old reclusive billionaire is the vice-chair of the board of L’Oreal, a global USD268 bil company in which she and her family are the single biggest shareholders with a stake close to 35%. The company was founded by her grandfather, Eugene Schueller, in 1909 to produce and sell hair dye he had developed.
Francoise, an only child, inherited her wealth from her mother in 2017, with whom she had, at times, a contentious relationship. The family’s history includes a legal battle turned political scandal involving a former French president. Looking for something to Netflix and chill this long weekend? Check out L’Affaire Benencourt (watch the trailer here). - a 3-part documentary chronicling this saga released by Netflix last month.
Beautiful pay hike in 2023A for JD.com employees Once China’s no.2 online retailer by value, JD.com is planning a sweeping salary increase for its workforce as it faces intense competition from the rise of ByteDance and PDD Holdings. The company will nearly double the fixed salaries it pays to procurement, sales and other “front-line staff” starting Jan 1, whilst retail staff will get 20%-plus pay hikes on average. JD.com spent RMB25.9 bil (RM16.9 bil) in human resource costs last quarter. Interestingly, despite increasing costs, the share price was up 5%.
Singapore GST to rise by 1% to 9% Come the new year, the goods and services tax in Singapore will rise by 1%, the second phase of a 2-stage rate hike. This year, the GST was raised to 8% from 7%, the first in 15 years. The government said the increment bolsters state finances as it prepares for a surge in Singapore’s ageing population and rising healthcare costs. IKEA has said it will absorb the 1% hike but did not mention for how long. Speaking of GST, an interesting interview with former MP Tony Pua on this matter is below.
5 things to watch for in the US stock market in 2023AThe S&P 500 staged an incredible rally, up by more than 24% despite bank failures, recession fears and the highest borrowing costs in decades. Here are 5 key things to look out for in the new year: rate cut, big tech’s growth status (which pretty much drove the majority of the 24% rally), US presidential vote, Asia risk (Bank of Japan, China and India elections) and European Central Bank, Bank of England policy. Let us add one more - the shaky commercial real estate sector in the US, with USD1.5 tril worth of debt coming due.
A teenage boy was unfortunately killed by a shark in South AustraliaSouth Australia Police reported that the incident happened near Ethel Beach, a 400m-long stretch of sandy surf beach popular with surfers and tourists. The shark attack is the latest of several in South Australian waters in recent months. The International Wildlife Museum states that the likelihood of being attacked and killed by a shark is one in 3.75 mil. Surprisingly, this risk is lower than the chances of dying from a lightning strike, a firework accident, or a stroke.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
An interview with Tony Pua in episode 2 of Are We OK? podcast by former MP Dr Ong Kian Ming and Mr Money TV. One interesting insight on GST explained by Tony — why the GST was removed and replaced SST instead of being reduced is because the ‘break-even’ rate to justify the implementation and administration cost of GST is 5% according to Tony. Highlights below and the full episode here.
We end our final edition of the year with a beautiful creation by Mother Nature. Rare rainbow-coloured clouds streaked were spotted in the skies last week in the Arctic region. These clouds go by the name of nacreous clouds or polar stratospheric clouds and are formed only in extremely cold weather (below -78 degrees Celsius) where tiny ice crystals are created that scatter sunlight creating little rainbows in the sky. For more pictures of this phenomenon, visit here.