☕️ Selangor PAS chief confident PN will takeover Selangor in upcoming state polls
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi Yayasan Akalbudi trial postponed again, with no reasons given. PLS Plantations Bhd & Japanese firms JV in RM371 mil durian plantation. Palmless - meet the lab-grown palm oil.
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1. MARKET SUMMARY
The US markets were closed because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is a federal holiday in the US.
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
A record-breaking 1.43 mil copies of Prince Harry’s Spare memoir were sold on the first day of release across hardcover, e-book and audiobook. This record made it into the Guinness World Records for the fastest-selling non-fiction book ever, breaking Barack Obama’s fourth book, A Promised Land (2020), which sold 887,000 copies on its release day. Prince Harry’s ghostwriter JR Moehringer is reported to be paid GBP820,000 (USD1 mil) to ghostwrite the prince’s memoir. JR Moehringer had a movie made about his life titled The Tender Bar, which was directed by George Clooney.
USD15.1 bil — total music sales in the US in 2021. Streaming takes the pie with USD11.5 bil (76.1%), and surprisingly, vintage is making a comeback - vinyl records came in second place with USD1 bil in sales. People are still buying CDs in 2021, contributing USD600 mil in sales.
Shakira’s diss track of her ex-partner and footballer Gerard Pique cheating on her broke YouTube records — the song Out of Your League was watched more than 63 mil times in 24 hours, making it the most-watched Latin song within the period. Released four days ago, the video has now been watched 124 mil times.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Money talks from Putrajaya
The first phase of the cash handout, dubbed ‘Sumbangan Tunai Rahmah’, is part of a more extensive program called ‘Payung Rahmah’ that aims to help the less fortunate deal with the rising cost of living. The money will be distributed this month. The RM9bil first phase of ‘Sumbangan Tunai Rahnineah’ will benefit almost 9 mil recipients that will receive from RM100 to RM300.
Another EPF withdrawal to help the rakyat in surviving through the rising cost of living might not be in the cards, according to PM Anwar Ibrahim. However, the domestic trade minister Salahuddin Ayub stated that in a separate event that the EPF withdrawal proposal will be evaluated further. It is wise for the Government to make the EPF withdrawal as a last resort. In 2022, 6.1mil contributors have retirement savings of less than RM10,000 in their accounts, of which 3.6mil households have less than RM1,000.
As GE15 2.0 is around the corner, election-related news starts to blossom like wild mushrooms:
Terengganu UMNO has filed petitions in court accusing the then and current Perikatan Nasional-led state government of corruption in the form of vote buying at three constituencies - Marang, Kuala Terengganu and Kemaman. Terengganu UMNO chief Ahmad Said stated that the vote buying occurred on Nov 15 to Nov 17, where most households were given RM500 to RM1,000 each.
Selangor PAS chief Ahmad Yunus is confident that the ‘green wave’ of GE15 will continue in the upcoming GE15 2.0 and Perikatan Nasional (PN) could win over the voters of Selangor in the state polls and end the reign of Pakatan Harapan (PH). Ahmad stated that PH failed to solve the rakyat’s problems, such as the lack of job opportunities (what is he smoking?).
Updates from the temple of justice:
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s multi-million Ringgit Yayasan Akalbudi’s case, which was due to resume this month, will be postponed until April. No reason was given for the change.
In Siti Bainun’s child abuse case, three out of five lawyers withdrew from representing Siti Bainun at the eleventh hour due to clashing dates with other issues. However, Sessions Court judge Izralizam Sanusi was unfazed and gave an ultimatum to Siti Bainun until Tuesday to decide whether to continue to be represented by the remaining lawyers or seek legal assistance from National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK).
A married couple, Khor Swee Boon and Ng Hui Ye, were charged in court for killing a waiter by placing an explosive package on the deceased’s car bonnet, which later exploded when the victim touched the package. The couple was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code; if found guilty, it could lead to mandatory death for the accused.
Selangor plans to combine four cities into one mega-city
Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari stated that the state government was mulling the idea of combining four cities - Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang into one mega-city within the next decade. However, he agreed that the facilities and services in Klang must be significantly upgraded before the plan can materialise. He also invited Kuala Lumpur to join them in creating one big metropolitan. The idea of bundling cities into one big economic area or megalopolis is not new.
Deal$, deal$, deal$:
Defence minister Mohamad Hasan is looking to double the achievement of the previous Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) by aiming to sign about RM8 bil worth of deals in 2023, compared to RM4 bil value of deals inked in 2019.
PLS Plantations Bhd, Japan’s Millennium Agriculture Technology Sdn Bhd (MAT) and MyFarm Inc inked a head of agreement that will eventually lead to a RM371 mil large-scale durian cultivation in the country under a joint-venture 51:49 owned by PLS and MAT, respectively. The deal with lead to a win-win situation for all parties involved, as the Japanese technology transfer will benefit Malaysia’s long-term food security program. However, the innocent and pungent durian has a dark side to it, as shown in the video below.
Another interesting fact, Ekovest is the majority shareholder of PLS Plantation, where the latter is a major player in key infrastructure projects in the country. In 2022, Ekovest secured an RM1.98bil contract that will see the company appointed as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the RTS Link project.
The RM3.1bil gross development value (GDV) of the Kota Semarak mixed development project at Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra will resume after being postponed due to the pandemic in 2019. The 11-hectare development will be undertaken by a 70:30 joint venture of TH Properties Sdn Bhd (TH Prop) and Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB), respectively, and financed by Bank Islam Bhd and MBSB Bank Bhd.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Palm oil-related matters
Palmless - producing palm oil without oil palm trees
Inspired by the environmental destruction caused by the palm oil industry, C16 Biosciences was founded in 2018 to reduce the world’s reliance on palm oil. Backed by funding from Bill Gates, the startup has spent the past four years developing its lab-grown alternative of palm oil called Palmless.
To ‘harvest’ the oil, the firm uses a strain of yeast that naturally produces an oil with very similar properties to palm oil, and it takes less than 7 days from start to finish to produce. The company is “actively collaborating” on partnerships to bring its creation to non-food products like moisturisers and soaps and plans to enter into food in 2024.
What’s at stake? The global market value for palm oil is estimated at USD62.3 bil in 2021, with 85% of the supply coming from Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia generated RM108.52 bil in total export revenue from palm oil in 2021, making it a significant contributor to our nation’s economy. Unlikely, it will be so soon that this lab-grown palm oil will eat away our lunch, but monitoring such development is still important. Meatless meat (i.e. Beyond Meat) and eggless eggs (i.e. Eat Just Inc) companies are yet to take over the global food supply chain, although, at one point, they were all the hype.
Indonesia’s new biofuel mandate to disrupt global vegetable oil supplies
Implementing the B35 mandate in Indonesia from 1 Feb will require diesel sold in the country to contain 35% palm-based acid methyl ester, the highest in the world. Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil exporter, has restricted shipments to boost domestic biodiesel consumption, affecting prices of other staples such as wheat, corn and soybeans. In 2022, under the B30 mandate, 9.6 mil tonnes of palm oil were used for biofuel or nearly 19% of the total production of 51.3 mil tonnes and were expected to increase to 11.44 mil under the new mandate.
Despite all the attacks by the West against palm oil, palm oil is the most efficient in terms of yield per hectare amongst oil crops, 4x more than the following best alternatives.
Sweden and Europe hit rare earth deposit jackpot
Sweden hits the jackpot as it discovers Europe’s largest rare earth deposit, identified to hold more than one mil tonnes of rare earth minerals. This is not just a win for Sweden, but, most importantly, for Europe too, as it is a step towards self-sufficiency and reducing dependence on China - currently, no rare earth elements are mined in Europe and are mostly imported from China. That said, it would take at least 10-15 years before it could begin mining the deposit and shipping it, as the exploitation concession in Sweden is a lengthy process, giving much consideration to water and biodiversity.
Oxfam: Survival of the Richest
Oxfam, a British NGO focusing on alleviating global poverty, released its new report on global wealth disparity to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Some of its findings:
The world’s top 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of the USD42 tril in new wealth created since 2020.
Billionaire fortunes are increasing by USD2.7 bil per day, whilst 1.7 bil workers live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages.
Half of the world’s billionaires live in countries with no inheritance tax, putting them on track to pass on USD5 tril to their heirs, more than the GDP of Africa.
5% tax on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires could raise USD1.7 tril a year, enough to lift two bil people out of poverty.
Read the report here.
Criminals - you can run, but you can’t hide
Italy’s most-wanted mafia leader caught
Matteo Denaro, who has been on the run for 30 years, has been arrested in a private clinic where he was receiving treatment for cancer. The operation involved more than 100 members of the armed forces. Alleged to be the boss of the notorious Cosa Nostra mafia, he was sentenced to life in 2002 over numerous murders, including the 1992 killing of anti-mafia prosecutors, 1993 bomb attacks in Milan, Florence and Rome, and the kidnapping, torturing and killing of an 11-year-old son of a mafioso turned witness.
British police officer admits to being serial rapist
David Carrick, 48, a Metropolitan armed officer, has pleaded guilty to 49 offences across two decades. He used his role to pressure and put fear into victims and committed rape against 12 women. His crimes spanned 2003 to 2020, and was only arrested in Oct 2021. He met some of his victims through online dating sites such as Tinder and Badoo and used his role as a police officer to gain their trust.
Chinese tech giant Tencent fired more than 100 employees for violating company policies, with some referred to the police and later found guilty of bribery and embezzlement. Company founder and CEO Pony Ma told an internal staff meeting last month that the level of corruption in the firm was “shocking”.
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global has been given the green light from Chinese authorities to resume new user registrations after an 18-month freeze. The company was at the heart of regulatory clampdown on tech giants by Chinese regulators, apart from Alibaba.
A Russian soldier accidentally set off a hand grenade, and of all places, in a weapons storage room, killing himself and three others and injuring 16 more. The explosion caused a fire, causing 15 others to evacuate from nearby houses.