☕️ Starbucks boycott hit Berjaya Food hard

SG government giving its nurses SGD100k to be loyal. BNM Governor: Performance of Ringgit not reflective of positive economic prospects. The Body Shop to close half of its stores in UK.


Information as of 0715 UTC+8 on Feb 22, 2024.


Cyber attackers can now execute a hack within 24 hours after gaining access to a network. The median "dwell time" for ransomware attacks has decreased from 5.5 days in 2021 to under 24 hours in 2023, according to Secureworks. Ransomware attacks are becoming a major threat to businesses across North America and Europe. Criminals encrypt or steal data and demand a ransom to either decrypt the data or refrain from leaking it. According to Chainalysis, a data company, ransom payments between January and June 2023 amounted to USD449 mil. This is a significant increase compared to USD559 mil for the entire year of 2022.

It was raining cash for oil and gas investors in 2023. A total of USD113.8 bil (RM545.44 bil) was spent on dividends and share buybacks by 6 O&G giants, namely Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell, TotalEnergies and BP in 2023, up 10% year-on-year. Russian invasion of Ukraine threw global energy markets into disarray, benefitting the O&G giants. More cash in the pockets of shareholders means less cash for major oil field developments. The rainy cash season would likely continue in 2024, so long commodity prices stay healthy, executives at all the five supermajors indicated.

NASA estimated that there are already 227,000 kgs of human garbage littering the moon from past space explorations, including moon buggies, excrement, statues, golf balls, human ashes and flags, among other objects. Some scientists said that we have entered the “lunar Anthropocene”. The Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geological time used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
Learn: What is the Anthropocene and why does it matter?


How to retain talent? Incentives — SG gov to give nurses up to SGD100,000
SG news, but we reckon it’s worthwhile to include it as local news as it will have a long-term impact on our nation’s healthcare system. The Singapore government has announced its plan to incentivise nurses up to SGD100K (RM357.1k and getting higher) over 20 years to keep them in the workforce as the city-state grapples with an ageing population and increased pressure on hospitals. Around 29,000 nurses working in the publicly funded healthcare system will be able to benefit from the new retention plan. The plan will provide them with payouts spread over a 20-year period or until they reach retirement age, whichever comes earlier. The benefits of the plan are also extended to foreign nurses who have worked in the public healthcare sector in the country for four years or more.

One can only wonder where Malaysian nurses would go next. After Malaysian water, Taylor Swift, and now nurses — what else will Singapore be acquiring with its competent government and economic might?

OCBC Singapore has also announced its plan to give a one-off payout of SGD1,000 each to about 4,600 junior employees in Singapore to cope with the rising cost of living. The payout is part of a financial support measure totaling almost SGD9 mil for 14,000 junior employees worldwide who work across OCBC and its subsidiaries. Banks of Malaysia, what’s your move?

BNM Governor: Performance of Ringgit not reflective of positive economic prospects
Bank Negara Malaysia governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour said the recent performance of the ringgit, similar to other regional currencies, has been influenced by external factors. The governor emphasised that the growth in 2024 (in Malaysia) will be attributed to an increase in external demand and strong domestic spending. Rasheed further highlighted that the exports have shown steady improvements since 4Q2023, with January 2024 exports having turned positive (+8.7%). The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast predicts that global trade will improve from 0.4% in 2023 to 3.3% in 2024.

Meanwhile, the Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said it will be unwise to raise the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) to strengthen the ringgit. Suppose BNM increases interest rates to protect the MYR. In that case, we consumers will be crying with higher debt servicing costs — economic structure matters in interest rate policy as the majority of loans are floating rates vs fixed rates in the US. We wrote a short piece on this before — see the thread below. There’s a saying - when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold.


  1. Starbucks boycott hit Berjaya Food hard
    Berjaya Food Bhd (BFood) recorded a net loss of RM42.58 mil for the second quarter ended Dec 31, 2023(2QFY2024) against a net profit of RM35.49 mil a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter fell 38.2% to RM182.5 mil vs RM295.3 mil previously due to the lower sales stemming from the boycott. There was also a one-off loss from the disposal of its entire equity interest in Jollibean Foods Pte Ltd. All the seasonal frappucinos and promotions couldn’t help fight boycotts. View its earnings here.

  2. Reneuco Bhd (PN17) & Citaglobal Bhd (royalty-linked) secured a 30-year concession to supply electricity to ECRL
    Malaysian utility services firm Reneuco Bhd and engineering company Citaglobal Bhd have announced that their consortium has secured a 30-year concession to supply electricity to the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL). The consortium will develop transmission and distribution interconnection facilities valued at RM600 mil and operate and maintain the assets over the 30-year period. Citaglobal holds a 60% stake in the consortium, while Reneuco holds the remaining 40%. According to the conditional contract terms, a special purpose company will be created, with the consortium holding 70% of the stake and Malaysia Rail Link holding 30% for the operation and maintenance of the assets. Earlier this month, Reneuco fell under the Practice Note 17 (PN17) classification after its auditor expressed a disclaimer opinion on its unaudited financial statements. Former king Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is a major shareholder in Citaglobal.

  3. Sime Darby: SST will increase the prices of cars
    Sime Darby Group Chief Financial Officer Muhd Noor Abd Aziz said the 2% increase in the sales and service tax (SST) that “applies to everybody” will likely increase the prices of cars. However, the group does not expect the tax hike, which is effective from March 1, to have a major impact on the automotive industry. Sime Darby Motors represents 30 auto brands in Malaysia, including BMW, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, BYD, etc. — view the full list here.


  1. Abdul Taib Mahmud passed away
    The former Sarawak governor and chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud breathed his last at a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur before dawn yesterday. Deputy Prime Minister Fadillah Yusof said the final rites would be performed at the National Mosque for the Peninsular Malaysia level before the body is flown back home. Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Tun Openg pledges to continue Taib’s legacy to develop Sarawak and Malaysia. Taib was named the Father of Modern Sarawak. We will leave it here.

  2. AirAsia will now fly from Kota Kinabalu to Shanghai
    The inaugural flight, AK1516, with a full passenger load, departed Kota Kinabalu at 9:30pm on Tuesday and landed in Shanghai at 2am yesterday. The returning flight from Shanghai, AK1517, recorded over 90% passenger load on its return journey to here. There will be three flights weekly. Between 2022 and 2023, the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) recorded a 1,119% increase in tourist arrivals from China.


Gaza Updates
China has expressed “strong disappointment and dissatisfaction” over the third veto of a resolution regarding the Israel-Hamas war yesterday. However, US President Joe Biden has shifted his rhetoric, now using the term “ceasefire” instead of “pause” as was used during the previous hostage exchange truce, which hinged on a daily release of hostages. This comes as the US presents its own draft resolution to the UN Security Council that calls for a ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas and opposes a major ground offensive by Israel in Rafah. This big brother always wants to do things his way. Had other countries behaved in the same manner as Israel, its vocabulary would be more precise.

Over in Ukraine
As Ukraine enters its third year of war, it faces the issue where it is running out of soldiers, weapons, and ammunition to fight Russia with. Reuters spoke to commanders in various units, with one in particular stating that only “60% to 70%” of the several thousand men in the 59th Brigade were still serving. The slowing support from the West has allowed Russia to bring to bear its advantages as a larger, better-supplied army. In the meantime, Ukraine holds on through drone warfare, though Russia is making use of its own drones to keep Ukrainian infantry from establishing or strengthening fortified positions.

Meanwhile, Russian opposition leader, anti-corruption activist, and political prisoner Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny died at age 47 after collapsing in the IK-3 Arctic prison colony. There are conflicting reports as to the cause of death, with Russian authorities claiming he died of “sudden death syndrome” and a state-controlled Telegram channel claiming he died of a blood clot. At the same time, there were allegations that his body was found covered in bruises, which The Times reported as being consistent with a “one-punch” technique previously taught to KGB special forces operatives.

In retaliation to Navalny’s death and the two-year war in Ukraine, the US will be announcing a “major package of sanctions” against Russia, though no details were given. The UK went a bit more personal, freezing the assets of six Russian prison bosses who were in charge of the prison colony where Navalny died. Switzerland is also cracking down harder on companies and individuals who are attempting to take advantage of Swiss neutrality to dodge Russian sanctions. A specialist team has been set up to investigate and enforce the sanctions.

Done with geopolitics, on to business

  1. Goldman Sachs names “Seven Samurai” of Japanese stocks
    The US has its Magnificient Seven, and now Japan has its Seven Samurai. The US investment bank picked the seven Japanese companies for their “significant role in lifting the equity market to its recent heights”, with highly liquid shares that have performed well in both 2024 and over the past 12 months, with no operating or net losses since 2020. The seven are Screen Holdings, Advantest, Disco, Tokyo Electron, Toyota Motor, Subaru, and Mitsubishi Corp. This coincides with a rally that has brought the Nikkei Stock Average close to its all-time high from 1989, which is attributed to the fruitful efforts by Japanese companies to use capital more efficiently.

  2. AI image generator secures USD24 mil in Series A funding round
    Israel-based BRIA, which calls itself a “responsible” AI image generation startup, raised USD24 mil in a Series A funding round, which it will use to expand globally and build out text-to-video generation capabilities (the same tech as OpenAI’s Sora). Among the new backers is top ad agency Publicis Groupe. Here’s the interesting legal aspect of their approach - the Getty Images*-backed startup licenses more than a billion images from stock providers for its system, which “heads off the risk of trademarks and other fraught elements appearing in its generated images”, according to CEO Yair Adato.
    *Getty Images is one of the world’s largest providers of stock images


  1. The Body Shop to close half of its UK stores
    Up to half of the beauty retailer’s 198 UK stores will be closed as part of a restructuring exercise, which will see a headcount reduction of about 40% of its 2,200 UK staff, of which 750 work at its head office. The retailer’s Ambassador Programme and original direct selling network will close as well. The Malaysian ops, which is operated by Bursa-listed InNature Bhd, said it is business as usual (BAU) in Malaysia and that it has received assurance on its supply chain way past 2025.

  2. Starbucks China launches pork-flavoured coffee for CNY
    The coffee giant launched the “Lucky Savoury Latte” for the Chinese New Year season, with the drink a combination of espresso and “Dongpo braised pork” sauce. Steamed milk is then added before more sauce is drizzled on top before the drink is garnished with a piece of pork. Reviews are mixed, with even the coffee giant describing the flavour as “surprising”.

  3. iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature saves lost hiker
    The hiker took a wrong turn in California’s Angeles National Forest but was rescued when he used the feature, which uses satellite data to identify the location of the device without the need for cellular data or WiFi. The feature is activated by pressing the lock button and one of the volume buttons simultaneously until the Emergency SOS slider pops up. On another note, Apple has also warned users not to dry wet iPhones in a bag of rice, stating it might cause small particles of rice to damage the devices instead. In fact, experts have long warned this technique is not effective.


  1. The fastest-growing sports in the United States — pickleball. This sport is also growing in popularity in Malaysia! Check out the sports here - a mix of elements from tennis, badminton and ping pong. Here’re the rules the game.

Credits: Chartr.co

  1. Swatch Group is the largest watch group in the world owning brands like Omega, Tissot, Oris and Longines. Listed in Switzerland, the company reported revenue of CHF7.89 bil (USD8.96 bil) and net income of CHF890 mil (USD1.01 bil) in 2023 — check out its financials here.