Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ Titiwangsa MP Johari Abdul Ghani emerged as substantial shareholder of MyNews
DuitNow transaction fees hoo-ha explained. Cost of Living: Of rice crisis, bread price hikes and increasing salary. ChatGPT/OpenAI major upgrade - USD90 bil valuation, live searches now.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
2.29kg — the amount of plastic each Malaysian discards each year into the ocean, according to a survey conducted by Utility Bidder, an energy service provider from the United Kingdom (UK). This made Malaysia among the top 10 countries that contribute the highest amount of plastic waste to the ocean. The country that took the top spot is the Philippines — 3.3kg per person annually. You can read the report here.
3-inch sandwiches — Subway’s answer to the Asian country with the highest inflation rate — Pakistan. This marks the first time the fast-food chain has launched a mini version globally. Pakistan’s headline inflation rate decreased for the third straight month in August to 27.38% on an annual basis, but double-digit inflation won’t bode well for any nation.
Frank Rubio became the first US astronaut who spent one year — 365 days — in space aboard the International Space Station. Until now, only four other humans, all Russians, have reached the 365-day mark, although others have come close. Two more Russians are joining the list along with Rubio, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin. Staying in space for a year was a surprise for Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin. Their mission plan initially intended for all three to return home after six months. However, their Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft encountered a coolant issue, rendering it unsafe for the return trip.
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3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
DuitNow transaction fees fiasco
Payments Network Malaysia Sdn Bhd (PayNet), the operator of DuitNow QR, has stated that the media had previously created confusion after the latter lumped two types of e-payment transaction fees into one. According to PayNet, there are two different types of e-payment transaction fees — the merchant discount rate (MDR) and peer-to-peer transaction fees.
Regarding the MDR, MDR is a transaction fee imposed on the merchant for every debit/credit card payment transaction or QR payment. At the moment, debit/credit card payments are subject to MDR, while QR payments are waived from MDR until Nov 1, 2023. Thus, MDR for QR payments is not a new nor an additional fee. As for the peer-to-peer transaction fees, it is a 50 sen fee for transactions above RM5,000 for peer-to-peer fund transfers from a personal QR to another personal QR and it is unrelated to the MDR.
Responding to the current MDR fiasco, Public Bank has decided to maintain the MDR waiver on QR payments indefinitely, while CIMB Bank will maintain the status quo up until the end of the year.
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) is the majority shareholder of PayNet alongside 11 other financial institutions as joint shareholders, namely Malayan Banking Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd, Public Bank Bhd, CIMB Bank Bhd, AmBank (M) Bhd, Hong Leong Bank Bhd, Affin Bank Bhd, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd, Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd and Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd.
PayNet was formed in 2017 after the merger of Malaysian Electronic Clearing Corporation Sdn Bhd (MyClear) — a wholly-owned subsidiary of BNM and Malaysian Electronic Payment System Sdn Bhd (MEPS), owned by the 11 financial institutions mentioned above), to facilitate the formation of world-class and competitive payment infrastructures and systems.
Cost of Living: Of rice crisis, bread price hike and increasing salary
The gatekeeper of imported rice in Malaysia, Padineras Nasional Berhad (Bernas), stated that there is a sufficient supply of white rice in the country. Evidently, Bernas said that for the first eight months of 2023, Bernas has supplied 630,000 metric tonnes of rice to the local market, a 38% increase compared to the average monthly sales over the past five years. This means that the market can sustain itself without having the government use its buffer stock supply.
In more news related to the current rice supply crisis, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security said that the ministry will allow restaurant associations, food entrepreneurs and hawkers to purchase imported white rice (BPI) at the wholesale price of RM160 for every 50kg for them to manage their operation cost and not burdening the rakyat. However, the relevant parties need to apply for the wholesale license from the ministry. As for the price of local white rice, the ministry has no plans to increase the price from the current RM2.60 per kg. The price of local white rice is still controlled under the Rice Act (Grade and Price Control) Order (Amendment No. 4) 2008 and Control of Paddy and Rice Act 1994 (Act 522).
Enough with the rice crisis, now we go to the bread dilemma instead. The Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry has given an ultimatum to Gardenia Bakeries Sdn Bhd up until Oct 3 to explain the announced price hike for 30 of its products. Its Deputy Minister Fuziah Salleh reiterated that Putrajaya has no power whatsoever to stop the planned price increase by Gardenia. Still, the ministry just wanted to make sure that there is no element of profiteering present behind the planned price hike.
Moving on to other cost-of-living matters, most economic readers will agree that we are always being lectured back in school that the minimum wage policy has little-to-no effect on employment. This fact may be true, but it does not mean that the minimum wage policy is useless. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), median monthly salaries and wages in 2022 increased by 7.7% to RM2,424 from RM2,250 in 2021 after Putrajaya implemented the RM1,500 minimum wage policy in May 2022. The manufacturing sector recorded the highest increase in monthly salaries, which was 7.9%. Chief Statistician Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin also added that apart from the implementation of the minimum wage policy, other factors such as increased tourist arrivals and improvements in the labour market, especially in the services sector also attributed to the increase in median monthly salaries in 2022.
PSA: And here we are again on the water issue. For Klang Valley residents, Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Air Selangor) is announcing a scheduled water supply disruption on Oct 10 from 9 a.m. that will affect residents within the Kuala Lumpur, Petaling and Hulu Langat areas - view the list of affected areas here. The planned water supply disruptions are due to the implementation of asset improvement and maintenance work at the Sungai Langat Water Treatment Plant (WTP). The water supply will normalise in stages after the work is set to be done by 7 p.m. on the same day.
Tycoon Lim Kang Hoo announced a major restructuring of his companies. Lim, who is a major shareholder of Ekovest Bhd, Knusford Bhd, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd (IWH) and Iskandar Waterfront City Bhd (IWCity), wanted to group the various but similar business segments of his portfolio of companies under an enlarged Ekovest Bhd. The summary of the proposals here and the post-restructuring org chart here.
Outside of Parliament, Titiwangsa MP Johari Abdul Ghani has emerged as a substantial shareholder of MyNews Holdings Bhd via JAG Capital Holdings Sdn Bhd (holding 9.09% of MyNews’ stake). There have been boardroom changes in the form of the resignation of the executive chairman, Ding Lien Bing, effective Sept 30. Group CEO Dang Tai Luk will be replacing him. MyNews market cap stands at RM412 mil.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
ChatGPT parent OpenAI in talks for share sale valuing the firm at up to USD90 bil; ChatGPT can now provide up-to-date searches again
The share sale would value the firm between USD80 bil to USD90 bil and will position OpenAI among the most highly-valued startups, on a level with SpaceX or ByteDance. Should the deal hit the USD90 bil mark, it would value the firm at triple its worth from earlier this year, when Microsoft invested billions. Instead of issuing new shares to raise capital, the deal would allow employees to sell their existing shares to investors. However, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman noted he does not see the company going public or putting itself up for sale.
OpenAI has also reintroduced the browsing feature to ChatGPT, which allows the AI to browse the internet to provide users with current information where previously information retrieved by ChatGPT was up to Sep 2021 only. The feature is now available to paid ChatGPT users, with plans to include all users soon. The browsing feature was previously integrated in May but was disabled two months later over fears that it could allow users to bypass paywalls.
Meta to add chatbots “with personality” to Facebook Messenger, as firm spends USD181 mil to end lease of unused office
The chatbots will specialise in certain subjects but are still a work in progress with limitations, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The idea behind these chatbots is that they are not designed just to answer questions but are about “entertainment” as well. Certain celebrities, such as Snoop Dogg and Kendall Jenner, have also lent their personalities to different types of chatbots (wonder how much they are being paid). The feature will be rolled out “in the coming days” and only in the US for the initial phase.
Meanwhile, the firm paid out USD181 mil to prematurely end a lease on a London office that Meta never moved into. There were 18 more years on the lease, and the total paid was equal to seven years’ worth of rent. Meta had previously announced plans to lease the building after an extensive refurbishment but changed plans to sublet the space instead. The commercial real estate sector is looking bleaker by the day.
Line Man Wongnai preps for USD300 mil IPO
As foodpanda seeks to exit Southeast Asia, its Thai competitor, backed by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte, is working with local advisers and interviewing international banks to arrange the IPO, with a listing potentially happening as soon as next year, according to an unnamed source. The company confirmed that it seeks a listing as early as 2025. Co-founder and CEO Yod Chinsupakul had previously mentioned the firm aims to achieve a valuation of over USD10 bil eventually.
Indonesia bans goods transactions on social media platforms
The Indonesian government aims to rein in direct sales on major platforms with this ban, stating that those sales are harming “millions of small businesses”. This follows calls for a regulation governing social media and e-commerce, as offline vendors see their livelihoods threatened by the sale of cheaper products on social media platforms such as TikTok Shop. The ban will still allow social commerce to place ads, but the ads cannot be transactional or lead to a shop. Sea Ltd’s Shopee and GoTo Group’s Tokopedia are seen as the benefactors of this ban. Biggest loser: TikTok, just as it plans to invest billions of dollars in this region.
China’s property giant Evergrande sees trading halted
The trading halt comes as the firm’s chairman was placed under police surveillance, which follows reports earlier this week that other current and former executives have been detained. The trading halt also comes a mere month after the firm’s previous 17-month trading suspension was lifted. Evergrande defaulted in 2021, triggering the current property crisis in China. The majority of the firm’s debt is owed to ordinary citizens who have paid for unfinished homes.
Iraqi wedding turns tragic as fire claims over 100 lives
The fire was caused by fireworks set off as the bride and groom danced, with the flames fuelled by the highly flammable panels that covered the wedding venue. 14 people have been arrested over the incident, including the venue’s owner and three people involved with the fireworks. For images of the aftermath (NSFW!), click here.
Dumbledore actor passes away
Sir Michael Gambon, who portrayed Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movie series after the death of Richard Harris, passed away at age 82 from pneumonia. He was one of the original members of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre acting company in London and was knighted for his services to the entertainment industry in 1998.
US accuses Amazon of illegal monopoly
US regulators sued Amazon, with the Federal Trade Commission alleging the e-commerce giant of using “a set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies” to increase prices and choke out competition. Amazon has denied the allegations and “looks forward to making that case in court”. Amazon is the latest tech giant to be sued by US regulators, with Google having taken the stand earlier this month after the regulators accused it of having an advertising technology monopoly.
Weekend read: See inside Starbucks' quest for 'the cup of the future'
Starbucks is unveiling its “cup of the future”, featuring built-in washing stations for reusable cups. This innovative design significantly reduces waste by promoting cup reuse and recycling. Starbucks plans to test these eco-friendly cups in select markets in 2023, marking a major step toward its sustainability goals.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Females in Malaysia have a higher life expectancy than their male counterparts — according to DOSM. A summary of life expectancy by sex and ethnic group:
Meta announced its smart glasses called Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses. It will be on sale from Oct 17, starting at USD299 (RM1.4k) — pre-order here.
Probably the most extravagant mooncake packaging by luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet. Happy Mid Autumn Festival Malaysia!