Discover more from The Coffee Break
☕️ When China's USD480 bil livestreaming economy is bigger than Malaysia's entire economy
Exclusive partnership: Jaya Grocer x Australia's Coles Supermarket. No more fully fossil fuel-powered Lamborghini moving forward. Why are all action heroes named Jack, James, or John?
1. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
Thailand is poised to become the world's second-largest rice exporter, with an aim to exceed 8 mil tonnes of rice exports this year. In the initial four months of 2023, Thai rice exports reached 2.62 mil tonnes, marking a 14.4% year-on-year increase, according to Anucha Burapachaisri, the Deputy Secretary-General to the Prime Minister and Acting Government Spokesperson. The world’s largest rice exporter is India.
Livestreaming in China generated sales of USD480 bil (RM2.24 tril) last year (greater than Malaysia’s 2022 GDP of RM1.79 tril), and research firm eMarketer predicts a 30% increase in sales this year despite the challenging economic conditions. It even attracted one of the biggest companies in the world to join the foray. Apple’s show, featuring product experts sharing tips on utilising Apple devices, garnered impressive engagement with 300,000 likes and over 1.3 mil viewers within just one hour in May.
Anna Delvey Indian Version — A guest at a luxury hotel in Delhi managed to stay for nearly two years without paying his bill before finally checking out, as reported by the Indian Express. Ankush Dutta spent a total of 603 nights at the Roseate House Hotel near the airport, accumulating a bill of over INR 5.8 mil (USD71,000) before leaving in January 2021.
It’s how you stay informed. Get the daily newsletter of many Malaysians for free.
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Before we start, rest assured there will be no more Tun M-related news — just for today. There is no room for racism in Malaysia. We have come too far to repeat the dark history of 13 May 1969.
Episode N: Entanglement of Corruption within government ministries
Former Youth and Sports Ministry finance division secretary Otman Arsahd has been sentenced to 15 years in jail and is being imposed with a staggering fine of RM284.2 mil for 96 corruption and money laundering counts. Among the crimes he committed was submitting false claims to the tune of RM38.4 mil at the National Sports Council Office (MSN) and Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex.
Businessperson Sim Choo Thiam had filed the application in court to strike out the RM15 mil corruption allegations against him. Sim had allegedly ‘made the ball of corruption moving’ to assist Asia Coding Centre Sdn Bhd to secure contracts from the Home Ministry when the current Parliamentary Opposition leader Hamzah Zainuddin was the Home Minister.
“Once a political system has been corrupted right from the very top leaders to the lowest rungs of the bureaucracy, the problem is very complicated. The cleansing and disinfecting have to start from the top and go downwards in a thorough and systematic way. It is a long and laborious process that can be carried out only by a very strong group of leaders with the strength and moral authority derived from unquestioned integrity.”
- Lee Kuan Yew, former Singapore PM, on beating corruption
Palm oil, Pineapple technology
The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) has introduced a palm-based mozzarella cheese analogue where milk fat could be substituted with palm oil. The so-called vegan cheese is suitable for pizza making. Less milk for cheese-making means more milk for the broader market. MPOB’s chairman Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said that MPOB has offered 712 palm oil-related technologies where 32.7% of them have been commercialised.
The Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board (MPIB) will be introducing a new pineapple variant that is expected to boost the domestic production of tropical fruit. Under the 12th Malaysia Plan, Putrajaya aimed to produce 700,000 metric tonnes of pineapple by 2025. However, at the moment, Malaysia can only harvest between 400,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes of pineapple per annum and only control 0.25% of the global market share. Out of the 16 pineapple varieties in Malaysia, only four of them are export-worthy. But according to MPIB, the soon-to-be-launch variant could be exported too.
As a fellow former student that used to study in Brisbane, this news brings a smile to my face. Malaysian-based Jaya Grocer and Australia-native Coles Supermarkets had struck an exclusive partnership for the latter to supply the former with 200 Australian products. This new influx of Australian products will be available at all 43 Jaya Grocer outlets nationwide.
Milk producer Farm Fresh Bhd (FFB) announced that the recent unusual and volatile movement of its shares was due to the decreased production of raw milk from its supplier in Australia. However, FFB clarified that it is much less affected by the issue. YTD, the counter has dropped by 32.1% as of yesterday’s closing.
Axiata Group Bhd’s Boost Holdings Bhd is confident that its 60:40 digital banking venture with RHB Bank Bhd dubbed Boost Bhd will be profitable in 2027, after three years of operations and without any fresh capital injection during the period from Axiata. Beyond 2027, Boost Bhd will be looking into the market, IPO (initial public offering) or monetisation of the assets to raise extra funds. Boost Bhd is among the five entities that secured a digital banking license from Bank Negara on April 2023.
Let’s take a look at Boost Holdings’ financials — revenue jumped by 73% to RM83.3 mil in 2021 from RM48.25 mil in 2020. Losses improved to RM162.57 mil from RM302.75 mil during the same period. Boost has 10.5 mil registered users, of which about 700k are active -= that’s just a 6.7% active base, which is rather low and probably about right, we think. I can’t remember when was the last I even used the Boost app.
The High Court had nullified the RM86.8 mil proposed fine against Grab Holdings and its two subsidiaries by the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC). In 2019, MyCC found out that Grab had violated the provisions under the Competition Act 2010 by imposing restrictive clauses on its drivers that created a barrier to entry to Grab’s current and future competitors.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Saving humanity -
From Russia’s nuclear threat
The Financial Times (FT) reported, citing Western and Chinese officials, that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. This face-to-face message was said to be delivered during Xi’s visit to Moscow back in March. China has been playing a balancing act in its ‘no limits partnership’ with Russia and the European countries, which China’s economy is dependent on.
From AI going rogue
ChatGPT creator OpenAI announced in a blog post that it plans to invest significant resources and create a new research team to monitor and keep “potentially superintelligent AI” in check and safe for humans. Superintelligent AI is a system more intelligent than humans, which OpenAI predicts could arrive this decade. No dollar amount was mentioned on the resources, but OpenAI said it will be dedicating 20% of the computing power it secured over the next four years towards this initiative. Microsoft, back in January, invested USD10 bil in OpenAI.
For Tun M and Muhyiddin, their own version of AI nightmare is already here.
Valuation going downhill
PharmaEasy, an Indian online pharmacy and one of India’s largest pharmacy firms, is seeking to raise USD300 mil in a new round at a 90% markdown from its previous valuation of USD5.6 bil in 2021. Its valuation has collapsed to around USD500-600 mil. Why the desperation? The company has to repay the USD285 mil debt it took from Goldman Sachs last year to repay an earlier debt in the USD600 mil acquisition of Thyrocare.
Bitkub, Thailand’s largest crypto exchange, saw its valuation take a massive hit, down 81% from USD1 bil in 2021 to USD184 mil in a recent share sale. Siam Commercial Bank, Thai’s oldest bank, earlier agreed to acquire 51% of Bitkub at the USD1 bil valuation. However, the deal was called off over regulatory issues.
EV: End of price war, end of full fossil fuel-powered Lambo
The EV price war in China triggered by Tesla at the end of 2022 has come to an end. 16 carmakers, including Tesla, BYD and Geely, have signed a pledge to maintain fair competition and avoid “abnormal pricing” in the world’s biggest EV market. It’s a pledge, so it isn’t binding. Before one thinks this is anti-competitive (we initially thought it was), this was directed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers to bring the 16 companies together to sign the pledge.
Lamborghini said it has sold out its remaining production run of fossil fuel-powered or combustion engine models. From here on out, all new Lambos will be semi-electrified and Lamborghini’s full EV will be out later this decade. Last July, the sports carmaker said it will invest EUR1.8 bil (USD2 bil) to produce a hybrid lineup by 2024. Would it still be a sports car without the roaring vroom vroom sound?
Meta’s Twitter-killer Threads said it crossed 10 mil signups within 7 hours. In the first 2 hours, it got five mil signups. To celebrate the launch, Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg tweeted A Spiderman for the first time in more than a decade. Smart move to generate buzz using the competitor’s platform.
An interesting business model experiment - an airline offering clothing rental service. Japan Airlines (JAL) has launched a clothing rental service to help travellers to travel light, which in turn reduces fuel and CO2 emissions. One can rent up to 9 items from prices starting at USD28 (RM130.54). The trial runs from 5 July until August 2024, with the booking and fulfilment process handled by Sumitomo Corporation. An interesting name too, it is called - Any Wear, Anywhere. Check it out here.
Formula 1 is making a return to China in 2024 for the first time since the pandemic. There will be a record total of 24 races. Full calendar and locations of the race in 2024 here.
Weekend read: Why Are All Action Heroes Named Jack, James, or John?
John Wick, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Reacher, John McClane (Diehard) - the Slate investigates this trend in the past 70 years of action movies.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
Had a rough week at work? Here’s some motivation from Mr Money TV on how much you need to save to retire comfortably.
Do you dare say you never did any of these, not even one?