• 08 Mar 2018 2:34 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    KUALA LUMPUR: The Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc) is jointly developing the Exchange 106 tower at TRX (TRX Tower) with the Mulia Group and construction is expected to be completed by the second half of 2018.

    MoF Inc had on Thursday confirmed its unit MKD Signature Sdn Bhd for the joint development with the Mulia Group and the costs would be borne by the two parties based on their shareholding.

    The TRX Tower is part of the entire TRX development area which is expected to have a gross development value of RM40bil.

    The MOF Inc’s participation in the development of the TRX Tower was agreed at the onset to only materialise when the project has reached certain development milestone. 

    To recap, MKD acquired a 51% stake in Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd – a company incorporated in Malaysia with a paid-up share capital of RM500,000 – in July 2017. The remaining 49% is owned by the Mulia Group.

    “MKD has made arrangement with the HSBC Bank for a standby line to finance its proportional construction cost of 51% without any added premium by the JV company,” said MoF Inc.

    In May 2015, Mulia Property Development Sdn Bhd bought the 3.42 acres TRX land at the price of RM665mil from TRX City Sdn Bhd. 

    “The sale of the TRX land to Mulia was done on commercial terms with no discount accorded to Mulia,” MoF Inc said. 

    The TRX Tower will have a nett lettable area of 2.8 million square feet space. Upon its completion, the tower will be one of Malaysia’s three iconic structure, following Petronas Twin Towers and Permodalan Nasional Berhad’s (PNB) Merdeka 118. 

    The TRX Tower is also set to be the 15th tallest building in the world by the time of completion. 

    MoF Inc said this was not its only strategic partnership in TRX development area. 

    It had also teamed up with Australia's Lendlease to develop the Lifestyle Quarter, a 17-acre mixed-use development area within the TRX. Lendlease has a 60% stake and MoF Inc the remaining the 40%.

    The completion of the TRX Tower will serve as the catalyst for the development and construction of the surrounding commercial plots within the TRX. 

    HSBC, Prudential Insurance, Affin Bank Bhd, Tabung Haji, Landlease (Australia) have already committed to take up commercial plots within the TRX and negotiations are underway for other international organisations to participate as well. 

    The TRX Tower will be the crowning success for the Tun Razak Exchange’s synergistic role in positioning Malaysia’s growing prominence in the world of global finance.

    Source : The Star

  • 28 Feb 2018 3:37 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 28): UEM Sunrise Bhd has teamed up with BlackWall Ltd, an Australian public-listed real estate company based in Sydney, to explore leasing opportunities and identify potential commercial and/or retail developments for co-working space.

    In a filing with Bursa Malaysia today, UEM Sunrise said its wholly-owned subsidiary UEM Sunrise Properties Sdn Bhd has entered into the proposed JV with Wotso S.E.A. Pty Ltd to form a JV company in Malaysia for the purpose. Wotso S.E.A is wholly-owned by Wotso Workspace Pty Ltd, which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BlackWall. Wotso is a pioneer in leasing of co-working space in Australia.

    However, the proposed JV is subject to approval of both UEM Sunrise Properties' and Wotso S.E.A’s board of directors and shareholders, as well as authorities.

    Under the JV, both companies will also jointly manage the operations for the lease of co-working space and serviced office suites.

    Both UEM Sunrise and BlackWall will own an equal 50% stake in the JV company, whereby each party will subscribe to 400,000 shares of the company at an issue price of RM1.

    The JV company will also enter into a licensing agreement with Wotso for the use of the latter's licence, operations, system and use of other related intellectual property rights for a fee.

    "In relation to the JV company’s business, each party undertakes not to be involved directly or indirectly, in other similar businesses in Malaysia, for a period of three years from the JV agreement date or termination of the JV agreement," UEM Sunrise said.

    The proposed JV is not expected to have a material effect on the group's earnings and net assets for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2018 (FY18), the filing added.

    At 3.08pm, UEM Sunrise shares were down 4 sen or 3.54% at RM1.09, with 1.17 million shares done, bringing a market capitalisation of RM4.99 billion.

    Source : The Edge Markets

  • 22 Feb 2018 6:23 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    WELLINGTON/SYDNEY: The final version of a landmark deal aimed at cutting trade barriers in some of Asia-Pacific's fastest-growing economies was released on Wednesday, signalling the pact was a step closer to reality even without its star member the United States.

    More than 20 provisions have been suspended or changed in the final text ahead of the deal's official signing in March, including rules around intellectual property originally included at the behest of Washington.

    The original 12-member deal was thrown into limbo early last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritize protecting U.S. jobs.

    The 11 remaining nations, led by Japan, finalized a revised trade pact in January, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8.

    The deal will reduce tariffs in economies that together amount to more than 13 percent of global GDP - a total of $10 trillion. With the United States, it would have represented 40 percent.

    "The big changes with TPP 11 are the suspension of a whole lot of the provisions of the agreement. They have suspended many of the controversial ones, particularly around pharmaceuticals," said Kimberlee Weatherall, professor of law at the University of Sydney.

    Many of these changes had been inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of U.S. negotiators, such as rules ramping up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which some governments and activists worried would raise the costs of medicine.

    The success of the deal has been touted by officials in Japan and other member countries as an antidote to counter growing U.S. protectionism, and with the hope that Washington would eventually sign back up.

    "CPTPP has become more important because of the growing threats to the effective operation of the World Trade Organization rules," New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker said on Wednesday.

    Last month, Trump told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that it was possible Washington might return to the pact if it got a better deal.

    However, Parker said on Wednesday that the prospect of the U.S. joining in the next couple of years was "very unlikely" and that even if Washington expressed a willingness to join CPTPP, there was no guarantee that the members would lift all the suspensions.

    Parker said the deal would likely come into force at the end of 2018 or the first half of 2019.

    Governments were quick to tout the economic benefits of the agreement.

    "The TPP-11 will help create new Australian jobs across all sectors - agriculture, manufacturing, mining, services - as it creates new opportunities in a free trade area that spans the Americas and Asia," said Steven Ciobo, Australia's minister for trade, in an emailed statement.

    The first attempt to agree to a deal last November stalled amid opposition from Canada, which was seeking protection of its cultural industries.

    An economic analysis released by the Canadian government on Wednesday said the pact would provide exporters with tariff savings of C$428 million ($338 million) per year.

    Total Canadian exports to other CPTPP countries are projected to increase by C$2.7 billion, or 4.2 percent, by 2040, compared to gains of C$1.5 billion under the original TPP.

    New Zealand's government expected the CPTPP to boost the island nation's economy by between NZ$1.2 billion ($881 million) to NZ$4 billion a year, with beef and kiwifruit exporters among the top beneficiaries of the deal.

    The 11 member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

    Source : The Star Online

  • 05 Feb 2018 8:47 AM | Anonymous

    In March, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will welcome the ten leaders of ASEAN to Sydney for a special summit focusing on business and security ties. This is the first time Australia has hosted ASEAN. By any definition, it is a significant event in Canberra's diplomatic calendar, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet taking on an across-government steering role in the long lead-up to the summit.

    On one level, such an investment of time and energy demonstrates the growing prominence of South East Asia in Australia's foreign policy. Economically, it is a major market of over 600 million people, although it accounts for just 15% of Australia's trade. In security terms, South East Asia "frames Australia's northern approaches" and most important trade routes, and "sits at a nexus of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific", according to the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.

    Yet these same currents of strategic competition have also rudely exposed ASEAN's limitations as a supranational organisation, as less than the sum of its constituent South East Asian parts. This is particularly so on faultline issues like the South China Sea, where China has successfully played on intra-ASEAN divisions.

    As a result, more of Canberra's diplomatic energies in South East Asia are being invested bilaterally and in new groupings such as the Australia-India-Japan-US quadrilateral – in effect bypassing ASEAN.

    Canberra still sees ASEAN centrality as the main anchor for its big-tent diplomacy in the wider region due to its convening power over the 18-member ADMM Plus and East Asia Summit. Maintaining open and inclusive multilateral architecture remains a key organising principle for Australia's prosperity and security. Canberra does not want to see exclusive groupings emerge in ways that force binary choices between prosperity and security, or between China and the US. ASEAN has usefully muddied these waters by pursuing engagement and dialogue promiscuously, but at the cost of process-heavy obligations that eat into the schedules of ASEAN leaders, their beleaguered officials and dialogue partners.

    ASEAN is more to be pitied than blamed for this. The 10-member association lacks real teeth for collective bargaining because its members consistently refuse to compromise national interests, or to cede sovereignty upwards – a point that many South East Asians will privately concede.

    This mattered less in the past. But Australia has belatedly come to realise that it needs to do more heavy lifting in South East Asia, as questions mount over the US commitment to the region and China's economic heft and coercive footprint fills the space left behind. This is clear in the subtext of the 2017 White Paper, which emphasises Australia's bilateral relationships in South East Asia as a "high priority", alongside ASEAN engagement.

    At the same time, Canberra's renewed interest in the Quad suggests it is actively hedging by developing alternative security structures that skirt ASEAN. This is something that past Australian leaders have been loathe to do. Kevin Rudd flirted with the concept of an Asia Pacific Community, but ultimately deferred to ASEAN centrality. But things have moved on, because ASEAN's strategic disunity can no longer be ignored.

    The emphasis on "South East Asia" in Australia's latest foreign and defence policy white papers is also instructive. References to the "ASEAN region" are still popular in some quarters of the Australian foreign policy commentariat, where hope remains that Australia will one day join the grouping. But such proprietary terminology only flatters to deceive. Australia's engagement with ASEAN needs to be recognised as subordinate within a wider South East Asia policy, Timor-Leste included.

    Canberra would like its various upgraded bilateral partnerships with countries such as Vietnam and Singapore, and "mini-laterals" including the Five Power Defence Arrangements and the Quad to be seen as complementary to Australia-ASEAN ties. Hopefully they are. But even as Australia prepares to stage an unprecedented ASEAN-Australia summit, Canberra is busy diversifying its diplomatic efforts partly in response to ASEAN's shortcomings.

    Two major gatherings will be held on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia conclave, a business summit and a counter-terrorism conference. Terrorism, while important, is also a safe-bet denominator for security cooperation with South East Asia, given ASEAN's reluctance to overtly mention inter-state tensions and China's strategic challenge in particular. Several South East Asian defence ministers were recently invited to Perth for preparatory discussions on counter-terrorism, focusing on the potential flow-back threat to the region, as jihadists exit Iraq and Syria.

    The ruinous siege in Marawi has shone a spotlight on the southern Philippines and the vulnerable urban environment in South East Asia at large as the next phase of terrorist challenges in Australia's region. Canberra has stepped up its bilateral defence assistance to the Philippines, including urban warfare training, taking advantage of the Duterte administration's positive disposition towards Australia. Australia's military capacity is modest. But without great power baggage, Canberra has opportunities to be nimbler than the US as it moves to deepen defence partnerships in South East Asia.

    ASEAN still offers a worthwhile channel for Australia to help South East Asia counter terrorism and violent extremism, via the ADMM Plus. But there are risks attached. One is that Australia's focus on counter-terrorism could duplicate Indonesia's recently proposed Our Eyes initiative, involving six ASEAN members. Another is that concentrating too much on the military aspects of counter-terrorism could embolden regional militaries to take on roles best left to civilian law enforcement.

    Yet counter-terrorism can offer useful "cover" for strategic security cooperation. Australian patrol aircraft sent to the Philippines during the latter stages of the battle for Marawi plugged surveillance gaps in the Philippine military's terrorist detection efforts. But they were also deployed in useful proximity to the South China Sea, to enable monitoring of China's continuing build-up of strategic infrastructure in the Spratly Islands.

    Finally, the endemic problem of duplication in ASEAN-led processes could potentially undermine Australia's future counter-terrorism and maritime security capacity-building, including the trilateral Sulu Sea coordinated patrols, among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

    In light of this, Canberra should do what it can to support rationalisation and de-confliction efforts within ASEAN. This is one area where the Philippines was notably active during its year as ASEAN chair in 2017, producing a concept paper to cut back on redundant activities. The job of implementing these rationalisation efforts now falls to Singapore, the current chair.

    One useful message that Turnbull could reinforce to ASEAN leaders in Sydney next month is the virtue of a "less is more" approach when it comes to meetings and summitry. That might sound a little awkward coming from the host of a celebratory summit. But it could help a lost ASEAN rediscover its much-celebrated "way".

    Source: The Interpreter

  • 04 Feb 2018 12:50 PM | Anonymous

    AirAsia announced today it would shift its Melbourne operations to the Avalon Airport later this year, making it the first airline to operate international flights at the Australian airport.

    AirAsia X Malaysia will operate twice daily flights at the Avalon Airport, with 500,000 international passengers projected to move through the airport in the first year of operations.

    “Since our inaugural flight in 2007, AirAsia X has flown over 30 million guests, including 6.1 million Australians — tourists wanting to experience amazing Australia, students from across the globe and Australians who wish to see the world,” AirAsia Group CEO and AirAsia X Co-Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said at an industry event at Avalon Airport in Melbourne.

    “We are proud to renew our commitment to making air travel affordable for Australians with this move to Avalon, which will help us maintain our cost edge and allow us to continue offering low fares to Asean, Asia and beyond.”

    AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail said that with 560,000 additional seats allocated annually, the Avalon Airport project would boost business and tourism in both countries.

    “We are proud to be the first airline to operate international flights at Avalon Airport, connecting Melbourne and the Victorian region with Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

    “Melbourne and Victoria are important markets to us and this new service with 560,000 seats annually will provide a significant boost to business and tourism, including to such attractions as the Great Ocean Road.”

    Source: Malay Mail Online

  • 24 Jan 2018 9:08 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    Australia and 10 other nations are set to sign a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal following talks between officials in Tokyo.

    Under the new deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), several original provisions have been suspended and 18 new free trade agreements will be delivered.

    “For Australia that means new trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and greater market access to Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei,” said Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo.

    Trade ministers from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam will attend a signing ceremony in Chile in March.

    Canada had to be coaxed back into the fold after failing to attend a final vote on the deal at the APEC conference in Vietnam in November.

    Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, overnight, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the agreement the “right deal”.

    The TPP was also going to include the US before President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

    Ciobo said Australians can expect the deal to drive exports and create new jobs, as well as “eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in a free-trade zone, with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion”.

    Source : Business Insider Australia

  • 18 Jan 2018 5:12 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    SP Setia raises the benchmark with UNO Melbourne.

    MELBOURNE: SP Setia Bhd which has a strong presence in this Australian city with its iconic projects, has raised the benchmark again with the impending Kuala Lumpur launch of UNO Melbourne residential and hotel tower project.

    The project, located along A’Beckett Street in the central business district (CBD), comprises 486 apartments and 256 hotel rooms.

    UNO Melbourne represents the latest property project by SP Setia following the successful launches of Fulton Lane, Parque, Maison Carnegie and Marque Prahran and Sapphire by the Gardens.

    According to Setia (Melbourne) Development Company Pty Ltd chief executive officer Choong Kai Wai, the proposed concept for UNO Melbourne aims to produce a landmark development that addresses inner-city urban living in this evolving northern fringe CBD precinct.

    It took into account the surrounding urban context, particularly the heritage building, and amenity – vehicular and pedestrian patterns as well as shared open space.

    Choong said even before the preview to be held on Jan 20 to Jan 21 at the Setia International Centre in Kuala Lumpur, SP Setia has received strong response from buyers.

    Construction of the 65-storey landmark mixed used development – which has a combined gross development value of A$518mil (RM1.6bil) – starts in the third quarter of 2018. It is targeted to be completed by the first quarter of 2021.

    The sizes of the apartments range from 548 sq ft for a one-bed, one-study unit to a three-bed and a study covering1,108 sq ft.

    With a price range from A$499,000 to A$1.45mil, UNO’s target market are owner occupiers, young families, young couples, investors, down-sizers and offshore residents that frequent Melbourne, touted the world’s most liveable city.

    The facilities include a lobby and a concierge on the ground floor, a wellness club on level 40, sky lounge on level 64, secured carpark, hotel amenities on level, a childcare centre on level two and hotel amenities on level nine.

    During a media trip, Choong said Setia executed the project within six months upon purchasing the site last July. It engaged ElenbergFraser to come out with the architectural design. The orientation of the building is orthogonal both to the street and to the existing heritage building which creates a commanding presence in the streetscape.

    This also orients the building to the north to harness the winter sun for passive solar heating. Choong said the apartments can achieve an average five-star energy rating using the NatHERS standard.

    “The shape is derived from the internal planning of the building. It is a direct result of planning the building to maximise views from the living areas and provide privacy to the bedrooms.

    “The building is a true mixed-use building where the largest challenge is in incorporating high quality residences upon a fully serviced four-star hotel, as well as integrated retail, food and beverage and a childcare facility,” he said.

    According to Reade Dixon, the principal of ElenbergFraser, UNO has a high plot ratio of 36:1, compared with the current standard of 18:1 ratio. This allows the company to scale up the significance of the project and also the grandeur and makes UNO one of the last few high-rise towers in Melbourne CBD offering spectacular views .

    “It has a commanding view of the other parts of Melbourne as the other buildings were then at an 18:1 ratio before the ruling was changed in April 2016.

    “Bedroom windows are pulled back into the floor plate and living areas are pushed out to the corners, allowing privacy to the personal spaces and maximising amenity to the living spaces. This provides a distinctive butterfly-shape to the plan,” Dixon added.

    The glass to be used is double glazed with an Argon gas filled cavity.

    “The colour and dichroic effect is provided by a sophisticated Low-E coating that reduces the heat and glare in summer and insulates from the cold in winter, as well as providing a bright, reflective appearance that ensures the privacy of the occupants,” he said.

    The launch in Malaysia will be held this weekend at Setia International Centre.

    Source : The Star

  • 18 Jan 2018 4:50 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australia’s financial intelligence agency, is hosting the inaugural ASEAN-Australia Codeathon in Sydney from 14 to 16 March 2018 seeking innovative digital solutions to fight terrorism financing.

    Rapid integration in the region has created the need for greater cooperation to deal with increasingly complex challenges like terrorism. Deep transnational links between terrorist groups in different geographical locations necessitates enhanced cooperation and information sharing between countries. The Codeathon has been described as one tangible way that Australia and its ASEAN partners can share challenges and resolve joint issues in innovative ways.

    This event, being held in the run-up to the March 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, builds on the strong regional partnerships between financial intelligence units (FIUs) and industry, bringing together technology and innovation specialists to tackle regional challenges in the fight against terrorism. Subject-matter experts in CTF (counter-terrorism financing), financial institutions, software developers, programmers, analysts, designers, engineers and other skilled individuals from FIUs, and FinTech and RegTech communities, from ASEAN as well as Australia, are expected to participate. AUSTRAC is encouraging them to register by February 2, 2018.

    In November 2017, Bank Negara Malaysia and AUSTRAC hosted the first International FIU Codeathon at the Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 2017 CTF Summit winning team created a program that provided cryptocurrency users and platforms with an artificial intelligence-enabled service to red-flag blockchain addresses that have been directly involved in, or linked to, suspicious activity.

    AUSTRAC CEO, Nicole Rose PSM, said, “We saw great success with the first Codeathon event of this kind held in Kuala Lumpur in November 2017, and are looking forward to seeing similar outcomes from Sydney”.

    “Countering terrorism financing is a challenge that crosses regional borders, technical expertise and business sectors. A collaborative approach to national security innovation is required to disrupt and dismantle all means of terrorism financing in our region,” she added.

    The Codeathon contributes to innovation in national security and is very closely tied to the Prime Minister’s counter-terrorism (CT) agenda for Australia and ASEAN. It draws on the alliances between public and private partnerships and leverages them to deliver CT outcomes.

    At the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, senior officials will convene at a dedicated CT Conference to discuss how Australia and its ASEAN partners can work together more effectively to combat this shared and rapidly evolving threat.

    Source : Open Gov Asia

  • 16 Jan 2018 9:56 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    KUALA LUMPUR: Bursa Malaysia Securities has given EcoWorld International Bhd (EWI) a waiver where it can recognise the sale of its property development projects.

    EWI, which derives most of its revenue from the UK and Australia, has cumulative sales of RM7.7bil as at Oct 31, 2017.

    It said on Tuesday the waiver from Bursa under the accounting treatment would avoid it being classified as an affected listed issuer for the financial year ended Oct 31, 2017.

    To recap, EWI disclosed in its IPO prospectus dated March 9, 2017, revenue from the sale of property in the UK and Australia from an accounting prospective can only be recognised by the subsidiaries and joint ventures of EWI when the risks and rewards of the property sold have been fully transferred to the purchasers.

    “Accordingly, EWI will not recognise any revenue from the property development projects or share of profits (where applicable) until the physical completion and handover of vacant possession of the projects,” it had stated in the prospectus.

    This is unlike in Malaysia where the sales are recognised progressively.

    EWI said the sales generated from property development projects in the UK and Australia as at Oct 31, 2017 showed its capability to generate operating revenue upon completion of the property projects.

    EWI also said the construction of all launched blocks was progressing well and it was on track to achieve its maiden handover of two blocks within its London City Island Phase 2 project and one block of the Embassy Gardens Phase 2 project in the financial year ending Oct 31, 2018.

    If EWI was deemed a listed issuer, it would be required to assess compliance with Paragraph 8.03A of the Listing Requirements for the FY ending Oct 31, 2018 and thereafter with the inclusion of EWI’s proportionate joint venture revenue in computing “revenue on a consolidated basis”.

    EWI said it was expected to generate operating revenue upon handover of the above residential units in the same financial year.

    “As a result of the revenue recognition method, EWI is precluded from complying with paragraph 8.03A(2)(b) of the Listing Requirements,” it said. 

    A listed issuer is a company which does not have adequate level of operations when its business or operations generates revenue on a consolidated basis that represents 5% or less of the share capital based on its latest annual audited or unaudited financial statements.  

    Elaborating on its strong property sales, EWI said as part of its expansion and growth plans, it has been actively exploring new development opportunities in the United Kingdom and Australia and has announced three acquisitions in 2017.

    “Upon completion of the acquisition of its 70% equity stake in Be Living’s residential development business and the new project in Macquarie Park, EWI will have nine projects in the United Kingdom and three projects in Australia.

    “This augurs well for its future growth prospects and the long-term viability of its business model as an international developer with a strong local presence in each of its target markets,” EWI said.

    Source : The Star

  • 15 Jan 2018 4:30 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    KPJ Healthcare Bhd is in advanced talks to sell its stake in loss-making Jeta Gardens, an aged care centre and retirement village in Queensland, Australia, to an Australian party that is in a similar line of business, sources say.

    “It is a party of Australian-based investors that they are talking to. It is likely that a deal would be signed once the buyer is able to raise financing for the purchase [of the stake and the property],” a source familiar with the matter tells The Edge.

    KPJ owns a 57% stake in Jeta Gardens (QLD) Pty Ltd, which operates the business. Al-’Aqar Healthcare Real Estate Investment Trust, in which KPJ has an indirect 39.25% stake, owns the property.

    Hence, the proposed disposal of Jeta Gardens will involve both KPJ and Al-’Aqar. If a deal pans out, KPJ will receive proceeds from the sale of the stake, while Al-’Aqar will receive proceeds from the sale of the property.

    KPJ, when contacted, declined to comment. Its major shareholders are Johor Corp Bhd, with a 43.61% stake, and the Employees Provident Fund with 12.69% equity interest.

    In 2011, KPJ paid RM19 million cash for a 51% holding in Brisbane-based Jeta Gardens, already loss-making at the time. The rest of the stake was held by the Australian founder of the business, Tan Choe Lam, and a group of local investors.

    Over time, KPJ raised its stake to 57% and pumped in more money to expand the capacity at the aged care centre.

    In FY2016, KPJ marked down its investment cost in Jeta Gardens to about RM16 million. Al-’Aqar, meanwhile, listed the property’s fair value at RM142.56 million in its 2016 annual report.

    If successful, the sale would mark KPJ’s exit from the aged care services business in Australia. However, it will continue to operate two centres in Malaysia — KPJ Senior Living Care (SLC) at the Tawakkal Health Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and Love Care Centre in Sibu, Sarawak, adjacent to the KPJ Sibu Specialist Hospital.

    In the overall scheme of things, these are very small businesses to KPJ, which is primarily a hospital operator. SLC, for example, registered a gross operating revenue of just RM1.9 million in FY2016.

    Whether KPJ will go bigger into the aged care business at home remains to be seen.

    According to a source, this will depend largely on upcoming legislation around aged care facilities. The Private Aged Healthcare Facilities and Services Bill, proposed by the Ministry of Health to ensure higher standards in the aged care industry, reached the second and third readings on Oct 24 last year.

    “The legislation for aged care will likely be presented in the coming Parliament session,” the source says.

    Margins in the aged care business in Malaysia are thin and there is no proper funding mechanism for those that require such care.

    “Private insurance, for example, does not cover the stay in such facilities at the moment, and neither are there social security benefits that would entitle old folks to at least a subsidy — so those are the biggest problems for such businesses,” the source adds.

    Once the bill is passed, among others, all aged care facilities with at least four residents must register with the government and adhere to a minimum standard for services and charges.

    KPJ’s investment in Jeta Gardens in 2011 was, in fact, for the specific purpose of acquiring the technical know-how to run an aged care facility.

    That KPJ plans to sell Jeta Gardens now is no surprise. While the former has managed to narrow the latter’s losses over the years, the business would require further investment if it is to turn around. It is understood that KPJ is not prepared to pump in more money as it wants to focus on the expansion of its domestic hospital business in the short to medium term. Over 90% of the group’s earnings is generated in Malaysia.

    In Australia, KPJ reported a loss before zakat and tax of RM5.69 million in the first nine months of FY2017, compared with a loss of RM8.09 million in the same period a year ago, as a result of better economies of scale at Jeta Gardens.

    MIDF Research, in a Jan 3 report on KPJ, said the company’s management had indicated that it was in an advanced stage of disposing of Jeta Gardens. There were, however, no details on the price or potential buyer in the report.

    According to the research house, Jeta Gardens will be sold at net tangible asset value, and the proceeds will be recognised as a gain on disposal. It said the disposal would only be completed in the first half of FY2018 following an extraordinary general meeting next month.

    “We are positive about the fact that KPJ has decided to exit Jeta Gardens as … it is showing no sign of turning around anytime soon. This is despite the continuous effort by the management to turn around the operation, including adding more capacity to the facility in 2015.

    “Furthermore, we believe the management will be able to use the proceeds from the disposal to pare down debt and reinvest in expanding existing hospitals, which will benefit KPJ in the future,” says MIDF Research.

    KPJ has 25 hospitals in Malaysia, two in Indonesia, and a passive stake in a hospital in Thailand. It has a hospital in Bangladesh where it is merely the operator.

    Analysts say there will be more asset disposals to come as KPJ looks to pare down debt and manage its cash flow better. KPJ’s gross debt stood at RM1.589 billion as at end-September last year.

    Just last month, KPJ announced that its 60%-owned subsidiary, Selangor Specialist Hospital Sdn Bhd, will sell a five-storey car park block at the KPJ Selangor Specialist Hospital to Al-’Aqar for RM13 million. The proceeds are to be used to pare down debt at that hospital.

    “You’ll see more hospital assets being sold to Al-’Aqar from FY2019. I think it’s a good thing as it helps them clean up their balance sheet and boost profit,” an analyst says. KPJ’s net gearing stood at 0.71 times as at end-September, which is on the high side compared with its peers.

    Among the hospitals that could be sold to the REIT from FY2019 onwards are KPJ Pasir Gudang, KPJ Sabah, KPJ Bandar Maharani, KPJ Rawang and KPJ Selangor (consultant suite), says MIDF Research.

    For the first nine months of FY2017, KPJ’s net profit rose 4.11% to RM101 million, coming in below analysts’ expectations as it accounted for only 63% of consensus’ full-year earnings forecast.

    Some analysts, however, are optimistic that the group’s operations are poised to pick up in FY2018 given an improvement in patient volume as new hospitals open, and a potential new round of price revisions that could take place this year.

    According to MIDF Research, KPJ Perlis is expected to be ready for operations sometime this month, while other hospitals expected to be opened in FY2018 and FY2019 include KPJ Bandar Dato’ Onn in Johor, KPJ Kuching, KPJ Miri and an expansion of KPJ Sabah.

    The company’s share price, which was down 5.55% last year, closed at 98.5 sen last Friday. Bloomberg data shows that of at least 17 analysts who track the stock, most (10) have a “hold” call on it, while six have a “buy”, and one, a “sell”.

    Source : The Edge Markets

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