Malaysia Update: April 23, 2020

Malaysia Update | April 23, 2020
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Tina Jamaluddin, Emma Tabatabai, Marc Mealy, Alberto Coria, Nick Zuroski 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Malaysia Extends Movement Control Order Until May 12

In a televised speech on April 23, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the Movement Control Order (MCO) will be extended by two weeks until May 12.  In his address, Prime Minister Muhyiddin noted that although the number of new daily infections have slowed in response to MCO protocols, such steps “have to continue until a time when we are confident that the COVID-19 pandemic is completely under control.”  The day of Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s announcement, Malaysia announced 71 new infections—the seventh day in a row with fewer than 100 new daily cases. 

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah confirmed that he met with Prime Minister Muhyiddin earlier in the day to discuss the criteria for lifting the MCO.  Dr. Noor Hisham stated that currently there is not enough data on such criteria to end MCO procedures, namely data establishing: effective border control; population movement control; the healthcare system’s capacity; protection of high-risk groups; adherence to new norms; and interagency cooperation to implement preventive measures. 

Prime Minister Muhyiddin mentioned that some restrictions will be lifted during the MCO’s next phase, but did not offer specific details.  As this is an evolving situation, the Council will keep members informed as new developments unfold. 

Malaysian Financial Sector Regulators Offer Additional COVID-19 Relief Measures

During the unveiling of its 2019 annual report on April 16, the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) announced new financial relief measures in capital markets for publicly listed companies in response to economic headwinds created by COVID-19.  The relief policies include a temporary relaxation of Practice Note 17/2005 (PN17) and Guidance Note 3 (GN3) classifications, which define companies in financial distress and outline protocol for restructuring financing to maintain listing.  According to SC Chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Albar, the changes came into effect on April 17 and will last until June 30 of 2021, providing more time for public companies to stabilize their financials in light of present economic uncertainty. 

More specifically, the announcement waives PN17 obligations based on circumstances in which: the shareholder’s equity is 25% or less of the share capital and below RM40 million; auditors report material uncertainty or a going concern; and a listed issuer discloses a default in payment.  Syed Zaid noted that as of April 16, there were twenty-five PN17 companies listed on the Main Market and three GN3 companies on the ACE Market.  In addition, the measures raise the equity crowdfunding (ECF) limit from RM5 million to RM10 million in recognition of novel fundraising strategies utilized by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).  Platforms facilitating ECF and peer-to-peer financing (P2P) will be allowed to conduct secondary trading.  Until September 30, MyCIF—Malaysia Co-Investment Fund—will raise its funding matching ratio from 1:4 to 1:2 for eligible ECF and P2P campaigns. 

The SC also mentioned that the measures will allow listed companies to issue new securities at a rate higher than the standard requirement to provide additional avenues for fundraising.  Listed issuers will also be given extensions for deadlines on submission of financial statements.  The speech observed that total funds raised in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to RM22.7 billion, and that this year’s issuances of corporate bonds and sukuk (Islamic bonds) should range between RM90 billion to RM100 billion “based on industry feedback.”   

Malaysia Cuts Oil Production in Response to Global Demand Decline

On April 13, Minister (Economy) in the Prime Minister’s Office Mustapa Mohamed announced that Malaysia had agreed to reduce its crude oil production by 136,000 bpd for May and June of this year, in accordance with OPEC+’s record deal expected to cut global production by 10%.  The cuts come in response to significantly declining global oil demand due to the various economic and travel slowdowns stemming from COVID-19.  Minister Mustapa stated that the move aims to assist in stabilizing the global market and supply security. 

Public Investment Bank Bhd observed that these reductions exceed Malaysia’s traditional production cuts—typically between 15,000 and 20,000bpd—by an enormous margin.  In a statement on April 21, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said that the government has taken the decline of oil prices into account for this year’s budget deficit forecast.  A few weeks ago, Minister Tengku Zafrul announced that the government’s budget deficit for 2020 would increase to 4.7% of GDP after it unveiled its RM10 billion SME stimulus package

The unprecedented decline of global oil demand hints to future challenges for Malaysia’s oil and gas sector, a significant sector in Malaysia’s economy accounting for 20% of the government’s projected revenue.  On April 20, for the first time ever U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell over $50 a barrel to $30 below zero in anticipation of May futures contracts expiring the next day.  In other words, sellers hoping to get oil off their hands would have to pay buyers to do so.  Those developments overseas hit Malaysia’s oil and gas stock hard.  On April 21, Bursa Malaysia Energy Index was the market’s worst performer, while Petronas Chemicals Group Bhd and Petron Malaysia Refining and Marketing Bhd declined 4.2% and 7.5%, respectively.    

Maritime Spat Between Malaysia and China in South China Sea Draws in U.S. Military

On April 21, the U.S. Navy announced that two U.S. warships were navigating the South China Sea in proximity to a potential maritime confrontation between Malaysia and China.  China’s Haiyang Dizhi 8—a government research ship—entered waters close to Malaysia on April 16 and was spotted trailing exploration vessel West Capella belonging to Malaysia’s Petronas the next day.  According to a Malaysian security source, at one point the Chinese ship was surrounded by over 10 Chinese vessels involved with the Chinese coast guard and navy.

The deployment of the two ships follows an official statement from the United States on April 18 that urged China to refrain from “bullying behavior” against oil and gas developments of other countries in the region.  China claims nearly all of the territory in the South China Sea within its nine-dash line based on historical mandate, but the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan have presented competing claims.  The region’s significant strategic value, stemming from its rich supply of natural resources and role as a major global trading route, has contributed to the territorial dispute.  On April 15, when the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was in proximity to Vietnam, China’s foreign ministry stated that its ship was merely under normal operation and accused the United States of diplomatic slander.  After a Chinese vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the South China’s Sea disputed Paracel Islands earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State claimed in a statement that China is using the pandemic to “exploit the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea.”

China has also recently been rolling out COVID-19 diplomacy initiatives across Southeast Asia through donations of aid and medical equipment.  On April 23, Health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham confirmed that Malaysia is discussing coordination over vaccine development with two Chinese pharmaceutical companies.  The week of April 13, China sent a group of medical experts to Malaysia to assist the government with containment and treatment efforts.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
MCO: Operations of public transport, wet markets extended during Ramadan
Malaysia's green zones increase to 56 districts, as Pekan, Bentong, Rembau, Tampin, Kuala Pilah record zero active Covid-19 cases
Two more areas in KL under EMCO — Selayang Wholesale Market and Pusat Bandar Utara
Malaysia's daily new cases drop to 85 after 28 days of MCO
MCO: Govt to impose price control scheme on essential items from Wednesday (April 15)
M’sian govt decides not to allow public to go out for haircuts, make spectacles after complaints
Businesses in ‘green zone’ can resume operations after getting govt’s approval
EPF grants extension for April 2020 contribution payment date
Legal firms urged to remain closed throughout MCO
Fourth EMCO in Selangor Mansion, Malayan Mansion along Jalan Masjid India — minister

COVID-19
Steering Malaysia towards a new normal
Malaysia enrols first patient for drug trial
Covid-19: M'sia likely to stick with targeted testing, says Health DG
Malaysia Airlines needs government assistance
Malaysia to use AI solution to combat COVID-19 pandemic
Huawei contributes tech solutions for Malaysia's Covid-19 fight
Ramadan e-bazaar app ready soon
A Consortium of labs launches COVID-19 screening programme in Malaysia

Customs
Containers are being transported from ports, intermediary warehouses overstacked — FMFF
Malaysians in Singapore advised to stay put for two weeks
Malaysia's trade in Feb 2020 expands 11.6 pct to RM136.28 bil
Malaysia's Feb exports jump nearly 12%, strongest growth in 16 months

Defense & Security
Malaysia calls for peaceful end to months-long South China Sea standoff
Sarawak steps up security along border with Indonesia
Drone Delivery Puts the Focus on US-Malaysia Security Cooperation
New Delivery Highlights Malaysia-France Artillery Deal

Economics
Bank Negara reserves enough to support almost 8 months of imports
Johor sets up  SERC, digital bank to boost economy post-Covid-19
Malaysia's economy to bounce back to 9 percent in 2021, says IMF
Malaysia's development financial institutions offer more than RM900m in financing aid to virus-hit SMEs
Lazada launches RM10m stimulus package for new, old sellers
Govt to introduce price control scheme from April 15
RM10b Prihatin Package amounts to 0.7% of GDP, pushing budget deficit to -4.7% of GDP
Higher unemployment rate weighs consumer spending
BNM Annual Report 2019: Private consumption to see further slowdown in 2020, grew slower at 7.6% in 2019

Energy
Analyst sees RM31 billion lost this year from dip in crude oil prices
Petronas may reduce domestic spending
IDEAS: Malaysia may lose RM31 bil per year if oil prices remain at US$30 per barrel
Malaysia says welcomes OPEC+ pact to cut crude oil output
Energy consumption reeling from COVID-19, MCO
Sabah imposes 5% petroleum product sales tax from March
Majuperak to supply solar energy for Perak
Petronas makes oil discovery in US Gulf of Mexico
Petrol, diesel prices continue to dip amidst Covid-19 pandemic
Practise power conservation at home during MCO

Financial Services
MCO gives REIT managers buying opportunities
EPF launches e-CAP to allow SMEs to defer and restructure employer contributions
IRB premises to resume operations with limited services tomorrow
SME Bank’s govt-guaranteed IMTN oversubscribed by 4.5 times
Foreign selling of local equity surged to RM638.6m last week, says MIDF Research
RHB Insurance offers relieve to policyholders affected by Covid-19
Bursa Malaysia grants further extension of time to submit financial statements
Foreign outflows from ringgit bonds at RM12.4b in March
Bank Negara Extends Virtual Banking Consultation Period Due to COVID-19 Distruptions
Maybank to temporarily waive interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee
MCO: RM1 interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee waived
Moody’s downgrades Malaysia banking system outlook to negative
Insolvency Dept offers six-month moratorium for bankrupt Malaysians
Bank loans processing available during MCO

Food & Agriculture
MIER calls for clear food security strategy
Malaysia proposes ASEAN nations to formulate mechanism on surplus food
Plantation sector experts concerned over May CPO exports
COVID-19: Agropreneurs urged to boost digital marketing capacity
Poultry farming slow down due to lower prices, supply
Report: Malaysia Has Enough Rice To Last Us For Two And A Half Months
Defence minister: All agricultural and fisheries product supply chain allowed to operate as usual
Building resiliency into Malaysia’s long-term food security
Govt urged to keep borders open for food supply
Sabah wants to manage own food stockpile during Covid-19 crisis

Health & Life Sciences
Malaysia working out with South Korea on speeding up delivery of rapid test kits — Health DG
Logistics, high demand delaying rapid test kit from Korea
Remdesivir has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in Malaysia
MoH received 2,309 calls, 252 Whatsapp messages seeking counselling services in two-week period
Malaysia’s daily recoveries top new infections for fifth time with 168 cases against 134
'Medibot' to do rounds on Malaysian virus wards
Malaysia sees biggest single-day rise in recoveries, exceeds new infections for first time
Insurance and takaful industry announces details on Covid-19 test fund

ICT
MoE distributes ICT devices
Small traders and local hawkers are ready for Ramadan e-bazaar with 'Warong Digital'
GSMA confident of Malaysia’s 5G progress despite setback caused by pandemic
Internet service installation, maintenance allowed in green zones, says MCMC
Ministry launches free app to check your health
E-hailing companies cooking up plans with traders to realise Ramadan e-bazaar
TM deploys 5G base stations at 2 Covid-19 quarantine centres
Telcos and TM working to boost slow internet connectivity during MCO
Axiata, Digi are UOB Kay Hian Research’s top picks
Govt launches pilot project to monitor spread of Covid-19 pandemic via app
Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 turns to tech to contain outbreak
Health D-G: Putrajaya developing software to predict, locate Covid-19 cases

Infrastructure
19,077 contractors applied but only 1,856 approved to operate
MBAM and Rehda will work together to combat Covid-19
CIDB postpones International Construction Week in light of Covid-19
Contractors glad they can work
RM2.9bil contracts for construction sector in Q1, up 55pct year-on-year
Court rules on challenges to AIAC and statutory adjudication
Continuation of large-scale infra projects to provide additional lift to economic growth - BNM
MPM takes over Labuan Liberty terminal, plans RM10 million upgrading works

Manufacturing
Rubber glove exports expected to hit RM20 bil this year
Manufacturing sales grew by 7% in February 2020
Top Glove rises to record high
Malaysia Feb manufacturing sales up 7% y-o-y at RM110.6b
Services and manufacturing remain key contributors to economy
Malaysia March manufacturing output dented by Covid-19 pandemic
Worker crunch hits world's top medical glove maker Top Glove as demand spikes
Malaysia least impacted as Asean manufacturers report their worst month on record in March

Travel & Tourism
More emphasis on Cuti-Cuti Malaysia to revive tourism sector
AirAsia announces resumption of domestic flights
Foreign tourist receipts at RM86.14bil in 2019
Hotel industry feeling the brunt of the virus impact
IATA: RM14.4b revenue loss for Malaysia’s aviation industry due to travel restrictions
Malaysia airline industry could lose US$3.32b in revenue due to Covid-19 crisis, IATA says
Grounded airlines in Malaysia take to the skies to help Covid-19 frontliners
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

MCO: Operations of public transport, wet markets extended during Ramadan NST Online 23rd Apr 2020
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all activities during the month of Ramadan will be the same as those in place for the ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO) nationwide, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on April 23. However, he said a slight tweak has been made to allow Muslims to make necessary preparations for iftar, or the breaking of fast. "(Our) meeting today concluded that operational hours for public transportation will now be from 4pm to 10pm, compared to 5pm to 10pm previously. The operational hours for wet markets will also be extended from 6am to 2pm, compared 6am to noon previously," he told a press conference aired live on television. Asked if operational hours for restaurants will also be extended, Ismail said 'no'. On food supply at enhanced MCO areas, Ismail said that the government received complaints on food distribution at Pusat Bandar Utara, here. Following that, he said that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and the Social Welfare Department (JKM) have been instructed to ensure issues surrounding food distribution in the area are resolved soon. He also said operation centers at EMCO areas have been set up, and affected residents can seek help from the authorities stationed there.

Malaysia's green zones increase to 56 districts, as Pekan, Bentong, Rembau, Tampin, Kuala Pilah record zero active Covid-19 cases Malay Mail 21st Apr 2020
The number of districts in Malaysia classified as green zones — those without any Covid-19 cases currently — rose to 56 on April 20, based on the latest figures from the Health Ministry released today. April 20 was also when the country hit a record low of new Covid-19 cases during the movement control order (MCO) period with just 36 additional cases, and also recorded zero deaths from Covid-19. In addition to the 26 green zones that never recorded any Covid-19 cases, the Health Ministry's data as of April 18 showed that there were also 21 districts that had recorded Covid-19 cases previously but had zero active cases on that day. This means that there were a total of 47 districts in Malaysia that were green zones with zero active cases on April 18. The number of green zones with zero active cases has continued to increase to 52 districts on April 19, and to 56 districts on April 20.

Two more areas in KL under EMCO — Selayang Wholesale Market and Pusat Bandar Utara The Edge Markets 20th Apr 2020
The government has decided to place the Pusat Bandar Utara and the Selayang Wholesale Market area in Kuala Lumpur under Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) effective April 20 until May 3. Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Saabri Yaakob said the decision to impose the sixth EMCO was made on the advice of the Ministry of Health involving six parcels that had been identified as follows: Parcel A: Jalan 6/3A, Pusat Bandar Utara, Kuala Lumpur Parcel B: Jalan 6/3A dan 9/3A, Pusat Bandar Utara, Kuala Lumpur Parcel C: Jalan 2/3A, Pusat Bandar Utara, Kuala Lumpur Parcel D: Jalan 2/3A, Pusat Bandar Utara, Kuala Lumpur Parcel E1: Taman Sri Murni Fasa 2, Jalan 1/2D, Kuala Lumpur Parcel E2: Taman Sri Murni Fasa 1, Jalan 1/2D, Kuala Lumpur Parcel E3: Taman Sri Murni Fasa 3, Jalan 1/2B, Kuala Lumpur Parcel F: Taman Batu View and Taman Batu Hampar, Kuala Lumpur The Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market, more commonly known as the Selayang Wholesale Market, is not subject to the EMCO, only the surrounding areas.

Malaysia's daily new cases drop to 85 after 28 days of MCO The Edge Markets 15th Apr 2020
Malaysia reported 85 new daily cases of Covid-19 on April 15 — the lowest daily figure after 28 days into the imposition of the Movement Control Order (MCO) — bringing the tally to 5,072 cases. This is the first time Malaysia has reported a daily figure that is less than 100 infections since March 15, with 41 cases. The next day, daily infections quadrupled to 190 cases. According to the Health Ministry, the number of daily recoveries was double the number of daily infections, with 169 cases. This brings the recovery rate in Malaysia to 2,647 cases or 52.2% of the country’s total infections. This means that there are 2,342 active cases in Malaysia, all of whom are undergoing treatment. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement that to date, 56 positive cases are being treated in intensive care, with 32 of them needing respiratory assistance. One more death was reported, bringing the death toll to 83 cases. Selangor remains the state with the highest number of confirmed infections with 1,316 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur (926), Johor (601) and Sarawak (371). Meanwhile, total red zones in Malaysia have increased to 27 with the addition of Muar, Johor yesterday.

MCO: Govt to impose price control scheme on essential items from Wednesday (April 15) The Star Online 14th Apr 2020
A price control scheme on essential items will be imposed by the government during the movement control order period (MCO) starting Wednesday (April 15), says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Ismail said that the price of 12 items will be monitored under the scheme, including chicken, eggs, cooking oil, and wheat flour. Ismail said that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry has been monitoring the prices of 25 essential items, such as chicken, eggs, hand sanitisers, and masks, during the MCO period. He said that ministry personnel made a visit to 1,133 business premises on Monday (April 13) as part of their daily rounds to monitor the prices of essential items.

M’sian govt decides not to allow public to go out for haircuts, make spectacles after complaints The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
The government has decided to disallow the resumption of operations of barbers, hairdressing salons and optometrists during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, following complaints from various parties. According to the National Security Council (NSC), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had made the decision on April 13. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) had last Friday (April 10) said several sectors will be allowed to operate during the MCO period, which included barbers, hairdressers and optical shops. However, several quarters were against the idea, including the Ministry of Health, as Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had urged businesses like barber shops to defer the resumption of their operations. He said there should be at least two weeks of postponement and had emphasised the importance of the third phase of the MCO in the fight to break the chain of Covid-19 infections.

Businesses in ‘green zone’ can resume operations after getting govt’s approval The Malaysian Reserve 13th Apr 2020
The government will lift the operational ban for businesses that are only operating in the “green zone” during the third phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO), said Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. He added that the decision, which is currently being overseen by the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI), still requires approval by the ministry as it is not a blanket authorization. “MITI will look at the feedback from the public, while the approval for businesses to be reopened is not automatic as there will be application processes involved. “The processes will be managed and monitored by MITI and a standard operating procedure (SOP) will be announced by the ministry soon. At the moment, businesses which are in the ‘green zone’ are being considered to operate,” he said in a press conference in Putrajaya on April 12. Following the second extension of the country’s MCO, the government has decided to allow selected sectors to operate in stages during the third phase of the country’s MCO.

EPF grants extension for April 2020 contribution payment date Malay Mail 13th Apr 2020
The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has extended the date for employers to remit their mandatory contribution for the salary month of March 2020. In a statement, it said that the revised period is now April 15 to April 24, 2020. “In light of the ongoing movement control order (MCO) and its subsequent impact on business activities in the country, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has extended the date for employers to remit their mandatory contribution for the salary month of March 2020 (April contributions), from April 15 to April 24, 2020,” it read.

Legal firms urged to remain closed throughout MCO NST Online 12th Apr 2020
Over 6,000 legal firms nationwide have been advised to remain closed during Phase 3 of the Movement Control Order (MCO) which will be enforced from April 15. Bar Council president Salim Bashir said this was conveyed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan. "The request came about after the minister, upon being informed by minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, felt that the new MITI directive lacked specifics and details on the definition of legal services. "This has prompted Takiyuddin to reach out and inform the council to consider advising law firms to remain closed until further notification from the government," he told the New Straits Times on April 12. Salim said they are yet to know when the government will get back to them with the details and standard operating procedures for the legal sector. There are 6,253 legal firms nationwide and 19,815 Bar Council members.

Fourth EMCO in Selangor Mansion, Malayan Mansion along Jalan Masjid India — minister The Edge Markets 7th Apr 2020
The government, under the advice of the Ministry of Health, has executed the fourth directive of the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) in two buildings along Jalan Masjid India here.  This came as the two buildings there — the Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion — saw 15 confirmed positive cases of Covid-19, said senior minister (security cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in a statement today. Under the EMCO, residents are prohibited from exiting the premises, while non-residents and visitors are not allowed to enter as all entry and exit points are sealed. For residents, food can be ordered via delivery services to be delivered at designated areas. Meanwhile, only shops selling essential items can continue to operate, while a medical base will be set on-site.  The buildings join other locations under EMCO, namely two villages in Simpang Renggam, Kluang, Johor; Batu 21 to Batu 24 Sungai Lui, Hulu Langat, Selangor; and Menara City One in Jalan Munshi Abdullah here.

COVID-19

Steering Malaysia towards a new normal The Star Online 23rd Apr 2020
AS Malaysians adjust to restrictions under the movement control order, most businesses have been taking a beating. This is especially so for those struggling to eke out a living on a day-to-day basis. To that end, the Government has stepped up with financial assistance schemes and initiatives to help those most affected by the MCO. One way to continue earning is by switching to an online business model.

Malaysia enrols first patient for drug trial The Star Online 23rd Apr 2020
KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has enrolled its first patient for the WHO-led Solidarity Trial that attempts to find the best drug to treat Covid-19, said the ministry’s Clinical Research Centre director Dr Goh Pik Pin.

Covid-19: M'sia likely to stick with targeted testing, says Health DG The Star Online 22nd Apr 2020
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's targeted approach when it comes to mass testing for Covid-19 has shown good outcomes, says the Health Ministry. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry had adopted this approach since day one of the Covid-19 outbreak and would likely stick with it.

Malaysia Airlines needs government assistance NST Online 18th Apr 2020
Malaysia Airlines needs government financial support to ensure its readiness for the post Covid-19 period. The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said the aviation industry sits at the core of the whole tourism ecosystem. He said this in response to a proposal by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, on the possible merger between Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia Group. He said countries worldwide were expected to bailout their respective national carriers. He said that airports in Malaysia registered a decline of 27.6 per cent with 18.4 million passenger movements. International and domestic passenger movements decreased by 32.4 per cent and 22.4 per cent respectively.

Malaysia to use AI solution to combat COVID-19 pandemic BioSpectrumAsia 13th Apr 2020
Huawei Malaysia has joined hands with the Malaysia Ministry of Health to contribute Huawei Cloud AI-assisted Diagnosis solution to Sungai Buloh Hospital to empower local medical personnel with AI capabilities by providing an AI solution for CT image analysis of possible COVID-19 patients. The Huawei Cloud AI-assisted quantitative medical image analysis system, which was used to help handle the COVID-19 situation around the world, can analyze hundreds of CT images in seconds, precisely locating lesions, and doctors can now provide diagnosis results in just one minute.

Huawei contributes tech solutions for Malaysia's Covid-19 fight NST Online 10th Apr 2020
Huawei Malaysia has donated four technology solutions to the Ministry of Health to support the country's efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Huawei Malaysia said the solutions will enable healthcare experts to work with frontline medical professionals to conduct remote online consultations. Huawei Malaysia chief executive officer Michael Yuan said the four solutions were Huawei Telemedicine Video Conference, Hospital Wireless Network Communication Solution, AI Cloud Auto Detection Solution and Nova 7i smartphones (200 units).

Ramadan e-bazaar app ready soon NST Online 10th Apr 2020
The Federation of Malay Hawkers and Petty Traders Associations plans to launch its Ramadan e-bazaar mobile app next week. The group’s Young Traders Bureau chief, Mohd Nadzri Kamarulzaman, said the app would allow traders to run their businesses online during the fasting month. He said the app would require users to key in their identification number, phone number and it would list out shops only within a 10km radius. The app would help traders to coordinate their orders better than using social media platforms.

A Consortium of labs launches COVID-19 screening programme in Malaysia BioSpectrumAsia 9th Apr 2020
Malaysia’s leading private laboratory network, the consortium of three associated laboratories namely Gribbles Pathology (Malaysia), Quantum Diagnostics and Clinipath Malaysia (collectively the “Consortium”), on 8 April 2020 announced the launch of the country’s largest COVID-19 collection and testing programme to assist the country’s effort to ‘flatten the curve’. With the widest collection centre network and the largest testing capacity in the country, the participating laboratories will soon be able to conduct over 5,000 tests daily with 24-hour turnaround time. Patients will have access to reliable and quicker testing at an affordable price.

Customs

Containers are being transported from ports, intermediary warehouses overstacked — FMFF The Edge Markets 20th Apr 2020
While containers are being transported from Malaysia’s ports, intermediary warehouses outside of ports are near full capacity. Speaking to theedgemarkets.com, Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders (FMFF) president Alvin Chua said freight forwarders are only delivering to those who have the approval from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to receive goods. In Port Klang alone, Alvin noted that on-port storage has gone down to about 50% to 60% of storage capacity, from 70% previously. That said, there are 50,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) still stuck at the port, with the bulk containing materials for the construction and automotive industries. Chua continued to note that it was unlikely that all of the goods in these containers would be delivered until after the movement control order (MCO) is slated to end on April 28, 2020. This is as it would take five days for such businesses to get approval from MITI to operate and bring these materials in. Chua also noted that logistics and transport players (including freight forwarders) are required to apply for approval to operate by MITI. Of the 1,300 members under FMFF, some 5% or 65 of its members have received approval from the ministry.

Malaysians in Singapore advised to stay put for two weeks The Edge Markets 7th Apr 2020
Malaysians working in Singapore are advised to stay in the city-state for at least another two weeks, instead of coming back home. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this as the authorities of the two countries are still in talks on the terms for Malaysians returning from Singapore, considering the two countries are now under movement restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak.  However, Malaysians who are insisting to return home will have to go through the necessary measures by the Health Ministry to screen them for Covid-19.  Last Friday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a "circuit breaker", where most workplaces, except for key economic sectors and essential services, will be closed effective today.  Meanwhile, all schools and institutes of higher learning will close and move to full home-based learning starting April 8.

Malaysia's trade in Feb 2020 expands 11.6 pct to RM136.28 bil NST Online 3rd Apr 2020
Malaysia’s trade in February 2020 grew 11.6 per cent year-on-year (YoY) to RM136.28 billion from RM122.14 billion recorded in the same period a year ago, according to the International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI). The agency said higher trade was recorded with the United States (US), Singapore, the Republic of Korea (ROK), China and Taiwan. Exports picked up sharply by 11.8 per cent to RM74.45 billion in February 2020, compared to a 1.5 per cent decline in January 2020 while imports expanded 11.3 per cent to RM61.83 billion. MITI said Malaysia’s trade surplus in February 2020 grew 14.1 per cent to RM12.62 billion from RM11.06 billion recorded in February 2019. However, trade, exports and imports posted a decline of 12.7 per cent, 11.5 per cent and 14.2 per cent in February compared to January 2020. Malaysia’s total exports in February 2020 increased 11.79 per cent YoY to RM74.45 billion from RM66.60 billion a year ago. Exports of manufactured goods in February 2020, which constituted 84.8 per cent of total exports, expanded 13.1 per cent YoY to RM63.12 billion.

Malaysia's Feb exports jump nearly 12%, strongest growth in 16 months The Edge Markets 3rd Apr 2020
Malaysia's exports climbed 11.8% in February from a year earlier, the strongest on-year growth in 16 months, on higher demand for most segments of manufactured goods, government data showed on April 3. The acceleration was more than double the 5% forecast by analysts surveyed in a Reuters poll. Exports in January contracted 1.5% after a surprise rebound in December. Shipments of manufactured goods, which accounted for 84.8% of February's total exports, grew 13.1% on-year, with an increased demand for almost all manufactured goods, except electrical and electronic products as well as beverages and tobacco, data from the international trade and industry ministry showed. Increased shipments of machinery and parts, and petroleum products buoyed the export numbers along with iron and steel products as well as optical and scientific equipment exports. Agricultural exports grew 15.8%, bolstered by a 17.1% surge in exports of palm oil and palm oil-based products. Mining exports declined 3% on lower shipments of crude petroleum, the ministry said. However, liquefied natural gas exports grew 7.1%. Exports to most major markets climbed, with the United States and Singapore taking the lead. Shipments to India and Thailand dropped. Imports rose 11.3% from a year earlier, after a 2.4% drop in January. Analysts had expected an increase of 2.7%. The trade surplus in February widened to RM12.6 billion from RM12 billion in the prior month.

Defense & Security

Malaysia calls for peaceful end to months-long South China Sea standoff The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
 Malaysia called on April 23 for disputes over the South China Sea to be resolved by peaceful means, amid a standoff between Chinese and Malaysian vessels that a U.S. think tank said had been going on for months. U.S. and Australian warships arrived in the South China Sea this week near an area where a Chinese government survey vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, has been operating close to a drillship under contract to Malaysian state oil company Petronas, regional security sources have said. Since December, Chinese forces have been harassing supply ships servicing the West Capella, an oil exploration vessel operated by Petronas, Poling said. Last week, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, accompanied by a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel, entered Malaysia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and began a survey close to where the West Capella was operating. On Thursday, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was still within Malaysia's EEZ, about 337 kilometres (209.4 miles) off Borneo, data from ship tracking website Marine Traffic Showed. Three U.S. warships and an Australian frigate conducted a joint exercise in the South China Sea this week, near the site of the West Capella's operations, officials and security sources have said.

Sarawak steps up security along border with Indonesia Free Malaysia Today 9th Apr 2020
In its bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Sarawak government is stepping up security along its border to prevent Indonesians coming in through illegal crossings. “We are intensifying border security. When it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important for us to watch out for our state and people,” Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said at a press conference on April 9. He said the state government had also formed a sub-committee, led by Deputy Chief Minister James Jemut Masing, to deal with security to contain the spread of the virus.

Drone Delivery Puts the Focus on US-Malaysia Security Cooperation The Diplomat 6th Apr 2020
Last week, Malaysia’s chief of defense forces confirmed that the Southeast Asian state had taken delivery of the first batch of unmanned aerial vehicles and accompanying equipment from the United States as part of a deal that had been publicly unveiled in the middle of last year. While the development was expected, it nonetheless spotlighted an aspect of defense cooperation between the two countries amid the evolution of the wider bilateral relationship. Among the expected developments within U.S.-Malaysia defense ties was the delivery of UAVs that was first unveiled last year. Last week, we saw further details about the deal following comments by a top Malaysian defense official. Affendi Buang, the chief of the Malaysian Defense Forces, told defense outlet IHS Jane’s that the first of the UAVs had been delivered to Malaysia. Per Affendi’s comments, the first batch of the UAVs, along with related equipment, was delivered to Malaysia back in late February, when Malaysia was in the midst of undergoing its shifting coalition politics. He added that the remaining six UAVs are expected to be handed over in 2022, with the package in the deal also including training and maintenance and the ability to operate the UAVs for up to 2,000 hours for the duration of the program.

New Delivery Highlights Malaysia-France Artillery Deal The Diplomat 6th Apr 2020
Malaysia's artillery deal with France highlighted one of the aspects of Malaysia’s ongoing efforts to develop its defense capabilities to address a wide range of security challenges. Despite continued investments in its military capabilities, Malaysia continues to face challenges with respect to some of its key platforms. Addressing these challenges continues to be a priority for the Malaysian government, including through the release of documents such as the defense white paper last year, which sets out areas of emphasis over the next decade. One of the deals in this respect was for artillery systems ordered from France. Malaysia had ordered 18 105 mm LG1 light towed artillery systems from French defense company Nexter back in 2018, with the contract signed in April at the Defense Services Asia exhibition in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. The contract had included the supply of fully digitized 105 LG1 Mk III Light Guns, the BACARA compact portable ballistic computer, and a first batch of 105 mm high-explosive, base-bleed, extended-range G3 ammunition. Earlier this week, we saw a sign that the deal continued to be moving through despite these previous delays. Per a Malaysian defense official, the first few of the systems arrived last month and are currently being assembled before being delivered.

Economics

Bank Negara reserves enough to support almost 8 months of imports Free Malaysia Today 22nd Apr 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) international reserves stood at US$102 billion on April 15, 2020, the central bank said. It said the reserves position was sufficient to finance 7.9 months of retained imports and 1.1 times the total short-term external debt. BNM said the main components of the international reserves comprised foreign currency reserves (US$94.7 billion), International Monetary Fund reserves position (US$1.1 billion), special drawing rights (SDRs) (US$1.1 billion), gold (US$2.0 billion), and other reserve assets (US$3.1 billion). Assets included gold, foreign exchange and other reserves, including SDRs, which amounted to RM441.47 billion, Malaysian government papers (RM9.02 billion), deposits with financial institutions (RM3.35 billion), loans and advances (RM6.88 billion), land and buildings (RM4.16 billion), and other assets (RM19.77 billion).

Johor sets up  SERC, digital bank to boost economy post-Covid-19 The Malaysian Reserve 16th Apr 2020
The Johor state government will establish a State Economic Reform Committee (SERC) to facilitate economic reforms and recovery post Covid-19. Mentri Besar Datuk Ir Hasni Mohammad said the advisory committee — comprising influential individuals as well as industry leaders — will hold a meeting next week to evaluate current economic challenges and identify the way forward for the state’s economy. “The SERC will make its recommendations through an economic reform plan which will include short-, medium- and long-term policies, procedures and strategic directions towards reforming Johor’s economy post-Covid-19,” said Hasni, who is also the chairman of the committee, in a statement on April 15. He added that the committee will also advise the state government on new economic areas, regional cooperation and high impact initiatives to create a sustainable Johor economic ecosystem, while recommending improvements to the Johor Sustainable Development Plan 2019-2030 in the post-Covid-19 context. Hasni said the economic reform plan will be submitted to him for further action by state government agencies such as the State Economic Planning Unit and related agencies. Aside from the SERC, the state government will also set up a digital bank to boost its digital economy. Hasni said the digital bank will make the financial sector more inclusive and capable of providing better quality financial services and accountability for all market segments.

Malaysia's economy to bounce back to 9 percent in 2021, says IMF NST Online 16th Apr 2020
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Malaysia’s economy to bounce back to grow a whopping nine per cent next year, from an expected 1.7 per cent contraction in 2020. This will be the fastest among Asean-5 economies, which according to the IMF is likely to expand at an average 7.8 per cent next year. Asean-5 also comprises Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, whose gross domestic product (GDP) are projected to grow 8.2 per cent, 6.1 per cent, 7.6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Malaysia’s solid projection will also set to outpace the global GDP growth, which the IMF expects to recover 5.8 per cent next year, sharply higher than the contraction of 3.0 per cent for 2020. “Domestically, in 2021, we are cautiously optimistic that consumer confidence and sentiment will turn positive and Malaysian households will remain financially sound, supported by improving employment conditions and stable incomes, as global and domestic economies recover next year,” the IMF said. “We believe Malaysia’s economic fundamentals will remain sound going forward, supported by the government’s fiscal discipline and fiscal consolidation, a sustainable (though narrowing) current account surplus, healthy foreign-exchange reserves as well as manageable inflationary pressure,” it added.

Malaysia's development financial institutions offer more than RM900m in financing aid to virus-hit SMEs The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
Several members of The Association of Development Finance Institutions Malaysia (ADFIM) has allocated more than RM900 million as financing aid for communities and small- and medium-sized businesses that had been affected by or been forced to halt operations since March due to the Covid-19 outbreak. On top of that, ADFIM said in a statement today that RM14.1 million has been donated by its members to various organisations to help both front liners and affected communities deal with the impact of the outbreak. According to ADFIM secretary-general Mohd Prasad Hanif, ADFIM has 17 members, among which are Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) — the operator of Micro Credit Scheme that has donated RM700 million to qualified businesses and entrepreneurs, and Bank Rakyat. Through a special Covid-19 relief scheme, BSN offers easy financing to micro-entrepreneurs in all business sectors that need help. BSN has also eased its loan eligibility requirement with a minimum operation period of six months instead of one year. The amount of financing has also been raised from a maximum of RM50,000 to RM75,000 for each entrepreneur. "Besides that, the bank offers mortgage-free financing of up to RM250,000 that involves a special relief facility for [those in the] agrofood, automation and digital [industries] with tenures of between five and seven years." Meanwhile, Bank Rakyat has allocated RM200 million to meet the financing needs of cooperatives and SMEs from March 23, subject to conditions to be met. "The bank also offers a six-month moratorium on financing repayment for individuals and companies in industries that have been affected, like aviation, tourism, and transportation," he said.

Lazada launches RM10m stimulus package for new, old sellers The Malaysian Reserve 13th Apr 2020
E-commerce platform Lazada Malaysia is launching a stimulus package for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for both new sellers and existing ones on its platform. The platform said the “Pakej Kedai Pintar” will start off with RM10 million as part of its ongoing corporate community commitment and will aim to help sellers go online, stabilize jobs and support the country’s economy. According to a statement released, the funds will help eligible SMEs enjoy free shipping services, receive weekly payments and utilize the services from Lazada’s support team that trains and develops customised sales campaigns through Lazada University. Its CEO Leo Chow said the initiative, which will run from April 2020 till June 2020, is targeting 50,000 local SMEs, especially those in the fresh food and grocery categories. Chow said through its ongoing partnership with the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs established in August 2019, it is committed to roll out new trade activities and training programs to increase the adoption of e-commerce among SMEs.

Govt to introduce price control scheme from April 15 NST Online 12th Apr 2020
The Maximum Price Control Scheme will take effect throughout Phase 3 of the Movement Control Order (MCO), beginning April 15. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the move was to avert the possibility of profiteering by irresponsible parties during the extended two-week period. He said enforcement will be done by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP), as agreed during the Special Ministerial Committee meeting on the MCO on April 12. “The list of products to be included in the scheme will be announced by KDNPHEP soon,” he said the same day.

RM10b Prihatin Package amounts to 0.7% of GDP, pushing budget deficit to -4.7% of GDP The Edge Markets 7th Apr 2020
As the government unveiled its RM10 billion assistance package targeted at helping the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), economists are saying that this additional assistance amounts to 0.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and could potentially increase the fiscal deficit to -4.7% of GDP. This is based on the government’s announced fiscal deficit of -4% of GDP.mThe total economic package of RM10 billion comprises an increased wage subsidy of RM7.9 billion and Geran Khas PRIHATIN of RM2.1 billion, said Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd Research (HLIB Research) This brings the government’s direct fiscal injection to stimulate the economy to RM35 billion. “For now, we maintain our 2020 GDP forecast of -2% and expectations for OPR (overnight policy rate) to be cut by -50 bps (basis points) as soon as the May MPC (Monetary Policy Committee meeting),” said the economists in a note today.

Higher unemployment rate weighs consumer spending NST Online 6th Apr 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia’s prediction on the rise in unemployment rate of 4.0 per cent involving 629,000 individuals this year would weigh on consumer spending. SERC said it had also revised downward Malaysia GDP’s projection of -3.0 per cent for this year, attributed to considerable downside risks given the potential broadening disruptions on economic activities if the virus outbreak prolongs. The projected deflation is largely attributable to the plunging global crude oil prices that have translated into lower fuel prices as well as moderating consumer demand. “Export-oriented industries such as electrical products and electronics, palm oil as well as oil and gas are exposed to shrinking global demand and slumping prices. This is because Malaysia’s major trading partners such as the United States, Europe and China as well as Asean countries are going through a tough time of Covid-19’s inflicted economic and financial disturbances.” SERC’s estimated that Covid-19 pandemic will run its course and dissipate gradually going into the third quarter of 2020.

BNM Annual Report 2019: Private consumption to see further slowdown in 2020, grew slower at 7.6% in 2019 The Edge Markets 3rd Apr 2020
Private consumption continued to grow but at a slower pace at 7.6% in 2019 compared to 8% in 2018.  Still, the growth pace in 2019 was higher than the long-term average (2011 to 2018) of 7%.  Private consumption accounts for nearly 60% of the Malaysian gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. As private consumption is expected to weaken this year, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has projected a slower economic growth at -2% to 0.5% in 2020, against 4.3% growth in 2019.  The central bank said in its annual report that the growth in private consumption was driven by supportive labour market conditions and selected government measures amid a modest inflation environment. Households also continued to sustain spending, particularly on necessities.  

Energy

Analyst sees RM31 billion lost this year from dip in crude oil prices Free Malaysia Today 22nd Apr 2020
An analyst in the oil and gas sector warns that Malaysia may lose some RM31 billion in revenue this year due to the low price of crude oil, which continues to be buffeted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Renato Lima de Olivera, an assistant professor at the Asia School of Business, said the complicating factor for Malaysia is its mature basin and higher production costs compared with producers in the Middle East. “While most Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) can still profitably extract oil at US$20 per barrel, many other countries will see their exploration activity come to a halt,” he told FMT. Olivera attributed the low oil prices to the drop in demand for the commodity in the transport sector due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. “About 60% of global oil consumption is in the transportation sector but now, mobility has been restricted as countries adopt lockdown measures.” And because production has continued at a time when there is little demand, Olivera said the cost of storing oil had increased.

Petronas may reduce domestic spending NST Online 22nd Apr 2020
Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) may reduce its domestic capital expenditure (capex) this year if oil prices drop further, analysts said. Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd said Petronas’ commitment to maintaining its domestic capex could be jeopardized by the Brent crude oil movement in tandem with US’ crude West Texas Intermediate (WTI). Petronas previously said it would continue with its planned domestic capex of RM26 billion to RM28 billion this year, despite the recent downturn in the oil market. However, the national oil company said it would reassess its plans and budget amid the challenging environment. On April 22, Brent crude oil prices fell below US$16 a barrel for the first time in 20 years, as storage runs out in the face of a supply glut. At press time, the benchmark crude rebounded slightly to US$16.40 a barrel for the June contract. WTI, meanwhile, hovered at US$10 a barrel. On April 20, WTI futures contracts for May fell into the negative territory for the first time in history at -US$37.63 a barrel fromUS$55.90 a barrel last Friday. For now, the firm kept its oil price assumption of US$47 per barrel for 2020. This was on the premise of some recovery in demand in the second half of 2020 against the backdrop of production cuts.

IDEAS: Malaysia may lose RM31 bil per year if oil prices remain at US$30 per barrel The Edge Markets 16th Apr 2020
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said that Malaysia may lose RM30.9 billion in fiscal revenues per annum if oil prices remain low, which would further strain the nation’s finances. It said this issue was discussed in a webinar organized by the Centre of Market Education (CME) and supported by IDEAS titled ‘Oil Economics in Times of Crisis and Energy Transition’ today, by CME board member Professor Renato Lima de Oliveira, who is also IDEAS senior fellow and assistant professor at the Asia Business School. According to Prof Renato, a field-by-field study showed that if crude oil prices stay around the US$30 per barrel mark from today till 2030, the world can expect a decrease of US$170 billion in capital investments in new production capacity and US$616 billion in government revenues on average, per year, compared with a scenario of prices at US$60 per barrel. Malaysia is also expected to lose per annum US$1.7 billion in new capital investment as well as US$7.1 billion (RM30.9 billion) in fiscal revenue from the oil and gas (O&G) segment, which would put further pressure on the country’s finances.

Malaysia says welcomes OPEC+ pact to cut crude oil output The Edge Markets 15th Apr 2020
Malaysia has agreed to cut its crude oil production by 136,000 bpd for May and June despite being a small producer and net importer of oil, its minister in charge of economic affairs said on April 15. It said it welcomes the supply reduction agreement between OPEC members and allies, as it would stabilize the global oil market and ensure supply security for consumers. OPEC and allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on April 12 to a record cut in output to prop up oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic in an unprecedented deal with fellow oil nations, including the United States, that could curb global oil supply by up to 20%. Mustapa said despite the cuts, it was critical for Malaysia to preserve a favorable investment climate since its upstream sector is a liberalized market with participation of more than 20 Petroleum Arrangement Contract (PAC) operators.

Energy consumption reeling from COVID-19, MCO The Edge Markets 15th Apr 2020
The fallout from COVID-19 has resulted in a significant impact on various sectors across the board, especially energy consumption, as the economy is operating at only about 45 per cent capacity amid the Movement Control Order (MCO) that grips the country. The International Energy Agency estimated that electricity demand in countries with partial and full lockdown has declined by around 15 per cent in markets where strong confinement has been adopted. State-owned utility provider Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has reported that electricity demand may drop due to COVID-19 but expects its earnings to be largely unaffected as the group is shielded by the regulated asset base structure for power transmission and distribution, as well as the power purchase agreement schemes for electricity generations. Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd noted that TNB will be compensated in the upcoming imbalance cost pass-through review to address the shortfall of earnings due to lower than assumed power demand. In light of COVID-19, TNB's 51 per cent-owned subsidiary Southern Power Generation Sdn Bhd (SPG) has made a force majeure declaration due to the MCO and restrictions in countries where the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) specialists supporting the project reside. Force majeure refers to unforesseable circumstances that prevent a party from fulfilling a contract.

Sabah imposes 5% petroleum product sales tax from March The Edge Markets 7th Apr 2020
The Sabah government has implemented a five per cent sales tax on all petroleum products in the state with effect from March, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal. He said the implementation of the tax was discussed with the Federal Government under the leadership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. “Naturally, with the Covid-19 we are facing, we need more funds, of course Petronas is impacted too. When I talk to its companies, they accepted it as long as they were told early, it requires careful planning because we do not carry it out and then retract, ”he said. Last month, the Kuching High Court ruled that Sabah and Sarawak had the right under the Federal Constitution to impose sales tax on petroleum products.

Majuperak to supply solar energy for Perak NST Online 6th Apr 2020
On April 6, Majuperak Holdings Bhd signed a joint venture (JV) agreement with United Solar Energy (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (USEM) to market and propose solar photovoltaic generating system (SPS). The JV was to provide a supply of renewable energy for buildings in Perak through SPS which will utilise the net energy metering scheme, said Majuperak in a statement today. The agreement was inked by Majuperak Power Resouces Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MHB. Majuperak chief executive officer Nizran Noordin said the JV agreement was an opportunity for the company to tap into the growing prospects of the renewable energy sector, particularly as the solar energy segment holds vast potential. “The annual cost savings of about 5.0 per cent to 15 per cent from the SPS will also be channelled back to the people of Perak and to the state government,” he added. USEM will also obtain the necessary approvals and licenses from the Sustainable Energy Development Authority and other relevant local authorities to commence with the SPS project.

Petronas makes oil discovery in US Gulf of Mexico The Edge Markets 6th Apr 2020
Petronas’ subsidiary, Progress Resources USA Ltd (PRUL), together with its partners have announced an oil discovery in the Monument exploration well, located offshore of the United States (US) Gulf of Mexico. The new discovery marks a significant milestone for Petronas in strengthening and developing its ventures in the Americas, as it diversifies and expands its oil and gas (O&G) business portfolio in the US and offshore US Gulf of Mexico, Petronas said in a statement today. With the discovery, further appraisal works are required to determine the full potential of the oil accumulation, it said. The Monument exploration well is located in the central US Gulf of Mexico, operated by Equinor Gulf of Mexico LLC which has a 50 per cent working interest, while PRUL holds 30 per cent and Repsol E&P USA Inc. holds the remaining 20 per cent.

Petrol, diesel prices continue to dip amidst Covid-19 pandemic NST Online 3rd Apr 2020
The pump prices for petrol and diesel continue to slide following uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Motorists who want to fill up their tank with RON97 petrol will be paying eight sen less per litre for it, starting April 4. The Finance Ministry said the new pump price for RON97 would be cheaper from RM1.68 per litre to RM1.60 for the period of April 4 to 10. The retail price for RON95 petrol would also be less by eight sen from RM1.38 to RM1.30. Diesel will be cheaper by 10 sen from RM1.68 to RM1.58 per liter. The ministry, in a statement on Friday, said, the lower retail price of petroleum products was due to the continued decline in global crude oil prices following the global economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

Practise power conservation at home during MCO NST Online 1st Apr 2020
National energy provider Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has urged users to be mindful when using electricity during the Movement Control Order (MCO). This is to ensure they can optimise the tiered rebate for electricity bills introduced to lessen the burden of the people in facing the onslaught of Covid-19 infection.

Financial Services

MCO gives REIT managers buying opportunities The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
The Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to present the real estate investment trust (REIT) sector with buying opportunities, said an industry player. Stephan Tew, non-executive director at Axis REIT Managers Bhd, said he believes the MCO will not hurt REITs as much as other property sectors. “There are a couple of REITs that are trading at 50 percent of their net tangible assets. So, there are a lot of buying opportunities, but the owners sure have their plan for the company. Therefore, you find that no one has really gone ahead and done a merger. So, I don’t see that (merger) happening at the moment,” Tew said during a webinar organized by the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) on the multi-sector market outlook. Citing Axis REIT, he said despite the MCO, the company is busy, having received a lot of deals from agents, and is allocating RM400 million this year to seek out new assets. Last year, the industrial REIT posted strong growth amid demand mainly from international players from the e-commerce market, and is set to continue growing going forward. In addition, he said, there is strong demand for central kitchens amid growing food delivery platforms. However, he said for the hotel REIT industry, three-star and below hotels are set to benefit from an improving domestic tourism sector post-COVID-19 following the personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on spending related to domestic tourism announced by the Government under Budget 2020.

EPF launches e-CAP to allow SMEs to defer and restructure employer contributions The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has announced the launch of the Employer Covid-19 Assistance Program (e-CAP) to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic. In a statement today, the EPF said e-CAP allows eligible SMEs the flexibility to choose to apply for a deferment and restructuring of the employer's share of EPF contributions for April, May and/or June 2020. "The deferred contributions for the respective month of choice can then be settled over a maximum period of three months. As an example, for SMEs who chooses to apply to defer their April contributions, their restructured payments will start from July 2020 up to a maximum of three months ending September 2020," it said. Similarly, for those applying for May, the restructured payments for that month will start from August to October 2020, while those applying for June will have their restructured payments start from September 2020 to November 2020. The e-CAP can be applied via i-Akaun (Employer) from today onwards. To be eligible for e-CAP, SMEs employers must: - have 200 employees or less on payroll - ensure that all monthly contribution payments (both employee and employer portions) up to the February 2020 contribution date (January 2020 wage) are in order - ensure that the employee's share of the payment for the contribution months being applied for (April, May or June) has been paid. The EPF also reminded employers who choose to apply for e-CAP that dividends on late payments will still apply, though the fund will consider a waiver or reduction in late payment charges on a case-by-case basis. 

IRB premises to resume operations with limited services tomorrow Malay Mail 22nd Apr 2020
All Inland Revenue Board (LHDN) premises, except at the Revenue Service Centres and Urban Transformation Centres, will resume operations on April 23 but with limited services until the end of the third phase of the movement control order (MCO), scheduled on April 28. LHDN in a statement said, however, online services would be prioritized. “e-Filing and Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) counters will remain closed. Any e-Filing and BPN new applications, as well as appeal, can be done online,” it said. LHDN also said all visitors must adhere to stringent Covid-19 measures including wearing face masks. It also advised members of the public to postpone their visit to LHDN premises if there was no urgent need as other tax-related matters can be done by phone, email and online service.

SME Bank’s govt-guaranteed IMTN oversubscribed by 4.5 times The Edge Markets 21st Apr 2020
SME Bank’s government-guaranteed Islamic medium-term notes (IMTN) issuance has been oversubscribed by 4.5 times or RM2.2 billion from the actual issuance of RM500 million on April 16. Group president and chief executive officer Aria Putera Ismail said this was an acknowledgement of the bank’s strong financial standing, market presence and its important role in nurturing and developing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “The issuance of the RM500 million sukuk has attracted several financial institutions or asset management companies,” he said in a statement on April 21. Despite the economic uncertainty and the rapid fluctuations of the money market, the negotiations were closed at 23 basis points for five years and 20 basis points for seven years, he said. He added that the IMTN has also been set with a competitive final price of between 3.02% and 3.30%. Meanwhile, Aria said as an agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, the SME Bank has implemented several initiatives in line with the government's economic stimulus plan to help support the viability of the SME sector during the Movement Control Order period and until the end of the Covid-19 crisis in the country.  He said this includes the automatic deferment of financing payment and the offering of a number of financing packages under Bank Negara Malaysia such as the Special Relief Facility as well as the Automation and Digitalisation Facility. As of Dec 31, 2019, SME Bank has approved over RM32 billion in financing to more than 17,200 SME since its inception in 2005.

Foreign selling of local equity surged to RM638.6m last week, says MIDF Research The Edge Markets 20th Apr 2020
Foreign selling of local equity on Bursa Malaysia accelerated to RM638.6 million the week of April 13, compared to RM326.0 million disposed of in the preceding week, according to MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd Research. In his weekly fund flow report today, MIDF Research’s Adam M Rahim said that in comparison to its other six Asian peers that MIDF Research monitors, Malaysia remains as the nation with the third smallest foreign net outflow on a year-to-date (YTD) basis. He said the YTD foreign outflow from Malaysia came to RM9.1 billion. “The pace of foreign net selling on Monday remained steady below RM100 million as foreign investors only sold RM76.8 million of local equities. “Foreign investors took the opportunity to accumulate some local equities on Tuesday at a tune of RM20.3 million amidst reports that China’s exports posted a lesser-than-expected decline in March 2020, falling by only 6.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) compared to the consensus of a 14.0% y-o-y drop,” he said. Adam said the momentum of foreign net selling accelerated further to RM240.1 million on Thursday amidst lackluster trading on Wall Street spurred by the US industrial output which experienced the biggest drop in more than 70 years last month. “In terms of participation, foreign investors were the only investor group which saw its average daily traded value (ADTV) increase for the week by 5.6% to RM1.03 billion while retail and institutional investors saw a weekly decline in ADTV by 11.7% and 3.2% respectively,” he said.

RHB Insurance offers relieve to policyholders affected by Covid-19 NST Online 20th Apr 2020
RHB Insurance Bhd (RHB Insurance) is providing relief to individual and SME policyholders affected by Covid-19 to ensure customers facing temporary financial difficulties continue to receive insurance protection, through its Premium Installment Scheme and Premium Relief Scheme. Under Premium Installment Scheme, both existing and new policyholders under RHB Insurance who are affected by Covid-19 may apply to pay their insurance premiums, excluding motor insurance, in installments for up to six months. This scheme is applicable for policies with due dates from 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 and allows eligible policyholders, including SMEs, the flexibility to restructure their payments in three monthly installments or six monthly installments, without affecting their policy coverage. Additionally, SME customers with insurance policy inception dates of between 1 March, 2020 to 31 December, 2020 can apply for additional relief in the form of premium discounts under the Premium Relief Scheme. This Premium Relief Scheme is the first in Malaysia that allows discounts on premiums for SME policyholders who face temporary financial constraints arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bursa Malaysia grants further extension of time to submit financial statements The Edge Markets 17th Apr 2020
Bursa Malaysia Bhd has granted a further extension of time for listed issuers to submit their financial statements, an additional relief measure to assist and support listed issuers in these challenging times due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The exchange also accorded greater flexibility for fundraising through an increased general mandate limit for the new issue of securities, and provided additional relief to ease compliance to its rules. "These temporary measures are intended to ease compliance by listed issuers and facilitate the fundraising for their working capital requirements in a timely and cost-effective manner," its chief executive officer, Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift said in a statement.

Foreign outflows from ringgit bonds at RM12.4b in March The Star Online 6th Apr 2020
Foreign outflows from ringgit bonds might have totaled RM12.4bil in March, based on Bank Negara Malaysia’s annual report data, Maybank Investment Bank Research said. It said on April 6 that there was a total of RM18bil of portfolio outflows in March. As foreign net selling of equities amounted to RM5.6bil, the foreign holdings of ringgit bonds might have declined by RM12.4bil in March.“No breakdown of flows by debt instrument is available currently. Last Friday, Bank Negara’s annual report showed the amount of outstanding ringgit liquidity placed with Bank Negara fell by RM4.9bil to RM156bil in March (Feb: RM160.9bil). This compares with a cyclical high of RM376.9bil in May 2013 when foreign positioning in Ringgit assets was probably at its peak.“On a YTD basis, surplus liquidity fell by RM12.9bil compared with a full-year decrease of RM16.1bil in 2019. The decline shouldn’t be seen a cause for alarm, as the amount of liquidity remains sufficient, in our view.

Bank Negara Extends Virtual Banking Consultation Period Due to COVID-19 Distruptions Fintech News Malaysia 6th Apr 2020
The deadline for much anticipated virtual banking framework has been extended to 30th June 2020. It is said that this extension is due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This follows their previous extension from February to April after the central bank issued an updated version of the virtual banking framework draft. The framework was initially expected to be complete and open for applications in mid-2020, however, given the circumstances it unclear whether the central bank is still looking at the same timeline. Malaysia’s virtual banking framework has attracted a number of potential applicants including the likes Axiata, Razer, Grab and Hong Kong based AMTD Group.

Maybank to temporarily waive interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee The Edge Markets 3rd Apr 2020
Maybank will temporarily waive the RM1 fee for interbank cash withdrawal transactions at its ATMs/self-service terminals with effect from April 6, 2020 until the end of the Movement Control Order (MCO). In a statement on April 3, the bank said this move is to help provide relief to customers of all banks who may have to make cash withdrawals at the nearest ATM/self-service terminal, following the enhanced restricted movement under the extended MCO to help curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Maybank has over 2,900 ATMs/self-service terminals throughout the country.

MCO: RM1 interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee waived NST Online 3rd Apr 2020
All Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in the Malaysian Electronic Payment System Sdn Bhd (MEPS) network will waive the RM1 charge for withdrawals. Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the waiver would begin on April 6 until the end of the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

Moody’s downgrades Malaysia banking system outlook to negative The Star Online 2nd Apr 2020
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Malaysia’s banking system to negative from stable to reflect growing risks from coronavirus outbreak. “Asset risks for banks will increase while their profitability will decline amid deteriorating economic conditions in the next 12-18 months. Still, robust loan-loss reserves and capitalization will provide a buffer against growing risks,” Moody’s said in a statement on April 2. The rating agency has also changed its outlook on 12 Asia Pacific banking systems to negative in light of the coronavirus outbreak and broad economic deterioration. Moody’s said Malaysia is facing slowing regional growth and trade, while the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns that have been in place since mid-March are materially disrupting economic activity. It said this would hurt the country's electronics exports and tourism in particular. In addition, political uncertainty will weigh on business and investor sentiment.

Insolvency Dept offers six-month moratorium for bankrupt Malaysians Free Malaysia Today 1st Apr 2020
The Insolvency Department is offering a six-month moratorium on monthly payments of bankrupt Malaysians to assist them during the current economic situation due to the Covid-19 crisis. The moratorium will last until Sept 30. Those who do not wish to take up the offer may continue their monthly payments to their relevant department branches. It also decided to allow bankrupt individuals under the age of 55 to withdraw up to RM500 a month from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) account for 12 months. This comes after Putrajaya allowed contributors to make withdrawals from their EPF Account 2 for up to 12 months, with a maximum of RM500 per month. Individuals who have signed an agreement with the department’s director-general or liquidation officer for the acquisition of any of their assets can also request for a six-month suspension.

Bank loans processing available during MCO The Star Online 1st Apr 2020
Bank loans processing will continue to be carried out during the movement control period (MCO) although customers may experience some delays due to service disruptions. The Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) assured the public in a statement that essential banking services such as the processing and approving of loans continue to be made available by its members banks during the MCO period. "However, we seek the understanding of bank customers that despite the availability of banking services during the MCO, the processing time for loan applications may experience some delays as certain services that are crucial in the evaluation and approval of loan applications, are currently experiencing service disruptions in view of the MCO," it said. It added that the processing of loan applications is being carried out remotely during the MCO to ease any backlogs and delays. Furthermore, customers reaching out to bank contact centers may also experience delays in getting their calls answered or a response to their emails due to the high volume of calls and emails during this period.

Food & Agriculture

MIER calls for clear food security strategy The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
With the Covid-19 pandemic raging unabated, food security will become an even a bigger concern in time, says the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER). “The country will need to have a clear strategy in terms of food security, even looking at the current pandemic and the risk of the long battle with it until a vaccine is available,” said MIER Health Financing Group member Kahlil Anwar. MIER deputy director Professor Jamal Othman, meanwhile, stressed the need for strengthening the roles of the country’s agriculture sector, particularly in food security and sovereignty. “Our import bill for grains, processed food, dairy products and seeds is on the rise. It now accounts for 9% of Malaysia’s total imports,’ he said. Furthermore, he said the country’s traditional commodity-based agriculture must adjust to give more space for food crops, livestock and aquaculture.

Malaysia proposes ASEAN nations to formulate mechanism on surplus food The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
On April 23, Malaysia proposed that ASEAN countries formulate a mechanism to provide their surplus food to nations around the world which are facing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said. He said the potential success of this initiative would not only reignite trade from ASEAN to the world but also boost the income of ASEAN farmers, breeders and fishermen. Hishammuddin said Malaysia had taken proactive steps in ensuring that certain economic sectors remained open during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and also established a Food Security Fund.

Plantation sector experts concerned over May CPO exports The Edge Markets 15th Apr 2020
Plantation experts are concerned over crude palm oil (CPO) exports from May onwards, as many nations are still battling against the COVID-19 pandemic, with no vaccine in sight to date. In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, people are practicing social distancing, resulting in the shutting down or scaling down of businesses, including those in the food and consumer goods industry that buys Malaysian palm oil. The lower palm oil demand weakened CPO prices to RM2,200-RM2,300 per ton from the RM3,000 per ton level in January. Even the 0.5 per cent reduction in export duty to 4.5 per cent for May is unlikely to boost palm oil export, plantation analysts said. Other factors which also contribute to palm oil exports include price competitiveness among producing countries and competing oils, as well as availability of palm oil and domestic oils/fats in the importing countries. Alliance DBS however remained optimistic, forecasting an export growth in the next couple of months for the commodity, with constant demand coming from China and India — countries with the world’s largest populations — simply due to the mass production of food and essentials such as instant noodles, cooking oil and soap. Alliance DBS also anticipated CPO exports to improve, led by demand from the European Union (EU) and Pakistan. Exports to the EU rebounded 29 per cent month-on-month (m-o-m) in March 2020 to 195,300 tons while exports to Pakistan rebounded 43 per cent m-o-m to 67,000 tons. This helped to partially offset the lower exports to India, which fell by 97 per cent m-o-m to 10,800 tons, as well as to China, which declined by 14 per cent m-o-m to 148,000 tons.

COVID-19: Agropreneurs urged to boost digital marketing capacity The Malaysian Reserve 13th Apr 2020
Agrofood entrepreneurs have been urged to enhance their digital marketing capacity during the extended Movement Control Order (MCO) period in order to stay competitive and reduce their dependence on middlemen. The Holstein Milk Co Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Azmi Zainal told Bernama that farmers should be more enterprising and expand their supply chain network, stressing that the global transition towards digital marketing will continue amid the COVID-19 outbreak. “Online marketing had become part of our lifestyle even before the COVID-19 crisis, and we are prepared to face the situation and are constantly strengthening our customer service team,” he said. The Holstein Milk Co, producer of Farm Fresh milk since 2010, serves 36 per cent of the nation’s fresh milk market and accounts for 47 per cent of the production in peninsular Malaysia. It also produces organic beef under the ‘Rompin Beef’ brand which has been available at Aeon supermarkets since January this year as well as from 1,000 authorised distributors nationwide whose online sales have increased over 100 per cent since the start of the MCO.

Poultry farming slow down due to lower prices, supply The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
Poultry farming activities are expected to slow down due to lower prices and decreasing supply in the market, which will eventually support prices, says AmInvestment Bank Bhd. In a note, the bank said poultry demand was impacted by lower restaurant sales and canteen closures in schools and factories during the Movement Control Order (MCO). The increased demand from households was also unable to make up for the loss of sales to restaurants and canteens, and as a result, both sales volume and selling prices took a beating. Meanwhile, AmInvestment Bank has maintained its “buy” call on shares of Leong Hup International Bhd (LHI), one of the largest fully-integrated producers of poultry, eggs and livestock feed in Southeast Asia, albeit with a lower fair-value price of 76 sen versus 86 sen previously. “Average selling prices for poultry products have fallen across LHI’s operations, and even though prices of eggs have remained steady at around 0.30 sen in Malaysia and Indonesia, we expect lower sales volume for the year for the group,” the bank said. The group’s operations are running as usual during the MCO and there has been no disruption to the supply chain so far, it said. “We expect demand to return slowly after the MCO is lifted as consumers remain cautious due to the COVID-19 pandemic and believe the metrics will recover in the FY21F, assuming the pandemic is contained in 2020,” it said.

Report: Malaysia Has Enough Rice To Last Us For Two And A Half Months Rojak Daily 8th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry said that the country has enough rice supply to last two and a half months. We believe that’s enough to sustain all of us for this short period of time! The concern about the country running out of rice came up after Vietnam suspended its rice exports to Malaysia to ensure that they have enough for its people first.

Defence minister: All agricultural and fisheries product supply chain allowed to operate as usual Malay Mail 5th Apr 2020
All agricultural and fisheries product supply chains, including operations and logistics, are allowed to operate as usual under the movement control order (MCO), said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. In the daily non-health press conference today, Ismail clarified that those working in these sectors are allowed to work as usual and there will be no hindrance to their operations. Ismail further explained that services or shops supporting the agriculture and fisheries supply chain such as those selling fertilizers for crop production and packaging services are allowed to operate as usual. Ismail explained that produce is still being sold without hindrance albeit under stricter regulations at designated Controlled Fresh Market (PST) nationwide to ensure the continued supply and distribution of food in the country. To date, there are 97 PST’s designated to supply goods to the people.

Building resiliency into Malaysia’s long-term food security Malay Mail 2nd Apr 2020
Last week it was reported that hundreds of tonnes of vegetables grown in Cameron Highlands were dumped by producers who, due to the ongoing movement control order (MCO), had no way of getting their produce to market swiftly enough. Even in the best of times such wastefulness imposes negative costs on society: Farmers and retailers are deprived of income, and consumers of fresh produce. In the midst of a public health crisis—when food security already poses a major concern — these negative costs are amplified.

Govt urged to keep borders open for food supply The Malaysian Reserve 1st Apr 2020
Regional players in the food and beverages (F&B) industry, including Food Industry Asia (FIA) and the Asean Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA), call for the Malaysian government to keep the borders open for supply. The associations said the key role that the Malaysian government needs to play to ensure a stable food supply is ensuring that the manufacturing of F&B products, ingredients and other raw materials, as well as distribution by the retail sector can continue uninterrupted. FIA ED Matt Kovac said if severe restrictions are imposed by countries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, they will cause a ripple effect on the regional food supply chains. AFBA president Abdul Halim Saim said the association is starting to see bottlenecks in the food supply chains when transporting food. “Any restriction of movement, including the workforce, will affect the stability of food production. The situation has now been exacerbated by the global increase in demand for food,” he added. The associations said Asean’s food value chain is not only crucial for ensuring food security, but also a major driver of GDP and employment in the region. In terms of GDP, the food value chain contributes around US$500 billion (RM2.17 trillion) of economic output, which is around 17% of Asean’s total GDP. The share of jobs is higher at 34% of the total labour force.

Sabah wants to manage own food stockpile during Covid-19 crisis Free Malaysia Today 1st Apr 2020
Sabah has asked Putrajaya to allow it to manage its own food stockpile during the Covid-19 crisis. Sabah Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Junz Wong said the state had experienced delays in procuring “essentials” as they were held up in Peninsular Malaysia.

Health & Life Sciences

Malaysia working out with South Korea on speeding up delivery of rapid test kits — Health DG The Edge Markets 22nd Apr 2020
A government-to-government (G2G) arrangement is now being worked out between Malaysia and South Korea to speed up the delivery of antigen rapid test kits to Malaysia, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. For the time being, the antigen rapid test kits are expected to arrive in Malaysia at the earliest by April 25, or latest by the next week. "The procurement has been done, but we are now going through logistics issues. Also, there is a high demand for the rapid test kits, not only from Malaysia, but globally," Dr Noor Hisham told reporters during his daily briefing on the Covid-19 situation in the country. “So, now we are going through G2G, with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the South Korean Embassy, to see how best we can actually facilitate the import of this test kits," Dr Noor Hisham added. Earlier, the DG said MoH had approved the use of antigen rapid test kits from South Korea that will help the ministry achieve its target capacity of 16,500 Covid-19 tests per day, nationwide. At the time, he said the ministry had already placed a procurement order with South Korean firm SD Biosensor and that the test kits might arrive as early as this week.

Logistics, high demand delaying rapid test kit from Korea Free Malaysia Today 22nd Apr 2020
The health ministry on April 22 said the delay in the arrival of Covid-19 rapid test kits from South Korea was due to logistical issues and the high demand for such gadgets. However, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it should arrive earliest by Friday or next week. “Now we are looking at a G2G (government-to- government) initiative to assist us in how we can best facilitate the import of this test kit.” He hoped Wisma Putra will continue assisting the health ministry to obtain the test kit as soon as possible. Earlier this month, the health ministry said it would start using antigen rapid test kits from South Korea, which have proven to have high accuracy. Noor Hisham had previously said the ministry hoped to order up to one million units of these rapid test kits. The rapid test kit, Noor Hisham said, will complement its reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests in use at the ministry’s 43 labs. With the rapid test kit, Noor Hisham said health workers will be able to “go to the community” and take swabs at airports (including passengers in transit) or clinics. They can obtain the results in 30 to 45 minutes.

Remdesivir has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in Malaysia The Edge Markets 18th Apr 2020
Antiviral drug ‘remdesivir’ has been used to treat COVID-19 patients in the country, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. He said, however, the ministry was still monitoring the results of its use, and it was too early to share anything. "What is certain is that we do not have any issues with the drug, nor others. In terms of stock, we have a sufficient amount to treat patients," he said during the daily COVID-19 press conference on April 18. Dr Noor Hisham had previously stated that drugs such as Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and a combination of Lopinavir/Ritonavir had been used to treat the virus. Meanwhile, on the antigen rapid test kit from South Korea, Dr Noor Hisham said it cost less than RM50 per kit, but MOH was still negotiating for a lower price.

MoH received 2,309 calls, 252 Whatsapp messages seeking counselling services in two-week period The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported on April 13 that it has received 2,309 phone calls and 252 Whatsapp messages within a span of about two weeks, between March 28 to April 12, seeking counselling services.  However, health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah updated that as of 4.30pm today, there have been an additional 150 more calls and over 1,000 Whatsapp messages received. He cited three main reasons people had reached out to the ministry. "The first is related to emotional, psychological, and counselling support for them to cope with the current Movement Control Order (MCO) situation for Phase 1, 2 and the upcoming third phase. Second is regarding the need for aid as well as donations. And the third is inquiries for more information on Covid-19," Noor Hisham told a press conference. On March 27, volunteer relief organisation Mercy Malaysia, in collaboration with the Health Ministry's Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC), had set up a free and dedicated mental health hotline to provide emotional support and counselling services to those who need help in dealing with their anxiety during the MCO period.  The hotline is a non-clinical service for the public and aimed to support the ministry in addressing mental health issues since most of the ministry’s counsellors have been assigned to hospitals to support the frontline medical staff.

Malaysia’s daily recoveries top new infections for fifth time with 168 cases against 134 The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
Malaysia’s daily recoveries top new infections for fifth time with 168 daily cases against 134 on April 13. Total Covid-19 cases in Malaysia now at 4,817. One more person dies, raising death toll to 77.

'Medibot' to do rounds on Malaysian virus wards The Jakarta Post 13th Apr 2020
Malaysian scientists have created a barrel-shaped robot on wheels that they hope will make the rounds on hospital wards to check on coronavirus patients, reducing health workers' risk of infection. "Medibot" is a 1.5 meter tall white robot, equipped with a camera and screen via which patients can communicate remotely with medics. The invention, built by scientists at the International Islamic University Malaysia, is also fitted with a device to check patients' temperatures remotely.

Malaysia sees biggest single-day rise in recoveries, exceeds new infections for first time The Edge Markets 6th Apr 2020
For the first time ever, the number of cured Covid-19 cases in Malaysia exceeded new infections. The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced 131 new confirmed Covid-19 cases as of noon on April 6, raising the tally to 3,793 cases. This is 48 fewer cases than 179 reported the day before. Meanwhile, 236 patients have recovered and were discharged, bringing the total number of cured cases to 1,241, or 32.72% of overall Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, said the MoH. The number of cured patients sets a new a record — the previous was 122 reported last Thursday (April 2), in the initial part of the Movement Control Order’s (MCO) second phase. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement that 102 patients are currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) with 54 requiring respiratory assistance. The country’s death toll increased to 62 after one more fatality was recorded today, bringing the mortality rate to 1.63%. A total of 55,566 individuals have been tested for Covid-19 infections, of whom 8,109 are currently awaiting results while 43,664 are confirmed negative. Selangor remains the state with the highest number of cases at 970, followed by Kuala Lumpur (640), Johor (468) and Sabah (240).

Insurance and takaful industry announces details on Covid-19 test fund Malay Mail 1st Apr 2020
The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM), Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (PIAM) and Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA) have finalised the details of the Covid-19 Test Fund (CTF) for the benefit of medical insurance policyholders and takaful certificate holders. In a joint statement today, LIAM, PIAM and MTA said the RM8 million CTF has been pledged by the insurance and takaful industry in support of the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) efforts to conduct more Covid-19 tests for Malaysians. LIAM is leading the initiative with a RM5 million contribution, while PIAM and MTA have pledged RM2 million and RM1 million respectively, it said.

ICT

MoE distributes ICT devices Borneo Bulletin Online 22nd Apr 2020
The Ministry of Education (MoE) through the Department of Schools distributed information and communication technology (ICT) devices at a ceremony on April 21 to support an online learning initiative for underprivileged students. A total of 17 students of Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah College (Maktab Duli) received the ICT devices at the college premises. Acting Director of Schools at the Ministry of Education Zainal Abidin bin Haji Kepli presented the ICT devices.

Small traders and local hawkers are ready for Ramadan e-bazaar with 'Warong Digital' NST Online 22nd Apr 2020
With the fasting month around the corner, local hawkers and small traders are looking forward to do their business online through ‘Warong Digital e-Bazaar Ramadan’ program. Launched on April 16 by Coalition of Malay Small Traders Association (GPPPKMM) and Kiplepay Sdn Bhd (KiplePay), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Green Packet Berhad, the program has received an overwhelming response from the local traders as this enables them to conduct their businesses online during Ramadan as well as helping them to generate income. GPPPKMM Secretary-General Mohamed Zamri Mohamed said the current registered number in ‘Warong Digital e-Bazaar Ramadan’ programme stands about 25 per cent of the local bazaar traders. “In these coming few days, we are expecting to see a sharp increase of at least 50 per cent more in terms of the number of registrations since we have more than 20,000 traders who do business in the bazaar,” he said. The ‘Warong Digital e-Bazaar Ramadan’ program is meant to assist the small traders and local hawkers to operate their businesses online throughout the month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on April 24. This program leverages on KiplePay e-wallet that enables local traders to conduct online transactions seamlessly while providing an entire cashless experience to the customers as the customers just need to download KiplePay e-wallet app and pre-order from the app itself for collection and delivery. On top of this, GPPPKMM is also collaborating with various delivery partners by extending the home-delivery service to help local traders and hawkers to deliver orders from their premises to customers directly during Ramadan. Some of the delivery partners who are already on-board with GPPPKMM and KiplePay are Lalamove that covers the Klang Valley area.

GSMA confident of Malaysia’s 5G progress despite setback caused by pandemic The Edge Markets 21st Apr 2020
The GSM Association (GSMA), which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, is confident of Malaysia’s progress in rolling out the fifth generation (5G) technology despite a slight setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. During an online media briefing on April 21, GSMA's head of Asia-Pacific Julian Gorman said Malaysia’s push for 5G included bringing together the government, regulatory body and operators, which put the country in the best position to achieve that goal. He said there would likely be some short-term delays or consequences of the virus on the process but the commitment shown by the parties involved would ensure a scalable and successful 5G launch. According to GSMA’s Mobile Economy 2020 report, 5G is gaining pace as it is now live in 24 markets with numerous 5G smartphones having been launched, while 5G awareness and the intention to upgrade among consumers are both on the rise. Meanwhile, Gorman said the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly highlighted the importance of digital connectivity, whereby from a government’s point of view, this would ease the process of educating the public on the emergency and managing its response. “Malaysia enjoys a degree of comfort in this as the country has high penetration of smartphone and broaband,” he said, adding that being online and getting access to up-to-date information on what is going on are crucial in responding to this crisis.

Internet service installation, maintenance allowed in green zones, says MCMC NST Online 20th Apr 2020
Internet service installations and maintenance works are now permitted at premises located in green zones with no confirmed Covid-19 cases during the Movement Control Order (MCO). The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in a statement on April 18 said the services included fixed broadband installations, restoration, network maintenance and new infrastructure installations "However, installation work for broadband services at customer premises within all yellow and red zones, which are zones with positive cases of Covid-19, are strictly prohibited,” it said. According to the statement, the works should only be carried out if it has been deemed safe for both customers and the service provider's employees, depending on the risk profile of the locations identified. It said that for troubleshooting and restoration work, telecommunications staff and installers were also allowed to enter the customer’s premises if the area was within the green zone. “For locations at yellow and red zones, they (staff) are only allowed to troubleshoot until the Distribution Point (DP). Entering premises at the yellow and red zones are only allowed for premises providing essential and critical services,” the statement said.

Ministry launches free app to check your health Free Malaysia Today 20th Apr 2020
The government has launched a free smartphone app called MySejahtera by which the people can carry out health evaluations from time to time and help contain Covid-19. It could also help in monitoring of Covid-19 cases, said health minister Adham Baba. It also includes guidelines for those classified as being at high risk of infection. He said findings from pioneer projects had been very encouraging, and the system was now being expanded for use throughout the country. The MySejahtera website says the app would assist the government to manage and mitigate the Covid-19 outbreak, by helping to monitor users’ health condition. It would also help users to monitor their own health throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, help users to get treatment if they are infected, locate the nearest hospitals and clinics for screening and treatment; and help users to track hotspots.

E-hailing companies cooking up plans with traders to realise Ramadan e-bazaar NST Online 18th Apr 2020
E-hailing companies such as Grab have come up with various initiatives to realise the Ramadan e-bazaar concept, which will replace physical bazaars during the Movement Control Order (MCO). In a statement, Grab said it will engage with small business traders in as many as three ways, to allow Malaysians to fully enjoy their favorite culinary delights this Ramadan. Firstly, GrabFood Favorites will see the e-hailing company work with merchants to curate a Ramadan special menu which will be available nationwide. Secondly, small businesses, micro entrepreneurs as well as social sellers will be invited to join the GrabExpress Ramadan to serve their customers online. Thirdly, Grab will work with local state governments to create a centralised e-bazaar kitchen from where orders can be collected – and a thorough study of this concept is being conducted in collaboration with the authorities. On April 15, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said only existing food delivery systems via e-hailing companies are allowed to participate in the e-bazaar initiative – the only model allowed to operate during Ramadan while alternative proposals are studied further. Meanwhile, Foodpanda is working with Penang Halal International, a subsidiary of the stated-owned entity Penang Development Corporation, to launch an e-bazaar in the state. The initiative will enable Penangites to enjoy Ramadan dishes during the MCO, while also helping Halal-compliant businesses reach their customers.

TM deploys 5G base stations at 2 Covid-19 quarantine centres NST Online 13th Apr 2020
Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) has deployed its 5G base stations at two quarantine centers for Covid-19 located at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park (MAEPS), Serdang and Health Ministry Training Institute in Sungai Buloh. With the deployment, frontliners, medical teams as well as patients admitted to the facilities would be able to enjoy enhanced mobile broadband services with 5G connectivity. Both quarantine centers had been allocated with 50 complimentary units of 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) terminals that deliver up to 500Mbps WiFi connectivity to the users and all WiFi usage charges on the 5G network are also made available free of charge. This latest Corporate Responsibility (CR) initiative is TM's extension of its recent participation in the 5G Demonstration Project (5GDP) in Langkawi and Subang Jaya.

Telcos and TM working to boost slow internet connectivity during MCO Free Malaysia Today 12th Apr 2020
Telecommunication companies and internet service providers (ISPs) are working hard to reduce the strain that residential connections are experiencing as a result of the surge in demand from households due to the movement control order (MCO). The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said among measures that telco players have taken include releasing additional bandwidth capacity for both fixed and mobile, as well as, optimizing the coverage network for mobile broadband. “The increased broadband internet traffic of 23.5% between March 9-15 (one week before MCO) and March 16-22 (the first week of MCO) clearly shows an increase in demand. It said the infrastructure and network upgrades of RM400 million by telcos, as announced recently in the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package, are in place to enhance and maintain the networks to address slower broadband issues. The MCMC said Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) and TT dotCom Sdn Bhd (TIME) would be supporting telco players by providing additional fibre capacity to serve higher traffic demand. The upgrading exercise, which also includes upgrading the capacity and improving coverage for critical locations, including hospitals, government agencies, enforcement agencies and media centres, would continue until the end of the second quarter of this year. On top of that, the MCMC said the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) would continue to be implemented. There are six projects that focus on the deployment of infrastructure for fixed and mobile network, namely NFCP 1-6, which are all on track for implementation in 2020 and would be completed in stages between 2021-2023.

Axiata, Digi are UOB Kay Hian Research’s top picks The Star Online 6th Apr 2020
UOB Kay Hian Malaysia Research has upgraded the telecommunication sector to Overweight from Market Weight on expectations of stable earnings, sustainable dividend and attractive valuations. The research house said on April 6 that it expects stable earnings (relative to market), sustainable dividend and attractive valuations. Its top picks are Axiata and Digi. UOB Kay Hian Research said in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Telekom Malaysia (before the de-merger of Axiata) outperformed the market by 20%-40% within a six months period. During the 2003 SARS period, the sector traded in line with the market. It believed this was due to infancy of the sector (for wireless players like Maxis and Digi) and therefore, lack of dividends.In the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the sector outperformed the market by 10-30%, led by the defensive Digi and Maxis. Axiata however, underperformed the market due to US$ debt worries (as the company had been aggressive in its overseas market expansion back then). UOB Kay Hian Research pointed out CSR measures announced by telcos include 1GB of free daily data for consumption between 8am and 6pm (for existing post-paid and prepaid customers). At this juncture, the government’s main priority includes keeping the telco network running and aiding corporates/SMEs. As such, the research house takes the view that the 5G roll-out will take a momentary backseat (government have previously scheduled for a 5G roll-out by 3Q20).

Govt launches pilot project to monitor spread of Covid-19 pandemic via app The Star Online 6th Apr 2020
The Malaysian government has introduced a pilot program, a mobile app, to help monitor the spread of Covid-19 by collecting data from citizens through health self-assessments. The MySejahtera app said it enabled users to determine their health levels, identify nearby hospitals and clinics where they can get tested, and get information on what to do if they do contract Covid-19 and where to get treatment. The app’s self-assessment element involves six yes/no questions related to whether users have Covid-19 symptoms and a contact tracing exercise. Users can also check in to the app and share their location or a photo with authorities. It also contains key info like the Covid-19 hotline number as well as a Virtual Health Advisory that links users to medical video-consultation platform, Doctor On Call. To register, users need to go to the app’s website – registration cannot be done on the app – and provide a phone number or email address to get a one-time login. On its FAQ page, the app assures that users’ private information is only for monitoring purposes and will not be shared. It adds that a user’s identity will be protected, even if they are identified as a Covid-19 patient. The app is managed by administrators within the Ministry of Health (MOH), with the assistance of National Security Council (NSC) and Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu). According to its FAQ page, the app is also meant to assist MOH in monitoring the pandemic’s spread and act as an early warning system for trends in the outbreak. The app was developed through a strategic collaboration between the NSC, MOH, MAMPU and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 turns to tech to contain outbreak Malay Mail 2nd Apr 2020
Analytical platforms utilising Big Data Analytics and Machine Intelligence have been set up by the Selangor state government to assist its state Task Force for Covid-19 (STFC) in battling the coronavirus outbreak. STFC chairman and former health minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad said the introduction of the advanced computerised systems is to allow his task force to offer more informed recommendations and evidence-based advice to the mentri besar when undertaking local interventional measures in handling the outbreak. “It (the technology) will also allow STFC members to not only focus on issues surrounding the strains of the Covid-19 outbreak, but also take into account the population’s burdens, the distribution of those marginalised like single mothers and senior citizens, those in the lower income group, and socio-economical factors when it comes to arranging and taking action according to order of priority,” he elaborated.

Health D-G: Putrajaya developing software to predict, locate Covid-19 cases Malay Mail 1st Apr 2020
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on March 31 that the government is in the midst of developing a software that could predict and locate the Covid-19 cases among the Malaysian. He said that the software would allow the authorities to take fast action against the spread of the infection at the hotspots area. “The Health Ministry together with the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is working hard to create a software that would be able to predict and to even locate some of our cases in certain areas,” he said in a press conference.

Infrastructure

19,077 contractors applied but only 1,856 approved to operate NST Online 22nd Apr 2020
A total of 19,077 construction companies and those from the industry applied to operate during the Movement Control Order (MCO), Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said. However, he said, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s (Miti) rejected 7,387 of the applications and only allowed 1,856 to operate. He said those given the approval were told to strictly adhere to the rules that had been placed. Fadillah said small construction companies under the G1 and G2 category were among those prioritized to resume operations during the MCO. The G1 and G2 category contractors include those whose projects are below RM200,000 and those not exceeding RM500,000 respectively. He explained that 13 categories of projects had been allowed to resume, namely those which did not require many workers on site, maintenance and construction works that had achieved 90 percent physical progress and critical works to ensure the safety of construction structures like slope works, tunnels, bridges and viaducts, and land surveys. Fadillah said that all professional services related to construction and project management, including approving payments for construction work in progress will also be allowed to return to work. He said contractors must make sure they minimize the number of workers on site by at least half of what they originally had. .

MBAM and Rehda will work together to combat Covid-19 NST Online 14th Apr 2020
The local property and construction sectors say they will work for hand in hand to contain the spread of Covid-19 during the Movement Control Order (MCO). The government last Friday announced that some construction activities will be allowed to carry out works during Phase 3 of the MCO, with the strict implementation of a specific Site Operating Procedures (SOP) to prevent the pandemic from spreading at work sites. In a joint statement, Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) and the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Malaysia said this move will surely help the industry and it's related 140 upstream and downstream industries.

CIDB postpones International Construction Week in light of Covid-19 Borneo Post Online 13th Apr 2020
The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) will postpone the International Construction Week (ICW) scheduled for June 23 to 25 to next year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. CIDB Malaysia chief executive Datuk Ahmad Asri Abdul Hamid said their top priority was the health and safety of the invited speakers, participants and visitors.

Contractors glad they can work NST Online 12th Apr 2020
Contractors have cautiously welcomed the government’s decision allowing several critical sectors, including construction and related services, to resume operations during the Movement Control Order (MCO). While the move brought relief to contractors, especially those in Grade G1 and G2 categories, they are worried that the damage to the construction sector would worsen if no measures are taken. Malaysian Bumiputera Contractors Association president Datuk Azman Yusoff said the MCO had caused 10 per cent of 40,000 G1 and G2 Bumiputera contractors to go bankrupt.

RM2.9bil contracts for construction sector in Q1, up 55pct year-on-year NST Online 7th Apr 2020
The local construction sector has been awarded a total of RM2.9 billion contracts in the first quarter of the year. This was a 55 per cent growth quarter-on-quarter but a 40 per cent contraction year-on-year, according to Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd (HLIB). The firm said infrastructure contracts remained weak, declining 10 per cent q-o-q and 63 per cent y-o-y during the first three months.

Court rules on challenges to AIAC and statutory adjudication International Law Office 7th Apr 2020
A high court recently issued the first decision regarding a constitutional challenge of the legitimacy of statutory adjudication under the Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act 2012 (CIPAA). In this case, the high court was also confronted with a challenge of the appointment of the late Vinayak Pradhan as the then director of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) and the immunity asserted by the AIAC, Pradhan and the adjudicator. The legal action was initiated by way of an originating summons. Alongside Pradhan and the AIAC, Kinta Bakti Sdn Bhd and Soh Lieh Seng were named as the first and second defendants in the action. The minister of works, the minister of law and the government were subsequently named as the fifth, sixth and seventh defendants after the action had commenced. The action arose from an adjudication under the CIPAA between Mega Sasa Sdn Bhd and Kinta Bakti. Soh was appointed by Pradhan as the adjudicator in that adjudication.

Continuation of large-scale infra projects to provide additional lift to economic growth - BNM The Edge Markets 3rd Apr 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said the continuation of large-scale infrastructure projects will provide additional lift to the economic growth amid the challenging economic conditions. In a press conference on April 3, BNM estimated that capital spending on major transport infrastructure projects of about RM15 billion is expected to lift 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) by 1 percentage point (ppt).  The total size of some key projects under construction are Mass Rapid Transit Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya Line, also known as MRT2 (RM30.5 billion), Light Rail Transit Bandar Utama–Klang line, Line 3 (LRT3) (RM16.6 billion), and Pan Borneo Highway (RM32.5 billion). These projects have a combined construction cost of RM79.6 billion. On March 27, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said during the unveiling of the Covid-19 stimulus package that the government will continue the implementation of all projects allocated in Budget 2020 including the MRT2, East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP). On April 3, the central bank said Malaysia's GDP is projected at between -2% and 0.5% in 2020 against a highly challenging global economic outlook due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic.

MPM takes over Labuan Liberty terminal, plans RM10 million upgrading works NST Online 1st Apr 2020
Megah Port Management Sdn Bhd (MPM) has taken over the management of Labuan Liberty Terminal today and will be handling the operation and facility management of the port for the next 6 years. Further, MPM has also allocated RM10 million for upgrading works. “We need to optimise the usage of Labuan Port by upgrading some of the facilities. Some of the works include repairing container yards and enhancing fire safety systems and warehouses at the port.

Manufacturing

Rubber glove exports expected to hit RM20 bil this year The Edge Markets 16th Apr 2020
Malaysia, the world’s top rubber glove producer, expects to export 225 billion units worth some RM20 billion this year, up from 170 billion units valued at RM17.3 billion last year. Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Willie Mongin said the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) estimates global demand for rubber gloves at 330 billion units. Willie said Malaysia is also the main rubber glove supplier to the medical sector. "Our country’s rubber glove industry is very important as exports from Malaysia supply 65 percent of global demand,” he said in a statement on April 16. Willie said the Government through the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the Health Ministry has agreed to allow factories making medical and surgical devices especially rubber gloves to continue to operate during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

Manufacturing sales grew by 7% in February 2020 The Malaysian Reserve 14th Apr 2020
Malaysia's manufacturing sales rose by 7% in February 2020 to RM110.6 billion compared to RM103.4 billion recorded in the same month last year. The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) said the higher sales value for the second month of 2020 was driven by the increase in petroleum, chemical, rubber and plastic products which inched 9.4% higher, followed by food, beverages and tobacco products (7.2%), and electrical and electronics products (5.5%). Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said for the month-on-month growth, the sales value went down by 6.3% (RM7.4 billion), while in a seasonally adjusted terms, the sales value registered an increase of 3%. “The total employees engaged in the manufacturing sector in February 2020 were 2.27 million people, an increase of 1.6% or 36,080 per- sons compared to 2.24 million persons in February 2019. Salaries and wages paid amounted to RM7.61 billion, which rose by 4.4% or RM318.1 million in February 2020 against the same month of the preceding year,” he said in a statement. Simultaneously, the sales value per employee grew by 5.3% to record RM48,553 compared to the same month in 2019. Meanwhile, DoSM said manufacturing sales grew 2.6% in January 2020, registering RM118.2 billion compared to RM115.2 billion reported a year ago.

Top Glove rises to record high The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
Top Glove Corp Bhd's share price pared gains in afternoon trades on April 13 after rising to a record high on expectation that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 people globally, will result in higher demand for rubber gloves as the healthcare sector contends with the rising number of infected individuals. At 12:30pm, Top Glove’ share price settled up 22 sen or 3.38% at RM6.72 for a market capitalisation of RM17.35 billion. At RM6.72, Top Glove shares were traded at a price-earnings ratio (PER) of 46.05 times. Among other glove manufacturers, Hartalega's share price settled unchanged at RM7.47 for a market value of RM25.25 billion. At RM7.47, Hartalega shares were traded at a PER of 60.98 times. Hartalega’s share price pared gains after rising to its highest so far today at RM7.59.  In a note on Friday (April 10), Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd wrote that the average historical and one-year forward PER for the Malaysian rubber glove sector stood at 36.5 times and 31.4 times respectively. Kenanga’s calculation took into account share prices of Top Glove, Hartalega, Supermax Corp Bhd and Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd, according to the note.

Malaysia Feb manufacturing sales up 7% y-o-y at RM110.6b The Edge Markets 13th Apr 2020
Malaysia's February 2020 manufacturing sales grew 7% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM110.6 billion from RM103.4 billion, driven by petroleum, chemical, rubber and plastic products, besides food, beverage and tobacco items and electrical and electronic entities, the Department of Statistics said on April 13. In a statement today, the department said that on a month-on-month basis, February 2020 manufacturing sales fell 6.3%. The department said the total number of employees engaged in the manufacturing sector in February 2020 was 2.28 million, an increase of 1.6% from  2.24 million employees a year earlier. "The content of the report also stated that salaries and wages paid amounted to RM7.61 billion, rose by 4.4% or RM318.1 million in February 2020 as against the same month of the preceding year. "Simultaneously, the sales value per employee grew by 5.3% to record RM48,553 as compared with the same month in 2019. Meanwhile, the average salaries and wages per employee was RM3,340 in February 2020,” the department said.

Services and manufacturing remain key contributors to economy NST Online 5th Apr 2020
The services and manufacturing sectors remained as key contributors to Malaysia’s economy, which grew 4.3 per cent last year. Bank Negara Malaysia, in its inaugural Economic and Monetary Review 2019, said the two sectors had expanded at a moderate pace last year. This was mainly due to weaker external demand and a normalization in household spending growth. Bank Negara said the services sector expanded by 6.1 per cent (2018: 6.8 per cent), as growth normalized following a robust performance in 2018, when the tax holiday period encouraged greater consumer spending. Growth in the wholesale and retail trade as well as food, beverages and accommodation subsectors remained firm, lifted by firm household spending amid supportive labour market conditions. The transport and storage subsector benefitted from higher transhipment activity, despite being partially offset by slower global trade activity. Growth in the finance and insurance subsector moderated amid slower loan and deposit growth. Meanwhile, Bank Negara said the manufacturing sector had recorded a slower growth of 3.8 per cent last year (2018: 5.0 per cent). Within the export-oriented clusters, weak external demand affected manufacturing activity in the electrical and electronics (E&E) cluster, while the supply disruptions in key commodities led to lower production in primary-related clusters. Growth in both clusters, however, remained positive.

Malaysia March manufacturing output dented by Covid-19 pandemic The Edge Markets 1st Apr 2020
Malaysia's manufacturing sector cut production volumes during March in response to Covid-19, as the global pandemic cut demand and restricted operating capacities due to severely delayed deliveries of inputs. According to IHS Markit, new business from domestic and external clients fell as the negative economic impact from the Covid-19 outbreak intensified during March. The headline IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 48.4 in March, from 48.5 in February, signalling a further drop in momentum across the Malaysian goods-producing sector. IHS Markit said the survey's output index during March fell to its lowest level since June 2016, signaling a sharp slowdown in manufacturing production in Malaysia. Citing firms, it said demand- and supply-side factors adversely impacted output volumes. It said the global pandemic also had a noticeable impact on external markets, as evidenced by a sharp drop in export demand during March. It explained that the rate of decline was broadly in line with that seen in February following the initial negative shock to demand from China.

Worker crunch hits world's top medical glove maker Top Glove as demand spikes The Edge Markets 1st Apr 2020
The world's biggest maker of medical gloves is grappling with a serious shortage of workers as it tries to meet a huge surge in demand as countries such as the United States run out of personal protective gear due to the coronavirus outbreak. Malaysia's Top Glove Corp Bhd, which makes one out of every five gloves in the world, needs to urgently recruit up to 700 more workers as orders in the past few weeks have doubled, the company told Reuters on April 1. It has already said it would not be able to meet all of the increased demand, and its struggle to recruit workers could make the task of quickly adding production lines even more difficult. The hiring drive has been hampered by Malaysia's month-long curbs on travel as well as difficulties in flying in workers from countries such as Nepal, the company's main source of labour. Top Glove has 18,000 employees and 44 factories in three countries with the capacity to make 73.8 billion gloves a year, which it wants to increase given the global shortage. An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the US government has nearly run out of protective gear including masks, respirators, gloves, gowns and face shields, Reuters reported on Tuesday citing officials.

Malaysia least impacted as Asean manufacturers report their worst month on record in March The Edge Markets 1st Apr 2020
Malaysia manufacturers appeared to be the least impacted in March 2020 as operating conditions across the Asean region's manufacturing sector deteriorated markedly as the Covid-19 pandemic led to a collapse of client demand and disrupted supply chains, according to the latest IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data. In a note, IHS Markit said Asean manufacturers reported their worst month on record in March as operating conditions deteriorated at the sharpest pace since the survey began in July 2012 amid record declines of output, new orders, inventories and employment. IHS Market said the Asean Manufacturing PMI is compiled from responses to monthly questionnaires sent to purchasing managers across some 2,100 manufacturers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Travel & Tourism

More emphasis on Cuti-Cuti Malaysia to revive tourism sector The Star Online 23rd Apr 2020
PETALING JAYA: The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry will look into refocusing its efforts on promoting domestic tourism in an attempt to revive the sector. Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri (pic) said since the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be more emphasis on the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign.

AirAsia announces resumption of domestic flights NST Online 17th Apr 2020
Low-cost carrier AirAsia is set to resume its scheduled domestic flights on April 29. It said this would be followed by resumption of domestic flights in Thailand and the Philippines on May 1; India (May 4) and Indonesia (May 7), subject to approval from the authorities. The resumption of services will initially be for selected key domestic routes, which will increase gradually to include international destinations around the network, once the situation improves and governments lift borders and travel restrictions. Flights are already open for booking via the airasia.com website and mobile app. Guests may use their credit accounts to redeem these flights. The AirAsia Group temporarily reduced or entirely suspended their flight operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In Malaysia, the airline temporarily suspended all flight services from March 28 onwards, with its long-haul flights subsidiary, AirAsia X, suspending most but not all flights.

Foreign tourist receipts at RM86.14bil in 2019 NST Online 12th Apr 2020
Foreign tourist receipts (expenditures) grew 2.4 per cent to RM86.14 billion from 26.10 million people who visited the country last year. Tourism Malaysia said foreign arrivals had increased by one per cent from 25.82 million tourists recorded in 2018. The top three distributions of tourist receipts went to shopping (33.6 per cent), accommodation (24 per cent) and food and beverages (13.3 per cent). Tourism Malaysia said shopping receipts had expanded. In terms of per capita expenditure, it rose 1.3 per cent to RM3,300 while the average length of stay (ALOS) climbed by 0.9 nights to 7.4 nights. Tourism Malaysia said top 10 international tourist arrivals for 2019 were Singapore (10.16 million) Indonesia (3.62 million) China (3.11 million), Thailand (1.88 million), Brunei (1.22 million), India (735,309), South Korea (673,065), Japan (424,694), the Philippines (421,908) and Vietnam (400,346).

Hotel industry feeling the brunt of the virus impact The Star Online 6th Apr 2020
Even before the MCO, businesses in the tourism, retail and hospitality sectors were already feeling the impact of Covid-19 as the number of cases began rising outside of China, sparking travel fears and restrictions. And then the Malaysian government, via the MCO which began on March 18, declared that hotels could no longer house new guests through the period, and that other services like spas would have to be closed. Room cancellations alone, due to Covid-19 fears, the MCO, and travel restrictions, have amounted to RM68mil with 170,085 room bookings cancelled, according to the Malaysian Association Hotels (MAH). This is aside from the loss of revenue from new bookings over the 28-day MCO period, and potentially beyond this period, given the possibility of a further extension of the MCO. Stressing just how bad things are in the hotel scene, the MAH says 2,041 hotel employees have already been laid off due to economic pressures and the extended MCO, while 9,773 had been given unpaid leave and another 5,054 taken pay cuts as at the end of March 2020.

IATA: RM14.4b revenue loss for Malaysia’s aviation industry due to travel restrictions Malay Mail 3rd Apr 2020
Malaysia will likely see its passenger demand reduced by 39 per cent this year with losses in revenue reaching US$3.317 billion (RM14.4 billion) if severe travel restrictions due to Covid-19 lasted for three months, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said. Its regional vice president Asia-Pacific Conrad Clifford said 169,700 potential jobs would be impacted by the travel restrictions and risked US$3.799 billion in the gross domestic product (GDP). The Asia-Pacific region as a whole he said, would see passenger demand decreased 37 per cent this year with losses in revenue totalling US$88 billion. Clifford said taxes, levies and airport and aeronautical charges for the industry should be fully or partially waived.

Malaysia airline industry could lose US$3.32b in revenue due to Covid-19 crisis, IATA says The Edge Markets 3rd Apr 2020
The Malaysian aviation industry could see a 39% fall in demand, involving an estimated 25.49 million passengers, arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In a statement on April 3, IATA urged Asia-Pacific states to take urgent action to provide financial support to their airline industry impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Commenting on Malaysia, it said the country’s airline industry faces an estimated US$3.32 billion loss in revenue, affecting some 169,700 jobs. IATA said the potential impact on the Malaysian gross domestic product was a loss of US$3.79 billion. IATA said major Asia-Pacific states could see passenger demand in 2020 reduced by between 34% and 44%. In its latest analysis, IATA expects airlines to post a net loss of US$39 billion during the second quarter ending June 30, 2020.

Grounded airlines in Malaysia take to the skies to help Covid-19 frontliners The Star Online 2nd Apr 2020
The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) said air travel in the country is predicted to decrease significantly due to the global outbreak of Covid-19. A revised estimate by the commission shows passenger traffic this year to be between 67.7 million and 69.7 million passengers, a considerable decrease from last year’s all-time high of 109.2 million passengers. Mavcom executive chairman Dr Nungsari Ahmad Radhi said the aviation sector is facing a huge blow during the crisis. Mavcom is also urging the government to consider relaxing ownership rules for airlines to allow easier sourcing of funds from domestic and international capital markets. Since the MCO, Malaysia Airlines has reduced its domestic frequencies and schedules. It is currently running at a minimum – mostly to facilitate essential travels and cargo movement. “Recently we transported two tonnes of face masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, as well as 300,000 pieces of disposable masks, 50,000 pieces of PPE and 8,000 pieces of PPE with eye mask, courtesy of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur, ” said Izham. In the next few days, MABkargo will be flying in more than 10 million pieces of masks and ventilators from Shanghai and Guangzhou. Malaysia Airlines, Firefly and MASwings are facilitating movement of goods as well as medical staff across Peninsular Malaysia and within Sabah and Sarawak.