Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Abu Sahid plans to raise stake in Scomi

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 26, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed said yesterday he could increase his stake in Scomi Group Bhd as he believes that the company is undervalued.

The businessman also told Business Times that he is quitting as Avalon Minerals Ltd chairman.

Abu Sahid had bought into Avalon, a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, in 2008 and controls about 11 per cent of its shares.

However, he has no plans to hive off his stake in the Australian company as he is betting that the mineral exploration company will deliver in the long run.

Abu Sahid will be succeeded by Crispin Henderson, who is Threadneedle London chairman and Ameriprise Inc vice-chairman.

Ameriprise, which is the holding company of Threadneedle, manages assets worth US$127 billion (RM393.5 billion) in 16 countries.

Nevertheless, Abu Sahid seems to have an open mind on Scomi Group, saying he has no comment on the performance of Shah Hakim Zain's performance as Scomi Group's chief executive officer.

"I hope and believe that the management is good. If they do not perform, they should change the management. The bottomline is that the company must make money," said Abu Sahid.

Shah Hakim is also a key shareholder of Scomi Group.

To recap, Abu Sahid had disputed IJM Corp Bhd's emergence as a shareholder in Scomi, citing that it will dilute the stake of current shareholders.

IJM's entry into Scomi is said to have the backing of Shah Hakim. Under the deal, Scomi would issue RM110 million worth of convertible debt to IJM, which, upon conversion, would see the construction company owning 24.3 per cent of Scomi.

The convertible debt proposal went ahead after gaining shareholders' approval.

Abu Sahid, who owns 6.8 per cent stake in Scomi, however, looks to be staying for the long run.

"I have enough shares in Scomi to shake everybody," he declared in jest.

The tycoon last bought Scomi shares on March 19 when he acquired some 1.19 million shares.

"I am monitoring and observing what they are doing. I will continue to buy Scomi shares as long as I have the money. I have nothing to hide," he added.

Monday, March 25, 2013

MRCB gets letter of intent for KVDT job

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 21, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) has received a letter of intent (LoI) from the government to upgrade the Klang Valley double-tracking (KVDT) system for around RM850 million.

Sources familiar with the matter said the LoI was issued by the Ministry of Transport last week to the MRCB-DMIA JV. 

The budgeting was done in June last year under the National Key Result Areas (NKRA).

The KVDT line is for Rawang to Seremban and Port Klang to Sentul, involving 150km of double-tracking work.

Business Times reported recently that MRCB had expressed interest to the government to upgrade the KVDT system for about RM5 billion. The amount includes building a new 110km bypass line linking Serendah with Port Klang for around RM2 billion.

According to the source, the LoI was issued without a clear scope as a study on the upgrading of the KVDT system has not yet been completed. 

It is understood, the government appointed Mott Mcdonald in December last year to do a full scale study on the KVDT system and the bypass line. 

The study on the KVDT system, which was built in the early 1990s by Indian Railway Construction for Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB), will be completed in early June. 

"KTMB will have to come up with a general scope so that MRCB-DMIA JV can submit a proposal and negotiate directly with the Economic Planning Unit," the source added. 

The KVDT line is important for KTMB as it offers an alternative mode of transport for commuters and helps alleviate traffic congestion on the Federal Highway. 

The bypass line would help divert cargo traffic from the main KTM freight line between Rawang and Seremban, which is facing a bottleneck. 

"The existing system was built under sub-standard effecting the current railway performance as it is running on old technology. It needs to be upgraded to the current standard of railway operations. There will be major upgrading, including track change, fencing and drainage," the source said. 

MRCB and little known DMIA were partners for the beautification and upgrading of Little India and other developments in Brickfields here. 

DMIA is 50.4 per cent owed by Subramaniam Pillai Sankaran Pillai, 20 per cent by Datuk Salehudin Abdullah, 15.2 per cent by Jacqueline Earthayanathan and the rest by Nazreen Ahmad.

Aussie car parts group: Put brakes on roadblocks

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 25, 2013

MELBOURNE: The Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) in Australia hopes that local carmakers could start to sell cars like the Falcon, Territory, Cruze and Commodore in Malaysia once the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Mafta) takes effect this year.

Its president, Jim Griffin, said while Mafta opens business opportunities for both countries, there are technical roadblocks for Australia companies to sell cars in Malaysia.

"We want to do business with Malaysia and establish business relationships with players there. This will allow Australian car companies and component makers better allowance and opportunity to export their products to Malaysia.

"With Mafta, Proton and Perodua can come into Australia with zero per cent tax. Australian-made cars going into Malaysia may be duty-free but they would be subjected to excise tax there. So, there is still a hindrance," Griffin told Business Times at the Automotive Show here last week.

Falcon and Territory are manufactured by Ford Australia while GM Holden Ltd builds the Cruze and Commodore.

Griffin said there is demand for the cars internationally and if they could be exported to Malaysia, it would stimulate both the automotive and car component sectors in Australia.

Griffin said what the Australian automotive components industry wants is for its customers, the Australian carmakers, to have the real underlying opportunities to increase their production base by also selling cars in Malaysia.

This, he said, would indirectly benefit the currently more than 100 automotive component makers in the country.

Vehicle production in Australia last year stood at 231,000 units while this year, it is forecast to drop to around 205,000. Malaysia's production is about 600,000.

"We are no threat to Malaysia's automotive industry.

"We can be a partner to Malaysia. What the components industry wants is to see an increase in locally produced cars being exported overseas," Griffin said.

Trade between Malaysia and Australia grew by 11.1 per cent to RM38.49 billion in 2011 from RM34.2 billion in 2010. Exports to Australia in 2011 totalled RM25.68 billion and imports amounted to RM12.81 billion.

RM2b redevelopment for Kerteh-Kuantan rail link

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 25, 2013

BETTER CONNECTIVITY: It will be upgraded to double tracking to serve passengers

THE railway track between Kerteh in Terengganu and Kuantan in Pahang, which is owned by Petroleum Nasional Bhd (Petronas), will be redeveloped under a private finance initiative for about RM2 billion, according to sources.

It is believed that companies like IJM Corp Bhd, Loh & Loh Construction Sdn Bhd, UEM Group Bhd and DRB-HICOM Bhd may express interest in the redevelopment job.

The 72km single-track railway line was built in the 1990s with funding from Petronas. The line, managed by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, ceased operations more than a year ago.

"It stopped operating due to the sub-standard railway infrastructure and was also not safe," said sources close to Petronas.

Under the East Coast Economic Region Master Development Plan, the Kuantan-Kerteh railway link has been identified for redevelopment to include passenger services.

"This will be a private finance initiative and there are several companies which have indicated their interest," a source said.

The source said the existing single track will be upgraded to double tracking with modern railway electro-mechanical system, including electrification, to serve passengers. 

It will be developed in two phases. Phase One will link the line with Kuantan Port and the Gebeng Industrial Estate, while Phase Two will link it with Kuala Lumpur via Mentakab across the Main Range (Banjaran Titiwangsa), the source said.

"This will eventually turn Kuantan Port into the eastern border gateway to the Pacific and China, thus easing the heavy traffic in the Straits of Malacca and also shortening the travel time for vessels," he added.

The rail line links the Kerteh Petrochemical Complex and Kuantan Port, with a direct connection to the Gebeng Industrial Estate. It crosses five districts in Kemaman (Kerteh, Kemasik, Ulu Chukai, Binjai and Banggul) in Terengganu and Sungai Karang in Pahang.

The line was built to strengthen the transportation link between Gebeng and Kerteh, and to enhance the petrochemical linkages between Pahang and Terengganu.

Petronas is a major investor in several petrochemical ventures in both states. The rail line was built to handle cargo and traffic generated from petrochemical ventures.

At that time, around 2.8 million tonnes of cargo like ammonia, acetic acid, PVC, vinyl chloride monomer, paraxylene, benzene, ethylene and propylene were generated from the Kerteh Petrochemical complex.

The Kerteh-Kuantan railway line started with two diesel locomotives and 24 flat container wagons running twice a day. It handled about 35 to 40 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo per day.

The railway track has sub-lines to Kemaman Port, which is 33km from the Kerteh Petrochemical Complex, and from the main track branching out 66km to the Gebeng Industrial Estate.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GM Holden eyes local mart

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 20, 2013

EXPORT VERSION: Aussie carmaker may rebadge its concept cars under the Chevrolet brand if there is demand in Malaysia

GM Holden Ltd (GMHL), Australia's second biggest car- maker, may rebadge its Holden concept cars under the Chevrolet brand and offer them to the Malaysian market depending on demand, says its chief designer Richard Ferlazzo.

GMHL designs, engineers and manufacturers small and large concept cars under its own Holden brand for the Australian market. They include the Commodore range of sedans, Sportwagon and Caprice, priced at between A$15,000 and A$60,000 (RM48,000 and RM194,000).

The company, which is headquartered in Port Melbourne, Victoria, also sells about 5,000 units of the cars in the Middle East.

Ferlazzo told Business Times at the Australian Automotive Week 2013 here that there is currently a demand for Holden cars in Malaysia but the scale was too small for export.

He added that GMHL's parent, US automaker General Motors (GM), may also not favour the idea of selling Holden cars directly to Malaysia as it is promoting Chevrolet as a global brand.

"The Holden Commodore, which has been in the market for more than 15 years, is very popular in Australia. We are launching a new version of the Commodore over the next few months with new prepositions, configurations and designs.

"If Malaysians like the new version, we may rebadge it under the Chevrolet brand and offer it to them. The engineering aspects, specifications and performance will be the same. The only major difference between the Commodore and the Chevrolet is the body," Ferlazzo said.

Rebadging is applying a different brand or trademark to an existing car and marketing it as a different model. Rebadging is common because of the high cost of designing and engineering a totally new model, or establishing a new brand.

GMHL has for the past 60 years been designing and engineering cars for GM that includes Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick, which are produced in the United States, and European-manufactured Opel and Vauxhall.

The company has offered badge-engineered Chevrolet, Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota, and Vauxhall Motors models in sharing arrangements with GM Korea, Opel and Isuzu-sourced models.

"The industry is growing in terms of number of cars sold each year but there is competition. There are a lot of brands in the market place. How we differentiate ourselves is through style, functions and value. For the price you pay, you get a lot of the car," Ferlazzo said.

GMHL was previously known as Holden Body Builder before becoming a subsidiary of GM in 1931.

The history of Holden dates back to 1856 when it was founded as a saddlery manufacturer. It moved into the automotive field in 1908. The current name was adopted in 2005.

GMHL currently holds around 45 per cent share in Australia's automotive market.

Aussie Diver to make a splash in Malaysia

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 20,2013

MELBOURNE: Diver Consolidated Industries (DCI), which makes components for several industries, including automotive, in Australia, is looking at Malaysia to expand its business.

Chief executive officer Jim Griffin said the company is considering joint ventures and licensing agreements with Malaysian companies for heat shields technology and thermal and acoustic shielding.

"We want to develop new business in heat chilling supply and are looking to establish some ties this year in Malaysia. We are not talking to anyone yet," Griffin told Business Times in an interview.

DCI is a family-run, privately held company. The company has been supplying components to the automotive industry in Australia since 1948.

It supplies components to companies such as General Motors and Ford, as well as exports to various countries.

DCI has two plants in Melbourne that involved in stamping, fabrication and assembly, with annual turnover of A$26 million (RM84 million), Griffin said.

"We are wishing to expand our business in two ways. The first is to penetrate the automotive industry in Asean, and secondly, the non-automotive markets worldwide, including Australia.

"Diversifying away from the automotive industry is the key strategy for us because of falling vehicleproduction volume in Australia. So we are seeking new business opportunities in neighbouring countries."

Griffin attributed the lower production volume to the strong Australian dollar and the country's open market policy that allows more foreign brands to come in, creating competition.

He said vehicle production in Australia last year was about 231,000 and it is forecast to fall to 205,000 this year.

"This is considerably low compared to Malaysia, where production was about 600,000 last year. Malaysia does present big opportunities for companies like us," he added.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Alila eyes projects in Batu Ferringhi and Langkawi

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 12, 2013

SINGAPORE-BASED Alila Hotels & Resorts is in discussions with property developers to help develop and manage tourism-based projects in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, and Langkawi.

According to its vice-president for development, Arjan De Boer, the company plans to work hand-in-hand with the developers and recommend designers for various parts of the project to implement a feasible development.

De Boer said Alila, set up in 2002, will also offer its technical expertise for the developments.

"We will do our own feasibility study and financial projections, among others, for each development we embark on. There is no time line, but we are working on closing the deals soon. We find Malaysia a great place to do business and are bullish on the prospects," De Boer told Business Times.

This is not the first time Alila is planning hotel and resort developments in Malaysia. It has a deal with private developer Tekun Cemerlang Sdn Bhd to establish Alila Dalit Bay in Kota Kinabalu.

Alila also has an agreement with Singapore's Keystone Land Developments Sdn Bhd to manage hotel rooms at its project in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

Dubbed Alila Bangsar @ The Establishment, the company will manage 124 rooms in 2016.

"We would like to manage a second hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysians appreciate good designs and lifestyle facilities, which we can offer. The Alila brand is not new here. We have a large following of Malaysians for our resorts in Bali," De Boer.

De Boer said the hallmark of Alila is stylish and relaxing environments and superb hospitality.

"The name Alila comes from Sanskrit meaning 'surprise', which describes the refreshing character of our properties and the reaction of our guests upon arrival and throughout their stay with us," he said.

Alila currently manages four boutique hotels and resorts in Bali, two in Jakarta, Indonesia, and one each in Goa and Bangalore in India.

De Boer said Alila is targeting to manage 22 properties by 2016.

Besides the two properties in Malaysia, it plans to manage five resorts in China, one in Cambodia and the rest within the existing markets.

He said Alila will continue to be quality-driven with the focus on its two brands - Alila and Alila Villas.

"We are not quantity-driven but rather are focused on being a niche player, competing with the likes of Aman Resort, Bulgari and St Regis," he said.

RM1b plan to uplift Lake Gardens sites

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 12, 2013

Kuala Lumpur: Several sites near Perdana Lake Gardens here are expected to be redeveloped under a privatisation deal worth more than RM1 billion.

Business Times was told that a businessman's special purpose vehicle (SPV) is working with the Public-Private Partnership Unit (UKAS) of the Prime Minister's Department for the proposed redevelopment.

Sources said the SPV plans to redevelop several government-owned properties in Jalan Tanglin, Jalan Lembah, Jalan Tugu, Jalan Cenderawasih, Jalan Cenderasari and Jalan Bukit Aman.

The properties include the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Health Department (JKN), Town and Rural Planning Department, Public Service Commission, Public Library and the Culture, Arts and Sports Department.

Poliklinik Komuniti Tanglin, Pusat Penjaja Jalan Cenderasari, Malaysia Islamic Centre and Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department are among other buildings located in the area.

The SPV made a presentation late last year to UKAS and JKN to redevelop Poliklinik Komuniti Tanglin into a multi- storey building, the source said.

"The clinic will not be relocated. It will be housed within the new building once completed.

"The SPV intends to do the same with the other government-owned buildings. As the properties are owned by different ministries, the SPV will be presenting its proposals to each ministry and UKAS," the source added.

The source said as part of a wider strategy, the SPV is looking to integrate the redevelopment plan with the RM2.2 billion River of Life project, which aims to transform the Klang and Gombak rivers stretching 10.7km long.

"We believe this is a positive development, especially if a private party wants to come in and redevelop the area using its own money," the source added.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Double tracking to cost RM40b

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 11, 2013

Malaysia's electrified double track project (EDTP), meant to improve the passenger and cargo business, will cost some RM40 billion by the time the whole network is completed around 2020.

"The EDTP is an important development for Malaysia and is meant to benefit Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd and the public. The EDTP has created significant economic benefits for the country and new jobs," a government official told Business Times.

The official did not say whether the final estimated value takes into account cost overruns due to project delays.

The EDTP spans around 1,000km across Peninsular Malaysia from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The tracks are electrified and equipped with a signalling and telecommunication system.
Since 1995, some RM9 billion has been invested in the EDTP.

These include around RM2 billion to build a 150km line between Rawang and Seremban in 1995 and RM650 million for the 7.5km Sentul-Batu Caves line, which was completed in 2010.

The Sentul-Batu Caves line cost 55 per cent more than the RM420 million bid agreed in 2003 as there were delays.

The 179km Rawang-Ipoh line, which was completed in 2007, cost about RM6 billion, which was more than the original budget of RM4.5 billion. The cost overrun occurred because it was poorly managed.

The ongoing stretches are the Seremban-Gemas line, which is being built by India's Ircon International Ltd involving 102km for around RM3.5 billion, and the Ipoh-Padang Besar line involving 329km which is being built by MMC-Gamuda JV. The RM12.9 billion Ipoh-Padang Besar line is to be completed by next year.

According to the Auditor-General's Report 2011, the cost for the Ipoh-Padang Besar line had increased by RM3.61 billion due to land acquisition and compensation for squatter relocation, among others.

The final link to the EDTP is from Gemas to Johor Baru, covering 195km. This line, was has not been awarded, will cost RM8 billion to 10 billion.

"Rail transport currently has a market share of just three per cent compared to road transport, which is almost 90 per cent. This is a far cry compared with developed countries, where the rail share is about 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

"Rail is becoming an important mode of transport and that is why the government is emphasising on new developments, like the high-speed rail and mass rapid transit," the official said.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Keystone to launch maiden project in KL by mid-year

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 8, 2013

RM450M DEAL: Singapore-owned developer to build 41-storey residential-cum-hotel tower in Brickfields

SINGAPORE-owned Keystone Land Developments Sdn Bhd is launching its maiden project in Kuala Lumpur. The deal, worth RM450 million, comprises a 41-storey residential-cum-hotel tower.

Dubbed "The Establishment", the project in Brickfields will be launched by May or June, says its business development manager Joshua Chuah.

Keystone Land is a new lifestyle boutique developer established by investment bankers from Singapore.

Chuah is bullish on the development, adding that the five elements - serviced suites, hotel, facilities, carpark and a bridge linking to the Bangsar LRT station - will make the property a valuable investment.

The residential portion, called The Establishment, will feature 646 serviced suits compressed into 26 floors. Crowning the property will be the hotel, Alila Bangsar@The Establishment, which will have 124 rooms over four floors, said Chuah.

He said Alila Bangsar, which will have its own lobby and facilities, will be managed by Singapore-based Alila Hotels & Resorts. It is the group's second property under management here. The first is in Kota Kinabalu.

"We will retain the hotel rooms and sell all the serviced suites. We are bullish on sales thanks to the location and market demand," Chuah said yesterday after unveiling the property.

As an indication, the project, which is expected to start construction by June this year, is located directly opposite UOA Bangsar.

There will be studio units with sizes ranging from 450 sq ft to 500-odd sq ft, and 2 + 1 bedroom units of around 830 sq ft.

"We are finalising the selling price. Rest assured that by the time the property is ready in 2016, it will set a new benchmark price for Brickfields. This is a freehold property and, furthermore, it will be linked to the Bangsar LRT station," Chuah said.

Chuah said The Establishment will be cheaper when compared to the KL Eco City project behind the Abdullah Hukum LRT station, where the first residential tower was launched at around RM1,250 per sq ft (psf), and the Sentral Residences at KL Sentral, which are selling at more than RM1,200 psf.

Alila Hotels & Resorts vice-president for development, Arjan De Boer, said the estimate for a standard room a night at Alila Bangsar will be about RM400 to RM480.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eversendai bags US$28.5m Azerbaijan job

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on march 5, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Eversendai Corp Bhd, an integrated structural steel turnkey and power plant contractor, has won a US$28.5 million (RM87.3 million) job for the Crescent City project in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The job was awarded to its subsidiary, Eversendai Engineering LLC in Dubai, by the Crescent City developer Gilan Holding LLC.

It involves the supply, fabrication and installation of structural steel works for a 41-storey office tower, which is part of the project's first phase of development.

"This is a highly complex project but it fits in well with the experience and skill set available within the group," says the executive chairman and group managing director of Eversendai, Datuk AK Nathan.

Nathan said work on the project will start this month and is projected to complete by August next year.

He expects earnings from the new job to be recognised in its current financial year ending December 31 2013, and also next year.

The Main Market-listed Eversendai is 70.52 per cent-owned by Nathan and 8.85 per cent by the Employees Provident Fund.

The group recently reported a revenue and net profit of RM1.02 billion and RM121.7 million, respectively, compared with RM1.03 billion and RM131.6 million last year.

Eversendai had secured a few complex fabrication projects in the last one to two years, which resulted in a slight delay in recognising the potential higher revenue and its corresponding profits.

"The current scale of our order book will provide excellent visibility of future revenue streams across the group. With our solid performance in fiscal year 2012, we are confident of another robust year in 2013," Nathan said.

Eversendai's current order book stands at RM1.6 billion with over 20 major projects.

"Going by our strong past performances and recognised execution capabilities, we are upbeat to achieve a revenue target of RM2 billion within the next five years, via organic growth and acquisitions," Nathan said.

MRCB keen on Klang Valley double-tracking project

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 6, 2013

MALAYSIAN Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) has indicated its interest to the government to upgrade the Klang Valley double-tracking (KVDT) system at an estimated cost of RM5 billion, says sources close to the company.

A source told Business Times that the amount includes building a new 110km bypass line linking Serendah with Port Klang for around RM2 billion.

The balance RM3 billion is to upgrade the KVDT line from Rawang to Seremban and Port Klang to Sentul, involving 150km of double-tracking work, he said.

The KVDT system was built by Indian Railway Construction for Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) in the 1990s. The system began operations in 1995.

The source said the KVDT system is running on old technology and has not been upgraded since then, resulting in commuter train delays and accidents.

The source added that under the Economic Transformation Programme, the government wants commuter trains to run at 7.5 minutes interval instead of the current 15 minutes.

"With faster trains and shorter intervals, the infrastructure and the system, including signalling, electrification and communication, has to be upgraded."

It is understood that the government has not received an expression of interest for the KVDT system upgrade or the bypass line between Serendah and Port Klang from any party other than MRCB.

"For now, MRCB is seen as the likely party to land both the jobs without a fight. There is a possibility that IJM Corp Bhd, Loh & Loh Construction Sdn Bhd, UEM Group Bhd and DRB-Hicom Bhd would step in. If that happens, it would be a tough battle for MRCB as it lacks experience in railway development," said the source.

The upgrading of the KDVT system is important, especially for loss-making KTMB.

The double-track from Rawang to Seremban and Port Klang to Sentul offers an alternative mode of transport for commuters and helps alleviate traffic congestion on the Federal Highway (Kuala Lumpur-Petaling Jaya-Subang Jaya-Shah Alam-Klang).

The bypass line, meanwhile, is also important as it would help divert cargo traffic from the main KTM freight line between Rawang and Seremban, which is facing a bottleneck.

Monday, March 4, 2013

White Knight with 'rail' passion to the rescue?

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 4, 2013

COULD a white knight with passion for railway be the final solution to help revive national railway company Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB)?

The government-owned railway company has been spending significant sums on network improvements but it has yet to make reasonable profits.

KTMB, which is involved in freight, inter-city and commuter train services, among others, has been bleeding red ink since it was corporatised in August 1992.

It did make a net profit of RM9 million to RM15 million from 1993 to 1995 but later sank into the red.

The government feels privatisation is a way to tackle KTMB's debts; the national rail operator had RM1.45 billion in cumulative net losses up until 2008.

In 2011 alone, the losses were almost RM200 million, attributed to high operating cost, low passenger and cargo fares and a drop in the cargo business.

Business Times reported recently that KTMB will need RM7 billion for upgrading and maintenance of infrastructure and rolling stocks and to fund the operation costs to churn it back to profitability.

KTMB's historical rail timeline dates back to 1869. The first attempt to lay tracks, made by timber, was from Johor Baru to Gunung Pulai (32.1km). The Kuala Lumpur railway station was opened in 1886. From 1900 and 1950, tracks were laid nationwide.

In 1948, Malayan Railway Administration (MAR) was created under The Malayan Railway Ordinance 1948 to manage railways previously managed by the states under FMS Railway. MAR was renamed as Keretapi Tanah Melayu.

Between 1997 and 2003, several companies came up with plans to re-privatise KTMB. They included Renong Group and MMC-Gamuda. The government shelved the plan as it was not financially viable.

In late 2011, MMC, controlled by Malaysia's eighth richest man Tan Sri Syed Mokthar Albukhary, confirmed a Business Times report on its plan to pump RM1 billion and take over KTMB's operations.

Industry observers believe MMC had something up its sleeve as KTMB is the only missing link in their journey to have a complete logistics network here.

MMC operates Senai International Airport and Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, and Penang port.

"If MMC gets KTMB, it will void the gap between the ports and airport.

"We think that MMC is not just keen on KTMB's operations but also the land housing the KTM head office and railway station," they said.

MMC group managing director Datuk Hasni Harun said last year that besides tapping new opportunities, including ridership, cargo and freight, there will be synergy between MMC's own port operations and KTMB's train services.

Business Times reported recently that Global Rail Sdn Bhd plans to invest RM1 billion with its foreign partners, which include Bombardier Transportation Switzerland AG and China Railway Corp, to re-engineer KTMB without privatisation.

Global Rail is owned by Fan Boon Heng, who previously headed ABB Daimler-Benz Transportation and later Balfour Beatty Rail Sdn Bhd for 20 years. Former KTMB managing director Datuk Mohd Salleh Abdullah is now Global Rail chairman.

The company's proposal includes operation lease of rolling stocks, maintenance of the railway infrastructure and refurbishment of existing electric multiple units.

It seems that Global Rail's proposal is in line with the current KTMB management thoughts, which has the support from the Railway Union of Malaya and senior officials.

Whether Global Rail could be the only white knight to rescue KTMB is left to be seen.

Berjaya Corp, Tan look to list five firms

By Sharen Kaur
Published in NST on March 4, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: Berjaya Corp Bhd (BCorp) and its founder, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, may list five companies this year, mostly in Singapore, to raise over RM2 billion, sources said.

BCorp will look to list Sports Toto Malaysia Trust (STM-Trust) and Bermaz Motor Sdn Bhd while Tan is likely to float his private vehicles, namely 7-Eleven Malaysia Bhd, MOL Global Bhd and U-Mobile Sdn Bhd.

The move is part of plans is to unlock the value of the assets and fund local and overseas expansion, sources said.

Last Tuesday, BCorp said it is listing its 75.40 per cent-owned Bermaz Motor on Bursa Malaysia's Main Market via Berjaya Auto Bhd. Bermaz is the local distributor of Mazda vehicles.

Cash-generating Berjaya Sports Toto Bhd (BToto), a unit of BCorp, has also obtained approval to list STM-Trust, its number forecast operation in Singapore, in the current quarter.

Under the proposed listing, BToto plans to raise over RM1 billion, which will be paid out to shareholders. STM-Trust plans to declare dividends based on cash flow instead of distributable profits.

BToto's executive director Freddie Pang had said the listing of STM-Trust in Singapore is to gain access to a bigger pool of international investors whose portfolios will not be required to be syariah-compliant.

For 3G service provider MOL Global, Tan told Business Times last year that he is planning a relisting in Singapore to strengthen the company's international presence.

MOL now operates in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and India and is making inroads into Turkey, Brazil and Vietnam.

He also said the relisting of 7-Eleven, the country's largest 24-hour convenience store operator, will happen this year on Bursa Malaysia's Main Market.

7-Eleven is a unit of Berjaya Retail Bhd, which was listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2010 but taken private in 2011 after a company linked to Tan made an unconditional takeover offer.

The listings of 7-Eleven, MOL and U-Mobile are part of the billionaire's pledge to donate half of his wealth to charity during his lifetime, and also to reduce group borrowings.

Forbes Magazine last week estimated Tan's net worth at around US$1.2 billion (RM3.7 billion).

Analysts said the listing of U-Mobile, which was scheduled for last year, is to fund its network expansion.

Tan, who relinquished BCorp chairmanship last year, founded Berjaya Group some three decades ago. His eldest son, Datuk Robin Tan, is now the group chairman and chief executive officer.

Chappati.com ready to cook up a storm in Malaysia

By Cheryl Yvonne Achu
Published in NST on March 4, 2013

NORTHERN Indian-inspired fusion restaurants are mushrooming in every major city in the country today.

With fancy cross-culture decors and innovative menus, these restaurants are bringing modern twists to Indian cuisine, in a bid to attract increased clientele from all walks of life.

For Restaurant Chappati.com, which is based in Petaling Jaya, the concept of serving authentic Indian cuisine, and Western-Indian flavoured dishes, has brought it huge success.

This contemporary Northern Indian restaurant is owned by The Restaurant Chappatidotcom Group - recently founded by four entreprenuers namely Sunil Sachdev, Updesh Gill and her sons, Harry and Sanjit Sidhu.

                                                                             (L-R Sanjit, Harry, Updesh, Sunil)

Combined, the founders have almost 40 years of experience in the food and beverage, and entertainment industries - Sunil through Classic Floral Services and Updesh via Hasheel Sidhu Services.

A substantial amount has been invested in the outlet and they are expecting to break even on its initial investment within its first year of operation, says Updesh.

Restaurant Chappati.com combines a modern decor with Indian flavours.

The interior design is drawn from a mix of cultures, dressed in hues of colours.

Updesh said the key highlights of the restaurant includes tandoori items, Indian curries and bread, kebabs, pizzas and pastas.

"We have more than 200 items on the menu that includes a variety of cuisine from Northern Indian, fusion and Western favourites, as well as local delights.

"The idea is to offer food for just about anybody," Updesh told Business Times in an interview recently.

Updesh said the challenge in Northern Indian cuisine is making people understand that the food is not all about being greasy and spicy, but is healthy to an extent because of the variety of spices used.

Sunil, meanwhile, believes the key to a successful restaurant is its service, speed, quality and consistency of the food, and cleanliness. The group will continue to invest to ensure that it operates under a certain standard.

"We are inspired to establish Chappati.com as a brand in the likes of AirAsia, Maybank and Nestle.

"These are all brands that have crossed international borders to become known throughout the world," Sunil said.

Sunil added that the group is aiming to strengthen its presence in Malaysia as well as gain a foothold in several other countries.

"We plan to expand our operations abroad over the next two years.

"We are targeting Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia (Bali) and the Middle East (Dubai) under the first phase of expansion," he said.

Sunil said the group is also planning to set up convention centres in the Klang Valley starting this year, featuring the Chappati.com brand.