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Showing posts from March, 2024

Water: Solutions and opportunities in a thirsty world

  WATER covers over two-thirds of the earth’s surface, but only a tiny fraction of fresh water is readily available for use. Recent reports indicate a looming crisis. By 2030, global demand for fresh water is expected to surpass supply by 40 per cent. As a result, billions of people are living without safely managed water and sanitation. It is estimated that 700 million people could be displaced by water scarcity by 2030. What is causing this imbalance between water supply and demand? Climate change, urbanisation, ageing infrastructure and pollution are among the many factors at play. Increasingly, innovative technology also contributes to this challenge. Driving demand, impacting water Semiconductors, crucial to the modern economy, drive investment in water. From cloud computing to automotive systems, their role is indispensable. With investment in semiconductor fabrication plants soaring to meet growing demand, here is a lesser-known fact: Semiconductor manufacturing is highly water-

Americans invested billions in Chinese companies. Now their money is stuck

WHEN  investors talk about “zombie” companies, they’re usually referring to distressed startups that are hobbling along, unable to grow and unlikely to ever return the money they’ve raised. But as deal-makers feverishly debated efforts this past week by lawmakers to force TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app, they talked about a new version: China zombies. China zombies may have booming businesses, but they’re unlikely to provide investors with any immediate return because they’re stuck in geopolitical crosshairs. It’s not just the investors in ByteDance who, after handing it more than US$8 billion, are stuck. What looked like a mammoth growth opportunity just a few years ago – inspiring investors to pour money into companies such as Ant Financial, PingPong and Geekplus – has turned hostile. “There’s more out there like ByteDance,” Evan Chuck, a partner at the advisory firm Crowell, said of companies with investors who may find themselves in this position. “It’s

ByteDance investors could win in TikTok sale, Republican lawmaker says

INVESTORS in TikTok’s Chinese parent company stand to benefit if it sold the app because divestment would remove a source of uncertainty, a Republican lawmaker said. “It would be in the financial interest of ByteDance’s investors to effectuate a forced sale,” Representative Mike Gallagher, who spearheaded a House-passed bill aimed at making the company divest TikTok to allow its continued operation in the United States, said on CBS’s  Face the Nation  on Sunday (Mar 17). Efforts to remove Chinese corporate influence over the popular social-media platform is back on the political agenda in an election year. At least two United States senators voiced support in principle for the bill on Sunday, though it faces a slower process in the chamber after winning bipartisan backing in the House last week on concern over Chinese government influence on the American public. Key senators have expressed constitutional reservations about banning the platform. Gallagher, who chairs a House committee l

Strong US dollar hits Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit hardest among Asean currencies

STORM clouds are gathering for South-east Asian currencies as the US dollar fires up in a robust start to the dragon year, fuelled by stubborn inflation and rosy jobs data, heightening expectations that the US Federal Reserve will maintain rates higher for longer. Across South-east Asia, the Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit have been the hardest hit, although there was a brief recovery on Thursday (Mar 21) following the US central bank’s latest decision to hold rates. “Almost all currencies in the world weakened against the US dollar in the first quarter. Asean FX (foreign exchange) was not an exception,” HSBC Head of Asia FX Research Joey Chew told  The Business Times .  

Wealth in Vietnam growing fast, but low productivity tests high-income goal

[HO CHI MINH CITY] Vietnam is expected to experience one of the sharpest surges in wealth in the next 10 years, as the South-east Asian nation becomes increasingly popular as an investment destination and safe manufacturing base, says a wealth report. Over the next decade, Vietnam’s number of millionaires – estimated at 19,400 as at end-2023 – is expected to grow faster than in any other country in the world, noted wealth-intelligence firm New World Wealth. This observation was based on research for the firm’s wealth report series, carried out with investment migration advisers Henley & Partners. By 2033, Vietnam’s wealth per capita is forecast to more than double its 2023 level of...  

Thailand delays 500 billion baht handout scheme to fourth quarter

  THAILAND’S government expects to launch a signature handout scheme worth 500 billion baht (S$18.5 billion) by the fourth quarter of this year, a deputy finance minister said on Monday (Mar 25), delaying it beyond a former target date of May. Concerns over the funding have dogged the controversial digital wallet scheme to transfer 10,000 baht to 50 million Thais to spend within six months, with some experts having called it fiscally irresponsible. Authorities will hold further discussions on the programme on Wednesday and again on Apr 10, Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat told reporters. The government planned to carry out registration of eligible Thais and stores in the third quarter, and distribute the money in the fourth, he added. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has said the government will forge ahead to deliver on the election campaign promise intended to boost weak growth. Julapun had earlier flagged that the scheme could be delayed beyond May. REUTERS

Thailand to benefit from semiconductor production rejig, says US commerce secretary

THAILAND  stands to gain from a move by the United States to diversify semiconductor production, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Wednesday (Mar 13), adding that American firms were ready to “supercharge” investments into the South-east Asian country. The electrical and electronics industry is one of Thailand’s main foreign investment magnets, and a key sector that Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government is looking to expand as it seeks to kickstart a sluggish economy. “Production of semiconductors is dangerously concentrated in one or two countries in the world,” Raimondo said at an event in Bangkok, outlining that the US would look to push additional investments into countries that are part of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) as it seeks to diversify production. The US-led IPEF, aimed in part at providing countries in the region with an alternative to closer ties with China, consists of 14 countries, including Thailand. “So we’re all in this together. I

Thai contractor faces 108 billion baht debt crunch as some overseas projects fail

  A CASH crunch at Thailand’s largest construction company is fuelling concern among investors, regulators and rating agencies already unnerved by a series of local corporate scandals and debt defaults. Italian-Thai Development confirmed on Wednesday (Feb 13) reports that it is in talks with banks for new loans to tide over the liquidity crisis that led to delayed payments to some workers and contractors. Trading of shares in Italian-Thai, which had total liabilities of 108 billion baht (S$4 billion) including bonds, loans and trade credit as at Sep 30, was suspended this month after the contractor missed the deadline for submitting its full-year 2023 financial statement. The contractor posted a cumulative loss of about six billion baht from 2020 to 2022 as it took on engineering projects in places including India, Taiwan and Myanmar – where the imposition of military rule led to delays, shutdowns and write-downs. The financial squeeze has forced the company to explore the sale of a mi

Thailand again considers legalising casinos, up to now a losing bet

  THAILAND is again considering legalising casinos to draw investment and tourism, a study submitted to the House of Representative on Friday (Mar 15) showed, but such proposals have been losing bets in the past because of public disapproval. The only gambling allowed in Thailand is on state-controlled horse races and the lottery. But at least 10 per cent of Thais are addicted to gambling, the study, by a 60-member committee of government and opposition lawmakers, said. Many in the industry believe a legal casino market in Thailand would be a huge success in drawing overseas visitors, providing strong competition for the world’s biggest gambling hub Macau, the only place in China where citizens can legally gamble in casinos. Legalisation of gambling has been discussed in the past but no government has gone ahead due to public opposition. In a 2021 opinion poll, 46.51 per cent opposed legalised gambling due to moral and crime concerns, while 21.25 per cent were supportive. The previous

Thailand forges ahead with ‘digital wallet’ handout scheme, official says

THAILAND is forging ahead with a controversial 500 billion baht (S$18.6 billion) handout scheme and may still need to borrow to finance it, a deputy finance minister said on Wednesday (Mar 20). Julapun Amornvivat made the remarks in parliament, which began a three-day debate on a 3.5 trillion baht budget bill for the 2024 fiscal year, aimed at reviving South-east Asia’s second-largest economy. “We insist that it may be necessary to get a loan through a bill, but if there are any changes, we will probably seek approval from the members (of parliament) again,” he said. “But the project will definitely go ahead”. The scheme would transfer 10,000 baht to some 50 million Thais to spend in six months, but it has been hounded by concerns over how it will be funded, with some experts calling it fiscally irresponsible. Julapun also said the government hoped to achieve a balanced budget in an appropriate time. The 2024 budget for the fiscal year ending September aims for a 9.3 per cent rise in s

Thai tycoons heat up virtual bank bids as applications open

  CHAROEN Pokmhand Group and Gulf Energy Development, among Thailand’s largest business groups, are vying for the country’s new virtual bank licences as the Bank of Thailand opens applications. True Corp, a telecommunication arm of CP Group, and its partners including Ant Group are in the process of preparing a bid, said chairman Suphachai Chearavanont. Gulf Energy, the nation’s top power producer, will submit the bid in partnership with Krung Thai Bank and its affiliate Advanced Info Service, according to chief executive officer Sarath Ratanavadi. South-east Asia’s second-largest economy is opening its banking industry to more competition that will allow greater access to loans for under-served consumers, following similar moves across Asia where such digital banks are already up and running. The central bank plans to announce the winning bidders next year as it began accepting applications from interested groups on Wednesday (Mar 20) until Sep 19. “We have seen the greater importance

Thai king’s second son says will return to kingdom

  THAI King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s second son has said he wants to return to the kingdom permanently after living abroad for more than two decades, in an interview published Thursday. Vacharaesorn Vivacharawongse grew up in the United States following his parents’ divorce in the 1990s, but he made an unexpected visit to Thailand in August last year. The trip was closely followed by Thai media, but there was no official comment from the palace. Now back in the country, the 42-year-old told the  Bangkok Post  he wanted to move back but insisted he had “no aspirations” of his own. He said he was there “privately” and intended to make his return permanent. “No one told me to come. I am not representing anyone,” he said. “I don’t want to compete for anything... I have no resources, no power.” Vacharaesorn is the second of four sons from the king’s second marriage to former actress Sujarinee Vivacharawongse. None hold official royal titles. “I don’t have aspirations beyond providing value in

Malaysia’s capital market grows 5.6% in 2023 despite lower fundraising: Securities Commission

  [KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia’s capital market grew 5.6 per cent in 2023 to RM3.8 trillion (S$1.08 trillion), largely driven by growth in the local bourse’s market capitalisation, bonds and sukuk market and despite lower fundraising activities. The growth was achieved amid heightened global economic uncertainty and constant shifts in investor sentiment across global financial markets last year, according to the Securities Commission (SC) Malaysia’s 2023 annual report released on Monday (Mar 25). Total funds raised in Malaysia’s capital market moderated to RM127.7 billion last year versus a record high of RM179.4 billion in 2022 owing to “exceptional events”, said SC’s executive chairman Awang Adek. The year 2022 was led by a RM10 billion Celcom-Digi merger deal and higher bond issuances totaling RM31 billion in that year. “Last year, with the absence of large issuances and merger activities, the capital market returned to pre-pandemic levels (in 2019), but remained resilient,” he told repo

Declining Indonesian palm oil exports may affect domestic supply, officials say

  INDONESIA’S palm oil product exports slipped in January and February, raising concerns less of the edible oil will be available domestically because of the tie between overseas sales quotas and internal quotas, official said on Monday (Mar 25). Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, shipped 1.9 million tonnes of palm oil products in January and one million tonnes in February, below the monthly average over the past year and year ago levels, Trade Ministry official Bambang Wisnubroto said. Palm oil demand was hit by less competitive pricing compared to rivals such as soy and canola oils, Bambang said. “Under this condition, importing countries would prefer other edible oils,” he said at a weekly government meeting on inflation broadcast online. The weaker exports could impact poorer Indonesian consumers since it may lead to lower mandatory sales to the government’s cheap cooking oil programme, warned Bambang and a presidential official during the meeting. Under Indonesia’s

S$15.5 million St Regis penthouse sale in Singapore flops after three auctions

  IN THE past, a luxury penthouse for sale in Singapore would be one of the hottest properties in town. Not anymore, after a condo with an asking price of S$15.5 million failed to attract any bidders this week. The five-bedroom suite at the St Regis Residences, with a private pool and a 180-degree panoramic view, received no offers during its third auction by realtor Knight Frank on Thursday (Mar 21). That is even after the price was lowered by 14 per cent from earlier this year. The property, owned by the son of Indonesian billionaire Tahir, is one of many luxury homes struggling to sell in a Singapore market slammed by a 60 per cent stamp duty on foreign buyers, along with a crackdown on money laundering. The moves have slowed purchases by the super rich to a trickle. Developers including City Developments, which built the St Regis Residences more than a decade ago, have seen their stocks pummelled as a result. Other projects are faring little better. The Cuscaden Reserve, a luxury p

Chinese EV makers take centre stage at Bangkok motor show, to unveil new models

  BOOSTED by strong electric vehicle sales, Chinese car makers will be in the spotlight at the Bangkok International Motor Show this week, underscoring the growing challenge to Japanese auto giants that have long dominated Thailand’s vehicle market. Chinese automakers such as Geely’s Zeekr and state-owned Xpeng Motors are slated to unveil their latest EVs to Thai customers as they debut at the Bangkok motor show, a week-long expo that opens to public on Wednesday (Mar 27). On Monday, at a media preview, the EV newcomers showcased their cars and technology at slick booths shoulder to shoulder with those from market leaders like Toyota Motor that are household names in South-east Asia’s second-largest economy. Hangzhou-headquartered Zeekr will launch two EV models in Thailand in June and open 10 showrooms in the country this year, as part of a wider expansion in South-east Asia, vice-president and Head of Emerging Market Mars Chen said. Chen said Zeekr planned to position itself in the p

From bankers to technocrats, all eyes on Indonesia president-elect Prabowo’s Cabinet line-up

  [JAKARTA] A week after Indonesia’s election commission declared Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto the winner of of last month’s presidential election, the spotlight now turns to the crucial task by the former general to assemble his Cabinet. Social media has been abuzz in recent days with various lists claiming to represent Prabowo’s potential Cabinet line-up, ranging from bankers to technocrats, purportedly originating from both supporters and opponents alike. Erwin Aksa, deputy chairman of Golkar party and member of Prabowo’s campaign team, said that the 72-year-old politician, set to be inaugurated on Oct 20, won’t establish a transition team for a smooth power transfer from outgoing...

Thailand starts aid deliveries to Myanmar under plan aimed at managing conflict

  THAILAND started the delivery of aid to military-ruled Myanmar on Monday (Mar 25), in a humanitarian initiative that seeks to pave the way for talks between warring camps after three years of instability and violence triggered by a coup. The first batch of 4,000 relief bags carrying rice, dried food, and other essentials for 20,000 people was delivered in a convoy by the Thai Red Cross to its Myanmar counterpart at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing, Thailand’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The project is part of a wider peace initiative by Thailand to establish a humanitarian corridor, backed by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), as a civil war intensifies between Myanmar’s military on one side and ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement on the other. The United Nations has said at least 2.6 million people have been displaced by fighting and more than 18 million people are in need of assistance. Asean’s five-point peace plan, which Myanm