Sabtu, 31 Disember 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

N.Korea rallies for successor, no mention of nuclear arms

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 07:03 PM PST

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea in a policy-setting message for New Year called on its people to rally behind anointed successor Kim Jong-un by becoming "human shields" but made no mention of its nuclear arms programme, the key source of regional security concern during his deceased father's reign.

North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un looks on during the memorial for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, in this still image taken from video December 29, 2011. REUTERS/KRT via Reuters TV

The North's three main state newspapers said in "a joint editorial" published on Sunday that Kim Jong-un has legitimacy to carry on the revolutionary battle initiated by his grandfather Kim Il-sung and developed by his father Kim Jong-il, who died two weeks ago of a heart attack.

"Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of our Party and our people, is the banner of victory and glory of Songun Korea and the eternal centre of its unity," the joint editorial carried by the North's state KCNA news agency said.

"The dear respected Kim Jong-un is precisely the great Kim Jong-il. The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-un unto death."

The joint editorial assailed the South Korean government for pursuing confrontation and war manoeuvres despite efforts by the North to reopen dialogue, and it repeated its demand for the withdrawal of the U.S. military from the South.

But conspicuously absent from the 5,000-word New Year editorial was any mention of its nuclear arms programme.

Momentum was building in diplomatic contacts between the North and the United States before the announcement of Kim Jong-il's death on December 19, raising expectations that the two sides may be closer to reaching a compromise to restart stalled talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear programme.

Those talks stalled in 2008 when Pyongyang balked at intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites under a 2005 deal by six countries including the United States and South Korea to give the impoverished North aid in return for disarmament.

Last week, in a fiery message that marked the first communication with the outside world since Kim Jong-il's death, the North's National Defense Commission, which is seen as the apex of power, declared it would not deal with the current government in the South.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had angered Pyongyang by cutting off aid to the destitute neighbour when he took office in 2008 demanding nuclear disarmament and economic reform as preconditions to reopen food assistance and political engagement.

Tensions on the divided peninsula had reached a new peak in 2010 when the North launched an artillery barrage into a South Korean island killing civilians. The North was also blamed for a torpedo attack against a South Korean navy ship killing 46.

The North's state media said on Saturday that Kim Jong-un has been officially appointed supreme commander of its 1.2-million strong military, two days after the official mourning for the dead leader ended in a move seen as a rush to solidify succession and boost the junior Kim's grip on power.

Kim Jong-un was named a four-star general and given the vice-chairmanship of the ruling party's Central Military Commission by his father in 2010.

Experts believe the untested new leader, who had only been groomed for rule since 2009, will rule with the aid of a close coterie that includes his uncle and key power-broker, Jang Song-thaek, at least in the early stages of the leadership transition.

Jang, husband of Kim Jong-il's younger sister, Kim Kyong-hui, stood behind his nephew in Wednesday's mass funeral parade, escorting the hearse carrying Kim's body.

Despite Pyongyang's determination to project an unbroken line from Kim Jong-un's iron-fisted predecessors, which began with his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, there have been questions among outsiders about his capacity to lead the country.

North and South Korea are technically still at war under a truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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Syrian opposition signs plan for post-Assad future

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 04:03 PM PST

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two leading Syrian opposition parties have agreed a road map to democracy should a popular uprising succeed in toppling President Bashar al-Assad, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Adlb December 30, 2011. Syrian security forces, undaunted by the presence of Arab League observers, have killed at least 12 protesters as hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said. REUTERS/Handout

Hundreds of thousands had taken to the streets across Syria on Friday, aiming to demonstrate the strength of their movement to Arab League monitors checking whether Assad is implementing a pledge to halt a violent crackdown on unrest that has been raging since March.

The observer mission has already stirred controversy for its lack of numbers and comments by its Sudanese leader, General Mohammed al-Dabi, suggesting he was reassured by first impressions of Homs, one of the main centres of unrest.

He later backtracked from the reports of those remarks, but appeared likely to cause fresh concern that the mission would be soft on Syria by undermining the comments of one of his observers in Deraa, cradle of the uprising, posted in a video on YouTube early on Saturday.

"We saw snipers in the town, we saw them with our own eyes," the observer says in Arabic, visibly concerned. "We're going to ask the government to remove them immediately. We'll be in touch with the Arab League back in Cairo."

Dabi later told the BBC: "This man said that IF he sees, by his eyes, those snipers, he will report them immediately and he will tell the government. But he didn't see, he said that 'IF he (sees)', so it is not correct in the media, what he said."

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces had shot dead 27 people on Friday in areas where there were no observers, adding to the toll of a conflict that the United Nations says has killed more than 5,000 people, most of them unarmed civilians.

The Observatory said four civilians had been shot dead on Saturday, three by snipers. The bodies of three detainees were also returned home, and a woman died of gunshot wounds, it said.

With little confidence in the Arab observer mission, opposition groups are trying to create a coherent movement to build political pressure and to boost their credibility in the eyes of other countries that fear chaos if Assad is forced out.

The leading opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, signed the deal on Friday with the largely Syrian-based National Coordination Committee, according to Moulhem Droubi, a top SNC member from Syria's Muslim Brotherhood.

The two groups have received attention from Western powers, but it is not clear how much sway they hold with the mass of protesters. The document seen by Reuters says the deal will be presented to other opposition groups at a conference next month.


The National Coordination Committee had disagreed with the SNC's calls for foreign intervention - one of several disputes that had prevented opposition groups agreeing on what a post-Assad Syria should look like.

In their pact, the two sides "reject any military intervention that harms the sovereignty or stability of the country, though Arab intervention is not considered foreign."

The groups outlined a one-year transitional period, which could be renewed once if necessary. In that period, Syria would adopt a new constitution "that ensures a parliamentary system for a democratic, pluralistic civil state."

The document also stresses that religious freedom will be guaranteed by the new constitution and condemns any signs of sectarianism or "sectarian militarisation."

Most of the protesters come from Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, while Assad still appears to enjoy significant support among members of his Shi'ite Alawite sect, from which most of the ruling establishment is drawn.

The Arab League plan calls for a verifiable withdrawal of troops and heavy weaponry from towns and cities.

But activists say they have little faith that the Arab League mission can help to stem the violence against them.


The mission is still short of its planned strength of 150 members, who must observe events in dozens of towns and cities across a country of 23 million people. And it relies for its transport on state security escorts who some protesters say have prevented access to the demonstrators.

"We don't know what to do. But we know Assad and his regime won't give us what we want," said opposition activist Ziad in Douma, a suburb of Damascus that has seen big protests. "So why should we wait for them to help us?

"Assad wants us to raise our weapons and kill each other and he is pushing us towards that every day. We wanted the monitors to help us find a solution, but it won't happen."

SNC head Burhan Ghalioun said on Friday that if the government did not implement the peace plan, "there is no other solution except going to the (U.N.) Security Council - and I think we are walking toward the Security Council."

On Saturday, thousands took to the streets in the protest hotspot of Idlib, carrying the bodies of three slain protesters wrapped in white sheets and sprinkled with leaves.

"The martyr is beloved by God and Assad is the enemy of God," the protesters shouted, according to witnesses. Most foreign media are banned from Syria, making witness reports hard to verify.

Assad, 46, says Islamist militants steered from abroad are the source of unrest and have killed 2,000 of his forces.


The state news agency SANA reported at length on "massive demonstrations" throughout Syria on Friday in support of Assad, and against "the plot which Syria is exposed to."

It said demonstrators had denounced "the pressure and biased campaigns targeting Syria's security and stability" and the "lies and fabrications of the misleading media channels."

Some protesters have decided their best hope lies with the Free Syrian Army, a group of army defectors and armed rebels who have been taking the fight to Assad's forces and sometimes overshadowing the peaceful protests.

"I think it's obvious at this point that the Arab League needs to take a stronger stance. We need support for the Free Syrian Army," activist Manhal Abu Bakr said by phone from Hama.

"It has been nearly a week and they (the monitors) haven't stopped the killing."

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby had said it should take only a week to see if Assad was keeping his word.

The commander of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters on Friday he had ordered his fighters to stop attacks while the FSA tried to arrange a meeting with the monitors.

But in a newspaper interview published on Saturday he said if the Arab mission was "not professional," the FSA would "resume our defence operations."

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Friday that the United Nations was ready to train the observers in rights monitoring.

Related Stories:
Opposition groups sign deal on post-Assad Syria

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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Gunmen attack bars in northeast Kenya, at least 2 dead

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 03:54 PM PST

GARISSA, Kenya (Reuters) - Gunmen sprayed bullets at New Year revellers in two bars in northeastern Kenya on Sunday, killing at least two people, a witness and police said, the latest in a wave of attacks near the border with Somalia.

A worker at one of the pubs in Garissa town said gunmen approached in a vehicle, fired at the bars and then drove away.

"The guys fired from the vehicle. They first shot the guard, (and then) shot more bullets at those who tried to leave and those who were at the entrance," said the witness who declined to be named.

North Eastern provincial police commander Leo Nyongesa said two people had been confirmed dead. A medic, who refused to be identified, said 28 people had been wounded, including security officers and several women.

Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia in October to attack the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, whom it blamed for a spate of kidnappings and cross-border attacks on its soil.

Al Shabaab has denied responsibility for the kidnappings and has vowed major retaliation against Kenya.

Kenyan police said on Saturday they were looking for 15 people whom they said had information on al Shabaab.

"I can see ambulances and the military. Local police have taken two bodies and four people who had gunshot wounds to Garissa general hospital," a Reuters photographer said.

Relatives at the hospital said a third person had died, he said, in the attack that struck at midnight.

Last week two grenades were hurled at a club in Wajir-district in northeastern Kenya, wounding at least seven people.

(Reporting by Noor Ali and Daud Yussuf; Writing by Yara Bayoumy)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

A perfect fit

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 10:50 PM PST

JUST like the perfect dress, Capital FM 88.9 became the country's first radio station that has been tailor-made exclusively for the modern, urban woman.

With its sturdy tagline, Women, The New Capital, the station, which hit the airwaves on Dec 1, offers a unique menu of women-centric content and entertainment.

The line-up of celebrity presenters on the station include Joanne Kam, Asha Gill, Xandria Ooi, Patricia K, Sheela Haran and April Kuan.

The deejays are women who are at different stages of their life, and will offer their own insight and perspectives during their segments.

The station hopes to develop a sense of community with the listeners. Its message to the listeners is: "We are women, we hear you, we listen to you and we want you to speak up."

Being an unformatted radio station that is targeted towards women aged between 25 and 35 also means there's lots of urban adult contemporary music, with the occasional peppering of favourites from the 1980s and 90s. Capital FM broadcasts in the Klang Valley.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Your 10 questions for Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 08:19 PM PST

Top Glove chief answers ...

With the volatility of both latex prices and currencies, will the profit and growth of the glove industry be sustainable, and the targeted world market share by Top Glove achievable?

Wei WS, Kuala Lumpur

In the last one year, players in the rubber glove industry were surprised by the sharp and sudden increase in the latex prices which was at its all-time high of RM10.99/kg early this year. Coupled with the unfavourable currency movements, we were hard hit. However, just like any other problems in life, after you've encountered it once, you become wiser and are more prepared in overcoming it in the future.

We have come to accept that we are in an era of intensified economic cycles and strong volatility due to uncertain global economic situation, the unpredictable weather condition and rampant natural disasters. Therefore, we have to evolve our business model and re-strategise accordingly. We have learned that while being big, it is important to remain agile by having a diversified product mix and having flexible facilities that could respond to different market demands quickly. Once the volatility is factored in, profit and growth should become sustainable. After all, demand is still robust, as glove is a necessity in the healthcare sector.

We expect to see a 30% improvement in our profit in the coming financial year due to the lower latex prices and stronger US dollar.

Given our strong and positive net cash position, this would now be an excellent opportunity to gain market share. During such tough times, the cash-rich would have the ability to hold on. We would also have the financial capability to acquire other companies. Top Glove is still expanding organically and with a potential merger and acquisition (M&A) it is likely we could achieve the targeted world market share of 30%.

How did you start your company from such a small size, to what it has become today? How much capital did you spend when you first started your rubber glove business? Who is your mentor?

KC Lau, Kuala Lumpur

My mentors are some of the successful Malaysian and international business entrepreneurs.

In 1991, foreseeing a larger emphasis on healthcare, I channelled my glove manufacturing skills into entrepreneurship. My wife and I saved very hard to come up with RM180,000 to start our business.

We had to earn the trust of customers, suppliers, bankers, staff and business associates. Not many companies were willing to order from us but I was not defeated in spite of numerous rejections. Eventually, our quality, cost efficiency and competitive pricing spoke for themselves and we established our presence worldwide. It was the sheer passion for what I enjoyed doing and what I believed in that gave me the strength and determination to keep working at expanding the business.

As we progressed and grew our business, research and development initiatives were undertaken to ensure we kept up with the stringent requirements and demands from our customers and to achieve continuous quality and efficiency. We believe in quality products, always keeping our cost low and being efficient. These are arguably some of the most important criteria for a good company to stay fit regardless of the economic situation.

Having the foresight to expand capacity was also another important factor to our success. It enabled the company to capture the growth in the rubber glove industry. Top Glove's focus on being an original equipment manufacturer since the early days allowed greater economies of scale which translated to more competitive pricing. By mid-2004 we became the world's largest rubber glove manufacturer. Today, we export to approximately 1,000 customers in over 185 countries through our sales and marketing offices in Malaysia, the United States and Germany.

Looking at the achievements of Top Glove today, no doubt your employees are the best assets in making this huge success a reality. How do you motivate your staff in delivering results for the company?

Ivy Ho

Yes, you're right. Our employees are our greatest assets. Many have stayed on with the company since the early days and have grown together with the company. The long-serving management team provides continuity and stability to the business and enables the development of forward-looking strategies. These strategic initiatives are in turn executed by a highly skilled and dedicated workforce.

We recognise that each employee has different needs and different motivating factors. Therefore we try to cover all bases. At the most basic level, we ensure that our employees' contributions do not go unnoticed. We reward them accordingly based on their performance through a competitive remuneration package, promotion, bonus as well as employees shares and option scheme. We also have monthly recognition for staff that have demonstrated the desired behaviour and delivered the best results in their respective areas. We also invest in the development of our people through regular training. At Top Glove, there is no limit to a person's growth. He or she has every opportunity to become a GM, MD or even a chairman.

When employees have a strong sense of belonging, they voluntarily go the distance to deliver the results. Therefore, at Top Glove, we encourage open communication and feedback from employees at all levels. We are like a big family that shares and learns from each other. Besides that, we are also committed to their health and safety. We monitor their body mass index (BMI) and strongly discourage smoking. In fact, it is a policy that we do not hire smokers. Top Glove has also employed two corporate nutritionists to design the company's cafeteria menu and counsel our employees on suitable diets for individuals. In addition, Top Glove offers its employees subsidised sports facilities to encourage them to exercise.

Besides rubber gloves , what do you or Top Glove plan to venture into and how can Malaysia be ahead or remain competitive in the making of rubber products?

Bernard Gideon Lim, Penang

Top Glove will focus on doing what it is good at. We currently have 20 glove factories in Malaysia, Thailand and China manufacturing more than 10 types of rubber gloves which include, among others, examination, surgical, household, cleanroom and industrial gloves. In addition we have moved upstream several years back to set up two latex concentrate factories for better quality control and to ensure more consistent supply.

In the long run, we plan to further integrate upstream into rubber plantation to minimise the fluctuation of rubber price impact on our earnings; as well as to balance our upstream and downstream activities and investment performance. Top Glove's demand from its rubber glove production is big enough to justify having its own plantation to supply its own latex needs. This project is for the long term. We have to start today; or else we would not ever have rubber plantations. These plans were already in the pipeline regardless of the current challenges.

In order for Malaysia to remain competitive in the making of rubber products, the rubber products industry would need to diversify further, emphasising on high value-added and high technology rubber products.

The Government also ought to step up production of rubber to ensure that the local producers can continue to secure latex at a competitive price. In addition, to provide support in the form of technical assistance in research and development, and in promoting our products in the international market through tradeshows and educational campaigns on the benefits of rubber-based products.

What is the one advice you would give to entrepreneurs who are struggling to build their business? What are some of the guiding points you would ask them to be mindful of?

Biskuse Tee, Bandar Utama

Success is a journey and not a destination. It does not come easy at all. Hardwork is one of the most important elements. There is no short cut around hardwork. But hardwork alone is not sufficient, we also need to work smart and have good teamwork.

We must also commit to our dream and be persistent in the face of challenges. Never give up for if you give up the first time you fail, you will only end in failure. Just keep looking ahead, stay calm and be focused, continue doing what you are best at until you succeed. In time, excellent results will be yours. Always think positive and stay fit physically and mentally.

The important thing is profitability, there is no point being large but losing money. We are guided by the investment direction of "earn two healthy dollars and spend one efficient dollar". What it means is that we should only spend RM1 for every RM2 earned and ensure that we earn it in a healthy manner. It is important that every company has a business direction. And always plan ahead to capture the growth in the market by setting medium and long-term targets.

Underlying all these, the entrepreneur needs to be principled and never compromise his integrity be honest and transparent.

I read that you are very health conscious. Are you a vegetarian, and what does your diet consist of? What sort of exercise do you still do?

PS Tan, Seremban

Health is very important. We need to have a healthy body and a healthy mind in order to perform at our best and make the best decisions. I try to ensure that I eat healthily, work out often and have enough rest. Only by taking care of myself am I able to do well and compete in the intense global market. My wife and son are vegetarians but I am not. I just prefer to eat more vegetables. Exercising is part of my work schedule.

I exercise four days a week, which consist of two days of badminton and two days of evening golf. At times I will also go for a round of table tennis.

Are you a moderate or a liberal person? What are some of the life principles that you truly hold on to?

Johnny W, Cheras, KL

I don't think there is one word that can adequately describe a person. I can be moderate in my views on some matters and liberal on others. In my life, I have always adhered to a few simple guiding principles:

i) To always add positive values to my family, my company and the community

ii) To earn money ethically, compete in a healthy manner and to take care of society

iii) To always think positive, stay healthy and be honest

What do you want from life? Diana Han, Ipoh

I am very driven to succeed. And success means staying healthy and doing well in all aspects of my life, including my family and my company and being able to contribute to the society.

You are one of Malaysia's most well liked corporate figures because of your humility and honest ways. Is this due to your humble background or was it something you learnt on your own through religion or a mentor?

Influence Lee, Penang

Thank you for the compliment. To me, respect has got to be earned. It is not given nor can it be demanded. My humble background, education, Buddhist teachings and some life philosophies played a big part in how I live my life. Since young, I was also taught by my father to have zi ai or self-respect and self-discipline. We need to be mindful not to do anything to harm ourselves and we need to always take good care of ourselves. Therefore, I do not believe in behaving unethically for short-term gain but which in the long run may burn myself and destroy my self-worth. Likewise, being humble and respectful of others is also respecting myself.

As you approach the second half of your life, what is it that you hope to achieve for yourself and your company? Jesse Lee, Danga Bay, Johor

I have always enjoyed working and keeping myself busy. I aim to stay healthy and live until 100 years old and it is my target to remain active till then. I hope Top Glove will be even bigger and stronger by the time I hand over the reins.

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Our take on those who made the news in 2011 and those who will count in 2012

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 06:05 PM PST

Ahmad Jauhari Yahya

Group chief executive officer, Malaysia Airlines

Ahmad Jauhari has been given the daunting task of turning around loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS). He was appointed MAS' chief in September after his predecessor Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin resigned on Aug 9.

A triathlete, Ahmad Jauhari, 56, has spent the bulk of his professional career in the power and energy sector, and is best known for his stewardship at independent power producer Malakoff Bhd, which he helmed from 1994 to 2010.

During Ahmad Jauhari's tenure, Malakoff grew by leaps and bounds. Although he has limited experience in aviation, those who know him say that isn't going to be any significant disadvantage to his ability to turn around MAS.

Still, going by recent media reports, he has yet to impress MAS observers with his business plans for the national carrier. Research analysts have voiced concern over the lack of critical details on the execution aspect of the proposed turnaround plan.

Ahmad Jauhari recently unveiled a plan that entailed cutting unprofitable routes, spinning off its ancillary units, exploring joint ventures with other airlines, and launching a regional carrier in a bid for MAS to return to profitability by 2013.

MAS, which will focus on offering premium air services, has targeted a net loss of RM165mil for 2012. It hopes to report a net profit of RM900mil by 2016.

Ahmad Jauhari also recently admitted that MAS needed to make hard and unpopular decisions simply to survive. - By THOMAS HUONG

Datuk Seri Idris Jala

CEO, Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu)

Idris knew it wouldn't be easy when he left Malaysia Airlines to head the Pemandu. But a year on, he and his team at Pemandu have shown considerable tenacity in realising the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), Malaysia's ambitious target to become a high-income and developed nation by 2020.

The ETP has so far raked in more than RM177bil in committed investments or 12.6% of the RM1.4 trillion target. Its initiatives have created over 380,000 new jobs, or 11.8% of the targeted 3.3 million jobs, and 110 projects out of 70 entry-point projects (EPP) have taken off. There are 131 EPPs in total.

Multiple agencies tasked with a supporting role in the ETP have also sprung to life: TalentCorp in January, InvestKL in June, and MRT Co in September.

Major infrastructure projects that came onstream this year include Petronas' RM62bil Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Complex, better known as Rapid, in Pengerang, Johor; Ekovest Bhd and Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd's RM2.2bil joint-venture River of Life project; and the My Rapid Transit, Malaysia's single largest infrastructure project to date.

One of Idris's main challenges in the new year, then, is keeping the momentum of the ETP going. Can it, for example, keep domestic demand and investment afloat at a time when a recession looms in the rest of the world? Will it be enough to pick up the slack?

And what of Idris's proposals to rationalise subsidies, which he famously said were one of the factors that could bankrupt the country by 2019 if it were not phased out? Will it see daylight in an election year? - BY JOHN LOH

Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar,

Managing director, Khazanah Nasional Bhd

Azman will have a lot on his plate steering the Government's strategic investment arm through the last lap of the 10-year transformation programme for government-linked companies (GLCs) which started in 2004. This will happen in an increasingly uncertain backdrop, as the country's economy battles headwinds from slower global growth and volatile capital markets spooked by contagion worries in the eurozone.

Azman, whose third three-year contract was renewed in April, may also have to look into a dividend payout after Tan Sri Ambrin Buang pointed out in the Auditor-General's Report 2010 that Khazanah, despite being profitable, did not pay a dividend to the Government in 2009.

Incidentally, his current contract will also end just before the transformation programme is completed at a time when the plans to have five regional champions arising from Khazanah's stable of companies just about coming to fruition.

These plans for regional champions are well on their way, and as he pointed out several times, they are already happening at Axiata Group Bhd and CIMB Group Bhd. Next on Azman's list of things to do will be the listing of 70%-owned Integrated Healthcare Sdn Bhd, which owns the Parkway and Pantai group of hospitals as well as a stake in India's Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd, in what is speculated to be a US$2bil listing in 2012.

Then there are the problem companies where transformation does not appear to have tangible results Proton Holdings Bhd and Malaysia Airlines. Following the divestment of strategic stakes, notably in Integrated Healthcare, Pos Malaysia Bhd and Time dotCom Bhd, there was again market talk that Khazanah has received bids for its 42.74% stake in Proton. Malaysia Airlines of course recently unveiled another turnaround plan.

Azman is understandably bullish on Iskandar Malaysia, in which Khazanah is spearheading investments, but investors may not be as forthcoming with their money in 2012 what with banks turning off the taps in order to conserve capital.

By all reports, foreign direct investment inflows to emerging markets may not be as high going forward as governments and businesses in the developed economies adjust their spending to fit austerity measures in the wake of a balance sheet recession.

Azman says 2012 will be an important year for Iskandar Malaysia, and while activities have certainly picked up in the past two years following the global financial crisis, when investments notably from the Middle East fell, the gloomy outlook does not bode well for growth.

But what is interesting, too, is that he has yet to make known whether he will stay on beyond 2014 when his current contract ends. - BY FINTAN NG

Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh

President and chief executive officer, Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB)

IT has been a rather frustrating year for Che Khalib.

Although the year started relatively quiet for the utility company, TNB was dealt with a blow in the second half as it faced a severe gas shortfall. As a result, TNB recorded two massive consecutive quarterly losses. At the same time, its cash position has also deteriorated, causing a huge concern over a possible cash crunch.

TNB shares reached a high of RM7.11 on June 1, soon after a tariff hike announcement was made, but the price had declined to around RM5.70 on Dec 21, wiping out some RM7.5bil in market capitalisation, due to the gas concerns.

In the midst of all of this, Che Khalib had raised the gas shortage issue on a number of occasions, levelling the blame at other parties that are supposedly responsible for providing sufficient gas at subsidised prices to TNB. His detractors, though, say TNB should by now be able to operate more cost efficiently and be less reliant on subsidised gas to fuel its power plants.

Che Khalib though did win one battle: the Government and Petronas have agreed to share some of the additional costs incurred by TNB from having to use alternative fuel.

TNB was also in the spotlight when the Government said it would break up TNB's accounts into three. MyPower Corp, a special-purpose unit, has been assigned to study the unbundling of consumers bills to reflect charges related to generation, distribution and transmission. MyPower has also been tasked with reviewing the power purchase agreements with independent power producers.

Then the country's Feed-in-Tariff for renewable energy took off this year. TNB customers in Peninsular Malaysia will have to pay a levy of 1% on their total electricity bills starting December 2011 to facilitate the implementation of FiT.

While TNB has managed to recoup some of the additional fuel costs, Che Khalib maintains that the company's gas shortage woes may not end soon.

The gas shortage is likely to be resolved only by the second quarter of 2012, when Petronas Gas' regasification terminal in Malacca is operational and begins importing liquefied natural gas at market prices.

Che Khalib, whose term was renewed for another year, will continue to helm the national utility company until June 2012. He will have his work cut out for him in the coming year. - BY LEONG HUNG YEE

Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary

Billionaire businessman

Syed Mokhtar has a lot on his plate now.

The tycoon was in the limelight recently on news that his conglomerate DRB-HICOM Bhd was involved in a takeover bid for national carmaker Proton Holdings Bhd.

OSK Research also pointed out that DRB-HICOM could be keen on developing Proton's land-bank in Shah Alam for its housing development arm.

"The potential sale of the Shah Alam land-bank, where another main Proton plant is located, could fetch at least RM500mil in additional capital expenditure funding for Proton," it said.

Syed Mokhtar also controls Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd (BMMB) and Pos Malaysia Bhd. And there is talk of synergistic collaboration between the two entities to maximise shareholder returns.

It is reported that BMMB is studying the possibility of setting up a postal bank network along the lines of existing models in countries such as New Zealand, Singapore and Switzerland.

In April, DRB-HICOM made a successful bid to acquire Khazanah Nasional Bhd's 32.21% stake in Pos Malaysia for RM622.8mil.

Syed Mokhtar would also be looking at growth prospects for his privately-held Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd, after the company was recently allocated a sizeable 30Mhz block of the fourth-generation (4G) spectrum.

Puncak Semangat is also bidding for a Government job, estimated to be worth about RM2bil, involving the migration from analogue to digital television transmission.

Syed Mokhtar also controls MMC Corp Bhd, which is on track to list its subsidiary Gas Malaysia Bhd on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

OSK Research has said that at the indicative price RM2.20, interest among investors for Gas Malaysia's initial public offering has been strong.

MMC Corp also controls two ports in Johor, namely Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) and Johor Port.

OSK Research noted that PTP reported a 15.5% year-on-year expansion in terms of 20ft equivalent unit containers handled between January and August 2011.

And Johor Port finally secured a tariff hike after over 20 years.

MMC Corp and Gamuda Bhd are also in a joint venture as the Project Delivery Partner for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit Sungai Buloh-Kajang line. - By THOMAS HUONG

Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid

Chief executive officer, MRT Co

HANDPICKED by the Government to manage the biggest infrastructure project in the country to-date, Azhar will continue to hog the limelight next year as he will be instrumental to the success of Malaysia's first mass rapid transit system.

MRT Co is the project and asset owner of the multi-billion ringgit Klang Valley MY Rapid Transit (KVMRT), slated to start early next year and be completed by 2017.

Azhar has proven himself with a smart proposal to resolve land acquisition issues in affected areas for the development of KVMRT.

The property owners in Jalan Sultan (Chinatown), Jalan Inai and Jalan Bukit Bintang would be affected by tunnelling works for the 9.5km underground section of the 51km MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang line.

Azhar has managed to come up with a win-win solution for both the Government and land owners in the prime area of the city.

The owners get to keep their properties, as far as possible, and they will be compensated land for their loss of business and related costs when having to vacate their premises when works begin, which is expected to last for about six months.

To do this, Azhar has managed to get the already ongoing land acquisition process "frozen" to focus on a more viable solution to the issue that would save the Government a lot of money as well as protect the interests of the respective land owners.

Going forward, Azhar will be busy with monitoring the various processes to get the project off the ground as soon as possible, alongside the project delivery partner MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd.

As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak put it, Azhar, the ex-managing director of Sime Darby Plantation, came with a solid track record in delivering results and managing large-scale operations.

Under Azhar's leadership, the plantation business performed well and was profitable, with operating profit increasing by 23% to RM2.1bil in the financial year 2009/10.

Azhar, 50, is a chartered accountant by training and is the shareholder and founder of Chelsea Capital Sdn Bhd, an investment holding and corporate advisory company focusing on the palm oil, property and food sectors. He is the executive director of the company.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin

President and chief executive officer, SP Setia Bhd

IT seldom happens that a takeover target gets an irresistible offer for its management team to stay on with the company. That can only say positive things about the company and the people behind its success.

SP Setia is in such an enviable position and all eyes are naturally on Liew, the man who has steered the company to its success.

Liew is in the thick of some big changes under way in the local property fraternity via takeovers, mergers and acquisitions.

SP Setia, one of the country's largest property companies, was thrust into the limelight following Permodalan Nasional Bhd's (PNB) takeover bid in September.

PNB's move to take control of SP Setia is said to have led to worries over an impending exodus of the company's management staff.

Market talk has it that PNB might pay lucrative bonuses and stock options to SP Setia's top management to persuade them to stay on with the company.

SP Setia, Liew and PNB have proposed to enter into a management agreement to formalise incentives and management rights relating to the management and general conduct of the business of SP Setia. The pact is believed to be a first of its kind in the country.

Liew has thrown in his support for the management agreement submitted by PNB to the Securities Commission on Dec 2, saying it would benefit all parties.

What Liew and the top management at SP Setia plan to do in the coming days and months will be closely watched for signs of how the deal would pan out, and how it would impact the continuity of management practices and project plans at SP Setia.

A former senior executive with a merchant banking group before he ventured into property development, Liew is highly regarded for his innovative thinking and commitment to continue making a difference in people's lives through development projects that focus on sustainability. His foresight and keen entrepreneurial spirit has established SP Setia as a strong brand name.

As a vote of confidence in his leadership and entrepreneurial prowess, Liew has been honoured with a number of industry awards, including Property Man of the Year by FIABCI Malaysia in 2007. His most recent accolade was the Malaysian Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011.

Going by the big changes under way for Corporate Malaysia, all eyes will continue to be directed at the industry movers and shakers, and that would include Liew. - By ANGIE NG

Datuk Mohd Bakke Salleh

President and group chief executive office, Sime Darby Bhd

Mohd Bakke came into the limelight when he took over at the helm of Sime Darby in mid-2010, at a time when the company was going through some challenging times.

Cost overruns in the company's oil and gas ventures had resulted in two consecutive quarters of losses that dented the company's annual profits for its financial year ended June 30, 2010.

Reputed to be hardworking and a visionary man of integrity, Bakke's expertise was sought to put the house in order again for Sime Darby, a favourite stock among both local and foreign institutional investors.

While Sime Darby's overall financial results have since recovered, it is still registering losses at its oil and gas ventures under its energy and utilities division. Sime Darby has already discontinued the loss-making operations, but until it completes the disposal of those operations in early 2012, it will still be seeing red.

Bakke's next challenge is how to steer Sime Darby through the global economic storm in 2012. Already, he has lowered his net profit target for FY12, but can he do better than what he has said he could?

Another key development to watch is Bakke's plan for Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O). He was recently appointed a non-independent and non-executive director of the niche property developer.

His appointment as a nominee director is to represent Sime Darby, which currently holds a 30% stake in E&O. What Bakke has in mind for Sime Darby's involvement in E&O remains a mystery.

Market observers could only speculate that the intention is to gain a foothold in the Seri Tanjung Pinang 2 project in Penang, which has a gross development value of RM12bil. But as to how Sime Darby, which has the largest land-bank in Malaysia, can create synergy through its collaboration with E&O over the longer term, investors will have to wait and see. - By CECILIA KOK

T. Ananda Krishnan

Owner of Maxis and Astro

WHILE low-profile tycoon, Ananda, cannot help but make headlines, 2011 probably raised more eyebrows than usual when his name was linked to possibly politically-driven charges in India.

Last October, it was reported that India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was probing Ananda, Maxis Bhd senior executive Ralph Marshall, brothers Kalanidhi Maran and (former Indian telecoms minister) Dayanidhi Maran as well as three companies in relation to the purchase of India's Aircel Ltd by Maxis Communications Bhd (MCB) in 2006.

The deal is said to be worth some US$800mil (RM2.55bil).

The cases against Ananda, Marshall, the Maran brothers and the three companies, namely MCB, Astro All Asia Networks plc (Astro) and India's Sun TV, were registered under Section 120b of the Indian Penal Code read with 13(2) with 13 (1)(d) and also Section 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Both Astro and MCB, which has a 74% stake in India's Aircel and is a major shareholder in Maxis, have countered the allegations made against them and have denied any wrongdoing. The company has stated that it was aware of the CBI investigations for some time and had extended its full co-operation.

Maxis, which is controlled by Ananda, meanwhile has said it does not expect the Indian probe to have any impact on the company.

On the business front, Ananda's main businesses in Malaysia have been facing increasing competition.

In notes accompanying Maxis' latest financial results, the company revealed that it is planning to engage a new marketing plan to market its services internationally.

Analysts have theorised that the need to market itself internationally pointed to signs that the profit share of the local telco market is being squeezed due to increased competition.

The horizon also seems challenging for Astro, especially with new players entering the pay-TV arena. Among them is Asian Broadcasting Network (ABN), which will start its broadcast in the second quarter of 2012.

Other players that are looking to carve a slice of the pay-TV profit slice include Hypp.TV, offered by Telekom Malaysia Bhd, and DETV, a Chinese-language channel of REDtone International Bhd. YTL Communications Bhd is also said to be launching its own services next year.

Another issue that has sparked interest is the possible relisting of pay-TV provider Astro. The tycoon has been known to privatise his previously listed entities, only to relist them again.

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes

Group chief executive officer, AirAsia

OVER the past decade, Fernandes has hogged the headlines globally for creating Asia's largest low-cost airline, AirAsia.

The airline, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Dec 8, started off with two aircraft but now has expanded by leaps and bounds and flew a total 149 million passengers over the decade.

Every year, Fernandes makes it to the list of most powerful and influential people in the business world.

This year will be no exception. In fact, many will track his movements more closely this year as he has a lot to deliver.

Two of AirAsia's units ThaiAirAsia and IndoAirAsia are slated for flotations. The exercises will certainly add to his wealth and push him up a few notches on the Malaysia rich list.

A new venture in the Land of the Rising Sun, JapanAirAsia, will also take off some time in the third quarter this year. This is a significant development for AirAsia as this could be its passport to new continents. And also not to be discounted are some arrangements to be made for flights into North America. Though this may not take off immediately, it opens new possibilities for the low-cost carrier.

Its sister airline AirAsia X, however, may face some competition with Singapore Airlines' long-haul, low-cost carrier Scoot slated for take off by mid-2012.

But Fernandes' biggest challenge this year will be making sure the share-swap deal between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines and the collaboration between the two take shape.

There may be some major moves toward routes rationalisation where they will carry each other's traffic. It would be nice to pay low fares and fly full service, but really, would that be possible? My bet is, expect some airfare price adjustments upward.

The air sector aside, what Fernandes does at QPR and on the Formula 1 circuit will be monitored closely. Not forgetting of course his tweets and Facebook comments. - By B.K. Sidhu

Datuk Seri Shahril Shamsuddin

Group president, Sapura Crest Petroleum

SINCE Shahril took the reins at SapuraCrest, the company has been on a blazing trail of acquisitions.

The Sapura Group was established in 1975, growing from a telecommunications infrastructure and service provider, to operating in several areas which include oil and gas, secured technologies, industrial and automotive manufacturing, and knowledge and education.

Since 1997, he has steered the group through restructuring of the businesses, where he made several key decisions that involved the acquisition of companies and technologies.

Today, SapuraCrest is involved in drilling, installation of pipelines and facilities, marine services, operations and maintenance as well as development and operation of oil and gas fields.

Earlier this year, SapuraCrest and Kencana Petroleum Bhd announced an RM11.85bil merger that will create the country's largest oil and gas services provider by asset. SapuraCrest has also established a presence in India, Australia, Russia, Japan and Africa, in addition to most of South-East Asia.

With all that time spent on growing the business, Shahril does have some regret that he does not spend enough time with his family, particularly his children. His 23-year-old daughter just got married, and Shahril is slightly nostalgic when he says there were many periods in her life when he was not present.

Says Shahril: "I want to look at my kids and also other kids, so that they may have a better place to live moving forward. Happiness for me is seeing my family smile and laugh. Simple stuff.

"The successful company (Sapura-Kencana) will give opportunities to many young engineers, lawyers and clerks to come and work, and make a living and improve themselves, right up globally. You come to this company and you can develop yourself and become the CEO. Basically with the merger, we want to give that opportunity to young people." - By Tee Lin Say


Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah


Wan Azmi made the news this year after he sold his 12% stake in Eastern & Oriental Bhd to Sime Darby Bhd, at a price that was a 60% premium to market. The deal caused the Securities Commission to investigate whether the buyer and sellers of the 30% block of shares (there were two other vendors, aside from Wan Azmi) were acting in concert. The regulator has since not found any evidence of that. Last year, Wan Azmi also surfaced on the board of Malaysia Airlines. He also holds a substantial stake in Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash). Many wonder if he will make a more significant comeback to corporate Malaysia.

Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir

Executive chairman, Kencana Petroleum Bhd

Biggest deal struck is the merger with SapuraCrest Petroleum Bhd to create an enlarged company with a combined market capitalisation of RM10bil. He has been busy last year, scoring contracts worth RM429mil for Kencana. But could the merger pave the way for Mokhzani, the son of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to enter into politics?

Mokhzani is expected to hold the position of executive vice-president in the merged entity but with a diluted shareholding. Still, it remains to be seen how active a role he will play.

Datuk Seri Shafiq Sit Abdullah


Shafiq recently made the news when he surfaced as the front-runner representing Europipe GmbH for the massive oil and gas infrastructure project in Timur Leste. The project entails constructing a crucial 300km US$2bil pipeline to channel gas from the country's waters to its mainland.

The project has the strong support of the Timor Leste government, which hopes the economic benefits and spinoffs from the project will leapfrog the poor nation into sustainable economic growth.

A news report indicated that Shafiq is also linked to a company representing one of the three China rail giants shortlisted to tender for the RM7bil Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking project.

Ngau Boon Keat

Executive chairman and major shareholder, Dialog Group Bhd

Ngau and Dialog will be closely watched this year largely for progress on two major projects. One is its marginal oilfield project, where Dialog along with Australia's Roc Oil and Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd, are to develop the Balai Cluster oilfields, off the shores of Bintulu, Sarawak.

Dialog owns 32% in the consortium, and the development job is estimated at some US$950mil. Its other major venture is the RM5bil oil terminal near Pengerang, southern Johor.

BIG EXIT Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff

Ex-CEO, Bursa Malaysia

One of the more prominent exits from the local corporate scene was that of Yusli, whose contract expired on March 31.

Yusli helmed Bursa Malaysia for seven years from February 2004. It may be a little early to discount him from taking up an active role in the corporate world again. Just months after stepping down as CEO, he was appointed to the boards of Mulpha International Bhd, a property developer active in Australia and Johor, and listed associate Mudajaya Group Bhd. In October, Yusli was appointed to the board of YTL Power International Bhd. - By Fintan Ng

Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddin

Former managing director CEO, MAS

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) saw several newcomers and exits this year. The most notable exit is that of Tengku Azmil.

Tengku Azmil's resignation from the helm of the flag carrier came as a surprise to the industry although the move had been widely anticipated. He had worked alongside Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala in steering the airline out of its financial crisis and expected to continue that process. Azmil took over from Idris in 2009 and appointed executive director/CFO of MAS in 2004. Azmil has since joined Khazanah Nasional Bhd as its executive director of investments.

Datuk Eddy Leong

Ex-managing director, Firefly

Another notable exit was that of Leong, who abruptly tendered his resignation from the community carrier last month and has since joined Khazanah's wholly-owned subsidiary, Destinations Resorts and Hotels Sdn Bhd, as its chief operating officer.

A chartered accountant by training, Leong was appointed in 2007 as the first managing director of Firefly.

At Firefly, Leong was instrumental in the success of the turbo-propeller operations of the award-winning airline, which raked in profits in less than a year after starting its jet services. BY LEONG HUNG YEE

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Should Corporate Malaysia give less to charity?

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 05:58 PM PST


IT is generally believed that when times are bad, the giving has to stop. It does not make economic sense to think of others when the company is struggling to stay afloat, so the argument goes.

And because there is the perception that 2012 will be a tough year for everyone because of the expected global economic slowdown, charities and non-governmental organisations are understandably concerned that they have to compete for the last dime of a smaller cake.

The problem with this kind of anticipation is that eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I would like to say here that there is absolutely no reason for Corporate Malaysia to trim down on its giving to those in need. In fact, I would even say that it is in tough times that we should give more.

For it is in times like these that more people turn to such organisations for help and comfort.

So if the giving stops, or is scaled down substantially, it creates a double-whammy situation of a drop in income but an increased demand for services. We need to understand that any form of financial crisis is always far more damaging to the marginalised people of our society.

I believe that we should not hold back on the giving. In fact, if we continue to make sure our staff are paid well, and do not have to make unnecessary sacrifices because the company is on a cost-saving measure, then they too can continue to give to the charities they support.

This is a time to reassess our basic values and priorities.

It is said that a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

For Corporate Malaysia, the drive for profits must also be tempered by how it looks at those who need a helping hand.

The true spirit of giving is not only about giving when we have plenty. It is about giving even when we have little.

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