Isnin, 24 September 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Romney in New York as world focuses on United Nations

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 09:34 PM PDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will try to take advantage of a focus on the United Nations on Tuesday to outline how he would promote development in countries that need it as he tries to get his campaign back on track.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney shakes hands with the crowd at a campaign rally in Pueblo, Colorado September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney shakes hands with the crowd at a campaign rally in Pueblo, Colorado September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Romney is to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York shortly before his opponent in the November 6 election, President Barack Obama, claims the bigger stage by addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

The former Massachusetts governor, who has been sliding in polls in battleground states where the election will be decided, is attempting to return his campaign to solid ground with six weeks left of campaigning.

After his visit to New York, he will go on a two-day bus tour of Ohio, widely considered to be a state he must win.

He will be joined at a rally in Dayton by his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, to try to recreate the energy for his campaign that the pair generated when he picked Ryan to join the ticket last month.

In New York, Romney will address a foundation begun by the popular former President Bill Clinton, whose speech at the Democratic National Convention this month helped Obama regain some momentum and gave him a bounce in support.

Romney will propose that the United States put a greater focus on using U.S. foreign assistance to encourage free enterprise as a way of creating jobs in the developing world.

According to his campaign, Romney will argue that much of U.S. development aid has had limited success at lifting people out of poverty and that U.S. foreign aid programs frequently have tried to supplant private enterprise.

"To be effective, our aid programs must leverage private investment and trade to foster environments conducive to job creation," Romney will argue, according to his campaign.

He will propose a "prosperity pact" program that would use financial assistance to support development of free enterprise.

The United States has backed "micro-credit programs" for years to fund small loans to help entrepreneurs in developing nations create businesses. Bill Clinton was a prime advocate for these policies.

Romney would take that a step further to provide assistance to help medium-sized businesses develop and connect them to the global market.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

China announces formal handover of first aircraft carrier

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 09:07 PM PDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, officially entered naval ranks on Tuesday, the country's Ministry of Defence announced, in a move that it said would help project maritime power and defend Chinese territory.

The ministry announcement of the handover to the navy came while Beijing and Tokyo are embroiled in a dispute over islands claimed by both sides.

"The entry into the ranks of this aircraft carrier will raise the level of modernisation of China's overall naval operational forces," the ministry said on its website ( It did not say whether the announcement meant the carrier had formally entered service.

The Liaoning will help "effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests", said the announcement. The carrier, named after a northeast Chinese province, is likely to be used for training only.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Japan fires water cannon to turn away Taiwan boats

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 08:58 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon to turn away about 40 Taiwan fishing boats and eight Taiwan Coast Guard vessels from waters Japan considers its own on Tuesday in the latest twist to a row between Tokyo and Beijing.

An aerial view shows Japan Coast Guard patrol ship (bottom L) spraying water at fishing boats from Taiwan as Taiwan's Coast Guard vessel (top L) sails near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Kyodo

An aerial view shows Japan Coast Guard patrol ship (bottom L) spraying water at fishing boats from Taiwan as Taiwan's Coast Guard vessel (top L) sails near the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Kyodo

Japan protested to Taiwan, a day after it lodged a complaint with China over what it said was a similar intrusion by Chinese boats.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan bought disputed East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking anti-Japan protests across China.

Taiwan has friendly ties with Japan, but the two countries have long squabbled over fishing rights in the area. China and Taiwan both argue they have inherited China's historic sovereignty over the islands.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the coast guard used water cannon and other measures to get the Taiwan ships to change course.

All the Taiwan fishing boats and coast guard ships had since left territorial waters, the Japanese Coast Guard said.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed footage of a Japanese Coast Guard ship shooting water at a Taiwan fishing boat, while a Taiwan patrol vessel blasted water at the Coast Guard ship in reply.

While few experts expect a military confrontation, an unintended clash at sea would increase tension, although all sides are expected to try to manage the row before it spirals out of control.

Japan's top diplomat, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, was in Beijing for a meeting with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun in a bid to ease tensions between Asia's two biggest economies.

"We've just lodged a protest with the Taiwan side," Fujimura told a news conference. "...Our stance is that this is something that needs to be solved in the context of good bilateral ties between Japan and Taiwan. We would like to address the issue calmly."

China's Ministry of Agriculture for its part said close to 200 Chinese boats have been fishing in seas around a group of rocky islands, near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge gas reserves, disputed with Japan.

The Chinese statement did not specify whether the boats were all there at once or say how close they were to the islands. Beijing, which regards self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province, may have included Taiwan fishing boats in its estimate.

The flare-up in tension comes at a time when both China and Japan confront domestic political pressures. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government faces an election in months, adding pressure on him not to look weak on China.

China's Communist Party is preoccupied with a leadership turnover, with President Hu Jintao due to step down as party leader at a congress that could open as soon as next month.

A group of Taiwan fishing boats left for the islands in heavy rain on Monday. The group said the boats would sail around the islands and assert their right to fish there - and did not rule out attempting to land. As many as 100 Taiwan fishing boats may be in the area, Japanese media said.

Japan said that four Chinese surveillance vessels and two Chinese fishery patrol ships were in nearby waters but outside its territory.

(Writing by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Grab your chance

Posted: 25 Sep 2012 03:02 AM PDT

Catch the last week of Red FM's Sure Can Win.

HAVE you checked out the latest Red FM video for Sure Can Win? Titled Red FM's Sure Can Win Idol, it shows the first ever appearance of Darth Vadai and Ronnie, two very quirky regular guests on the Red Breakfast Show.

Red FM's Sure Can Win Idol has Lil Kev, Darth Vadai and Ronnie playing judges. The deejays are all vying to be the winner of the competition. In an attempt to win, they decide their best chance at winning is by pretending to be celebrities. Jeremy from the Red Zone tries to pull off the K-pop popstar look and attitude but ends up looking like a waiter with his black and white outfit. Obviously, he missed the memo on K-pop stars loving colour in their hair.

Linora from the Red Hub pretends she is Nicki Minaj but somehow she gets the look confused by wearing a black afro instead of the heavily fringed colourful hairdo the artiste prefers.

When Mynn Lee from the Red Room dressed as Katy Perry comes on stage, Fiqrie from The Edge On Red, decides to steal her thunder. Much to their disappointment, they didn't impress the judges.

However, the judges are in awe and know they have found their winner when the backstage guy gets on stage.

With him there is no pretending involved, he wins by just being himself! The judges appreciate him for being just him.

Just like the backstage guy in the video, with Red FM's Sure Can Win, you just have to be you to win. No need to pretend to be anyone else or engage in crazy antics. Just tune in and listen out for the announcers' description. There are five chances in a day for you to have a chance to win.

Follow Red FM's Twitter @iloveredfm and Facebook for constant updates on when the cue will be coming up.

The description being called out will also be posted up on these social media platforms.

This is the last week of Red FM's Sure Can Win, so do not miss out on this opportunity to win by just being you!

The Red Ryders will be on ground carrying out Sure Can Win contest. Stalk them on Facebook at fmryders to find out where they'll be.

For more information, log on to Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page on and follow them on Twitter @iloveredfm.

Red FM is owned and operated by The Star

> Red FM's Station Frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1FM; George Town and Seberang Prai: 107.6FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8FM.

The ‘other’ list

Posted: 25 Sep 2012 03:13 AM PDT

Our two ardent TV viewers take you through the best of characters, scenarios and more in TV land.

SO the Emmy Awards is over and done with. We decided to have our own version –an alternate Emmys – if you will, to credit actors we love who didn't win (in categories we randomly made up). Oh, and since we don't always have access to the latest shows, we've opened up our awards to shows in the past, err, few decades (blame it on Ann Marie!).

The best episode in any TV show ever

Indra: No nomination.

Ann Marie: Sherlock Season Two Episode One: A Scandal In Belgravia. The best script ever, pitting Sherlock Holmes against The Woman, a naked Irene Adler.

Best bad guy (or girl) in a series

Indra: Dexter Morgan, of course. He's the only serial killer who I both dread (for he is fearsome when he's after a jerk-bag) and have a huge crush on at the same time. When he's not hunting down baddies, he is just so clueless, especially when it comes to relationships. So charming. A close second would be Emily Thorne on Revenge. Man, she's cold and she can fight like a ninja and still look hot. Girl crush alert!

Ann Marie: Dexter, who else? Although I don't really think he's bad ... it's like calling Batman bad. Is Batman bad?

Worst good guy in a series

Indra: No nomination.

Ann Marie: OK, I'll go with Barney Stinson (of How I Met Your Mother).

Coolest chick on TV

Indra: Olivia Dunham on Fringe, of course. I soooo want to be her and not just because she looks so awesome in those pantsuits.

Ann Marie: Stana Katic from Castle. So cool and such a chick. Clever, to boot. And Nathan Fillion loves her. And I love Nathan Fillion.

Best policeman

Indra: Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer. But "best ensemble" of cops, I'd have to go with the bunch from The Wire – Best (non) Cop Show Ever!

Ann Marie: Brenda Leigh Johnson, without a doubt. I know Indra's choice is really Erik Estrada in really tight pants but she's too shy to say so.

Biggest letdown after all the hype

Indra: Our colleague Sharmilla Ganesan suggested this category with New Girl in mind. I agree. New Girl is not remotely funny and the lead character (more on her later) isn't remotely likeable, either. Which adult woman would wear clothes meant for a 14-year-old?

Ann Marie: Terra Nova. Enough said.

Most annoying male character

Indra: Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory. Why? He's whiny and not very funny. Besides, those spectacles he wears and that hairdo of his are enough to annoy. Urrgh.

Ann Marie: Rajesh Ramayan "Raj" Koothrappali, PhD. Surely he is more annoying than Leonard! I want to slap him every time he gets tongue tied in front of the girls.

Most annoying female character

Indra: Congratulations, Zooey Deschanel. Your portrayal of Jess in New Girl has made you even more annoying than those teenagers on 90210 or them wannabe models on (insert country of choice) Next Top Model.

Ann Marie: Her sister comes a close second methinks. Emily Deschanel really annoys me on Bones. Although after about six seasons, one sort of has no choice but to accept her as she is.

Scariest meltdown on TV

Indra: Amy Jellicoe's wild meltdown on Enlightened has this award, hands down. Forget about the gazillion meltdowns you've seen on Grey's Anatomy. You want to see a woman in the throes of a breakdown? Check out Laura Dern's performance in this underated show and you'll understand why "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".

Ann Marie: No nomination.

Worst hook-up

Indra: Dr House and Cuddy on House M.D. This completely ruined the series for me. Completely.

Ann Marie: David Addison and Maddie Hayes on Moonlighting really killed it for me. Then Mulder and Scully did it again many years later. Some couples just ain't meant to be. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Best mum on TV

Indra: Marge Simpson, hands down. She handles situations (and by situations, I mean both Homer and Bart) so admirably, don't you think? I would have had a meltdown midway through Season One, for sure!

Ann Marie: I always liked Meredith Baxter-Birney (Family Ties) because she was a hippy chick. And I also liked single mum Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin in One Day At A Time).

Best TV family

Indra: Are you kidding me? The Pritchetts (and their families) from Modern Family, of course! Each time I watch the show, I want to be a part of that family. They are so much fun to be around and they live life as it should be lived: with a pinch of salt. I love them.

Ann Marie: Can I say The Ingalls without eggs being thrown at me? Everyone knows the TV show right? Right?

Goofball of the year

Indra: Should it be Sheldon Cooper, Amy Farrah Fowler or Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory or maybe Phil Dunphy from Modern Family? A close one this. I can't decide. I think I will leave it up to Ann Marie. She's the ruthless one (hehe).

Ann Marie: Amy Farrah Fowler, hands down.

Best future actor

Indra: Sarah Hyland from Modern Family (gee this show seems to be sweeping up the awards!). She's just awesome as Phil and Claire's oldest child – she's pretty and popular at school but she's mostly quite clueless about life, not academically inclined at all and, like most teenagers, intensely absorbed in herself. Still, surprisigly, she isn't at all annoying.

Ann Marie: No nomination.

Hottest Guy on TV

Indra: OMG, have you seen Suits? Move over Don Draper (Mad Men). The sexiest and most handsome man on TV at the moment has to be Harvey Specter. OK, if you know me, it would seem like I have a new TV crush every other month. But that's because ... it's true. Oh, well.

Ann Marie: Oh, my god. Where do I begin?


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Strong year-end for auto sector?

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 06:30 PM PDT


By CIMB Research

Overweight (maintain)

MAINTAIN overweight. DRB-Hicom is our top pick for its restructuring potential with Proton.

UMW remains an outperform on its positive earnings momentum while Tan Chong is our only underperform as it looks increasingly marginalised.

August vehicle sales were not surprisingly weak given that Hari Raya holidays fell smack in the middle of the month rather than towards the end which meant that most families planned their extended holidays in August rather than early September.

Total industry vehicle (TIV) sales were down 11.2% year-on-year and 12.9% month-on-month. Still, TIV growth until August treaded above water at 1.6%.

Our forecast of 4.7% growth for 2012 has been maintained as we believe 2012 will end strongly with significant pent-up demand following the extended August holidays, coupled with the end of budget wait-and-see in September.

The Malaysian Automotive Association forecasts the same level of unit sales for September as August, primarily citing that car buyers are waiting for any material developments in the 2013 Budget which is to be released next week.

High car prices are a key pre-election issue. Car-loan defaults have been one of the major causes of bankruptcies. According to our sources, previous efforts to lower excise duties had not resulted in the passing of savings to consumers.

Hence, we do not expect any significant overhaul of the tax structure until a workable programme of market pricing has been put in place. However, if the budget institutes an aggressive regulation of car market pricing and a scrutinisation of industry margins, we would view this negatively and put our recommendations and earnings forecast under review.

Our top pick remains DRB-Hicom. Restructuring cost-savings from its consolidation with Proton and the potential support of Volkswagen are key catalysts. It is also the cheapest in the sector at 7.2 times calendar year 2013 price-to-earnings (PE) versus the sector's 10.5 times average.

DRB-Hicom's sales momentum is looking positive. In August, it appeared to have reclaimed its top spot in market share from UMW thanks to a recovery in Honda sales following disruptions to the global supply chain last year.

This has reinforced its position as our top pick for the sector and lent support to our 37% three-year earnings compound annual growth rate forecast, which does not include any cost-savings from its ongoing restructuring and consolidation of Proton.


By Maybank IB Research

Hold (downgrade)

Target price: RM3.40

AFTER an enlightening meeting with the management, we have a better understanding of the lead lag in Padiberas Nasional Bhd's (Bernas) cost recognition from the time of rice procurement.

This firms up our view that Bernas should enjoy a better second half relative to the first half due to the lower cost rice procured earlier this year.

Our discount dividend model-based target price of RM3.40 is unchanged as we roll forward our valuation to 2013 but we downgrade Bernas to a hold due to the stock price being close to our target price.

We gather from the management that Bernas' procurement cost of rice goes through a seven to eight month lag before it hits profit and loss. This explains the deterioration of margin in the past two quarters, when rice was acquired at a higher price of US$480 per tonne last year.

Bernas' procurement of rice from Vietnam and Pakistan earlier this year at attractive prices (US$440-US$450 per tonne) should be evident in the upcoming third and fourth quarter results.

Rice prices continue to trend down as global rice inventory accumulates on account of bumper harvest, low import demand and high inventory levels.

Rice prices have receded by 5.6% year-to-date and this provides Bernas with more opportunities to procure attractively priced rice which will enhance its profit margin in the near future.

Furthermore, we understand that the Thai rice stockpile is at maximum and has to be pared down soon, thus compounding the already oversupply market.

Bernas purchases its rice in bulk, usually for a few months' worth, at a price it deems attractive or when necessary. Freshly procured rice will be stored to let the existing older inventory and trading stock to be fully consumed, this process alone consumes five to six months.

Thereafter, Bernas will consume the national stockpile of 292,000 tonnes which will take a further two months. Overall, this process or cycle consumes a total of seven to eight months.

We observe a historical trend whereby inventory values are a good indicator to future earnings, with a forward indicator of three quarters. There is an inverse relationship, whereby an increase in inventory value will depress earnings three quarters forward.

It is not a perfect relationship, given that Bernas rice procurement is sometimes choppy, but the trend is reminiscent of the actual performance.

We think the second half financial performance will be better than the first, given that the older inventory level procured at higher cost has eased in the second quarter.

We think the third quarter will be slightly better than quarter two, but quarter four will be substantially better with high profit margins.

However, we caution that quarter one 2013 results might be hit with another profit decline judging from the cost of inventory spike in quarter one 2012.

The Government has granted Bernas the concession extension up to January 2021 from January 2011 and has finalised the terms and conditions.

Bernas has also allocated RM100mil into 2012 to invest in viable businesses to diversify its income stream to reduce its dependence on its concessionary income.

Hold for dividend. We revised down our 2012-2014 earnings forecasts by minus 15.8%, minus 10.4% and minus 10.2% respectively after taking into account the higher price rice incurred in the first half and 1% higher rice price assumption going forward. Bernas remains attractive for its dividend yield of 8.2% (net) based on 72% net profit payout assumption (2010-2011: 63%).


By PublicInvest Research

Neutral (initiating coverage)

Target price: RM7.26

WE are initiating coverage on Maxis with a neutral rating.

Our 12-month target price of RM7.26 based on discounted cash flow valuations suggests limited upside from current levels, but downside risks will be cushioned by its consistent 5.8% dividend yield (40 sen per share).

Maxis is the largest mobile operator in Malaysia with a total subscriber base of 12.6 million, accounting for 31% of the total.

The Maxis brand, founded by Ananda Krishnan in 1995, has a leading position in Malaysia's prepaid and postpaid businesses, with a market share of 30.6% and 35.3% respectively.

The group's ambition of having multiple delivery platforms fibre, cellular and wireless to deliver content on a variety of channels, are coming into realisation after recently teaming up with Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile, REDtone and its sister company, Astro in respective assignments.

Management aims to see 50% of revenue coming from the non-voice segment, this year or next. Year-to-date, it accounts for 45.3% of mobile revenue compared to 42.4% last year.

Given the huge demand for mobile data services and low level of broadband penetration rate at only 19.6%, potential room for growth in the mobile internet and wireless broadband businesses is tremendous.

Nevertheless, we think its valuations have been fully realised given its unattractive overall earnings growth prospects. Although we acknowledge progressive growth from the non-voice segment, we think Maxis' strategy of offering more competitive voice packages for the sake of reclaiming its subscriber losses will eventually depress its margins.

We expect that its voice segment contribution will likely remain stagnant for this year and next.

Despite widespread speculation about a special dividend payout when it unveiled plans to issue Islamic medium term notes totalling RM2.45bil in February, the company has since indicated that annual dividend will likely remain at 40 sen per share for the foreseeable future.

Still, this level translates into a generous 118.5% of the company's net profit of RM2.5bil in financial year 2011 (FY11). This also suggests that Maxis' gearing will continue to rise after taking into account estimated capital expenditure of roughly RM1bil per annum.

Maxis has been seeing a decline in subscriber numbers in both the postpaid and wireless broadband segments, down 0.5% and 11.9% since Q4'11. To defend its eroding market share, the group has already launched a loyalty programme called Maxis One Club that offers special discounts for mobile services and rewards as well as "peace of mind" roaming plans that offer more competitive rate for IDD calls.

It intends to offer more competitive bundle-based and tariff plans in Q3'12. Margins, however, will remain under pressure, at least this year and into the next. Key re-rating catalysts include:

l New earnings contribution from its upcoming triple play services

l better-than-expected growth in voice subscibers, and

l improved cost savings via collaboration with several industry players.


By MIDF Research

Neutral (maintain)

Target price: RM4.90

WE attended a meeting with MSM's management on Friday.

The key takeaways are as follows:

Innovations in the pipeline. It was reported that, in a first-of-its-kind venture, the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) tied up with plantation giant, Sime Darby Bhd and the Malaysia Industry Government High Technology (MIGHT) to explore the production of industrial sugar from oil palm biomass. We understand that feasibility studies are currently underway in an undisclosed laboratory in Italy, and that possible sites in Pasir Gudang, Johor, have already been identified for a production plant.

The non-edible sugar has applications in the production of oleochemicals, paints and chemicals. We are still waiting to see if this will open a secondary revenue generating segment for MSM which is the sugar manufacturing arm of Felda.

Possible relook into the sugarcane planting business. Since the cessation of its sugarcane plantation in April 2012, MSM may be interested in taking another jab at the upstream activity outside of Malaysia, possibly in neighbouring counties such as Myanmar which has gained considerable foreign interest since the lifting of sanctions by the US and its abundance in lower cost labour. With FY11 raw sugar cost accounting for 89.6% of cost of goods sold and volatile global raw sugar prices, we view MSM's move to relook into upstream activities positively.

Budget 2013 unlikely to materially impact MSM. A probable focus for Budget 2013 may be on the continued reduction of subsidies on key items such as sugar. However, recall that the Government surprisingly increased sugar subsidy to 54 sen from Jan 1, 2012 without a corresponding reduction in price ceilings, in a move to insulate domestic sugar producers against the high and volatile raw sugar prices.

This goes to show that the Government remains committed to protecting the margins of domestic sugar manufacturers. Therefore, we believe that Budget 2013 will not have material impact on MSM.

Reaffirm neutral. We are maintaining our target price of RM4.90 for MSM based on PE for 2013 of 12.8 times, which is the average of five regional peers pending further development on the Felda/Sime Darby/MIGHT joint venture which could be a re-rating catalyst if feasibility studies yield positive results and MSM is roped in to benefit from the new venture.

How to build a good team in an organisation

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 06:24 PM PDT

BUILDING teams in an organisation is becoming an increasingly complex and challenging task.

Many organisations are employing the use of assessment tools to give another perspective of the individuals being considered for the purpose of recruitment or even succession planning, which is often an integral part of building a cohesive team. As an executive search consultant and coach, I have found such tools to be very insightful in many instances. One of the biggest lessons for me as a result of using such assessment tools is that bringing together diverse groups of competencies often result in stronger teams.

Most people would choose to work with people who are like themselves. It is a common perception that people with similar personality types will likely be on the same wavelength and get along well together. However, I had the opportunity to work closely with a colleague who is very frank and direct in her communication and work style. My personal style of communication is almost a direct opposite of hers whereby I gravitate to being a lot more diplomatic. Both of us work well together because we can bridge the gaps in each other's work style and cover a lot more ground when collaborating on projects. In most cases when dealing with savvy clients, they want to know the truth but the tactful delivery of facts are also equally important. As a leader, I am not keen on finding someone exactly like me, as I know I am not perfect and having clones of myself would only magnify my faults. By understanding my own personality profile better, I am able to surround myself with people who are able to bring other competencies to the table and by working together, we would be able to support each other to produce better results and more holistic solutions and better results.

I have noticed that more and more leaders are becoming aware of the need for diversity in their workspace. A decade or two ago my clients often wanted me to look for people who were almost identical to themselves or someone within their organisation. "Just find me someone like John," or "Don't you have any candidates like my deputy?"

However, employers and leaders are now becoming savvier when it comes to building teams. They are realising that by building diverse teams they are able to address more of their customers' needs and reduce their blind spots. Even clients who have not been exposed to any psychometric assessment tools are able to splice together a profile by using terminology that they are familiar with. For example, I spoke with a client who wanted me to find him a chief operating officer who could think strategically like his head of corporate strategy but the individual also needed to be literate with numbers like his finance director and able to deep-dive to fix problems. Whilst this may seem like a tall order, this description was able to provide another perspective and added another dimension to the job description, which in most cases is only a two-dimensional document. Hence, it became a lot easier to understand the client's requirements from that point onwards.

The results of an assessment project can sometimes be an eye-opener and a driver for change. One such organisation, a multinational company in the manufacturing sector, discovered through an assessment project that the majority of their managers were classified as innovators. Being innovative is a highly desired skill in many organizations, especially in leadership roles. On the other hand, innovators are generally out-of-the-box thinkers and are not very likely to analyse pitfalls well or they may be less detail oriented when it comes to implementation. Faced with the study results, their top management embarked on a development program to build up the other competencies their managers were lacking in. At the same time, they also made a conscious effort to hire more detail-oriented managers who could be more effective on areas of the business that called for more precision. They also created a role for a risk manager to mitigate potential risks that the innovative managers may have missed in their eagerness to try new and different approaches.

I have also come across leaders who have the misconception that their subordinates cannot be better qualified than the leaders themselves. These were usually leaders who enjoyed having their own "kingdoms" and didn't want to "rock the boat." They tend to hire "yes" men who would carry out instructions without questioning or offer any kind of resistance. As a result, the organisation is likely to stagnate at some point, as there will usually be a bottleneck when it comes to making decisions. The calibre of the managers hired would be of a lower level, as the leader would not want to have subordinates that may outshine them as leaders. As such most decision-making will have to be directed to the top management, as these managers would not be empowered to make decisions.

Although it is not ideal, the leader preferred this approach and this might even work well until the business grows beyond the tipping point whereby the leader will eventually need to empower some capable managers to take on more of the decision-making tasks. As an employee and team member, it is useful to know what our competencies are as this will pave the way for us to develop ourselves in areas that we may not be as proficient in. We can align ourselves to mentors who may have a profile that complements ours or who can help us develop these competencies. It is also handy to know your colleagues' profiles where possible so that we can use the right communication style to get our message across.

For instance, some people prefer receiving emails as this gives them time to craft an appropriate response whilst others may want to have a face-to-face discussion so that they can obtain immediate feedback. At times, this information also tells us why we are unable to get along with certain people in our organisations.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there are no bad competencies or bad profiles. Nobody is perfect. We all possess competencies; some are similar and some different from the people we work with. It is more important to know what our competencies are and to what degree they influence our communication with others. It is not just the truth but knowing the truth that makes the difference, as this is the starting point for building effective teams.

  • Pauline Ng is the consulting director and head of BTI Consultants. She believes that we need to understand what makes a person tick so that we can build more effective teams.

Nasim expects the car industry to grow at a healthy rate

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 06:22 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Nasim Sdn Bhd, the official distributor of Peugeot vehicles in the country, is hopeful that the local automotive industry will grow at a healthy rate this year despite tighter hire-purchase loan approvals and the production disruption caused by Thailand's flood disaster last year.

"In the initial months of 2012, the market experienced a slowdown due to the shortage of supply from Thailand which was still recovering from the devastating floods that hit the country in 2011 while the market was also adjusting to Bank Negara's new guidelines on financing.

"Once supply from Thailand resumed, the market began to rebound and in the first half of this year, the total industry volume has grown 1.4%.

"Going forward, we believe the industry will continue to grow at a healthy rate," said Nasim chief operating officer Datuk Samson Anand George in an e-mail.

Effective this year, banks have started using net income instead of gross income to calculate the debt service ratio for loans. This pre-emptive move by Bank Negara is said to contain the rise in consumer debts. The measure covers all consumer loan products, including car loans.

Samson admitted that the central bank's new lending rules did have an impact on the local automotive industry initially.

"There were some effects on the overall market earlier in the year due to the new regulations. But since then, the market has adjusted to the new guidelines and it is business as usual."

Motor vehicle sales in August fell by 7,644 units or 12.9% to 51,823 units from the 58,382 units in the same month last year.

Nasim is maintaining its sales target of 9,300 units for this year. As at end-August, the company had sold 4,200 units, up 7.5% from the same period in 2011.

Samson attributed the steady sales performance to the new line-up of Peugeot models introduced this year.

"In May, we introduced the 408 and in the following month, expanded the 508's line-up to include four new variants including the top of the line 508 GT. In June, we introduced the facelifted 308. The 308 is one of the most popular hatchbacks in the country and holds a 42% market share among European C-segment hatchbacks in Malaysia.

"As a result of these new model launches, we now have seven models and a total of 15 variants in our line-up. This, in turn, has enabled us to reach a wider spectrum of the market than in previous years."

Part of Nasim's initiatives to drive sales was to also boost its aftersales service, said Samson.

"As our sales numbers increase, we have also worked hard on the after-sales front. We now have 58 service bays in the Klang Valley which gives us a service capacity of 3,500 cars a month, up 46% from 2011.

"By the end of our expansion exercise this year, we will have 153 service bays nationwide which in turn will have a service capacity of over 9,000 cars a month. These efforts have encouraged customers to purchase a Peugeot."

Nasim recently announced that it plans to open five new outlets next year, which will bring its total sales network in the country to 34.

The company currently has 22 outlets in Malaysia and will be opening new ones in Kota Damansara, Ampang, Old Klang Road, Penang, Taiping, Batu Pahat and Kuala Terengganu by year-end.


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Golf: Woods, McIlroy ready for Ryder Cup showdown

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 04:50 PM PDT

ATLANTA (Georgia): World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and No. 2 Tiger Woods are set to lead their Ryder Cup teams this week after final-round fades cost them a chance at a US$10 million US PGA playoff prize.

American Brandt Snedeker, a US Ryder Cup captain's choice selection by Davis Love, won the Tour Championship on Sunday at East Lake to win a record US$11.44 million and jump to 10th in the rankings ahead of this weekend's showdown.

Holders Europe boast four of the world's top five players with England's Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose joining McIlroy in that select group.

"I'm just going to really enjoy it. It's going to be a good week," McIlroy said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus but without a major title since 2008, looked forward to a rest day on Monday before beginning Ryder Cup practice sessions at Medinah.

"It will be nice to shut it down and gear up again because we've got a long, long week ahead of us," Woods said. "We're all going to need our energy and get our rest when we can."

Woods, who has seen 18 majors come and go since he last won one, is happy to be healthier and more competitive and consistent than he was a year ago.

"Considering where I was at last year, it's nice to be where I'm at now," he said. "I was obviously struggling with my health last year and this year I was able to turn it around and I played some pretty good golf this year."

Woods won at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and the PGA National in 2012 and contended at majors, showing flashes of the form that made him a legend but not often enough to capture a major crown.

McIlroy won his second career major title, adding last month's PGA Championship to his breakthrough triumph at the 2011 US Open, and nearly added the playoff crown to his haul.

"You've got to treat it like a four or five-week tournament," McIlroy said. "It adds excitement to the end of the year.

Obviously, you've got the Ryder Cup next week, so that's going to be exciting too, but it definitely gives people something to watch and something to hang on to after the majors are finished.

"I'm not going to complain. It's been a great year, and I'm very happy with how I'm playing still.

"I'm looking forward to meeting up with all the guys. Just to get back into that team atmosphere and team spirit. It should be good fun. I'm just going to go there and enjoy it and try and help Team Europe out as much as I can." - AFP

44-year-old Sazali grabs eighth Mr Asia title in Guangzhou

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 05:10 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Age is just a number for Sazali Samad who continues to stamp his mark as one of the best bodybuilders in Asia.

Sazali, who turns 45 on Oct 8, gave himself an early birthday present by flexing his way to a record eighth Mr Asia title at the Asian bodybuilding and physique championships in Guangzhou on Sunday.

Sazali came out tops in the below 70kg (lightweight) category final at the Tianhe Sports Centre to regain the title he last won in the 2010 edition in Teheran.

Sazali was top ranked in pre-judging and maintained the form in the final to finish ahead of Iranian Yousef Karimi while Vietnam's Nguyen Hai Au took the bronze.

Sazali is on record as the most successful bodybuilder Malaysia has produced. He won his first Mr Asia title in 1996 in the bantamweight category and followed up with triumphs in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2010.

The previous most decorated Malaysian bodybuilder at Asian level was Datuk Malek Noor, who was a six-time winner in the heavyweight category.

"I wanted to regain the Asian title I lost last year and continued training although I was fasting last month. It's more of a challenge as I get older but I just try harder.

"It's great to win here as bodybuilding wasn't in the programme at the last Asian Games which China hosted.

"This year has been good for me as I was also promoted to sub-inspector in the police force," the two-time National Sportsman of the Year said from Guangzhou.

The southern Chinese city hosted the Asian Games in 2010 and Sazali would have been a good bet for a medal as he had won the silver in Doha four years earlier.

Sazali's triumph is certainly a welcome boost to his hopes of making a successful title defence in the world championships in Bangkok from Dec 5-10.

He will be going for his eighth world title, having claimed his first in the 65kg category (bantamweight) in Malacca in 2000, followed by wins in Moscow (2004) and Ostrava, Czech Republic (2006).

Sazali moved up to the 70kg category in 2007 and was on top again in Jeju, South Korea (2007), Dubai (2009), Varanasi, India (2010) and Malacca (2011).

At the Asian championships in Guangzhou, Malaysia also bagged a silver through Mohd Shahrul Azman Mahen in the men's physique 170cm category and a bronze from Badrulshah Baharuddin in the below 75kg category.

Buda Anchah and Mark Allan Magindol were placed fourth in the below 65kg and 85kg respectively.

Two other Malaysians – Aloysius Jaimon and Ismadi Riji – did not make the finals in their respective 80kg and 100kg categories.

KLHC in great form to retain Premier Division title

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 05:27 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: KL Hockey Club (KLHC) are in prime position to retain the Premier Division title in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) after a stellar showing last week.

The defending champions shrugged off their stumble of the previous week to return to winning ways.

KLHC took no prisoners this time as they thrashed Maybank 6-1 on Friday before mauling Nur Insafi-Perak 11-3 on Sunday.

With only two matches left, the title looks all but decided as KLHC have a three-point advantage over closest rivals Tenaga Nasional.

K. Dharmaraj's side will play UniKL on Friday before taking on Tenaga on Sunday. The champions are likely to register another big win against UniKL to bump up their already imposing goal difference, which should assure them the title even if they lose to Tenaga in their last match.

Tenaga have to beat third placed Sapura on Friday but their form has taken a dip and they have drawn their last two matches. Sapura could well surprise them and even pip Tenaga to second place on Sunday.

KLHC team manager George Koshy was glad that his players had made a quick recovery and regained their grip on the title.

"We have the edge but we intend to retain the title in style with maximum points from our remaining games," he said.

"Tenaga showed what they are capable of when they beat us the previous week. We allowed them to play to their strength and that cost us the match," said George.

"Tenaga are a well organised side with a strong backline. They thrive in open spaces and their star player Faisal Saari is a handful. But we intend to avenge that defeat."

An interesting weekend of matches is in store as the top four sides for the overall title are almost confirmed.

KLHC, Tenaga and Sapura have made the cut while Maybank need a win to confirm their place. That should be a formality as Maybank play bottom team Nur Insafi on Friday.


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Two killed in 10 vehicle crash at Ayer Keroh

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 08:30 AM PDT

MALACCA: A runaway lorry caused a 10 vehicle crash that left two people dead and several others injured at the MITC traffic light junction along Jalan Tun Razak in Ayer Keroh here.

The 3.40pm accident involving three lorries, three cars and four motorcycles caused miles-long jam leading to the historic city.

Melaka Tengah OCPD Asst Comm Salehhudin Abd Rahman said the driver of the lorry laden with chicken feed was believed to have lost control of his vehicle which skidded and landed on the opposite side of the road.

He said the lorry rammed into the other vehicles, including a tipper truck and cargo trailer, at the junction.

The lorry driver, identified as R.Chandran Raja Retnam, 47, died on the spot due to his injuries. The accident also killed motorcyclist R.Mukeudan, 62, after his machine was pinned under one of the lorries.

ACP Salehhudin said another seriously injured motorcyclist is now in critical condition at the Malacca Hospital.

More in The Star Tuesday.

PR1MA online registration system up by year end

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 08:16 AM PDT

Published: Monday September 24, 2012 MYT 2:23:00 PM
Updated: Monday September 24, 2012 MYT 11:16:36 PM

PETALING JAYA: PR1MA is developing an online registration system expected to be launched end of this year, said PR1MA CEO Datuk Abdul Mutalib Alias here on Monday.

Eligible house buyers, those with a household income of between RM3,000 and RM7,500 can apply for the affordable homes here.

The system will also be used by PR1MA to estimate the demand for affordable homes in each state.

The company is also looking at compiling a "reserve list", to inform potential house buyers whenever a house becomes vacant, he said.

Housebuyers are bound by a ten year moratorium on the houses they purchase.

More to come.

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TalentCorp Malaysia on the road again

Posted: 24 Sep 2012 08:15 AM PDT

WASHINGTON: TalentCorp Malaysia is on the road again in its global search for skilled and talented Malaysians in the United States and Canada.

Its Chief Executive Officer Johan Mahmood Merican told Bernama here that Talent Corp's mission was not only to reach out and attract Malaysian graduates and experienced professionals overseas to seek opportunities back home, but also to persuade them to collaborate and share their knowledge with other Malaysians from wherever they are.

Johan said he understood that Malaysians abroad, an estimated one million of them, might not all come home for various reasons at this point, but they could still contribute to nation building, share their expertise, invest or engage in business with their fellow Malaysians, from their respective locations.

Johan and his TalentCorp team have so far ventured out to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to fulfill their mission this year.

In the US, the team had garnered the interest of about 300 Malaysian professionals working or with businesses in the fields of engineering, ICT, biotech, finance and medical research in Los Angeles and San Jose in California; Atlanta in Georgia; New York City and Washington DC since last Sunday.

Apart from plans to meet professionals in Dallas, Houston, Chicago and additionally in Edmonton, Canada, he Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad team had engaged in discussions with about 500 Malaysian students in the MidWest, including University of Michigan, Purdue University, Indiana, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota and the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey.

More interactions with Malaysians have been scheduled with students in 10 other universities, including those at Harvard University, MIT, Brown University and Cornell University plus students in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto in Canada. Their outreach in the US and Canada will culminate in a Career Fair on September 30 in Chicago.

Johan said he was pleased with the positive response from Malaysians abroad to the Returning Expert Programme (REP) where 1,192 applications had been approved since TalentCorp first administered the programme 18 months ago, which surpassed the 1,130 applications approved between 2001 and 2010.

The increase in the number of Malaysians returning under the REP indicated the success of TalentCorp's outreach programmes to Malaysians abroad in cooperation with private companies, Johan said. - Bernama


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Free Movie Tickets

Posted: 23 Sep 2012 11:31 PM PDT

A mother and daughter move to a new town and find themselves living next door to a house where a young girl murdered her parents. When the daughter befriends the surviving son, she learns the story is far from over.

Thanks to Nusantara Ederan Filem we have tickets to a special screening of House At The End Of The Street. For a free pair of tickets, print this page and bring it with you to our redemption counter. See details below.

Redemption Details

Date: 3 October (Wednesday)

Time: 8pm until all tickets are picked up

Venue: Cathay Cineplex e@Curve

Screening Details

Date: 3 October (Wednesday)

Time: 9.30pm

Venue: Cathay Cineplex e@Curve

Rules & Regulations

1. This redemption is open to all eCentral fans.

2. Print out the contest page and redeem it at the venue given in this article.

3. Each page entitles you to two movie tickets only. Each person is allowed to redeem only once.

4. Tickets are given out on a first come, first served basis.

5. Queue-jumping and reserving places in line during the redemption are strictly prohibited. The organizers reserve the right to refuse tickets to anyone found doing so.

6. Tickets are not exchangeable for cash.

7. Movie ratings will strictly apply for this movie. Please refer to your ticket or your daily newspaper for ratings. The organizers reserve the right to refuse entry to the cinema hall to those not within the permitted age limit. No exceptions will be made at any time for any reason.

8. I hereby expressly consent to the collection, collation, use and/or disclosure of all my personal data by Star Publications (M) Berhad for the purposes of the House At The End Of The Street contest.

9. For enquiries, please e-mail

The best show

Posted: 23 Sep 2012 01:06 AM PDT

South Korean superstar Rain's final concert before embarking on military service was packed with passion and love.

SOUTH Korean heartthrob Rain has left millions of fans craving for his performance after putting aside his celebrity role for a stint in the military.

Malaysian fans are a lucky lot as they will be treated to Rain: The Best Show tonight on Astro. It is the world TV premiere of Rain's farewell concert tour across Asia.

Pouring passion and love into the show, Rain's explosive energy and amazing dance moves are not to be missed.

Here is an interview transcript with the superstar provided by Celestial Movies:

This is your last concert before military service. How do you feel?

Since this is my last concert before I embark on military service, I would like to communicate with the audience in a more interactive way. I put more emphasis on communicating with them instead of giving the usual performance-oriented show.

You broke into tears on stage. Fans were deeply moved by your sincerity.

I was really moved by the audience. I made my debut as a singer on April 24, 2002, and time passes so fast. I have a lot of pleasant flashback and I just couldn't help breaking into tears.

Some artistes are afraid that they would lose their fans and audience after military service. What is your view on that?

For me, serving the army is my solemn responsibility and it is an honour to be able to become part of the military. I am sure there is nothing I should be afraid of as long as I live with positive thinking.

What have you learnt in the army so far?

I always get to experience new stuff and am happy when I manage to overcome the challenges. I always consider my life as a singer from 2002 up to the moment I started military service as Act One, and army life is the second stage in my life. I look forward to Act Three, which is when I get discharged from the Army.

Is there anything you would like to tell your loving fans?

I will let you 'cheat' on me during the two years when I'm serving the Army. Just make sure you come back to me when I return on stage.

What's the highlight of this concert?

I had toured various cities in South Korea, namely, Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju and Jeju. It's the first time I presented my new song Busan Women on stage. I kicked off my concert tour in Busan, which went well with the title of my song Busan Women. I composed the music and wrote the lyrics myself and hope they'll like it.

How have you been doing recently? Any interesting episodes in the army you would like to share with your fans?

Recently, I have been appointed as jury member for the audition to pick talent for the programme, Be The Star, run by the military broadcast station. It is my honour to work with fellow singers KCM and Park Hyo-shin and exchange ideas. Among the participants, one of them sang my song, Ways To Avoid The Sun. He sang really well but I felt he should have been more confident and not be too influenced by my style.

Your new film Soar Into The Sun was released last month in South Korea. What's your character in the film?

I played a military officer at the air force and I was happy to act in this film because I experience life as an air force pilot.

Many people are talking about the kissing scenes between you and lead actress Shin Se-gyung. How was it?

I enjoyed the romantic scenes with her a lot but unfortunately, those scenes were deleted by the director.

Do you have any plans after your discharge?

I don't have any particular plans at the moment. People may think army life is tough, but I enjoy it and am even thinking if I should continue working in the army after my two-year term.

Do you have a busy life in the army?

Apart from the daily duties, I am also appointed as the publicity ambassador of the Military Manpower Administration. Attending the orientation ceremonies for the newcomers has become part of my work.

> Rain – The Best Show premieres tonight at 9pm on Celestial Movies (Astro Ch 322) and Celestial Movies HD (Astro Ch 309).

A monster ride

Posted: 23 Sep 2012 01:04 AM PDT

There's a lot of bite in Hotel Transylvania with Count Dracula manning the reception. Suite!

GETTING all the monsters under one roof has got to be quite a, erm, monstrous task. This, however, is an attainable feat for Dracula (who built the huge Hotel Transylvania for this very purpose) and for animated feature Hotel Transylvania director Genndy Tartakovsky.

The hotel is a getaway point for monsters and their families when they are in need of a break from living in the shadows, and to just live it up without having to worry about the bad guys – humans. It has been designed to keep humans away from the monsters, but only if precautions are taken.

On this particularly busy weekend at the hotel, monsters from all over have come to celebrate the birthday of Dracula's "teenage" daughter, Mavis. She turns ... 118, which means she will finally get a very special present left for her from her mother, who died when Mavis was just a baby.

Among the gang who are there to celebrate includes the Mummy, Frankenstein (or Uncle Frank to Mavis) and his wife, the Bride Of Frankenstein (but, of course!), the Werewolf, his wife Wanda and their big, unruly pack of wolf cubs, zombies, the Yeti, the Invisible Man, Quasimodo and the gremlins. The isolated hotel – somewhere in Transylvania, Romania, of course – is also home to Dracula and Mavis, as well as the hotel staff.

Troubles begin when Mavis, being a typical teenager, becomes restless and wants to see what the outside world has to offer. Her father is reluctant to let her do so, but finally her allows Mavis to fly out – they can turn into bats, by the way – and visit a nearby village.

However, a bigger problem occurs when a much-feared human somehow stumbles across the hotel and crashes Mavis' "monster-only" birthday party.

For Tartakovsky, Hotel Transylva-nia presented him with a chance to play with many of the stereotypes (be it from books, films, etc) that are connected to these classic monsters and reinvent them into something more unique, original and, most importantly, relatable to today's audience.

So, forget about Frankenstein being this horrible creature, but rather, see him as someone who has been cast out because of the way he looks. Underneath the blue (yes, he's blue in this film) skin and beyond the bolts in his head is a kind-hearted fella that loves a bit of fun.

Then there is the Werewolf, who suffers in silence – not because of what happens to him during the full moon – but because he has a huge family to take care of, and his cubs are in constant need of diaper changes. Seriously, anyone would howl at the moon at that.

And the vampire? Far from being the Prince of Darkness (a.k.a. the blood-sucking villain), Dracula is actually an over-protective parent who does not want to let his daughter out of his sight, especially after a tragic incident happened in their lives. Sure, he is a bit of a control freak – he has to oversee every little detail that happens in the hotel – but then again, which one of us isn't?

In a phone interview, Tartakovsky says: "They have the same problems we have – being misunderstood or misjudged. We have different versions of humanity being presented, making them very accessible to the audience."

Tartakovsky – whose family migrated from the Soviet Union (now Russia) to the United States via Italy when he was seven – shares that he feels a connection with Frankenstein. "There is something very accessible about him to me. He's an outcast and misunderstood. And I like him," he says with a laugh.

It may seem that Dracula was chosen as the "leader" of the monsters just because everyone is crazy about vampires right now (watch out for a really funny reference to the Twilight franchise in the film). Well, Dracula does wear a human face, although his fashion choices are a bit suspect ... However, there is a little something else too when it comes to vampires that make them immortal to us humans.

Tartakovsky explains: "The icon of Dracula is very powerful, he's got the most powers of all the monsters. He's the leading man type. It's hard to argue that point – whatever he is involved in, he's going to be in charge."

Starting with a fresh canvas, Tartakovsky and his team reshaped the iconic characters to bring out a very important element for the film – comedy. This comes clear in the way the characters look – Tartakovsky wanted to incorporate both caricature and cartoon-like designs to the characters, much like the cartoon series he created like Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars and Sym-Bionic Titan.

He notes: "They move in a different way, there is much more funny drawing sensibility than action. This is unique for an animated feature."

The comedic element is also obvious from the voice talents; a lot of comedy actors were recruited for the film, including Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher and Andy Samberg.

At a press conference in Cancun, Mexico, Tartakovsky explains how he went about treating the scary nature of the characters and turning them into not-so-scary: "We chose to go with very few scary moments, kind of kids' scary moments, and really go more for the comedy and the character relationships."

At the same event, producer Michelle Murdocca says: "We're also introducing vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein and the Mummy in our own way. So, younger kids who aren't really familiar with these characters – at least in the US, with the exception of costumes – we're defining these characters for them."

Sandler, who lends his voice to Dracula, came into the picture after one of his daughters asked him why he never acted as a cartoon character. He volunteered for a voice job, and the folks of Hotel Transylvania were casting. According to the director, Hotel Transylvania really spoke to Sandler as he is exactly in the same place in his life as Dracula. Like the fanged one, Sandler, too, wants to protect his two girls, like, forever.

Other than mastering the foreign accent (not unlike Bela Lugosi's in the 1931 movie titled Dracula), Sandler also learned to use his vocals differently to bring his undead character to life.

Says Tartakovsky: "I just encouraged him to be more cartoony ... to be broader, because the broadness of a caricature works well with animation. And he was able to push his voice and take it to the extremes. That's why in some instance, he is very loud – yelling and stuff – and then there is the other side of him, when he is talking to his daughter, he is more soft and warm."

Having found the suitable voice talents, Tartakovsky decided to do the recording like he used to do them when he was directing animated cartoon series – have the actors come into the studio all at the same time and do the recording together.

Tartakovsky believes that bringing them together will allow the actors to create a more believable chemistry. Luckily for him, actors like Sandler, Samberg, James and Spade were able to sort out their schedules to do just that.

"It was great because they can really work off each other; the chemistry was amazing especially between Adam and Andy because they had a lot of scenes together."

Murdocca also states in the movie's production notes: "It was really fun to see Adam Sandler playing off of Kevin James, and Kevin playing off of David Spade. It was the beginning of them creating these characters and personalities together – it helped make the characters really funny and really emotional."

> Hotel Transylvania haunts audiences nationwide from Sept 27.


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