Busy year ahead for construction sector despite rising costs
Big government projects such as the MRT and highway projects in East Malaysia is keeping the construction sector alive despite rising costs caused by the ringgit’s fall and GST. The Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) said that there is no foreseeable short-term impact on the construction sector from the depreciating ringgit, as most construction materials such as cement and steel are manufactured in Malaysia. However, the situation could change if the ringgit continues to slide downwards against the US dollar. 70% of mechanical and electrical components such as copper wiring and cabling and lifts in buildings are imported. (The Malaysian Insider)

13 Malaysians killed, 9 injured in Chiang Mai tour bus crash
It has been confirmed that 22 Malaysians are among those involved in the Chiang Mai tour bus mishap. 13 were killed and nine other injured when the tour bus they were in collided with a pick-up truck in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand on Sunday morning. Authorities are waiting for confirmation on the identities of the victims before contacting their next-of-kin in Malaysia. Sources say that the Malaysians are from Johor. (Bernama)

Injured Malaysian tourists wait for medical treatment next to a Thai police officer after a tourist bus crashed on a mountain roadside of Doi Saket district, Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand, 20 December 2015. A tourist bus carrying Chinese-Malaysian tourists crashed into a roadside on mountainous path killing at least 13 people and injured 12 of them, police said. (Photo from NST Online)

Injured Malaysian tourists wait for medical treatment next to a Thai police officer. (Photo from NST Online)

Budget 2016 may be reviewed if oil prices stay low
It was reported on Thursday that the Malaysian government may revise its budget for 2016 if crude oil prices remain low, as economic growth in the country slows amid a global commodities slump. Bernama quoted conomic Planning Minister Abdul Wahid Omar as saying the budget was structured around the assumption that Brent Crude would average US$48 a barrel next year. The ringgit is emerging Asia’s worst-performing currency this year, compounded by economic slowdown in major trade partner China and domestic political turmoil. (Business Times SG)

New York City

US eases real estate tax on foreign investors
Key players in the US commercial real estate industry have been trying to convince lawmakers to reverse a 35-year-old law that is curbing foreign investors from buying US property. On Friday, broad spending and tax measures passed by Congress finally relaxed the law which is expected to bring in billions of dollars of additional foreign investment into an already-robust market for office buildings, apartments, and malls acroess the country. The law, known as the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, was passed in 1980 and subjects foreign investors to income tax when they sell U.S. property. Commercial-property prices, particularly in major cities, are at record highs, propped up in part by the growing ranks of foreign investors. The move will allow foreign pension funds to sell property without having to pay taxes along the way, and foreign investors will be allowed to own as much as 10% (up from 5%) of a publicly traded real estate company before facing extra taxes. (Wall Street Journal)

BCB optimistic of Iskandar property market
Batu Pahat-based property developer BCB Bhd is optimistic about the property market outlook in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor. Its group managing director Datuk Tan Seng Leong said that the large presence of domestic and foreign investors would create demand for residential and commercial properties in the economic region, which continues to attract strong investment interest since its launch 10 years ago. Phase 1 of BCB’s flagship high-end condominium project, Elysia Park Residence @ Medini, Iskandar had received good response with 75% of the first block taken up, said Tan. The GDV RM1.2bil project will be developed over 5 years, comprising six tower blocks with a nine-storey car park podium. It is a joint-venture project between BCB, holding 60% equity, and a Hong Kong-based developer United Harvest Group Co Ltd (UHG). (The Star Online)

Boustead unit disposes property, assets for RM28mil
Boustead Holdings’ indirect unit, Johan Ceramics Bhd, is planning to dispose of three parcels of land, machinery and equipment, along with its trademark, to Kim Hin Ceramic (Seremban) Sdn Bhd for RM28 million. The three adjacent parcels of industrial land in Seremban includes two buildings. The tile-manufacturing machinery and equipment located on the property has a total net book value of RM6.39 million. Johan Ceramics ceased operations on July 1, and the disposal is part of efforts to wind-down the company and settle a substantial portion of its outstanding obligations. (Bernama)

Mitrajaya eyes RM1bil worth of construction jobs
Mitrajaya Holdings Bhd is targeting to secure RM1 billion worth of projects for FY16, and is currently tendering for RM4.8 billion worth of local construction jobs. Supported by an increase in its construction order book, the group continues to expect double-digit growth next year, although not as high as in FY15. Although the property market is expected to stay soft throughout next year, construction will remain its earnings driver in FY16, as there are many ongoing mega projects such as the MRT and Pan-Borneo Highway. Mitrajaya has RM3.3 billion active tender projects, while tender under preparation is worth RM1.5 billion. These are local projects which include a mixture of building works and infrastructure projects. (The Malaysian Insider)