Race heats up between China, Japan, S. Korea for HSR project
China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC) may be a step ahead of its competitors for the RM40 billion high-speed rail (HSR) project connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, following its acquisition of a stake in Bandar Malaysia last week. CREC and its Malaysian partner, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Bhd (IWH) collectively owns 60% of Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd (BMSB). Its closest competitors for the HSR deal is its Japanese counterpart, which rides on shinkansen rail technology and the recent award of US$15bil Mumbai-Ahmedabad HSR project in India. Another new player in the KL-SG HSR bid is South Korea, which recently established a special showroom to create awareness of their experience in HSR in Kuala Lumpur. The consortium from South Korea will include the Korea Railroad Corp, Korea Land & Housing Corp, Korea Rail Network Authority (KRNA), top construction companies of South Korea and South Korean maker of HSR trains Hyundai Rotem Company. The HSR is dubbed as South-East Asia’s most ambitious infrastructure project and the region’s first HSR along a 340km link. (The Star Online)

Direct and transit HSR services to Singapore, says operator
Both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments have decided on having two services linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, one being a direct service and another with transit stops in between. MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd told The Edge Financial Daily that it envisioned two services for the high-speed rail project, one going directly to Singapore and another that will stop in various cities before crossing the causeway. It is estimated that the dedicated direct train will take 90 minutes to link both cities, while the transit train should take about two hours. (The Malaysian Insider)

Property prices won’t go down in 2016, say real estate specialists
According to real estate specialists, property prices won’t be going down in 2016, and advise people to start buying properties as soon as they can afford to because prices will keep on spiralling upwards. For young people, the earlier the better as the costs of construction, labour and material would consistently go up over time. FAR Capital founder and CEO Faizul Azwan Ridzuan said it was unlikely for housing prices to go down, as housing was a basic need, and it was important to know how to buy and invest in properties. (New Straits Times Online)

Grade A office rent under pressure
Low oil prices and slowing economic growth have resulted in companies from across the board renegotiating their leasing agreements, property consultants say, with the focus on oil and gas (O&G) companies which pay high rental for prime office space in Kuala Lumpur in order to be near working partner Petronas. JLL Malaysia country head Y.Y. Lau says O&G companies take up 26% of top grade office space in the city. Banking sector takes the lion’s share at 33%. ExxonMobil and Production Malaysia Inc have recently joined the list of companies to implement cost cutting measures in terms of office space. Other sectors have been impacted by the drop in oil prices but banking and O&G takes the big bulk of top grade city office space, particularly the O&G sector. (The Star Online)

occupation of prime office space by sector

Cautious start to 2016 for Bursa Malaysia
The FBM KLCI fell more than 8 points in early Monday trade in line with key Asian markets, giving a cautious start to Malaysia’s stock market in 2016. Reuters reported Asian shares began their first trading of 2016 on a cautious note on Monday. However, oil prices jumped 3% after Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric spurred regional anger and geopolitical tensions. (The Star Online)

Rivers and sea in Kuantan stained red by the bauxite mining (Photo from The Star)

Rivers and sea in Kuantan stained red by the bauxite mining (Photo from The Star)

Kuantan bauxite mining temporarily halted, final decision by Pahang government
The Cabinet’s directive to temporarily suspend bauxite mining in Kuantan has been confirmed, but any decision to order a direct stop lay with the Pahang government, which has the final say over land use in the state. The mining was halted for one month to allow a study on whether such activities were in line with environmental laws. The rampant bauxite mining has been blamed for turning rivers and the shoreline off Kuantan red after two days of heavy rain earlier this week, with residents complaining about air pollution caused by the mining and transportation of the mineral to the Kuantan port. (The Malaysian Insider)

Bagan Datoh officially a Perak sub-district
Bagan Datoh has been officially declared a sub-district in Perak, following the unanimous approval of the Perak Sultan, Mentri Besar and state secretary. The move is hoped to help pave the way for major improvements and developments to the township. Bagan Datoh is a township around 26km from Hutan Melintang, with fishing as its main economic activity. (The Star Online)

Terengganu vape sellers must wrap up business by June
The Terengganu government has given vape traders in the state a six-month grace period to wrap up their business and clear off existing stock, following a sudden ban effective 1 January against sales of electronic cigarette devices and liquids. Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman said the state would help about 40 traders make the switch into another business field with the aid of the state Islamic Affairs and Malay Customs Council (Maidam) or the Terengganu Entrepreneur Development Foundation (YPU) in order to mitigate their losses. Terengganu is the latest state to have publicly declared a ban on the vape trade starting this month. Other states are Johor, Kelantan, Penang and Kedah. (The Malay Mail Online)

Dubai property giant to restore hotel damaged in New Year’s Eve fire
Dubai property giant Emaar Properties has promised to restore its luxury 63-storey hotel, The Address Downtown, which was damaged in a spectacular fire which went viral on social media on New Year’s Eve. A huge fire had engulfed the hotel three hours before midnight, but only 16 people were injured. No information was given on the cause of the fire and Dubai authorities are in the midst of investigating the incident. (Astro Awani)

The fire at The Address hotel in Dubai on New Year's Eve (Photo from The Times UK)

The fire at The Address hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve (Photo from The Times UK)