Ringgit slumps on lower oil prices, 1MDB woes
The ringgit slumped to its biggest two-day loss since November 2015 as a renewed sellof of global stocks and a drop in oil prices triggered a fresh bout of risk aversion. It closed 0.3% lower at 4.2203 to a dollar and has dropped 1.6% in two days. Besides the weakened local currency, Malaysia has been thrown back into the limelight following a Swiss probe into state investment company 1MDB. With the Bank of Japan cutting cutting interest rates to negative and the European Central Bank showing more monetary stimulus, concern is rising over the world’s economy. Analysts in a Bloomberg survey predict the ringgit will weaken to 4.40 a dollar by year-end. (The Malaysian Insider)

Buyers told to expect costlier homes after workers’ levy hike
Following the government’s move to double foreign workers levy, house buyers can expect to pay more for their first property as developers will most likely pass on the additional costs incurred. According to the Master Builders Association of Malaysia (MBAM), house prices will be among the many effects resulting from the RM2,500 levy starting this month. Labour cost is expected to increase 10% while overall costs will go up by 2%. Earlier this month, industry experts said property prices will likely experience a “moderate drop” this year as demand dwindles and auctions of foreclosed properties add to the existing oversupply. (Malay Mail Online)

Rehda: Levy hike will affect affordable housing agenda
The Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (REHDA) is urging the government to reconsider increasing the levy of foreign workers for the construction sector, as it will negatively impact the country’s affordable housing agenda. The revised rate, which is a 100% increase for construction workers, will add to the already burdened real estate industry and continuous rising costs of development. The association said it was caught by surprise over the sudden levy hike, and voiced its concerns that the steep increase would not only affect business operations, but that the cost would ultimately be passed down to consumers, thus hampering plans for affordable housing. (The Edge Markets)

Malaysia signs TPPA
12 countries including Malaysia have finally signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland yesterday, which is set to expand markets, reduce tariffs and promote freer trade among the nations involved. The pact representing nearly 40% of global gross domestic product worth US$30 billion was signed for Malaysia by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. The 12 countries include New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Japan, Peru, Canada, Vietnam, United States, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. Most of these countries are Malaysia’s major trading partners. The TPPA aims to promote economic integration through free trade and investment, as well as spur economic growth and social benefits. It is also expected to create new opportunities for workers and businesses, increase standard of living for over 800 million people, reduce poverty and promote sustainable growth. (The Sun Daily)

Selangor Properties buys 4 lands for RM32mil
Selangor Properties Bhd has acquired 4 parcels of land totalling 5,253 sqm in Kuala Lumpur for RM32.2 million. The land is adjoining and contiguous to the group’s existing 4.91-acre land at Jalan Batai, Damansara Heights which is earmarked for residential development. The combined land will be used for a proposed development comprising 124 units of high-end stratified villas, which will complement the company’s other development project in a high-end condominium in that area. (The Edge Markets)

Bukit Damansara residents claim developer offered bribes
Residents of Bukit Damansara who are against the plan for a luxury condominium in the area claimed they were offered bribes by the developer to stop their complaints. A former Court of Appeal judge said he was offered to relocate and sell his property at Bukit Damansara for “any price”, while another resident who inherited his property from his father said several other residents were approached by the developer as well. Many residents are retired civil servants who enjoy the quiet tranquility of the area, but it would be disrupted by the proposed condominium development which will bring higher population density and traffic congestion. One resident who is a geotechnical expert, said the foundation for such a large development would likely loosen the bed rocks and may cause landslides. (The Sun Daily)

Houses at Bukit Damansara (Source: wikimapia)

Houses at Bukit Damansara (Source: wikimapia)

Public Bank achieves stellar earnings of over RM5bil for 2015
Public Bank Bhd has recorded a stellar set of results, with net profit of over RM5 billion for the FY15. Its net profit jumped 12% to RM5.06 billion from RM4.52 billion a year ago. Revenue was higher at RM19.18bil compared to RM16.86bil in 2014. It declared a second interim dividend of 32 sen per share, bringing the full-year dividend to 56 sen and a total payout of 42.7% (RM2.16 billion) of the group’s net profit for 2015. The bank attributed its improved earnings to higher net interest income, higher non-interest income and lower loan impairment allowances, offset by higher operating expenses. (The Star Online)

Medini Iskandar on track for 2016
Master developers of Johor’s Medini Iskandar area are keen to streamline their focus and concentrate on other areas besides property development, due to the current economic uncertainty. The six promoted sectors that have tax benefits for Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia region are: health and wellness, education, financial advisory, tourism, creative and logistics. Medini Iskandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd (MIM) plans to develop Medini Iskandar into a modern commercial business district (CBD) as well as a pioneer smart city by 2020. The area is continuing its success in commercial office developments, and is on track with various projects that have almost complete ecosystems such as schools, hospitals and other less spillover effects. (The Rakyat Post)