World Bank: Malaysia’s financial system is strong
Malaysia’s strong financial system even among its Asean peers and beyond has not only impressed others but its expertise was now being sought after by many, says the World Bank Group. Country director Dr Ulrich Zachau said many ASEAN and Middle East countries were seeking Malaysia’s expertise to improve their financial system. Malaysia has emerged stronger in terms of access to credit cards and sophisticated financial investment tools, a result of decades of systematic development of both private and public institutions. (The Star Online)

Property ownership for average rich Malaysian higher than world stats
Latest wealth findings by international property firm Knight Frank showed that Malaysia’s rich own more properties on average than their Asian or global counterparts. Malaysia’s ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI) have continued the trend of investing their money in residential properties, especially in Australia and the UK. Malaysians seem to have a real love for bricks and mortar in residential property, with average property ownership of 4.7 compared to the Asian average of 3.92 and global average of 3.7, said Knight Frank Asia Pacific head of research Nicholas Holt. He added that appetite for property among Malaysians will remain consistent for the next decade, with 65% expected to increase their allocations for investments in the sector. (The Malay Mail Online)

Sarawak becomes first state to abolish quit rent
Effective today, March 16, Sarawak has abolished all quit rent for smallholder agriculture land and residential land. Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the remission will apply to smallholder agriculture land measuring less than 100 acres, which will affect 360,422 titles amounting to RM8.58 million. It is the first state to do so, and those who had overpaid can request for a refund. The move is one of the efforts by the state government to help the people especially rural folks in Sarawak in the wake of the rising cost of living. (New Straits Times Online)

South Africa seeks Malaysian expertise in public housing
South Africa is seeking Malaysian assistance to build “more complex and sustainable” public housing. The country is looking to harness the expertise of a company engaged in housing development in Malaysia to assist South Africa develop public housing. South Africa had about three million people living in huts and the government wanted to provide them with proper housing quickly, cheaply and in sustainable ways. (Bernama)

RM30mil land buy for Integrated Logistics’ solar energy venture
Loss-making Integrated Logistics Bhd is planning to diversify its earnings base by venturing into the solar energy business, beginning with the acquisition of five adjoining parcels of agriculture land in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah for RM30 million cash. It entered into a SPA with property holding company Zillion-Lite Venture Sdn Bhd for the 31.11ha land. For FY15, the shipping agent saw its net loss narrow to RM11.94 million from RM41.13 million the previous year, but revenue for year 2015 fell 34.7% compared to FY14. (The Edge Markets)

BLD Plantation increases land bank in Sarawak
BLD Plantation Bhd will gain an additional 5,442 ha of plantation lands through its acquisition of Pekan Semangat Sdn Bhd from multiple vendors for RM155.22 million cash. According to BLD, Pekan Semangat’s 70%-owned subsidiary Agrogreen Ventures Sdn Bhd has two parcels of lands totalling 5,442ha, of which over 5,000ha have been developed into an oil palm plantation. The proposed acquisition is consistent with BLD Plantation’s plans to continue to expand its oil palm cultivation business by acquiring new land bank in Malaysia, particularly in Sarawak. (The Edge Markets)

Yong Tai MD and co-founder resigns
Yong Tai Bhd co-founder and managing director Wong Liew Lin @ Liew Fat Lin has resigned from his post effective March 15, citing “other commitment and busy schedule”. The company’s executive director Datuk Ng Jet Heong also resigned on the same day, citing similar reasons. The garment manufacturer had diversified into property development and proposed to also venture into operating cultural performances, namely the Impression Melaka performance project. (The Star Online)

Malaysia preparing new rules to bar foreign political donations
Malaysia is reviewing plans to bar foreign political donations after US$680 million (RM2.6 billion) scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak. A committee is working on a framework to regulate political funding. One of the terms is that anonymous donations should not exceed RM1,000 and contributions must be held in an audited bank account, said minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low. “Political donations from foreign interest and sources should be prohibited… as a safeguard against foreign influence on local politics as well as the sovereignty of the nation” he said. Najib announced the formation of the committee in August, more than a month after news broke that the US$681 million had passed through his personal accounts. Low said the political funding committee is on track to complete its work within the set time frame of a year, and targeted for implementation before the next general elections in 2018. (The Edge Markets Singapore)