Covid-19 cases breach 2,000 mark for first time in six weeks

The number of Covid-19 cases continue its upwards trend, raising concerns over a possible fourth wave to hit the country. A total of 2,148 cases were recorded yesterday, breaching the 2,000 mark for the first time in six weeks. Seven states saw three digit figures – Sarawak with 512 cases, Selangor (459), Kelantan (221), Sabah (202), Johor (182), Kuala Lumpur (171) and Penang (134). “Sarawak has the highest number of new cases and 82% of them detected from clusters and contact tracing,” said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. Another 10 people died from the virus, raising the death toll to 1,363. Five out of the 15 new clusters were detected in Kelantan. On the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom, Dr Noor Hisham said two more cases had been detected, bringing the total to five. Following this, he urged the public to be more alert due to these “more contagious variants”. (The Star)

Citigroup to exit 13 consumer markets, including Malaysia

Citigroup Inc intends to pursue exits from its consumer franchises in 13 markets across Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions, including Malaysia. Citi said the affected businesses include the consumer franchises in Australia, Bahrain, China,India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Citi said it will focus its global consumer bank presence in the two regions on four wealth centres — Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and London. Citi Malaysia CEO Usman Ahmed said with this strategic re-positioning, the company will be able to further invest its resources in significantly growing its institutional business in Malaysia. “There is no immediate change to our operations, and no immediate impact to our colleagues as a result of today’s announcement by Citi to pursue an exit from our consumer bank business in Malaysia,” he added. Citigroup’s business spanned across corporate and investment banking, commercial banking, markets (including equity brokerage) and treasury and trade solutions. (NST Online)

Property market could show signs of recovery by 2H2021

Malaysian developers are more optimistic about the outlook for the property industry in the second half of this year (2H2021) than in 1H2021. The economy is expected to recover and boost buying sentiment in the latter half of the year. In a Rehda survey, 20% and 26% of the 134 respondents were optimistic about the property market/sales performance and residential sector growth respectively in 2H2021, compared with only 8% for both in 1H2021. Rehda president Datuk Soam Heng Choon said the vaccine rollout will improve the country’s economic outlook and, ultimately, spur the local property market. Respondents from Kedah/Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Selangor planned to launch residential units in the range of RM250,001 to RM500,000, while those from Johor, Penang and Kuala Lumpur aimed to offer units priced between RM500,001 and RM700,000. He added that developers are also likely to keep in view or replan project launches, reduce the scale of the launches and/or delay project launches and delivery. Compliance costs remained a key factor that affected cash flow, followed by material, labour and land costs. (The Edge)

Prime property still the focus of the wealthy

Demand for prime residential properties remains resilient for Malaysian investors despite the implementation of various movement restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Knight Frank Malaysia. It said family wellness was one of the main criteria for many home buyers in Malaysia when looking to upgrade their main residence or purchase a holiday home. “As a result of the bullish stock market, luxury buyers are taking this opportunity to upgrade their main residence or invest in a secondary residence,” it noted. Australasia was the most-sought-after location for Malaysian ultra-high-net worth individuals (UHNWI) to purchase a home in 2021. The US was the second most-sought-after location, followed by their own country (Malaysia), Singapore and the UK. “The global uncertainty from the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a change in strategy for the ultra-wealthy. Many are planning to invest in additional homes domestically, followed by second homes in cities and countries that fit their requirement and lifestyle in the new normal.” (The Star)

Sabah to get full control of Sipadan islands again, and Sarawak its gas rights after ‘historic’ Malaysia Agreement talks with Putrajaya

The federal government will return the administration of the Sipadan and Ligitan islands to Sabah while Sarawak will have full control and management of its gas distribution again, following today’s Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MKMA63). Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili said that there would be a “formal surrender” of the Sipadan and Ligitan islands to Sabah, which means full authority and control over the administration of both islands will be under the purview of the Sabah government. “The second matter is the handover to Sarawak over the control and management of gas distribution under the Distribution of Gas Ordinance 2016, which will take effect on June 1,” said Ongkili. The Sarawak government also announced it was exerting its rights and was taking control of its own oil and gas resources as of last year after negotiating with Petronas and the federal government. (Malay Mail)