ASEAN Community -a Historical Moment!



The ASEAN Community (AC) will come into being on 31st December, 2015 a landmark achievement for the 48-year-old regional association whose member countries have wide diverse social, economic and political backgrounds.

The community will be larger in terms of population than the European Union or North America, and could rival India and China in the years to come. The 10 Asean leaders inked the historic declaration yesterday that entails greater integration of the region of over 600 million people.

The regional community is a monumental effort by every regional member country to bring their nations closer through greater economic integration and social uplift, while ensuring the region remains secure and stable.


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the idea of a community started in Bali 12 years ago, followed by blueprints and action plans.

“And today, on behalf of Asean member states represented at the 27th Asean Summit here in Kuala Lumpur, it is my solemn duty and privilege as the chair of Asean 2015 to pronounce the establishment of the Asean Community on December 31,” he said at the signing of the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the Asean Community.

At the event, Malaysia and the leaders of the nine other Asean nations – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – also signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Asean 2025: Forging Ahead Together.

Six of the grouping’s eight dialogue partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia – as well as United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon were present.

The AC comprises three core pillars, namely the Asean Political Security Community (APSC), Asean Economic Community (AEC) and Asean Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

Najib said Asean would now have to ensure that a truly single market and production base was created with more free movement of goods and services, as this – having common product standards, greater connectivity and removal of trade barriers – would be one that was primed to expand.

“As it is, our combined GDP is expected to reach US$4.7 trillion (RM20 trillion) by 2020. According to one forecast, Asean has the potential to be the fourth largest economy in the world as early as 2030, which is only 15 years from now."

The AC goes beyond economy, said Najib, pointing out that it is also about recognising the special ties that bind the people and “making our citizens feel that Asean courses through their veins.”

“Our Asean Way has guided us and will continue to be our compass as we seek to realise a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and a truly people-oriented and rules-based Asean,” he said.

“It is important that we list down some low-hanging fruits that can be delivered every year until we reach 2025, which is at the end of the 10-year blueprint under the Asean Community,” he said.

/theSTAR 23-11-2015


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Hard times like this: Part 2 ...



There are always opportunities in a gloomy economic situation for Companies that have established business plan, processes and strong management.

With the Malaysian Ringgit weakened against its trading partners, export oriented Companies will have more demands on their goods. The strong foreign currencies will make Malaysian goods very affordable and competitive for the importing Countries.

Depending on the percentage of the domestic components in the product content of the Malaysian exporter Company, the profit margin will vary.

A Company which have a high local content, which are purchased in the Ringgit, will definitely have a higher profit than those that have lesser when the payment of the goods are paid in the foreign currency particularly the USD!

The USD currency is the global dominant trading currency. Depending on the foreign currency traded Companies will enjoy different percentage/value of forex gain.

Companies may convert the foreign currency immediately upon realisation of payment. Some may "deposit" the receivables in forex account for future payments in foreign currency.

Companies that are highly impacted by the USD may also consider that their future trading transactions should be a mix of  foreign currencies rather than on a single currency as each currency have different impact on the Ringgit.

For Companies that are not export driven, but have opportunity to do so, may have to embark to do so, in order to have a healthy revenue stream of domestic and foreign earnings.

With the dynamism and changing world economy and the expected introduction of the TPPA, whether the Country is a signatory to or not, in a short few years, the challenges of the world trading system will see great paradigm shifts and business behaviour.

Thus, this present situation, is a glimpse of what could be expected in the years to come where the geographies of the world are intimately linked and flattened with almost borderless, equitable and fair, may be deemed distorted in some smaller economies, trading environment.

Let all Malaysian Companies be prepared ...

/07-11-2015

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Hard times like this: Part 1 ...



In a difficult and challenging economic situation, whatever the reasons, there is an indeed a moral obligation, for organisations to reach out and help relief the economic burdens of the citizens of the Country to the best of their abilities.

There is uncertainty as to when this economic plight would come to a landing.

Malaysian consumers are burdened with price hikes for almost all of their basic needs with the introduction of  GST (Good & Services Tax) in April 2015. They are now more careful and selective in their spending. There is an erosion of their purchasing power. Many are now "buying when necessary and in smaller quantity", resorting to more "eating at home" and taking other measures to stretch and conserve their dwindling ringgit.

The business community is also facing difficult moments with revenues affected with the weakening of the Malaysian Ringgit against major trading currencies. Their cash flow is also affected with the  introduction of GST (Good & Services Tax) in April 2015.

The Country's economy is no better with low crude oil and commodity prices.

On the whole, everyone is adversely affected.

To be sustainable, importers and domestic businesses, must be able to generate adequate revenue, with decent profit margin, to keep afloat until the worse is over. The following, general and basic action plan, not exhaustive, could be adopted either singly or otherwise, on a temporary basis until a more permanent or better solutions be found:

1) business must absorb some incremental cost and thus accept a lower profit margin. If absolutely necessary, have a minimal price increase as well.
2) negotiate with foreign Suppliers for lower cost of goods to tie over this difficult moment. Or offer more "free goods" or price discounts with purchases.
3) review your other purchases of goods and services for efficient inventory and pricing control eg stationery, logistic deliveries
4) negotiate to share cost with your local trade partners by lowering their profit margin.
5) reduce or discontinue samples, free goods or bonus to your trade partners
6) get professional advice on hedging your purchases. Get close to your Bankers.
7) get additional financial facilities from your Banks if you have to.
8) improve on your account receivables ie reduce credit days. This will improve liquidity and reduce bank borrowings in order to enhance financial  performance.

Laying staff should not be in the equation. In fact they are great assets to help you go through this period of uncertainty. Effective leadership is the key to drive business continuity.

/06-11-2015


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IHH: Opens RM 400mil Hospital in Johore



IHH Healthcare Bhd will soon open its RM400mil Gleneagles Medini Hospital in Nusajaya, Johor.

The hospital, located on a 6ha land in Medini Nusajaya, is the 14th hospital in Malaysia by Parkway Pantai after Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu, which was opened in May 2015.
 
Parkway Pantai is a unit of IHH Healthcare and is one of the region’s largest integrated private healthcare groups with a network of 23 hospitals and more than 5,000 beds throughout Asia including Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, India, China, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.
 
Gleneagles Malaysia CEO Datuk Amir Abdullah Firdaus said the opening of the new medical facility would put Iskandar Malaysia at the forefront of healthcare in South-East Asia.
 
“We have the latest medical equipment that can be found nowhere else in Johor except in Gleneagles Medini with 250 staffs including 40 consultants. Besides that, we will also be working closely with other agencies and our counterparts in particular from Singapore to attract foreign visitors to come here,” he said. 
 
With the medical tourism market growing rapidly, Malaysia as a whole stood to gain to meet the demand for better healthcare service. The current weakened ringgit, would be able to attract more foreign visitors to come here for medical healthcare.
 
“Our Gleneagles Penang has seen high number of foreign patients where 70% of those are Indonesians while Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur have a balance number of nationals as we are strategically located among various embassies and large number of South Korean community living within the area.
 
“The healthcare services provided by us also include plastic and reconstructive surgeries,” he said.
 
He added that the hospital would have five centres of excellence, namely cardiology, orthopedics, women and children, oncology and ophthalmology.
 
The hospital, according to Amir, is equipped and designed to meet Joint Commission International (JCI) and Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) accreditation standards.
 /theSTAR 30-10-2015


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Malaysia as Regional Halal Hub



Malaysia has called on global pharmaceutical producers to consider the country as the new regional hub to cater for the expanding global halal market.

In making the call, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said local industry players should also keep track of the latest know-how and technologies.

"Local industry players should double their efforts to position Malaysia at the forefront of the global healthcare and pharmaceutical industry," he said when opening the Halal Initiatives in Healthcare Industry Forum here today.

Also present was Halal Industry Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Jamil Bidin.

Ahmad Zahid said the global demand for halal pharmaceuticals is estimated to be worth RM 349 bil (USD 82 bil) but the current supply is estimated at only RM 8.5 mil (USD 2 mil).

 "There is certainly a huge opportunity here with a very promising future and this is where Malaysia holds some of the keys. As at August this year, there were already 110 Halal-certified pharmaceutical manufacturers in Malaysia including 24 export-ready manufacturers."

 "There are also opportunities to capitalise on Malaysia's diverse natural flora and fauna to develop resource-based bio-generic drugs. Malaysia is one of the world's 12 most bio-diverse countries and offers high potential for sourcing active compounds for healing and wellness products," he said.

On Halal tourism, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia is the top destination and as a leader, the nation could certainly complement the wider medical tourism sector especially for Muslims worldwide.

Malaysia expects to see overall arrivals of more than 930,000 medical tourists with estimated revenue reaching RM1 billion annually, he said.

/Bernama 28-10-2015


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Ease of Doing Business 2016 Report: Malaysia ranks 18th in the World.



Released recently in late October 2015, the "Doing Business 2016: Measuring Quality and Efficiency" Report finds that East Asia and the Pacific is the second most represented region, after Europe, in the world's top 20 economies.

For the 10th consecutive year, Singapore ranks number one in the world on the World Bank Group's annual ease of doing business measurement. Thailand ranked third place among ASEAN countries on the ease of doing business after Singapore and Malaysia.

Other economies in the Asia Pacific region among the top 20 economies are New Zealand (at No. 2), South Korea (4), Hong Kong (5), Taiwan (11), Australia (13) and Malaysia (18). Malaysia improved from the 20th spot in 2014. 

The report recognised Malaysia with the most business-friendly regulations, and acknowledged the country’s significant improvements in regulatory processes.

Among the 189 global economies, Malaysia is ahead of Switzerland (26th), France (27th), Netherlands (28th), Japan (34th), United Arab Emirates (31st), Thailand (49th), China (84th) and India (130th).

/Bernama 28-10-2015
 

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Malaysia: Budget 2016 - Health Sector



Budget 2016 was announced by the Finance Minister on 23rd October 2015.


RM23.03bil has been allocated for healthcare representing 8.6% of the overall sum.

Other countries whose percentages are similar to ours include the United Arab Emirates (8.7%) and South Africa (9.1%).

On the higher end of the scale, countries like Sweden allocate 13.8% of its budget on healthcare, while Norway and Canada spend 17.9%.

Contrast this with countries such as Pakistan, with 1.3% of its annual expenditure on healthcare, Morocco (4.8%), India (3.4%) and Indonesia (6.2%).

After receiving feedback from various segments of society including NGOs, effective from 1 January 2016, the Government had agreed to forego the GST revenue on several basic necessities .

One of which is the "Zero-rating" of all types of controlled medicines under the Poisons List Group A, B, C and D as well as an addition of 95 brands of over-the-counter medicines.

With this latest development there is a double increase from 4,215 to 8,630 brands of medicines.

The medical fraternity and patients hailed these additions. However they were disappointed that the tax was not removed for all healthcare services.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zacha­riah Philip said cancer patients using newer drugs, for instance, could save RM400 to RM600 from zero-rated drugs because it could cost thousands a month.

He said GST imposition should be totally removed from all healthcare services because when imposed, doctors with taxable turnover of more than RM500,000 would add the cost to the overall cost and pass it on to patients.

He also welcomed more hospitals and clinics being built as the growth had been slow the last few years but did not agree to the building of 1Malaysia clinics as the capacity of services was limited.

Five new hospitals to be built in Pasir Gudang, Kemaman, Pendang, Maran and Cyberjaya.

Kajang Hospital to be rebuilt and upgrading of rural and urban health clinics. The RM 848mil Kuala Lumpur Women and Children’s Hospital will commence operations next October.

RM 72mil in medicine assistance, including haemodialysis, for 10,000 patients.

RM 4.6bil for medicines, consumables, vaccines and reagents to all government hospitals and clinics.

RM 52mil to open new 1 Malaysia clinics and to continue 328 others. Ministry statistics have shown that the number of people seeking the services of 1Malaysia clinics increased from 1.32 million in 2010 to 4.42 million in 2013.

RM 260mil for building and enhancing community, health and dental clinics nationwide.

 /theSTAR 24-10-2015

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Top Glove - Annual Report 2015 & Capacity Building



Top Glove Corp Bhd has set aside RM200mil for capital expenditure next year as it ramps up its production capacity to meet strong global demand.

The company is also prepared to spend RM1bil for Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) as it aims to acquire at least one M&A per year. “Mergers and acquisitions are a must in order to sustain growth. We must have at least one every year and we have the financial capacity for it seeing as our balance sheet is healthy,” its chairman Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai said at a briefing on the group’s results for the year ended Aug 31 (FY15).
 
Top Glove had a good run in FY15 as the weak ringgit and lower raw materials prices boost its profits to a new high.
 
“Currently, we have a global market share of 18%-20% for our nitrile gloves. We are picking up quickly in terms of quality and quantity. In the next three years, we can be top in terms of efficiency and capacity,” executive director Lim Cheong Guan said at the briefing.
 
Presently, the company has 25 factories with 484 production lines and an annual capacity of 44.6 billion pieces, which would be increased to 540 production lines with an annual capacity of 52.4 billion pieces with the expansion of three plants – F27 in Lukut, Port Dickson; F6 in Phuket, Thailand; and brand new plant F30 in Klang.
 
Top Glove is investing RM80mil-90mil on F30 after spending RM70mil on F29, another plant in Klang, which came onstream in February. By February 2017, the company would have 26 glove factories.
 
In FY15, Top Glove increased its market share in North America to 30% from 27% last year, while maintaining its presence in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa with 30%, 18%, 10%, 8% and 4%, respectively.
 
For the fourth quarter ended August 31, Top Glove posted a net profit RM103mil, jumping a whopping 122% from RM46.32mil last year, while revenue increased 22.5% to RM709.44mil.
 
The company had also announced a final dividend of 12 sen per share, boosting its full-year payout to 20 sen per share.
 
The glove maker attributed its record-high financial performance to internal quality and cost efficiency improvements, the strong US dollar as well as weak raw material prices.
 
The company’s full-year net profit rose 55% to RM280.14mil, or 45.36 sen earnings per share (EPS) from RM180.52mil, or 29.09 sen EPS in FY14. Revenue increased by 10.3% to RM2.51bil from RM2.27bil.
 
The turnaround of its China operation, which yielded an after-tax profit of RM4.2mil for FY15 from a loss of RM9.8mil a year earlier, also added to the improvement of group performance.

/theSTAR 21-10-2015


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TMC Life Sciences Bhd - Financial Report 2015



TMC Life Sciences Bhd, which operates the Tropicana Medical Centre and TMC Fertility Centre, quadrupled its net profit for the quarter ended Aug 31, 2015, to RM 2.89mil.

The healthcare group, which this month changed its financial year end to Aug 31 from May 31, told Bursa Malaysia that the figure jumped 397% year-on-year on 29.8% higher revenue of RM30.07mil contributed by higher patient load arising from additional consultants recruited.

“Profitability improved due to higher revenue recorded and interest income earned,” it added.

Net profit for the last financial year ended May 31, 2015, was RM 9.92mil, a 54% increase from the previous year. This was mainly due to higher interest income of RM 2.9mil earned from warrant conversion proceeds and recognition of net deferred tax credit of RM 2mil, partly offset against one-off corporate exercise cost of RM2.5mil.

On its prospects for the current financial year, TMC said the healthcare sector’s growth prospects remained positive, fuelled by changing demographics, a more affluent society and more health-conscious lifestyles in Malaysia. It also noted the growth of medical tourism.

However, the recent foreign exchange rate movements had affected imported supplies of medicines and medical equipment along with the imposition of the goods and services tax and rising manpower costs, had impact on TMC’s operating cost structure.

“Nonetheless, the group continues to expand the breadth and diversity of our services to generate more revenue growth. With the two new wards comprising 51 beds completed on Sept 9, 2015, our hospital (Tropicana Medical Centre) in Kota Damansara now has a capacity of 200 beds,” said the company.
/theSTAR 21-10-2015


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Ringgit: Turn around?



Since my last update on 13th August 2015, the Ringgit had plunged to its worst level against the US dollar on 29th September 2015 (min = 3.5204 (April 29) avg = 3.8866 max = 4.4618 (September 29)).

However, the ringgit had "rebounded" to its biggest one-day gain in 17 years against the US dollar on 6th October 2015. This was due to economic data that was released by the Bank Negara that helped push the battered currency on an upward trajectory against the greenback and other major currencies.

The ringgit leapt 3.7% against the greenback to RM4.216 from RM4.371 after trade data for August showed that the weak ringgit had helped fatten an increasingly squeezed trade surplus that has been eroded by poor commodity prices.

Exports had climbed for the third straight month to 4.1% in August. The ringgit, which is down 34% against the dollar year-to-date and is the worst performer in the region, got a lift when trade data showed that the weak currency had helped exports.
 
Exports rose RM2.64bil to RM66.53bil compared with August 2014. This is the highest monthly export value recorded this year. The expansion in exports was to China, the United States, the European Union, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
 
The impact of the weak currency was conversely shown in imports which fell by 6.1% to M56.34bil.

The total amount of trade for August was RM122.86bil. The difference between exports and imports helped Malaysia’s trade surplus ballooned to RM10.19bil in August from RM2.37bil in July.

Helping the ringgit was also the rise of crude oil prices, where the price of Brent crude oil rose 1% to US$52.44. 
 
Another contributory factor was the announcement of the agreement that Malaysia had agreed to the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), though pending final approval from the Malaysian Parliament. The TPPA is a comprehensive free trade agreement involving Malaysia and 11 other economies, which is expected to boost the economy, trade and investment agenda.
 
It was not just against the US dollar that the ringgit had strengthened. The currency appreciated against the pound sterling and the Singapore dollar. It was at 6.4521 to the pound sterling from 6.6311 the previous day, and at 2.9810 to the Singapore dollar from 3.0208. The ringgit ended stronger against other regional currencies too.
 
The strengthening of the currency also boosted the FTSE Bursa Malaysia KL Composite Index, with the local bourse closing the day up 26.74 points to 1,689.25 on a volume of 2.69 billion shares.
 
There is a lot of money parked in foreign currency accounts in Malaysia. StarBizWeek had pointed out, about a week ago, that foreign currency deposits held by business enterprises had reached RM71.47bil as of July 2015 from RM59.9bil in January this year. Will this currency be reinvested back into the Country?

It is hoped that the Ringgit continues to strengthen against the other currencies due to the strong underlying fundamentals. 
/theSTAR 08-10-2015

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Malaysia: Ringgit falls to a new low



China’s central bank adjusted the yuan downwards for the second consecutive day, sending markets and currencies reeling.

The ringgit continued its fall against the US dollar, hitting a new low of RM4.0275, in the morning, largely due to the devaluation of the yuan.

All currencies in the region also continued with their decline against the US dollar.

On a year-to-date basis, the ringgit is the worst performer among its Asian peers, and is down 13.33%. This is followed by the Indonesian rupiah, South Korean won and Thai baht at 9.88%, 8.35% and 6.99%, respectively.
Comparatively, the yuan is now down approximately 4.61%.

The impact on the ringgit is worse compared to other countries because Malaysia is viewed as a net exporter of energy and prices are depressed now – hovering below the US$50 per barrel mark.

Stock markets across the region fell with the Jakarta Composite Index leading the pack by falling 3.1% followed by Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index which dropped 2.38%. There was a “bloodbath” on Bursa Malaysia where about 90% of the 1,000-odd stocks listed closed lower.

The benchmark KLCI fell for the fifth consecutive day, shedding 26.8 points yesterday to close at 1609 points. Since last Thursday, the index has been down by 116 points.

On Tuesday, the People Bank of China (PBOC) moved the guiding rate for the yuan 2% downwards and yesterday it set it at 1.6% lower. The guiding rate is the band within which the yuan is allowed to trade.

The downward movement is viewed as a devaluation of the yuan and the biggest currency movement for the world’s second largest economy since 1994. Although China abandoned its currency peg in 2005, the central bank manages the yuan in a tight range.

The devaluation of the yuan has sparked concerns that China’s economic slowdown was more severe than anticipated and the central bank had to devalue the currency to export its way out of the situation.

/theSTAR 13-08-2015



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Malaysia: Economy grew 4.9% in Q2, 2015



Malaysia’s economic growth slowed to 4.9% in the Q2 of 2015, compared with 5.6% in the preceding quarter, as exports decelerated.

The growth rate, nevertheless, was slightly higher than market expectation of a 4.8% expansion for Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the three months to June.

 BNM governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said on Thursday the economy was projected to remain resilient and on a steady growth path.

Zeti, who will remain as governor until her term ends next year, said headline inflation was higher in the second quarter, growing at 2.2%.

“Inflation is expected to be higher before moderating towards second half of 2016,” she said.

During the quarter in review, the services sector expanded 5%, supported by growth in the wholesale & retail trade and information & communication sub-sectors, while the manufacturing sector grew at a moderate pace of 4.2%, supported by electrical, electronic & optical products.

Growth of the mining & quarrying sector, which accounted for 9.1% of Malaysia’s economy, moderated to 6%, compared with 9.6% in the preceding quarter due to the decline in production of natural gas and slower production of crude oil.

Bank Negara data showed that private consumption expanded 6.4% in the second quarter of the year, compared with 8.8% in the first quarter, supported by growth in the consumption on food & beverages, housing & utilities, communication and transportation.

Gross fixed capital formation eased to 0.5%, from 7.9% in the preceding quarter due to the deceleration in machinery & equipment sector.

The central bank said the momentum of gross fixed capital formation was led by private-sector investment, grew 3.9%.

In the three months to June 2015, Malaysia’s exports contracted 3.7%, reflecting the subdued performance in the shipment of goods and services. Imports, on the other hand, fell 2.8% due to a contraction in the country’s demand for foreign goods.


Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said growth in the second quarter was supported by continued expansion in services and a turnaround in agricultural production.

/theSTAR 13-08-15


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Non-Traditional Model to Product Launch-Dengue Vaccines



Reproducing, in relevant parts, herewith an interesting article, lifted out from a news article, by SURESH KUMAR, Executive Vice President External Affairs of Sanofi viz:

Innovative medicines are traditionally developed and launched first for at-risk populations in the US and Europe. Later, once innovation costs have been paid for, the new medicines are then made available to endemic nations.

This model works but it has some serious limitations: namely, a delay in access to innovation in these endemic nations. There is also the risk that unmet medical needs in these countries are left neglected as they are not driving the innovation agenda of the pharmaceutical industry.

As of today, dengue remains on the World Health Organisation’s list of neglected diseases, despite the fact that it threatens half the world’s population.

Clearly, a new solution is needed – particularly for emerging markets and middle-income countries that have the capacity technical expertise, as well as disease knowledge to participate in clinical development programmes and also approve and regulate new medicines for use by their citizens.

Dengue provides a particularly well-suited case in point, since it is not a public health threat in the US and Europe but it is a major priority in endemic countries in South-East Asia and Latin America.

About 20 years ago, Sanofi set out to develop an innovative vaccine against dengue, one that would be effective in preventing the illness caused by all four dengue strains. Since then dengue has spread from a handful of countries to being endemic in over 120 worldwide and is recognised by the WHO as the fastest growing mosquito-borne disease in the world today.

The WHO has also called for a dengue vaccine to be used in conjunction with other dengue prevention efforts like vector control and education to help achieve its objectives to reduce dengue mortality by 50% and morbidity by 25% by 2020.

Sanofi set out to do both, develop and launch its dengue vaccine first in endemic countries where it could have the greatest impact on disease burden and quickly achieve these WHO objectives.

To be able to realise this “flipping the model” approach to new vaccine access, the company invested 300mil euros to build a dedicated production facility for the dengue vaccine that would eventually attain a full capacity of 100 million doses annually.

The company made this investment in 2009, at considerable risk given that the results of its Phase III clinical development programme were not yet known. Now, the Phase III programme has successfully reached its efficacy endpoints and the dengue vaccine candidate is currently under regulatory review in a number of endemic countries both in Latin America and in South-East Asia.

This is in keeping with the company’s long-standing commitment to launch the vaccine first in these nations rather than in Europe or the US, where its traditionally done.

But forging a new access model is not something that a pharmaceutical company can do on its own.

In order to be successful, Sanofi has worked hard to collaborate with endemic governments and public health bodies, as well as the global development and vaccine policy community, to build acceptance and support for this new approach.

If the dengue vaccine introduction model is to succeed, it will be necessary for Sanofi to be able to make the vaccine available, upon approval, for a fair and equitable price that balances innovation costs against sustainable access in endemic countries.

New ways of funding access to such an innovation in these countries, as well as mechanisms to help strengthen their healthcare infrastructure to be able to successfully implement the vaccine, will be needed.

Sanofi intends to work closely with governments, funding bodies and the vaccine policy universe to broker the successful introduction of the dengue vaccine upon approval. We know that more is at stake here than the launch of the world’s first dengue vaccine.

If this model succeeds, industry as a whole may be more inclined to be proactive in addressing the unmet medical needs of low and middle-income countries as a priority rather than as a second phase of medical innovation access.

Diseases like dengue disrupt economic growth and development of endemic countries and investments in controlling and eliminating this disease burden can help to further the economic stability and growth potential of these nations.

/theSTAR 08-08-2015



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CCM: Selling Medan Plant



Chemical Company of Malaysia Bhd (CCM) is keeping its options open for its facility in Medan, Indonesia. It has two options for the asset – either to sell it as a going concern or pare it down.

“There are two options. One is to sell it as a going concern, the other option is to sell the assets down. We were in discussions with a few parties, but at the same time, we are working in parallel. We are also going ahead with an asset sale, so whichever happens first,” said Group Managing Director Leonard Ariff Abdul Shatar, on the sidelines of the government-linked companies (GLC) graduation ceremony on Friday.
 
The facility has been shut down, with an impairment loss of RM36.8mil.
 
“The factory is still there, but we are now evaluating bringing some of the equipment from Medan back to some of our existing facilities here. And that would clear up the land and we would look for a buyer. But in the meantime, if any person comes in expressing interest, we are open for discussions,” said Leonard.
 
He said the company’s transformation process involved it writing off its investment in Medan last year. “We had some issues in the past and we are slowly trying to overcome that,” he said.
The company is still in the process of cleaning up a few things, and hopes to emerge stronger this year.
 
“We are on the right track. From the CCM point of view, the GLC transformation programme was very useful and we will continue with a lot of the practices that were stipulated in the programme,” he said, referring to the 10-year GLC Transformation Programme, which came to an end this year.
 
As to how it is managing with the depreciating ringgit, Leonard said the company had started hedging some of its capital purchases. He said CCM’s biggest foreign exchange exposure is in its fertiliser and pharmaceutical businesses. However, it has in the last three to four years carried out operational efficiency projects, which have “buffered” the impact.
 
On the flip side, a lot of CCM’s pharmaceutical devices as well as its fertilisers are exported in US dollars.
 
CCM reported a net profit of RM3.95mil for the first quarter ended March 31, 2015 compared with RM3.77mil in the same period previously. Revenue was lower at RM270.13mil during the quarter against RM273.77mil.

 /theSTAR 10-08-2015



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Malaysia: Ringgit fell to 17-year low



The ringgit’s exchange rate weakened to 3.91 against the USD, which is 17-year low, as the sell-off in the stock market intensified amid weakening growth prospects continuing to weigh down on investor sentiment.

A drop in the price of Brent crude oil, the benchmark for Malaysian petroleum products, back to below USD50 a barrel and falling prices of crude palm oil (CPO) to near RM2,000 a tonne added to the uncertainties.
 
The two commodities are the country’s major exports after electrical and electronic products.
 
Despite the weak ringgit, total exports declined 3.7% in the second quarter after having registered a 2.5% drop in the first quarter.
 
Analysts said weak external demand and a slowdown in domestic consumption was putting the brakes on economic growth.
 
Citi Research, a unit of Citigroup Global Markets Inc, yesterday projected Malaysia’s economic expansion may slow to 4% in the second quarter ended June 30 from the 5.6% achieved in the first quarter.
 
“With growth slowing, we also doubt Bank Negara will hike to defend the ringgit,” its economist Wei Zheng Kit said. Bank Negara kept its key overnight policy rate steady at 3.25% in July. The last interest rate hike was in July 2014.
 
The ringgit remained Asia’s worst-performing currency year-to-date, despite sharper declines by its regional counterparts over the past one month.
 
The ringgit’s 10.6% drop year-to-date has raised concerns that the currency has weakened too fast and too far. CIMB Research in a recent note predicted that it would take RM4 to buy one USD by the end of the year.
 
“There has been talk that Bank Negara is taking steps to reduce the volatility in the currency market,” said one currency dealer.
 
But the ringgit continued to face pressure amid a huge outflow of foreign funds from the stock market.
 
MIDF Research calculated that net foreign outflow so far this year had reached RM11.7bil. This adds to the RM6.9bil that had left the market last year.The pace and intensity of the sell-off by foreigners was reminiscent the country had experienced during the global financial crisis of 2008.
 
The drop in the price of crude oil “is not conducive for the ringgit and Malaysian equities,” the firm said. It was down 27% from a recent peak of USD67 a barrel in early May and about half the price compared with a year ago.
 
The Government had based its Budget 2015 assumption on the price of Brent at USD55 a barrel.
Citi Research said even if Brent stayed at USD50 a barrel, the full-year average oil price of USD54 a barrel would be close to the Budget assumption.
 
“With a continued current account surplus of 3%-3.5% of gross domestic product for 2015 as a whole, concerns over the impact of lower oil prices appear overblown,” Wei said.
 
/theSTAR 07-08-2015

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Malaysia's international reserves fell to US$96.7b



Bank Negara Malaysia’s international reserves totalled RM364.7bil (US$96.7bil) as of end-July 2015, a decline of RM14.7bil or US$3.8bil from two weeks ago.
“The reserves position is sufficient to finance 7.6 months of retained imports and is 1.1 times the short-term external debt,” the central bank said on Friday.
The reserves had fallen from the RM379.4bil (US$100.5bil) as at July 15. The reserves position as at July 15 was sufficient to finance 7.9 months of retained imports and was 1.1 times the short-term external debt.
The ringgit has weakened by nearly 12% against the US dollar year-to-date.
According to the BNM data, the international reserves had fallen from RM405.5bil (or US$116.0bil) as at Dec 31, 2014 compared with RM441.9bil (US$134.9bil) as at end-2013.

/theSTAR 07-08-2015

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NKEA: Healthcare EPP3 Report 2014



Pharmaceutical exports recorded a nine per cent growth, surpassing the targeted five per cent growth
for 2014
 
The total value of Malaysian pharmaceutical exports amounted to RM611 million against RM561
million for the year 2013.

This growth was punctuated by additional efforts from the Government and the Malaysian Organisation
of Pharmaceutical Industries (MOPI) to help home-grown pharmaceutical manufacturers penetrate overseas markets. 
 
Over the year, the Government collaborated with MOPI to conduct a major study on trade and nontrade
barriers. Among the five most important and new markets identified were Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, 
Kazakhstan and Australia markets.

The Government had finalised the procedures on Off Take Agreements (OTA) for both Pharmaceutical
and Medical Device products that will encourage production and consumption of Made-in Malaysia health products. The OTA purchase agreements are expected to encourage MNCs and other
manufacturers to base their manufacturing here as they will be given 3year agreements (plus another
two years if they meet export criteria) as opposed to a two-year contract to supply the Government

The year also saw positive developments in the transfer of MNCs’ manufacturing operations to 
Malaysia. This was achieved by partnering foreign companies with local players. To date, 11 projects 
have been accorded EPP status under EPP 3. These are Hovid Bhd, Bicon Ltd, CCM, Kotra Pharma,
AJ Biologics, Impian Eksekutif Sdn Bhd, Servier, Ranbaxy, AFT Pharmaceuticals and Biocare. 

Additionally, AFT Pharmaceuticals, a privately owned company with operations in Australia and New 
Zealand, has agreed to partner a local manufacturer to produce orphan drugs here. This will boost the
image of local pharmaceutical manufacturers.

In a bid to expand its export markets, the Malaysian Government and MOPI commissioned a Trade 
Barrier Study in five target countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey, Australia and Kazakhstan.

The objective of the study was to evaluate and prioritise the five most attractive countries for local
pharmaceutical companies to export their products to, and enable MOPI to build an extensive 
pharmaceutical market and achieve regulatory insight into the targeted countries. 
 
It also provides entry strategies with all the critical elements for the local companies for geographic 
expansion, providing Malaysian companies with the information to grow their capacities and meet the 
entry requirements.

Among the lessons learnt in boosting pharmaceutical sales and manufacturing is the time taken to
register a product. With improved coordination efforts, the registration period was cut from 18 months
to 60 working days for all EPP companies.
 
More needs to be done to ensure development of new molecules and penetration to new markets.
 
Strong support from the various Government agencies is one of the keys for the success of this EPP.

 /PEMANDU Annual Report 2014



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Organ donations: Pledge



There has been an increase of over 12,000 pledges to donate organs in 2014 compared with 2013, said National Transplant Resources Centre head (NTRC) Datin Dr Lela Yasmin Mansor.

She attributed this improvement to greater awareness among the people. Speaking to theSun, Lela said the number of pledges rose from 27,452 in 2013 to 39,882 in 2014.

"For the first half of this year we have keyed in 13,524 pledges into our systems," she added. Lela said the pledges were either in the form of organs or tissues.

In the first half of 2015, 110 people received kidney, liver and cornea transplants.

"The 110 people received their organs from 20 kidney donors, nine liver donors and 33 cornea donors," she said, noting countless others also benefited from heart valves and bone transplants.

Many individuals or their next-of-kin wanted to donate organs after death out of a sense of compassion.

"Unfortunately, in some cases, the organs were found to be incompatible with the intended recipient or infected during the donor's lifetime," said Lela, adding the need for immediate transplant meant storing certain organs for extended periods of time was not possible.

The raised awareness on organ donation can be attributed to medical professionals and NTRC's street campaign.

"Doctors are more likely to present the option of organ donation to the deceased's next-of-kin if he/she was their patient," said Lela, noting the doctor would consider it as their final duty to the patient.

Likewise 2014's street campaign saw NTRC personnel reach out to the public in both urban and rural areas in the country.

"Rather than wait for them to come to us, we went to them. Within four hours, over 5,000 pledges were raised throughout 77 locations nationwide," Lela said, expressing hope that this year's campaign would also garner a strong response.

/theSUN 02-08-2015

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Confusion in the TPPA for Pharmaceuticals?



If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) gets signed as it is, consumer groups are worried that the increased price of medicines will force Malaysians to tighten their wallets again.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said they were aware of the repercussions of the agreement if no amendments were made.

“The TPPA is currently being looked at, and our biggest concern is its impact on drugs. We feel that pharmaceutical companies are making medicines more expensive, and we have expres­sed these concerns before."

“We have to take another look at the agreement and find a way to get an outcome without negative impact to the consumers,” he said.
S.M. Mohamed Idris, president of the Consumers Association of Penang, explained that at its current state, the TPPA would make it more difficult for Malaysians to get access to generic drugs.

“The TPPA will increase the term of a patent. At present, the term is 20 years from the time a patent application is filed. This could be amended, with the TPPA, to 20 years after the patent is granted or after marketing approval is given by the Health Ministry. The term of patent will be much longer, thereby depriving the Malaysian consumer of cheaper generics for a long period of time,” he said.

Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Nadzim Johan agreed with his counterparts that the TPPA required changes.

“Most, if not all consumer groups, are against it. There are just too many parts in the agreement that are not to the consumers’ advantage.”

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Datuk Nancy Ho, when asked if consumers might put the blame of a price increase on pharmaceutical companies, said there were other factors contributing to pricing when the TPPA was signed.

But she agreed that more time was needed before the Govern­ment signed the agreement.

“People are still in an adjustment period after the implementation of the GST (Goods and Services Tax), so this may not be the best time (for the TPPA),” she said

/theSTAR 27-07-2015


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Malaysian Ringgit closes lower against USD



The Ringgit closed lower against the US dollar today, in line with most emerging Asian currencies, on cautious sentiment ahead of the US Federal Reserve's policy meeting.


At 5pm, the ringgit was quoted at 3.8140/8160 against the US dollar, touching its 17-year low, compared with 3.8080/8100 recorded last Friday. At 3.8140 it is at its weakest since September 1998. 

The Malaysian currency was pegged at 3.8000 between 1998 and 2005.
The central bank was spotted in the market trying to limit further losses in the worst-performing Asian currency so far this year. 
Malaysia's international reserves fell to $100.5 billion as of July 15 from $105.5 billion as of June 30, central bank data showed on July 23. 
 
A dealer said investors would closely monitor the outcome of the two-day meeting, which would commence later today.

"Furthermore, the weak commodity prices put additional pressure on the ringgit," he said.
The ringgit was also traded lower against other major currencies.

It fell against the Singapore dollar to 2.7866/7889 from 2.7763/7798 last week and declined against the yen to 3.0880/0909 from 3.0715/0733 last Friday.

The local unit depreciated against the pound sterling to 5.9201/9247 from 5.8978/8017 previously and weakened against the euro to 4.2248/2274 from 4.1652/1678 last week.

/Bernama/theSTAR 27-07-2015

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