Welcome to our ‘News In Brief’ column in which we digest all the news releases for you in no more than five paragraphs. Below are snippets of all the media releases we received from July 31 till the end of the week.
GHL Revolutionizes SME Financing
Kuala Lumpur, July 31: Malaysia-based GHL Systems Berhad (GHL), a leading payment service company in the ASEAN region, is set to launch the GHL SME Loan in the Philippines.
This micro-financing initiative aims to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by providing funds for their cash flow and business growth.
The GHL SME Loan has been successful in Malaysia, attracting over 700 merchants and disbursing significant loans.
After its rollout among GHL’s existing merchants in the Philippines, it will be available nationwide by August 2023.
The loan facility has been approved and registered with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), offering competitive interest rates and a simplified application process, requiring only a valid government-issued ID for the authorized signatory.
The GHL SME Loan aligns with the company’s mission to create a more financially inclusive ecosystem for SMEs.
To apply for the loan or learn more, visit the GHL website at https://ph.ghl.com/smeloan.
Raiz Launches Customizable Portfolio
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 1: Raiz Invest, Australia’s leading mobile-first financial services platform, has introduced a new portfolio named Plus, expanding its product offerings as of August 1, 2023. The Plus portfolio allows users to create a fully customizable investment portfolio with a diverse selection of assets, including ETFs, ASX stocks, bitcoin, and Aussie residential property. Notably, users can invest in fractional Aussie stocks and add up to 50 well-known ASX stocks to their portfolio.
The new user interface for Plus has been designed to provide an optimal user experience, making it easier for users to build and edit their portfolios with intuitive menus. The composition of the Plus portfolio is entirely customizable, starting with a base portfolio from Raiz’s pre-built options and allowing users to allocate percentages of their portfolio to various asset classes based on their financial goals and preferences.
Raiz Invest CEO, Brendan Malone, highlights the goal of making investing accessible to everyone with this new product. The Plus portfolio offers a unique feature allowing customers to invest in multiple assets for a single monthly fee, providing flexibility and ease of use.
Customers with a Plus portfolio will be charged a monthly maintenance fee of $5.50 for account balances under $25,000. For balances equal to or above $25,000, a fee of 0.275 per cent per annum will apply, and no maintenance fee will be charged. Further details can be found in the Product Disclosure Statement released on Aug 1 coinciding with the product launch.
Plus is available to both existing and new Raiz customers on mobile and desktop devices starting from the launch date. The new product also allows users to choose a name and color for their portfolio, enhancing its customizability.
Fave Enhances Consumer Offerings
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 1: Fave, a leading Southeast Asian fintech platform, has teamed up with Involve Asia, a global affiliate marketing platform, in collaboration with FindShare, a cashback and rewards program provider in the Philippines. The partnership aims to expand Fave’s network of merchants in Singapore and Malaysia, offering users additional savings on their transactions. Popular brands like Adidas, Agoda, Decathlon, AirAsia, Lazada, and Klook in categories such as retail, travel, and e-commerce will be added, allowing customers to earn cashback through Fave’s affiliate merchant program.
Customers can utilize accumulated cashback across FavePay, Fave Deals, and Fave eCards merchants, enhancing their overall savings. Fave’s Co-founder, Chen Chow Yeoh, emphasizes that young consumers are driving Southeast Asia’s digital economy and enjoy gratification through rewards on their purchases. The collaboration with Involve Asia’s expertise in affiliate marketing and wide network of publishers and influencers aims to empower customers to benefit from loyalty programs and achieve greater savings through the Fave app.
Southeast Asia’s consumers have increasingly embraced reward-based payment transactions in their everyday lifestyle. Aggregate cashless retail payments in the region are projected to grow at a CAGR of 14 per cent to reach $3.02 trillion by 2025, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence estimates. JC Lam, Vice President of Partnerships at Involve Asia, foresees a rising consumer demand for retail and travel brands, highlighting their shared commitment with Fave to deliver exceptional customer experiences through digital innovation.
Fave is a prominent player in the region’s direct-to-consumer space, offering innovative product offerings such as deals, discounts, and cashback services through QR payments and loyalty programs on its app and major banks and digital wallets like DBS PayLah!, UOB TMRW, Singtel Dash, Google Pay, and Touch ’n Go Digital. Currently, Fave operates in Singapore, Malaysia, and India.
C.H. Robinson Drives Supply Chain Savings for Mazda Australia
Melbourne, Aug 1: Mazda Australia faced difficulties importing motor vehicles due to logistics and customs challenges. To find solutions, they asked three logistics providers, including C.H. Robinson, to develop competitive options for ocean and air shipments from Thailand to Australia. C.H. Robinson responded with their innovative Customs Intelligence Platform and local expertise, offering advanced supply chain solutions for ocean and air freight, and customs brokerage, resulting in significant savings and efficiency gains.
C.H. Robinson’s Oceania team streamlined tasks, secured ocean rates, and reclassified customs entries, leading to considerable savings on ocean imports and duty refunds. Mazda Australia was initially impressed with C.H. Robinson’s air freight and customs brokerage services, but later discovered the logistics giant had more to offer. The Customs Intelligence Platform allowed them to optimize Mazda’s supply chain operations, reduce costs, and improve delivery times.
By leveraging the technology, C.H. Robinson identified areas where Mazda could save money in its operations, including obtaining duty refunds on qualified duty-free items. The partnership resulted in significant ocean savings and a 23 per cent reduction in air freight costs within the first 12 months. Mazda Australia praised the strong working relationship with C.H. Robinson, emphasizing their focus on the business’s success.
C.H. Robinson’s Customs Intelligence Platform is among the various supply chain solutions they offer. With their extensive experience in the Australia and New Zealand markets and a global network of offices, C.H. Robinson is well-equipped to assist companies in navigating the challenges of the current global marketplace.
“The Journey No 1” Wins MR D.I.Y. Art Competition 2023
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 1: Mohd Fizrie Azhan Mohd Torikat’s artwork “The Journey No. 1” secured the first prize in the MR D.I.Y. Art Competition 2023. The abstract piece, done in acrylic, depicts a metaphorical journey of life, incorporating emotions like pain, disappointment, and separation through colors white, black, grey, and red. The competition, organized by MR D.I.Y Group [M] Berhad, called on Malaysian artists to represent the theme “Hot or Cold” on canvas, attracting over 300 entries from across the country.
A panel of esteemed judges, including acclaimed artists and an art collector, evaluated the submissions. At the prize-giving ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, MR D.I.Y. awarded nearly RM70,000 worth of prizes to 31 talented artists, introducing a new category – the “Founder’s Choice Award” – in honor of the retailer’s founder, Tan Yu Yeh, who deeply appreciates the arts.
MR D.I.Y.’s CEO, Adrian Ong, expressed his admiration for the impressive body of work and the participants’ response to the intriguing theme. The winners’ artwork will be displayed at Segaris Art Centre in Publika Kuala Lumpur from August 2 to August 4, 2023. This art competition is one of several corporate social impact initiatives organized by MR D.I.Y., known for its commitment to community, environment, and workplace initiatives, as recognized in the Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Awards 2023.
For more details on MR D.I.Y.’s art competition and social impact programs, visit their website and social media platforms.
KGW Group’s Successful Debut
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 1: Logistics services provider, KGW Group Berhad, debuted on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad, opening at RM0.23 per share, a 9.5 per cent premium over the initial public offering (“IPO”) price of RM0.21 per share. Listed under the stock name “KGW” with stock code “0282,” KGW specializes in managing and coordinating goods movement within the supply chain. The Group comprises three subsidiaries: KGW Logistics (M) Sdn Bhd, Mattroy Logistics (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, and KGW Medica Sdn Bhd, focusing on ocean and air freight services, freight forwarding, and warehousing and distribution of healthcare-related products.
Through the IPO, KGW raised RM16.73 million, with RM10.00 million allocated to repay bank borrowings related to the purchase of a property and RM2.00 million for property renovation. The remaining proceeds are earmarked for working capital and listing expenses. KGW’s Independent Non-Executive Chairwoman, Yang Mulia Tengku Faizwa Binti Tengku Razif, expressed gratitude to the team and stakeholders for their support, while Managing Director, Dato’ Roger Wong, sees the listing as a significant milestone and aims to bring more value to stakeholders.
According to a market research report in KGW’s prospectus, the Group generated RM228.0 million in revenue in the Malaysian logistics industry, representing 0.37 per cent of the total market size (GDP) of RM62.20 billion in 2022. The report projects the Malaysian logistics industry to reach RM66.25 billion in 2023 and RM87.57 billion in 2027, growing at a CAGR of 7.1 per cent for the forecast period. Specifically, the warehouse and storage market is expected to reach RM2.58 billion in 2023 and expand at a CAGR of 8.2 per cent to RM3.59 billion in 2027.
TA Securities Holdings Berhad acted as the Principal Adviser, Sponsor, Underwriter, and Placement Agent for the IPO, while Eco Asia Capital Advisory Sdn Bhd served as the Financial Adviser.
Record Mortgage Stress Looms
Sydney, Aug 2: As of Tuesday 1st August, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has maintained the cash rate at 4.1 per cent, marking a significant increase from its record low of 0.1 per cent in April 2022. The decision comes after a series of 13 rate hikes in the past 15 months, putting immense pressure on Australian households and borrowers. Leading financial insights provider RFI Global reports that Mortgage Stress in the country has now reached an all-time high. However, the RBA’s rate pause in August has brought some relief to hundreds of thousands of struggling households and borrowers.
Borrower Stress is also at a concerning level, hitting as high as 30 per cent, surpassing its previous peak in March 2020. The slight dip observed after the pause in April’s rate hike is a crucial indicator, suggesting that stress can decline even if interest rates do not immediately go down. The focus on the cost-of-living reveals that interest rates and repayment costs are the primary sources of stress for Australian borrowers, according to recent data from RFI Global.
Data from APRA indicates that total outstanding household mortgages have soared to a record high of over $2.1 trillion, increasing by 20 per cent in just three years. A substantial portion, more than two-thirds, of this debt is attributed to owner-occupied housing purchases. Despite a 3.1 per cent decrease in refinancing in June 2023, it still remains near a record high of $20.2 billion, indicating that more Australians are seeking better deals amidst the struggle to meet mortgage repayments. The repayment increases based on the June rate rise are only beginning to impact some consumers.
As the financial pressure mounts, Australians are witnessing a steady and sharp decline in their savings buffers. Although the under 35’s experienced a slight rebound in savings relative to May 2023, all age segments are showing a decline in total savings since November 2022. RFI’s DBM Atlas data reveals that the average total liquid assets for Australians peaked at just over $60,000 toward the end of 2022, including transaction and savings accounts, online savings, term deposits, offset, mortgage redraw, cash management accounts, and share trading accounts. However, in the past six months, these savings have been consistently depleting due to rising living costs and mortgage-related stress.
The consumer sentiment index, based on RFI’s DBM Atlas data, fell further to 84.9 in June, the lowest reading since August 2020 when the country faced COVID outbreaks without vaccines. This decline is driven by an increasing number of consumers anticipating worse financial conditions in 12 months compared to April 2022. Moreover, 36 per cent now believe it’s a bad time to engage in discretionary spending, a significant increase from 11 per cent in April 2022. Despite the challenging circumstances, 39 per cent of Australians remain optimistic about the country’s overall economic situation, only down 5 per cent from the pre-rate rise level in April 2022. Nevertheless, the relief provided by the August rate pause is temporary, and borrowers are deeply concerned about the potential impact of further rate rises on their ability to meet repayments, creating uncertainty until September.
CGS-CIMB Launches ASEAN Investment Challenge
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 2: CGS-CIMB Securities Sdn Bhd (CGS-CIMB Malaysia) has launched the ASEAN Investment Challenge (AIC) to promote financial literacy in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand (MIST).
Themed ‘Level Up Your Game,’ the competition aims to empower students with knowledge in sustainable investing and build strong capital markets.
Since its start on 1st July, the AIC has received an impressive 2,800 registrations from MIST students, with 1,519 from Malaysia alone.
Through this initiative, CGS-CIMB seeks to cultivate informed investors and foster responsible financial decision-making in the region, shaping a brighter economic future for ASEAN.
Oral Health Awareness Surges
Sydney, Aug 2: A recent Consumer Survey by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) reveals that nearly 70 per cent of Australian adults consider oral health important for overall wellbeing. However, around 65 per cent are unaware of the link between oral health and serious medical conditions like Type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.
The survey highlights poor oral hygiene habits, with 75 per cent rarely or never flossing and 18 per cent brushing only once a day. Dental Health Week (August 7-13) emphasizes the crucial connection between oral health and overall wellbeing, promoting just six minutes a day of brushing and flossing to avoid negative health effects.
Further, 64 per cent only visit the dentist when they have issues, contributing to gum disease affecting one in three adults. Gum disease is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks. Research also shows associations between oral health and conditions like low birthweight, stroke, kidney disease, dementia, Type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
ADA President, Dr. Stephen Liew, urges regular dental checkups for early detection and intervention. Simple daily habits like brushing twice a day and cleaning between teeth can make a significant difference. Raising awareness about oral health’s impact is vital for better overall health in Australia.
Epson’s Sustainable Recognition Triumph
Sydney, Aug 3: Epson has been chosen for the FTSE4Good Index Series, an RI index of FTSE Russell, for the 20th consecutive year. The company’s inclusion in this index is a testament to its commitment to achieving sustainability and making a positive impact on communities over the long term. Epson views this recognition as evidence of its successful efforts in addressing environmental and social issues, solidifying its reputation as a sustainable company.
The FTSE4Good Index Series, created by global index provider FTSE Russell, evaluates companies based on strong ESG practices. It serves as a widely used tool to assess sustainable investment funds and financial products. Epson’s selection in this series underscores its dedication to environmental, social, and governance standards.
Moreover, Epson has earned inclusion in other ESG investor indexes, including the FTSE Blossom Japan Index, FTSE Blossom Japan Sector Relative Index, MSCI Japan ESG Select Leaders Index, MSCI Japan Empowering Women Index (WIN), and the S&P/JPX Carbon Efficient Index. These indexes, utilized by the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), further highlight Epson’s commitment to responsible and sustainable practices in the Japanese stock market.
CryptoRom Scam Exposed
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 3: Sophos Detects CryptoRom Scam with AI Chat Tool Targeting Dating App Users.
In 2022, investment fraud caused the highest losses of any scam reported by the public to the US’ FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3), totaling US$3.31 billion in the US alone.
Frauds involving cryptocurrency, including pig butchering, represented most of these scams, increasing 183 per cent from 2021 to US$2.57 billion in reported losses last year.
Alibaba Cloud’s Open-Source LLMs
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 3: Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, has made a significant contribution to the open-source community by open-sourcing its 7-billion-parameter Large Language Models (LLM), Qwen-7B, and Qwen-7B-Chat. These cutting-edge models, capable of generating human-like content in Chinese and English, were previously introduced as part of Alibaba Cloud’s proprietary LLM, Tongyi Qianwen.
With the open-source release, academics, researchers, and commercial institutions worldwide can freely access the models’ code, model weights, and documentation. For companies with fewer than 100 million monthly active users, the models will be free to use for commercial purposes. For those with more users, a license from Alibaba Cloud can be requested.
Jingren Zhou, CTO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, expressed the company’s commitment to democratizing AI technologies and promoting inclusive access. By open-sourcing these large language models, they aim to enable more developers and SMEs to harness the benefits of generative AI.
The Qwen-7B model was pre-trained on over 2 trillion tokens, covering multiple languages, including Chinese, English, code, and mathematics. Its context length reaches 8K, making it versatile in various fields. The Qwen-7B-Chat model was fine-tuned with human instructions for conversational content. Both models can be deployed on cloud and on-premises infrastructures, allowing users to fine-tune and build their own high-quality generative models cost-effectively.
In benchmark tests, the pre-trained Qwen-7B model outperformed other major open-source models with similar scales, achieving a notable score of 56.7 in the Massive Multi-task Language Understanding (MMLU) benchmark, covering 57 varied tasks. Additionally, it achieved the highest score among models with equivalent parameters in the C-Eval leaderboard, a comprehensive Chinese evaluation suite. The model also excelled in benchmarks for mathematics and code generation.
Alibaba Cloud’s commitment to open-source initiatives is evident through the introduction of ModelScopeGPT, a versatile framework designed to assist users in complex AI tasks across language, vision, and speech domains. ModelScope, an open-source AI model community featuring over 1,000 AI models from leading AI institutes, further emphasizes the company’s dedication to fostering collaboration and innovation in the AI community.
Wheel of Time Surprise
Singapore, Aug 3: Today, Prime Video thrilled fans by announcing the availability of the first scene from Season Two of The Wheel of Time at the end of the Season One finale episode (Episode 108).
The sneak peek follows the tradition of the best-selling book series by Robert Jordan, where each novel includes a preview of the next book’s first chapter.
Season Two premieres on Sept 1 worldwide.
‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ Gets Renewed
Singapore, Aug 4: Prime Video has greenlit the third season of the popular series ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty,’ based on Jenny Han’s best-selling book trilogy.
The drama has been a huge success, especially among young women viewers, with Season Two becoming one of the top 10 most-watched seasons on the platform.
Season Three, consisting of 10 episodes, is set to premiere exclusively on Prime Video in over 240 countries and territories worldwide.
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